Peter Chiarelli Has Made Life Difficult for Connor McDavid and the Oilers
The struggling Oilers don't have enough secondary pieces to complement McDavid due to a string of bad moves by their GM Chiarelli.
When Peter Chiarelli became the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, there were two prevailing schools of thought:
1) This is great, because no longer is this team run by former players that starred in the 1980s and had no idea what to do when it came to managing an NHL roster. Chiarelli had success in Boston and with Connor McDavid coming to town, this bodes very well for the future.
2) Chiarelli ruined the Bruins before their time with way-too-big contracts for veterans and a trade of a generational talent in Tyler Seguin because he took his shirt off at a bar and liked to have sex or some dumb shit that still makes no sense to this day. With the Oilers having cap space and a plethora of great young players (many of whom have gone shirtless in public and engaged in sexual intercourse), this could be a bad mix.
Even if you leaned toward option 2, with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle there was no way Chiarelli could fuck this up, and if he could, it would take a long time. If Chiarelli were Winston Wolfe, you'd be asking him to get rid of six bodies at Jimmie's house instead of the one. No way he could get that job done before Bonnie came home from the hospital.
The Oilers are 2-5-1 with 15 goals through eight games and showing signs that Bizarro Winston Wolfe has already fucked up Jimmie's shit in record time.
Let's start with the positive—the Oilers' score-adjusted Fenwick through eight games is 55.61 percent, the fourth-best mark in the league, according to Puck On Net. That's a phenomenal number, even if there are still 73 games remaining. You can't argue that the Oilers aren't flattening teams during 5-on-5 play.
What you can argue is that number is greatly inflated because of McDavid. Without him, the Oilers are just about a 50 percent possession team in all even-strength situations. McDavid is in the mid-60s (!) and is basically to the Oilers what Erik Karlsson is to the Senators—a one-man wrecking crew without much help behind him.
Although with the Senators, Karlsson never really had much help; with the Oilers, McDavid had his help traded or was saddled with players that aren't very good and weighing him down. McDavid has a point on nine of the Oilers' 15 goals and was on the ice for another. Where did all the support go? It disappeared? How does that happen?
It happens when you continuously trade-in your sports cars for Kias. When you ship out Hall for Adam Larsson and Eberle for Ryan Strome, there will be consequences. When you reportedly say no to a PK Subban trade, that's going to be an issue, especially when you think the answer to your defensive problems over the long term is Kris Russell. When you think you can replace Hall with Milan Lucic, you will eventually get negative returns.
Think about the issue Sidney Crosby and John Tavares have dealt with their entire careers—they've had no wingers. Tavares lugged around PA Parenteau and Matt Moulson for years while Crosby carried a cavalcade of guys that would probably be in the AHL right now if not for the blessed luck of playing on his wing, and landed Chris Kunitz a spot on a stacked Olympic roster. This didn't really hurt the Penguins (three Cups is pretty good) because they had all kinds of depth behind Crosby while Tavares has only gone beyond the first round once in his wasted Islanders career.
It's as if Chiarelli saw Crosby having success without a talented winger and took all the wrong lessons from it. "If Crosby can do it with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary, McDavid can do it with Patrick Maroon and a guy we just drafted a few hours ago."
And McDavid can do it with those guys! His numbers show that!
What you can't ask is for Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl to make things happen with Lucic, Strome, Drake Caggiula, Mark Letestu, Zack Kassian, etc., on the second and third lines. Remember when Evgeni Malkin was saddled with Blake Comeau and Jussi Jokinen and the Penguins couldn't get out of the second round? That's the Oilers' future with this group of forwards and it's almost entirely Chiarelli's fault.
It's fine if the Oilers were using their abundance of forwards to fix the back end, and Larsson is fine, but you need more than Larsson to make your team a true contender. Last year may turn out to be a McDavid-fueled aberration that allowed everyone in Edmonton to really think the reason the Oilers were bad all those years was Hall.
The move that will probably make or break Chiarelli this year and next year is the Draisaitl contract, one that looked bad about a month after it was consummated. Eight years and $68 million after one great season when your entry-level contract is expiring is horrendous when David Pastrnak got six years and $40 million in the same situation (albeit without the great postseason like the one Draisaitl had, the thing GMs have been overvaluing for years). Chiarelli isn't allowed to lament a lack of cap space in the coming years when he overpaid by about $2 million per season for Draisaitl.
If Draisaitl can be the Oilers' version of Malkin, then... well, based on the talent around him, the Oilers will be the version of the Penguins that can't get over the hump because they don't have the secondary scoring required to win a championship. But unlike the Penguins, the Oilers actually had it in spades before Chiarelli parted with it for 60 cents on the dollar.
You can't let Chiarelli off the hook because the Eberle and Hall contracts preceded him, because a) those contracts weren't bad and b) he replaced them with Lucic, Russell, the too-big Draisaitl contract, etc. He's botched this thing but no one really noticed because the Oilers found a way to overcome it last year. Hockey's rampant luck has a way of masking bad managerial decisions, as did Cam Talbot's phenomenal 2016-17 season stopping high-danger shots during his league-high 73 starts.
This entire situation seems avoidable, but really, this is the butterfly effect from having incompetent morons that had 22 goals in the 1980s running your franchise for years. If you have dopes steering your organization into iceberg after iceberg, any captain that has never steered a ship into an iceberg will seem like a savior. Chiarelli applied for the job with an iceberg-free resume and even directed a ship to a Stanley Cup, so there was no way ownership wasn't going to hand him the keys two years ago.
What no one realized was that while Chiarelli knows how to avoid icebergs, he prefers to drive his ship with the anchor scraping along the bottom of the ocean to make the voyage more challenging than it needs to be. The Oilers can still get to where they want to go, but the captain has made it more difficult than it ever needed to be.