In a bitter twist of irony, the same week that the Oilers bring Craig MacTavish back into the fold, former Oilers Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene hoisted the Cup as members of the Los Angeles Kings. When the Oilers dealt Stoll and Greene to LA for Lubomir Visnovsky, MacTavish agreed with the decision, but yesterday he admitted that in hindsight that was a bad trade.
MacTavish is a smart guy, real smart, and I’m curious to see how he’ll be in management compared to being a coach.
When MacTavish was here as a coach, he had a say in some player moves, especially in the last few years of his coaching tenure. It was refreshing to hear MacT admit that the Stoll/Greene trade was a mistake. Those guys aren’t superstars, but they are excellent character players, and well respected in the dressing room. The Oilers could use two guys like that to compliment the young stars.
Of course, had the Oilers kept Greene and Stoll they weren’t going to make them a contender for the Cup, and even worse, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and this year’s first pick wouldn’t be here. The key for MacTavish and the rest of management is to learn from that mistake.
In his third stint in the organization; player, coach and now management, he needs to show that he’s learned from the mistakes of the past. We all make mistakes, and every management team has made some, but the key is to learn from them and ensure they don’t happen again.
MacTavish explained why the time was right to return, and he gave me his thoughts on what his role and contribution within the management framework will be.
"I think there is so much going on in the game today and so much is reliant on the management team to spit out the right decisions that I think you can get spread a little thin with management, and I look forward to jumping into every aspect of the game.
"The job of management is to identify value. Whether you are signing players and understanding what good value is, or whether you are trying to procure players into your organization and identify their value and potential, I need to use the experience I had as a player and coach and hopefully see things in players that make you believe they will improve or thgat you’ll get good value for or from them."
The temperament and mindset of a coach is much different than a manager. Coaches want to win, and they rarely have the opportunity to look very far down the road. Very few coaches get to stick through an entire rebuild, ask Tom Renney, and while they might want to develop kids more slowly, the fact is, if a coach doesn’t win he rarely sticks around.
MacTavish used to focus solely on the next game, but admits that his mindset will be different now.
"I think it is natural that you are more patient as a manager. I’ve always said when I was coaching that is why there are managers, because the coach needs a governor to stifle some of the decisions you make based on the emotion of the game. You have the managers there to try and talk some sense into you in terms of overreaction to certain single events. As a manager you are not as immediately impacted, and from that perspective you are afforded more leeway and patience.
"I think as a coach it is more of a micro environment, where as a manager it is more of a macro environment where you are looking longer term and a little bit more of an abstract fashion, where as a coach you are just trying to win the next game."
MacTavish has no plans of coming in and telling Stu MacGregor what to do, because MacGregor has done a fantastic job since he took over as head scout in 2008. MacT did give me his thoughts on what teams will be looking for next Friday.
"I think you want the best player, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the best player in the next couple years, but the best players 10-15 years down the road. And by franchise players, I mean players that make your organization competitive for 15 years. Players like Sakic and Forsberg in Colorado. They did everything well. They were great leaders, they played well on both sides of the puck, they were very good offensively, physically solid and very good offensively. Detroit had four franchise players; Yzerman, Lidstrom, Datsyuk and Zetterberg who were their best examples of what players need to do to be successful. New Jersey had Brodeur, Scott Stevens and Patrick Elias. Ray Bourque made Boston competitive for 17 years, and those are the types of players you don’t want to overlook in this draft by just immediately taking the guy who is great now. It is a deeper decision that just who is the best player at that (now) time."
MacTavish knows a lot about coaching, and I asked him what characteristics he thinks the new coach in Edmonton needs to have in order to be successful.
"I think here it is just a case of getting a guy who can really sell a powerful message, and really help the players young and old in their ability to win. We need somebody who has a dynamic presence that can come in and really communicate that message and inspire this group of players. There has been a lot of negative reinforcement through losing the last few years and we need someone who can come in and wipe that away. You need management to come in and add a few pieces that will really tweak the player’s interest going into training camp. Make it seem like a different team, a different element and turn the page on what has been a fairly painful period for Oiler fans and that the horizon looks bright.
"We need someone who can come in and really sell the message that the players are good enough to win. The flucutations that happened last year are examples of a team that when they are winning shows they are really strong, but the minute they start to lose they have a hard time overcoming that. You need somebody who has some good rapport and dynamic personality who can come in here and connect with the young players and inspire them to believe they can win championships."
System play is important, but I found it interesting that MacTavish focused more on the personality of a coach. This team needs a charismatic coach, with a mixture of tough love and support. For the past few seasons, the Oilers haven’t had enough talent to compete, but I also felt like too often this team hasn’t been mentally tough enough or confident enough.
Before ending our conversation I asked MacTavish what are the two most important areas the Oilers will need to improve on before training camp.
"I think they are well documented. This game isn’t that complicated when you analyze the personnel. We need a little bit of help on the defence, that would be my primary concern at this point. I think the veterans will respond next year to this environment, they need to be better, but my wish list, much like 17,000 people that watched them in Rexall on a nightly basis, will be to try and improve the defence. When we do that I think the team will have a real push forward."
RUMOUR MILL WILL HEAT UP
This was the headline last November, and of course the Oilers and Devils never came close to making any deals, but between now and the draft we’ll hear lots of trade rumblings.
- We’ve already heard Luke Schenn and the 5th pick from the Leafs for the 1st pick overall. Many said no way they’d do it, but considering I’d rather draft Alex Galchenyuk, if I knew that CBJ, MONT and NYI were going to pass on Galchenyuk I’d seriously consider that deal. I like Galchenyuk a lot, and while Schenn hasn’t been great thus far in his career, he is still very young. Ladislav Smid took a long time to develop, and I think Schenn is very similar. He needs a change of address. The Oilers could draft Yakupov, and then if Galchenyuk was available at #5, I’d trade him for the pick and Schenn. My bigger concern is Schenn’s contract, because he’s already at $3.6 cap hit.
P.S…I doubt Leafs would do that considering they need a C more than a scoring winger.
- Todd Nelson was in town interviewing for the head coaching job today. I’m hearing they might have one more interview to conduct before making a decision. I won’t be surprised to see a new coach in place before they leave for the draft next Wednesday.
- I spoke to a source in Anaheim and Bob Murray is now starting to look at potential offers for Justin Schultz. Many feel that the closer we get to June 25th the lower the return will be. Many teams are leery of giving up anything of substance just to secure the chance to negotiate with Schultz, because they feel Schultz wants to go to free agency. No team can offer him more money, and I’d be stunned if Schultz and his agent haven’t already looked at which teams are a good fit. Why not tell the Ducks who those teams are and see if they can make a deal prior to June 25th.
Tomorrow is the Astral Caring for Kids Radio Broadcast from the Stollery Children’s hospital. I’ve had the pleasure of doing my show there for the past six years, and every year I’m in awe of the love and support the staff and parents have for the sick children. The kids are truly inspiring and some tough little SOBs.
I’ve heard many listeners tell me it is hard to listen to some of the heartbreaking stories, but I hope you find the time to listen in tomorrow. Hopefully you’ve never had to take your child to the Stollery, and hopefully you never will, but I’d recommend doing a "pay-it-in-advance-donation" just in case you ever have to walk through those doors. You’ve read Brownlee’s story of how the Stollery saved his son Sam’s life, and if you’ve been in his shoes you know how incredibly awesome the doctors, nurses and support staff at the Stollery are.
Tune in, it might make ya tear up, but sports fans love emotion. Don’t we?