Craig MacTavish6

I’d feel comfortable saying GM Craig MacTavish has done a bang-up job filling holes on the roster of the Edmonton Oilers this off-season if he’d acquired another proven NHL centre, but that’s unlikely to happen, at least for the time being.

With a bunch of “maybe” in the form of Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello penciled in between first-liner Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Boyd Gordon, much of the focus has been on what MacTavish hasn’t done – landing a proven pivot – rather than what he has done, which is to add some much-needed size and experience throughout the line-up.

Now, with the entry draft done and the 2014 free agent crop pretty much picked over, we’re into the period when general managers and hockey-ops people take a break and head out for vacation. That doesn’t mean they turn their phones off, but the next few weeks are one of the traditional lulls in the off-season.

That leaves fans and media types to digest what’s happened so far and look ahead to what remains to be done. Around here, that means chewing on the additions of Nikita Nikitin, Mark Fayne, Keith Aulie, Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell and Draisaitl while waiting on another man in the middle.

Like I said, the latter will probably take a while.


Draisaitl, Leon

What we do know is Draisaitl is going to get every opportunity to compete for a job at training camp, even though those of the mind the big German should be returned to the WHL no matter what aren’t thrilled with the idea. Draisaitl has already said he’ll spend the summer in Edmonton working out with team training staff. That’s OK by me.

What most of us can also agree on is MacTavish needs at least one more centre to contest the spots between RNH and Gordon. Maybe Draisaitl will be fine no matter what. Maybe Arcobello can regain the form he showed early in his stint here last season and they can split time. Maybe not. Thus, the need for somebody else to push for those spots. The question is, who?

The St. Louis Blues looked like possible trading partners until Vladimir Sobotka packed his bags for the KHL and thinned the mix in the Show Me State. I thought Sobotka or Patrik Berglund would have fit quite nicely into the middle mix here. With Sobotka out of the equation, I don’t know that Berglund is available now, even with signing of Steve Ott.

The other names, crossed off one at a time, we know. David Legwand might have been a UFA possibility, save for the fact he had no interest in coming to Edmonton. Ott, who can play wing or center, was deemed by some a fit here before Doug Armstrong inked him when Sobotka bolted.



Now, with MacTavish catching his breath and taking and making calls at a more leisurely pace from his summer home near Kelowna, we’re left to contemplate second-tier free agents like Andrei Loktionov or Peter Mueller. MacTavish is doing the same.

Likewise with going the trade route. MacTavish will take some time to assess the pieces he’s gathered and then decide if and when he needs to bolster the Draisaitl-Arcobello-Lander trifecta of candidates – and, of course, what he’ll have to give up to do it. I think it’s a must, but getting the right guy before training camp trumps grabbing the first available body.

Making that one more move isn’t going to put the Oilers into playoff contention in 2014-15 because this team is coming from so far off the pace in a stacked conference, but it would get them closer and make for what I’d call an off-season well-spent.

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

  • Do what Weight did?

    I live in BC and was hired because my boss, like me, is an Oilers’ fan. He lost his faith in the team and so I was fired, so what? If you are a true fan you support your team no matter what. So Steve LeB, suck it up buttercup, the Oilers WILL rise from the ashes and I WILL enjoy my new job. Your clinic will suffer, I was damned good at my job and you know it. Don’t EVER give up on the Oilers, you could suffer severe consequences. You also may have just shot yourself in the foot. HA!!

  • Serious Gord

    So robin am I to surmise that considering your comments in your last post and your final words in this one that if MacT makes no more additions between now and the start of the season – and I don’t think he will unless he’s approached by someone – that this offseason has to be viewed as a failure on his part?

    I think it should be – a 1/2 centre was either the number one or number two item on the needs list.

    As for how the season goes compared to last year it hinges on two things – goaltending and injuries.

    Last year after the first ten games or so the team was – compared to previous seasons – relatively low on the number of injuries – certainly in the top third most healthy for the season compared to several years in the bottom third. Will they regress to the mean or stay injury free? A team that lacks depth arguably more than any other in the league is acutely vulnerable and we could be looking at aseason as bad or worse than last year if some key players get injured.

    As for goaltending – has another team EVER gone into a season with as unproven a duo as the oil? Excluding expansion teams I think it may be possible that that is indeed the case. And I think that the high level of play exhibited by both was a bit of a mirage – in the end they are a bottom third pairing.

    So with some injuries and some bad goaltending – neither of which is a stretch of reasoning – and this team is 25th or worse AGAIN.

    • Reg Dunlop

      OMG, just read your post, and realize we agree on season hinging on goaltending and injuries. Nothing matters now anyways,it obviously the “seventh sign” Hug your love ones!

      Sorry everyone, I was replying to an earlier post

      P.s most everything else you said was crap!

    • You are to surmise no such thing, although I’m hardly surprised you would interpret it that way, you being you.

      I think the Oilers need another centre. If MacTavish can do that, it’s an off-season well-spent, as I said. If he doesn’t, it’s something less than that — although well short of the doom and gloom you’re on about, again.

      Honestly, does the sun ever shine in the world you live in? Ever? Is there ever just a good day, with no ifs, ands or buts to qualify it?

      There is a vast middle ground between the “everything is perfect” dreamers and the “there is always something to moan about” camp (where you reside). Those are fringes that make up a tiny minority. Try to find that middle ground, or maybe consider stepping away from something that causes you so much frustration.

      And please, don’t give me eight or 10 or even one paragraph explaining where you’re coming from. I already know, and I’m not interested in hearing more of it.

  • Serious Gord

    At some point you have to make room for the youth and not trade them away for someone else’s benefit because you are so focused on trying to make the playoffs now that you sacrifice building a contender for tomorrow.

    No matter what MacT does this team isn’t making the playoffs other than as an 8 seed, and if they do the Only ones getting experience will be the same handful of players that will be complaining in a few years because they are the only ones with any experience (be it play-off or not).

    I will say what everyone knew watching this past season — the hockey the Oil played was damn boring! I loved watching the young guns the first couple of years because they played an exciting style, and even though they lost they were exciting to watch. This past year they took a MONUMENTAL step backward, and NOTHING MacT has done gives me any more confidence as to the style of game they will play.

    I have been to the Staples Centre during the regular season, and it’s BORING hockey, fans are more interested in their cell phones than the game on the ice. The last thing I want to pay $300 bucks for is to watch a 1-0 or 2-1 game … I can read about that in the paper the next day.

    MacT is seriously on the cusp of losing this fan base, and worse of all the sell job you guys in the media are doing, is encouraging him to continue to do so. This team may have lacked a little size, but now they will be lacking a lot of skill. Sad but true.

  • Serious Gord

    MacT has made a lot of moves but is the team better?

    Center is big issue,

    -Arko and RNH, simply too small AND not tough enough for our division

    – no clear evidence that RNH is a 1C, except his salary

    Defense is marginally better

    – but we are going to lose Petry and he is our best or second dman

    – there is no 1D in our near future

    Goaltending is up in the air

    – we have two career back-ups

    – our 1A was pasted over by TML AND LAK last year

    Head Coach is a huge question mark

    – no evidence Eakins is ready for the NHL

    We are up against the Cap and a 27th place team

    • Lofty

      I disagree with a lot of this, but specifically;

      How can you tie last years record to the current roster and its cap number? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that’s not fair.

      • Britts94

        I guess my point on the cap would be just as strong to say we are projected to be a bottom third team and we are up against the cap.

        What other point do you disagree with?

  • Do what Weight did?

    So, if I understand correctly, your issue is that MacT is taking unreasonable risks with the team. Risks such as goalies without enough of a track record to know how good they can be as a tandem or with one as a starter. Risks like no backup plan in the event of serious injury or if LD isn’t ready for 2nd line duties. I agree, those are risks.

    If we are hit hard by injuries to players like Nuge, Perron or Hall could hurt us dearly, especially if they are clustered. And if it turns out that our goalies are no better than the long line of fails since Cujo (Rolly being the lone bright spot) then we could be in real trouble.

    But then, goalies and injuries can take a toll on any team. Felix Potvin, Jim Carey, Steve Mason,mand Jose Theodore all had experience as starters and still found a way to be terrible. We watched Tommy Salo turn from a mid-level starter in the league to a huge liability. Every goalie comes with risk, it’s unavoidable. Would we better off with M.A. fleury? I’m not sure that would be less risk.

    Scrivener and Fasth might represent risk, but both players have every reason to perform. Both are trying to carve out a niche in the NHL. Both are coming to camp healthy (as far as I know). Both want to earn the job as a starter. Both seem to be walking into the opportunity of a lifetime. While there is risk, I think you might be overstating it.

    On another note, remember all the articles before the draft about how the Oilers lacked high-value, tradeable assets? It’s unfair to criticize MacT for both a lack of depth AND for not bringing in enough quality players through trade. Trading picks and prospects sounds nice but you need a partner who will ship off a 2C who is better than Arco, and happy with picks and/or prospects in return. Oh, and he needs to be a good cap hit. I’m sure the other 29 GM’s are dying to make that deal.

    As for depth, btw, I’d say it’s coming along. Both the wing and Defence have prospects knocking on the door, and enough NHLers that they will have to earn their spots.

    I certainly won’t be happy with a 20th overall finish, but if you think any manager could take this team and turn it unto a playoff team in two years, you’re deluded. To call it a failure because we could be vulnerable to injury/the collapse of 2 promising goalies, and because there isn’t yet enough depth at C? Still sounds to me like you are focusssed too much on the negatives.

  • Grant

    I think even without getting a true number 1 dman , Mact has done a great job of filling holes with capable guys. They do need to fill the 2 nd line center position, and then I think things will fall into place . A much better team than last year, and you’ll see a significant jump in the standings.Maybe hard to get a playoff spot in the west but it should be close.
    Mact has made good additions without selling the farm on someone with a huge salary that throws the pay scale out of whack in Edmonton.

  • Britts94

    Got yer back Brownlee
    The much improved oil shall be more competitive than they have the last umpteen years. Too many guarantees that our Spoilers will lose all their matches vs the best in the west. Yes, we have some swell teams BUT.. No rule suggests the better teams always win. And we had the Wings number for years. We have spanked the likes of Chicago and others and there will always be surprises. I look forward to fighting for .500 hockey against the big guns and maybe some domination of lesser teams and we can have a fun season as oil fans.

  • Serious Gord

    So until this upcoming year in other team except expansion teams has had this inexperienced a goaltending duo. So it hasn’t happened yet. And now it’s happening twice in one season.

    And the team with less experience traded us the guy who is going to be our ‘ veteran ‘.

    And if you include the hapless labarbera the three roster goalies on anaheim have more experience than the oil does.

  • Do what Weight did?


    I notice that you use numbers to poorly justify some arguments, and ignore others as the need suits your melancholic commentary of the others.

    More precisely, you judge our goaltending by the number of games played. I would offer you may be dismissing other important data, by focussing on your speculation that the Oilers’s tandem is the most inexperienced ever.

    Furthermore, you measure the injuries to begin last year by the quantity of games lost. If Assian shatters joensuu’s jaw instead of Gagner’s, then the last season likely plays out very differently. Could it happen again? Of course it’s possible, but looking only at the number of games lost to injury is preposterous. Any team losing its top 2 centers, and having both rush back, would suffer for it.

    Which brings us to the holes in the roster. Would I feel better with Jason Spezza on our team? Of course, but using your technique of just selecting numbers, I would offer that the Oil had 6ish roster holes, and plugged 5. Sounds like a success to me.

    Also, who is to say 2C is the 1st hole on the list? What about big bodies with skill? Making the team tougher to play against? Veteran D who can give the prospects time to develop? Strong possession players? Successful defensive playoff performers? MacT has not made us the best team in the league, but Slats himself couldn’t have done that.

    So please, indulge me: why are you so focused on the inexperience of the goalies, regardless of what’s been shown in their time in the league? Would they have been better off paying 6M to a has-been who couldn’t get the blues past the first round? How much improvement is realistic for a team as unattractive to FA’s as the Oilers? I’m not counting in a conference title, but given the state of the team at the end of the 2014 season – or when MacT took over – what were you expecting? Do you think you would have accomplished more?

  • Grant

    Man you are just 1 big giant mangina.

    If you won the lottery you’d come on here and complain that your stupid wallet can’t hold all your money.

    Go out in the sun. Get a hug. Talk to a girl. Brighten up.

    We get it you hate MacT and no matter what happens you will find the negative in it. Move along….

  • Serious Gord

    Goaltender experience or rather the lack of it is a significant element of risk. Obviously it is not the only criterion for judging how good our goaltending is, but it adds a very high element of risk. In some ways it is unprecedented to have this inexperienced a goalie group.

    Thus guy are mistaken / exaggerate when you assert that I “…judge our goaltending by the number of games played”

    Prior to last season we had years where players if even higher value than gagner were injured for long periods of time – hall, for example in 11-12. Not only that there were clusters of them. If the team falls back to that kind of injury rate again to significant players (and TOI means that they are the most likely to be injured) than the season could be scotched.

    As for the 1/2 c spot I think I am on very safe ground when I said it was either the number one or two priority for the team. 1st line d was/is its rival and it has not been completely addressed but at least there has been an actual tangible attempt. Not getting one of your top two tasks done is a failure in my opinion. And I’m pretty sure it is for robin as well.

    What I am “FOCUSSING” on is the high wire kind of risks MacT has made so far this season and last: going with dubnyk and keeping gagner and not addressing size and hiring a rookie coach last season, and this season going with a very jnexperienced/unproven goalie roster, again no big 1/2centre, and yet another rookie likely to be thrown to the wolves (I would have traded the pick). And I would have traded prospects to get more stable veteran help. This team is so lacking in depth just a few failures on the roster and this team is going nowhere this season.

    I think they will finish higher than last season. But not higher than 20th. Will that be a success in your opinion?