Man of Action

Jonathan Willis
December 23 2013 10:10AM

 

Craig MacTavish, like any general manager of a losing team, has taken some heat this season. The heat's been made worse by things he said in the summer, when he sold Oilers fans on "bold moves" and promised action.

The funny thing is that by Edmonton standards, we've seen that action.

Steve Tambellini Mid-Season

The entire list of trades and signings made to add players by Steve Tambellini during mid-season follows below:

  • March 2009: Patrick O'Sullivan and a second round pick acquired for Erik Cole and a fifth round pick
  • March 2009: Ales Kotalik acquired for a second round pick
  • March 2010: Ryan Whitney and a sixth round pick acquired for Lubomir Visnovsky
  • February 2012: Nick Schultz acquired for Tom Gilbert
  • April 2013: Jerred Smithson acquired for a fourth round pick
  • March 2013: Mike Brown acquired for a fourth round pick

There's an old line about some skaters having to play their way into midseason form after a summer spent getting out of shape; Tambellini was the general manager equivalent of that, spending the winter in hibernation and then coming to life at the trade deadline to make like-for-slightly-inferior trades or acquire irrelevant pieces for draft picks.

Jerred Smithson is the ultimate Tambellini player. Edmonton needed a centre months earlier, and the solution Tambellini came up with was a marginal fourth-liner two months after he might have been useful.

Ilya Bryzgalov

Craig MacTavish hasn't made a midseason trade to add players yet either - though he's shipped out Ladislav Smid and Jason LaBarbera and Mike Brown - but he did make a free agent signing to bolster his team.

Ilya Bryzgalov was signed as the solution to a problem.

The problem, of course, was Devan Dubnyk's implosion, an implosion that cost the Oilers dearly. For all the harping about how Edmonton is no better this year than last, if Dubnyk had managed the 0.920 save percentage he did one season ago the team would be 21 goals better than it is and likely be ahead of both Calgary and Nashville. It's an implosion that represents more than half the gap between where Edmonton is and being a break-even team by goal differential.

The difference between MacTavish and his predecessor was that he didn't wait until March before getting proactive. He gave Dubnyk as much time as he could, and then made a move. On a team that once handed the reins over to Jeff Deslauriers after its starter got hurt, this is a novelty.

It's also an encouraging sign. I've had many people tell me they can't tell the difference between the Oilers under Tambellini and the Oilers under MacTavish. This is a big one. And while the picture's awfully black right now, and lots more changes need to be made, Edmonton already made the most crucial decision it could have: firing the man who led the descent into the abyss, and replacing him with someone willing to make moves before March. 

Recently by Jonathan Willis

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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.
Avatar
#101 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
December 23 2013, 11:05AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
Tikkanese wrote:

A terrible old goalie huh? Hindsight is 20/20.

Khabby was the consensus best UFA goalie available on pretty much every list out there that summer. He had similar offers but chose the Oilers because we were the only team to add the 4th year to the contract.

Not to mention, the Stanley Cup Champs didn't think he was "terrible" when they signed him this summer, did they?

The Stanley Cup champs still have their Stanley Cup-winning goalie between the pipes.

The Oilers were pinning their hopes and dreams to ol' re-khab and it bit them in the ass. I highly doubt many other teams were knocking down his door with both dollars and term that summer.

And for the record, JW has been very critical of the Khabby deal since it happened. I can verify.

Avatar
#102 Burnward
December 23 2013, 11:14AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

@ColourMeImpressed

That's how I see it as well.

Avatar
#104 Tikkanese
December 23 2013, 11:49AM
Trash it!
3
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
Spydyr wrote:

Saying you are going to do something and actually doing something are two completely different things.

As Yoda says "there is no try only do."

Mac-T who spoke out early about "bold" moves looks like a fool now and Dallas is all hat no cattle.

Sure Mac-T "tried" this summer to fix the goaltending. Bringing Bryz was a move out of desperation. Still can't figure out why Smid got traded.

The rebuild has regressed this year. You don't agree?

Then we most certainly can agree to disagree.

Edit:I was right about Dubnyk and Gagner been saying they are weak for years now.

I think Smid was traded because the Oilers had basically 10 D that should all be #4-8's on a proper NHL defense. Smid's contract was going to be probable problem in future years and they can't trade their newly minted Captain and save face. Plus it gave them more room in the cap for this year for Bryz and for possible future moves.

They also needed to fill a hole at Center on the farm which also filled a hole on possibly the weakest position in the organization. Roy was a bust since he choked at the World Juniors and Bunz is near a bust so far as well, so they needed a change there as well.

The team also needed a shakeup. Given the record, it didn't work.

The season was lost already. Replacing Smid with Potter/Fedun/Larsen really isn't a huge downgrade. So looking at all those things, it made some sense. I personally would like to see Fedun playing.

Avatar
#105 Rheal1
December 23 2013, 12:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

Looking forward to tonight's game. I am super hopeful that the Oilers can pull a nice win for the fans. A nice xmas gift for the fans, I wish: 1. A 6-1 victory; looks good for the cosmonaut and the D. 2. Yaks gets two goals. 3. Justin S gets a few assists and looks defensively aware. 4. All star type dominance by Hall.

Avatar
#106 andrewmk20
December 23 2013, 12:34PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

@FireKLowe

I want Kevin Lowe gone too because I'd like to see the management team operate without him there. It's sometimes hard to drop habits and like anyone else Kevin Lowe still involves himself in some of the day to day decision making even though he's president of operations.

I kind of take issue with the reasons you listed though. The Pronger deal was done from a weak standpoint in that he wanted out of the city. Anytime a player requests a deal that's a generational star it's never a fair deal because he's the best player in the trade by a mile. Just look at the deal Edmonton made with St. Louis to acquire him. That's why the trade pissed everyone off, we knew the team was never going to get fair value.

They also just didn't want to sign Smyth long term. The excuse they gave was just terrible but they never wanted to hand out a 5+ year term to Smyth because they thought he wasn't going to cover the value of that contract, which he didn't incidentally.

Jury's still out on Mactavish and Eakins, still not enough time to form an opinion. This season has also been a perfect storm of bad hockey. If goaltending hadn't let us down this season the club would at least be respectable. No one could have known Dubnyk would be this bad. During exhibition he showed no signs of dropping off a cliff.

Also every team that makes the cup and has to re-sign their players overpays them. Chicago did it and had to let go of a lot of good players as a result. Edmonton just had the bad luck of having solid depth players elevate their play for the playoffs and then go back to being solid depth players. Also again a ton of bad luck, Pisani got colitis and Horcoff was playing very well until concussion and back/shoulder issues really slowed him down in the back half of his career.

I think he's responsible for a lot of bad things and some good things but most of the things you've listed are common to the majority of teams and gm's. We just happen to get a front row seat to Lowe on a day to day basis.

Avatar
#107 Rocknrolla
December 23 2013, 12:55PM
Trash it!
6
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
tileguy wrote:

Exactly what is Messier doing here? Is this more boys on the bus ship? Which managers idea is this?

messier was hired as a consultant this year. While he finishes his multi arena project in New York. Scouting and such is the details. Google Elliot Friedman for the article.

Rumor has it he was offered the HC job before it was given to Krueger....

At least Messier I think could motivate this team, he is a true leader.

Avatar
#108 RDutch
December 23 2013, 02:24PM
Trash it!
7
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

The coach is solid , the players and upper management are not . Both Lowe and Mc Tavish have been involved with this team far to long and its time to change gears Mr Katz. Both have not delivered in the long or short term and for the most part created Edmonton as a non destination for quality players. Now as we see the young players realizing this is not where you want to be , they are probably wishing to be traded because the grass is greener on the other side of the rink most nights . Dallas Eakins as a person and coach is a leader and wont quit on the players even if some nights they quit on him , the ones who work will stay and the rest may get their wish to play in the AHL or retirement league. Fresh management of non oiler history is needed to give the team a chance , quality players are available that could help this team within your own organization but you have to give them a chance . New energy , life and heart . Lots to gain little to lose .

Avatar
#109 Spydyr
December 23 2013, 04:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
gcw_rocks wrote:

Giving Lowe as pass on the decisions of his general managers is naive. As a consultant I have worked with senior executives across almost every industry and you know what they all have in common? Formally or informally they get approval from their bosses before making critical decisions and they all have their strategies and priorities confirmed as well.

And in every other industry, when the president doesn't like what he hears he provides clear direction on what he or she wants.

There is no way, none, that Lowe is president in name only. Everything material that Tambo did or didn't do came with Lowe's approval. Ditto for MacT.

No $hit.Props

Avatar
#110 nick
December 23 2013, 06:34PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
Racki wrote:

Big fan of MacTavish. Was one of the ones running him out of town as coach in his last year, due to him being stale. However I always recognized the very smart man he is. I do think he's superior to Tambellini by a mile even though results haven't showed this. He has a big mess to undo, whereas Tambellini created it (although I do like the decision to blow it all up).

MacT is impatient, as he says, and it shows. Tambo seemed to be too unsure to take a risk. I think the team is in good hands but we have to remember that Tambellini burned Rome to the ground before MacT took over. So sadly, there is much work to do. Tambo left MacT with good building piece (due to ineptness that let him draft high), but Tambo was incompetent at filling the rest of the roster out.

I think MacT has made some good changes, the best of which are Gordon and Perron. Another year in the free agent market, since trades are dead, will give MacT more chance to shine. This July's goals... New starter.. Top end D... Bottom six dudes. He will make it happen. He also should shore up the top six and move one of these guys for some size.

Not fair that MacTavish's wife is sending in posts. Way to protect your hubby

Avatar
#111 Tuningout
December 23 2013, 07:02PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
TigerUnderGlass wrote:

So you believe he is a failure as GM because he was unable to acquire 4 top 4 defensemen in a single off season? I've now asked repeatedly what a good GM would have done differently. You refuse to answer.

I'm not putting words in your mouth, I'm spelling out the implications of your own words.

No. I've read everything that was written here and you are 100% putting words in his mouth. You can argue his other points. But of this one there is no doubt.

Avatar
#112 oprah sucks
December 24 2013, 04:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

the only thing i have to say is this; it is no doubt that every oiler fan is goin through hard times with no end in sight. the past 7 to 8 yrs have been brutal. numerous changes, coaching (assistants & head coach),gms,scouts( top to bottom)different farm teams, new positions created or added and one new owner not to mention the countless number of players over the years. All of these changes and still the same results. there is only two factors that still remain, 1) loses and 2)kevin lowe. There has been plenty of puppets infront of him to take the fall as he treads above water. i'm not putting the blame all on him but the evidence speaks for itself. on more than one occassion players have left edmonton on bad terms. there is also players that have come out and said that they would not play for kevin lowe. i read comments above rookie gms on teams having success and rookie coaches on other teams having it too. what team has success with a rookie team,coach, gm, and owner. not one team ever in the history of the nhl has had a rookie in all positions at the same time. and thats the puppets im referring to. i dont care how many cups lowe has won we have to ask our selves how is he still employed with the oilers. countless fall guys have come and gone. the evidence speaks for itself. i also want to comment on articles relating to edmonton rebuilding there team like pittsburg and chicago. we are quite different from those clubs. first order of business for those teams was cleaning house, the vetern players and management. we have yet to do this, infact we are opposite from that by bringing guys back like mac t and ryan smyth(luv the guy but come on). again not pointing fingers at mac because so far seems to be ok in a bad situation and cap frozen season but why is he there? kevin lowe! it was planned from the time mac left his coaching position. some might disagree with all i have said but one burning question remains which in my mind sums up everything. WHAT GM/PREZ OF HOCKEY OPPS/GOD, HAS HAD A JOB WITH ONE FRANCHISE WITH A RECORD LIKE KEVIN LOWES??? the answer is no one.

Avatar
#113 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
December 23 2013, 10:36AM
Trash it!
8
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

@Jonathan Willis

Great article as always. I'm getting frustrated to the point of apathy (as many fans are), but still find time to procrastinate at work reading Oilers articles...

Quick question: how do you see Dubnyk/Bryz situation rolling into next year? Do you think MacT will try to move one of them at the deadline for assets? Or would he be more inclined to let one of them walk as a free agent and offer a contract to the guy who plays best between now and the end of year?

Avatar
#114 Tikkanese
December 23 2013, 11:31AM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

Do you know the definition of "hindsight"?

Let me help you: it's understanding of a situation or event only after it's already happened.

I could link to what I wrote in the summer of 2009 about Khabibulin. I could link to what I've written along the way, or what I wrote about Chicago's decision to sign him. Suffice to say, this isn't a case of 'that's not what you said at the time!'

Well then you may have been the only one back then and good on you. Was there a need for the attitude about it? Like I said, nearly every list had him as the best UFA available. Everyone loves bagging on that signing in hindsight, but at the time most everyone was excited about it. Recent Cup winner and all. Except for you apparently.

Does your crystal ball have any hope for the Oilers next year?

Avatar
#115 Ducey
December 23 2013, 11:34AM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Burnward wrote:

While your .920 stat may be true...how many tenders would manage that with this team in front of them?

You ask people to stop blaming Lowe, which is fair, but put the blame on the goalies?

Is that fair?

That was DD's save % last year.

Avatar
#116 ColourMeImpressed
December 23 2013, 11:43AM
Trash it!
3
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

@Jonathan Willis

I'd love to see one of the better writers like yourself tackle a "what if" scenario, like what if Clarkson had signed. With your perspective -having some insight into feeling life as a GM, what with all the criticism and hindsight coming your way - it'd be interesting to see what you have to say on the subject of Clarkson in Edmonton.

Or even do one on a successful trade for Schneider.

Avatar
#117 Racki
December 23 2013, 12:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I admittedly was a proponent of khabi being signed, but only if Anderson wasn't. I am not sure the Oilers even made an attempt at him. Also, when I saw the contract khabi got, I was immediately sick. It was obviously terrible even though I thought he'd be good here. Too long.. Too much money. Very much like Horcoff's 5.5m deal.. A player I loved but said... "wtf??" when hearing the deal.

Avatar
#118 TigerUnderGlass
December 23 2013, 12:08PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Spydyr wrote:

Not sure where you got the playoff thing from.

A new owner hiring a friend to run his hockey operations. Who in turn hires his friend a rookie GM. Who in turn gets a man crush and hires a rookie coach. For some reason the new coach does not or is not allowed to replace the assistant coaches who just happen to be friends with the head of hockey operations. What possibly could go wrong?

You would have to be very naive to not understand that every hockey decision made here in the last eight years crossed Lowe's desk first.

None of that qualifies as a response to my questions/comments.

I get that you're upset that Lowe hired someone he knows but it's nonsense to write off MacT for no more reason than that.

Avatar
#119 KEVIN
December 23 2013, 06:26PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Nice way to paint lip stick on a pig. For too long we the fan have shelled out huge amounts of after tax dollars to support this team- our beloved oilers and far too often there have countless promises for hope. More false hope. Coaches and GMs have come and gone, certain other coaches and scouting staff have survived when the axe has fallen. Yet we the paying fans are played for idiots by this group of millionaires professing to be builders of NHL calibre teams. As players we can not take aways their winning and cup victories. Our Patience has allowed former players to try their hats as coaches, General managers and Team Presidents. Time and proven that the current formula is not working and has not worked and there is no sign that this ship will ever sail in the right direction again. In fact the team has digressed and is on pace to champion the worst record. It is time for change. May the new year bring about change from the top and right the way through to scouting and development on all levels. Let's not continue to say- ya but in 2006 we were one game from the cup. Real, knowledgeable hockey watchers know that during that year they were badly out played and outshoot in all series leading up to the final and should have never made it past the third round. Let's call a spade a spade. Lets not find and create excuses. Let's not put lip stick on a pig- in this case ugly is ugly. This is down right ugliness, no question about it.

Avatar
#120 Joel
December 23 2013, 09:40PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Rocknrolla wrote:

messier was hired as a consultant this year. While he finishes his multi arena project in New York. Scouting and such is the details. Google Elliot Friedman for the article.

Rumor has it he was offered the HC job before it was given to Krueger....

At least Messier I think could motivate this team, he is a true leader.

Um, in regards to Messier. I know he won 5 cups in Edmonton... but please refer to his last decade in the NHL (essentially the post 94 portion of his career), where he managed to captain high spending teams in NY and Van to lottery picks and years of playoff droughts.

So I don't know if I'd count him as a "true" leader when taking his career as a whole

*Maybe I'm biased from being an Oilers fan as a kid in the 80's, and then moving to Vancouver just in time to see him drive a team with Mogilny, Bure, etc into the ground. Talk about seeing your boyhood hero have feet of clay

Avatar
#121 tileguy
December 23 2013, 11:01AM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'm honestly not sure; both could be replaced this summer via trade or free agency.

My guess is that Edmonton's done with Dubnyk. MacTavish tried to upgrade at the position last year and couldn't; if there's interest I'd guess he moves him at the deadline.

As for Bryzgalov, I see this season as a trial run. If both sides are happy with each other, a longer-term commitment can be made; if not, he's deadline bait too.

But that's just me guessing.

I don't bryz is going to hang around this gong show at all! Nobody on the farm ready to move up so I would actually like to see Dubbie signed as the back up for 2 - 2.5 mil if he can be had for that amount. He is certainly capable to push whoever the new #1 is and could always bounce back and be a #1 if the true #1 goes down. Let's just not put all our eggs in his basket.

Avatar
#122 A-Mc
December 23 2013, 11:48AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

This team is years away from being any significant force in the playoffs. It's likely that you'll have a solid 3-4 years of making the playoffs before you get the right mix to actually get up to conference finals. Right now, the Oilers aren't even close to being competitive to Making the playoffs to begin with.

So what is the real time line here?

2 years, with solid #'s of moves in each, before this team can even hope to be in that playoff spot (remember: with the new alignment, we need to upend some extremely tough teams to make the playoffs).

Then a solid 3-4 years (with good moves in each) to get the right mix of playoff experience and player longevity to even make it past round 2.

Thinking that it'll be a solid 5-6 years before the oilers get anywhere competitive, cup wise, is quite discouraging but luckily that's not what we need as fans. We just need to be competitive every night. When we no longer look at a stretch of games, like our last 6, and think "Well we'll be lucky to get ANY points", that's when fans will re-engage.

We may only be 1-2 seasons away from that if Mac T can get his CHit together, soooooo.... Stay tuned?

Avatar
#123 Zamboni Driver
December 23 2013, 11:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@TigerUnderGlass

I'm inclined to agree with some of your responses here - don't know what firing Lowe would do now, anyway...

But this one: 8. The rookie GM hires a rookie coach. Much better to hire retreads who have been fired repeatedly by other teams. Why try to find new talent right? There is some interesting research out there on new/veteran coaching hires. You might be surprised at what it says.

Yeah I don't know that you can call Tambellini's replacement being really 'thinking outside the box'.

Avatar
#124 Zamboni Driver
December 23 2013, 12:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
TigerUnderGlass wrote:

The comment I responded to referenced the Eakins hire, not he MacT hire, and my response has less to do with "thinking outside the box" than "seeking new talent/giving new talent a chance".

Righto - misread. My bad.

Avatar
#125 ivan drago
December 23 2013, 12:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

?

Avatar
#126 pelhem grenville
December 23 2013, 02:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

He does, doesn't he?

There's probably a whole generation of die-hard hockey fans that will die from premature aging experienced during the rebuild.

...ya and here I thought I'd see this squad win another Stanley Cup prior to my passing...didya know I wrote the forward to the book "Fat Chance"?~

Avatar
#127 Joel
December 23 2013, 09:43PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Cold Hard Truth wrote:

Jonathan,

Answer me two questions:

1. Why was MacTavish hired in Edmonton? Was it for his burnished CV? His rugged good-looks? Why was he hired?

2. The Oilers have regressed, in nearly every way, under Eakins in spite of the 'core' getting older and more experienced. Is that not Eakin's fault? If it is, is that not MacTavish's fault for hiring a inadequate coach?

In regards to #2, it isn't the coaches fault that he doesn't have enough NHL caliber defencemen or goalies to fill out the starting lineup, let alone the game day roster.

I think Eakins is over his head as well, but it isn't fair to blame him for problems that originate over his head and that he can't correct as a head coach.

Comments are closed for this article.