Craig MacTavish returns to the Edmonton Oilers

Jonathan Willis
June 11 2012 10:54AM

The Edmonton Oilers have hired Craig MacTavish as the team's new Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.

According to the team's official website, the Oilers will hold a press conference at 4:30 MT to discuss the return of MacTavish to the organization.

MacTavish had been working in the Vancouver Canucks organization as the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.  Earlier today the team announced that MacTavish was leaving to "pursue other opportunities," with general manager Mike Gillis making a short statement:

Craig brought a tremendous amount of experience and expertise as Head Coach of the Wolves this past season. We were pleased to have him as a member of our organization and wish him continued success in the future.

The return of MacTavish has been hinted at previously in the media, with the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reporting the rumour yesterday.  Matheson was not only ahead of the news, but he seems to have gotten things exactly right:

The Oilers won’t comment yea or nay on whether MacTavish, who left the Oilers in 2009 after coaching them for eight years, could return in some capacity. Maybe I’m being led astray by the background chatter, but would it be a stretch to have MacTavish, who got his master’s degree in business from Queen’s University after leaving the coaching gig here, return to assist Kevin Lowe, the team’s president of hockey operations? An extra set of eyes and ears, a sounding board for evaluations? A smart hockey man. Even after leaving the Oilers in 2009, and before he got a coaching gig with the Chicago Wolves last summer, MacTavish was quietly doing some behind the scenes scouting for the Oilers.

Back in April, our own Robin Brownlee also suggested a return could be in the cards, though the expectation at that time was that MacTavish would want to stay behind the bench:

I'm just thinking out loud, but, given MacTavish's longstanding relationship with Lowe and Katz, his ties to Edmonton and his desire to return to the NHL, I think it would be foolish to dismiss the notion that MacTavish could return, should the team decide Renney has run his course. Just sayin.'

MacTavish is an interesting hire, particularly because he's entering the Oilers' front office rather than stepping behind the bench.  The fact that MacTavish went back to school and got a business degree separates him to some extent from the other ex-NHL players populating hockey operations positions around the NHL; that education only adds to the qualifications of a man with a long record of experience as a coach and a player.

My initital reaction is mostly positive; MacTavish is obviously intelligent, and the idea of adding him to the Oilers' management group appeals.  Fresh out of a year coaching in the AHL, MacTavish will also add some first-hand knowledge to the Oilers' professional scouting department, an area that has been weak judging by their acquisitions of the last few seasons.   Presumably, he'll also have an opinion of most of the AHL's up-and-coming coaches, having just spent the last year contending with them.

The thing I'm most curious about, and something we'll hopefully get some answers to this afternoon, is how this alters the power structure in the Oilers' front office.  The addition of MacTavish is going to do nothing to dissuade the notion that Kevin Lowe is still ultimately running the hockey operations department, yet at the same time Steve Tambellini just received an extension as the Oilers' G.M.  I know I'll be paying rapt attention to today's press conference.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 GVBlackhawk
June 11 2012, 03:30PM
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James Gronau wrote:

It was MacT who decided not to return and while it may have been amicable, he did not get fired. Why would it matter anyway?

Certainly agree that there is a lot going on at the exec level which seems like corporate overhead, but lets compare this new structure to much like the Red Wings. How could anyone question the Oilers following that model for success?

I think the next surprise will be selecting Galchenyuk. Seems the idea that he didn't play for a season has most moving him down the list. The key here is had he played this season would he have been as good as Yakupov.

The Oilers will not select Galchenyuk. The consensus choice is Nail. Gally only played 8 games last year. You are basing your opinion on his 16 year old season. Nail outscored him by 20 goals and 18 points in that season.

Not happening.

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#52 Tayranchula
June 11 2012, 05:34PM
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Can this hiring be someone to replace Tambi if he fails even more than he has already. Sounds like he will be involved in everything to do with the Oilers and hockey so hopefully Tambi fails so we can hear MacT give under preformers some crap through the media.

I think MacT as a GM could be good. He was able to turn Pisani and other mediocre players into very good depth players. Should be interesting within the next year involving the front office. Hopefully change happens if we dont finish 23 or higher.

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#53 Tayranchula
June 11 2012, 05:35PM
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And yes Tambi signed him but everyone knows KLowe had alot to do with it and Im sure Katz did aswell.

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#54 Walter Sobchak
June 11 2012, 06:11PM
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To many Chiefs in this band. My thoughts is that as soon as the Oilers don't make the playoffs Tambellini is fired.

Meanwhile, I think the main reason Mac was brought back is I think Lowe realizes that his pro scouting department is not very good and neither is Tambellini’s assessment of pro talent.

Tambellini may not have been able to make a big trade after all.

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#55 OutDoorRink
June 11 2012, 06:56PM
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Gotta love MacT. I was sad to see him go and am very happy to see him back.

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#56 Reg Dunlop
June 11 2012, 10:29PM
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@TheSoupFascist

I heard MacT's return interview and he stated he interviewed for other jobs but basically his heart belonged in Edmonton. Translated, he couldn't get another NHL gig before this.

MacT returning=Katzlowe decision=FUBB

I wonder how Stevie T is taking the news. Actually I don't care.

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#57 The Soup Fascist
June 12 2012, 12:04AM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

@TheSoupFascist

I heard MacT's return interview and he stated he interviewed for other jobs but basically his heart belonged in Edmonton. Translated, he couldn't get another NHL gig before this.

MacT returning=Katzlowe decision=FUBB

I wonder how Stevie T is taking the news. Actually I don't care.

Okay. I don't make that leap but I can't say for sure what other opportunities he had - so you are certainly welcome to that conclusion. Although, I do know Vancouver and Edmonton were preferred destinations for the MacTavish clan.

You are correct that MacT likely could be viewed as "plan B" should ST's latest foray into the task of building a competitive team end as well as Lindsay Lohan taking driving lessons. Time will tell.

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#58 Biowolf
June 12 2012, 01:31AM
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Finally, somethng positive. Great move.

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#59 madjam
June 12 2012, 10:06AM
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With MacTavish back in a more dominant role , i expect Oilers to be dealing this year more so than last 2-3 years . Tampa Bay (10,19,37,40,50 th picks) and Buffalo (12,21, 42, 44 th picks) have a lot first and second round picks that they can deal with . Might we strike up a deal with either using present personnel for more draftees ? Or might Vanek , Regher or Lecavallier also be in play for players more so than drafts ?

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