General Manager Peter Chiarelli joined TSN’s Bob McKenzie for an interview yesterday and covered a number of topics. Notably, McKenzie asked the Oilers GM about the expectations around the team, and Chiarelli's plans for the captaincy this season. The whole interview was interesting enough, but here’s a poor transcript of the good bits (read: the part they showed on Sportscentre) in case you didn’t see it:
BM – New general manager, new coach, Connor McDavid, all the hype. Do you have to go out of your way to almost try and tamp down expectations because there is such a buzz in Edmonton right now?
PC – With Connor, obviously he’s a special talent. There are going to be ups and downs in the year and I’ve heard some ridiculous statements about him. Maybe you look back in 5 years and those statements aren’t ridiculous but, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him and we want to make sure he’s in the proper development for him. So you may hear me under promising, it takes the pressure off of everybody. At the end of the day we all want to win.
BM – What do you mean by ridiculous statements?
PC – Maybe ridiculous is the wrong adjective. I’ve heard some of these numbers that guys say he’s going to get. I’ve heard some guys, some pundits, talk about ‘he’s the next this, he’s the next that’. So, ridiculous is the wrong adjective, I just want to put it in proper perspective, he’s an 18 year old kid – young man – and it’s a heavy league. You saw the game the other night, it’s a heavy league, and those are rookies playing. There’s going to be a lot of learning, a lot of adjusting along the way. Obviously he’s a special talent, he’s going to do it quicker than others, but there’s going to be learning.
BM – Everything you said is absolutely true, and yet prodigies almost always make a huge impact in their first year, and I think it’s fair to call him a prodigy, based on how he’s tracked so far. Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, 100 point seasons in their first year. But the game is so competitive now, and you talked about it being heavy and, nobody even got 100 points in the NHL last year, never mind 18 year old rookies. Is there a realistic number for him, an over/under you want to take? Is it 60? 65? 70?
PC – You know, I don’t want to put any numbers on him, let’s say 20 and 40. You know, that would be really good. To score in this league, it requires a lot of skill, acumen, and strength. He’s got a lot of those things and he’s going to develop a lot of those things, so let’s call it 20 and 40.
BM – A good season for Connor McDavid would be 20 goals and 60 points, can we put you down for the over/under? McKenzie asks this while trying not to swear at Chiarelli for being so full of it on TV.
PC – No, no. 20 goals and 40 points. That’s under promising isn’t it?
BM – OK, well come on. You’ve got to take the over on that, don’t you?
PC – Yeah, yeah you might take the over on that one.
BM – Andrew Ference is a veteran guy you know very well, he’s the captain of the hockey team – has been the captain of the hockey team. You’ve made moves to bring in a defense that should, in theory, push Andrew Ference down more probably to a third pairing role, or a guy who’s got to compete to be a top-6 guy on your team. Can he still be the captain or, you’ve got a new GM, a new coach, do you need a new captain?
PC – What Todd and I will do is we’ll discuss the captaincy and assistant captains as the preseason goes on. I’ve had discussions with Andrew about that, I’ve got a good relationship with Andrew from before in Boston. We can be very frank with each other and we have been. So if we do make that change, I know Andrew will be a complete professional about it, and he wants to win.
Pretty good, right? Sure, Chiarelli forecasting a 20-20-40 season for Connor McDavid is crap. He’s trying to under promise in a big way, but come on. We know better. If Connor McDavid has 40 points next year I’ll be disappointed. You will be too. Call it unfair, but such is life for prospects of McDavid’s pedigree. All four of them. Ever. Maybe Chiarelli knows something we don’t, and he’s already booked McDavid for his obligatory Oilers rookie shoulder operation in January. If that’s the case, you can’t fault him for thinking ahead.
Most interesting to me were the comments surrounding Andrew Ference and the Oilers captaincy. Chiarelli didn’t suggest that McKenzie’s assessment of Ference’s role this season was off base, nor did he rule out taking away the C. I’ve long been someone who prefers captains to be among the best players on the team, so this would be a welcome change for me. I don’t put that much into experience, and I have a hard time with the captain being someone you can’t necessarily rely on when the game is on the line. I’d have probably given it to Taylor Hall two years ago in a heartbeat, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a case for himself as well on the back of a strong showing last year. I’d still go with Hall myself, but I have time for those who’d prefer Nugent-Hopkins. The Oilers could also go the route of the Montreal Canadiens and throw a bunch of A’s on some of their better players. I’d still prefer that to Ference at this point.