When I wrote my first article for the Copper and Blue, it was far too long. So I split the article in half. If you haven’t read part 1, here it is: https://www.coppernblue.com/2018/1/15/16894092/death-by-a-1000-chias-part-1
My goal in both articles was to not mention 3 names in my griping: Taylor Hall, Griffin Reinhart and Mathew Barzal. My hope was to make the article(s) about this offseason and about Peter Chiarelli’s most recent run of management. I noticed a lot of different opinions on the topic from my own which was great. What I didn’t notice was anyone defending Peter Chiarelli and his plan to make us a cup winner. The closest we got was the sound logic of firing Chia is okay, just don’t hire another inept GM.
The only way Chia’s plan was going to work was if everyone simply got better. This doesn’t happen in the NHL. Players get hurt, players age, players get worse, players get in slumps, players have bad luck, players go through issues away from rink or players come back to earth from previous seasons filled with good bounces. Yet, I saw very little in the way of backup plans for things going poorly. For Peter Chiarelli’s ‘plan’ to work…
- Drake Caggiula needed to be a 20 to 25 goal scoring top 6 winger (he has 6 goals)
- Ryan Strome needed to regain his 50 point form (he is on pace for 30 to 35 points just like the last 3 seasons)
- Laurent Brossoit needed to be around a .910 goalie (he is .886, career average .899).
- Leon Draisaitl needed to be a PPG player (.86 down from .94 last season)
- Oscar Klefbom needed to be near Norris levels (minus 10, 3 goals, battling injuries)
- Adam Larsson would have to find some offence (5 points in 21:29 minutes per game)
- Cam Talbot would have to be near Vezina quality (.902 down from .919)
- Anton Slepyshev would have to show what he did in his small sample in the playoffs (1 goal on season, he actually scored more in the playoffs)
Some guys have improved. Kris Russell has played very well (for Kris Russell) and has been our leading scorer among defensemen for most of the season. Darnell Nurse has blossomed into everything I hoped he would and I’m terrified we will trade him. McDavid hits the break with 52 points and 8th in scoring. I still think he will win scoring race this season. Lucic is on pace for 49 points which is consistent with his last 3 seasons (44, 50, 55). I think the Lucic contract is terrible and he will, one day, regress horribly but today is not that day. Khaira has shown some promise as well.
Cap space has scored 0 points for us this year. The season started rough and Chia did nothing to improve our team. The offseason is the time to improve a team. A good GM will improve his team between the draft day (get good picks or make good trades) and free agency. Chia did none of this. He acquired a lot of cap space (https://www.capfriendly.com/teams/oilers) and did nothing with it. I assumed the cap space was to make assessments during the season, address needs and build towards becoming the Cup contending team we were being told we were. I was dead wrong. I’m not sure what the cap space is for. Apparently it is to fend off offer sheets? The season is dead now.
Soon we’ll trade Maroon, Slepyshev and Letestu away for, probably, very little in return. We’ll have even more cap space but we will enter the offseason with considerably more holes than we did last offseason! We are literally no further ahead now than we were then. We are moving backwards after having signed up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
It should be pointed out that we are one of the healthiest teams in the league. Our biggest injury was Sekera and we knew about that in May. Other than that, we’ve had 90 to 95% of our roster for the entire season. Almost no team can claim such amazing health. This is the team Chia built for us in the final year of Connor McDavid’s ELC (Connors salary triples from 4 million to 12 million next season).
If I leave Chia alone for a minute though. My other big gripe is how fragile these guys are. Back to back games, we lose because we’re tired. Have 4 days off, we lose because we aren’t sharp. Afternoon game, too early for us. Play our backup, we lose because he isn’t Cam Talbot. Play another teams backup, we lose because the backup had the game of his life. Get scored on in first period, we lose because today’s NHL is so tight. Score first goal, we lose because there is ‘plenty of game left’. We can’t sustain win streaks but we can sure sustain losing ones.
This is, in part, the ‘1000 cuts’ that Chia was referring to. My issue is that Chia put the guys into place to create the 1000 cuts. He allegedly traded away all our soft players, locker room cancers and replaced them with grit and toughness and we are the most fragile team mentally in the league. I’m absolutely positive that our opponents are much more afraid of Connor McDavid than Zack Kassian. You don’t make a living in the NHL being scared of facepunchers.
From what I can tell we will be entering next season ‘hoping’ that Kailer Yamamoto is a top 6 scorer. That our new draft pick (Zadina, Tkachuk) is also in the Top 6 or is winning the Norris as an 18 year old (Dahlin).
Teenagers don’t win you cups. If anyone should know this, it is Oiler’s fans. We’ve had a world class influx of the best teenage hockey players in the world and have been to the playoffs once in 12 years.
Jagr won 2 cups as a teenager but, the big difference, he was surrounded by Trottier, Francis, Lemieux and Paul Coffey. Connor McDavid is surrounded by Patrick Maroon, Jesse Puljujarvi, Milan Lucic and Kris Russell.