If Not Peter Chiarelli, Then Who In Edmonton?

Paul Fenton

When I suggest that Peter Chiarelli should be relieved of his duties in Edmonton, I get the same responses from readers. “Who would you rather have?” and “You think you can do a better job?!?!” are the most common two responses, and while I won’t touch on the second one, I want to go over the first response this morning.

Who would I want as GM of the Edmonton Oilers if Peter Chiarelli were to be fired? That’s a good question, but there really isn’t an established GM just sitting out there that would be a good fit for the Oilers. Sure, Dean Lombardi is without a job, but he’s very similar to Chiarelli. One would have to imagine if Edmonton makes a change they will want a different view of things.

I don’t just throw out the “fire Chiarelli” take without reasoning. While he has some positive markers as Edmonton’s GM, he has consistently bled talent since taking over and I believe it is a big reason why Edmonton is struggling so badly right now. I’ve also thought long and hard about who I would like to see take over for him in the event he was fired.

I’ll say this much, if Chiarelli goes I don’t want anyone currently in the front office to take over. No Keith Gretzky, no Craig MacTavish, no Scott Howson and no Kevin Lowe. We’ve been down most of those paths and they were, for the most part, disasters. No need for a second chance for MacTavish, Howson or Lowe.

Here are my way too early candidates if Edmonton makes a change upstairs.

Paul Fenton:

Nashville’s assistant GM has helped aid David Poile for the past 18 seasons, with the last ten of those coming as the AGM. Fenton has assisted in Nashville’s rise from a mediocre team to a true Stanley Cup contender. He has experience handling big trades and has seen up close and personal how to truly build an organization.

Fenton also serves as the GM of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, an outfit that has helped produce countless NHL players for Nashville since their affiliation began. Fenton understands how to build a team from the prospect base up, and that has value for an Edmonton team that will be in cap hell moving forward.

Fenton understands value contracts and big trades, and that also has value for the Oilers. One has to think, seeing how Nashville routinely wins trades, that Fenton also has a good eye for talent. Edmonton’s pro scouting department has done a terrible job lately, and certainly could use a boost. Fenton could give that to the team.

Last note on Fenton: He’s used to working on a budget, which would really benefit the Oilers with the McDavid and Draisaitl contracts taking up so much cap.

Mike Futa:

It is highly unlikely that the Oilers get permission to even interview Futa if it comes to that, but he should be high on any list of GM’s. LA’s assistant GM has spent the last eleven years with the team and is highly regarded around the league as one of the best front office execs who isn’t already a GM.

Futa has seen the building process of a Cup winner up close, and has also seen how to maintain a championship team over a number of years. LA routinely has developed young NHL talent the last few seasons, and Futa gets a lot of credit for that.

He’s not a sexy name to the casual fan, but Futa would be a nice addition to Edmonton and already has the lay of the land in the Pacific Division.

Tom Fitzgerald:

My dark horse candidate comes from New Jersey in the form on Ray Shero’s assistant GM. Fitzgerald jumped to the front office in 2007, joining the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Director of Player Development. In 2009, Fitzgerald would be promoted to AGM in Pittsburgh, serving under Ray Shero until the summer of 2015 when he followed Shero to New Jersey to serve in the same role.

Fitzgerald has a lot of experience on the developmental side of things, helping the Penguins and Devils develop a number of young players that have emerged as key contributors. On top of that, Fitzgerald had an inside look at the rise of the Penguins, their first Cup run and victory, and the years they maintained success. He’s also played a part in New Jersey’s rise from bottom-feeder to playoff contender.

Again, Fitzgerald isn’t a sexy name, but he has a lot of experience and could help the Oilers in a big way. He’s more than ready for his chance to run the show, much like both Fenton and Futa.

Honorable Mentions:

In addition to the three names above, I’d like the Oilers to take a look at Kyle Dubas and Julien Brisebois. I doubt Toronto makes Dubas available, but he is a smart and young hockey mind who I think would make a great GM in the NHL. He’s helped Toronto emerge as a legit threat with a franchise forward, something Chiarelli hasn’t done in Edmonton.

Brisebois has been a key cog in Tampa Bay’s front office, helping what has been an amazing pipeline from the AHL to the NHL for the organization. He’s also got ample experience under Steve Yzerman, who has arguably been one of the NHL’s best GM’s this decade.

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