Last week we heard the news about Edmonton Oilers Senior VP of Hockey Operations Craig MacTavish stepping away from the organization to take a head coaching job in the KHL. MacT was a staple in the Oilers’ front office and was a big part of the team’s pro scouting operation.
Today, another key member of that department was shown the door as Duane Sutter has been relieved of his duties as VP of Player Personnel. Sutter, along with MacT and scouts Paul Messier and Chris Chicocki, formed the backbone of Edmonton’s pro scouting operation.
Edmonton’s inability to find solid role players and constant talent bleeding was mostly a sin by former GM Peter Chiarelli. After all, Chiarelli was the man making the calls, pulling the trigger on the deals and listening to the advice of his scouts. He dug his own grave and paid for it back in January.
That said, the pro scouts deserve a fair bit of blame as well. The Oilers haven’t clearly won a trade since the 2016 trade deadline when they acquired Patrick Maroon from the Ducks for Martin Gernat and a fourth-round draft choice. Since then? It’s been constant overpays by Edmonton that have yielded awful results.
This was the scouting staff advising Chiarelli when the team traded the 16th and 32nd overall picks in 2015 for Griffin Reinhart, traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome and then flipped Strome for Ryan Spooner when Strome predictably proved to not be a top-six forward.
This is the same scouting staff that has failed to identify a single free agent that has been undervalued by another team, a player that is useful but either isn’t in the right situation or isn’t being used right. Teams find diamonds in the rough all the time. Edmonton? They get stuck overpaying for guys like Kris Russell and Milan Lucic.
Listen, no one wants to see another person lose their job. It’s a terrible experience and I don’t like to see it happen to anyone. Duane Sutter’s body of work with the Oilers was horrendous however, and this move simply needed to happen.
In addition to being involved heavily with the pro scouts, Sutter was Chiarelli’s strongest confidant in Peter’s final year and a half at the helm. His firing should come as no surprise when you combine that with his track record.
With MacTavish and now Sutter gone, the Oilers are officially undergoing meaningful change in the pro scouting department. I don’t think they are done, either. Will Messier or Chicocki survive? If Ken Holland is making decisions based on merit, and it appears he is, then the answer to both should be no.
The firing of Sutter was long overdue and is a step in the right direction for the Oilers. Their current pro scouting department simply is not working and tearing it down is, to me, the only answer. This was phase two of that tear down, and it is a solid decision by Holland.
Sutter wasn’t the only front office member fired today, by the way. Media Relations Director and ‘friend’ of The Oilers Rig JJ Hebert was also let go by the club. Perhaps now the Oilers can modernize their media relations department and become a more personable team like so many others around the league already are.