The Sad State Of The Edmonton Oilers

The Sad State Of The Edmonton Oilers

By Chris Cole

January 26, 2019

Peter Chiarelli was relieved of his duties as General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. His release ended his three-and-a-half year time in that position with the club.  During his time with the team, he was known for two transactions: the first was the trade of Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson in 2016 and the contract extension of goalie Mikko Koskinen right before his release.

Besides the one playoff appearance in 2017, the Oilers have finished near the bottom during the other seasons under his management. While you can fault him for not building a solid team around Connor McDavid to become a competitive force, the problems with the Oilers extend far beyond the office of Chiarelli.

A lot of top picks and nothing to show for it.

Starting with the 2010 NHL entry draft, the Oilers have had the top overall pick four times; 2010-12 and 2015.  To put it in more mathematical terms, the Oilers have had four-out-of-nine number one draft picks or 44% of the drafts.  Let’s look at who they picked and their current status:

  • 2010: Taylor Hall- Played six seasons with the Oilers before being traded for Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils in 2016.
  • 2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins- Still with the team.
  • 2012: Nail Yakupov- Played four seasons with the Oilers before being traded to St. Louis for prospect Zach Pochiro and a condition third-round pick in 2017.  He would later be traded to Colorado and would go back to Russia in the summer of 2018. You can definitely call him a draft bust.
  • 2015: Connor McDavid- Still with the team and the guy the Oilers need to build the team around, but haven’t really.

Four number one overall draft picks have resulted in either one being traded or another to be a bust.  The team has had numerous top players that they could've built a squad around like Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle (now with the New York Islanders).  Now with recent number one pick Connor McDavid they have another attempt to built a great team with him at the center, but they still have not shown anything for it.  

They have decent players for a young core such as McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tobias Rieder as well as more veteran support in Milan Lucic, Andrej Sekera, and Cam Talbot.  There is enough talent on this team they they could have made consistent playoff appearances, but many mistakes off the ice has made this club a laughing-stock.

Koskinen’s extension highlights a bigger problem beyond Chiarelli

Prior to Chiarelli’s release, he signed goaltender Mikko Koskinen to a three-year contract extension that has an average annual value of $4.5 million per year.  While securing a goalie for the next three years is usually a good move, Koskinen is not a starter. In fact, Koskinen has only played 31 games in the NHL, is 30 years old, and has a .905 save percentage.  The Hurricanes pulled a similar move with Scott Darling, except he was expected to be the starter and now he’s in net for their AHL affiliate in Charlotte after clearing waivers.

As Brett Finger of Canes Country pointed out, the Koskinen signing could mean “either: A. EDM let Chiarelli sign Koskinen to that dumb contract, knowing that he was going to be fired soon, or B. The Koskinen deal was a joint decision by everyone else in that organization, which would mean that the problem in EDM is waaay more than just Chiarelli.”

So for everyone: is it point A or point B?  If it is A then expect the next GM to deal away Koskinen or place him on waivers in the future.  If it’s B then Edmonton is going to be suffering for a long time.

It’s Point B

Let’s put it this way: if the team performs well, you credit the team, if they perform badly, you credit the coach.  A coach can only do so much with the team they have been given. Which means there are times that coaches receive their walking papers more often than General Managers do.  The New York Islanders went through five coaches and suffered from some horrendous trades during Garth Snow’s time as GM from July 18, 2006 until he was replaced by Lou Lamoriello on June 5, 2018.  That’s 12 years! And you know what the Islanders got out of it? One first overall pick in the NHL draft (John Tavares, 2009), four playoff appearances (but one series win), and one of the worst contract signings of all time: 15-year, $67.5 million contract for goalie Rick DiPietro.  While Chiarelli’s time with Edmonton almost lasted a third of the tenure of Snow you can see the comparison: people will ignore the problem more the higher up the chain you go.

The Edmonton Oilers top brass are complacent.  They know they haven’t had a good product in years.  As long as they keep getting picks in the top third of the draft and sell out the building they are fine with not having playoff hockey.  The once dominant organization is now just a PR stunt every season. If you expect the Oilers to pick their next GM with winning in mind then you have a lot more optimism in the organization than I do.  Who knows, they could hire Garth Snow!


PHOTOS: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press