In Blackhawks’ general manager search, there’s one clear wrong option: Peter Chiarelli
The former Oilers GM’s history of terrible trades put him on a tier far below the Hawks’ other five candidates.
The man who made “one-for-one” a hockey punchline is now a candidate for the Blackhawks’ general manager position.
Peter Chiarelli, the former Oilers and Bruins GM, is one of six people the Hawks have interviewed so far in their search. And while it’s easy to see arguments for each of the other five, it’s impossible to take Chiarelli’s candidacy seriously.
An interview is harmless enough, but when it comes time for Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz to make a decision, Chiarelli is clearly the wrong answer on this multiple-choice test.
June will mark six years since his infamous trade that sent future NHL MVP Taylor Hall to the Devils for second-pairing defenseman Adam Larsson with no strings attached, a blockbuster so obviously imbalanced it sent shockwaves well beyond Alberta and New Jersey.
Among the annual masses of transactions, that particular trade’s legacy lives on today — as a meme. Bob McKenzie’s tweet breaking the news can even be purchased online in sticker form. Over 1,000 buyers have left 5-star reviews.
But considering Hall’s tenure with the Devils peaked with a first-round loss, and Larsson at least lasted five decent seasons with the Oilers, it might not even be the worst trade of Chiarelli’s four-year tenure.
That honor probably belongs to the 2015 Griffin Reinhart trade, which — as one of Chiarelli’s first moves in charge — helped set the tone for his reign. Reinhart ultimately played only 29 games for the Oilers before busting out of the NHL. Chiarelli sent a first-round pick to the Islanders that turned into Mathew Barzal and a second-round pick that the Isles traded and became a late first-rounder that turned into Anthony Beauvillier.
Beneath that lie several other disastrous transactions that would stand out as the worst decisions of many other GMs’ tenures had they made them. There were the Jordan Eberle-for-Ryan Strome and Ryan Strome-for-Ryan Spooner trades. There was the Drake Caggiula-for-Brandon Manning trade, which is familiar to Hawks fans. And there were, of course, the Milan Lucic and Mikko Koskinen contracts.
This brief history doesn’t even include the brash later years of Chiarelli’s Bruins tenure, which declined quickly after the 2011 Stanley Cup title. As soon as he dealt Tyler Seguin to the Stars in 2013 — for a misfit haul of Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser — Seguin rattled off six consecutive 70-point seasons.
There’s a sense the Hawks’ GM search has been so wide-ranging in part to check all the boxes before making their choice official. And Chiarelli certainly checks the “experience” box, if experience is measured simply by years spent in GM roles. Perhaps the interview was just cursory, designed to publicly show consideration to the league’s old guard before the franchise heads in a bold new direction.
If Chiarelli is a legitimate contender for the job, though, that’s concerning. Because there’s little question a bold new direction is what this franchise needs — and every other candidate conceivably could lead that.
Kyle Davidson, as the interim GM, technically might represent continuity, but he’s nothing like Stan Bowman in approach, mindset or generation. At 33, he’d usurp -Toronto’s Kyle Dubas as the league’s youngest GM.
Scott Mellanby would bring plenty of experience — albeit as a player and assistant GM, not outright GM — without Chiarelli’s baggage. Eric Tulsky or Mathieu Darche offer expertise from sizable roles with two of the league’s savviest teams (the Hurricanes and Lightning, respectively). And hiring Cubs executive Jeff Greenberg undoubtedly would be new and bold, if not too much so.
Any of those five candidates, if chosen, would deserve the benefit of the doubt for their first few years. Chiarelli would not. And that’s a critical factor that should exclude him.
NOTE: Hawks prospect Drew Commesso, 19, became the youngest U.S. goalie to start an Olympic game, leading the Americans over China 8-0 with 29 saves.