We conclude our look at Bob McKenzie’s interview with the final five minutes—five incredible minutes of verbal.
- Peter Chiarelli: “I can tell you I expect (Sekera) to be in our top four, Klefbom will be in our top four, Justin Schultz will be, I would hope he would be in our top four. Nikita Nikitin, who had a disappointing season last year, who was brought in to play in the top four. We’ve got some guys we acquired, Griffin Reinhart who I believe is a terrific player. I think he needs a little time to get up and running before I can anoint him in the top four. We have Eric Gryba who I think is a real strong shutdown D, we can probably shuttle him up at certain points. We’ve got three legitimate, we don’t have a workhorse right now.”
I wrote about this passage over at ON, but wanted also to place it here for future reference. I think it’s reasonable to suggest (without reading PC’s quote) going into the day it made the most sense to run Sekera—Fayne and Klefbom—Schultz until further notice. After reading this from Chiarelli, I’m changing my guess to Klefbom—Sekera and then Nikitin—Schultz. The only reason I can see to do it? Chiarelli is putting Nikitin back in his original spot and if it doesn’t work out then management will re-visit who recommended him and continue the forensics (code for “fire the culprit). I would respectfully suggest Mark Fayne is extremely likely to be in the top four D at even strength and lead the team in PK TOI. We wait.
- Peter Chiarelli on Justin Schultz: “He’s a player that I don’t have really strong knowledge of. Saw him in college. Saw him in the lockout in the American League. Saw him in bits and pieces with Edmonton, maybe a little more this past year, whether it’s video or otherwise. He’s got a lot of assets, like puck skills, passing, skating. He’s been labelled sometimes as a rover and that’s more negative than positive in my mind, but the fact that he’s up the ice with the forwards is a good thing. That’s something that we would preach here. It’s about defending, about being the proper position and if you’re not strong enough to defend, let’s talk about positional defending, stick defending. He has to get better at that.”
I honestly can’t see this ending well. Schultz is going to require a $5 million contract (or more, and for term) next summer and the Oilers (everyone knows this) will be loading up the truck in the Brent Seabrook sweepstakes. The line about “he has to get better at that” is a tell imo, because Justin Schultz ISN’T good at that, and yet the pay day is coming. Better to walk the contract, allow another team to sign him at $3.5 million a year and we can begin talking about the player without a massive contract on the horizon.
- Peter Chiarelli (on his believing Griffin Reinhart being an NHL defenseman right now): “That’s fair. There’s a little bit of lead time that he has to get up and running. He has to make our team. We’ve got 8 or 9 D who are challenging. I believe he is, yeah. What I saw from him in the Memorial Cup. I know his year last year wasn’t great and there’s reasons behind that and that really is—not excuses—but there are reasons that explain it. But what I saw in the Memorial Cup is that you’ve got a player here who can dominate, that can lug the puck, and that can make plays. And for a bigger sized man, he can move well, and I would expect him to be in the top 4 at some point.”
I thought Reinhart was a stud at the Memorial Cup too, but that isn’t the NHL. I think Chiarelli, Bob Green and the men who make these decisions for the Oilers had an itch they were eventually going to scratch and the Islanders cashed in on that itch this summer. I believe Reinhart has the pedigree to be an excellent NHL defenseman and further—this is a big item—the man who traded for him is going to give him a push. If you’re writing in the Oilers lineup for 2015-16, suspect you should make room for Reinhart (and Sekera moving to RH side to make room).
The pairings opening night? Allow me to call it now:
Nothing means anything until Todd McLellan speaks. Still, a lot of the treasury went to Griffin Reinhart’s procurement and we have to factor that in to the future. And, possibly, the present.
- Peter Chiarelli on Ference, moving down the line-up and whether he can continue as captain: “Well, what, I mean is that’s a quantum leap to go from ‘moving down’ to ‘can you be a captain?’ He may move down the line-up. I thought he was over-played in higher pairs. What Todd and I will do is we’ll discuss the captaincy, the assistant captains, as the pre-season goes on. I’ve had discussions with Andrew about that. I’ve got a good relationship with Andrew from before in Boston. We can be very frank with each other and we have been. So if we do make that change, I know Andrew would be a complete professional about that. He helped us win in Boston and I can still see him helping us win in Edmonton.”
I have a difficult time figuring out the Oilers pairings and Chiarelli’s comments to McKenzie overall confused the issue, but the Ference take matches what we’ve discussed in the past. Ference, in my opinion, is going to mentor the kids and may start as part of the 7-8 (Ference-Gryba) pairing. I also think we should be aware of the possibility of a pre-season trade involving last year’s veterans.
- Peter Chiarelli on his relationship with Craig MacTavish: “The relationship is growing, I mean it’s an awkward thing to start. We had a couple of meetings to start at the start of my tenure. I appreciate his feelings, I think what he’s done in the NHL is very good, and is very good experience and experience counts for a a lot in this business. He’s a very good person, from what I’ve known before and gotten to know more. He’s had success here, maybe he’s had some failure but he’s had success here, and knows what it takes to succeed in Edmonton. He has a good hockey mind. So, if we can make it work and we will make it work he’s an asset to the organization. He’s VP of hockey operations, so he’s going to oversee a lot of development in Bakersfield. He’s going to be my No. 2 guy.”
Awkward relationship invites awkward answer, and we are here. Let me ask you: If your boss delivered an answer like this to the media about you, would you update the resume? That’s a very halting answer.