NHL Pacific Division Notebook – Hot Seat Scorching For Chayka And Chiarelli

NHL Pacific Division

The Arizona Coyotes have not won a single game thus far, while the Edmonton Oilers are by far the biggest disappointment in the NHL. At 0-10-1, Arizona is effectively out of the playoff race, already eleven points back. Meanwhile, Edmonton is 3-6-1 and looks completely uninterested and lost to this point.

Both teams were horrendous in October, and both teams are in danger of extremely disappointing seasons. Arizona was supposed to show promise and take a step forward, but they look as bad as ever before. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s going to be possible for them to finish anywhere but 31st in the league.

Meanwhile, Edmonton was a trendy pick to compete for the Stanley Cup, but at worst people had the Oilers in the playoffs. At this point, Edmonton will be lucky to still be around by Christmas time. The Oilers are routinely making major mistakes, failing to score and are getting clobbered on special teams. They are five points out of a playoff spot and badly bleeding out.

The men to most blame? The general managers for both of these teams. John Chayka is just 28 years old, but he’s already building a resume for himself in Arizona and it doesn’t look very good. While he’s got some real solid young talent up front, Chayka still has failed to acquire a proven netminder for his team, and his defensive group is still a weak one even with Oliver Ekman-Larsson patrolling the point.

Jason Demers and Derek Stepan were decent bets, but overall this team lacks depth in a major way and veteran players that can take over a game. Building a team is one thing, but this is starting to look like the early 2010’s Oilers. Unless this team busts out and shows well the rest of the way, Chayka is going to be under a microscope and very well could lose his job.

Peter Chiarelli is in the same boat. After helping guide the Oilers to a 103 point season and second round birth last year, Edmonton’s general manager had an astoundingly poor off-season. He downgraded in a big way by trading Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, then committed long-term to Kris Russell, a number four or five defender depending on who you talk to.

Not only that, but Chiarelli completely ignored the absence of Andrej Sekera in the club’s top-four, and bought out Benoit Pouliot. His replacement for Pouliot, Jussi Jokinen, has been a big downgrade. On top of that, Chiarelli gambled on young forward Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev, Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi, none of which have emerged.

The result? The Oilers look dead in the water, and are in danger of wasting McDavid’s final entry-level contract year. In Crosby’s last ELC year? Pittsburgh went to the Cup. In Patrick Kane’s and Jonathan Toews’? They won the Cup. In Connor McDavid’s? Looking like a spring without playoff hockey.

Peter Chiarelli made the Oilers worse, and if they can’t turn it around, he should be the one getting his walking papers. In an ironic twist, it would be the price he pays.

Put Some Respect On Their Name:

The LA Kings are simply playing terrific hockey. I mentioned this last week, but Jonathan Quick is back to form, the defense is its’ stingy self, and now they are getting goals. The loss of Jeff Carter is a big one, but young players like Adrian Kempe have stepped up and are producing.

There will be down times for LA at points this season, but they have built enough points up where honestly it would be a stunner if they missed the playoffs. They look like a threat to do damage once they arrive in the dance too.

Full marks to new head coach John Stevens and his “offensive coordinator” in Pierre Turgeon. Those two have done a real good job of turning LA’s offense around.

So, When Are They Gonna Lose?:

At some point Vegas has to lose, right? Maybe, but I’m not so sure about that. All kidding aside, the start to the season for the Golden Knights has been nothing short of sensational. At 8-1-0 they are firmly in a playoff spot right now, and should stick around for a while.

I’m not sure if they will finish in playoff position, I still doubt it, but having an expansion team in that market hanging around can only be good for the NHL. Full marks to Gerard Gallant too, he’s done an excellent job in Vegas and has the Knights playing some of the most exciting hockey in the league.

I bet Florida is really regretting panicking and letting him go last fall when injuries plagued the Panthers.

The Rest:

– The Vancouver Canucks are simply not going away. Much like Vegas, no one has them in the post-season but here they are, firmly in the race as we turn towards November. Also like Vegas, I don’t expect Vancouver to be there in the end, but Travis Green has done a great job early on of getting his young players in good situations to produce. Brock Boeser, Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat have all impressed me so far.

You have to think a reliable goalie is at the top of Jim Benning’s list, because if they had that this Vancouver team could be a legit playoff threat. Could Anders Nilsson emerge as that guy? I’m not sold he can consistently, but he has shown flashes before.

– Calgary finally got a home win last night after dropping four in a row, but they have some issues right now. The team’s bottom six has simply been horrible thus far, and it needs to be addressed if they want to make the postseason. I think the answer may be in AHL Stockton, where Andrew Mangiapane has 5-10-15 in just nine games.  The Flames have already brought up Mark Jankowski, and I wonder if he gets an extended look to try and figure out the scoring issue.

– Impressive bounce-back by the Ducks this weekend. After getting run off the ice Thursday in Florida, the Ducks responded with quality wins in Tampa Bay and Carolina. They are still banged up and still aren’t playing their best hockey by any means, but the Ducks have found a way to win games and store points. That’s going to be big for them as they try and topple Vegas and Vancouver in the coming months.

– Tonight is going to be a real emotional one in San Jose. Patrick Marleau, who left to sign in Toronto in the off-season, returns to the Shark tank to face the team that drafted him for the first time. The Marleau-era in San Jose never did produce a Stanley Cup, but when we look back I think we will all be able to agree on the fact that those Sharks teams were some of the best of their generation.

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Photo Credit: Flickr/mark6mauno C.C. 2.0

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