Ben Scrivens (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Edmonton has vast structural problems with its hockey team and even though netminder has not been a strength, how could it be with the personnel they have? There are some much bigger heads that need to roll in that town.
If you wondered why the Oilers have been horrible again this season, Edmonton fans, don't worry: they just fired goalie coach Frederic Chabot. Yes, clearly the man who was working with two backup-quality goaltenders in front of one of the worst defense corps in the league had to go.
Did Chabot elevate his charges to new and unforeseen heights? No, I'll grant you that point. But for me this move is borderline offensive because he was the first and so far only casualty of an organization with much bigger competency problems. It's like firing the floral arranger on the Titanic as the ship is going down.
Edmonton's last game was a 7-1 loss to Chicago. Watch the highlights – no goalie in the game is gonna win that contest for the Oilers. If Carey Price is in net, the Oilers only lose 3-1, but they still lose. And this Oilers group is rarely a tight defensive unit. We all know about The Swarm by now and whether that's more on coach Dallas Eakins for strategy or the players for execution, it's certainly not on Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth in net.
It's the expectation that really bothers me. Scrivens and Fasth are, objectively, backup goaltenders at the NHL level. Above average ones, mind you, but on a good team they're starting 25-30 games. Scrivens, nominally the starter in Edmonton, has never in his NHL career played more than 40 games in a season. So even though he is capable of miracles every once in a while, I can't point the finger at him for Edmonton's woes in the standings, even if he's not having a good year by his own standards.
It's the same reason I couldn't understand why the Oilers tried to make Devan Dubnyk their starter for so long, despite results that suggested to the contrary. Yeah, I get it – he's tall. But perhaps the starter's role wasn't made for him. And brace yourself: After bottoming out in the American League, Dubnyk has returned to the NHL and is actually playing well in a backup role for Arizona.
So yes, Scrivens and Fasth need to be better, but how much better can we expect them to be?
The tension is rising to a boil in Edmonton and I can't imagine the turfing of Chabot is going to alleviate the city's pain right now. If anything, it just puts a brighter spotlight on other executives who remain employed.
GM Craig MacTavish is the obvious starting point, perhaps even more so than Eakins, though I can easily see the coach going first because that's how things work in hockey. MacTavish came into power in the summer of 2013 and canned coach Ralph Krueger, replacing him with the hot free agent Eakins.
Krueger was coming off his first season in Edmonton, where he had "elevated" the Oilers to 12th in the conference. I say that kinda jokingly, but it was also their best finish in four years. Last year the team dropped back down to 14th (ie last) and is once again 14th right now.
The Edmonton rebuild has been a thing for – well, many years now – but it's not going anywhere. Young building blocks such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have played for three different coaches already and a fourth is probably coming soon. Nail Yakupov was actually open to listening to Krueger about defense and rounding out his game, but then the coach was eighty-sixed and the skilled Russian took a step back.
And what about the man who hired MacTavish, Kevin Lowe? This is now the second unsuccessful GM in a row that Lowe has hired (after Steve Tambellini) and the organization is somehow still floundering despite the presence of three straight first overall draft picks in the lineup. If self preservation is an instinct that Lowe possesses, he better fire MacTavish quick before owner Daryl Katz realizes just how high the rot rises in his building.
Because I'm pretty sure Frederic Chabot was not the sole reason Edmonton is once again in the dumpster.