The Craig MacTavish Blue Line

Jonathan Willis
August 15 2014 11:10AM

Craig MacTavish2

It’s pretty easy to gut an NHL defence corps, but it’s much harder to build one up.

Craig MacTavish has been wonderfully active in just over a season at the helm of the Oilers, flushing away 75 percent of the defence group he inherited from outgoing G.M. Steve Tambellini. But how has he done in terms of improving the position?

The Inheritance

15-Schultz-2

Left Side Right Side
Ladislav Smid Jeff Petry
Nick Schultz Justin Schultz
Ryan Whitney Corey Potter
Mark Fistric
Theo Peckham 

Someday, if the Oilers ever pull themselves out of the NHL basement, somebody is going to write that a lot of the credit needs to go to Tambellini, who oversaw the acquisition of a bunch of high picks. That somebody should take a long look at the blue line MacTavish inherited before writing that:

Exactly two players are left from that group: Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz. The other six are:

2013-14

21-Ference-6

Left Side Right Side
Andrew Ference Justin Schultz
Martin Marincin Jeff Petry
Anton Belov Philip Larsen
Mark Fraser
Oscar Klefbom

MacTavish made immediate moves – most notably signing Andrew Ference away from Boston – and made some low-risk bets on guys like Anton Belov and Philip Larsen:

It still wasn’t a particularly good group, and the No. 5 – 7 slots have all been purged this offseason.

The Big Move

Left Side Right Side
Nikita Nikitin Justin Schultz
Andrew Ference Jeff Petry
Martin Marincin Mark Fayne
Keith Aulie
Oscar Klefbom

It’s been a nice summer for the Oilers’ blue line, which still lacks a top-end talent but has benefited from the addition of three free agents:

There’s still a long, long way to go, and most of the heavy lifting will probably need to be done by developing prospects – Marincin, Klefbom and eventually Darnell Nurse.

That’s one of the reasons the addition of Fayne is so interesting. Fayne and Petry play similar roles in a way – they’re both guys who can be trusted with hard assignments – and so the addition of the ex-Devil means that the Oilers now have two options for that work on the right side. If I’m guessing, I’d suggest that means one of those guys will be played in a shutdown role while the other rides shotgun for a younger partner. Marincin flourished with Petry last year, and having either Petry or Fayne as a partner is a pretty nice situation for any of the young defenceman as they make the jump to the NHL.

The blue line overall still doesn't look that good on paper, and we won't know for sure about anything until they hit the ice in 2014-15. But it looks to me like MacTavish has done some solid working in getting things turned in the right direction. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

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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 Zarny
August 16 2014, 12:49AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Oh I just could not resist. I still interested in understanding how and who thought adding Tamby was a good idea?

Exactly what did he accomplish in Vancouver that had people thinking he would be a good addition? Once again Lowe is at the centre of all this. I can just see Lowe interviewing this clown asking him about his vision and direction for the team........and getting a blank stare.

Lowe hired him because he could be easily controlled........nothing more! He did assemble an AHL and ECHL franchise, so he was not totally useless.......but very close.

So basically your theory is that Lowe, a GM who was active and aggressive acquiring players like Pronger, Roloson, Peca, Samsanov, Visnovsky etc (not to mention the offer sheets), suddenly pulled a 180 and commanded Tambellini to twiddle his thumbs and do nothing.

Only to then do another 180 and command MacT to be one the most active GMs in the league.

You sure you want to stick with that story?

Funny how the job description for the POHO does not include actively trying to improve the roster on a day to day basis. They save that for the GM.

There are certainly many criticisms that can be leveled at Kevin Lowe including not firing Tambellini sooner.

But when faced with the conspiracy that Lowe is an all-powerful, all-controlling, bi-polar mafioso it is far more likely that Tambellini just sucked balls as a GM.

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#52 Cold Hard Truth
August 16 2014, 01:00AM
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Zarny wrote:

So basically your theory is that Lowe, a GM who was active and aggressive acquiring players like Pronger, Roloson, Peca, Samsanov, Visnovsky etc (not to mention the offer sheets), suddenly pulled a 180 and commanded Tambellini to twiddle his thumbs and do nothing.

Only to then do another 180 and command MacT to be one the most active GMs in the league.

You sure you want to stick with that story?

Funny how the job description for the POHO does not include actively trying to improve the roster on a day to day basis. They save that for the GM.

There are certainly many criticisms that can be leveled at Kevin Lowe including not firing Tambellini sooner.

But when faced with the conspiracy that Lowe is an all-powerful, all-controlling, bi-polar mafioso it is far more likely that Tambellini just sucked balls as a GM.

LMAO!

The idea that Lowe simply picks the GM and stands back with no say in decisions is fantasy.

Decisions, as Lowe himself admits, are made collectively, including himself.

If Lowe is involved in the decision making process is he not responsible for at least part of the outcome?

I'll let you sit and ponder that for a while.

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#53 Zarny
August 16 2014, 01:12AM
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Cold Hard Truth wrote:

LMAO!

The idea that Lowe simply picks the GM and stands back with no say in decisions is fantasy.

Decisions, as Lowe himself admits, are made collectively, including himself.

If Lowe is involved in the decision making process is he not responsible for at least part of the outcome?

I'll let you sit and ponder that for a while.

No where did I suggest Lowe merely picks the GM and then stands back with no say in decisions. Perhaps some better reading comprehension would help you.

Like it or not, it isn't the POHO job to actively try to improve the roster. It's the GM's.

There is no doubt that Lowe would be involved in the decision making process. Every POHO is. You have to have a decision to make for that to actually happen however. Once again, not Lowe's job to go find those opportunities. It's the GM's.

So while Lowe was GM there were plenty of decisions that were made and now with MacT there are plenty of decisions to be made but while Tambo was working the street it was crickets.

I'll let you sit and ponder that for awhile lol.

If you squint really hard I bet you can even get a few neurons to fire.

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#54 madjam
August 16 2014, 07:44AM
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Here is what we can look forward to this year with a more established defence and goaltending . Draisaitl will have the type of season our other young stars were denied by a soft core , poorer defence and suspect goaltending . He could very well out perform them all for first year . Young stars will show major progress as well , and goals against way down to levels of playoff teams . We should be that close as size and weight discrepancy has also been neutralized to acceptable levels . Nurse might also make a breakthrough .

Is Hartekainen still Oilers property after next season ?

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#55 The Beaker
August 16 2014, 08:04AM
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madjam wrote:

Here is what we can look forward to this year with a more established defence and goaltending . Draisaitl will have the type of season our other young stars were denied by a soft core , poorer defence and suspect goaltending . He could very well out perform them all for first year . Young stars will show major progress as well , and goals against way down to levels of playoff teams . We should be that close as size and weight discrepancy has also been neutralized to acceptable levels . Nurse might also make a breakthrough .

Is Hartekainen still Oilers property after next season ?

They traded him...

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#56 The Soup Fascist
August 16 2014, 08:55AM
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KPAL.

Kudos for a logical and well-thought out response.

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#57 Oilers
August 16 2014, 09:17AM
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John Chambers wrote:

Yes but Tambellini's defense was BUILT TO FAIL.

Right?

You mean Lowes D fence. He is ultimately the puppet master.

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#58 Oilers
August 16 2014, 09:22AM
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Oilfan69 wrote:

MacT was on the trip to recruit J Schultz while tambi sat at home if I remember correctly.

It was Krueger who sold J Schultz Edmonton and the coaching vision.

What did Mac T do. Fired a guy who is now running a huge soccer team and hired Eakins. Big mistake Mac T. big mistake.

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#59 Oilers
August 16 2014, 09:32AM
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Zarny wrote:

No where did I suggest Lowe merely picks the GM and then stands back with no say in decisions. Perhaps some better reading comprehension would help you.

Like it or not, it isn't the POHO job to actively try to improve the roster. It's the GM's.

There is no doubt that Lowe would be involved in the decision making process. Every POHO is. You have to have a decision to make for that to actually happen however. Once again, not Lowe's job to go find those opportunities. It's the GM's.

So while Lowe was GM there were plenty of decisions that were made and now with MacT there are plenty of decisions to be made but while Tambo was working the street it was crickets.

I'll let you sit and ponder that for awhile lol.

If you squint really hard I bet you can even get a few neurons to fire.

Where did Mac T finish last year with his bold moves. Worse.

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#60 Harry
August 16 2014, 10:21AM
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Will wrote:

I think some of this is on point while other is as #29 jeremy says and might be a bit inflated. I see Golegoski and Gonchar as the weakest link on an otherwise decent Dallas team. I also think after their top two lines, the Oilers are a deeper team, and will continue to be as the younger kids develop.

I agree that Vancouver still has a world class defense, though they are one Sedin away from having an abysmal season.

I agree that Tampa has a much improved defence, and one of the best in the East now.

Columbus, I also agree has a very deep defense, though I would never call JJ a number one. His defensive game is terrible, and he generates more shots against Columbus than for when he is on the ice. He's a good offensive threat, but like Schultz, still is not a good defender.

Anaheim, meh. Fowler, sure, but really, I think they are due for a dip. I think they are going to miss the depth Bonino and Peruealt and Selanee, and Kouivu brought that team. It's all on Kesler not to get injured, and their unproven goalie tandem.

Detroit is no longer reaping the benefit of being the premier, go win a cup destination for free agents, I think we will see them decline for the next few years. But then, betting against Detroit is kind of dumb.

As for the Edmonton Defense, well, much better than the last few years, it all rides on the development or asset management of the 3 amigos.

Im sorry but a so called "world class defence" like the one you say Vancouver has doesn't finish bottom 6 in the league.

Now you can blame Tortorella all you want but the fact is that they are far from world class.

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#61 nunyour
August 16 2014, 10:31AM
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Didn't we want the oilers to suck under Tambo ?we were rebuilding and collecting draft picks.

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#62 Harry
August 16 2014, 10:38AM
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madjam wrote:

Here is what we can look forward to this year with a more established defence and goaltending . Draisaitl will have the type of season our other young stars were denied by a soft core , poorer defence and suspect goaltending . He could very well out perform them all for first year . Young stars will show major progress as well , and goals against way down to levels of playoff teams . We should be that close as size and weight discrepancy has also been neutralized to acceptable levels . Nurse might also make a breakthrough .

Is Hartekainen still Oilers property after next season ?

Agreed. Draisaitl doesn't have to come in and play 18+ minutes and be "the guy'. Couple that with the improved defence and goaltending and I think his rookie experience will be much smoother than Hall Yak or RNH. It would be nice if one of these guys can win us a damn Calder Trophy!!

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#63 Harry
August 16 2014, 10:40AM
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Oilers wrote:

It was Krueger who sold J Schultz Edmonton and the coaching vision.

What did Mac T do. Fired a guy who is now running a huge soccer team and hired Eakins. Big mistake Mac T. big mistake.

Getting phone calls from Gretz and Coffey sure helped as well.

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#64 Rama Lama
August 16 2014, 10:57AM
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Zarny wrote:

So basically your theory is that Lowe, a GM who was active and aggressive acquiring players like Pronger, Roloson, Peca, Samsanov, Visnovsky etc (not to mention the offer sheets), suddenly pulled a 180 and commanded Tambellini to twiddle his thumbs and do nothing.

Only to then do another 180 and command MacT to be one the most active GMs in the league.

You sure you want to stick with that story?

Funny how the job description for the POHO does not include actively trying to improve the roster on a day to day basis. They save that for the GM.

There are certainly many criticisms that can be leveled at Kevin Lowe including not firing Tambellini sooner.

But when faced with the conspiracy that Lowe is an all-powerful, all-controlling, bi-polar mafioso it is far more likely that Tambellini just sucked balls as a GM.

Yes he "sucked balls" for five years. Just how long does it take to figure out this guy was not going to do anything??

It became apparent .........at least to the vast majority, Tamby was incapable of anything requiring a re-build! In the business world we call people like this maintainers, NOT builders.

Tamby had " maintainer" , tatooed on his forehead. If Lowe hired a maintainer when we needed a builder, than he is a bigger idiot than Tamby.

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#65 GCW
August 16 2014, 12:13PM
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JW. Ference was a 4-5 in Boston at an age where sliding to a 5-6 is probably his current skill level.

Nikitin played add a 5-6 last season in Columbus, did he not? He was a healthy scratch more than a few times.

MacT lucked into Marincin.

Fayne was the only proven top four defender with any realistic expectation of sustaining top four performance that MacT should be credited with.

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#66 Serious Gord
August 16 2014, 12:29PM
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JW - he has been wonderfully active trading and aquiring middling players. As has been noted by others above he reall hasn't been very remarkable.

I wouldn't and I think many others wouldn't describe him as being "wonderfully" active. And yet the team still lacks at centre and at D - perhaps catastrophically so. Where are the threads from ON lambasting him for two years of failure to round out the team?

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#67 jeremy
August 17 2014, 02:56AM
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2015Playoffs???Nope! wrote:

Somebody needs to learn how to read. For 3/4 of your comments, I never said "stud"

Fowler is a good dman. Would be our best if we had him. That's all. Never said he was Doughty.

Dallas- goligiski is not a stud. Nor is he a #1 dman. On the oilers, he might have to play that role. Is nikitin a #1? Is Schultz? Nope. But they might have to play as such.

Detroit - what part of "top 4 potential" scream stud or #1 dman? Please learn to read.

Columbus- never said Murray was a stud. I said he was being groomed into a #1 dman. That starts with playing sheltered minutes.

Vancouver - Sbisa is better than Smid. He sure looked good on a terrible oilers defense. Now he is in Calgary playing bottom pairing minutes and struggling at that. Amazing what depth can do. Say what you want about Hamhuis but he was still chosen as part of the 7 best Canadian dmen in the world. And would easily be the oilers #1 dman. And they would be happier than hell to get him. And don't insult me that I think he is better than Seabrook. But apparently other executive decision makers did. So keep your slandering attitude to yourself.

Glad there are others on the site that actually read before making ridiculous comments.

You can wear your rose colored glasses all you want. In the meantime, I'll be realistic.

I am not wasting my time on all your dumb comments but maybe before you decide to run your mouth you should learn how to actually read, as stated before you decided to run a list of at best B level dmen in a response to another person saying do you need a stud d man insinuating that those "d men" that you listed were stud d men but good try trying to defend yourself while calling me out.

I love your argument discrediting Smid about being overrated by depth yet the guy you are trying to pump tires for was made expendable because of depth (not to mention he has NEVER been a plus player in his pro career, playing on defense that was better than Edmonton's yet smid alteast was), but keep pumping his tires and think he is better than Smid.

I also love you sitting there talking about me insulting you by saying you think Dan Hamhius is better than Brent Seabrook, but yet your sole argument on how great he is based on saying he is the 7th best d man (then you hide by the comment of team Canada executives) which once again a team that Seabrook did not make, but obviously in your mind he is worse than Hamhius.

Finally I did expect the rose colored glasses comment because that is what all you bs'ers resort too when your dumb comments get called out, keep hiding behind the realist comments as well, good save.

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