The Edmonton Oilers under GM Peter Chiarelli have been a slow-motion car crash, in that everyone can see—has seen, and has said so!—his bad moves as they’re happening. There is no hindsight involved here. And they’ve just kept piling up.
- There was the trade of two draft picks (one of whom became reigning Calder champ Mathew Barzal) for Griffin Reinhart, who is now out of the organization and scuffling in the AHL.
- There was the one-for-one trade of former first overall pick Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson; two years later Hall won MVP.
- There was the seven-year, $42-million contract given to Milan Lucic, who appears to have fallen off a cliff on the wrong side of age 30, and is still signed through 2023.
- There was the trade of Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, who a year later was flipped for Ryan Spooner, who was put on waivers this week.
- And on Monday, Chiarelli’s last move was announced: a three-year, $13.5 million extension for Mikko Koskinen, a 30-year-old goaltender with 32 NHL games under his belt.
On Tuesday, Koskinen allowed two softies in a 3-2 loss to the last-place Red Wings. That was perhaps not the final straw, but it was symbolic of a GM tenure in which seemingly every transaction immediately came back to haunt the Oilers—and of the franchise repeatedly letting Chiarelli stick around long enough to keep causing damage.
And so, early Wednesday morning, the Oilers fired Chiarelli, after three-and-a-half seasons where “progress” has been measured by, uh, not getting the No. 1 pick yet again.
Edmonton is three points out of a wild card spot, is 4-6-0 in its last 10, and has now dropped three straight. They’re not awful, but they’re on track to miss the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons. And given what this team can build around, that’s not nearly good enough.
All the examples listed above only serve to illustrate the most damning fact of all: This is a team with Connor McDavid. The best hockey player in the world, now and for the next decade. There is no good excuse for not contending, and, given that Chiarelli and McDavid both came on four years ago, no one else to blame but the GM for this roster still being such a millstone around McDavid’s neck.
Chiarelli had survived so much. The brutal backsliding after a playoff appearance in 2017 that, with any other franchise, you would’ve called “promising.” The dreaded vote of confidence from the CEO last spring. The firing of head coach Todd McLellan this fall. But what Chiarelli couldn’t survive, it turns out, was some thinly veiled public criticism from the only person whose opinion truly matters in Edmonton. On Monday, after yet another loss, Connor McDavid offered up a hard truth. “We’re not going to out-skill anyone,” he said. He was right. A team that rosters McDavid being unable to out-skill anyone is an inconceivable situation. McDavid speaking up about it made it unsustainable. That was the final straw.