A Craig MacTavish media conference is always worth the price of admission, and today he rolled out "the plan" for this summer: although it will stop short of a complete makeover, we may not recognize major portions of the roster when the leaves begin to fall.
MacT spoke today about role players, about getting better bottom 6F’s who could deliver more in all areas of the game. He made a tremendous statement about the 3 and 4 lines:
- "We had a lot of guys that the best they were going to be in any given game was a non-factor."
If you’re an Oiler forward who spent significant time in the bottom 6 and didn’t deliver offense, that’s an absolutely chilling statement.
5×5/60 (bottom 6F)
- Ryan Jones 1.38
- Lennart Petrell 1.36
- Shawn Horcoff 1.34
- Ryan Smyth 1.23
- Eric Belanger 0.66
- Mike Brown 0.42
- Teemu Hartikainen nil
From that list, we can be pretty certain about Horcoff, fairly certain about Smyth and Brown, and at least include Jones as a "possible" for this coming year.
BLUE AS BLUE CAN BE
The blueline is going to see some turnover, MacT mentioned Whitney as a goner and it would seem Peckham’s future will be elsewhere too. There is some talent on defense, just not enough.
- “We need more footspeed to play the style that best suits our skill-set. We have to move the puck quicker and the defencemen have to skate into open ice to get them the puck. We didn’t get back hard enough on breakouts.”
The blue all struggled at times this season (especially when playing with Ryan Whitney) but it would be a shock to see any of Justin Schultz, Ladislav Smid or Jeff Petry sent away. Nick Schultz is probably secure too, but with as many as 8 roster spots turned over that’s not a certainty. It should be mentioned that Mark Fistric had a solid year (as per the link) and Potter was miles from being the problem.
Can the Oilers add two veterans to Smid-Petry and Schultz’s? That’s a tall order.
THE ELUSIVE POWER FORWARD
The GM also spoke about three small skill forwards with duplicate skills not being able to get things done, and that can only mean a powerforward entering the picture. On a team that hasn’t had a real one since Billy Guerin, some media members feel Nathan Horton is a target.
- Jim Matheson: I believe the Oilers will go hard after Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton, who is also an UFA.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
If Craig MacTavish can find a way to add Nathan Horton, a top 4 defender and some depth on the bottom 6 forwards, he’ll have accomplished something no Oiler GM has managed since 2006 spring: a balanced roster with enough quality and depth to have some real sustain during the long NHL season.
Godspeed, Craig MacTavish. Godspeed.