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Shove it up your Oil Derrick

Alright, this one’s not going to be very nice. I try not to be rude or mean-spirited in the vast majority of the things I do, but when I feel disrespected, I sometimes have to respond in kind. Today, I feel disrespected.

I don’t need to re-hash what this season has been for the Oilers. It’s been a disaster. A season where everything went right blinded the management, the coaching staff and a decent percentage of the fanbase as to what still ailed this team and rather than address it in the off-season, Peter Chiarelli and his band of merry men opted to triple down on the concept of draining skill from the roster. (Reinhart trade in 2015, Hall in 2016, Eberle in 2017). There are myriad problems with the Oilers these days, but they all lead back to “General Disappointment”.

The Oilers season was basically dead in the water before Christmas, but a hot run for a half dozen games gave a glimmer of hope for fans as they went into the holidays. The team has flatlined in the time since coming back from Christmas. As a result, there is FINALLY starting to be some heat on the GM for his poor decisions. In the last week, suddenly Mark Spector, Jim Matheson, Jason Gregor and others have begun to speak more harshly of the GMs poor choices and following a string of games where the Oilers were relentlessly speedbagged, momentum seemed to be building towards potential changes.

I’ve remained skeptical that any such changes were coming or that even if they did they would be handled in a way that actually resulted in a positive impact on the franchise, but it was certainly obvious that tensions were rising and the team was starting to feel the need to do something about it.

Then yesterday happened. In the 24 hours following Edmonton’s loss on Sunday night Peter Chiarelli did a series of three interviews. One with Mark Spector from Sportsnet, one with Ryan Rishaug from TSN, and one with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now. In that last one, he was basically fed excuses and asked if he agreed with them.

I don’t mind the interviews. That’s public relations 101. Bad news cycle? Get out there and say something to change the narrative. I get it. No problem.

No, the thing that has me feeling disrespected today is this:

So basically, if this report is accurate, the Oilers trotted out the General Manager a few times on an off day, he said some inconsequential things about the team evaluating what has gone wrong, and that lowers the temperature? Hell no it doesn't.

Did you make a trade to improve the roster? No.

Did they fire the coaches of the horrendous special teams? Nope.

Did they fire the head coach? Not that either.

Did they fire the General Manager for draining the franchise of a big amount of the skill the fans endured a decade of darkness to compile? No.

Did the team win even a single game or put in a performance that suggested they’ve sorted out some of their issues? Of course not. They didn’t even play.

So basically, the team thinks they can trot the GM out to say a few things to placate the fans who pay their salaries as if they are brainless half-wits who will say “oh, they’re aware of the problems...I’m good now!”. Many of those fans saw through last year’s over-achievement and had a better read on this franchise than the management group did. Let’s just say hearing a few words from the GM doesn’t calm the stormy waters.

I’m putting a line in the sand here and I encourage you to join me. No amount of media availabilities are going to make up for wasting the final year of Connor McDavid’s entry-level contract. Heads need to roll. Messing up the entirety of the best value-contract in hockey in a generation is cause for dismissal. Period.

I’ll give my own personal *hit list below, but the key is the people who made this mess don’t get to clean it up.

  1. Peter Chiarelli, President of Hockey Ops and General Manager. Ultimately responsible for the asinine skill drain that has taken place in the last few years.
  2. Craig MacTavish, Senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations. A previous failed Oiler-GM in his own right, he’s been Chiarelli’s #2 and part of these poor choices.
  3. Duane Sutter, Vice-President of Player Personnel. If you’re responsible for managing the personnel, and the personnel isn’t good enough...
  4. Keith Gretzky, Assistant General Manager. Part of Chiarelli’s inner circle and needs to be held to account.
  5. Bill Scott, Assistant to the President of Hockey Operations and Director of Salary Cap Management. Three seasons ago Edmonton was in one of the most enviable salary cap positions in hockey. A plethora of no-movement clauses, excessive contract terms and overpays have made the road ahead much harder.
  6. Rick Carriere and Scott Howson, Senior Director and VP of Player Development respectively. The Oilers have struggled greatly in developing NHL players beyond first round picks. Brandon Davidson (who they traded at one point) and Jujhar Khaira are some of the only real successes in recent years outside of round one of the draft. Just not good enough.
  7. Jay Woodcroft, Assistant Coach. One of his primary responsibilities is to coach the powerplay and special teams have been the Achilles heel of this team.
  8. Jim Johnson, Assistant Coach. He runs the penalty kill, which is one of the worst in history and has been lousy for over 100 games.

Since the Oilers have seen fit to run their franchise like a clown show the last few years, this group can collectively pile into a clown car and drive themselves out of town. I wish them all the success in the world doing something else but they aren’t getting it done here.

Are all these guys going to be let go simultaneously? Of course not. Does that mean it’s not warranted? Nope.

Meaningful changes

Cutting out the disease that ails this franchise is what fans are looking for. Just get it right. There’s more than one way to do that and management teams are allowed to make choices on what they think is best, but when you make a continuous series of poor bets and those bets all go exactly as expected, you need to own your poor performance.

So Oilers, if you want to please the fans and calm the ire of those who are angered by your failures, try making meaningful changes to show that there is accountability and that you are committed to finding people who can get it right. This group isn’t doing that.

As for those media availabilities? You can shove those up your oil derrick.