There are rumblings of a big battle brewing behind the scenes in Edmonton and the most legendary player in National Hockey League history may be behind it all.
The Edmonton Oilers have had an extremely embarrassing season and one in which they have drastically and shockingly regressed from the previous season in which they looked like a legitimate playoff contender. It becomes even more ridiculous when you realize that they have who many consider to be the best player in the world on their roster in Oilers' captain Connor McDavid.
While there are undoubtedly a large number of factors that have contributed to the Oilers stunning slide down the standings this season there are many who have laid the majority of the blame squarely at the feet of general manager Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli has orchestrated a series of trades and contract signings that have baffled fans and pundits alike and he has left his team sorely depleted as a result.
Those moves including trading Taylor Hall, a player that is being considered a contender and perhaps even the favorite for the Hart Trophy this season. Trading away the draft pick that eventually became Calder Trophy favorite Matthew Barzal for defenseman Griffin Reinhardt. Trading away Jordan Eberle who has 47 points in 66 games this season in a move that appears to have been a salary dump. As well as singing a player already on the decline in veteran forward Milan Lucic to a massive contract he could never have possibly lived up to.
With all that in mind it's no surprise that members of the Edmonton Oilers fan base desperately what Chiarelli to be shown the door, and as quickly as humanly possible no less. What may come as a much bigger surprise to you however is the fact that there are now rumors within the Oilers organization that Wayne Gretzky himself may be behind an attempt to push Chiarelli out of his position as general manager.
In midseason, it seemed all but guaranteed Chiarelli would be staying. But the Oilers have a poorer record since Christmas (11-17-2, tied for last in points in that span) than they did before the break. Meanwhile, some of Chiarelli's high profile blunders have been hard to miss given a player like Taylor Hall is a Hart Trophy candidate elsewhere. Predicting what owner Daryl Katz is thinking is downright impossible, but there have been rumours that Chiarelli is a man on an island in the front office as Wayne Gretzky exerts some influence. The fan base is also fed up with this GM.
It's unclear exactly what kind of influence Gretzky is trying to exert in the Oilers organization, but perhaps he himself feels he could be doing a better job than Chiarelli has done during his tenure as general manager of the Oilers. To be fair if Gretzky does believe this, and this is purely speculation on my part, he's may very well be right. Chiarelli has been an unmitigated disaster as general manager thus far.
It will be extremely interesting to see how things unfold at the end of the season and if the great one does emerge with more power within the Oilers organization, it may be the result of a major coup behind the scenes.