McKenzie: ‘Rocket ride to hell for Edmonton Oiler fans’

Things are so bad for the Edmonton Oilers that Vancouver radio dedicated an entire Bob McKenzie segment to discuss the situation.

Each Canadian market has focused in on the Oilers - and Peter Chiarelli specifically - this week, and McKenzie’s Tuesday morning radio hit on Vancouver’s TSN 1040 ended up going entirely toward the team and its general manager as well.

“Everybody is obviously waiting for something to happen,” indicated hockey’s No. 1 Insider, when asked for the latest info. “And with the All-Star break coming up it’s sort of a natural break in the schedule. If you are going to make a regime change in terms of a general manager, then I guess the time is probably as good as any time.

“But the flip side of that is it’s all well and good to have the knee-jerk reaction, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get rid of our GM,’ in the middle of the season, and a lot of fans and media want that, and understandably so.

“But you’ve got to have a succession plan, and you’ve got to have the right people coming in, otherwise you’re just - that’s not sound ownership or executive/front office stuff above the general manager. There’s got to be a plan. So those plans sometimes take time.

“And whether something happens here in the next number of days or weeks or somehow they limp to the end of the regular season, it’s difficult to conceive or a scenario whereby there isn’t a regime change there.”

As the conversation on 1040 continued, McKenzie made his way back to the Oilers’ general manager a short time later.

“I heard you talk about Chiarelli there, and it’s true. A very well-respected general manager in the National Hockey League with the Boston Bruins, and obviously won a Cup there,” recalled McKenzie. “And yet go down the list of moves he’s made…

“I always maintain with every general manager in the league, I could build you a case that even the best general manager in the league - I could probably go through and find five or seven things if you just ratatat them off you’d say, ‘This guy is the worst general manager ever. Look at these draft picks. Look at these trades. Look at these signings. These are terrible.’

“Because everybody makes mistakes. Not everybody turns out. You have to deal in volume and you’ve got to hope at the end you’re on the right side of the ledger.

“I don’t ever recall a situation where you go transaction-by-transaction where the team - in this case the Oilers - comes out on the wrong side of it so clearly just about every time. I don’t ever recall a situation like that, and especially for a guy like Peter Chiarelli, who has been a very well-respected guy in the National Hockey League.

“So it’s got to be tough on him. It’s got to be tough on Oilers’ ownership/management. It’s got to be even tougher on their fans.

“And to your point, the cliche we like to use - the brand is severely damaged right now. It’s all about where you go next.

“So let me ask you this off the top of your head, and I talked about this on Edmonton radio on Monday morning: What’s the path back? For whatever general manager comes in, whoever it is…”

McKenzie’s discussion turned toward some of the same points he made on his Monday radio tour.

McKenzie cautioned against the notion of the Oilers trading away their 2019 first-round pick.

“So now what do you do,” continued the Insider. “Now you say, ‘We’re going to trade our first-round pick.’

“Well, hold on a second here. They did that three, four years ago and look how that worked out. So unless you hit an absolute home run with that first-round pick this year - with the way the Oilers are going, they might be in a pretty advantageous drafting position.

“I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Calgary knocking out draft rankings that’ll come out on Thursday. There’s some real good hockey players in the top 5, 7, 8, 9 in this draft. And they might not be that far away, like a year or two away, from being impact guys in the National Hockey League. And maybe you get lucky and win another lottery - Edmonton has done that before.

“And so you’ve got to be careful. Obviously you would lottery-protect any deal, but nevertheless - I don’t know if trading the first-round pick makes sense now in the here and now, or whether you’re prepared to wait a couple of years for an impact forward who might be able to complement McDavid, because there’s lots of them in this draft.”

As the segment on 1040 wrapped up, McKenzie was asked just how bad it was in Edmonton.

“Well, it’s obviously really bad,” said McKenzie. “But you know the funny thing is, when you talk about the impatience of ownership or whatever (an allusion the 1040 host made), they’ve been the exact opposite. A lot of people would have bailed on this a long time ago and brought in a new general manager or whatever.

“Now, they’ve continued to recycle good coaches and the road is littered with good coaches that ended up at the side of the road on the Edmonton Oilers.

“I don’t know. Something has obviously got to give because as we’ve talked about, the brand and the image and just the relationship… the fans have completely lost faith, and understandably so because you go through better than a decade of just terrible hockey. Basically from the moment Chris Pronger got traded and the Oilers lost to Carolina in the Cup, it’s been a rocket ride to hell for Edmonton Oiler fans.

“And then you get McDavid and you think you’ve turned the corner two years ago, and now you find out you haven’t turned the corner. Maybe you’re not in as deep of a hole as you were seven or eight years ago, but you’re still in a pretty deep hole, and you’ve got to find your way back.

“Finding the way back is the hard part, and it’s going to take a really intelligent person to figure out how they’re going to crack this nut now.”