The clock finally struck midnight for Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers. While it took too long for the proverbial trigger to be pulled, in the end, Bob Nicholson did what he needed to do in dismissing his general manager earlier this week. Though his missteps along the way were plentiful and left the organization with a ton of work to do, make no mistake, it has in no way made the position any less attractive for those craving the spotlight and potential glory that comes with winning in a Canadian market.
Peter Chiarelli has been fired by the Oilers. Done deal
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) January 23, 2019
It is no secret, the Oilers are in a tough spot. They have too many players under contract who, in a best-case scenario, would be coming off the books at seasons’ end and are up against the cap. Edmonton no longer has the trade chips they once did but the holes in their lineup have actually increased. And as an added bonus, the organization has gone through head coaches and general managers in recent years, as if they were going out of style.
Oilers Had No Choice But to Fire Chiarelli
Not exactly the best of situations for a new hire to walk into but some of the perks that come with the job are something else. Despite the Oilers issues, they do have a legit top pairing defenceman in Oscar Klefbom, and three real “nice pieces” upfront in Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid. Call me crazy but inheriting the best player on the planet is about as spectacular as perks get in the NHL.
Just because the previous general manager couldn’t transition this club from perennial Western Conference doormat to a legit playoff contender, doesn’t mean others wouldn’t relish the opportunity to see what they could do with No. 97 on their side. Again, it’s not a job without challenges but with some clever maneuvering and an ability to actually win a hockey trade, this can be turned quicker than many seem to believe.
Though we have already started to hear the all too familiar word of “rebuild” being thrown around since Chiarelli’s firing, that is not what this is going to be. There will be no “starting over” for whoever takes over the Oilers. The expectation will be to turn this ship north in as short a time period as possible. In other words, we are likely looking at one more year of being a bubbling playoff team but that would be about it.
Oilers Will Retool, Not Rebuild
In order for that to happen, the organization is going to have to get this hire right. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Nicholson plans on conducting an extensive search prior to hiring his new right-hand man. Now the question becomes, will they go in the direction of seasoned NHL general manager, be it with or without a previous link to the current front office, or an unproven commodity. That is the million dollar question.
A list of potential suitors has already started to make the rounds and include all types. Names like London Knights’ boss Mark Hunter, former Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, Toronto Maple Leafs executive Laurence Gilman, as well as a trio of assistant general managers in Bill Guerin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Norm Maciver (Chicago Blackhawks) and Kelly McCrimmon (Vegas Golden Knights).
And that doesn’t take into account the possibility of longtime Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland looking for a new challenge or anyone else currently holding the role in another NHL city but might not be in the same spot come April or May. Some other names being thrown about include Mike Gillis, Dave Nonis, and even Darryl Sutter. It truly is a mixed bag and we’re just a few days into the search.
Over the coming weeks, the list of names will continue to grow but soon thereafter, it will shrink back down to a select few and the time for a decision will come. Regardless of what direction the organization decides to go, the individual they pick had better come equipped with a plan of attack and to hit the ground running. Again, with the Oilers roster and cap situation being what it is, tough decisions need to be made and time is of the essence.
Never mind building a front office team but we are talking about examining every potential option for this roster. Buyouts, restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents, burying contracts, trades, Entry Draft, you name it and the next general manager of the Edmonton Oilers will have it on his plate. Yet, you can bet whoever ends up with the job will be smiling from ear to ear, itching to get this thing back on track and pinching himself for inheriting a roster that includes Connor McDavid.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.