Time to Wake Up

Todd McLellan got on the plane yesterday, and is in San Jose along with the rest of the Edmonton Oilers as we start our day today.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so sick about someone keeping their job then I was with this.  I’m not a bad person and don’t wish for anyone to lose their job, but it has just become crystal clear that Todd McLellan isn’t too good of a coach by NHL standards and maybe more so is the flat out wrong coach for the Oilers.  Yet that’s what he’ll be at least for one more evening.

 

I’m not sure what the hold up is here quite frankly.  Lost 6 of 7, going on the road for 3 massive games, is management waiting for the season to be completely lost?!  I’ll get back to them, but for now I’ll stick with McLellan.  He badly needs to be fired.  I brought up on the podcast the last time around that Todd McLellan tries to act a lot like Mike Babcock.  This has been a similar problem with former Bill Belichick coaches is that they try to act like Belichick but don’t try to coach like Belichick, they just copy his mannerisms.  Matt Patricia for example keeps a pencil in his ear like Belichick…he never uses it as his sheets are all laminated.  McLellan emulates his former boss in his pressers, in his body language on the bench, with his “I’m firm but fair” approach towards his players.  That’s great, but Mike Babcock’s biggest key to his success is his ability to adapt and be open minded.  Babcock has won now with three different organizations in three different ways (I know it’s only two, but it’s going to happen with the third whether you loathe them or not).  He took a talentless team to game 7 of the final, he won a Cup and went to game 7 of the final with a team that had a ton of high end skill and veterans, and when he takes the Leafs on at least a deep run and likely wins a Cup with them he’ll have done it started right from scratch with mostly kids on his roster.  Todd McLellan in the meantime continues to have his teams get pucks in deep, funnel it to the point, and go hard to the net.  He refuses to trust or attempt to develop any of his highly skilled kids.  He openly admits he tries to win 2-1 games.  Todd, look around the league.  Look at who is winning.  Those teams aren’t trying to play 2-1 hockey anymore brotha.

 

As for who should take over, Joel Quennville….ain’t happening.  Simply put, there are no ties to Quennville in the organization.  I’d be happy if that’s who they went out and got, but I HIGHLY doubt it.

 

If I had to guess what would happen if or when Todd McLellan is let go, I would say Glen Gulutzan will be promoted to interim head coach with it being a legitimate audition to become the permanent head coach, which I’m not sure ever works long term.  But that’s what I see happening, with Gulutzan perhaps adding a new assistant to the new staff.  What would I do?  Well my solution goes well beyond the head coach, but what I will say is that their are certain qualities I would look for.  One would be the ability to keep his team loose.  Playing in Edmonton, these players are tight enough as is thanks to how crazy this fan base is and how much media attention they have.  It’s a fishbowl.  So they need someone who will keep the team playing loose and keep things positive, though not simply patting players on the back non stop like Ralph Kruger did for example.  They need that, and they need someone who understands today’s game.  Today’s game has become very difficult to defend, and there for you need to take advantage of that and allow your highly skilled players to use that skill.  They also need someone who is open minded and there for can adapt.  Now, who that coach is, I don’t know.  I have guys in mind, but I would have to interview the coach and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  But I’d want those three things, and then I would want to know what he plans on his entire staff looking like because an underrated part of coaching in all sports to me is the ability to identify the right people to work with you.

 

But the problem with a coaching change is that Peter Chiarelli is still GM…right?

 

Before I get rolling here, note to “yeah, but…” guy in Oiler land (there are a few of them) who want to tell people that the actual problem is Peter Chiarelli.  Guys, just because people are saying Todd McLellan needs to go doesn’t mean most didn’t realize Chiarelli needed to go long ago.  In fact I’d say MOST, if not all Oilers fans had their fill of Chiarelli before the start of last season.  I know for me, I HATED the Griffin Reinhart trade, HATED the Taylor Hall trade (even though I understood a bit more at least what the logic was with it), felt sick about the Milan Lucic contract (was pumped about the player but the contract was worrisome right from the get go), HATED the Jordan Eberle trade (not trading Eberle, but for the return of Ryan Strome), HATED the Kris Russell contract, HATED the pointless Benoit Pouliot buyout, HATED the pointless Eric Gryba buyout, man that is such a long list of awful.  Anyway, if you’re taking to Twitter and pointing out how he’s ACTULLY the problem like you’ve figured it out and nobody else has, who thinks he’s doing a good job?!  That’s not too original boys.  And if you’re bragging about an article you wrote a year ago on Chiarelli’s terrible moves that was three months old AT THE TIME, you’re really a schmuck and not helping The Athletic get more subscriptions…no names mentioned…

 

Yes, Chiarelli needs to go too.  But the reason most are hot about McLellan right now is A) Chiarelli likely isn’t going to go anywhere right now, and B) while the roster has been royally fucked up from what it could be, it’s still a team that can make the playoffs in the worst division in hockey.

 

I’ve actually begun to wonder how much of the big moves have actually been Chiarelli’s doing?  And stay with me here because I’m not meaning to be an apologist for him.  But in the last year, we’ve started to hear things leak out that make Chiarelli look more innocent in all of this.  The infamous “red wine meetings”.  Mike Liut did the latest 31 Thoughts podcast.  For those who aren’t aware, Liut is Leon Draisaitl’s agent, and he gave a little insight to the contract negotiations.  He talked about the analytics Chiarelli was using which were right in line with the analytics a lot of Oilers bloggers were pointing to as to why Draisaitl was undeserving of a contract North of 7 million per season.  Yet…he got 8.5?  So it looks like Chiarelli was right in line with the thinking of others, yet Draisaitl still got the overpay?  Of course when it comes to the Griffin Reinhart trade, while I admit I often throw it in when pissing on Chiarelli, I know that wasn’t his trade.  That was very clearly done by the old regime.  Did he sign off on it?  At the time I would have said he did because we had been led to believe he had the final say on all decisions.  Yet as time has gone on, it hasn’t seemed as though he has.  With the Hall trade, I’ve never heard anything about Peter Chiarelli having ANY issue with Taylor Hall and Hall has admitted since that he was stunned by the trade in large part because his talks with Chiarelli were so positive.  But what do we know?  What we know is that before Chiarelli arrived there were a TON of rumours that people in management had a big issue with Hall.  You also have the Todd McLellan hiring.  I’ve said this before and will say it again, Elliotte Friedman has gone on the record (he could have better information now, but this was the day Babcock was hired) that he believed Mike Babcock wanted the Edmonton job when he initially stepped down in Detroit, but the Oilers went with McLellan anyway…who was heavily rumoured to be the next coach of the Oilers well before Chiarelli was ever brought in.  If Babcock did want the Oilers job, no chance that wouldn’t have been relayed to the Oilers.  And most sane people would want Mike Babcock and spare me on how the Oilers wouldn’t have gave him the same contract the Leafs did, yes they would have.  If this organization has done one thing right since Darryl Katz took over it’s that they haven’t been cheap.

 

So let’s take a minute to add it all up.  A lot of these moves gone horribly wrong have deeper roots than Peter Chiarelli as GM of the team, and does it make sense that he just plainly sees things the exact same way as his predecessor’s did?  I’ll add it for you and give you the answer: nope.  I’m not saying Chiarelli is now all of a sudden blameless in all of this.  I believe the Eberle trade/Russell signing that was simultaneous was very likely all him.  Lucic?  That one is tougher to say because while he had his history with Looch, it was also well known that the people above him were craving the Oilers to get really big and really tough.  And I have no doubt that Chiarelli was on board for the vision of the team to be big and tough.  But the more I give it thought, and the more word leaks out about what goes on in management, it doesn’t really add up to being simply Chiarelli’s doing.  Not at all blameless, and should be axed, but don’t you want to get to the root of the problem as an Oilers fan rather than just wash, rinse, repeat?

 

I want to go back to what I said about the desire of not just Chiarelli but the organization to get bigger and tougher.  In doing so, the Oilers showed how little they knew there team.  For a long time, the Oilers without a doubt got pushed around as much or more than any other team in the league.  No doubt the team toughness had to greatly improve.  But while they were so caught up in that, it was completely lost on them how slow they were.  That was the biggest fundamental flaw with the Oilers through the “rebuild” is that they were small AND slow.  While they were labelled as this young and exciting team, they weren’t.  They were small and slow.  They had kids like Eberle, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov, David Perron for a short period of time, all under 6’0 and all poor skaters for their size.  Someone is bound to point out that Yak was speedy, which I don’t disagree with, but where you’re missing it is that Yak needed about nine or ten steps to get up to top speed.  That hurt his ability to play fast.  Anyway, by 2016 it was clear in the league that speed was the big thing, and the league in about a three year span had taken a massive leap in speed (which we continue to see now).  I wrote about it after the season how the Oilers better be careful not to sacrifice their speed because it was becoming a speed league, they weren’t an overly fast team, but had two elite skaters to build around in McDavid and Hall.

 

This isn’t me talking out my ass, I believe Stauffer has mentioned it before that it wasn’t a Chiarelli thing but rather an organizational decision to get much bigger and tougher.  But yet, those people above Chiarelli, they aren’t even to blame.  Kevin Lowe (whom we were told had no more say in hockey matters as of April, 2015), Craig MacTavish, Wayne Gretzky, and Bob Nicholson.  Sure, these people all seem to have a much bigger say into things than they should, but it’s not on them either.

 

All of these guys in the organization have a lot of blame.  McLellan isn’t a good coach and there is no reason to keep him.  A coaching change will likely give this squad a short term spark that they need.  The season isn’t lost yet, they’re capable of making the playoffs (especially in the Pacific).  But a change behind the bench is badly needed.  However, that’s the short term.  Big picture, Chiarelli needs to go too.  Even if Chiarelli was more of a puppet for the brass, he still has overpaid in trades, overpaid for free agents or on extensions, been careless with things like buyouts and handing out NTC’s, he’s done a terrific job with the amateur scouting staff he’s put together but you need to do more.  And then the OBC drinking their red wine, for shit like that to leak out and especially the talks of them holding the proverbial gun to McLellan’s head is a complete disgrace.  Have those talks, sure.  They’re getting leaked to the fucking national media!??  What is wrong with people in this organization?!  But no, still, it isn’t the fault of any of these people.  The Edmonton Oilers problem is Daryl Katz.

 

Since taking ownership in the summer of 2008, Katz has done little to help this organization on the ice.  It’s my understanding (Elliotte Friedman has stated this before) that Katz stays out of hockey matters.  That’s good to know, because most owners in pro sports love to meddle.  But those people I mentioned in the last paragraph, none of them should have any say as to what goes on in Edmonton, and they do.  They do because A) Rumour is that Katz can’t fire people (Bob McCowan has made mention of this on Prime Time Sports in the past), and B) Katz is still a fan boy for the 80’s teams and clearly loves having those guys around as his buddies.  WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!  Hell, the man doesn’t even have to fire those guys, but cut their balls off already!  Quit giving them any kind of say as to what goes on here!  He’s had Kevin Lowe around this entire time and it’s clear that Lowe has no clue what he’s doing.  I had a good chat about Lowe with my psychologist (a sentence I never thought I’d say) yesterday before my session began and he talked about how the big thing that he believes gets in Lowe’s way is his ego.  Not earth shattering news I know, but Lowe seems more worried about protecting his ego than he is about the hockey team, which is why it’s such an “old boys club” with the Oilers.  He doesn’t want anyone in power who can look better than he does or anyone who he can’t get the ear of.  I’m sure Lowe doesn’t realize this is what he’s doing, but he is.  He sees it as competitiveness, but in reality he has to prove that he can put a winner together, and he can’t.  But that’s not Lowe’s fault, it’s the man who employs Lowe refusing to recognize things such as this and make a change.

 

If the Edmonton Oilers are EVER going to get out of this hell hole they’re in, they have to make massive changes and completely clean house.  More analytics input, more sports science input, continue to improve the amateur scouting, improve the developing, really improve the pro scouting, create an organizational identity, bring in a coach and coaching staff who are on the same page as the GM.  If Katz wants to actually build an elite team, he needs to clean house.  Basically I’m saying…grow a fucking set Daryl.  The longer he doesn’t, the longer it’s clear he’s picking his buddies over winning.  Which is his right, he owns the team.  But then fans should stop paying for the product, and Connor McDavid should be demanding a trade.  And I’m starting to get really worried that a McDavid trade demand is coming.

 

He’s not an idiot.  Edmonton is already a small market that is pretty undesirable for a hockey player.  And this is coming from an Oilers fan, someone who grew up in Northern Alberta.  I don’t like saying it because I love it here.  But it’s the truth, and Katz more than anyone needs to wake up to this reality.  Sure, he has McDavid on an eight year contract, but if McDavid wants out then Katz is going to have the NHL, the NHLPA, the media, and fans of 30 other teams breathing down his neck to trade him for the good of the player and the good of the league.  I’m not rocking the fan goggles on this one, I would not blame McDavid for one second if he request’s to get out of this mess.  He deserves so much better than this shit show Katz has not only created, but continued to allow.

 

As an Oilers fan, it’s disgusting what CONTINUES to go on here.  The Oilers should be as setup or even better than the Leafs are right now.  Instead, the Leafs, without a lot of the assets the Oilers had, have blown right past them and are the NHL’s next big thing while the Oilers are struggling to stay at .500…STILL.  This owner is going to either cost the fan base it’s most treasured asset since Gretzky, or he’s going to cost a generational talent a lot of amazing years in his career because he doesn’t have the balls to clean house.  Daryl Katz, I know you’ll never read this, nor will many others because I don’t have much of a voice, but wake the fuck up man.  Wake the fuck up.  McLellan is in San Jose coaching what has now reverted back to your laughing stock of a team.  Why?  Because your GM won’t fire him.  And why is that?  Because he has a bunch of jack asses above him who also have a say in matters.  And why is that?  Because you, Daryl Katz, need to grow a set of balls and clean house.  You’ve had several chances to do it, and you either never do it or kind of do it or claim you’ve done yet really haven’t.  ENOUGH.  Buy new friends, you have the money to do so.

 

Denzel Washington’s character “Alonzo” in the movie Training Day asked “you wanna go to jail or you wanna go home?”  I want to ask Daryl Katz “you want McDavid to ask for a trade or you wanna win Cups?”

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