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Death by a 1000 Chia’s Part 1

Hockey: World Cup of Hockey-Press Conference Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

No Oilers this week. Thought it’d be a nice time to share my views. It turns out I’m quite angry at Chia so I had to split this into 2 parts. Until about a month ago I was not happy with Chia. Then he had his ‘death by a 1000 cuts’ comment and then I got angry.

I became a fan of the Oil in the 80’s back when Paul Coffey was my favorite player and the dynasty days were in full swing. I’ve stayed with them since including the decade of darkness. About 5 years ago I found the blogs and started reading different opinions from what the media was saying and got hooked on that. I don’t care much for fancy stats but I love the talks about trade value, asset management, developing players and contract management. I’ve learned that the Oilers suck at all those things and have for a very long time.

I fully admit that I blame Chia for 90% of the problems the Oilers have. I realize people could easily point out the PK, the predictable powerplay, poor goaltending, the players themselves, the coach or some dark cloud hanging over Edmonton. I see a team that has been healthy all season. This is the team that Chia built for us on the last year of Connor McDavid’s ELC and it is nowhere near good enough.

I’ve been accused of ‘not being a fan’ of the team but I rarely miss a game and cheered very loudly in the playoffs despite games going to 2am here in Ontario. What I won’t cheer loudly for is when we draft inside the Top 5 in June and get an awesome player because I’m sick of ‘hope’. I want ‘now’. We absolutely should’ve been a playoff team this season and a contender next seasons and for years after that.

The hardest thing to do as a GM in the NHL is to get a core of generational talent and elite players. The easy part is building around the core. Chia was handed McDavid, Hall, Drai, Eberle, RNH, Nurse and Klefbom. Somehow, we’re not a playoff team and next season is not looking any better.

This brings me to this season. I thought this was the offseason to make us contenders for a long time. I had a short list of things I thought we had to do as we had a generational player, a young phenom, some depth scoring and a D corps that was ‘acceptable’. Almost all our players were considered ‘NHL players’ which has also been rare in Oil Country. I waited for a big trade or signing and got … Brad Malone.

I watched us trade perennial 50 to 60 point man Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. I feel we could’ve got Ryan Strome for a 3rd round pick. If we try to trade Strome at the deadline, I’m curious to see what we get for him? I somehow doubt it will be anything near Jordan Eberle.

If Strome wasn’t the replacement for Eberle, then the scoring was going to come from ‘within’. That means that Yamamoto (0,3), Shlep (1,2), Strome (7,10), Caggiula (5,11) and Puljujarvi (8.3) were meant to replace Eberle (14,20). Those 5 guys combined have 50 points to Eberle’s 34 points. Eberle currently doubles Strome in points. Eberle also has the same amount of points as Yamamoto, Shlep, Puljujarvi and Strome combined.

To add to my misery. I saw the Lightning hold out and get a great haul for Jonathan Drouin. I saw the Avs hold out and get a great haul for Matt Duchene (Duchene has very similar stats to Eberle over his career). I saw the Yotes hang on and get a phenomenal haul for Martin Hanzal. 3 very recent examples of GM’s holding on and getting full value for an asset. If you have to trade a guy for whatever reason, fine, but you have to get market value back or else you’re left with the Oilers current situation.

I knew we’d be missing our best Dman until Christmas and didn’t see one thing done to replace his minutes. I did see that we resigned Kris Russell for 4 more years. I like Kris Russell and thought signing him for 1 year was a great move by Chia. A really astute move that paid off. Signing him for 4 more years with a NTC was the exact opposite of astute. There is no way another NHL team was offering that kind of deal to him. It was Andrew Ference all over again.

I also noticed that, after playing him 70 games and the full playoff run, that nothing was done to shore up our backup goaltending position. Laurent Brossoit has never won at any level and has zero pedigree (eg. Dubnyk was a first rounder with a tonne of pedigree). He is a decent AHL goalie and that is it. There were a lot of guys available for free or for a small contract that would’ve been great as insurance policies in case Talbot slumped or got hurt (Petr Mrazek was free, Ondrej Pavelec was around 1 million, Malcolm Subban and Calvin Pickard were free).

Then, along came preseason and we were being touted as Stanley Cup Contenders. This baffled me to no end. We never replaced Eberle and his 50 to 60 point scoring. We never replaced Sekera. We didn’t get a real backup. I fully admit I thought we were a playoff team but I was thinking Wild Card. I had no idea everything would blow up like it had. I was thinking we had all that cap money set aside to make a big move during the season and ‘shore up’ for a cup run. That never happened.

In all of this. I didn’t give much attention to the fact that we got rid of Benoit Pouliot. Pouliot is not a perfect player but he does have 9 goals (same as Lucic who is 5th in goal scoring on the Oil) and is a good Penalty Killer. There was no need to get rid of him. In no way is our team better without him and the unused cap space. We are, in fact, paying him 1.3 million dollars a year to outscore 75% of our active roster until 2021.

From what I can tell. Chia’s offseason plan was

A: sign Connor McDavid (and he did a very good job at it)

B: sign Drai and he overpaid by 2 million per when using comparables like Pastrnak, Kuznetsov and Tarasenko (all three currently have more points than Drai).

C: everyone else will improve.

D: go to his cottage, pour some whiskey, light a cigar and put his feet up and reflect on a job well done

This plan simply wasn’t enough.