“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.

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. 



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 . . . 


  • 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.

  • gus1000

    Just curious, but wouldn’t Lecavalier’s experience and size be helpful as a second line center?? The Flyers want to dump him, he has a cup, played good in this year’s playoffs and is a leader. Might be had cheap.

    He may actually agree to come here, to a team that really wanted him, since the Flyers are dumping all over him now. And if the cap continues to rise, his $4.5 hit isn’t that bad.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I am finally getting excited again about the Oil .We have a very intelligent extremely Hockey smart and ;emotionally mature GM
    What a breath of fresh air after a very Indecisive and insecure ( hated talking to the public) GM Then there was the Head of Hockey Ops that can’t control his emotions ( see my six rings ) and made his decisions based on his emotion of the minute (see Souray ) .By the way Kevin being a defence man has nothing to do with running a 200 million dollar company . Thank you and Cudos to Mr Katz for finally seeing thru the smoke thrown up by his old management team and hiring Mac T to run the Hockey team.
    It is becoming fun again to be a Oiler fan .Go Oil

  • Quicksilver ballet

    MacT may want to seek wisdom found in his Karma handbook this weekend.

    Page 751, Donkeypunch 4:12

    Before entering into negotiations: try painting the frames on your eyeglasses with glue. Dip said frames into lime colored Glitter before the glue dries. Place back in position when dry, and prepare to be noticed.

    Success rate…. 93.8% (.5% margin of error)

    • Alsker

      Damn I need a list of your meds…don’t get me wrong…..I totally agree with you and enjoy the humor within…..but it took far too many Buds in a very short time to understand properly…

  • A-Mc

    Prediction is that every year columnist write stories about picks in play. Eckblad will go first, and then the 3 centers. Any of them fill a hole. Id contemplate trading a Yak for a fifth and additional picks if Eckblad slips to the Oilers, and then getting Da Colle, and filling 2 holes.

    The reality is to balance the team, one of Eberle, Yakupov, or the 3rd need to moved, whether we like it.

    Id be happy with the Deutsch Dangler and Yak for Myers and we have the balance we want, rather devluating Yak playing on the 3rd line or in Eakins sin bin.

  • These are not the defense men we have been dreaming of…..look on the bright side when mac could not get the guys he wanted he went back to the same approach he tried last year grabs belov buy this year with proven nil guys….well one so far

    • The front office as a whole seems better at identifying some maybe underrated guys. It really seems like they believe one or two of Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin, and Simpson could develop into a top pair guy or duo, but that’s going to take time. It sucks but that seems like the reality.

      So for the time being they are doing the best they can. Last year Mac T brought in the underrated Gordon, Perron, Hendricks, Bryz, Scrivens, and Fasth. That’s impressive. All his moves that didn’t work really didn’t cost the team much. His biggest blunder might be argued is the Gagner contract. But even then if you look at it in terms of when it was signed, hard to argue.

      It seems like they’ll have to continue to be good at identifying these underrated guys to improve the team to the point where our young D talent can take over, and we are not low enough in the standings that a Hossa type free agent wouldn’t want to sign here.

      In short, it feels like for the first time management has a clearly defined plan, and are sticking to it.

  • A-Mc

    The one advantage the Oilers pocess when it comes to attracting UFA’s – over virtually every other team – is that we can more or less guarantee ice time for guys who might not get as much anywhere else.

    A guy like Nikitin will probably see top 2 minutes, PP and PK (per Howson yesterday), and the same can be said for any other d-men we might want. It’s a big reason why Schultz signed here as well. Hopefully one of the other UFA d-men we want will want to prove himself with increased ice time.

    If we can get another defensman along with a 2-way center for the 2nd line then we’re looking much better than last year at this time.

  • Zamboni Driver

    “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.”

    Oh good lord, could you imagine?

    The Edmonton Oilers are tickled pink so super keen happy to select….some other 5’9″ forward. He’s super fast with sick hands though.
    ~ Announced by Katz’ kid and his afro.

    • Meh, if both those guys are off the board then we take Sam Bennet. That is just fine. Toews wasn’t considered that big when he was drafted which is why he slipped to third overall. Go ask the Blues if they could go back who would they draft, Eric Johnson or Toews? While you’re at it, see if Pittsburgh wouldn’t rather have drafted Toews over Jordan Stall.

      Yes the Oilers need some size in the top six, but would you rather have Joe Thorton or Jonathan Toews on your team?

      • Zarny

        Toews had a much bigger frame than Bennett. He wasn’t big when drafted but he wasn’t small.

        Bennett is small. He doesn’t weigh much and he has a small frame. He will never be as big and strong as someone like Toews.

        Which is fine; neither is Patrick Kane. The Oilers however need 1-2 top 6 F that can play a physical game. Bennett will never be that guy. He’s just not built for it.

        • Where do you get your information on frames? Do you have an insider frame guy? Who’s to say an 18 year old kid listed at 6 foot and 178 can’t reach the dizzying size and weight of 6″1 and 195 by the time he’s 26.

          One inch and 17 pounds. Yes you are right, that is simply not possible.

          I’m being rather sarcastic by the way.

          Also, ever since the other day when you claimed I was wrong about Fayne not being physical I have begun to suspect your information.

          This from the Journal: Three years is plenty with kids coming, but Fayne is a 6’3″, 215-pound, safe defender who played 18 minutes a night in Jersey for a pittance ($1.3 million). He’s not at all physical (much like Kurtis Foster) or a point-producer (no PP time), but he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and played against the other team’s better players most nights.

          I’m gonna have to trust Matheson here. So unless you want to reveal your frame source, I’m also inclined to believe that Bennet could easily one day be as big as Toews and have a similar dominant two way play style.

          • Zarny

            Good grief, my source is the extensive amount of coverage through numerous media sources for the NHL combine these days.

            If you really want to get into the jargon the overwhelming consensus is that Bennett has narrow shoulders and does not have the type of frame that will put on a lot of weight.

            You want a comparison…go check how much weight Wayne Gretzky or Patrick Kane put on between 18 and 26 because that is exactly how Bennett is built.

            Toews on the other hand is 6’2″ 210 lbs. He has 2″ on Bennett not 1″ and right now has 29 lbs on him. Toews has a much bigger frame (read bone stucture) than Bennett and no that doesn’t change much from 18 to 26.

            Bennett is most often compared to Doug Gilmour for a reason. Both are very feisty but neither was or will be big and strong.

            Regarding Fayne, you inferred that PIMs was indication of being a physical player. Well, Shea Weber only had 52 PIMs this year. A few years ago he only had 36 PIMs and most years is under 50. Fayne is physical enough to gain position and knock guys off the puck.

            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.

          • While I agree Bennett will never be Toews and is an awful comparison.

            I have to……not disagree, but yes, he add height & can put weight on.

            Kids typically don’t stop growing until 20, after that they start to fill out.

            Again, just to clear, I’m not a Bennett first booster. I actually like Reinheart the

            Height is overrated in the NHL, weight can be added and yes, with today’s sports nutrition and sports workouts players can add 20 to 25 pounds.

            Different sport but NFL players typically add that right before or subtract it before season starts.

            In Bennett’s case the poor upper body strength was a “red hearing” according to Bob Mckenzie draft show.

            Positional hockey is what separates great centres from average to poor centres, you don’t have to be huge to do that.

            RNH will be an excellent centre cause he can read, react and get body position and he played against the best.

            Another small player who played like a beast….Peca, who was actually small player.

  • It’s nice to hear what the OIlers are looking for on the back end. It really sounds like they are out to get some stop gaps to help some of our young D talent develop into our core.

    But other than maybe saying Gagner might get traded (a revelation in sports journalism) I haven’t heard anything about some of the free agent forwards the Oilers are targeting. There’s been lots from pundits and fans about who they should go after, but nothing really telling from the organization such as with Fayne.

    Do you Gregor, or anyone else, see a quick way to upgrade the forwards in the UFA market without sacrificing the core?

    If they draft Draisaitl, would a third line big body vet LW, maybe a top 9 RW, and a hard nosed 4th line RW to go along with Hendricks and Gordon be enough?

    Would Lander be one of these guys maybe? Since Gagner needs someone who is better defensively, do you see him playing on the second line on his wing, or maybe a newly created soft minutes third line?

  • oilbaron

    I would hate to see us sign Engelland, he doesnt seem to be more than a bottom pairing defenceman. We need quality over quantity, we have many good defensive prospects in the system, all of whom will not be able to play for the oilers in the future, why not trade them while they still have value for a better more proven and puck mioving defenceman or center? Didnt MacT say that he wasnt looking for the second tier players and that he wanted to address the top pairing? dont quote me but this is what i see.

  • Zarny

    I think we all know that the Oilers will have to overpay more than most teams have to overpay for rfas,but can Deryk Engelland really help more than Mark Fraser?Other than highlights of his scraps is he a better dman than a Fraser.

    • A-Mc

      Yes .. slightly. He’s still a #6-7 D man. Can play 4th line as well. So as long as contract is relatively low it would be a good move, nothing groundbreaking but would make the team incrementally better.

  • A-Mc

    These days i can say that i have faith in MacT’s ability to build a better team. He has shown a willingness to try all avenues to make the team better. Do they all work? Hell no, but atleast he is exhausting all options!

    When nothing is happening with the Oilers roster, i dont attribute it to management sitting on their hands anymore (like i did under STambi). I have faith that MacT is doing what he can and that if anything even remotely worth while comes up, MacT isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. I trust him.

    I’m not sure what is going to happen between now, tomorrow night and July 1st, but i trust that it will be best for the Oilers.

    Keep up the good work MacT!