Being a general manager for a professional sports team has a kind of musical chairs nature to it and hockey is no exception. In fact, if you look at the 32 NHL teams (Seattle included), six of them have hired a new GM within the past year and included in those six is, you guessed it, the Edmonton Oilers.
In the past 11 years, the Oilers have had five GMs. The reason for all the high turnover? Well, when your team only makes the playoffs once in that span, the owner and fans tend to get grumpy. So, let’s take a look at the present and the past GMs and grade them based on the current roster.
*NOTE* I am grading each GM based on the players they brought in and not on how they got to Edmonton nor the price. Also, the only eligible players for this list have played roughly half of the games this season.
Start: May 2019
End Date: Not applicable
Players: James Neal, Markus Granlund, Riley Sheahan, Gaetan Haas, Tomas Jurco, Josh Archibald, Mike Smith.
It’s really tempting to give this group a harsh grade. The big names are Neal and Smith and outside of them, the other players have not produced. The other five are forwards and have two goals between them, both from Haas.
Even with Neal and Smith, it’s tempting to give a harsh grade. Sure, Neal has 12 goals, but he’s also rocking a minus-11. Smith has looked good but Mikko Koskinen’s numbers are a lot sexier. They have split the starts this season but, at this rate, you have to think Smith will be playing a smaller role sooner than later.
It’s tempting to lower the grade but you have to give Holland with his winning pedigree a little bit of time. Sure, the five forwards haven’t found their groove, but it’s important to be patient with a player handpicked by the GM, instead of assuming they’re bad.
Ken Holland’s Grade: B-
Start: January 2019
End: May, 2019
Okay, this was an interim GM situation. I’m not going to grade him because no one on the roster technically qualifies. I will mention, however, he traded Cam Talbot, which seems to be a popular transaction overall.
Keith Gretzky Grade: Not Applicable
Start: April 2015
End: Jan. 2019
Players: Connor McDavid, Zack Kassian, Ethan Bear, Matt Benning, Kris Russell, Alex Chiasson, Patrick Russell, Joel Persson, Mikko Koskinen
Peter Chiarelli provided the meat and bones of the current Edmonton Oilers, for better or worse. The obvious outlier of the group is Connor McDavid, especially since he just became the eighth player to record 400 points before his 23rd birthday. The rest? Frankly, you’re looking at a team with a depth scoring problem.
You can credit Chiarelli for building the team’s defense. While it’s impossible not to bring up the polarizing Adam Larsson-Taylor Hall trade (most consider it a loss for Edmonton), the defense he brought in has done a great job. He also gets credit for bringing Koskinen into the fold and this season, he’s been the Oilers’ better goalie.
Peter Chiarelli Grade: B+
Start: April 2013
End: April 2015
Players: Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse
It was just a matter of time before Craig MacTavish became the Oilers’ GM. He has been a member of the organization at almost every level, including three Stanley Cup victories as a player.
Both Draisaitl and Nurse are terrific players. Draisaitl is poised to battle for the Rocket Richard Trophy every season and Nurse would make a top-four defenseman on any team. But, why are they the only two players from the MacTavish era? Sure, he was only at the helm for two years, but if you look at the 16 players that he drafted, only three of them played more then two NHL games.
Of course, I’m only scoring based on the players who were brought in by the GM and are currently on the roster. So, a lack of players does not hurt MacTavish’s grade. Makes ya think though.
Craig MacTavish grade: A-
Start: July 2008
End: April 2013
Players: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and Jujhar Khaira
Again, these grades are strictly based on current players and not what the GMs traded away or what it cost to bring the players to Edmonton. I wanted to clarify that because I know plenty of people have strong opinions about Steve Tambellini. (from ‘Steve Tambellini’s disastrous trading record as Edmonton Oilers’ GM put the club in a deep hole,’ Edmonton Journal, 07/19/14)
With that being said, Tambellini’s long-tenured crew is pretty impressive. You have a good second-line center, maybe the team’s best defenseman and a strong physical role player.
Steve Tambellini Grade: B
At this point, you might be sarcastically saying: Wow, only assigning A’s and B’s as grades. Real bold stuff! The thing is, the Oilers are doing great. Doesn’t it seem reasonable for the GM’s grades to be great as well? I think so.
Obviously, being a GM is more complicated than adding players to your team. You have to create a culture and be aware of the way the game is evolving, all while balancing offer sheets, working with scouts, and considering trade offers. So, keep that in mind next time you post on social media how much of an idiot your team’s GM is!
Brett Newmyer is a Texan that loves the Edmonton Oilers and is constantly asked if the Oilers hat is for the old Houston Oilers. He plays hockey recreationally and has a podcast on Soundcloud as well.