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Looking ahead for the Edmonton Oilers: Time for an overhaul

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2018-19, along with three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction for what next season will hold.


What went wrong

According to Edmonton Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson, it's not the players nor the management. It's the plumbing. "We got some real good players. We got some real good staff. But there's something in the water here in Edmonton that we don't have right," he said, infamously, in January.

(Somehow that ended up not being the most outrageous excuse for the Oilers' demise this season, as Nicholson would later blame their playoff shortfall on the goal-scoring prowess of depth forward Tobias Rieder.)

What went wrong was mostly an issue of construction, as it became quickly apparent general manager Peter Chiarelli had failed to build a competitive team around franchise players Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He threw a Hail Mary pass to save his own job by firing coach Todd McLellan after a 9-10-1 start to bring on Ken Hitchcock, who managed to squeeze a 25-25-8 record out of the team in its next 58 games. But the team never seriously threatened for playoff contention.

Meanwhile, the sum total of Chiarelli's bumbling added up to his own dismissal on Jan. 23, with Keith Gretzky replacing him on an interim basis. That firing came after a series of scrambling cosmetic change trades for players such as Brandon Manning and the completion of one of his ultimate blunders: trading Ryan Strome to the Rangers for Ryan Spooner. Strome was a flop in Edmonton after being acquired for Jordan Eberle and is now having his best goal-scoring run with the Rangers; Spooner was traded again in February, to Vancouver for Sam Gagner.

But like an expelled student tossing one last stink bomb on his way out the door, Chiarelli signed goalie Mikko Koskinen to a lamentable three-year, $13.5 million contract extension with trade protection just 24 hours before his firing.

Meanwhile, McDavid (114 points), Draisaitl (47 goals) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (65 points) all dragged this ocean liner with a breached hull as far as it could go until it sank.