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Inside the NHL: Chiarelli is wasting McDavid and somehow surviving as Oilers GM

Tim Murray landed Jack Eichel, made several moves that have proven dubious and got shown the door last April. His brother in tankitude out in Edmonton got Connor McDavid – the real tank prize in 2015 – and also made some terrible moves after reeling in his draft catch.

Somehow, Peter Chiarelli survives and Oilers coach Todd McLellan is the one left twisting in the wind.

Oilers CEO and vice chair Bob Nicholson told reporters in Edmonton on Thursday that Chiarelli will return as general manager next season but that the team still has some thinking to do about the coaching staff.

"Yes we had a down year but I really believe when I talk to Peter he has a plan to get us back in the playoffs next year,” said Nicholson. “Our goal is to make the playoffs next year.”

Nicholson said he met with angry season ticket-holders about the Oilers' collapse from 103 points to 78, which saw them go from Game Seven of the second round to out of the playoffs entirely. And he said owner Daryl Katz is "disappointed, angered and wants us to get it right.” Sounds much the way Jason Botterill described Terry Pegula here.

Mike Harrington: Anger is awesome, but now Botterill has to match words with actions

Chiarelli has a Stanley Cup on his resume with the 2011 Boston Bruins as well as four division titles, while Murray was a first-time GM in Buffalo. Still, it's amazing to see how Chiarelli has wasted having the best player in the game on his team. You would think the Oilers might be looking at a Murray-Dan Bylsma clean sweep, rather than turfing the coach and keeping the GM.

Maybe the coaches and not Chiarelli get the blame for the regression shown this season by goalie Cam Talbot and defenseman Oscar Klefbom. But so much of this mess lies with Chiarelli. How does Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson look right now? How about Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome? How about seven years and $42 million to Milan Lucic, whose 10 goals and 34 points this season were his fewest for a full season since he was a rookie in 2007-08?

(It's odd how you can substitute some of the names in Buffalo and get to the same point. Think Robin Lehner for a first-round pick, acquiring Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian, 0r overpaying Kyle Okposo to the exact 7/42 terms Lucic got).

The view from this corner will never change that tanking is a sham and is a shortcut away from the draft-and-develop model that teams should be following. That said, the Sabres and Oilers both tanked and both got a key reward for doing it. What they've done after is fritter the asset away.

On that Florida night McDavid and Eichel were drafted in 2015, would anyone have believed the two players' six years on entry-level contracts would have resulted in just one playoff berth? No way. That's on Murray and Chiarelli. Hard to believe they both haven't been shown the door.

Inside the Sabres: The curious case of Ryan O'Reilly

Humboldt crash hits home for Woods

The Humboldt Broncos bus crash hit particularly close to home for Wild assistant Bob Woods, who spent the last two years on Dan Bylsma's staff with the Sabres. Woods' son, Brendan, was born in the Saskatchewan city, located 20 minutes from Woods' family farm. His other son, Colin, played for the Broncos in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Woods' mother and sister live there now.

“You know everybody in the community, especially the hockey people,” Woods told Minnesota reporters last week. “It’s one of those things you always worry about, and you hope never happens. When you hear it happens, it hits close to home.”

Humboldt coach Darcy Haugan was among those killed and he watched Woods' practices when Woods was the GM and coach of the Western League's Saskatoon Blades from 2014-2016. Two of Colin Woods' teammates from the 15-16 season, Logan Schatz and Logan Boulet, were also among the dead.

“That’s why my wife makes my boys text every time they’re leaving and every time they arrive safe because you worry about it,” Woods said. “The roads are never good this time of year, and the weather and the hours that you travel. A lot of guys can relate to it because we’ve all been there. We’ve all worried about it. When it happens, it really hits home and I think that’s why you get the response that you have in the hockey world because everybody can relate to it.”

Ex-Sabres in the playoffs

* Evander Kane waded through 574 career games just to get one chance in the playoffs and then he backed up his words with two goals Thursday in the Sharks' 3-0 Game One win over the Ducks. Kane had nine goals in the regular season with San Jose, but six came against Calgary. Still in the days leading up to his first playoff series, Kane let it be known he was ready.

"I’ve said it in the past. I think I’m a playoff player,” Kane insisted. “I’ve watched the playoffs and when I look at the style of play it’s something I was jealous because I wasn’t involved in it. Now I get that opportunity and I have to back those words up."

The fit for Kane in San Jose looks better and better. The Sharks have to be seriously pondering a re-sign of Kane, which would get the Sabres a first-round pick. Kane looks great in San Jose, playing in all situations.

"I think Buffalo was a tough situation for everybody,” said San Jose coach Peter DeBoer. "And when he got the opportunity to get into our room and play with (Brent) Burns and (Joe) Pavelski, he was re-energized. That’s what you’re seeing: A guy who got his passion back and came to the rink excited.”

* No problem from here watching William Carrier play quite a power forward role on the fourth line for the Golden Knights. The Sabres had to let him go in order to keep Linus Ullmark out of the expansion draft. The real issue in that first-round series is seeing Brayden McNabb on Vegas' top defense pair. He played 32:49 in Friday's double-overtime classic against the Kings.

We hear far too much crabbing on social media about Murray's trade of Mark Pysyk to Florida for Kulikov at the 2016 draft. A much bigger faux pas in this view? Murray trading McNabb and second-round picks in both 2014 and 2015 to the Kings for Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching. Major ouch.

* Did you see that goal Tyler Myers scored Friday in Winnipeg? Kane produced for Buffalo but a huge issue from that 2015 deal with the Jets was sending Myers off for Bogosian, who simply can't stay healthy. Some might say Myers ran his course here (and Rasmus Ristolainen could be following that road too), but trading a huge blueliner and former Calder Trophy winner certainly isn't looking good in the rear-view mirror.

'Hulk' moment keyed '01 clincher for Sabres

Former Sabres goalie coach Jim Corsi is one of four ex-coaches sharing a weekly column on and Corsi's most recent entry shared some insight into the Sabres' 2001 first-round clincher against the Philadelphia Flyers. The 8-0 rout in then-HSBC Arena remains Buffalo's most lopsided playoff victory ever.

As Corsi tells the story, the Sabres and coach Lindy Ruff were getting a little fed up hearing how the Flyers' Roman Cechmanek was one of the best goalies in the league and made sure everyone knew that during a video session the morning of Game Six.

"I'm saying, 'Are you kidding me? Dominik Hasek is the best goalie in the League, and we've got him,' '' Corsi wrote. "So, I'm in a meeting going over video and I'm saying that Cechmanek kind of hulks when he makes a save, so we've got to get inside and look for rebounds. Lindy says to me, 'Hulks?' I'm like, 'Yeah, like the Hulk, the Incredible Hulk.'

"So then, with my little body, I do an imitation of Cechmanek after a save and try to make it look like the Hulk. Well, the whole place starts to laugh and Lindy sees a moment where the guys release all their tension. Everybody is laughing, and from the back of the room one of the players says, 'Thanks Eugene.' I look back and I go, 'Who's Eugene?' The place starts to crack up again.

"Well, it turns out that apparently I look like the actor Eugene Levy from the "American Pie" movies. So, as intense as it gets, with the fear of the unknown for a lot of guys, there's a moment where they felt some relief and could collectively say, 'Yeah, we can do this.'"

Cechmanek gave up four goals that day as the Sabres advanced. Buffalo went on to lose to Pittsburgh in the second round in seven games, in Hasek's final series with the Sabres.

Around the boards

* Four straight last-place teams in a conference have made the playoffs the next year. Toronto and Edmonton were last in 2016 and made the playoffs in 2017. New Jersey and Colorado were last in 2017 and made the playoffs in 2018. The Sabres, of course, probably need to land Rasmus Dahlin in the lottery and figure something out with their goaltending to have any chance of pulling off that feat in 2019.

* Fifteen teams, which is nearly half the league, won at least 26 of their 41 home games this season. Shows you how pathetic and fatal to their hopes was the Sabres' NHL-low total of 11 home wins.

The Jets went 32-7-2 at home during the regular season, then won their first two playoff games over the Wild and outshot Minnesota, 83-47, in the process. In Friday night's 4-1 win, Winnipeg gave up the game's first five shots on goal and then outshot the Wild, 43-12, the rest of the way. That's how you dominate on home ice.

* The league cemented the draft lottery odds after the standings were finalized and the Sabres, of course, have the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick at 18.5 percent. Also above 8 percent are Ottawa (13.5), Arizona (11.5), Montreal (9.5) and Detroit (8.5). The rest of the field is Vancouver (7.5), Chicago (6.5), New York Rangers (6.0), Edmonton (5.0), New York Islanders (3.5), Carolina (3.0), New York Islanders from Calgary (2.5), Dallas (2.0), St. Louis (1.5) and Florida (1.0).

* The NHL will announce Central Scouting Bureau's final rankings for the 2018 draft Monday morning. The league has also firmed up the dates for the NHL Scouting Combine at HarborCenter. Media availability will be held on Friday, June 1 with the fitness testing on Saturday, June 2. Events are not open to the public. All teams and prospects will be in town starting around May 27 for private interview sessions that will last all week in KeyBank Center.

* Former Sabres and Amerks forward Phil Varone was named the AHL’s MVP after having a big season for Lehigh Valley in the Flyers organization. Varone, 27, entered the weekend tied for the league scoring lead with 70 points in 73 games, establishing career highs in goals (23), assists (47) and points. Varone had five goals and four assists in 42 games for the Sabres from 2013-15, and played five full seasons with the Amerks that were topped by an 18-goal, 61-point effort in 2013-14.

* The airwaves were briefly filled with talk of the Ontario Hockey League draft last week and with good reason. Buffalo Regals goalie Owen Parker, a 16-year-old who is 6-foot-5, was taken by Sault Ste. Marie in the 10th round at No. 200 overall. The reason for the chatter? Parker is the son of longtime WGR Radio talk show host Chris "The Bulldog" Parker, who has often referenced his son on Twitter as GGS. The hilarious acronym stands for "Giant Goalie Son."

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