OILERS: CHANGES COMING

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.

COACHING

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.

SAM GAGNER

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."

QUICK HITS

  • 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.

 RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    How big is the gap between Barkov vs Lindholm or Monahan? Barkov is a big boy and I would guess he’s the closest of the 3 to playing right now. Lindholm has been playing against men too.

  • My guess at the top 7

    Colorado – Seth Jones
    Florida – Nathan MacKinnon/ Drouin
    TB- Nathan MacKinnon/ Drouin
    Nash – Barkov
    Carolina- ?
    Calgary- Sean Monahan
    Edmonton- ?

    Carolina needs Defence, I could see Oilers trading up with Carolina depending on who they want. My guess is they will pick either Monahan or Valeri Nichushkin

  • Reg Dunlop

    Regarding Jason Collins; other than Oprah, who cares? What people do in the privacy of their home is nobodies business. For pro athletes, all that should matter is how you play the game.

    Regarding MacT, Lowe’s new human shield; the jury is out. This off-season is huge. What is certain is this is Lowe’s last play. If MacT fails, he takes Lowe down with him.

    Regarding play-offs; what exactly are play-offs? Sounds familiar but…

    Finally, regarding dressing room chemistry; it can be the difference between winning and losing but not always. Remember the ’72 Athletics with Billy North and Reggie Jackson duking it out after games. Sometimes talent trumps chemistry, but that doesn’t mean the oil should cling to Blancmanger, Eager, Smyth, Jones, Whitney, Hemsky or Yakupov. Better dead than red (just kidding about Yak, he deserves the Calder).

  • Still laughing at the picture… funny! Well done.

    I taught MacT, was aboveboard as possible in his recend presser. He said more about the needs of the team and changes needed to be made in very candid manner. He wasnt about giving out names and addresses at this point, but when speaking about as many as 8 player changes, this is more than a tweeking.

    My point is that he outlined more to the media and fans,in general terms, than Tambelini did in
    his entire four years at the GM’s desk.

    We can all speculate the specific changes, but
    when is talking about is music to my ears.

    He now has to deliver…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Similar article every April it appears. They really need to hand out napkins before they unload this annual comedy upon us. Last season, it was a new coach. This season, it’s a new GM. How long will it be before this new GM is up to speed, does he get yet another couple yrs as well?

    All while the puppet master himself hides behind the guarded gate. Kevin Lowe is living proof. A successful career as a player doesn’t always transition into being able to run a hockey club. 20 yrs of a whole lotta nothing special since your last ring there Jasmine.

    I sure miss Glen Sather. He was a hardnosed player and followed it up by being an AllStar GM. Lowe it appears, is an AllStar player, followed by a long stint as a dud GM/shot caller.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Spydyr wrote:

    Butters wrote:

    I wouldn’t give up on Gags, you can teach a player to play better defensively. I have seen some lazy defensive plays on Gags part. He cleans that up a little and he has a place imo.

    He was 6 full years in the league. Guess they have never tried to “teach a player to play better defensively”. All those years.

    A-effin-men, brothas!

    I love Gags as a person. Met him, along with Gilbert, Cogs, and someone else, once at Julios on Whyte. I came with one of their puck bunnies. He was the only one that genuinely acknowledged me with a “High, I’m Sam.” smile when I was introduced. The rest couldn’t get off their high horses to even nod or something. Especially that italian midget Cogliano. Man, I would pound that guy to the ground given the chance.

    Anyway, I can absolutely see where Mac is coming from regarding Gags. But how can a guy like Gags, who says, and for the most part does, all the right things be making so many lazy defensive plays this far into his career?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    “Many have questioned Ralph Krueger, and the main criticism seems to be that he isn’t enough of a hard ass.”

    Hmm, that seems simplified. I think the main criticism has been of system or lack thereof. I’ve rarely heard complaints about how soft he is.

    • Reg Dunlop

      I agree. Krueger doesn’t scream and yell on the bench ala Ron Lowe….he’s does his talkin’ with action….the way he handled Whitney, Smyth and Peckham during the year tell me he doesn’t put up with any bullsh*t.

        • DSF

          I was referring to Brett’s MO that he was one-dimensional player. Wasn’t until he went under Dallas and new coaching did he learn to play D as part of system.

          Did not say Gagner was a 50G man or had developed a slap shot.

          Back to you.

          • Spydyr

            AWWWW. Now it makes sense but 6 years and still no defence. With his petite size it is hard to hold body position or knock anyone off the puck. He just does not seem to get the easy things like if you lose the draw cover your center. Or if there is an open man in front cover him. He just does not do those things.

            Not sure if he is ever going to develop into a good defensive player.

          • DSF

            I disagree if you told MacT that Gagner would post these types of # and was a respectable + he would sign him up for longer term.

            The fact is Hull never won a cup until he was more responsible defensively not because he had more goals in fact he wsa 4th on his team that year.

          • DSF

            But he isn’t a “respectable +”.

            GFON/60 – 2.71 (6th best on Oilers)

            GAON/60 – 3.24 (worst among all Oiler forwards)

            Corsi Rel – -4.3

            Kid can’t (or won’t) play D at all.

  • Spydyr

    Changes are part of a rebuild. I hear there will be 6-8 new players coming into the organization. One change I’d like to see is the addition of a “oilers swimsuit calender”… Your welcome for the mental pictures!

  • JSR

    I listened to the press conference yesterday, and all I heard was MacT talking in riddles…
    He says the top six need to be be bigger, and go to the dirty areas…then the bottom six need to be better. I believe the bottom six would be better if Smyth retires…
    Next, the defense needs to be better, quicker…
    Wow! He has his work cut out for him.

      • The Soup Fascist

        With your comment – What comes to mind for me is the sequence in Oil Change when you have something like 16 Scouts around the room debating whether Yaks should be #1 Pick.

        On what was a “universal” #1 maybe having 4 guys study this and have the other 12 researching who can play with this #1 + our 3 other #1s may have bee better direction and leadership for this club. I’m oversimplifying sure.

        Overthink the easy and underthink the difficult is what this team/management is guilty of and what Mac T needs to do better.

    • Dallylamma

      “The Oilers have been the worst team in the NHL since the season-long lockout of 2004-05. In the eight seasons since, they’ve only won 255 of 622 games. The organization likely doesn’t want to hear it, but the team’s on-ice performance has been worse than the New York Islanders (259 wins), Columbus Blue Jackets (262), Florida Panthers (266) and Tampa Bay Lightning (278).”

      • The Soup Fascist

        Not sure why this would be a revelation to anyone Jefffffff. The Oilers have drafted 1,1,1,10,22,6 over the last 6 years.

        If you are surprised, I imagine you are on a short list. If you are mentioning it to be a troll, bugger off.

        That is all.

        • The Soup Fascist

          Ok. I still don’t see the relevance but fair enough. You are right, if you have good players you shouldn’t have the record the Oilers do over that span. How many coaches can you blame?

          Ironically I think they will have to make one more coaching change to make the next step.

          Note: Sorry, jeffffff. Meant to reply to your message vs a douchey move of replying to myself.

        • horndog77

          I use that quote to show how bad the Oilers have been and how hard it is going to be to get this team back on the track.

          Also use the quote for fans who think it is easy to trade players and get quality back, w/o trading the core.

          Tambo probably tried to trade Gagner and Hemsky but the return is so low. Fans overrate most players. That is why the quote was there. You don’t have a record like Oilers having good players

      • The Soup Fascist

        Point well taken – we are the worst and hopefully next season is better results wise . I think MacT. made it very obvious that the entire team is not immune to being Upgraded by someone else ! That should keep them all on their toes . Floaters will not be tolerated by the sounds of it .

        It is difficult for MacT. to point out specific players until at least he has someone else signed to take their position , etc.. He is as open as he can be at this stage , and a welcome step above ex GM in his dealing with media and fans . I can’t imagine he can do any worse than last seven years have given us .

        • The Soup Fascist

          Just to add to your point Mad., there has not been enough push from the “farm” OKC only because in quality and quantity there hasn’t been players there fighting to get to the big club. Even the ones that did get upLander, Hartikianen, are not up to speed and might never be. Guys like Hamilton are barely hanging on to an AHL gig. In other words the pool is shallow.

    • Jason Gregor

      I assume same thing I’ve said during year and wrote in Journal on Monday. Too many distractions. Keeping Peckham when everyone knows he won’t play.

      Having some veterans, Belanger, not being on board. Other guys not willing to pay the price necessary to win.

      Also some things behind the scenes that we aren’t privy to.

      Circus definitely doesn’t paint a good picture. We’ll see if MacT can clean it up.

        • Jason Gregor

          Not mainly due to off-ice conduct, however I do expect they will move some guys that people don’t expect. I believe 4,14,19,64 and 93 would require a “jaw dropping offer”, but rest of guys could be moved.

          I believe most trades will be to improve on-ice product first, and they will do enough background checks to ensure they aren’t distraction in the room.

  • Jason Gregor

    Wow, I love that in the photo Hall is the guy with the afro, and Yak looks perfect.

    Here’s hoping Mac T can trade down and package someone up for either Cotuier or Yandle, then use that pick to select Gautier. Then it’s up tot the off season to get what this team needs (Defence, back up goalie to push Dubnyk, size and some grit in our top six – though getting Coutier would help this, or if we drafted that Russian kid – and a bottom six that can play a decent shut down role, hard to play against and chip in offensively once in a while).

    Regardless, it’s so refreshing to hear a GM actually talk about what the team needs, in the same way a coach talks about it, or some of the more savy bloggers talk about it. He points out what our team is lacking, then says we need it.

  • Dallylamma

    What does it say about Horcoff as a Captain if the GM is telling the world that the team’s locker room has been a circus? Isn’t it the Captain’s job to lock that stuff down?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Lets do first round picks : Chicago , Anaheim ,Vancouver , St.Louie for West . Piisburg , Montreal , Rangers ,Boston out East . Should not be many upsets in shortened season unless Oilers were in of course ( deja vue ) .

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Re: Jason Collins

    75 percent of the public will be casually supportive or casually disapproving but either way almost entirely indifferent. Fifteen percent, including lots of pols, celebrities, and the media, will support him enthusiastically. The other 10 percent will hassle him on the court or from the stands either because they dislike gays or just to spite the 15 percent of “opinion leaders” on the other side. Collins will get a standing O at his first home game next year — if he ends up being signed — and some fans on the road will get nasty with him when he fouls someone too roughly. He’ll do a few ads. Then, after a few months, with rare exceptions, everyone will get bored with it.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    So, MacT calls out Dubnyk for needing to be better, but he raves about Gagner and doesn’t even mention Gagner’s weak possession numbers over the season and how Gagner needs to be better, and he surely does, both in possession and consistency.

    Nice to see MacT’s biases surfacing so early.

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      Mac: “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).”

      He was answering the Gagner question when he made the reference above. Surely that’s acknowledging something.

    • Jason Gregor

      They were different questions. They asked if Gagner has a place on the team because of his shortfalls and that he’s an RFA. While the Dubnyk thing was more like, did he play well enough to be the number one this team needs, or how do you think he played? Dubnyk’s future on the Oilers was never questioned, whereas Sam’s was.

      So Mac T rightly said since he’s staying, we want Dubnyk to improve. And with Gags he was making a case for him to stay, just in case they can’t upgrade at that spot, or for those who want to run him out of town.

      • Jason Gregor

        Actually that isn’t correct.

        Later in scrum Matheson asked if Gagner can play centre long-term if he can’t win draws. MacT’s response to that question was completely different to this one.

        This response was to his thoughts on Gagner’s future with team. No mention of shortfalls.

        • JSR

          Sorry? I suppose I was mashing them both up in my head. I guess my point is that one called into question the future place with the team, while the other asked if he needed to play better as he is going to be here anyway.

    • Jason Gregor

      He didn’t call out Dubnyk. Said he needs to improve, that isn’t calling him out. Also, keep in mind that MacT might say some things publicly with the hopes it increases trade value of some guys…He raved about Martin Marincin as well. Just saying….