I’ve finally broken.
I simply can’t defend Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli anymore. After yesterday’s trade deadline, how can anyone? Patrick Maroon, a 25-goal scorer, couldn’t fetch more than a third-round pick and a marginal prospect from the New Jersey Devils. It’s yet another defeat in a long list of losses on the trade front for the Harvard graduate; while he’s certainly made some good-to-great moves during his tenure, he’s also seemed to go out of his way to make them completely pointless through other, worse trades. I’ve been a Chiarelli apologist for too long now. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!
I finally have someone I dislike more than Daryl Katz’s kid. Who would have thought it would be the man that I believed would lead us to the Stanley Cup?
It’s been full of peaks and valleys, but rest assured there’s been more valleys. Don’t believe me? Let’s recap Ol’ Pete’s time here.
Episode IV: A New Hope
April 24, 2015 was a banner day in Oilers history. It had been announced that Kevin Lowe was no longer in charge of hockey operations, Craig MacTavish finally received a demotion, and it appeared that the dark days of the Old Boys Club were finally over with the hiring of Peter Chiarelli
Recently let go by the Boston Bruins, Chiarelli came to Edmonton a Stanley Cup winner with a reputation as a shrewd GM. Unlike teams of Oilers past that had been built for speed, Chiarelli preferred a hard-nosed style of play – something that we as Oilers fans had been relishing for years. Most importantly, the man affectionately known as “Chia” wasn’t a former Oilers player.
Immediately, Chiarelli got to work remoulding the Oilers in his image. At his first NHL draft as Oilers GM, Peter was as active as they come; gone were players like Martin Marincin, Boyd Gordon and Ben Scrivens that simply didn’t fit the mould anymore. In came Cam Talbot, Eric Gryba, and most importantly perennial Norris Trophy candidate Griffin Reinhart to bolster the Oilers weak defensive corps. It was clear that Chiarelli was serious about building a contender, and while there wasn’t immediate success in 2015/2016 – mostly due to a devastating injury to Connor McDavid – there was definitely improvement on the ice. Even at the NHL Trade Deadline, Chia was tinkering with the Oilers, shipping out controversial defenceman Justin Shultz while bringing in soon-to-be fan-favourite Patrick Maroon, proving that he was eager to turn the Oilers fortunes around.
It was a promising start to Chia’s career in Edmonton, and there wasn’t much he could do to upset Oilers fans.
Episode V: The Old Boys Strike Back
Well, he did it. Outside of trading McJesus himself, Chiarelli did about the only thing he could do to upset Oilers fans in the 2016 offseason. Chiarelli shocked the hockey world one week before Free Agency, trading former 1st overall pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for solid-if-unspectacular defender Adam Larsson. It will perhaps go down in Oilers history as the most controversial trade since Gretzky was moved; while rumours of Hall’s “cancerous” personality in the dressing room had been spread through Edmonton for years, it was still shocking. Hall was the face of the franchise during the team’s darkest days, and it was clear that he gave 110% every night on the ice. It was the first time that a Chiarelli trade seemed to upset the fan base; even the Reinhart trade of the previous season got a tepid response at worst. While I liked the trade at the time myself – and frankly, can still somewhat justify it – it was the first time that I felt that Chiarelli had the potential to be, well, played like an idiot.
While it upset me that Chia could be bamboozled by a fellow GM, I was nearly more upset with his ability to get conned by Milan Lucic. I’ll go on record saying that I had no issues with Lucic as a hockey player; however, a seven year deal for a guy on the decline? A NMC? Even at the time of signing, Lucic had become more of a golden retriever than a pitbull; yeah, it’s big, but I certainly can’t say it intimidates me.
It was as though Air Bud had learned to play hockey, except I doubt that Air Bud would go months at a time without a goal.
Thankfully, Chiarelli didn’t make an attempt at any bigger trades throughout the season; a lateral move for David Descharnais was about as exciting as it got until the 2017 season drew to a close. I do have to admit I ate a lot of my words last season, and couldn’t have been happier to. At the end of it all, I’m an Oilers fan, and last year’s playoff run was the most I’ve enjoyed being a fan since 2006. With Connor McDavid winning every imaginable award, a Jack Adams nominee in Todd McLellan, a GM of the Year candidate and a roster with only room to improve, how could Chiarelli screw it up?
Episode VI: Return of the Basement Dwellers
Apparently, pretty easily.
Just one season removed from being a goal away from the 2nd round, the Oilers find themselves in familiar territory. The Oilers are near the basement of the league. Chiarelli has doubled down on his ability to make terrible trades, trading not only Patrick Maroon but Jordan Eberle. Kris Russell was inexplicably resigned, although that one’s supposedly okay as his Dad is a bull rider. Oscar Klefbom is rumoured to be on the trading block as a casualty of the cap, but don’t worry, Lucic only has five years left. Marketing directors city-wide are beginning to create slogans for our next early draft pick, and I sincerely hope you’re all enjoying Fallin’ for Dahlin.
We’ve entered the Tambellini Realm, people, and we’re never going back.
So What Now?
Is there a single answer? With the Oilers poised to draft high (again) and Connor McDavid’s 12.5 million dollar contract set to kick in next year, what’s your answer for the Peter Chiarelli Problem? Does he return next season? Does he ride off into the sunset? Let us know your thoughts!
As always, I’m @SpennyLove for Win Column Sports, and I’ll see you again when the Oil do something mind-numbingly stupid.
See you soon!
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