Bob McKenzie sat down with Peter Chiarelli yesterday and the conversation was an outstanding look into the GM’s thinking at this time.
ON MCDAVID’S OFFENSE
“Let’s say 20 and 40 (points)” when asked about season-ending totals. Chiarelli is slow-playing his generational talent, that’s okay by me. I think .9 points-per-game is a reasonable line in the sand putting him between 70-75 points if he plays all the games. If he doesn’t make that total, I don’t believe Oilers fans should be disappointed, mostly because the Oilers are not a good team. We don’t know how much his line will have the puck and we don’t know how much they’ll be getting scored on.
ON A HEAVY GAME AND FIGHTING
- Chiarelli: “Even when I was in Boston it wasn’t about putting fighters in the lineup, it was about your team approach, your team toughness, your collective mentality. And that can apply to us, also. Having said that, there are teams in our conference and our division that play a certain style. You don’t have to fight fire with fire, but you have to be able to push back.”
It sounds like we’ll see a team that has plenty of skill but also toughness sprinkled into the lineup. I think that “rugged” forwards like Benoit Pouliot, Matt Hendricks (NHL), Mitchell Moroz, Jujhar Khaira, Kale Kessy and Greg Chase (AHL) will play more prominent roles on their respective teams. Defensively, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse will help set the tone on their NHL and or AHL clubs.
REACTION TO MCDAVID HIT
- Chiarelli: “The response was much better. Again, it’s not about chasing someone who delivers a clean check, it’s about responding in kind. I did like the physicality, I did like how Darnell approached others players and we had a couple of other players who did as well. That’s what I’m talking about in terms of push back.”
I think the Oilers are already a different team under Chiarelli. The Canucks (and other teams) have challenged the Oilers for years WITHOUT the kind of push back we saw Friday night. I really like the idea of having that push back coming from actual players and am hopeful we don’t see a 4line that features Slap Shot! rejects. I don’t think we will.
ON WHAT THE ROSTER LACKS
- Chiarelli: “I see a lot of promise at certain levels and certain areas. I see a lack of heaviness and am trying to think of ways to make that better.”
I suspect that is going to be a theme. For instance, if the Oilers hadn’t won the draft lottery, I suspect there was a non-zero chance they traded back to get the big winger Lawson Crouse. The Oilers are going to acquire a big complementary winger for the Hall—McDavid line imo, sooner than later.
ABOUT MOVING THE SKILL OFF A SPECIFIC LINE
- Chiarelli: “Yeah, we’ve talked about stretching it to the third line, we’ve got some interesting matchups. Connor and Taylor had something going on later in the summer at one of those summer camps, so there’s certain things you remember when you’re putting these lines together. Yakupov is a guy who can move up and down depending on how things are doing.”
Three scoring lines are possible because Edmonton has three outstanding centers (Nuge, McDavid, Leon) but I think that’s probably a year or even two away. The fact they’re talking about Leon on the wing tells me that one of Lander or Letestu is going to get some offense on his wing (I’m not sure who plays 3C). Interesting options for the coach and GM.
LEON AND DARNELL MAKING THE BIG TEAM
- Chiarelli: “We have to see how they do. They are two fine prospects, with size and skill you just don’t find anywhere. I still really believe size matters in this league. We’ll see. We’re going to try Leon on the wing and we’re going to try him, he protects the puck so well, we’ll try him at both (wing and center). Darnell is so strong, he defends so well. He’s an energetic player, we have to teach him you don’t have to do six things, if you do three very well, you can do the other three later. He’s got some stuff to learn but there’s a lot to like there.”
My favorite quote in the group. This is a GM hedging his bets but he’s also thinking long term and for someone like Darnell he’ll be more productive upon arrival. Very encouraging words.
WILD CARD PLAYER
- Chiarelli: “The one player I might characterize as a wild card player is (Anton) Slepyshev. I saw him a bit his draft year and he scored 15 goals in the KHL last year. He’s 218 pounds. He’s a big strong kid who can play both sides, terrific shot. You saw last night, there were some periods where he was getting used to the smaller ice surface. He’s 6.01 and a half, 218 can shoot the puck and can skate so you do the math.”
Chiarelli’s pointing out Slepyshev is very good news for the Russian and for Oilers fans. The GM isn’t satisfied with what I think you’ll agree is a fine stable of wingers and he’s looking to add, from within. That 2013 draft is looking better each fall.
The interview is here and is a must listen. I’ll have more about it at 5 pm or earlier. My takeaways:
- As one would expect, this is going to be a fluid roster and we should expect movement.
- I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see Nurse and Leon in Bakersfield opening night.
- Todd McLellan’s input remains a mystery and that alone should keep us from making any sweeping statements.
- Peter Chiarelli is aggressive. Trust me on that, he made trades in Boston at any point during the season or off-season.
A fabulous interview by Mr. McKenzie.