“Craig MacTavish wants to be in on everything.”

That assessment by TSN’s connected Darren Dreger from Philadelphia this morning on the eve of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has to be sweet music to the ears of long-suffering fans of the Edmonton Oilers on so many levels in MacTavish’s second draft go-round as GM after the reign of error and indecision by Steve Tambellini.

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First and foremost, MacTavish HAS to be in on everything as GMs text and schmooze in the City of Brotherly Love because the Oilers remain at least two or three forwards and a proven defenseman away from filling all the holes on his roster. 

The old saying is the first steep to recovery is admitting there’s a problem. MacTavish did that in recent days in ways Tambellini never did, stating the Oilers want to bolster the line-up with “four or five” players. Acquiring and overpaying Nikita Nikitin Wednesday was just the start, not the finish.

I tweeted in the wake of the Nikitin signing that I wouldn’t be surprised if MacTavish made another acquisition before the end of the day. That didn’t happen, although we did get word not long after the Oilers would be meeting with UFA defenseman Mark Fayne. The Oilers are also talking with Deryk Engelland. 


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I know talk is cheap and eyes tend to roll when managers like MacTavish offer up lip service about being willing to “do whatever it takes to improve the hockey club . . . yada-yada-yada.” As often as not, that’s an empty sales pitch meant to placate fans, not close deals. This is not that.

Years ago in the pre-Twitter era, former Oiler media man Bill Tuele, who rode shotgun for Glen Sather and Kevin Lowe, used to put travelling beat writers on high alert and scuttle tear-up-the-town plans – be it at the draft or at the trade deadline — by declaring, “Boys, I wouldn’t go far from the phone tonight.” More often than not, the phone would ring.

Between now and when teams gather on the draft floor Friday afternoon is when trade talks (and now wooing UFAs with a week-long window to make a pitch) heat up. It’s also the time teams and their PR staffs lock things down. They clam up. That said, as was my sense yesterday, I’m expecting phones to ring before the Oilers take the podium Friday afternoon. Like Dreger said, I expect MacTavish to be pitching until his arm falls off.

If MacTavish doesn’t get something done — that’s a possibility Oiler fans don’t want to contemplate — it won’t be because he’s at the dance hiding in the corner, blushing and looking away every time a suitor casts a glance his way. He’ll be “in on everything.”

MY TAKES . . . 


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  • I think everybody can agree the signing of Nikitin and landing either Fayne or Engelland would address depth and prevent forcing kids like Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom into minutes they’re not yet ready to play. It doesn’t, however, give Edmonton a legit first pairing defenseman. If Nikitin is the big upgrade, it’s underwhelming.
  • We know MacTavish has the third overall pick in play. The question is whether it ends up being a bargaining chip used to move up, down or acquire immediate help. Your guess (and theory) is as good as mine, but the chances of MacTavish moving it to trade down go way up if both Aaron Ekblad and the Leon Draisaitl are off the board when the Oilers select.
  • As I already wrote last week, MacTavish is casting a wide net, but I keep coming back to Philadelphia as the likeliest trading partner. Of course, if MacTavish walks across the floor to the Flyers table, it’ll be to talk with new GM Ron Hextall. Not Paul Holmgren, with whom he had extended conversations about Braydon Coburn last June.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • oilbaron

    Shea weber had a 2.79 EVGA/60 this year. 177 out of 220 dmen.

    I do not care about the Physical.

    I care about EVGA/60 which is largely dictated by shots that are above the league average over 8.5% success rate.

    That is shots inside 25ft/ Box / chance area.

    Lak have 5 of the 20 best.

    marincin was in the top 10.
    Nikitinwas in the top 10
    Fayne was in the top 5
    Engeland is in the top 20.

    Now if you get trid of the worst ave% goalie in the league for shots inside 25ft and trade for the 4th best. EVGA/60 should go down.
    scrivens would be a better Esave% golaie inside 25ft than the goalies they played with before.

  • v4ance

    Teams are upset that the Oilers have acquired the #1 pick so often over the past few years, overlooking the pain and anguish that the team’s fanbase has suffered in the same time frame. It appears that the NHL will change the rules of the entry draft as soon as next year to make it harder for the bottom teams to win the lottery in consecutive seasons.

    Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if the Oilers improve to 22nd and win next year’s lottery with the new “anti-Oilers” rule in place?

  • R U Kidding Me!

    I say if Ekblad and Draisaitl are off the board at #3 we trade the pick to Toronto for Phaneuf and the #8 pick. As long as Toronto eats some of Dion’s salary, that is.

    • nuge2drai

      Oiler Domination To Follow

      If they make the trade with the leafs – I would instantly pitch the islanders on Gagner and the 8th for the 5th.

      Than draft the best Center left.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    From the looks of that fab 5 photo on NHL.com, both Bennett and Reinhart look to be 1/2″ taller than Draisaitl. Side by each and both Sams definitely look taller than Leon.

    Don’ trust the pre draft propaganda.

  • paul wodehouse

    Zarny…you say “…And really, if you’re going to trust Jim Matheson there isn’t much anyone can do to help you because quite frankly his head is up his a** most of the time…”

    y’think? obviously you’ve been around…but hey

    Matty’s a hall of fame sports writer, he’s MORE than well connected and deserves MORE respect than you’re willing to offer…you’re young and disrespectful zarny I get it so …maybe start to make applications to whatever sports news outlets that need you immediately… whether it be on an internet blogging site, the NHL combine you spoke of above or a mainstream sports newspaper…your self absorbed insights and world experienced input should be welcome anywhere…just as long as it’s elsewhere…

  • Good read RB

    Not sure if I’m reiterating what anyone has said, so here’s my thoughts.

    Given the Oilers depth at center and if the draft goes

    1 – Ekblad 2 – Draisaitl. (As some have mentioned recently)

    The Oilers move back without taking Reinhart or Bennett then we got a problem.

    If the Oilers trade back & get a 2nd line center and one of those gap players, I think that’s fine, it’s a lot to ask for out of a 3rd though.

    Interesting to see if Gagner, Perron and Yakupov are out there?

    • Alsker

      Seem obvious Gagner would be available, but I can’t see the Oilers getting anything near a reasonable return right now.

      I don’t buy the trade Perron now because his value is high argument. He’s in his prime and he brings elements the Oilers lack — some greasiness in the top six.

      Yakupov? I’m not sure he has the first clue right now about playing within a team concept, but he’s young enough that he could still learn. Would take an overpay before I’d move him along so early in his career.

      • Fair enough RB.

        I just can’t see the Oilers going into next years camp with those three players.

        Not to bang on Perron, I do like him as a player and I completely agree about his grit and love the pest factor he brings but…. 2 years left on a contract and one of the very few who does have value.

        If you move Perron, Gagner can slide to the wing & you still have Yakupov with said potential.

        Maybe I’m reaching with Perron?

  • Serious Gord


    Talk is cheap. MacT ran his mouth last year around this time and delivered bupkis and even worse stuck with gagner and dubnyk.

    His flaw to this point is overvaluing what he has. If he still isn’t moving gagner then it would seem he still has the affliction.

  • v4ance

    Since January of last year, there are 9 first time GMs (Buf, Cal, Car, Clb, Dal, Edm, Phi, Van and Was) and 2 other GMs who were recycled into new organizations. Right now there is an opportunity due to the limited and underwhelming supply of UFA talent to trade for an underappreciated asset.

    If you believe MacT is as savvy or more shrewd than most other GMs, you can have faith that he’ll make some good deals and improve the team step by step.

    If you don’t have faith in MacT or the Oilers management/scouting, this will be another pit that we’ll fall into in the neverending rebuild.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s too calm. Where’s the expected fire and brimstone type deals that usually take place before the draft?

    Hope MacTavish isn’t satisfied with the minimum due to him tomorrow. Has to be one of the many first yr GM’s in the league wanting to renovate their roster.