Man of Action

 

Craig MacTavish, like any general manager of a losing team, has taken some heat this season. The heat’s been made worse by things he said in the summer, when he sold Oilers fans on "bold moves" and promised action.

The funny thing is that by Edmonton standards, we’ve seen that action.

Steve Tambellini Mid-Season

The entire list of trades and signings made to add players by Steve Tambellini during mid-season follows below:

  • March 2009: Patrick O’Sullivan and a second round pick acquired for Erik Cole and a fifth round pick
  • March 2009: Ales Kotalik acquired for a second round pick
  • March 2010: Ryan Whitney and a sixth round pick acquired for Lubomir Visnovsky
  • February 2012: Nick Schultz acquired for Tom Gilbert
  • April 2013: Jerred Smithson acquired for a fourth round pick
  • March 2013: Mike Brown acquired for a fourth round pick

There’s an old line about some skaters having to play their way into midseason form after a summer spent getting out of shape; Tambellini was the general manager equivalent of that, spending the winter in hibernation and then coming to life at the trade deadline to make like-for-slightly-inferior trades or acquire irrelevant pieces for draft picks.

Jerred Smithson is the ultimate Tambellini player. Edmonton needed a centre months earlier, and the solution Tambellini came up with was a marginal fourth-liner two months after he might have been useful.

Ilya Bryzgalov

Craig MacTavish hasn’t made a midseason trade to add players yet either – though he’s shipped out Ladislav Smid and Jason LaBarbera and Mike Brown – but he did make a free agent signing to bolster his team.

Ilya Bryzgalov was signed as the solution to a problem.

The problem, of course, was Devan Dubnyk’s implosion, an implosion that cost the Oilers dearly. For all the harping about how Edmonton is no better this year than last, if Dubnyk had managed the 0.920 save percentage he did one season ago the team would be 21 goals better than it is and likely be ahead of both Calgary and Nashville. It’s an implosion that represents more than half the gap between where Edmonton is and being a break-even team by goal differential.

The difference between MacTavish and his predecessor was that he didn’t wait until March before getting proactive. He gave Dubnyk as much time as he could, and then made a move. On a team that once handed the reins over to Jeff Deslauriers after its starter got hurt, this is a novelty.

It’s also an encouraging sign. I’ve had many people tell me they can’t tell the difference between the Oilers under Tambellini and the Oilers under MacTavish. This is a big one. And while the picture’s awfully black right now, and lots more changes need to be made, Edmonton already made the most crucial decision it could have: firing the man who led the descent into the abyss, and replacing him with someone willing to make moves before March. 

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • For tonight’s game I will not go, and will not watch it on the tube! And here is my reason why.
    Oiler players and coach will talk a good game,
    And when the puck drops, the same crap happen can’t score can’t defend and the outcome will be another
    Fricken lost, so tell me is it worth it to get upset I over nothing?

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    It takes incompetence in more than one position to create a truly putrid organization like the Oilers have become.

    I don’t think scouting has been entirely responsible, but no question it has been bad for about 25 years. I believe that if we had even the slightest notion of how to develop a talent, the scouting would look better. When is the last time the organization developed a decent goalie, despite picking a few pretty high up? (Dubnyk no longer qualifies). Do you think Alex Plante would have been as big of a bust if he was drafted by the Red Wings? I have my doubts. There are deep, core organizational issues. I don’t believe in luck so there is obviously something good teams do that we are missing.

    I think even the fans share some blame. This organization has always been built on offense. When any coach tried to play the trap or some other version of “chicken sh!t” hockey, they were ridiculed (except MacT in the ’06 playoffs) because that wasn’t the kind of hockey Oiler fans wanted. We cut our teeth in the NHL watching the greatest scoring team in NHL history. Consequently, we never learned to appreciate defensive hockey. Is there anybody out there that wouldn’t appreciate it now? I’d happily watch a Hitchcock team if it meant we weren’t a laughing stock.

    My 2 cents.

    Merry Christmas OilersNation.

  • Oilers4Ever

    JW, let me try to clear things up for you through your rose colored glasses and explain how Lowe is the main culprit and in any other organization would’ve been fired long ago.

    1. Lowe royally mishandles the Pronger trade request and basically gets duped by Brian Burke. For the best defenceman in the league, Lowe gets an unproven NHLer (Lupul), prospects, and picks. Don’t tell me we got Eberle out of the trade cuz that’s just dumb luck.

    2. Lowe gives out stupid contracts and extensions to one hit wonders from the fluky cup run (i.e. Pisani, Horcoff, etc).

    3. Lowe royally mishandles the Smyth contract negotiations and lets him go over a measly $200K thus disrupting the line chemistry that Hemsky, Horcoff, and Smyth had going.

    4. Starts the trend of drafting small forwards such as Cogliano and Gagner.

    5. Hires Tambellini but still appears to be pulling the strings (checkout the old Oil Change shows and you’ll know what I’m talking about).

    6. Fires Tambellini and hires his old buddy MacT who has zero NHL management experience.

    7. Insults fans that don’t go to the games by basically calling them tier 2 fans.

    8. The rookie GM hires a rookie coach.

    9. The rookie GM fails to address goaltending and defence issues over the summer.

    10. The rookie GM signs Gagner to a long-term contract and gives him a no-trade clause (WTF!).

    11. The rookie coach employs a bizarre and confusing system.

    12. The rookie coach decides to abandon the said system after it basically has cost the Oilers the season.

    I think that sums it up. Anyone feel free to add anything I might have missed.

    • Zarny

      Let me clear some things up why you’re an idiot.

      1. For Chris Pronger, Lowe got a prospect in Lupul who has been a pt/gm player over the last few years despite injuries, a top 4 D prospect in Smid who played over 7 seasons for the Oilers and a 1st round pick that turned into Eberle.

      Given the situation that was good return for Pronger despite your drivel.

      2. Pisani and Horcoff were given contracts because no one else wanted to sign in Edmonton. A reality too few Oiler fans actually seem to appreciate.

      Pronger booked town, they didn’t get Vanek, they gambled on Penner and got turned down by Heatley. What move was available in your delusional mind that Lowe missed out on? Please enlighten us all.

      3. Who gives a sh*t about the Smyth contract situation? He was a washed up forward with his best years behind him.

      4. Yes, clearly all teams should avoid small, skilled forwards. Patrick Kane completely lacks any value whatsoever.

      5. Yep, you finally made a valid point. Tambo proved a bad hire.

      6. Firing Tambo after inaction was the right move. The jury is certainly still out on MacT given he’s been on the job for less than half a season.

      Zero NHL management experience? You mean like Yzerman or countless other GM’s that have been hired.

      Guess what…no NHL experience isn’t actually a point.

      7. Yep, dumb comment. Other than hurting your feelings though completely and utterly irrelevant as to how good the hockey team is.

      8. A rookie coach. You mean like Dan Bylsma, Cooper or Oates. Againt…not actually a point.

      9. MacT failed to address the goaltending situation? Last I checked it was Dubnyk who was letting in beach balls the first 20 games not MacT.

      10. WTF are you talking about? They signed Gagner to a short-term contract (3 yrs) precisely because they weren’t ready to commit to him long-term.

      11. Bizarre and confusing system? Are you really this stupid?

      There is nothing bizarre or confusing about Eakins’ system. It’s the exact same thing as any basic system except when the Oilers pin an opponent to the boards in the corner the F is supposed to jump in to out-man the other team.

      There is nothing complicated or confusing about it; except for dumb fans caught up in a nifty tag line called “the swarm”.

      12. The coach simply made an adjustment when it became clear the players weren’t good enough to execute.

      Quit driveling about sh*t 7 years ago and pointing the finger at everything but the actual problem…the players on the ice the aren’t good enough.

      You say “rookie” like it’s an actual point. It’s not. Countless rookie coaches and GM’s have been hired and succeeded.

    • I want Kevin Lowe gone too because I’d like to see the management team operate without him there. It’s sometimes hard to drop habits and like anyone else Kevin Lowe still involves himself in some of the day to day decision making even though he’s president of operations.

      I kind of take issue with the reasons you listed though. The Pronger deal was done from a weak standpoint in that he wanted out of the city. Anytime a player requests a deal that’s a generational star it’s never a fair deal because he’s the best player in the trade by a mile. Just look at the deal Edmonton made with St. Louis to acquire him. That’s why the trade pissed everyone off, we knew the team was never going to get fair value.

      They also just didn’t want to sign Smyth long term. The excuse they gave was just terrible but they never wanted to hand out a 5+ year term to Smyth because they thought he wasn’t going to cover the value of that contract, which he didn’t incidentally.

      Jury’s still out on Mactavish and Eakins, still not enough time to form an opinion. This season has also been a perfect storm of bad hockey. If goaltending hadn’t let us down this season the club would at least be respectable. No one could have known Dubnyk would be this bad. During exhibition he showed no signs of dropping off a cliff.

      Also every team that makes the cup and has to re-sign their players overpays them. Chicago did it and had to let go of a lot of good players as a result. Edmonton just had the bad luck of having solid depth players elevate their play for the playoffs and then go back to being solid depth players. Also again a ton of bad luck, Pisani got colitis and Horcoff was playing very well until concussion and back/shoulder issues really slowed him down in the back half of his career.

      I think he’s responsible for a lot of bad things and some good things but most of the things you’ve listed are common to the majority of teams and gm’s. We just happen to get a front row seat to Lowe on a day to day basis.

    • Spydyr

      Don’t forget when KLowe backed out of the Comrie trade with the Ducks and demanded Comrie pay back his signing bonus. Cost us Corey Perry. I think Perry won a Richard trophy. Instead we got Woywitka. I think he sits on the bench in Europe.

    • 1. Lowe royally mishandles the Pronger trade request and basically gets duped by Brian Burke. For the best defenceman in the league, Lowe gets an unproven NHLer (Lupul), prospects, and picks. Don’t tell me we got Eberle out of the trade cuz that’s just dumb luck.

      One could also say he was screwed by a public trade demand. Have you seen the return teams get when players demand trades?

      2. Lowe gives out stupid contracts and extensions to one hit wonders from the fluky cup run (i.e. Pisani, Horcoff, etc).

      This is exactly what happens when the GM caves to fan pressure.

      3. Lowe royally mishandles the Smyth contract negotiations and lets him go over a measly $200K thus disrupting the line chemistry that Hemsky, Horcoff, and Smyth had going.

      Meehan demands more money at the last second and Lowe is told no by ownership – this is Lowe’s fault. Got it.

      4. Starts the trend of drafting small forwards such as Cogliano and Gagner.

      Can you believe Anaheim took that runt? They must be terrible now.

      5. Hires Tambellini but still appears to be pulling the strings (checkout the old Oil Change shows and you’ll know what I’m talking about).

      Yes. Lowe hired Tambellini and then immediately changed everything about how he managed the team to fool everyone.

      6. Fires Tambellini and hires his old buddy MacT who has zero NHL management experience.

      Yet MacT has acted reasonably so far. You want to fire him for his motivation?

      7. Insults fans that don’t go to the games by basically calling them tier 2 fans.

      Poor thing. Did he hurt your feelings?

      8. The rookie GM hires a rookie coach.

      Much better to hire retreads who have been fired repeatedly by other teams. Why try to find new talent right? There is some interesting research out there on new/veteran coaching hires. You might be surprised at what it says.

      9. The rookie GM fails to address goaltending and defence issues over the summer.

      This is pretty well addressed in the article by young Willis here.

      10. The rookie GM signs Gagner to a long-term contract and gives him a no-trade clause (WTF!).

      I don’t think “long term” means what you think it means.

      11. The rookie coach employs a bizarre and confusing system.

      This rookie coach made the unforgivable mistake of assuming his supposedly NHL calibre team could grasp a system his AHL teams had no problem with.

      Is this a problem with the coach or with the players?

      12. The rookie coach decides to abandon the said system after it basically has cost the Oilers the season.

      You mean after realizing his supposedly NHL players couldn’t understand an system used in the AHL for years.

      Point is that Lowe had a reasonable good track record up until the year after the playoff run. He didn’t suddenly turn into a different person. He did make a few mistakes, but nothing on the scale of what has gone on since.

      • Zamboni Driver

        I’m inclined to agree with some of your responses here – don’t know what firing Lowe would do now, anyway…

        But this one:

        8. The rookie GM hires a rookie coach.

        Much better to hire retreads who have been fired repeatedly by other teams. Why try to find new talent right? There is some interesting research out there on new/veteran coaching hires. You might be surprised at what it says.

        Yeah I don’t know that you can call Tambellini’s replacement being really ‘thinking outside the box’.

    • Let me put it this way:

      Kevin Lowe made plenty of mistakes before turning the wheel over to Steve Tambellini. I’m inclined to think that’s part of the reason he stepped back, honestly. But I don’t think retroactively firing him for stuff he did in 2008 or earlier moves the team forward one iota right now.

      Further, I’m still in the cautiously optimistic phase with MacTavish. You disagree, and there’s room for that disagreement, but I’m just not in the ‘fire Lowe because he hired MacT’ camp.

      Take those out and your argument basically comes down to ‘he said stupid things about fans in the heat of the moment.’

      I won’t shed a single tear if the Oilers fire Lowe tomorrow, and I’m not going to campaign for him to stay on with the team. I just think we’re past the point where firing him makes the Oilers better.

      • Chris.

        Hi Willis.

        It’s been a long time.

        I believe Katz should look at cleaning house: Lowe, Howson, Bucky, MacT, Smith… everybody… I believe the Oilers are going in circles. I know that the rebuilt core of Hall, Eberle, RNH and Schultz are better than the core of Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson and Gilbert that was assembled by essntially the same braintrust years ago… However, both groups are similar in that they are comprised of smaller, skilled, mostly perimeter type players who seem to underachieve the lofty expectations of those who assembled them.

        As a coach, MacTavish predicted the first group would challenge for the division… Forgive my pessimism years later when the same crew at Kingsway predict a team with similar deficiencies, and lack of balance will one day soon challenge for the cup. We are just wasting time. This organization is in desperate need of a core philosophical shift… Organizationally from the draft on out, too much faith has been placed on the idea of the NEW NHL (rebranded post 2004 lockout) where speed and puck handling skills would trump size and tenacity…

      • I can see why you be cautiously optimistic about Mac, but is that because your point of reference is Tambellini? It really feels that way to me.

        MacT has certainly done more than Tambo ever did, and has seen more success. But his mis-steps have been worrisome. The Smid trade, the Clarkson deal, even the Ference signing aren’t the kinds of moves one associates with a good GM. Certainly you could make arguments that Holland or Wilson would make one of those moves in the right circumstances, but all three? In poor circumstances? Wouldn’t Smid be useful right now? Wouldn’t he have more value at the deadline? Was trying to sign Marty Lapointe… Err… David Clarkson to a ridiculous contract a move any really good GM would make? Especially when you’ve already thrown away some salary on one aging vet FA?

      • On your last point I think you are wrong. You fire Lowe and replace him with someone with no ties to the boys on the bus and a mandate to fire people based on their performance and you have automatically made the team better.

  • The basic hockey mistakes made by this team defy logic. Lazy line change when the play is headed into your end is the worst example. Not getting the puck in deep when pressured at the blue is another. Not shooting when there are guys going to the net for a rebound, instead try to go cross ice through multiple defenders for a tap in that isn’t there. Not clogging the middle of the ice when defending or creating offence by going to the middle. And lastly, button hook, drop pass…..? I question the hockey IQ of all levels in this organization.

  • JW, be honest but when you heard that we signed Ference, what was the first thing that went through your mind?

    What went through your mind when you heard Gordon’s name? How about Jessie Jonnesau? Perron? LaBarbra?

    Not one of those names ( except Perron) excited me……..mainly because they did not address our needs based on supporting cast for the core? I believe that is where our problems start. Management does not know what type of players to surround the core with, including Mac T.

    They all must have missed what the pundits, hockey people, fans and media have been saying for the pst three years. We have too many of the same type of players and keep adding more.

    Most frustrating.

    • The numbers didn’t like Ference, but he was also in kind of a unique situation – and because he’d been a number four guy on a contending team the year before and playing in Chara’s shadow (the kind of thing that destroys a guy’s CorsiRel) it wasn’t a clear-cut problem. I was unsure at the time, and I’m leery of the back-end of that deal now (personally, I don’t see much on-ice gap between Ference and Smid and Smid’s bigger and younger).

      I liked the LaBarbera signing; he had a long run of providing pretty good play and looked a decent bet as the backup, especially at that price. Clearly it hasn’t worked out.

      My immediate reaction was that the Oilers paid too much money for Gordon, but when I dug into the numbers that moved up to it being kind of a ‘meh’ signing in my mind. I think Gordon’s been good so far, though.

      Joensuu was the kind of gamble teams make sometimes; I actually liked that contract because it was a legitimate low-risk, real-reward move.

  • Oilers4Ever

    “The problem, of course, was Devan Dubnyk’s implosion, an implosion that cost the Oilers dearly. For all the harping about how Edmonton is no better this year than last, if Dubnyk had managed the 0.920 save percentage he did one season ago the team would be 21 goals better than it is and likely be ahead of both Calgary and Nashville. It’s an implosion that represents more than half the gap between where Edmonton is and being a break-even team by goal differential.”

    By the above statement you seem to be suggesting the status quo from last year would have been an acceptable result. I think most Oil fans would consider that to be a failure as well.

    I would suggest that after the first 10 games DD has been at his normal level. Oil might be 6 or 8 point ahead of where they are now if he had been on his game from the start.

    MacT performance to date has been mixed. But he made big promises when he was hired and will be judged accordingly.

    • Burnward

      “MacT performance to date has been mixed. But he made big promises when he was hired and will be judged accordingly.”

      MacT’s third-best move this year (after Perron and Gordon) was Clarkson rejecting MacT’s colossal overpay in favor of Toronto’s merely huge overpay.

      I think we really don’t put enough emphasis on how bad a deal Toronto’s seemed like *at the time the deal was signed*, how much worse Edmonton’s was, and now that Clarkson is back to Earth, how much worse it all looks.

      We didn’t dodge a bullet, MacT tried to shoot himself in the foot but Clarkson swerved mid-air and hit Nonis. The Clarkson deal would have been worse than the Horcoff or Khabibulin overpays – and MacT was instrumental in getting Horcoff signed for that much.

  • If MacT is so proactive why has he made no moves to bokster our biggest weekness, defence.
    A
    He actually made it worse by trading Smid. Im a firm believer that he needs more time to make his mark on the team but other than the Perron trade nothing is making much sence so far.

  • Burnward

    While your .920 stat may be true…how many tenders would manage that with this team in front of them?

    You ask people to stop blaming Lowe, which is fair, but put the blame on the goalies?

    Is that fair?

    • Well, Dubnyk managed it last season with much of the same team in front of him. He managed a 0.914 SV% behind the 2011-12 team and a 0.916 save percentage behind the 2010-11 team. These weren’t exactly defensive stalwarts.

      Yes, I think it’s fair to blame Dubnyk for not playing the way he’s demonstrated himself capable of playing in the past.

      • Burnward

        Fair enough. I think the quality of chances given up by the Oil this year probably has a lot to do with it though.

        There is no way they were this bad defensively last season.

    • Yeah… it’s kind of a flaw in the stathead’s view of the game, that things will “always average out”. Stats guys love the idea that a shot is a shot and a shot attempt is a shot attempt.

      But the Oilers give up some really, REALLY good shots. Multiple breakaways (on the power play, at that!), turnovers at the blue lines, coughing it up in our own zone (remember Ryan Jones’ tape-to-tape pass to Brendan Gallagher in that first Montreal game?), etc.

      I’m not absolving Dubnyk of responsibility, but I think .920 is asking a lot with this kind of play in front of him.

  • The worst part for Oilers fans is the realization that this mess will still take years to fix. Mac T was just handed the reins and this is his first full year as GM. So that means Lowe, Mac T and Eakins are going no where Because if Katz did replace Lowe then the new President would for sure hire a new GM and the new GM would for sure hire a new Coach and we have done that song and dance for the last 4 years.

    With hindsight being 20/20, I wish the Oilers had

    A: Iced a Pure Goon Squad, while drafting the three. #1 picks. The reason being the Oilers would have more than likely still finished last but teams would have hated playing against a tough, hard hitting , rugged Oilers team.

    B: Sent everyone of the #1 picks back to junior or the farm to develop for at least 1 maybe even 2 seasons each, before even touching NHL ice. My reason (again with 20/20 hindsight) so when Hall and Ebs finally joined the team they would have been able to make an offensive impact right away on a team that needed it, then Nuge and Yak.

    The other reason is B/C if the Oilers had done this they would have had a tough hardworking team with offensive skilled players coming up through the farm instead of this unbalanced all offense team that is heading straight to the podium, again.

    Just imagine, Hall and Ebs would be in the second year of their entry level contract(!!!!) and Nuge would be poised to join the Club this season or next, with Yak in his first full year of development on the farm and the Oilers would have a tough goon team to protect them all once they made it!

    I may be wrong on how entry level contracts work when playing on the farm or junior but I hope the Nation gets the idea.

  • paul wodehouse

    Good level headed article.
    I’m getting tired of the blame game where everything is just Lowe’s fault, the juvenile assumption that he controls all aspects of the team behind the scenes.
    All of the management team have made mistakes. Sure Lowe made a mistake with Comrie, but that was years ago, he also defined bold and hastily pulled a team together that made it to game 7 of the finals. His passion, history and 6 rings actually do mean something to me.
    And MacT made a mistake hiring a rookie coach, but he has also made some good moves (Perron, Belov).
    I think these guys can and have learned from their mistakes, they can work well together and we will see some tweaks after the holidays that will help this team.
    We were never going to win the cup this year, now we just have to stay focused on being a playoff contender next year, sadely that is all we have now, a big shake up trade just to wake the team up is not going to help long term and neither is a huge mangement reshuffle. This management team we have now (in its current config. with Mact as GM)is new.

  • Big fan of MacTavish. Was one of the ones running him out of town as coach in his last year, due to him being stale. However I always recognized the very smart man he is. I do think he’s superior to Tambellini by a mile even though results haven’t showed this. He has a big mess to undo, whereas Tambellini created it (although I do like the decision to blow it all up).

    MacT is impatient, as he says, and it shows. Tambo seemed to be too unsure to take a risk. I think the team is in good hands but we have to remember that Tambellini burned Rome to the ground before MacT took over. So sadly, there is much work to do. Tambo left MacT with good building piece (due to ineptness that let him draft high), but Tambo was incompetent at filling the rest of the roster out.

    I think MacT has made some good changes, the best of which are Gordon and Perron. Another year in the free agent market, since trades are dead, will give MacT more chance to shine. This July’s goals… New starter.. Top end D… Bottom six dudes. He will make it happen. He also should shore up the top six and move one of these guys for some size.

    • Burnward

      I think MacT has made some good changes, the best of which are Gordon and Perron. Another year in the free agent market, since trades are dead, will give MacT more chance to shine. This July’s goals… New starter.. Top end D… Bottom six dudes. He will make it happen. He also should shore up the top six and move one of these guys for some size.

      ^^ This in spades ^^

  • Zamboni Driver

    The same guy that gets kudos for Gordon (I guess) and Perron also is the mastermind behind Garbage-kev (another example of a team with no new ideas), that backup goalie, wasting a roster spot on the Goon….

    Saying MacTavish is better than Tambellini may be marginally true…but it’s really not much of a compliment.

    • The jury’s definitely out on MacTavish. The most concerning thing for me isn’t Gazdic (I don’t like guys who can’t play a regular shift, but it’s a reasoanbly small sin) or Grebeshkov (the money wasn’t good but if played the way he had before it would’ve been fine) or even Smid (MacT wants a puck-moving blue, and Smid’s days were probably numbered the day he was hired).

      The most concerning item for me is the attempted Clarkson contract (which I suspect would have actually been reasonably popular in Edmonton). I get that the team needs a different mix, and that UFA’s get overpaid but wowee is that an ugly contract.

      Overall, though, MacTavish comes across to me as a smart guy who finds the balance between making hotheaded moves and paralysis by analysis. We’ll see if that view holds up.

      But you’re right that Tambellini set the bar awfully low – which is why getting rid of him was so important.

      • Zamboni Driver

        Good article. But when you talk about MacT not making hot-headed moves, what would you call the Ralph Krueger firing? We ended up with a coach who gets outcoached on a nightly basis and has taken the team back to the bottom of the NHL. At least Krueger seemed like he had the room and the team was moving in a positive direction.

        • Zamboni Driver

          The players definitely seemed more motivated to play for Krueger. Krueger’s problem was strategy. He couldn’t translate his Europe 5×5 strategies to the NHL game. If the Oilers weren’t going to go after Ruff, then getting Krueger a new crew of experienced assistant coaches would have been a smarter move than hiring Eakins.

      • Zamboni Driver

        Actually I meant MacIntyre, not Gazdic. Don’t mind Gazdic actually. Have to be smarter than to waste time, effort, money and one of 50-spots on Steve MacIntyre (another example of ‘if he used to play for us, he must be good’).

        Though the Smid trade is still a head-scratcher. Not that he’s anywhere near a great player, that trade especially the timing still makes no sense.

  • In general, I like what MacT has tried to do, and agree he has done better so far than Tambo did. Although trading Smid has backfired big time.

    I don’t know how much the trade/signing failures under Tambo are his fault and how much can be attributed to poor professional scouting. Has this improved?

    I’m keeping my mind open for awhile to give MacT time to make some more significant moves (my only untouchables are the three number ones plus Klefbom and Nurse). I will also be very disappointed if we begin another season with the same assistant coaches.

    Here’s hoping for some positives in 2014.

  • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

    @Jonathan Willis

    Great article as always. I’m getting frustrated to the point of apathy (as many fans are), but still find time to procrastinate at work reading Oilers articles…

    Quick question: how do you see Dubnyk/Bryz situation rolling into next year? Do you think MacT will try to move one of them at the deadline for assets? Or would he be more inclined to let one of them walk as a free agent and offer a contract to the guy who plays best between now and the end of year?

    • I’m honestly not sure; both could be replaced this summer via trade or free agency.

      My guess is that Edmonton’s done with Dubnyk. MacTavish tried to upgrade at the position last year and couldn’t; if there’s interest I’d guess he moves him at the deadline.

      As for Bryzgalov, I see this season as a trial run. If both sides are happy with each other, a longer-term commitment can be made; if not, he’s deadline bait too.

      But that’s just me guessing.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        I don’t bryz is going to hang around this gong show at all! Nobody on the farm ready to move up so I would actually like to see Dubbie signed as the back up for 2 – 2.5 mil if he can be had for that amount. He is certainly capable to push whoever the new #1 is and could always bounce back and be a #1 if the true #1 goes down. Let’s just not put all our eggs in his basket.

      • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

        That’s fair enough. I imagine they’re both trying to play their way into a job for next year (be it with this organization or another). Too bad they’ll probably flush Dubnyk, a shame to spend so long on a guy and probably let him walk for nothing, but a lot remains to be seen in how both goalies play.

        Anyhow, thanks for the response and Happy Festivus. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of Oiler-related grievances aired today.

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          Put another way, I think it’s a shame to spend so long on a guy to see him turn out way worse than you ever could have expected.

          I tried to give Dubnyk the benefit of the doubt this season. I even picked him up in my fantasy pool when the Oilers were playing the soft parade in November. I’m now leaning towards his league-average seasons being the aberrations and his current performance been the accurate depiction, though.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Our rookie GM MacT fired Kreuger and replaced him with a rookie coach who is learning to teach a new system to rookie players. That does not sound like something that any wise and experienced GM would do. For that reason MacT gets a big fat F in my books. He signed Gags long term-fail. He gave away our most physical D man- fail. Allowed Hall to take the heat on HNIC- fail. Signed washed up D men-fail. Was Oilernation recently bought by the Katz group?

  • Today’s Bleacher Report places the Oilers in 30th place, DFL.

    I believe MacT has made improvements in the lineup (Perron, Gordon, Belov, Arcobello), but actual performances are below last year due to the rookie NHL head coach’s inexperience, some misguided approaches in applying systems and poor player interaction, and dropoff in play of the ‘skilled’ players (not just Dubnyk). The addition of Ference and subtraction of Smed nullifies any gain on D.

    The team is still lacking a qualified 2C and 1D and it is questionable if Gazdic, Joensuu, Larsen, Potter are real NHLers that can match up with the big boys.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    • It’s funny.

      I’ve spent the last five years saying that Edmonton’s management was screwing things up one way or the other. I’ve consistently pointed to teams like Atlanta as an example of failure, and consistently suggested management needed to be changed from the moment Steve Tambellini inked Nikolai Khabibulin on.

      These weren’t popular takes, particularly in the early years. But that’s what I thought, so that’s what I wrote.

      Now, when everybody and his dog is livid at Oilers management, I see a new group that while far from perfect (oh, hey, David Clarson) is largely taking reasonable steps.

      MacTavish didn’t get the bottom six fixed, but he turned the keys over to new people. Doubtless he’ll do so again. He wasn’t able to completely overhaul the forwards but he did his best to bolster them, bringing in Perron. He couldn’t fix the defence so he went with a by-committee approach (one that hasn’t worked out, admittedly). The goaltending collapsed early on and so he went out and found a solution, getting called desperate and crazy for bringing in a guy with Bryzgalov’s past but doing it anyway.

      I get the frustration and I get the anger and I get that any recognition of the good moves is seen as being an apologist for the team. But rightly or wrongly I have to write what I think, and while my track record is also some distance from perfect I think it stands up pretty well.

      I also think, after years of largely unpopular criticism, that I should have the credibility to say ‘I see signs of life’ without instantly being branded as putting lipstick on a pig. You don’t see it that way, and that’s fine – opinions will differ, they always have and that’s healthy – but I’m basically going to ignore your view because I’m confident you’re wrong.

      • Oilers4Ever

        Congratulating MacTavish is more an indication of how low standards have sunk, if anything.

        Aside from the Perron trade, which I will give him credit for, MacTavish’s off-season and season moves look indistinguishable from the Tambellini tenure. Remember how ecstatic everyone was when Tambellini signed Eager, Belanger and Hordichuck over the off-season?

        Tambellini is just a convenient scape goat. Both Katz and Lowe pushed the idea of the rebuild and no doubt, had say in the direction of the team.

        Besides, you are missing the point Jonathan:

        MacTavish should not have been hired in the first place. He failed as a coach, nobody else wanted him in the NHL, and low and behold, he is now our GM. Everyone and his dog knows that MacTavish was only hired because he is friends with Lowe and Katz. I would love to hear you argue otherwise. and THAT, is what is fundamentally wrong with the Oilers. Instead of filling positions out of merit, the Oilers organization has just been a body of patronage.
        The disgraceful play on the ice is the sum result of this.

        Everyone and his dog can see that Jonathan. Why can`t you?

      • Spydyr

        Saying you are going to do something and actually doing something are two completely different things.

        As Yoda says “there is no try only do.”

        Mac-T who spoke out early about “bold” moves looks like a fool now and Dallas is all hat no cattle.

        Sure Mac-T “tried” this summer to fix the goaltending. Bringing Bryz was a move out of desperation. Still can’t figure out why Smid got traded.

        The rebuild has regressed this year. You don’t agree?

        Then we most certainly can agree to disagree.

        Edit:I was right about Dubnyk and Gagner been saying they are weak for years now.

        • Tikkanese

          I think Smid was traded because the Oilers had basically 10 D that should all be #4-8’s on a proper NHL defense. Smid’s contract was going to be probable problem in future years and they can’t trade their newly minted Captain and save face. Plus it gave them more room in the cap for this year for Bryz and for possible future moves.

          They also needed to fill a hole at Center on the farm which also filled a hole on possibly the weakest position in the organization. Roy was a bust since he choked at the World Juniors and Bunz is near a bust so far as well, so they needed a change there as well.

          The team also needed a shakeup. Given the record, it didn’t work.

          The season was lost already. Replacing Smid with Potter/Fedun/Larsen really isn’t a huge downgrade. So looking at all those things, it made some sense. I personally would like to see Fedun playing.

      • Ducey

        Don’t worry about it JW.

        For the most part, people are not interested in any kind of rational analysis.

        The team is not going to make the playoffs? They have not forever? They may not next year?

        Well, then we need a hanging! If KLowe gets fired that will immediately result in the Oilers reeling off 20 wins in a row!

        Maybe Uncle Daryl should get more involved! He knows so much about hockey!

        The real danger that this team has that it will start listening to the emotional shirt throwing mob and do something stupid like trade a young future star for a bunch of plumbers or dumping the team President, just cause.

        • It’s easy to understand the frustration, though, isn’t it?

          It’s been a bad team for so many years and it’s awfully hard to be patient given what’s happening – and anybody who suggests patience, for any reason, runs the risk of being lumped in with the general ‘…and then one year, BAM, Stanley Cup!’ thinking we’ve all had too much of during the rebuild.

      • outdoorzguy

        “I see signs of life”? Really? Where? There hasn’t been life in this organization for a dozen years. 6Rings sucked it all out a long time ago!! The owner is lifeless, except when it comes to depositing his souvenir sales cheques.

    • outdoorzguy

      This pretty much sums up my thoughts. Doing something just for the sake of doing something is far different from doing something for the improvement of the team and organization. This twelve year spiral we’re in, although certainly not all McTavish’s doing, will continue until there is a total sweep of the management/ coaching offices.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      Tambi’s opportunity to grab the bull by the horns was last season. I didn’t understand why he was unwilling to acquire an extra centre early on to help out the club when both Horcoff and Belanger were hurt and RNH struggling with a bad wing.

    • No, we’re blaming Tambellini for years and years of incompetence. Specifically, three times he thought he had playoff teams (2008-09, 2011-12, 2012-13) a significant distance into the year, and three times he twiddled his thumbs rather than trying to improve them.

      But if you’d like to go into the rebuild (a rebuild caused when he signed a terrible old goalie who promptly got hurt, an old coach who was out of touch, and handed the team over to Jeff Deslauriers) we can do that too.

      • Oilers4Ever

        JW, and who hired Tambelini, and let him wallow in the do doo he was creating on ice and behind the bench. Did it take Klowe 3 years to realize that this guy was spinning his wheels ?

        Ultimately its the guy at the top that is responsible… never mine the 2006 fluke, this team has been in the ditch for a long time now, and no signs of a turn around in the near future.

      • Tikkanese

        A terrible old goalie huh? Hindsight is 20/20.

        Khabby was the consensus best UFA goalie available on pretty much every list out there that summer. He had similar offers but chose the Oilers because we were the only team to add the 4th year to the contract.

        Not to mention, the Stanley Cup Champs didn’t think he was “terrible” when they signed him this summer, did they?

        • Do you know the definition of “hindsight”?

          Let me help you: it’s understanding of a situation or event only after it’s already happened.

          I could link to what I wrote in the summer of 2009 about Khabibulin. I could link to what I’ve written along the way, or what I wrote about Chicago’s decision to sign him. Suffice to say, this isn’t a case of ‘that’s not what you said at the time!’

          • Tikkanese

            Well then you may have been the only one back then and good on you. Was there a need for the attitude about it? Like I said, nearly every list had him as the best UFA available. Everyone loves bagging on that signing in hindsight, but at the time most everyone was excited about it. Recent Cup winner and all. Except for you apparently.

            Does your crystal ball have any hope for the Oilers next year?

          • I’d love to see one of the better writers like yourself tackle a “what if” scenario, like what if Clarkson had signed. With your perspective -having some insight into feeling life as a GM, what with all the criticism and hindsight coming your way – it’d be interesting to see what you have to say on the subject of Clarkson in Edmonton.

            Or even do one on a successful trade for Schneider.

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          The Stanley Cup champs still have their Stanley Cup-winning goalie between the pipes.

          The Oilers were pinning their hopes and dreams to ol’ re-khab and it bit them in the ass. I highly doubt many other teams were knocking down his door with both dollars and term that summer.

          And for the record, JW has been very critical of the Khabby deal since it happened. I can verify.

  • Spydyr

    sorry to be off topic but this is important as well.

    NsxZero wrote:

    Wow Jones actually found the guy that threw his jersey on the ice. Ladies and Gentleman our hero, Curtis Goyetche.

    http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/12/22/jones-oilers-fan-shows-frustration-by-throwing-jersey-on-the-ice

    BEAUTIFUL! How symbolic can it get, hard working blue color guy working in the north, die hard fan did it out of frustration, not as a joke. Goes to the game as a regulat attendee (tier 1.5) and loves his team. This guy should be cannonized. (ooops truly politically incorrect during the xm….. er holiday season)

    • If you think Craig Mactavish took a job to be someones lacky, then you dense. The guys a Bull. He took a job and sure their are times he has to confer with above, but the guys not Lowe’s mouthpiece.

      I don’t think this Lowe’s some sorta egomaniac micromanaging dictator makes sense Some people have suggested this because they saw a few episodes of Change Change and inferred meaning from a few statements.

      The truth is he’s the last decent GM we had, he actually had some track record.

    • I absolutely do.

      Pat Quinn isn’t a Kevin Lowe hire. Tom Renney isn’t a Kevin Lowe hire. Canning the trainers isn’t a Kevin Lowe move.

      That’s before we get into the obvious differences in player personnel acquisition back in the Lowe days and during the Tambellini era.

      As for MacTavish, I don’t know the man but he really doesn’t come across to me like a guy who would be willing to take a ‘GM in name only’ job.

      I suspect, but don’t know, that Lowe acts as an advisor and sounding board and extra hand. I don’t think he’s secretly pulling the strings, despite his title.

      • I think that’s an excellent response to that question, JW. I’d like to take the discussion a little further, however.

        I just moved here and, although I’d obviously read a lot of online ramblings about how Kevin Lowe supposedly runs the show behind the scenes before I got here, I’d never really realized how much it really is the dogma among fans and, I guess, some members of the media. You can’t tune into a sports-talk-radio show here on the drive to or from work without a caller mentioning it. It’s almost become a disorder: Lowe Derangement Syndrome.

        In fact, I think I heard two callers mention it on the radio this morning – if the Oilers would fire Kevin Lowe, the turnaround would be started … as if it were only that simple.

        But … for all I know … maybe it really is that simple. So I’m forced to ask the question: Does anyone have any tangible proof that Kevin Lowe meddles in the GM’s office?

        That’s not meant to be a rhetorical or snotty question. I’m asking because I really don’t know. I haven’t seen or heard any tangible evidence that Lowe is pulling the strings … beyond what would be expected of a team president, of course.

        If anyone can point to any move or non-move the Oilers made during the Tambo or MacT era that have Lowe’s fingerprints on them, I’d like to hear about it … politely, preferably.

        Did Lowe ever say that he’d directed Tambo to make certain moves? Did Tambo ever say that he felt handcuffed or attached to the strings of a puppeteer?

        I guess I’m trying to figure out why the Oilers’ problems aren’t the making of Tambo … and, more importantly, a cast of undersized players who can’t seem to execute properly when called upon.

      • The Real Scuba Steve

        If Klown oh sorry KLowe is working for the Oilers under a lesser role then why keep him? If Klowe stepped down that would cause a lot breathing room for a while for Kayz, The OIlers, and for the fan base. This team is
        still KLowe vision.