RAISING THE HOCKEY IQ

Robin Brownlee
August 14 2013 08:10PM

While there's debate, and should be, about whether the Edmonton Oilers have improved their roster sufficiently in preparation for the 2013-14 season, it looks from where I sit like they'll enter the next campaign with a significantly stronger hockey-ops staff than they ended last season with.

Since last April 15, we've seen no less than six changes in the coaching and front office staff, and in positions that matter. Steve Tambellini out as GM and Craig MacTavish in. Ralph Krueger out as head coach and Dallas Eakins in. A return to the fold by former assistant GM Scott Howson.

Keith Acton signed on as an associate coach with Eakins, a former running mate in Toronto with the Maple Leafs and Marlies. Bill Moores has a new job title. The latest move, today, saw Edmonton Oil Kings GM Bob Green added to the scouting staff.

It's a combination of familiar faces in new places (MacTavish, Howson and Moores) and some fresh blood (Eakins, Acton and Green) in an off-season of change that won't provide all the answers, but that certainly signals (at long last) a recognition that status quo isn't cutting it.

Yes, for those ho-hummers shrugging their shoulders, the game is still played and decided out on the ice. I get that. A Howson here or an Acton there isn't going to mean a lot until the team is good enough on the ice, but getting the right people calling the shots and making the personnel decisions is a part of that process, to borrow a term I don’t care for much. It's nonetheless true.

THE HOCKEY-OPS MOVES

AUG. 14 – Green named director of amateur free agent scouting. Green, a two-time WHL executive of the year (2011-12 and 2012-13), was GM of the Oil Kings for six seasons. In 2012-13, Green and the Oil Kings reached the WHL final for a second straight year.

JULY 31 – Moores named director of coaching development. Moores served as senior director of player development 2010-2012 after spending 2000-09 as an assistant coach under MacTavish.

JUNE 28 – Acton named associate coach. Acton, 55, spent this the 2012 season as an assistant coach with Columbus. Prior to that, he spent 10 seasons as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2001-11). Acton had previous tenures with the New York Rangers 1998-2000 and Philadelphia 1994-98.

JUNE 10 – Eakins named head coach. Eakins, 46, joined the Oilers after eight seasons with the Maple Leafs, a tenure including two seasons as an assistant coach (2006-08) before he was named head coach of the AHL Marlies in 2009. As head coach, Eakins had a record of 157-114-4. He took the Marlies to the 2012 Calder Cup final, losing to the Norfolk Admirals.

APRIL 15 – MacTavish named GM. MacTavish spent eight seasons as head coach (2001-09), was relieved of his duties and then returned as senior vice-president of hockey operations in the summer of 2012.

APRIL 15 – Howson named senior vice-president of hockey operations. Howson, who served as assistant GM under Kevin Lowe from 2002-07, returned to the Oilers after leaving to become the GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2007.

HOCKEY IQ

I said this today on the Jason Gregor Show and I'll say it again – the trait I admire most in confident, intelligent people like MacTavish is that they see the benefits of surrounding themselves with other confident, intelligent people, rather than trying to stand alone or ensure they'll always look like the smartest guy in the room by gathering dullards and yes-men as associates.

The latest hire, Green, is an astute assessor of talent and will be an asset to scouting boss man Stu MacGregor. Moores experience as a teacher and coach will be an asset to every coach in the organization. Howson, who did a lot of the contract work in his stint here as assistant GM, is well-suited to his new role – a go-between with Lowe and MacTavish.

As for Eakins and Acton, we'll see. They have history together. The question is how they'll mesh with incumbents Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger and, it goes without saying, what they do with the roster they have to work with.

That, of course, brings us back to MacTavish. The roster, the player personnel, still needs some work – a top-four defenseman and a top-three centre still has to be on MacT's list of things to do, no? That said, while front office and coaching moves are, bottom line, less important than the talent assembled out on the ice, it looks to me like MacTavish has done some good work so far.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 The Last Big Bear
August 15 2013, 04:01PM
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@Supernova

"There are only 2 things that separate the two markets. 1) their most recent history say from early 90's to now..."

When you're talking to the average UFA, saying "from the early 90's to now" is the same as saying "since you were in grade 2"

Try it:

"The Wings have only been consistently successful since you were 7."

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#52 Tim in Kelowna
August 15 2013, 04:05PM
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I just love that gif! It should be included in all MacT related posts.

Oh, and good piece RB. The roster overhaul wasn't as dramatic as I was hoping, but I, along with many other Oiler fans, likely had unreasonable expectations. I'm liking the look of the front office. No offense to Tambellini, but replacing a dumb GM with a smart GM is about as good a move as a hockey team can make.

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#53 Supernova
August 15 2013, 05:15PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

"There are only 2 things that separate the two markets. 1) their most recent history say from early 90's to now..."

When you're talking to the average UFA, saying "from the early 90's to now" is the same as saying "since you were in grade 2"

Try it:

"The Wings have only been consistently successful since you were 7."

Sure that's my point, Detroit as a market isn't any better, that's why I stated differences aren't the market but the success of the team.

"Edmonton's biggest task is to build a winning management team that is able to overcome not being in a A market. Detroit has done this exceptionally well, and have overcome alot of negatives in their market to do this. But they haven't always been like this"

Maybe I am splitting hairs here, but market and success of the team are different.

My objective was that the only major thing that separates Detroit and Edmonton is the recent history. Detroit as a market is a dump. Detroit as a Hockey Team is Great.

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#54 Supernova
August 15 2013, 05:19PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Not to jump in or even really disagree with what you are saying, Quick is a big boy who can fight his own battle I'm just wondering if he meant Detroit as a broad area?

Detroit is a real Shiphole, but the surrounding area is beautiful.

Still, all that doesn't matter if the Oilers don't have the system in place like Detroit did, once a good player left, that player was replaced by an equally good player, through the system or UFA.

Oilers can't be looking at 5 UFA's to back fill positions, they need one or two to supplement the roster, not completely remake it.

That's the difference between a team like Detroit and the Oilers right now.

Agreed Wes, my point was Detroit is winning despite not being in a A market.

this was my point "Not arguing that Edmonton is a A, i am saying Detroit is a B that is able to operate and obtain players like a A. On a pure market basis Edmonton is very comparable to Detroit."

yes, the area around Detroit is beautiful.

I was told a joke about Real Estate once.

"Detroit is consistently the most predictable real estate market; it always depreciates"

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#55 The Last Big Bear
August 15 2013, 07:39PM
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@Wax Man Riley

That was a rough night for Flames fans.

I'll be honest, I was really excited about Ivanans coming to Calgary, he's not the classic "only fights other heavyweights" kind of heavyweight. He can swing with the best of them, but he'll tune up anybody who needs it, agitators, roster players, heck he'd probably fight a goalie if he thought the goalie had it coming.

But Smackintyre sure told him what time it was that night.

I'll gladly lay my money in McGrattan in any BoA heavyweight tilts this year though.

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#56 The Last Big Bear
August 15 2013, 02:27PM
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barry moore wrote:

Even us US dudes know that the Low you are referring to is Ron Low - not Kevin Lowe.

Love the Oil in Illinois. Thanks God for Center Ice.

Kevin Lowe was an assistant coach to Ron Low, and replaced him as head coach in 1999.

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#57 Supernova
August 15 2013, 03:19PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Not sure Edmonton will ever be able to emulate what happened in Detroit the last 15 yrs. Different markets. Players will often take less to play in an A market like Detroit. Edmonton is clearly a B market and has confirmed this repeatedly by overpaying players to have them settle here for a time. That blueprint may not work with these established ground rules.

I'm not against these type of moves, bringing Green in, but till the on ice team has success as a group, hope is being sold in management as much as it is on the ice. Credit is best earned, and not demanded. I'll wait a couple more seasons before I get on that management fan bandwagon. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, just not big on the blind faith thing. If David Poile can build a playoff team with just Rinne, Suter and Weber. Something appears to be wrong with our management group.

Really puzzled how you can describe Detroit as a A market and Edmonton as a B.

There are only 2 things that separate the two markets.

1) their most recent history say from early 90's to now. 2) Travel- Which until know wasn't huge because Detroit played in the West.

Not arguing that Edmonton is a A, i am saying Detroit is a B that is able to operate and obtain players like a A. On a pure market basis Edmonton is very comparable to Detroit.

Edmonton's biggest task is to build a winning management team that is able to overcome being in a A market. Detroit has done this exceptionally well, and have overcome alot of negatives in their market to do this. But they haven't always been like this. Their march to the top began when the Illitch ownership took over and it still took many seasons to do so. I believe Katz ownership has provided Oiler management with every possible tool to do so, we just need to see this play out.

Detroit as a city is certainly not attractive, neither is Edmonton.

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#58 The Last Big Bear
August 15 2013, 04:32PM
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I agree that this GIF should be used in all MacT related posts

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#59 Walter Sobchak
August 15 2013, 07:41PM
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@Supernova

Well said, I think we're speaking the same language.

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#60 toprightcorner
August 16 2013, 12:51AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

I'm pegging this effort as a near miss.

I'll take the best group of players getting off the bus each and every game, over the best coaching/management group every day of the week. It's no secret that the most successful GM's are usually accompanied by a top 5 goaltender and an elite player or three.

What is there in todays game now. Is it 3 off ice consultants/ coaching/management types for every one player contributing on the ice? No wonder the players appear confused during the actual games. Who has time to sort through all the crap these players are fed on a daily basis by all these paid groupies.

If yu don't have superiour scouting that is better, more detailed, specifically focused and on the same page as management you will never get all of those top players and more importantly the depth and role players to balance and fill out the roster.

You are not throwing sticks in the middle to pick your team. the best teams are usually the best run teams with the best management support becasue they find the right pieces.

I hope their are plent more new positions like this in the4 near future.

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