Peter Chiarelli, St. Louis Blues vice president of hockey operations, certainly doesn’t lack NHL management experience. He served as GM of the Boston Bruins from 2006-15, then took on the same role for the Edmonton Oilers from 2015-19 before assuming his current position in St. Louis last October.
Chiarelli, though, would be the wrong type of hire for Chicago. As Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz and President of Business Operations Jaime Faulkner look to find the right leader while hoping to make a decision by this year’s NHL Trade Deadline, Chicago needs to find someone forward-thinking, and it’s debatable how much Chiarelli fits that bill. He might have experience, but his track record shows he isn’t someone Chicago should pursue.
Despite winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011, Chiarelli made a series of questionable trades in Boston and Edmonton that did not help either club. The Blackhawks should take this as a red flag as they potentially begin rebuilding.
By all means, Chiarelli, 57, was OK during his Bruins’ tenure. He did make the blunder of trading six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in a seven-player blockbuster deal for forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, and two prospects. The trade came 10 days after the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, and while it wasn’t a great look for Boston at the time, it was enough for Chiarelli to save his job until the team decided to retool in 2015.
It was Chiarelli’s Oilers’ tenure when things got ugly.
After Edmonton hired Chiarelli in April 2015, he traded the Oilers’ 2015 first- and second-round picks to the New York Islanders for defenseman Griffin Reinhart. The Islanders took forward Mathew Barzal with their newly acquired first-round pick, and his career has blossomed since winning the Calder Trophy four seasons ago. With their second-round pick, New York took Anthony Beauvillier, who has since become a reliable middle-six forward. Reinhart, on the other hand, played just 29 games with Edmonton and hasn’t played in an NHL game since 2015-16.
The following offseason, Chiarelli shipped forward Taylor Hall, 2017-18 NHL MVP, to the New Jersey Devils for a serviceable yet unspectacular defenseman in Adam Larsson. While Edmonton was looking to bolster its defense at the time, most fans realized this was too little of a return for the Oilers. Hall’s career has slightly regressed since winning the Hart Trophy in 2018, but he remains an above-average top-six winger.
Chiarelli made some other concerning moves during his Oilers’ tenure, such as trading forward Drake Caggiula to the Blackhawks for defenseman Brandon Manning in Dec. 2018, who broke Connor McDavid’s collarbone as a rookie and dressed in just 21 games for Edmonton while recording two points. However, those two trades alone, especially Hall for Larsson, should be concerning enough for the Blackhawks when assessing candidates.
Granted, Chiarelli hasn’t held a GM role since Jan. 2019. Perhaps some extended time off has allowed him to reflect, and he’s probably learned from these mistakes. However, his time in Edmonton was nothing short of a disaster. He failed to build a reliable supporting cast around McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which the Oilers are still trying to accomplish today. Is this something the Blackhawks potentially want to face as they get younger? It’s possible Chiarelli has modernized his style and could adapt with the times, but track records speak for themselves.
Why Chiarelli Is Not a Great Fit
Wirtz and Faulkner, who are conducting interviews, have repeated time and time again the Blackhawks are looking to hire a candidate who is a next-generation leader. Chiarelli didn’t exactly prove this in Edmonton, mostly due to his franchise-damaging trades.
Chiarelli has experienced the NHL enough to understand its ins and outs, but that doesn’t make him a good candidate for the Blackhawks. Furthermore, he hasn’t proved he’s capable of successfully guiding a rebuild. The Oilers made the playoffs just once in his tenure, and realistically, it’s going to take at least another three to four years for the Blackhawks to become legitimate contenders again due to a lack of organizational depth.
Since Chiarelli was last a GM, the NHL has evolved, becoming a much younger and quicker league. Analytics have become a larger part of the game, which is why the Blackhawks are also eyeing younger, savvier options such as Carolina Hurricanes Assistant GM Eric Tulsky and Tampa Bay Lightning Director of Hockey Operations Mathieu Darche. Chiarelli doesn’t necessarily fit this style. In fact, many of his Oilers’ trades share a resemblance to those of former Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman, which Chicago needs to avoid.
Of course, experience counts. I’d prefer — and I’m sure most fans would — the Blackhawks hire someone who has seen the league enough, unlike Chicago Cubs’ Assistant GM Jeff Greenberg, a candidate who has zero NHL experience. While there’s nothing wrong with thinking outside the box, now’s not the time for the Blackhawks to get cute given all the turmoil that has taken place on and off the ice. Similarly, Chicago needs someone who is capable of slowly but surely turning around the team. I’m not confident Chiarelli can do that.
Why Chiarelli is even a candidate, I have no idea. Maybe the Blackhawks want to hear from a wide range of options who differ in experience, style, and personality. However, while Chiarelli might be capable of a front-office role such as his current position in St. Louis, he’s simply not someone who can turn around the franchise.
Considering Chicago’s five other candidates — Tulsky, Greenberg, Darche, former Montreal Canadiens Assistant GM and 21-year NHL veteran Scott Mellanby, and current Blackhawks Interim GM Kyle Davidson — I’d say Chiarelli is probably a long shot for this job knowing Wirtz, Faulkner, and how the Blackhawks are looking to revamp their team culture.
With an eye on the future, the Blackhawks should prioritize someone experienced yet also forward-thinking, not someone who has a history of poor trades, contracts, and is known more for his failures than successes. Again, there’s nothing wrong with second chances, but with the position the Blackhawks are in right now, it isn’t worth the risk.
Time will tell what direction Chicago goes in. Despite having interviewed six candidates, many believe Davidson is the favorite for the job given his connections to the organization. If there’s one candidate, though, who the Blackhawks should avoid, it’s Chiarelli. Of course, the Blackhawks need to be deliberate with this hire and look at all aspects of their candidates. However, this would be an awful hire for Chicago right now as they look to regain relevance and move forward, not backward.
Connor Smith covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. He is from Naperville, Illinois, and recently graduated from Ball State University in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, earning summa cum laude honors. This fall, he plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism in Chicago to further his studies and earn his master’s. Along with The Hockey Writers, he’s written and edited for The Ball State Daily News, Ball State’s on-campus student newspaper, and has interned for Best Version Media (BVM) Sports and Jersey Column, a Georgia-based sports blog. You can find more info about Smith and his work through his online portfolio, connornsmith0719.wordpress.com.