Over half way through the 2017-18 NHL season are we finally at a point where we can count the Edmonton Oilers out of the picture? The struggling franchise is 10 points out of a playoff spot and quickly headed in the wrong direction. Perhaps the most disappointing team in the entire league, the Oilers were chosen by many fans and analysts to be a Stanley Cup contender this season, but aside from a season opener hat trick by captain Connor McDavid, not much has gone right in Edmonton this season.
With a historically bad penalty kill and an abysmal 22-24-3 record, Oilers fans are calling for head coach Todd McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli to resign or be fired. It’s time for another change in direction, in many fan’s eyes. But, according to a report from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, don’t hold your breath on seeing those changes anytime soon.
When asked about firing McLellan, Chiarelli bristled at the suggestion. “It’s hard to find good coaches so I believe in working with coaches,’’ Chiarelli said. “I see what people see. I see the special teams. I see what they’re trying to do to fix them. So I see the effort. People want results, I understand that. But the head coaches that can communicate and fix problems, they’re hard to find. And we have one in Todd. It’s been a tough year on him, too. We have to grind through it.”
Fans have been “grinding through it” for over a decade now, with just one playoff appearance to cheer for since 2006. How much longer can the team expect fans to stick around and support a rebuild?
“We’re two and a half years into this thing and we’ve made some good strides,” maintains Chiarelli.
What about the Paul Coffey hiring? Was it a move made to strengthen the team’s coaching staff? Or is Coffey really meant to act as an easy replacement for McLellan down the road? “No, absolutely not,’’ responded Chiarelli. “Paul doesn’t want to be that person nor did I talk to him about it. The position we hired Paul for is something that I had been looking to do. The name came up. It was a name that we thought of and we reached out to him. The position is an organizational coach to work with the group at all levels. To use what Paul has as a Hall of Fame defenceman, as a power-play guy. I can’t be more clear. Paul wants to help the Oilers. He just spent 4-5 days with us and I thought he was real good. He’s got a strong voice. He fit in well with the group.’’
Finally, what about Chiarelli’s position with the franchise? More than anyone else, he’s the one who got the team into the mess that they find themselves in. What’s his future with the team?
“I know a lot of things I’ve done have been questioned this year,’’ Chiarelli said. “But that happens when things go bad. I feel I’m in a strong position to go forward and I’ve been assured that.’’
Well there you have it, Oilers fans. McLellan and Chiarelli are here to stay… for better or worse.