Edmonton Oilers: Not A Game Of Strat-o-Matic

Peter Chiarelli
Peter Chiarelli /

Frustration, especially if you are a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, is a natural emotion that we all have to deal with from time to time. 10 years out of the playoff picture will do that to a guy, and so as a fellow fan…who has gone through a journey somewhat comparable to yours…I sympathize.

Having said that, all too often I watch, hear and read about Oilers fans letting their frustrations get the better of them. As their frustrations mount, they begin to flail about, and all too often…end up making statements that have very little basis in reality. That don’t make much sense. Or any sense.

That brings me to…today.

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The fan reaction to Saturday’s admittedly poor effort against Calgary was pretty predictable. “Blow it all up”. “Trade Taylor Hall“. “Jordan Eberle is terrible”. “Move everyone but Connor McDavid“. “Todd McLellan hasn’t done the job”. Etc. Etc. And on it has gone, for 3 days now. Three. Long. Days.

Enough, already. Just…enough. If you can’t clutter up The Internet or the radio chat lines with something more constructive than the above, it means that you are just frustrated, and not thinking straight. And panicking, damn the consequences, is a dangerous game.

Running the Edmonton Oilers is not just like Stat-o-Matic baseball. Back before computers (yes, I’m that old), this was the most common way for baseball fans to “play G.M.”. It was a game of statistical probabilities, really in many ways a precursor to modern day analytics. You could manage rosters, batting orders, all sorts of wonderful things that allowed you to be “a fantasy manager”. I loved it. Many did.

But because it was a game, you could do all sorts of crazy things in the name of fun. I well recall trading my entire roster (all 25 men, at the time) to my brother for Tom Seaver. I idolized Tom Seaver and was willing to pay any price to have him on my team, and did. Predictably, Tom Terrific and nothing more than my taxi squad surrounding him got trounced. I also traded Dick Allen because I didn’t like his glasses. Sigh.

The funny thing was…I played baseball, was good at it, knew all the rules, followed Major League Baseball religiously (I was, and remain, a hard-core Montreal Expos fan), and so logic extended that I should have been good at this game. Really good at it. Alas, I was not. And why? Because I let emotions and frustrations get in the way of sound decision making.

Which brings me to the Edmonton Oilers of today.

“Blow it all up”? Really?? You think THAT is the solution? Just fling them all into the sun and start again, huh? Those who would propose this have apparently forgotten just how long and painful this rebuild has already been. You want Rogers Place 3-4 years old before IT sees a playoff game?

“Trade Hall”. Forget what you or I think for a minute, and consider that most knowledgeable NHL people think that Taylor Hall is the best player on the team, save for perhaps #97. What was the last team that traded its best and got better? Not very damn often.

“McLellan hasn’t done the job”. One major factor why it’s going to take longer than 200 days to fix is because of the revolving door of coaches the past half-dozen seasons. You know how they define insanity, right? How does your Grade 5-er do if they go through 3 teachers in a year?

Does Peter Chiarelli have a lot of work to do this off-season? Absolutely. But I saw one smart observer describe the GM’s road ahead as “using a scalpel and not a bomb”. Wow, that is so smart. Chiarelli’s success at this project depends almost as much on who he doesn’t move, as opposed to those he will acquire.

Why? Because the situation IS so fragile, if he makes wrong, rash decisions, he can screw it up again. And unlike the Strat-o-Matic game where by brother and I could just wipe the slate clean and start again with no consequences, Peter Chiarelli’s job depends on it.

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So calm down and let the man do his job. He knows it. We don’t.