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.

  • I think we might be a little premature on the MacTavish hype here.

    So far MacTavish has moved out deadwood, this should have been done two years ago and shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    Firing Krueger isn’t “bold” it’s a difference of opinion on coaching.

    All we have is talk so far.

    Substantial player moves need to be made and until those actually start happening, I will treat MacTavish with as much scepticism as the Oilers rightfully deserve.

    I’m in the show me phase of this continuing rebuild.

    I think we need to ask ourselves how he intends on bringing in the needed players without using 64-4-93-14-19-89 and Klefbom?

  • oilabroad

    I dont necessarily think this was a sudden realization that they had different philosphies, I think this was a realization that when you tell a guy you are bringing in a new guy to help him with the fundamentals of how to coach you have already fired the guy without actually doing it…

    other than goaltending and the kids keeping the teams head above water, this team was worse than the year before, anyone who thinks this was a shock or ‘un professional’ haven’t been paying attention. MacT’s job is to overhall the organization, just as the new coaches job will be to overhaul the coaching staff. MacT just fired Bucky and Smith without having to actually do it himself

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Do we have proof that Eakins is coming on board?
    Facts are that the NYR were interested in the guy.
    He reportedly interviewed with Vancouver once, maybe twice – which is the deal sealer, usually.
    Eakins to Edmonton? Another inexperienced coach. A gamble. Could he be successful, as in how MacT wants results NOW, season 2013-24? I highly doubt this. However this is only my opinion.
    How about AV? He led the Canucks to two 100+ pts seasons.
    Whatever will happen, MacT will be held accountable for his boldness. Good or bad.
    Go Oilers!
    Best top 6 in NHL next season!!!

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      I love those two lines,line #1 and line #1A.

      In a perfect world both lines have 40 goal scorers in Hall and Yakupov,and 70 assist players in Nuge and Gagner.If Ebbs and MPS can each pot 20 goals and Gagner and Nuge get lots of PP time,we could see this play out.

      We will definately be in a position to ice two capable lines with legitimate NHL goal scorers in Hall and Yakupov,never mind Mr.Invisible Eberle.Nuge is still an unknown,with a new shoulder and his shot back he may decide to shoot more and take contact to make passes less when he returns,and Gagner in my opinion has not seen his best offensive year by a longshot he is still an unknown who can explode if he shoots the puck,and MPS is evolving and is just getting beefier and beefier,have you seen any recent pictures of him,what the hell is he eating,small children?

      Every game has a predictible number of possesions attatched to it,the conversion % of those possesions into offensive opportunitys will be the defining factor to our success,and the proper managment and distribution of those possesions to the right people at the right times will be the crux of the managment challenge our Coach will face.

      Wow,I have high hopes,eh?

  • Mark-LW

    I am not a coaching expert, and this is not a pro or anti Eakins comment. But, every NHL head coach is a first time NHL head coach at some point in their career.

    It apparently didn’t work for Krueger, but that doesn’t guarantee that Eakins will fail.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Mactavish is doing his job at the elite level we expected him to execute at,the decisions he is required to make require a tremendous level of business and hockey acumen projected via proper preparation and integrity driven accountability,these are the exact things Craig Mactavish is providing for us right now.

    I am confident we will see a capable and prepared Head Coach retained by the Oilers soon,and that the man will be put in a position to suceed.

    I appreciate as a fan the clarity of direction and high level of transparancy we are recieving,when a G.M clearly tells you his incoming Head Coach will have the latitude to bring his support staff with him,the buck stops there.The levels of accountability are clearly defined.The decisions will not be made by Mac-T,they will be rightfully made by the man who is going to be primarily accountable for that dynamic.

    I cant wait to hear a Name so I can research the data and make some anticipatory analysis on the potential new influences we might experience here.At this point in time the Name really doesnt matter to me,I trust Mac-T 100%.I know he is looking for the right ingredient,that is enough for me.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      You are kidding with the first statement, right? MacT has done nothing yet to improve the biggest weakness on the team, the blueline. Signing a prospect/project from the KHL does not count. Until he actually addresses that with a truly bold move by trading for a top end d-man then count me unimpressed.

      Right now, he is just talking about making the obvious trades that everyone in the hockey world has been discussing for what, two or three years now? Wow. Dismissing the coach from the old regime is not a big move either and most GMS will do this in any sport as they will want to have “their guy” in charge. That being said, if he allows the new coach to dump the underachieving Smith and Buchberger as assistants then I will be more encouraged that an actual change is coming.

      As a long time fan, I will wait to pass judgement on him rather than jumping on the bandwagon for the sole reason that he is just doing something. FWIW, I did not want him selected as GM in the first place as it just continues the EEOBC group think, but as a fan I will be happy if he eventually proves me wrong.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    The new look Oilers phase two – a makeover ? Hot to trot and full of snot . Lets hope he’s a distance runner and not just a sprinter . The patience just flew out the window and not one flew over the cuckoo’s nest . MacT. has our attention and that’s a nice change in and of itself .

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    BTW Robin are you going to NJ. Who really “wants” to go to Newark? For the draft this month as a ON rep. I gotta think that the draft will be HUGE in terms of what comes next for this team. MacT apparently has gone Milbury and has the fire sale sign up for anyone not named Hall or RNH. Its going to be a one day buffet of intrigue and storylines.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I look forward to seeing who our new coach will be and if he’s slightly inexperienced in the NHL how the Oilers intigrate someone like Paul Maurice for support.

    I don’t want MacT to give up our excellent draft pick + for just anyone but I would be satisfied with a number one D-man or large pedigree centre.

      • Time Travelling Sean

        The only thing I am missing is the Oiler Glory Days, and it looks like those are on their way back into town as we speak.

        Space-bar,ha ha ha it sounds like you are snacking on Space-bars right now,ha haha. I have suspected as much reading some of your posts,looks like the two of you might have the same connection,ha ha ha. I hope you have a prescription for those puppies,ha ha,this explains a lot.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    RETROSPECT : Good thing the OLD BOYS are back in charge with MacT.. Just think how much further along we might have been if they had elevated MacT. up to GM as I stated at the time they let him go ,instead of letting him go in first place ! MacT. does seems to have a bit of that Burkeian flare does he not ? Aye aye Captain , Hook is on the prowl .Now where’s them hidden teasures i’m waiting to pull out ? Pure gold I tell yuh .

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Great move Mact,don’t stop now,your assistant coaches have a brutal record too,and your scouts,sorry not good enough,nothing personnel ,it’s just business,and Lowe,o sorry getting carried away there.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    How does Steve Smith and Buchy both survive FOUR NHL coaches? That’s ridiculous. Also, isn’t it the coaches job to look for assistants? Not the GM’s?

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I have always like MacT…his time was up as coach and was glad to see Quinn and Renney brought in. Not that they coached the Oilers into the playoffs or anything, but a fresh face was needed (by the way -in defense of those coaches, its hard to paint a picasso with dog sh*t).

    I am not so sure everyone in Oilerville should be jumping up and down, however. He sacked a coach. This has happened quite frequently around here lately, with no changes to on-ice product. What keeps me from feeling a sense of change, is the fact that Kevin Lowe is still sitting atop the throne. Fire all the coaches and GM’s you would like, the Puppet Master is still the same guy who traded Pronger, signed Horc’s to this assinine contract, same with Moreau’s and Pisani’s, and basically said if you weren’t a ticket paying customer, that he didn’t care what you thought. (As if it was an honor to pay out the nose to watch HIS manifestation of poor management live and in person.)

    I agree whole-heartedly that Hemmer and Horc’s time here is up. But given the fact these guys are on the downward side of their careers, and both carry horrible contracts, any potential return for them will be weak. After the draft if the Oilers are an improved team, I may feel differently, but with KLowe watching over, I’m not holding my breath.

    • bazmagoo

      Personally I have zero faith MacT can right the ship. Have no idea why he would go on the radio and state they are shipping Hemsky and Horcoff, then realize what he’s done and claim the Oilers expect to get something for them as they are valuable players.

      They are not valuable players, both are coming off poor seasons and have outrageous contracts. Any value they may or may not have had was eliminated the moment he opened his big mouth on the radio.

      Just another classis example of the Klowe/MacT clown show that could go on for a few more years. I hope they prove me wrong, but have little faith.