MIXED BAG

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."

DRAFT THOUGHTS

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."

COACHING

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? 

  • Jason Gregor

    @Arch,

    Teams need certain players to win. No team wins with just skilled players. You always seem to think that is all you need. Also if Vis was so great for playoffs how come he’s only won one playoff round his ENTIRE career.

    3rd line plug…Again you undervalue.

    Ask any GM…You need 7 solid forwards, with 7th usually your 3rd line C to be a successful team. Top four D and a Goalie.

    Kings had no one to do what Stoll did. He played a great role.

    It isn’t just about icetime and points. You think Visnovsky is better than Jack Johnson. Kings traded him away and won…

    • Yeah but here we are years later and laughing at the idea of trading Stoll and Greene for Lubo. Meanwhile everyone and their dog wants the Oilers to get a top pairing puck moving defenseman. AND we’re debating trading the 1st overall pick for one!!

      We traded 3rd line players for that exact player a few years ago. Now we’re looking back at that trade like it was bad.

      • Jason Gregor

        I said Kings wouldn’t do it today with Ducks. You said you would.

        Oilers could have not traded Stoll and Greene and the team wouldn’t have been much better.

        And the leadership of Stoll and Greene is what Oilers missed most. That is more what MacT was referring to. This team desperately lacks that. At the time of the deal the Oilers made a huge mistake on undervaluing the importance of their character.

        And while Visnovsky is a great puck mover, is he too one-dimensional to ever win with as your #1 D-man. Which explains his teams lack of success. He can’t play 25-27 min a night and have his team win. Not good enough away from the puck.

    • Teams need certain players to win. No team wins with just skilled players. You always seem to think that is all you need.

      No team wins with just skilled players because no team can afford to fill a lineup with just skilled players.

      3rd line players play the way they do because hey are not as good at hockey and need to make up for it, not because of any mystical combination of styles required on a roster.

      if Vis was so great for playoffs how come he’s only won one playoff round his ENTIRE career.

      Are you really asking why he didn’t single handedly carry the teams he played for on a playoff run? Has any player ever done that?

      3rd line plug…Again you undervalue.

      They are 3rd line players because they are not as good. If they were they would be on a different line.

      It isn’t just about icetime and points. You think Visnovsky is better than Jack Johnson. Kings traded him away and won…

      I don’t know what you are getting at here. Jack Johnson is a terrible defenseman and getting rid of him likely helped their playoff run tremendously.

      I should also add that wanting a good 3rd line center does not make the 3rd line center more important than you #1 defenseman. There is no logical connection between those two thoughts.

      • Jason Gregor

        No team wins with just skilled players because no team can afford to fill a lineup with just skilled players.

        3rd line players play the way they do because hey are not as good at hockey and need to make up for it, not because of any mystical combination of styles required on a roster.

        Teams can’t afford it? Really? So in the pre-lockout days, which existed for decades teams didn’t do it for financial reasons. Wow, pretty sure the $80 million Wings still had a grind line and Martin Lapointe, Brown and Kocur… But I guess they couldn’t afford a $90 million payroll.

        Many skilled guys aren’t willing to kill penalties, or battle for pucks in the corners. Teams don’t have just skilled guys, cause you can’t win by just being pretty. Need combination of different skill sets.

        And the magical combination is skill, desire and heart. The willingness to take or give a check sometime, rather than just show off skill.

        I don’t know what you are getting at here. Jack Johnson is a terrible defenseman and getting rid of him likely helped their playoff run tremendously.

        I should also add that wanting a good 3rd line center does not make the 3rd line center more important than you #1 defenseman. There is no logical connection between those two thoughts.

        Johnson is much younger, I wouldn’t write him off yet, but my point was he is just like Visnovsky, so why would LA prefer Visnovsky. They dealt Johnson and won, they didn’t need Visnovsky to win. They needed Stoll in his role and Greene in his. Visnovsky wouldn’t play Greene’s role. He wasn’t going to kill penalties.

        Are you really asking why he didn’t single handedly carry the teams he played for on a playoff run? Has any player ever done that?

        No, I was pointing out that if he is your #1 D-man you likely won’t win, because he isn’t a legit #1. He isn’t a shut down D-man. He is good offensively, but if he has to play 27 min a night, you are at a disadvantage. Just like Bouwmeester. Solid players, but not guys to lead a team. Never been a real difference maker.

        And if you’d actually read rather than look to just argue, you’d notice that I said Arch undervalued importance of a solid #3 centre. Didn’t say he was more important than #1 D, but Kings needed a solid #3 centre and PK D-man more than they needed Visnovsky.

        The Kings wouldn’t have traded Stoll and Greene for Visnovsky at the deadline. No chance. He didn’t fit their needs. That was my point, if you actually believe they would have made that move and still won the Cup, you are vastly underrating the importance of having players who can fill specific roles necessary to winning.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          But many skill guys are willing to and do kill penalties + dig out pucks. In fact I’d bet most teams get a high % of their penalty killing from their top two lines.

          • You don’t think this is a matter of managing ice time?

            You play the guys who can score during scoring opportunities.

            Interestingly enough, Kopitar, Richards, Brown, and Carter were all in the top six PKers for the Stanley cup champs during the playoffs, when playing your best PKers is more important than managing ice time.

            The top 7 Devil forwards on the PK during the playoffs were Parise, Elias, Zubrus, Zajac, Henrique, Ponikarovsky, and Kovalchuk. Weird.

            Of course guys who aren’t scorers can be good on the PK. Scoring ability isn’t required. It doesn’t mean that players who can score cannot PK. Of course you want guys who can PK on your team, but it doesn’t mean they can’t also know how to score.

        • Teams can’t afford it? Really? So in the pre-lockout days, which existed for decades teams didn’t do it for finances.

          You tell me. Does ‘no cap’ = ‘Unlimited budgets’?

          Would the ’88 Oilers take Nieuwendyk for MacTavish, despite the lack of 3rd line-ness?

          Would Detroit take Eberle for Helm or is Eberle not 3rd line-y enough?

          There is an argument floating around that a team with 4 Gretzky-Kurri lines couldn’t win a cup. That argument is an embarassment to logic.

          The role of any hockey player is to outplay the opponents in front of them. There is no formula as to how this must be done.

          Many skilled guys aren’t willing to kill penalties, or battle for pucks in the corners.

          So now skill is synonymous with lazy? I didn’t say a team can win with 4 lazy skill lines, I said they can win with 4 lines of superior hockey players.

          Johnson is much younger, I wouldn’t write him off yet, but my point was he is just like Visnovsky, so why would LA prefer Visnovsky. They dealt Johnson and won, they didn’t need Visnovsky to win. They needed Stoll in his role and Greene in his. Visnovsky wouldn’t play Greene’s role. He wasn’t going to kill penalties.

          This still makes no sense. Johnson and Visnovsky are nothing alike. Visnovsky is very good, Johnson is terrible. Greene’s role is “kill time and don’t get scored on until the good players get back on the ice”. Visnovsky’s role is “good player”.

          No, I was pointing out that if he is your #1 D-man you likely won’t win, because he isn’t a legit #1

          Fine. Call him a #2. He is still more important than either of those guys.

          And if you’d actually read rather than look to just bitch, you’d notice that I said Arch undervalued importance of a solid #3 centre

          Really? A tad unfair, but you know this. I’ll address your point anyways.

          You said he undervalued because he suggested a #1 D was more important than 3rd liners. The obvious implication is that you believe the #1 D is NOT more important.

          The Kings wouldn’t have traded Stoll and Greene for Visnovsky at the deadline. No chance.

          Why are you comparing making that deal now with making it 4 years ago? Of course they wouldn’t do it now, he’s 35 years old.

          Guys like Stoll and Greene can be found every year. Guys like Visnovsky cannot.

          • Really? Which NHL “role players” played on the last Olympic team? The only guy who comes within a mile of that description is Morrow, but I’m pretty sure he plays top 6 in the NHL. The rest of the team is pretty much all superstars.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            The closest thing to role players the Canadian Olympic team had on it were Morrow, who are both fantastic two way player, and are top 6 (more like top 3) on their respective teams.

            If anything the Olympic team proves TUG’s point more then it disproves it, as they learned the lesson of taking the Zamnures of the league.

          • Jason Gregor

            Considering no team has ever done it with four lines, what is your point. That the Kings would have been better off with Vis than Stoll or Greene this year?

            He isn’t more important on that team, is my point. They didn’t need his skill set, they needed guys to win faceoffs and kill penalties.

            Trading to get better skill, doesn’t always equate to better team. Need a balance. History shows that.

            That is the point, teams never have all highly skilled guys, cause many don’t do the ugly jobs.

            Johnson isn’t as terrible as you think. Wait and see. I don’t see Visnovsky as high as you do. Too one dimensional for me.

            He’s great in reg season, but game not made for playoffs.

          • Why do you keep talking about LA trading for Vis this year? How does the fact that a defensively deep team would not trade for a 35 year old defenseman right now make your point in any way?

            You keep trying to somehow connect it to Johnson, but it’s irrelevant. Johnson is a bad player who inconceivably bought them Jeff Carter. That was his contribution, and he should probably get his name engraved for it.

            Then you say Vis and Johnson are basically the same player, yet somehow Vis is bad and Johnson is good. What am I supposed to make of that?

            That is the point, teams never have all highly skilled guys, cause many don’t do the ugly jobs.

            You are misrepresenting my comments here by equating “skill” to “soft”. I have been using the term “skill” to mean “good”. The difference is very important. I’m not advocating for Schremp, I’m advocating for good hockey players.

            History shows that.

            History shows that teams have always been built the traditional way. Traditional does not equal better.

            Too one dimensional for me.

            If by “one dimensional” you mean “constantly moves the puck in the right direction” then you are correct.

  • OilDoug

    I’m looking for an Oiler fan that works at the valley zoo and has access to the back paddock animals,
    I need to borrow a Yak so I can tie it to Tambo’s front door this weekend.

    • 1) Stoll is UFA. Lombardi would be so lucky to get an offer for him.

      2) Stoll and Greene played 16 minutes a night in the regular season. 3rd line/3rd pairing through and through. Very physical. Played a role no doubt.
      Visnovsky played 20 minutes a night in an injury shortened year.

      3) Stoll and Green finished a combined +6 on an eventual cup winner. Lubo was +7 on the lousy Ducks.

      4) Lubo outscored both of them in points with 27. Prorated over 82 games he would have almost tied their combined production. When you trade for a guy like Lubo you are trading for offense from the backend.

      5) Lubo had his worst season since the lockout. He has, with regularity, scored more than 40 points a season for years.

      I would trade 2 plug 3rd liners for Lubo any day of the week. Even ones who are getting the Stanley Cup bump in terms of overvaluation.

      • BlueMile

        @ Archaeologuy, after 12 years in the NHL, Lubo has played 70+ games 5 times, and 60+ games 7 times. Always wanted to keep him instead of trading him, but the guy plays a style that gets him injured frequently. Good offensive defenseman, but at the time, he got traded for a player (Whitney) with a similar injury history and ppg average, who is 7 years younger and significantly bigger. Might be a lateral move, but not exactly a loss.

        Point being: Visnovsky and the term “injury shortened year” in the same sentence are expected, at least with Whitney, time is on our side.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    MacT said…”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.

    WTF. From an organization that has trouble selecting kids who are still in the game 5 yrs post draft, how are they suddenly able to know which prospect is going to be better 10-15 yrs down the road? Do the Oilers have a new crystal ball nobody knows about?

      • GVBlackhawk

        Not sure if you can seperate “best player in 10-15 years from now” with consensus number one today..
        There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Yakupov wont be every bit as good as Stamkos, the guy broke Stamkos junior rookie scoring record..

        If Yakupov was born in North America and doubt as to whom oilers are taking number one wouldve ended the day they won the lottery..
        dont tell me that somehow oilers scouts know better than 99 percent of scouts out there, and how can you predict how good someone will be 10 years from now?
        Yaks has a great attitudem plays physical, wants to be here, and is clearly the bpa(we dont know about galchenyuk due to injury) so its easy, yakupov it is.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    When they say dynamic personality, does anyone think Sutter? I think Jon Cooper.

    Again as I had commented earlier this week, my money is on Cooper, and I expect them to make an announcement by the 20th…..I have been thinking about this a lot, and it would be the best move to keep Kreuger on as an assistant/associate coach.

    I do expect them to pick Nail, but I also expect them to make some noise on the 22nd. I think at least 1 forward will be in play, and maybe even 4….Gagner, Hemsky, Belanger, Eager. And possibly Peckham, Omark. Don’t want to see it, but PRV and one or two of our d prospects might be moved as well. If so, hopefully we get that big #2 Center and a top pairing dman or two. I also think Morgan Rielly is going to be the closest thing to Paul Coffey this league will see in a long time. I would love the Oil to grab him…..

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Based on MacT’s comments it looks like the Oilers will be taking Ryan Murray (since he was invited to town). I say this because every example he gave had a dman involved in the group…(Det – Lidstrom, NJ – Stevens, Bourque in Bos, and while he didn’t use one with the Col guys, there was certainly good defense on that team, along with the best goalie ever at the time). I wouldn’t even be surprised if they took Murray #1 overall, although they could just as likely deal the pick as well.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Mr. Vegas says:

    i) The over under on when MacT replaces B’wana Steve is 1 year.

    ii) Kreuger: 2:1; Sutter 3:2; Cooper: 119:1.

    iii) Oilers active from July 1 onward is even money; Oilers successfully active from July 1 onward is 4:1 against.

    iv) Oilers playoff hopes in 12-13: 5:1; Oilers playoff hopes in 13-14: Even money.

    v) Oilers trading up in 12 draft: Even money.

    vi) Brownlee being asked to assume Oilers Presidency: 2 to the 231 power against.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    MacT said…”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.

    Of all the candidates interested in the Oilers coaching position, i think Jon Cooper, like Nail Yakupov, has seperated himself from the pack. Krueger and Cooper would make fine co-coaches.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Here’s the thing that worries me about Schultz. Unless you’re the team he’s been wanting to go to for the past however long, there should be some major concerns that this kid is going to be a problem down the road.

    Even if you are that team, one has wonder what type of element you’ll be introducing into your locker room and what happens at the end of his entry level deal.

    I’m no Anaheim fan, and Schultz would be an unbelievable talent but at every turn this kid has shafted the organization who drafted him.

    He’s told them he’d want to play then he bailed. He isn’t allowing them a chance to sign him, he isn’t telling them his intention so they can get something without losing him for nothing…

    Even though technically he isn’t breaking any rules, he just seems like a huge talent but bad apple.

    His talent better outweigh his appeared attitude.

    • CaptainLander

      Also wondering this, “We need someone who can come in and really sell the message that the players are good enough to win.” sounds like a group of players I don’t recognize the name of in Norfolk. The more I read about Cooper the more I think he may be the guy.

      • CaptainLander

        Well his coaching record sure says he is 2:1 win ratio with something like 401-197-37 or something like that. A decade of winning records. Willis did an article earlier this week about him.

  • The 1st for 5th and Schenn only really makes sense if (like you said) they are confident they can get the player they want at 5.

    I mean if you have Murray, Dumba and Reinhart as virtually equal and you want one of them, it makes perfect sense to trade down and get a 22 year old defenceman who, despite his issues, might be able to contribute in the next couple of years (remember Smid at 22??). I mean, you are making that pick anyways, why not get an extra dart for the board?

    On the flip side, if you like Yakupov as #1, that package isn’t enough to sell me on moving off him.

    I’d be disappointed if this was a legitimate offer and the Oilers passed and they took one of the defencemen at #1.

  • vetinari

    I appreciate it that in one interview alone in his first week on the job, MacT admitted that the Stoll/Greene trade was a mistake AND that our focus on the offseason should be on the defence. That seems to be more than what we typically get from Lowe and Tambellini in a normal month or more.

    Frankly, I would have been comfortable with Tambi getting the boot and having a MacT (GM)/ Renney (coach) dynamic heading into the season.

  • OilerLand

    I would love to sign Stoll this summer.

    In Stu we trust. I want Yak but I’m not an expert. Whoever they call, or however the draft goes I’m going to cheer for that player with all my heart.