Driving around Edmonton these days is a lot of fun. Most people are completely over the moon about the return of the the NHL and also believe the Oilers are going to make some noise this season. The radio plays Jason Gregor and hockey talk and of course we’re all experts on how to handle the Oilers so conversations bubble and boil in hallways and coffee shops.

I’ve been thinking about the Oilers as an organization a lot lately, mostly in regard to how they will make decisions. We know Kevin Lowe is very involved in the decision making–I think most of us believe he’s the ultimate authority–and we know Steve Tambellini has a certain amount of power as General Manager. Watching Oil Change its clear that Rick Olczyk has some power too, iirc Corey Potter’s astute signing came from his office. 

Where does MacT fit in? Based on the Oilers website it looks like he’s third in the pecking order behind Lowe and Tambellini and that certainly makes a lot of sense. Senior advisor, guy who is very familiar with the league and someone whose eyes you trust to find quality. 

I believe the Oilers could use MacT’s wisdom in one key area–5×5 play. It was a strength when he played, a tremendous strength when he coached and the Oilers need it as a strength now that he’s in the front office. 


The Oilers have identified their top line talents for the rest of this decade–their Kings and Jacks are Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz. What they need is a man who can find solid 2-way checkers and penalty killers, role players who can create low event minutes while the impact players get a blow. 

Put another way, the Oilers have this generation’s Gretzky-to-Kurri, the ’10s version of Messier-Anderson (not comparing them as players, just spots in the pecking order), but are still trying to find Marchant-Grier and Hunter-Lumley. That’s an area MacT should be able to help the Oilers–he skated miles doing the job, and found gems like Fernano Pisani to fill the role in the NHL when he was a coach. 


I think Craig MacTavish will eventually be the Oilers GM, on even footing with Kevin Lowe and offering a calm, reasonable point of view to counter Lowe’s emotional and passionate approach to the business of hockey. I believe the first measurable test may start now, as we watch the Oilers construct third and fourth lines that surely must be better than what has come before. 

Whether it is personnel decision making or strategies offered to the coach, Craig MacTavish is a welcome addition to the think tank that drives the Edmonton Oilers. I expect he’s on the way to greater things.

  • Warning this will be long. This is how I feel the oilers can be in the playoffs and be a threat. I hope this to be un biased and realistic.

    I will start in Net:
    Devon D needs to play the majority of the games, at least 35. And he needs to play at the same level as the end of last year and the Spengler cup/WHC.

    Khabibulin should only play to give Dubnyk rest time. When the oilers first signed him, I like others didn’t like the deal. I would have preferred that contract go to Roloson, like the popular opinion was at the time. Looking back over each of their years, Khabibulin has played better (not by much) on a worse team. The potential silver lining in having him over Roloson at this point could be that he is Russian. Which will hopefully help Yak adjust to the NHL.


    Smid/ Petry both need to play at the same level as they did last year. Any improvement will only further improve the oilers chances.

    Whitney needs to play as close as possible to pre foot/ankle injury.

    N. Schultz needs to play like he has threw-out his career.

    Potter, played decent for a guy who had only played 7 games in the NHL prior. His AHL numbers aren’t bad. If he can improve slightly in his own end, while not a perfect scenario I think is still acceptable. Remember Chara was a -62 in his first three years pro, then again was a -21 his first year in Boston. Would another 1-5 D man be better to push potter down the depth chart? Of course yes.

    Peckham is a career minus -14 for the oilers. Last year 0. Is only 25. If he can go back to playing simple D and being tough to play against, pre Horton fight, I think is a good
    option as a 6-7 D.

    J. Schultz, if everyone plays like I have described above, only needs to play like other high drafted d men in their rookie years. Hedman, Doughty, Fowler, Myers.

    If the oilers were to acquire another D I would hope him to be a 4-6 guy, that is tough and mean. And plays like a N. Schultz/Smid. I feel the oilers lack in the toughness/ grit department.

  • Lowetide


    Hall/ Eberle/ Nuge will need to continue to improve like they. If all three can continue to be close to a point per game, that would be amazing.

    Yak, if he plays like the previous three have in their rookie years, it will go a long way. Serious contender for the Calder.

    Gagner will play at the same level he did last/previous years. Some say he won’t get any better some say he will.

    Hemsky needs to play like he can and has every season post 2004, except for last year. His showing so far in Europe shows that this could be possible.

    Smyth/ Horcoff will play like they have. With Smyth on the third line, maybe playing spot duty on the second. Looking at Horcoffs +/-, it would be nice to see that improve.

    Belanger has to go back to being a 30+ point guy. I would settle for 20+ playing third/fourth line but with +/- around 5/-5. If he goes back to form, seeing him bump up to third line and Horcoff down to fourth, would be nice.

    Eager/ Petrell/ Hordichuk They all need to play smarter and tougher/ meaner. Sounds like some of that might have been because of confusing/mixed messages.

    MPV/ Hartikainen just need to continue to develop. I would love to see both of them become grittier/ meaner. Both need to drive the net, play hard in the corners. I think MPV would make a great C, if he has skill at faceoffs.

    Jones I feel is a good third/fourth line guy.


    The vibe you are probably getting is the oilers need a tougher and meaner team. They don’t need to be goons or anything just grittier. What I would like to see is if anyone goes after the star players, either right away or the next time that player is on the ice, go after him and give him a little slash and if he doesn’t want to fight, tell him next time you do that I am going after you or your top guy. And then follow through with that threat. Or even if you are going to take a penalty (depending on what the score is/ time in the game. Coaches decision.) go after that guy hard, and if that involves a cheap shot, so be it. Ie. What Colton Tuebert did this year chasing that guy around the ice till he had him cornered.

    • OilClog

      gagner didnt play well last year. his 47 point looks like every other year but he put up close yo 40% of his points in 5 games which is really inconsistent. id like to see him spread the points out a little more and hit 60 points or the equivalent to this shortened season i should say.

      hemsky deserves to be cut some slack as hes had double shoulder surgery the past 3 years which is a tough injury to heal from.

      horcoffs +/- was bad but last year he started in the defensive zone most faceoffs while the kids were in the offensive zone.

      hordichuk shouldnt be penciled in with eager, neither should petrell. hordichuk and petrell hit everything that moves.

      Hartikainen is ready to go and will be on the 3rd line because of ryan jones eye injury.

      on a side note, i feel dubnyk is the guy and i would take him and his contract over luongos anyday. if you meet him in person hes the most relaxed guy. his work ethic as a goalie is fantastic and down the sttretch last year the last 20 games im pretty sure his save% was close to 92.5%. dubnyk has improved his stats every year for the last 7 years. goalies take a long time to develop and for him to improve every year is great and shouldnt be overlooked by the same comment i hear from everyone “im not sold on him”.

      lets go oil. playoffs will soon be in site on a consistent basis.

      • book¡e

        I am not convinced that Tambellini is so far down the list. Tambellini is the guy who convinced Katz to stop whale hunting and to tank for a few seasons.

        I have worked in groups where there are multiple senior people with various official powers but decisions are made through debate and discussion and consensus. In fact, if someone were to observe our meetings without knowing who is who in the hierarchy, in most cases they wouldn’t be able to identify the power structure. I think that Tambellini is not necessarily the guy coming up with most of the ideas, but I do think he is listened to by the others.

        In the end Katz has the final say and Lowe below him. I think Tambellini and MacT offer suggestions and those two make the decisions. Some responsibilities are delegated to Tambellini and some to MacT and they make the calls on those things.

  • Lowetide

    When I see that picture I can hear Bob Cole “moving up Brindamour at the far side, that’s broken, here’s a break it is Pisani..scores! A shorthanded goal for Pisani!” Love that call Bob even though it was Stillman and not Brindamour. Damn I miss Pisani

    • Dave "Killer" Carlson

      That goal is how I will always remember Pisani and was my favourite moment of the playoff run. I went from thinking “this is the end” when the penalty was called to KNOWING without a shred of doubt that there would be a Game 7. I got shivers of joy just from reading your comment and reliving that moment.

      I too greatly miss Pisani.

  • book¡e

    MacT is not shooting for Tambo’s job. he’ll President of hockey operations in the next 2 years. KLOWE will see a bump up to buisness operations in the next 2-3 years.Once the new arena is up and running the Katz group figures probably moving someone into an operations position of the Arena and that person best suited would be KLOWE. I see the Oilers expanding their operations with the addition of the RUSH in another year. This way they will control at least 100 home dates a year for the new Arena. Klowe is best suited for the position with his connections to the business community And he is acquainted with the political folks.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    See Craig regularly at the CCI. He usually has a bodygaurd (his wife Debbie) with him to keep him company. Haven’t had a chance to let him know how things should be done yet. I’ll wait till the next time he’s trapped in a chair having his blood checked.

    Things should noticeably improve once we have our little talk i’m sure.

    Think the pecking order is Lowe,MacTavish,Tambellini followed by Ricky O.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Welcome Back MacT, Ive enjoyed your commentary and insight on the Oilers watching you on TSN over the Years.

    Good luck with the third line and geting us some quality defence. Smyth-Horcoff-Jones is a decent third line(not sold on Horcoff though). Defence has improved with the additions of both Schultz – and Whitney in his first 58 games with the Oilers was a +20 – hoping to have that Whitney back this year.

  • nuge2drai

    Tambo will never be ahead of MacT as long as Klowe is alive and breathing. Tambo is a smart guy. But MacT is on par and has the old boys club at his back.And the club don’t let you in unless you paid the dues. What has Tambo done for the Oilers? nuff said.

  • geoilersgist

    Other than Schultz and Yakapov, the line up looks same as last years 29th place team, save for Dubnyk getting the starting role.

    I think the big question will be how the new coach is going to make this team different from last year? If he is a clone of Renney, dont expect too much change.

    Order up:
    1. Great goal tending
    2. Toughness and Grit [Dont think Hordicuk and Eager are the answer.]
    3. Better defensive play by the entire team. Have to bring their goals against down.

    Special teams and scoring should not be a problem. And O,ya, start playing in the first period.

  • geoilersgist

    You maybe right but thet do have the makings if not the guts to go Horc , Smyth , Paarvi for 3rd and Belanger Jones (when fit) and Hartski . They could role those 4 lines . Right know Eager for Jones . Break it into 10 min of pp/pk combined leaves 50 or 3X12 1X14 Plus PP/PK time Smith said today they need to play Everyone.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Numerous mentions of the oil’s need to acquire another real NHL d-man and more team toughness. With the Sabres possibly looking to shed salary, why not make a play for Robyn Regehr? Watching him push Iginla’s face into the glass would be worth 4 million.

    A vet d-man as insurance for Whitney is absolutely essential if the play-offs are the goal this year. It will help DD prove his worth and will help settle the chaos at the end of close games. Otherwise, a high draft pick and a return to ‘wait till next year’.

    Regarding MacT, even if he isn’t coaching he must be kept away from the young skill lest he try to turn them all into gritty two-way clones of… MacT.

  • Oilertown

    I do not understand the MacT lovefest. Sure, he may be the best quote in hockey, but that’s it.

    Dreger tweeted when MacT was hired that one of his responsbilities was input into the draft. Now we are back to drafting coke machines.

    Things do not bold well if we turf the current moron to put in a stuborn mule.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      please list coke machines picked since mact came back into the fold. also, please compare said number of coke machines to prior draft years to show the increase in coke machines picked once mact came back into the fold.

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        Last draft – Moroz, Zharkov, McCarron and possible Khaira would fit the bill.

        In 2011, the only one close to the description would be Travis Ewanyk, and he is only 6’1″ 174 lbs and I don’t recall any Lucic delusions around him.

  • Dave "Killer" Carlson

    I don’t share the optimism about MacT LT… I know… what a shock! Just another example of the boss giving his buddy a job in an already inbred organization. MacT was a free agent for two or three seasons and 29 teams didn’t give him a job until the AHL gig came up.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      great point!

      That’s the other problem I have with the hiring. More old boys club. No new thinking coming into the organization.

      I love how he is the saviour, when he has never GM’d at any level, never been an assistant GM, never made a trade, never signed a free agent, and never managed a budget.

      But he was a head coach they say? Looking at the current list of NHL GMs, how many came out of the coaching ranks? Sather and Murray, both of them old enough to remember rotary phones. Maybe one other. So coach to GM is clearly a proven and well used career path.

      Sure, the Oilers MAY get lucky and he comes in and knocks it out of the park first try, but to assume that he can or will is wishful thinking at best.

    • Vaclav

      Do you think that maybe a factor in him being a “free agent” for two or three seasons was his battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and then working to complete his MBA and had nothing to do with 29 other teams not being interested?

      MacTavish is a sharp hockey mind. Whether you liked him as a coach or not his input will be valuable to the organization.

  • vetinari

    MacT also got the best years out of Horcoff as a player although he did try to turn Hemsky into a two-way checker cruising on the third line.

    Overall I think MacT will be an decent addition to the front office and is the GM-in-waiting should Tambi get turfed, and really, how much slack should Tambi (or for that matter, Scott Howson in Columbus) be given considering that the Maple Leafs canned Burke and his team had, on average, outperformed the Oilers the past three years?

  • Vaclav

    I for one hope that Mac T is more active than Tamby……at least in terms of assessing trade potentials.

    It’s very difficult to judge Tamby’s ability to move in and dominate the “GM Circle”, as he never reveals much on anything. His communication style tells me he is a reluctant decision maker, and probably needs a team of decision makers surrounding him to make a decision.

    Mac T has been very low profile so far…….too low to determine anything, but this could change quickly. Personally I think that Tamby like Nonis, is not GM material.

  • Vaclav

    Does ‘King and Jacks’ mean we’ll always be relegated to runner-up behind teams holding ‘Aces’ in their hands?

    I get the avoidance of ‘Queens’ especially now that Gilbert’s been traded, but personally I’m hopeful that any or all of Yak, Nuge, Halls and Ebs still have ‘Ace’ upside in them.