What’s Next for the 2019 Edition of the Edmonton Oilers?

It had to happen.  It was one of those firings where nobody had to ask why.

  • Gifted Connor McDavid with subsequent failure to support this all-world talent
  • Taylor Hall traded for Adam Larsson.
  • Jordan Eberle for nothing.
  • A 16th overall pick and a 33rd overall pick (one of which could have been Matthew Barzal or Brock Boeser) for a defenceman who never played here.
  • Milan Lucic for seven years at $6 million a year.

Without even factoring in this year’s moves that sent useful players like Drake Caggiula and Ryan Strome out of town in exchange for dead weight like Tobias Rieder and Ryan Spooner, Peter Chiarelli’s continued dilution of the Edmonton Oilers roster finally caught up with him Tuesday, January 22, 2019.  At around midnight MST the Edmonton Oilers relieved Peter Chiarelli of his duties of General Manager.  Probably 12-18 months too late IMO.  He’s gone after three and a half years of a five year deal.

As a fan of the Oilers, there are some tough things to swallow:

  • The trading of Taylor Hall for a limited return (all due respect to Adam Larsson)
  • The trading of Jordan Eberle for limited return
  • The depreciation of potential assets in Nail Yakupov, and upcoming transaction with Cam Talbot
  • The fact that this team is up against the NHL salary cap with an AHL-like roster
  • The failure to support young stars such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
  • Building a heavier team when the league has moved to speed and skill
  • The amount of untradeable assets on the team
  • The firing of Todd McLellan
  • The overpay for a goalie with a sample set of less than 30 games with the team
  • Producing a team that lacks intensity, compete, skill and speed

Wow just wow.  To be this bad, after the NHL handed them nine top 10 draft picks in the last 10 years, including the last two Hart Trophy winners, is beyond comprehension.It’s why Peter Chiarelli was fired on January 22, 2019.

Mark Spector concludes the article with:

“Mercifully it is over for Chiarelli.

As for Oilers fans, well…

Here you go again.”

Peter Chiarelli Edmonton Oilers GM

What Oiler’s fans were saying after the firing of Peter Chiarelli:

  • “Hello darkness my old friend” (Timk5)
  • “Every time Chia pulled the trigger he shot himself(and the Oilers)in the foot. It’s almost impressive that he never got shy of pulling that trade trigger though.
    “Thank you sir may I have another?!” (Yzerfitz)
  • “Well we just witnessed a strong effort to unseat Mike Millbury as the worst GM in NHL history…maybe needed a little more time…” (Bob Law Blaw)
  • “What took so long? The outrageous Lucic contract should have been a clear sign that this man had absolutely no hockey or financial know-how and was in way over his head.” (Heehaw)
  • “This is the worst franchise in professional sports over the past decade” (Jack Klompus)
  • “It is unfathomable that the Oilers are in the situation they are in now. Bad drafting, bad developing and bad trades have taken a tremendous toll. They have the top player in the game and are wasting his career. McDavid might be retired before they pull themselves out of this mess.” (Jude2013)
  • Former NHLer Jeremy Roenick on the Oilers after the second intermission of their January 22, 2019 game vs. last place Detroit Red Wings in which the Wings wee up 2-0 at the time and would go on to beat the Oilers 3-2 with Chiarelli being dismissed within a couple of hours of this loss: ““This team might have, from 18 players, the lowest hockey IQ that I’ve ever seen in a long time… It’s embarrassing.” – that team was assembled by peter Chiarelli and his accomplices.
  • “I’m just here to eat my popcorn and read comments – signed Bruins fan” (TJ77)
  • “Oiler fans have to get rid of that “Kick Me” sign they’ve been wearing!” (Hypercritic)
  • “Jack Hughes is starting to have sleepless nights.” (Lottery Pick)

Frank Seravalli on Twitter:

“My mind is still blown that the #Oilers allowed Peter Chiarelli to register a contract for Mikko Koskinen – at an AAV higher than his top defenceman in Oscar Klefbom, not an insignificant deal – a mere 30 hours before firing him.”

We cannot even say that this will get worse before it gets better.  We are already at rock bottom with this franchise.  Hopefully season ticket holders and ticket buyers in Edmonton do their job and seriously consider revisiting purchasing tickets to watch this franchise.  Who in their right mind would pay $525 for a lower bowl ticket, $14 per beer and $20 for a burger to watch this team?

Edmonton Journal: Edmonton Oilers fire Chiarelli but the damage is done

While its easy to play armchair GM, and say that the transaction for Griffin Reinhart was a colossal mistake and that the Oilers could have drafted Barzel or Boeser.  Reinhart did have potential.  A better question might be why couldn’t the Oilers develop Reinhart?  Just one example illustrating that there is more here than just terrible trades from Chiarelli and lets be honest Peter Chiarelli has made some of the worst trades in NHL history.  The bigger issue for me is that the man had no ability to manage the financial aspects of a professional hockey team.  Asset management is not a strength of Peter Chiarelli.

So then what do the Edmonton Oilers needs to do to turn this around?  I’m a firm believer that if one is going to whine and complain about a situation or issue that you should also come with potential solutions.  If the Edmonton Oilers want to hire me as a part-time hockey consultant, I would be open to that, for now here is what I would recommend.

Broken Oilers

Seven Recommendations for the Edmonton Oilers to… Improve

  1. Hire a competent, forward thinking GM – this should be a mix of a hockey person and analytics/data analyst. Toronto has a younger GM in Kyle Dubas who specialized in team improvement though statistical analysis.  At age 25, Dubas was hired as the general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he became GM of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies winning the 2018 Calder Cup.  The Leafs are looking as good as they have in decades.  It’s not a coincidence.  John Chayka became the youngest general manager in the history of the NHL when he became their GM in May 2016.  At the time of this writing the Coyotes are ahead of the Edmonton Oilers in the standings and are an up and coming team in the Western conference.  Chayka has done a nice job in Arizona.  Not saying the Oilers need a young up and comer, but they need to find someone who has some statistical analysis  as part of their skillset.  Other names people have thrown out there are Mark Hunter and Ron Hextall.  Not sure about those options, but the Oilers need to research their options and need to hit a homerun with their next general manager.  They need to take their time and make a solid decision on their next general manager.
  2. Audit the existing talent pool of the active NHL roster – this is key and yes they are most likely doing this, but the Oilers need to step back and take a long hard look at the personnel on this hockey club beginning with the on-ice talent. How can one defenseman (Oscar Klefbom) go down and the team falls immediately into a downward spiral?  Easy answer, not enough depth.  If they need direction or prioritization on what to audit, here are five areas that I would recommend they start with:
    • Top four defensive core
    • Goaltending
    • Goaltending coaches
    • Top six wingers
    • Bottom six forwards

The goal here is simple.  Identify immediate needs and bring in more skill for core positions on the team to address those needs.

  1. Work on instilling the confidence of the roster – this team has been so bad for so long. Comparisons to the Cleveland Browns?  Yikes, this was a storied franchise but the most recent chapters in this story have not been positive.  Whatever the personnel is for the remainder of the season, conduct one-on-ones and fill their emotional bank accounts.  More team meetings that focus on the positivity and privilege of playing in the National Hockey League.  This team needs to step back and learn how to walk the walk.  As a well-known psychologist once said, “We become what we think of most of the time.” The fact is, as this article points outs “If you’re always thinking negatively, then you will likely fail.”
  2. Focus on Asset Management – this includes dealing with all of the untradeable assets on the team. The aforementioned audit should highlight player or personnel that needs to be removed from the organization.  Not to state the obvious, but this team needs more on-ice skill.  Focusing on asset management should mean:
    • Identify what’s working and what is not on a daily and weekly basis.
    • Upgrade at every position beginning with defense and first and second line wingers.
    • Try to rid some of the salary cap damage that Peter Chiarelli has done
    • Pay attention to how successful teams manage their assets (see Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, and Vegas Golden Knights)
    • Revisit your plan for developing younger talent (keeping players in the AHL until they are in fact ready to play in the NHL)
  3. Look at making an offer sheet move – I get that this is a questionable tactic, but if the Oilers can free up enough cap-room they should look at the offer sheet route to immediately inject some talent into this team. How do offer sheets work? Basically, if you’re a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) who has received a qualifying offer (but hasn’t signed it), or an RFA who doesn’t elect to go to arbitration, you can get an offer sheet. Teams must submit qualifying offers to their RFAs to keep their rights and if a player doesn’t receive one of these he’ll become a UFA. At the time of this writing, options might vary (Mitch Mariner, Mark Stone, Jacob Trouba, Erik Karlsson?) but the Oilers would have to carefully weigh their options and determine if the available talent is worth an offer sheet to add some talent to the team.  More on offer sheets here.
  4. Step back and see where the NHL game is going in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – the Oilers can no longer be followers, they need to be proactive in how they assemble their hockey club. Heavy team?  Younger team?  Puck possession team?  Fast skating team?  Combination of all of this?  The Oilers need to use available information in a more intelligent way.  It starts with the data.  The Oilers need to make informed decisions so that they can be a team of the future, not a team of the past (Old Boys Club).
  5. Oil Change/Culture Change – possibly most importantly there needs to be a change in the culture with this team. Losing for so long, so badly, takes its toll.  The one thing that will help with the “Oil Change” is winning hockey games, and consistency in winning hockey games.  Winning doesn’t suck.  Losing does.  The Oilers need to put a better effort in key areas including:
    • The on-ice product
    • Scouting, drafting and player development
    • Asset management

As Mark Spector recently wrote this franchise is at an all-time low when it comes to toxicity.  He’s not wrong.  This could very well be rock bottom for this franchise.  The Edmonton Oilers have some of the best fans of any sports franchise.  We’ve been the whipping boys of the NHL for quite some time.  The team has fostered a losing culture with mistake after mistake.  Do you really think that this was by design?  No, which to me illustrates incompetence of the management team and lack of direction for this franchise.  I always reference the Chris Pronger Curse but come on already.  Perhaps the Hockey Gods are collecting on the fact that the Edmonton Oilers came into the NHL and won their first Stanley Cup within five years of their existence and won five Championships in seven years.

For Oilers fans it’s like a bad dream such as Donald Trump becoming president or something… oh wait…

Let’s make it clear, this team simply just needs to get better players.  How you do it I personally don’t care, just get some better players.  Win every shift, win the period, win the game, win the week, win the month, with the division, win round one  of the playoffs, win three more rounds, win the Cup, win the draft, win each trade, win free agency, win your fans back.