With the NHL schedule starting to slow down and the Edmonton Oilers struggling to put wins together on a nightly basis, Ryan Rishaug of TSN.ca reported in the early hours of Wednesday morning that a change is imminent at the GM position in Edmonton while he also added on that news should be expected shortly.
Marc Spector of Sportsnet.ca then followed this up by reporting that active consideration was being had in the team’s front office as of late with regards to the unstable status of Peter Chiarelli and his job security with the Oilers.
The conversation comes about a short time after the club’s 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings who currently sit in last place in the NHL standings going into the bye-week effective as of Tuesday night after the game.
A short time following this, Marc Savard from Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto reported that a source close to the club had informed him of Chiarelli’s dismissal from the organization.
Within half an hour later, Ryan Rishaug was back at it with more, confirming that it was in-fact a done deal that Chiarelli had been let go by Edmonton which was then re-iterated by John Shannon of HockeyCentral on Sportsnet.
Perhaps to many, the news does not come as a surprise nor one of shock given that the Oilers have lost four of their last six games played this month. It is also their third-straight loss amidst what has been a rather disappointing season of struggle to this particular point in time just coming up on the NHL All-Star Break.
During the second period of play on Tuesday night at Rogers Place, Jeremy Roenick was on the call for NBCSN when he said of Edmonton’s rocky mess thus far into the regular season, “I was just sitting here and watching this game and I am shaking my head … I’m boggled that this is a professional hockey league team. The Edmonton Oilers are so bad. They can’t put 2 passes together … In all 3 zones they look confused.
In continuation, Roenick would go on to say about the Oilers mess, “They have no idea where they are going. They are throwing hope passes up the ice, hoping they can catch someone in a rush hoping they can get an odd number situation … They have no idea what they are doing out there and it shows so much. The Detroit Red Wings, the worst team in the NHL, look like the Stanley Cup Champions next to this Edmonton Oilers team.”
In closing, Jeremy Roenick would wrap up in saying, “I can understand why Connor McDavid is as frustrated as he is. He is the only guy that is working or doing something smart with the puck … If I am Ken Hitchcock, I’m in the dressing room screaming my head off. We talk about hockey IQ … this team may have from 18 players the lowest hockey IQ that I’ve seen in a long time. The way they are playing this game I can understand why they were booed leaving the ice to end the second period.”
According to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, the Oilers brass met after the game on Tuesday night to discuss their next move which really made it clear that the front of house transaction was looming.
Furthermore, while the meeting was led by Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson, Spector also made mention of the fact that they likely decided on someone to shepherd the franchise through the trading deadline and as long as the search for a new general manager might take.
As noted by John Shannon, the team has turned to Keith Gretzky to take over duties as interim general manager these next few weeks, meanwhile, Vice Chairman Bob Nicholson will also be more involved during the search for a new GM.
The club held a press conference to announce the firing on Wednesday morning at Rogers Place where CEO Bob Nicholson addressed the media to explain the decision in greater lengths. He also gave a brief picture as to what the future looks like going forward for the organization.
Chiarelli was in the fourth season of his five-year contract with the team which he ended with the long-term signing of Mikko Koskinen on Monday night. He also placed Ryan Spooner and Ty Rattie on waivers earlier in the day.
Chiarelli joined the organization back in April of 2015 and has since helped to put together the team that ended the Oilers 10-year playoff drought in the spring of 2017. Edmonton has struggled to exceed similar expectations since then.
In speaking about Chiarelli’s firing and where the club looks to go from here, Nicholson opened Wednesday’s media gathering in saying, “It was really felt with the way the team was trending that we had to make this change.”
Furthermore, he would then go on to say, “We have a lot of work to do here in the organization over [the All-Star] break. We have some good time to do that. And we’ve got to find out answers about how we can make this team better to make the playoffs.”
In closing, Nicholson would wrap up in saying about his squad, “There’s something in the water here in Edmonton that we don’t have right. And we got to get that figured out.”
Upon having delivered the news to their now former general manager, Nicholson said Chiarelli was disappointed when he heard the news, but ultimately wasn’t surprised because of the “chatter” that had been happening around the city. Nicholson would then make mention of the fact that nothing about Hitchcock’s role would change following the dismissal of Peter Chiarelli.
In recent months, Chiarelli had said that he believed the team was capable of playing better, ultimately leading to the firing of head coach Todd McLellan back in November. Following his release, Ken Hitchcock was brought aboard, yet not much has changed as a result of the coaching swap. Since his arrival, the Oilers own a record of 14-14-2.
Edmonton opened their season with a 9-10-1 record while much of their offence this season has revolved around Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. All three men have been counted on by Chiarelli for secondary scoring, however, with a lack of production beating down on the Oilers at this time, they have failed to provide that boost, partially accounting for their recent slump.
Edmonton missed the playoffs towards the conclusion of last season and if you take a look at where they stand going into February 2nd against the Flyers, the team currently sits at 23-24-3 with just five wins recorded in their last 17 games played. They have also registered a total of 49 points during this time.
Though, in recent days, many fans are only looking out on the dark side, their have been brighter days in the era of Peter Chiarelli. If you take a look back to the 2016-17 regular season, Chiarelli made a high profile move with the trade of Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson while a year later, he traded Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome.
Strome, however, did not stick in the long-term plans as he has since been dealt to the New York Rangers in exchange for veteran forward Ryan Spooner. Chiarelli has also made strong additions via free agency with the likes of Andrej Sekera in 2015 and Milan Lucic in 2016. Sekera, however, has been plagued by injuries over the course of the past two seasons.
As noted by Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, there are plenty of former general managers working for the Oilers at this time, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson amongst the many potential candidates to fulfill the position.
John Shannon adds to this in noting that other names that could be heard include former Flyers GM Ron Hextall, former Maple Leafs assistant Mark Hunter, former Canucks president and GM Mark Gillis, Golden Knights assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon and former Buffalo Sabres GM Michael Futa.
In other news relevant to the Oilers active roster, Shannon makes mention of the fact that Ryan Spooner and Kailer Yamamoto have been assigned to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
At this time, Edmonton sits in seventh place in the Pacific Division and will look to correct this placement upon their return to the ice next weekend. That in mind, the Oilers are now off until Saturday February 2nd when they pay a visit to the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Puck drop is scheduled for 1:00pmET and the game can be seen on NHL Network, Sportsnet and NBCSP, meanwhile, the game can be heard on WPEN 97.5 FM.
Perhaps by the time they return, a new general manager will have been named, however, until then, the search for Chiarelli’s successor will take place to find the right suitor for the front office position in Edmonton.