Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli says there's 'no easy answer' to fixing woes
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EDMONTON — The 2017-18 NHL season has felt like "death by a thousand cuts" for Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli.
And there is no magic pill to cure the team's troubles, he said Tuesday.
In a frank conversation with reporters before the club's game against the Arizona Coyotes, Chiarelli acknowledged that lack of scoring and subpar defending, goaltending and special teams have all contributed to the Oilers' woeful start that has seen team has tumble down the standings to 27th place in the 31-team league.
It's not what was expected of the promising young squad that boosted beleagured fans' hopes by making the playoffs last season after an excruciating 10-year drought.
The Oilers, led by scoring champ Connor McDavid, came within one game of the NHL's final four last spring, and pre-season forecasts this year have them breaking through and challenging for the Stanley Cup.
"I'm disappointed as to where we are," said Chiarelli. "There are a number of areas. It's a little bit of a death by a thousand cuts right now so when you're patching up one area another area opens up."
Heading into Tuesday's game, the Oilers were 9-13-2 on the season, but had only been able to string together back-to-back wins once.
"There are a lot of things that aren't going right at this point and we're trying to work our way through it," he said.
"You have to let these things play out to a certain degree," he added. "You have to act when you think that they're not getting fixed."
"How do you fix it?" Chiarelli continued. "You have to look externally, you have to look internally, you have to look at your coaching staff you have to look at your management staff. You look at a lot of different things. There's no easy answer."
At this early stage of the season, Chiarelli remained optimistic.
"I do believe that this team has the ability to get out of it," he said. "That doesn't mean we won't look at making moves."
Consistency has been among the many challenges for the Oilers.
"There's been a lot of up-and-down to our game," Chiarelli said. "There are a lot of little things that compound. You can look at each of them and try and fix each of them. Collectively they create a problem and put us in the position we're in."
Heading into Tuesday's play, Edmonton's penalty-kill was ranked 30th in the league.
"There has been a level of improvement," Chiarelli pointed out.
Chiarelli also said "subpar" goaltending — only four teams had given up more goals than the Oilers' 78 allowed — and the lacklustre play of top-line defenceman Oscar Klefbom has made matters worse.
"If those things were fine, we'd be better," Chiarelli said. "But they're not fine at this point."
Starting goalie Cam Talbot, who shone last season, had a .901 save percentage and a 3.07 goals-against average heading into Tuesday's game.
Some of the team's consistency problems are also mental, said Chiarelli.
"Things can spiral a little bit mentally," he said. "You have a real good game ... and you consciously or subconsciously you get into a comfort level."
Chiarelli cautioned against overreacting.
"You can't just blow things up," he said.
"We're trying to figure it out," he added. "We'd like to see some traction somewhere and if we don't we're going to have to take a different tack. I don't know when that is."