When Edmonton Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson called a news conference on Thursday, speculation was that it could mean the end for besieged general manager Peter Chiarelli. Instead, Nicholson said Chiarelli will return as the team's general manager and president of hockey operations, although the fate of coach Todd McLellan is less certain.
"I am here today to tell you the president and general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Chiarelli, will be the general manager next year," Nicholson said. "... We had a down year, but I talked to Peter and he has a plan to get us back in the playoffs next season, and we'll unveil that plan once we go through this evaluation."
Chiarelli was hired on April 24, 2015, after nine seasons as general manager of the Boston Bruins. Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and the Eastern Conference title in 2012, but questionable trades and poor salary-cap management led the Bruins to fire Chiarelli in 2015. He was hired by Nicholson nine days later.
The Oilers finished 36-40-6 this season, 17 points short of the playoffs after losing in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last postseason. Chiarelli's decisions as general manager over the past two years -- like trading scoring wingers Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle for what has been an insufficient return -- had garnered widespread criticism, as they seemed to create more problems than they solved.
But Nicholson believes Chiarelli knows how to turn the Oilers around and surround NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid with championship-level talent.
"Peter really thinks through everything that he does. I really believe that he understands where our gaps were this year," Nicholson said.
As for McLellan, who is 114-109-23 in three seasons as Oilers head coach, Nicholson said the future of the coaching staff is "part of the evaluation process" and had no immediate announcement about his fate.
McLellan has two years left on his contract.