January 17th, 2018: After being a heavy poster for the Copper and Blue I was asked to write a few articles. My contention had always been that our problem is our GM Peter Chiarelli. I didn’t think it was the coaches. I didn’t think it was the goalies and I certainly wasn’t mad that players like Drake Caggiula played like Drake Caggiula. The roster was always constructed horribly and to expect them to win by citing things like lack of character, bad coaching or shoddy goaltending was not right to me. Chia consistently brought in AHL talent and never really had more than 7 legit NHL players at anytime. The roster he left us is much worse than the one he inherited (if you factor McDavid as part of his original roster). I wrote a 2 part article (Part 1 and Part 2) about him after learning of his ‘death by a 1000 cuts’ theory. That comment infuriated me as I felt he WAS the death by a 1000 cuts. Consistently losing every trade, constantly trading away legit players for magic beans and making some terrible signings. Every article I’ve written since then has always mentioned firing Chia as a great idea. Chia was fired 1 year and 5 days later after my first article. He should’ve never been hired. He should’ve been fired after the combo of trading Hall and trading picks for Reinhart. Chia made so many bad trades and signings that I completely forgot that his backup solution was Jonas Gustavsson who was well past his NHL expiry date. After leaving the Oil he never played in the NHL again.
I did feel Chia did a few things right. The Maroon trade was very good. The Talbot trade was also excellent. I do like the depth of our AHL roster and prospect pool in all positions. However, there is no guarantee any of those guys will become full time NHL players for the Oiler’s. They do look like a nice group though. I did like him picking up Jerabek, Walker, Jokinen and Aberg. None of those worked out. His Sekera signing was exceptional. It was not his fault Sekera got hurt. However, he never did anything to fill that hole.
His last 5 D solutions have been Jerabek (immediately waived and in AHL), Garrison (immediately waived and in Sweden with Gustavsson), Wideman (immediately waved and in AHL), Manning (who has a terrible contract and was a healthy scratch on a non playoff team) and Petrovic (who was also a routine healthy scratch on a non playoff team).
When I woke up and read he was fired you would think I’d be ecstatic. Yet, a funny thing happened. I was more depressed then ever about the state of the Oil. I wasn’t happy at all. Not because I was sad to see Chia go but because the problem wasn’t close to solved. We are no closer to contending for a Stanley Cup today then we were 5 days ago. We will be no closer in a few months either. The firing of Chia exposed a bigger problem. A much bigger problem.
The first names I saw after the firing were Gretzky and Nicholson. Nicholson is the same guy who hired Chia after an exhaustive search. Gretzky is a Boston castoff who happens to have a pretty famous brother (who is also employed by us). He is routinely referred to as a great drafter as he picked up McAvoy and Pastrnak. However, he also took Debrusk, Zenyshin, Zboril over Barzal, Connor and Chabot. Also, being good at drafting makes you a great scout, not a great GM. It’s an asset to the job but not the job itself. You know who else is pretty good at drafting? Peter Chiarelli.
I realized that these 3 guys are still all on the payroll and active employees:
Gretzky, Gretzky, Coffey, Lowe, MacT, Nicholson and Howson are all still there in some capacity while Chia is gone. The Oiler problem is so far from solved that it made me sad. Firing your GM with no new GM lined up does not make things better. It is symbolic at best. It points a finger at one guy when it is a handful of guys that have been destroying the Oilers for well over a decade.
I do give Chia credit for something else. In my opinion he knew he was getting fired. I think he was frustrated with how things went. I think he was forced to make trades he didn’t want to. I think he didn’t have as much control as Nicholson said he did. I think he always had a ‘voice in his ear’. I think there were a lot of ‘water cooler’ moments beyond his control. I think he was just a figurehead masking the bigger parade of idiots that run us. So what did he do?
He went full Scarface on everyone! He picked up the most complained about player in the entire, generally well run Hawks organization, for 2 years! He picked up healthy scratch Alex Petrovic. He signed a 30 year old goalie with 27 games to his name for 3 more years (completely undoing one of his best trades of acquiring Talbot) and THEN he left in a glorious mess! These final moves cost us over 8 million in cap space next season to, somehow, cripple our cap space more. My hat’s off to you Chia, you glorious bastard!
Chia was the equivalent of an employee who has been let go but still asked to work his final 2 weeks. He stole all the staplers and pissed in the coffee maker on his way out. Here is another beauty on his way out!
I hope, after this, Chia becomes a color commentator. I recall how hockey smart MacT was as one. Something tells me Chia would be brilliant and not suggest one stupid move. Brian Burke said he didn’t become stupid overnight. I believe this now. There IS something in the water and removing Chia has not cleaned that water at all.
So, believe it or not, I became a fan of Chia after he was fired. I imagine we were hours away from him signing Chiason to a 5 year, 20 million dollar extension. His exit is the stuff of legend.
As always, my article has run to well over 2000 words. This was the first 1000. The next 1000 is coming soon.