Peter Chiarelli was cautious in his introductory news conference as president of hockey operations and general manager with the Edmonton Oilers.The only real dig he took at the current team was its effort level.
“There’s a lot of good things here and exciting things, a lot of young legs,” he said. “They play fast, I’d like to see them play a little harder.”
While management has been the major issue with the Oilers, that sounded more like a shot at the coaching staff and interim boss Todd Nelson.
Whatever, it’s a tough line to walk when you come into an organization with a fanboy owner that probably still reveres now former general manager Craig MacTavish and team vice chair Kevin Lowe, whose role will transition out of hockey ops.
While fans may be dancing on their proverbial Oilers graves, Chiarelli didn’t make any real big statements about the obvious mismanagement of the team under Lowe, or MacTavish. Team CEO Bob Nicholson noted he himself will still work with Lowe at some capacity. It’s up to Chiarelli, who was recently fired by Boston as its general manager, to decide how he will use MacTavish
“I’ve seen the progression here in past years and talking to MacT, they’ve been trying to get bigger and heavier,” Chiarelli said, “That’s certainly an area where I’d like to improve.”
Chiarelli used some variation of the word “heavy” or “heavier” a lot in the news conference. Maybe he recently watched Back to the Future and is channeling his inner Marty McFly. Or he believes the Oilers need to add a little more poundage to their game, a la the Boston Bruins, his former team and one of the strongest groups (size wise) around. Chiarelli noted that you could be heavy with stick work or other areas of the game. While that point was a little confusing, it’s clear that Chiarelli wants the Oilers to be a tougher team to play against. Gone are the grand nostalgic designs of the run n’ gun teams of the 80s. Time to close that era for good. So the Oilers will select a defenseman with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 Draft, right? Noooo, but that would be hysterical.
Both Nicholson (Providence) and Chiarelli (Harvard) have higher education degrees. This isn’t the end-all-be-all of the world, but when you’re running a multi-million dollar franchise it helps to be educated in the classroom and not at a hockey rink like say Lowe, for example, who at the end of the day, we can say really wasn’t qualified for the job at all. Maybe as a coach, but not as a general manager or team president.
While Chiarelli didn’t put any players on notice, he did say, when asked about his penchant for dealing talented young forwards, “that’s something I won’t shy away from.”
And the Oilers have a ton of these – maybe one or two that need to be dealt as the team prepares for the upcoming NHL Draft. Chiarelli, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, said the Oilers reminded him of the Ottawa Senators, where he oversaw a team turnaround to contender from the early-to-late 2000s.
With this move, for the first time in a long time, it feels like the Oilers organization is making progress. The timing couldn’t be better with Edmonton holding the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and the right to pick Canadian wunderkind Connor McDavid.
Nicholson identified a smart hockey mind to run the franchise, and the Oilers finally moved their 80s old boys network to the side. You go Bob!
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