I have spent the last couple of days trying to parse as much info as I possibly could from the MacT press conference and the subsequent follow up done one on one for the Oilers website. There were so many things that were said but almost none of it piqued my interest until MacTavish started talking about the Draft.
Up until that presser we haven’t heard too much from the Oilers by way of admitting there was a problem with what Stu McGregor was doing at the Draft in recent years this was really the first visible crack in the armor. Surely he has been questioned by bloggers and fans in the past couple of years but not so much by team officials, at least not publicly. That’s why I paid attention when Craig MacTavish started talking about the lack of success in later rounds undermining the things the team has tried to do.
WE HAVE A PHILOSOPHY
Now Craig MacTavish did not say that the Oilers currently have a drafting problem. He said that they formerly had a problem and that when he came in he started to make changes. He said, “The minute we took over we focused on improving our Draft record…we are accutely aware of our former inadequacies.” The Silver Fox specifically brought up that only 2 players in the lineup from the game before had come from the 2nd round or beyond. He was referring to Pitlick and Petry. Only 1 of those players is an established NHL player. If we can extend MacGregor 1 more player who I feel is between Petry and Pitlick it would be Marincin. That’s still just 3 players currently in the organization who are capable of playing NHL minutes who came from beyond “No-Brainer” territory.
MacTavish went on a little bit about the different things that they’ve done since he took over. Here’s a bit of what he said.
“We’ve worked hard to improve all our processes, in terms of our drafting. We’re more regionally focussed. Uh, there’s more of an emphasis on getting to know the players, interviewing the players. We’ve integrated a lot of, uh, uh, analytics into our decision making. We’ve integrated technology into our video scouting. We’ve got more management now in the field communicating with our scouts and watching games. We’ve got a Draft philosophy…since I took over. We’ve got a Draft philosophy in an effort to improve our Draft record.” (Emphasis mine)
The Oilers officially began this version of the Rebuild halfway through the 2009-2010 season. The franchise recognized that it lacked truly high end players and resolved itself to acquire them through the Draft. The NHL Entry Draft was the focus of every decision the Oilers and their management made. They iced bad teams they knew couldn’t compete and did next to nothing to make themselves better. They played young men without making them earn their minutes or pay much in the way of dues.
The Oilers were focussed on Rebuilding through the Draft. It started and ended with their choices every June. Craig MacTavish’s comments are damning to the previous Management regime and that includes Kevin Lowe who oversaw everything as the President of Hockey Operations. How is it possible that the Oilers made the Draft the focal point of their plan to become a Stanley Cup contender but lacked a Draft Philosophy?
It wasn’t until the 2013 Draft that MacT’s changes could have made any difference. That means that Tambellini, under Lowe’s watch, put little to no extra effort into improving the one thing that controlled Edmonton’s fate more than anything else. Katz, Lowe, and Tambellini had the money, the support of the fans, and the mandate to do this one thing better than they had ever done it before and MacTavish just went through a laundry list of what I think are basic improvements that didn’t happen under their direction.
There aren’t many things that were said at that Press Conference that I raised my eyebrow at, but those comments definitely gave me some things to think about.
THE FALL GUY
Steve Tambellini is gone, and rightfully so, but the man who watched over everything he did and ran Hockey Operations is still here. The man who was Edmonton’s head scout, who ran the Draft, is still here. The owner who passionately appealed to the fans to give him time and let him do this Rebuild the right way is still here (in spirit anyway). I have trouble believing that everything is going to be fine. I have trouble believing that those Draft inadequacies are all behind them. Don’t you?
The GM made quite the scene being sure he separated himself from the man who came before him. He did not want current management to be lumped in with the men who submarined the franchise and sent them to an infinibuild. From where I sit, I have trouble seeing the meaningful change.