In the wake of the last night’s news out of Carolina in which the Carolina Hurricanes announced that general manager Ron Francis had been relieved of his duties, The Athletic’s James Mirtle analyzed the rest of the NHL’s 30 GM’s in an attempt to figure out who may be pushed out next.
As you might expect, Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli was near the top of Mirtle’s list and for good reason. The Oilers have suffered through an AWFUL 2017-18 season and many Oilers fans and analysts have pointed to Chiarelli’s offseason moves as a big part of the reason for the team’s failure this season.
No surprises here though… any Oilers fan with half a brain knows that Chiarelli is on the hot seat. What is surprising in Mirtle’s report though is that he reports that Oilers legend Wayne Gretzky may be exerting some influence behind the scenes.
Check it out:
“Predicting what owner Daryl Katz is thinking is downright impossible, but there have been rumours that Chiarelli is a man on an island in the front office as Wayne Gretzky exerts some influence.”
Interesting choice of words… “exerting some influence.” As in, he’s going over Chiarelli’s head on personnel decisions? At this point we can only guess, but hypothetically speaking this wouldn’t be the worst move the Oilers could make. At this point it’s probably fair to say that Chiarelli’s plan has not worked. Sure, he managed to turn the Oilers into a playoff team last season, but given how Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot played, how much credit does the GM deserve?
If Gretzky is indeed in Katz’s plans for his team’s management group, it will undoubtedly be a divisive decision. While Gretzky is obviously loved and revered in the city of Edmonton, there’s a large contingent of the team’s fanbase who want to see the team move away from the “Old Boys Club” and the glory days of the 1980’s Stanley Cup championships.
Citing a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Edmonton Journal columnist and Oilers insider David Staples wrote an article yesterday about Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom and the seemingly never-ending trade speculation that surrounds him.
It’s believed that Klefbom has been playing through a nagging shoulder injury all season long and the fact that the team has yet to shut him down, despite being well out of the Western Conference playoff race, has led to speculation that Chiarelli is showcasing the Swedish defender for a trade.
“It’s pretty clear that he’s been playing hurt. And players who have played against him say that he has been really protective of his shoulder, the way he turns, the way he goes into the boards. Like, he has played pretty hard this year considering he has really been hurting,” said Friedman earlier this week on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central. “And the fact that they haven’t shut him down, I think that’s leading to some belief that they are showcasing him. And if you want to trade something that can get you value in Edmonton, Klefbom might be the guy. And I think the fact that they haven’t shut him down when clearly he has been playing with pain, I think that’s leading to some wonder that he could be a guy that other teams are looking at.”
Friedman may just be reaching for a story here… but he’s such a well connected insider that it’s tough to dismiss his comments. If he reports that a player is on the trade block, we’re inclined to believe him.
Friedman’s Sportsnet colleague Mark Spector backs up Friedman as well saying, ““Is he ever healthy? Give me a time when he’s healthy. We’re well into a career here and the guy is hurt every single year. It’s not going to get easier to play. It’s going to get harder. He’s not going to get younger.”
“If the right trade offer came, Spector said, “I’d absolutely move him…. His track record is he’s hurt too much. I’d move him.”
The right offer? What’s the offer going to be for an often-injured defenceman who has put up 30+ points just once in his career. It’s not like the Oilers are going to get a lot in return for Klefbom, so why bother? Why not shut the 24-year-old down for the rest of the season and focus on getting him back to his usual self for the 2018-19 campaign? Maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye? Interesting times in Oil Country…
Source: James Mirtle
Photo Credit: Zuma Press