June 04 2013 09:32AM
Craig MacTavish has made it clear that the Edmonton Oilers will be run differently under his watch, and that extends to the organization’s farm team in Oklahoma City, where the general manager is promising “more direction” on which prospects play than the team has seen in the past.
Assessing the coaches and management
Here’s what MacTavish told Oilers Now’s Bob Stauffer about the farm team on May 24:
Our coaches down there and our general manager down there have just done an unbelievably outstanding job rebuilding that team after the lockout and got it to a position that now we’re in the semi-finals again down there.
Oklahoma was blessed during the lockout with some incredible young talent, but the reverse of that was that once the NHL lockout ended they basically had to rebuild their team midseason. Incredibly, they did so – they made good trades, they brought up key players from the ECHL, and signed veterans as necessary.
From the perspective of wins and losses, there is just no arguing the work done by the Barons’ brain-trust.
I know that our coaches and our manager down there are looking for direction on who to play, and we’ll be working with them and giving them probably more direction than we have in the past, and even to reduce the numbers down there. It’s easier to say now because we’ve got a lot more prospects than we have had in the past. We’ve got guys coming in on defence – Klefbom and Marincin and Musil and Davidson and Fedun have all played really well down there – Davidson and Fedun have, and the other three guys I mentioned are all going to be prospects for us. Those are guys that have to play. It’s an easier mindset and an easier decision and an easier strategy to execute now that we have these players coming in that are closer to playing and are legitimate prospects.
It doesn’t take a lot to read between the lines here. The critical line about more direction coming from the parent club than has come in the past suggests the perception of a leadership vacuum under the former administration, one where there wasn’t enough input into how the farm team was run.
The Barons have been a very successful team on the ice for the last few seasons, but their results developing prospects have been more mixed. Some of the work they have done has been very good – we’ve seen players like Jeff Petry and Magnus Paajarvi round out their games in the AHL, and current Barons like Martin Marincin and Toni Rajala have had strong seasons. On the other hand, one of the organizational mysteries has been the implosion of much of the 2010 draft – Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale – at the professional level after strong runs in junior.
Is the root cause of those players’ problems related to coaching, or to missed opportunities because veterans were being given minutes? Personally, I doubt it. However, MacTavish is clearly emphasizing that prospects will be given every opportunity to play important minutes in the minors, and acquiring veterans to fill holes is going to be less of a priority going forward. Put shortly, the organization is going to worry less about wins and losses in the minors and more about making sure the farm team produces viable players for the NHL club.
The Road Ahead
Our coaches - I know they’ve done an unbelievable job down there, and they’re Oilers true and true, and the bottom line for them is not just winning but also developing guys that we can bring up here. We’re going to focus on playing a style that’s more similar to the way we play in Edmonton so it’s more of an organizational style and a philosophy we have in terms of our ability to move the puck and bring in skill to those positions and play a skill game down in Oklahoma City as well. We’re going to do some things that really help that happen.
MacTavish conveys two items in this interview that wouldn’t normally go together: the desire to author significant change in Oklahoma, and happiness with the work of the people in charge down there. The obvious conclusion is that MacTavish believes there simply wasn’t enough input coming from the parent club over the previous season.
Cloning the system of the parent team in the minors seems logical and should make life easier for players shuttling between the farm and the majors, and obviously there is a belief that the current coaching staff is both willing and able to make whatever adjustments the parent team feels are needed (a sensible take from this vantage point, given that Todd Nelson and his staff have managed to coach a highly competitive team for the entirety of their time in Oklahoma).
Recently around the Nation Network
Valeri Nichushkin might be the single most interesting prospect to watch in the first round of this year's draft; some say he has the talent to go first overall but he's a winger when centre seems to be the positional target of choice and of course he has the disadvantage of coming over from the KHL.At Flames Nation, Christian Roatis argues that he should be a First Round Target for the Flames:
Should he still be there at 6, I think it's important Jay Feaster and Co. take a long look at him because he does have franchise changing potential - something Calgary could desperately use
Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here: