Craig MacTavish is riding such a wave of popularity right now, the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers could probably declare himself a candidate for mayor and do well at the polls. So far, so good.
That said, with the firing of head coach Ralph Krueger reverberating around the city in the first significant move of his brief tenure, the tough calls for MacTavish, and boss man Kevin Lowe and owner Daryl Katz, for that matter, are still to come.
In moving Krueger, as I pondered here MacTavish might May 23 – albeit for a bigger name than Dallas Eakins – MacT has certainly started delivering on the bold moves he talked about when he took the job. MacTavish walking the walk after talking the talk isn’t surprising to anybody who knows him.
It should be noted, or course, Krueger was an outsider without membership in the Edmonton Oilers Old Boys Club – the same EOOBC that brought MacT back into the fold last season. Krueger, like Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Steve Tambellini, all fired during this rebuild, wasn’t a card-carrying member.
Fans stunned by having a GM who actually does something might think I’m quibbling about details because it can be argued that any change on a team that’s been out of the playoffs for seven consecutive years is a good thing, but that’s how the cards have fallen so far.
Now, what about those remaining with the organization who hold EOOBC cards? What happens with them? For starters, with assistant coaches Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger, who has taken on the invincibility of a cockroach and survived the firing of four head coaches – MacTavish, Quinn, Renney and, as of now, Krueger?
Much will depend on what Eakins decides after he’s unveiled as new bench boss, but I can’t imagine Eakins agreed to take the job here without being given the latitude to pick his staff. Will Smith and Buchberger be cut loose? Will they be retained? Will they be given a cushy place in the organization to fall? How much input will MacTavish, Lowe and Katz have in that?
If MacTavish intends to make good on turning this organization around, and we’ve got no reason to believe he’s fibbing given what he’s already said about Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky and what he did with Krueger, he’ll have to cast a critical eye throughout the organization.
Will Smith and Buchberger get a pass? What about the pro scouting staff, where Morey Gare, another none EOOBC member, runs the show and Dave Semenko earns a pay cheque? Given the swings and misses with free agents in recent seasons, has the pro scouting staff been good enough?
I still wonder about another old Oiler, regardless of what has been said publicly. That would be veteran Ryan Smyth. We’ll have to wait – likely not long – on all of the above, but for the first time in a long time it’s going to be an interesting off-season. It already is.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.