Before Craig MacTavish had his final press conference, it was clear to everyone that the Oilers would need to make some major changes this summer. The GM agreed, and he said that having eight new faces next year would be reasonable.
MacTavish went on to explain the weaknesses he sees with his current lineup.
"We want more toughness, more meat in our lineup and more depth. We need our core players to be better without the puck, and be better defensively. We lack the real structure in our game that you need to have success. We need to address that and get better with that group," started MacTavish.
"We have to add some specific role players. In today’s NHL you have to be a threat to score at some point, even marginally. We had a lot of guys who really… the best they were going to be in any given game was a non-factor. There wasn’t a lot of upside for our role players to significantly help us. But, the few times that they did, we ended up winning those games. We have to get more impact out of our bottom-six forwards, so we will try to improve that."
I like that MacTavish was blunt and to the point, and although he didn’t name names it is pretty clear who he was talking about. Of course those bottom lines need to improve, but the bigger changes need to come on the blueline and with a change of attitude in the top-six.
"From our defensive perspective we need more footspeed. To play a style that best suits the skill-set that we have, we need to be able to move the puck quicker. We got to have defencemen that skate up into open ice and try to open the ice up for our forwards.
"We need depth. The good thing is we don’t need to add the high-end skill. We need the complimentary pieces. I know those are easier to come by, I know they are still difficult, but they are easier to acquire than high-end skill. Our elite skilled players have to play a better game away from the puck. If we can get those two things; the lineup complimented by some acquisitions and the guys that we have improve from their experience we’ll be better," continued MacTavish.
Many have questioned Ralph Krueger, and the main criticism seems to be that he isn’t enough of a hard ass. That might be true, but I don’t see how anyone could have expected him to get much more from this lineup. MacTavish said this about his coaches.
"Ralph and I will get together this week. We will discuss a myriad of things. There are some concerns I have and some questions for Ralph, and I’m sure he has some for me. We can’t continually point the finger at the coach in this process. We’ve gone through four coaches in the last five years. My sense is to give the coaching staff greater tools to do their job moving forward."
There will be at least one move within the coaching staff. MacTavish will want a 3rd assistant coach, but I also believe there will be some lengthy discussions whether they bring in two new assistants and make a change to the current staff.
Gagner had the best season of his career. MacTavish is a big supporter of Gagner’s off-ice contributions as much as his on-ice play.
"Sam had an unbelievable year. We will be in discussions with Sam’s agent and see where that goes. Sam has really developed into a leader here. He’s a guy who has developed into the type of character that we want. That is going to be important when I’m making decisions (on personnel) is that we have the type of culture in that room.
"I would way rather take a marginal step backwards and have the culture that we want, because I know it will be more impactful going forward. We’ve had a few years of…It’s just been too much of a circus in there (dressing room)."
You will never be able to track/calculate how important team chemistry is. If you don’t believe it is part of a winning team, then you likely have never played on one. Of course you need good players to win, but it is easy to see the negative attitudes of players emerge when a team is losing. Based on what I’ve seen and after listening to MacTavish, it is clear they need a few more positive role models and more guys who are mentally tough.
ONUS ON THE BEST PLAYERS
In a perfect scenario MacTavish will acquire some veteran players who are not only good on the ice, but also can be strong leaders in the room. Guys who will challenge the young kids to reach their potential.
No one doubts that the Oilers’ young players have loads of talent, however, it was refreshing to hear the GM admit that this team simply doesn’t work hard enough. We can breakdown the game with our eyes and the stats, but many times the game is decided strictly by those who are willing to outwork the opposition.
"I do think as a group we are a bit naive to how hard you have to work to have successs," said MacTavish. "
"I’ve said this many times to the group since I took over; all the productivity is in that last five percent of effort, that’s where all the productivity is. Ninety percent of your goals are in that last five percent of effort.
"I know that from playing the game myself. Amazingly when you got more reckless, worked harder, went to the tougher areas and were more committed how much more lucky you got. We need more from our group in there and they need to recognize that it is tough to have success at this level. I little more effort, responsibility and maturity along with some more beef in the lineup will go a long ways."
- I think it is great that NBA player Jason Collins won’t have to live a lie anymore. I couldn’t imagine how difficult that would be. However, I’m amazed that some want to compare him to Jackie Robinson. In my opinion they aren’t close. First off all, Collins isn’t currently playing. His season is over, and he is a 34-year-old free agent journeyman. There is no guarantee he’ll play next season. I hope he does, but when he does, I doubt he endures the same hatred that Robinson did.
And that is a good thing, it shows that many in society don’t care about the sexual orientation of a professional player. Personally, I don’t have any issues if a player is heterosexual or homosexual. I just hope he plays next season, because if he doesn’t, then he’s essentially another former player who "came out" after retirement. I doubt he came out just to be "the first active gay player," so I’m sure he doesn’t care either way, but part of me wonders if the straight community/news outlets are trying to glorify his story. He only played 38 games last year, and when you look at his age (34) and his minutes played (10/game) there is a reasonable chance he might not play.
I’m not trying to downplay what Collins did. I applaud him, because it a lot of guts to come out publicly. I have friends who struggled to even come out to their family, so I can only imagine how scary it would be to tell the world. However, I think the comparisons to Jackie Robinson are unfair to both men.
- I’m a sucker for punishment so here are my first round NHL picks.
In the west: Blackhawks, Kings, Ducks and Sharks. In the East: Penguins, Bruins, Senators and Capitals.
- I’ll take the Penguins and Kings in the final, and the Kings win in 6 and repeat. Feel free to pick the exact opposite. You’ll likely have better luck.
- Speaking of the playoffs, here is a different type of playoff pool. Usually, we go into a pool pick the players on the teams we think will win, but if the lose, we usually lose interest. This pool is about picking winners. The more correct picks you get the more you win. Awesome. Enter here. Good luck.