GODSPEED, CRAIG MACTAVISH

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.

ROLE PLAYERS

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)

  1. Ryan Jones 1.38
  2. Lennart Petrell 1.36
  3. Shawn Horcoff 1.34
  4. Ryan Smyth 1.23
  5. Eric Belanger 0.66
  6. Mike Brown 0.42
  7. 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.

Fair?

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.

  • Space Dad

    While there probably are some things to be gleaned from what MacT says about his team in these pressers, people are reading into his words way too much.

    “Oh no! Oilers aren’t going to be moving Gagner… MacT seems to like him a lot.” Well, let’s see – if you were going to move a piece like Gagner, would you downplay his ability and publicly bring up the warts of his game? or would you pump him up in the media, hoping to generate high interest in him? If it was general knowledge that MacT didn’t like this player or that, how is he going to maximize the return for said player?

    If you look at the pieces the Oilers have at their disposal to use to bring in a strong, two-way, left-shooting defenseman… Gagner is the best one. Management does not want to trade any of the 5 wonderkids (Hall, Eberle, Yak, Nuge, Schultz) and you have to give something to get something.

    MacT is not going to show his hand to the media – even Mr. Dithers understood the importance of that. It’s more likely that he will use the media to generate interest in the players he is open to moving. If he’s doing his job properly, trying to get an accurate read on how he feels about certain players by what he says in his press conferences should be a fruitless endeavour.

  • CaptainLander

    I think the Blues may need to make a move to drop some salary, with Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, Bergland and Stewart all RFAs this year. A well timed offer sheet or to any one of these guys would be a good move in my books. St. Louis will fight hard to keep them but money is tight there and they have a lot of what the Oil will be looking for. Heck trading for on of Steen, Backes works as well.

  • Spydyr

    Matty at the Journal mentioned both Dustin Byfuglien and Cal Clutterbuck may be available.

    If possible trade for both. Hemsky , Gagner anyone outside of Kleff not on the team. Anyone not named PRV in the bottom 6. If you trade Gagner grab a free agent center.

    Move Dustin back to the wing where he is best. He would look awesome with the kids.

    Put Cal on your 4th line to crush people.

    Pick up top pairing d-man and a young goalie to push Dubbie.Tweak the bottom 6 a bit. Now you have a more rounded team.

  • 15w40

    Jeff Petry and Hartakainen to the Leafs for Cody Franson and Joe Colborne. Pretty even swap but gives both teams a bit of a new look.

    Maybe Carlyle can bring out the nasty in the Finn

    Sign Boyd Gordon – leave Lander in the minors. Look at Colby Armstrong for some proven sandpaper

  • Tikkanese

    Oil need to sign at least one of

    Clarkson
    Horton
    Iggy

    We’ll have the cap space and yes we’ll have to overpay but we have so many other holes, we won’t be able to trade for them all.

    and a Clowe or Cooke for the 3rd line would be good to tho I’d throw up in my mouth a little if we signed Cooke. I’d rather trade for a younger version of one of them but that’s easier said than done.

    • paul wodehouse

      I like Iggy best here cause he desperately wants to win, is a fierce competitor and leader, and is much less injury prone than Horton. He still has two good years and I’ll bet one of them (or both) will be spent raising silverware in Oil Country if he signs here.

  • vetinari

    I appreciated MacT’s candour and finally thought that here was a GM who wasn’t blowing smoke at us and watching a different team that I was night after night.

    MacT’s off season shopping list likely includes a veteran 1B goalie, two top 4 defencemen, and three to five new forwards, primarily at centre and in the bottom 6, but I think the team will show improvement just by overhauling the backend and bringing in a grinding centre and some better checkers.

    Also, at pick #7, MacT has some flexibility– if your player choices between #7 and say #15 are pretty marginal, trade down and pick up an asset or two to fill holes on your team. Right now, we need roster players, not projects or futures… also, tap into your AHL farm prospects and move a couple (Hamilton, Plante, etc.) for some veteran depth.

  • Tikkanese

    Good interview, he is incredibly well spoken and a pleasure to listen to. However the Smyth returning, being mum on Horcoff, and the mentioning he needs 8 new players give me little confidence we will see the kinda players we need, or that we won’t overpay in order to do it. I’m scared stiff what the next big deal he will be concocting. I’m not sure he’s got the Malony or Poille ability to find those bargain free agents and that we may get overpaid 3rd and 4rth liners. I don’t like his support of Kreuger, I hope I’m wrong. I hold hope for the first time, and will give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • Tikkanese

      Lowetide If we are going after Horton would he not qualify for one of those contracts that are based on games played. The incentive kinda contracts where he reaches certain goals and gets paid accordingly. Basically a base contract plus incentives.Is that how it would come about? Term 2 years at 2.25 plus bonuses.Maybe topping out at 4 million.

  • Tikkanese

    NEW Bodies : 6-8 new ones . Wants six minimum , but seems to want 8 if he can swing it . Shopping list = 1 spot for goalie, 2 for defence , 2 for center , 3 for bottom six . One spot on defence will be Klefbom or Marincin by the sounds of it (filled within) . That still leaves 7 new spots outside current roster and system to be filled.

    Also got the impression only Hall and Yak fit the grit roll MacT. desires . Not convinced nice things said about some players was more for show than actuality . Depending on who we get , 3 more veterans could be gone or perhaps in one case retired .

    MacT. type players not mentioned by most here could include : Winnick ,C.Kelly ,D.Carcillo , S.Downie , J.Boll ,C. Clutterbuck , S.Hartnell , T.Moen ,Gaustad ,Fedotenko ,C.Neil , D.Murray , J.Galiardi , Oshie , B. Jackman , R.Malone , C. Orr, Wheeler , Bieksa , Kassian , S.Begin ,M.Hanzal , Coburn ,B.Crombeen , J. Trouba ,and even Luongo whom might take over in an exchange for Dubnyk . Maybe leaving Khabby as backup for next season .Many others as well could be on radar . Obviously lots to choose from even beyond these names . Some of my old list would be Couturier , Ott , D.Boyle , Nystom . Parros ,Clarkson ,etc. . Don’t envy the task MacT. has put forth for him to accomplish .

  • Horton is Penner in an occasionally physical body. He will frustrate the fan base to no end because he will show glimpses of that amazing toolkit and then choose to play with complete indifference for weeks.

    Im fine with it as I am struggling with early choices on next years goat.

    • Tikkanese

      Clarkson is the best “free” option tho he will cost I bet 6+ per to sign here. Would be worth it.

      I’d love to trade for Hartnell but between him and Hall there would be only the center standing up for half of the time on ice on that line. Could name that line the Weeble Wobble line.

  • Tikkanese

    Dubnyk good but not good enough to take us to new level as yet . He has problem handling the puck and feeding up to forwards for breakout possibilities . Not physical enough with intruding crease violators ? A work in progress still seems to be Mact.’s take . Upgrade potential ?

  • vetinari

    Since I find all kinds of interesting stuff over on Kijiji, has MacT thought about advertising over there for new players?

    WANTED: Warm bodies to fill out the roster of an NHL(?) team. Must be built like an elephant, tough like a grizzly bear, smart like a border collie and skate like a jack rabbit. Any other additional animal parts or traits would be a bonus (turtles, shrews and chickens need not apply– we have enough of those already). Defencemen, goalies and forwards all welcome. Hell, we’d talk to anyone with a pulse and isn’t Sheldon Souray or Dustin Penner. Salary and term negotiable. If you are looking for a NTC/NMC, the phone number for Jay Feaster is (403) xxx-xxxx. Call him now. Or late at night. And repeatedly. Otherwise, call MacT at (780)xxx-xxxx and forward your resume together with the highlight reel taken by your father 20 years ago and Brian Burke’s most recent reference to RX1. Only eight spots remaining. Limited time offer!