Plenty of Blame... So lets get started.
I am going to take a step back and start with the obvious and the one that you won't hear on TV right now. Chiarelli. Many people will say it is easy to be an arm chair GM and to shout out opinions. Personally I say and I say it to any Oiler fan out there, go right ahead. Shout out what you think, write it, talk about it; share any opinion you have because until the Oilers get a real GM, we are the closest the team has.
For those that wonder about my definition of a "real GM." One that has the ability to improve the team and to ice a team filled with NHL calibre players. To me this seams like an easy task.
The biggest problem is people are starting to translate the success of the team as his success. The team did great this year so it must be a reflection of good management which is terrible. Might as well give credit to the arena and its concession staff as well. They had just as much to do with the success of the team.
I will solve the mystery of the Oiler's large improvement. Individual players got better. The team thus played together and even developed chemistry. Yes all it takes is the team to have two players in the top 10 points in the lead to get you to the playoffs. Not to leave out one of the best goalies. None of that was Chiarelli.
I know people are saying that Chiarelli traded for Talbot. It was part of his trade all the Oilers first and second round picks to get two prospects. Reinhart and Talbot. Knowing what we know now, he over paid for one and got a good deal on the other. At the time he overpaid on both. He could have got both for less and he had no idea either would turn out.
Talbot almost didn't. They gave up on him early in his first year. Another Management flaw. Not the sending him to the minors but saying to the press it was because his play wasn't good. He needed time to develop. You don't sell out your players to the press. Ever. Especially not your young ones. Much like many of NHL's greats, he was a backup goalie given a starting role and found his play. During the last year he worked heavily on his game and it shows in his level of compete. He is quick to react, quick to get his pads down when needed and he works hard to he where he is needed getting to the puck. It's what separates him from so many other starting goalies and why he is soon going to be popular consensus as one of the leagues top 5 net minders.
Talbot he got us but he overpaid at the time and he just as easily could have been a bust. There were many goalies available that year that could have been had for the same price.
There are many other things he did wrong. Getting rid of talent, bringing in worse players at huge cap hits (yes Lucic is on the top of my mind). Still it is what he didn't do that is really hurting the club, now more than ever.
Oilers need a top defender. Have for a while. Yet nothing. Florida, who I would kill to have their blue line problems decided they wanted to replace Campbell (who even offered to play for a huge discount to stay). They traded for the rights for Yandle and signed the best RHD of that year before the trade deadline. The year before the Philly did the same with Streit. If a team is having troubles getting people to sign here, then you pull out all the stops. You trade for the rights, you sign offer sheets to guys the Seth Jones (Hendo did a great article oh how we could have tied Columbus's hands if we signed him to an offersheet). Basically you do anything.
The biggest example of his ability to always seem to find a way to improve as the worst GM in the league was the trade deadline. Oilers have holes and they have money. There were numerous character defenders that were up for grabs with contracts ending this year that are better than our bottom players. Guys that could have been had for a career AHL player. Kulikov, Del Zotto or even Fronson off the top of my head are all cheap and would have filled out our bottom 3 nicely. Not to mention the bigger names that were on the market via trade. Forwards as well. Iggy let it be known he wanted to come back to AB. LA got him for nothing and he was amazing for them. Don't think an experienced guy like that on line 3 would help out? How about Vanek? Had a great year considering his team. He plays both wings and he does it fast and gritty. Florida got him for nothing. Edmonton could have had him. Vanek would have gave all sorts of options for the Oil right now. This list is long and these guys were cheap rentals with no contracts after this year.
Oh and the one thing the Oilers really needed. I mean they didn't have a NHL player to play the positions was a backup goalie. TONS out there. Top of my head Philly has two and both are UFA's this summer and thats just the top of my head. Chiarelli traded our back up but never thought that we might still need one. Last game of the season we played Bachman and won. Last night we played Broissoit and he looked... like what he is, a career AHL goalie that has no place in a NHL playoff game.
Which brings us to the next and arguably the biggest person to blame for the Oilers loss last night. Oilers coach Todd McLellan. He is another guy that should be losing his job but looks good because the Oilers did good. I have disagreed with his coaching all year but lets go with just the playoffs.
First, why is he line matching? Is there really a set of defenders on the blues that he is worried to put McDavid out against. He is switching up the top 2 lines giving half shifts and trying to match them when really, its point less. The Oilers top 3 lines are faster than SJ. Let them play their game. They have other concerns right now, like the face off.
Second I understand the 4th foward on the PP. You have no defenders but why were we getting gems like Caggula out there? Did I miss the part where this guy has done anything in the playoffs or is in anywhere near our top 8 best forwards? You have the top 2 lines and then letestu and kassian. If you need to scrape lower put a second defender out.
Third and this should have been done first game. Solve McDavid's problem lining up for draws. These guys are getting to him and they shouldn't be. I don't care if he is not as good as Draisaitl, is a 100 pt player, put him at center where they stop cheap shotting him every face off and get guys like Kassian and Nurse to solve McDavid's problems the way the Oiler's did when Gretzsky had them. Its his first playoffs, he s going to be rattled, don't let these old guys rattle him more. Show them that McDavid is off limits otherwise McDavid is going to spend half his game doing it himself.
Fourth, it was great that he split up McDavid and Draisaitl. These guys have huge talent but aren't playing their game. They need to find chemistry and get these guys going or there is no chance of them winning. WTF!!! was Shylepslev doing on the first line? When was he next in line to be the person that was going to help McDavid start scoring points. I was under the impression that he has yet prove he is good enough to play at the NHL level. That was why he only played 41 games and had only 10 pts. He barely made the team.
It was cute when he put Maroon on the top line because it was like giving a retarded kid a chance to feel good. McDavid and Draisaitl would gift wrap the guy points but he is a second line player at best. You will never see him playing for his national team or making an all star appearance. So when you take away McDavid's only talented line mate you have to give him something better than a pylon with a jersey. Our top line consists of a guy who has done nothing in his career until playing with McDavid and Draisaitl and a guy who will most likely be the first sent to the minors if needed. Yeah. I can see how scoring became a problem.
As for the rest of the blame. Talbot was hung out to dry. Hard to blame a tired goalie that let in a couple soft ones when he has no help. Not giving him any.
The blue line however can have it in spades. They were everywhere around the net and the players scoring, just never where they should or needed to be. Not clearing bodies or rebounds from in front. You could have sped the game real up a little, put clown music on and it would have been funny how bad the defence was.
As for up front. The second line is doing okay but that is not good enough. McDavid is not playing his game. He is too intent on cheap shotting the other team that he forgets about the puck half the time. He looks like he has no confidence. This is fixable. This is not his first game, this is not the first team that is throwing everything at him. He has faced this his whole life. He lives for this. He needs to be reminded and maybe if the use to "Great" one could stop having beers with Owen Nolan long enough, maybe he can remember he is not the GM and not paid to watch the games. Get his ass down to the dressing room and talk to the kid.
We all remember when Crosby started out. Lemieux didn't just mentor him, he let the kid live in his house. To this day they remain neighbors. Starting to lose respect for 99. He wants to come back to Edmonton and help the team. Start with McDavid and Draisaitl. Two young centers with amazing talent and pressure. Then tell Janet you will be home late and start calling agents. Start selling the Oilers so when July 1 comes, the Oilers have a blue line. Also have Sekeras deported after the playoffs. His contract is brutal. He could have it done. Trudeau will take his call.
Last the team needs to settle and play there game. They have speed. SJ is using a dump and chase offence with them. This should be free pucks for the Oilers. Just use your speed and play hockey and that is something that few are doing right now.
As an Arm Chair GM I will solve the lineup problem for you. Put McDavid out with Kassian and Eberle on line one. Eberle is playing good but just missing the mark. He was amazing with McDavid. They had great chemistry. They are both great at passing and finding the back of the net. Eberle and Kassian also have something most of the team is missing. Complete composure under pressure. This is Eberle's defining trait and Kassian appears to be a machine in the playoffs. If any two can spark McDavid its these two and let Kassian know that if someone takes liberties with McDavid that he does what he needs to without taking a penalty and unless it is coincidentals.
Second line is Nuge/Draisaitl centering Lucic. Nuge is doing great but needs more open ice. These guys can get it for him (if Lucic can learn to hold onto a stick). This is a talented line where all can score and Nuge and Draisaitl know how to pass. This takes pressure off Leon and gives talent to this line that could spark Nuge who appears on the verge of something good.
Then Letestu, Caggula and Maroon. Not just that Maroon has little raw talent of his own but these guys have something to prove and I like Letestu's ability to bring good things out in the other two. Also I think Maroon is playing injured. It might have just been an illness but there is something they aren't telling us with him missing the last game, the morning skate and then shifts. I would plan on swapping him with Kassian when McDavid and Eberle are going again but wait till next round.
Which is a given since I have just fixed the lines. You are Welcome McLellan.