I’m not the least bit surprised Craig MacTavish had found his way back to the Edmonton Oilers, even if it’s as senior vice-president of hockey operations instead of behind the bench as coach, his first calling.

Given his long service here as a player and coach and his relationship with president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe and owner Daryl Katz, you could see it coming – Jim Matheson at the Edmonton Journal certainly did, dropping a not-so-subtle note that he’d read the tea leaves in Sunday’s edition of Hockey World as he nailed the move bang-on.

My first thought with the news today – aside from wondering if MacT will be back in Kelowna to pick up the tab for our lunch date this week – is what it means to the Oilers coaching situation and Steve Tambellini’s search for a replacement for Tom Renney.

With MacTavish back in the organizational fold, and essentially insurance as a coach, Tambellini now has a built-in Plan B regardless of who he hires as the next bench boss. That leads me to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that associate coach Ralph Krueger might have jumped to the front of the line as the leading candidate for the position.

It also follows, as least for me, that Tambellini might be a bit more bold when it comes to taking a chance on his hiring – might he now ask the Tampa Bay Lightning to talk to Norfolk coach Jon Cooper with MacTavish in the wings?

I think that’s a question worth asking.

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

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers are developing into a strange parallel of that movie The Grey.

    Is Daryl Katz, Kevin Lowe and his management team wandering aimlessly right into the wolves den?

    Welcome MacT, back into the fray.

  • I am the Liquor

    I don’t see this as an insurance policy for Tambellinni if his new coach doesn’t work out….if the new guy doesn’t work out Tambo will be gone so why would he make a riskier coaching pick just because Mac T is waiting in the wings? Seems like a horrible idea.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    oiler86 wrote:

    I don’t see this as an insurance policy for Tambellinni if his new coach doesn’t work out….if the new guy doesn’t work out Tambo will be gone so why would he make a riskier coaching pick just because Mac T is waiting in the wings? Seems like a horrible idea.

    pretty much par for the course.. no?

  • TwoSkidoos

    Good move to bring back a good hockey man.

    I’m going to opine that MacT will be the head coach in two years. I will also opine that he will bring some class back to this joke of a management group.

  • knee deep in it

    one of the best leaders this province has had was Klein. Ralph was not a genius but got things done because he surrounded himself with men who were smarter than him.

    If Tambo is doing this, then my respect for him has gone way up.

  • PutzStew

    Let me lay it out this way.

    On of your co-workers loses his job because he can’t get it done. Management brings him back 3 years later and gives him a promotion. How in any way does this sound like a good business decision.

    And that leads us to the Edmonton Oilers. Lowe and Tambi haven’t been able to do there job (by icing a competitive team) so instead of addressing the issues on ice they hire another manager, who just happens to have been let go because he failed before (Yes losing the team in coaching is failing so is only making the play-offs what…twice).

    You can Rule out Sutter and I’m thinking Kruger because I think both these guys are smart enough to avoid this gong show. Doubt Cooper, who is the biggest UFA right now will want anything to do with it. But hey, Marc Crawford is available so good luck.

    Oh and just think how Hall, Eberle and RNH, or any one else that actually helps this team wins, is gonna feel about this circus in a couple years. Sure they’ll want to stick around. Don’t worry we’ll still be able to watch Smyth, Hemsky and Horcoff in the Copper and Blue.

    Yep another winner move but a last place team. Lowe should get a raise…which will be paid for by ticket price increases…be cause gosh darn it…he deserves it. Good Job Klowe.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I wonder if this would intice Gretzky to come be HC here, I still think givin the right line-up he’d be pretty damn good at it imo, unlike the team he had to work with in Phoenix.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    It seems the bird has come home to roost.I am deighted to have MacT back in the organization in a capacity that suits his background and experience. If Pro Scouting is an area of his then I think the team will reap the rewards of this hire sooner than later. Pro Scouting has been a sore spot. In playing a complimentary role to Stu McGregor the Oilers have in my opinion 2 of the most capable minds in all of hockey.

    There is certainly many detractors out there in ON but I for one believe that Tambo has let bygones be bygones and should be given credit for this hire.

    Wwelcome back MacT.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    This is great news. Adding another experienced, intelligent, positive individual is never a bad thing. His returning will influence and improve the product on the ice.

    It’s clear that the team has to succeed under the next head coach or heads will roll in mgmt, whether Mac-T was here or not. They will choose the coach they think gives them the best chance to start winning asap vs. hiring on the basis that they can take a risk because Plan B is upstairs. You’d like to hope the days of planning to fail are finally done.

    Congrats to Mac-T – the fact that he missed the last 3 years of misery shows just how smart he is!!

  • Mitch

    Robin I think that MacT will be the future Head of hockey opps and GM of the Oilers. I like this hire, I like it alot. My question for MacT would be how do you fit a 5.5 cap hit into your lineup on a 3rd line center when you have 4 young superstar fwds? Something has to break this isn’t taking a run at Horcoff this is just being a manager just like Smyth has to accept around 2m/yr. It’s all about dollars and cents not the player and his value in the lineup if your not a superstar.

  • No question MacT’s long-term future is in management. As he said today, he’s at the age now where he doesn’t need to be toting a suitcase everywhere.

    Short-term, MacT adds a sharp hockey mind to the mix and, in a worst case scenario, could jump behind the bench if the new coach is a total bust — not saying that’s the point of his hire, just an aside.

    That might open the door a bit futher for a guy like Cooper, but, all things considered, I see him as a longshot. Sticking with the familiarity theme, Ralph Krueger looks like a pretty good bet now — not saying it’s the right choice, but it’s the choice I see the Oilers making.

  • Oilers4ever

    Does this franchise have any identity, philosophy, system or long-term strategy beyond the perpetuation of the old boys’ club? Maybe I’m just jealous that I’m not the one sitting up in the press box every night, sipping whiskey and musing about when Dillon Simpson or David Musil or some other alum’s offspring will lead the future defence core, all while the current Oilers get pushed around the ice and lose another close game to fall back to 29th place.

    I think Katz, Lowe and MacT should star in the next Wiserhood commercial. They are the real society of uncompromising men.

  • Oilers4ever

    Krueger would be a disappointment in my eyes. His short resume as a interim HC for the Oilers sucks. Short term it may be, it still sucks. Reminds alot of when Burnett was the HC. Terrible coach. Cooper is the guy they should be going after. I would even prefer Crawford over Krueger. Will be interesting to see what happens. If they really want a coach before the draft then the clock is ticking.

  • knee deep in it

    A team coached by a Sutter just won the Cup, while a Sutter who hasn’t coached a Cup winner is available. I know a lot of Oil fans don’t want Brent Sutter, but I think he’s ideal because he has no Oiler ties, nor Canuck ties.

    No accusation can be made of an “old boys” network if Brent Sutter was hired. Some might argued it was about time the Oiler management went outside the box.

    I’m not fundamentally against McT’s return, although somewhat confused over what his actual role is. Hopefully his time away from the organization has given him a fresh perspective and he sees value in bringing in Sutter or anyone coach with no past ties to the Oilers.

    At the very least, I hope it means that Bucky, while a very geniune guy, doesn’t deserve to keep his Asst Coaching gig, just because he was a former team-mate of the President and VP of Hockey Ops.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    In other news, Toby Petersen has been appointed V.P. in charge of getting MacT’s calzones.

    Seriously, this is a good day for the Oil. The collective hockey IQ of this organization just jumped about forty points. Don’t want MacT anywhere near the bench, but I would have no problem with him being the next GM. Dude’s mind is razor-sharp, he’s an Oiler through and through, and he doesn’t look like Bambi in the headlights when a camera is on him. Plus, he brings some of that old-school Oiler cockiness that would be a refreshing change to the bland good guy placidity that has permeated every level of this organization for far too long. No downsides to this decision. Seeing Tambo sweat a bit is worth the hire alone.

    That said, slow start = FMNF!

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Apparently someone above Tamby’s paygrade has seen that he can’t get it done. (Fourth coach in four seasons) MacT was burned out three seasons ago and needed to leave. Returning as a management person has a better feel to it.

    I don’t care how Tamby spins his crap but this move is as much about the future as it is about putting someone in the line of management who can see what the team’s needs are and will in all likelihood get it done and soon.

    It isn’t that large a stretch to see MacT as the next Oiler GM.

    As long as we don’t see Reasoner coming back…Horcoff beatified…ech!

  • Gerald R. Ford

    A few years ago when the Oilers had their rookie camp in Yellowknife I was at a meet and greet for team personal and Lowe made a comment to a group of us that he would eventually move further upstairs, MacT would take over as GM and Buchberger would take over as head coach. Said it as a joke but interesting with MacT back in the fold in Management.

  • “At the very least, I hope it means that Bucky, while a very geniune guy, doesn’t deserve to keep his Asst Coaching gig, just because he was a former team-mate of the President and VP of Hockey Ops.”

    Remember when Daryl Katz said, “Craig MacTavish isn’t going anywhere?” You can cut and paste Buchberger’s name and update that comment.

  • Reg Dunlop

    How come the truism ‘once an oiler always an oiler’ doesn’t apply to any of the former stars? Those fellows would need turn by turn navigation to find their way back to river city and would only return if global warming raised ocean levels submerging NYC and Jamaica under a kilometre of water.

  • What I don’t get is why Kevin Lowe wasn’t doing the intro during yesterday’s presser. Doesn’t MacT report directly to him now? It seemd like Tambellini was speaking on behalf of the org and I have to say it just felt damned weird.

    Watching that presser I couldn’t believe the contrast between Tambellini and MacT. It was like night and day. Confident, articulate smart guy versus… well you know what I’m talking about.