January 09 2013 05:22PM
Driving around Edmonton these days is a lot of fun. Most people are completely over the moon about the return of the the NHL and also believe the Oilers are going to make some noise this season. The radio plays Jason Gregor and hockey talk and of course we're all experts on how to handle the Oilers so conversations bubble and boil in hallways and coffee shops.
I've been thinking about the Oilers as an organization a lot lately, mostly in regard to how they will make decisions. We know Kevin Lowe is very involved in the decision making--I think most of us believe he's the ultimate authority--and we know Steve Tambellini has a certain amount of power as General Manager. Watching Oil Change its clear that Rick Olczyk has some power too, iirc Corey Potter's astute signing came from his office.
Where does MacT fit in? Based on the Oilers website it looks like he's third in the pecking order behind Lowe and Tambellini and that certainly makes a lot of sense. Senior advisor, guy who is very familiar with the league and someone whose eyes you trust to find quality.
I believe the Oilers could use MacT's wisdom in one key area--5x5 play. It was a strength when he played, a tremendous strength when he coached and the Oilers need it as a strength now that he's in the front office.
WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
The Oilers have identified their top line talents for the rest of this decade--their Kings and Jacks are Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz. What they need is a man who can find solid 2-way checkers and penalty killers, role players who can create low event minutes while the impact players get a blow.
Put another way, the Oilers have this generation's Gretzky-to-Kurri, the '10s version of Messier-Anderson (not comparing them as players, just spots in the pecking order), but are still trying to find Marchant-Grier and Hunter-Lumley. That's an area MacT should be able to help the Oilers--he skated miles doing the job, and found gems like Fernano Pisani to fill the role in the NHL when he was a coach.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think Craig MacTavish will eventually be the Oilers GM, on even footing with Kevin Lowe and offering a calm, reasonable point of view to counter Lowe's emotional and passionate approach to the business of hockey. I believe the first measurable test may start now, as we watch the Oilers construct third and fourth lines that surely must be better than what has come before.
Whether it is personnel decision making or strategies offered to the coach, Craig MacTavish is a welcome addition to the think tank that drives the Edmonton Oilers. I expect he's on the way to greater things.