1. Give us a grade of Peter Chiarelli's tenure thus far. Obviously the Hall trade stands out, but how do Oilers fans rate him as a whole?
I have a feeling that I'm a bit more critical of Chiarelli compared to most of the fanbase. He's been more good than bad, but the moves that he's faltered on have left some really awkward feelings. Signing Milan Lucic was fine, though seven years is about three too many. He did well when he acquired Adam Larsson, it's just that it cost entirely too much in Taylor Hall. He whiffed on Jonas Gustavsson, and he didn't acquire a backup netminder at the deadline. Irritating as hell. A letter grade? B-minus. He's been more good than bad, but like with the backup netminder, it's an easy fix that didn't get addressed.
2. Many people scoffed when the Oilers signed Milan Lucic to a huge deal. What were your thoughts on the signing at the time, and what are your thoughts on it now? Has he brought the toughness/intangibles, or has it been a letdown?
He's tough, and I think that's great. Unfortunately, he hasn't lived up to the 1LW billing. He was brought in to play with Connor McDavid, and up until very recently, he hasn't been all that 5 on 5. He's been more valuable on the power play, but has seen way more time at 3LW with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's moved up to the second line with Nugent-Hopkins after Chiarelli acquired David Desharnais at the trade deadline, and his last ten games have been better. (4-3-7).
3. The Oilers are knocking on the door of a playoff spot. Do you see this team as being ahead of schedule, or about where it should be?
The team will go as far as Connor McDavid will take them, and Cam Talbot shouldn't go unnoticed. The Oilers are about six years behind schedule, but Edmonton lucked out beyond belief to score McDavid. Don't get me wrong, Adam Larsson has helped, Andrej Sekera is Edmonton's best defenceman, and Oscar Klefbom has helped the Oilers with a healthy season. The Oilers have also been fortunate that Cam Talbot has held up more than his end of the bargain. But let's not play ourselves. McDavid is everything to this club. Without him, this team finishes 20-25th overall.
4. What is this Oilers team's biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
Edmonton's biggest strength is Connor McDavid. He's tied with Patrick Kane for the league lead in points with 76. He's four Ray Bourques, six Adam Oates, three Cam Neelys and at least one Dmitri Kvartalnov. Their biggest weakness is their lack of scoring on the right wing. This is different from most years when Edmonton struggled to ice three NHL defenceman in a game. After Jordan Eberle, the Oilers' right wings include Zack Kassian, Iiro Pakarinen, Anton Slepyshev, and 2016 third round selection Jesse Puljujarvi. Edmonton has great expectations for Puljujarvi, but it might be a year or two before we get to see the fruits of his labour.