Craig MacTavish: “I’m an optimist, I think there are good things ahead”

Craig MacTavish4

One of the intermission features on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday was an interview with Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish. He answered a few questions for reporter Cassie Campbell-Pascall and gave fans a foregleam of what they can expect in his full end-of-year press conference and then on into the summer.

MacTavish touched on four key areas: the state of the team, interim head coach Todd Nelson, his core players and the goaltending.

State of the Team

Team-9

Asked about a comment he had made in mid-March that the Oilers were playing better hockey, MacTavish doubled down and restated his hopes for the future.

I thought the team was playing much better at the time and I still feel that way. We’ll deconstruct our team and debrief at the end of the year but there has been quite a few positive signs recently. I’m an optimist; I think there are good things ahead. The rearview mirror isn’t too pretty over the last number of years for all our Oiler fans but we really believe that there are much better things ahead.

It’s an interesting quote, coming as it did a short time before the Oilers set an 82-game record for fewest wins and matched the same points total as they posted in 2009-10, the year the rebuild started.

We can give MacTavish a little leeway on the word “better” in that the team’s record has certainly improved in the last half of the season, but given what the first half looked like that’s the very definition of faint praise.

Todd Nelson

Todd Nelson14

We’re all in agreement that Todd’s done a good job since he’s taken over the hockey club. I’ve been really consistent in what I’ve said about coaching right from the outset, is that I am going to wait for a period of time after the conclusion of the season. We’ll see what the landscape is going forward, but the critical thing for me is that Todd has done a good job.

No surprises on the coaching front. It does seem that Nelson has put himself solidly in the running for the Oilers’ head coaching job next season, but waiting a bit (say until the end of the first round, when it’s possible one or two more coaches will be let go) and getting the lay of the land is a prudent approach.

Interestingly, during the game Campbell-Pascall mentioned that she had asked Nelson earlier whether he would consider staying on if offered the associate coaching position. He told her it would be something he needed to think about, and that it might depend on his chemistry with the incoming head coach.

The Core

64-Yakupov-5

Asked whether he wanted to keep his core forwards together – Campbell-Pascall listed the big three and Nail Yakupov – MacTavish agreed wholeheartedly.

Well absolutely. I think those players that you mentioned, including Yak, are players that are very deserving of our organizational support and I certainly appreciate their commitment to our organization over this lengthy rebuild that we’ve been all enduring. Those players are going to be very well supported by the organization and that’s my job.

Within reason, MacTavish is of course correct. The difficulty arises from the need to make significant improvements in the supporting cast; in two years on the job he has not shown an ability to fill the positions that really need to be filled by sending away second-tier assets.

That’s not to say that trading away, for example, Jordan Eberle would necessarily solve those problems either. As a rule, top-end defencemen only become available when the team has soured on them for some reason, and the most common reason is the financial side of things. It’s hard to see how one of the Oilers’ $6.0 million players would appeal to a team moving quality out due to the necessity of cost-cutting.

The Goaltending

1-Brossoit-2

It is the most important position and going into this season we felt that with Ben [Scrivens] and with Viktor [Fasth] we had really stabilized our goaltending. But we have to make some improvement there, there’s no question about that, and I think it’s being addressed organizationally right through in terms of our drafting and how we’re developing our goalies. We saw Laurent Brossoit play very well for us the other night against San Jose; he got another shutout tonight in the American Hockey League. He’s a guy that we feel is not too far away. It won’t possibly be next year but I think organizationally we’re going to be much stronger in the net.

The first half of the answer implies that adding a No. 1 goaltender via trade or free agency is going to be a priority for the team, but MacTavish also left himself some wiggle room there so it’s going to be interesting to see exactly what action that translates to.

The praise of the team’s drafting and development is interesting. Brossoit has certainly been excellent and established himself as a bona fide person of interest in net, but he wasn’t drafted by the Oilers, either (and the guy traded the other way, who was, hasn’t turned out that well). The two goalies Edmonton chose in last year’s draft both had down years and one has to go back to the first round of 2004 to find the last Oilers drafted-and-developed goalie to make it to the NHL. And I’m not at all sure that Devan Dubnyk is an example that MacTavish is particularly eager to revisit.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • beaterson

    That blue print video on the Oilers website is such full of crap. Bla bla bla future. Sorry fans but a new building won’t win us a cup. Let the last season at Rexall be a special one, but we gotta fire Lowe and MacTank first

  • beaterson

    Has there been a time announce for the big press conference yet? I don’t want to miss the predictable BS that is going to promise all hope all over again.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Mact says….

    Who the h–l cares what Mact says. This is the guy that thinks Nikitin is better than Petry. That Eakins is a 10 year coach.

    What Mact says on all things hockey is meaningless or completely wrong.

    What Opra says is more credible.

  • WTF2

    Was at the game last night, first time at GM palace, compared to the Rex it was a palace. Serve triple O burgers with a pickle on top instead of a freeze dried budget burger at the Rex. Lots of cool places to grab a drink and the place was full and I never waited in line for anything. Well laid out place, even had 4 women’s washrooms in a row from section 102 – 105, and men’s on the sides. Again no lineups.

    So was sitting in the lounge having a rum and there were 2 late 30’s aged women dressed in school girl outfits that were pink and they had lights and big ribbons in their hair. They were a minor hit in the bar for a bit with a few people taking pics of them etc. Once that crowd thinned out they started to walk around from table to table to get attention. I see them eye me up and start walking over and I’m like oh god here we go, but then there was a table with two guys direct in front of me and they decided to stop there.

    One guy called the younger chick a Mutt and she all of a sudden hauls off and elbow smahes him in the head! Buddy did a good job of leaning away from the surprise hit and then didn’t retaliate. Then the chick was mad and was about to punch him and security jumped in and a cop was there too. They grabbed the chick and escorted her out of the scene and left the guys alone. As she was leaving I could hear her saying “they guy called me a Mutt and he tried to punch me!” Haha what a scene

  • SRELIOFAN

    Honestly… I think MacT COULD be a decent GM EVENTUALLY. But a rookie GM who makes rookie GM mistakes like he has is not what the Oilers need. If he really wants to be a general manager in the NHL it should be no different than a job in the real world;Start at the bottom and work your way up. Maybe be an assistant GM and learn the ways of the trade. What gets be with Mactavish is his arrogance. He talks like a veteran GM who knows everything and had made no mistakes.
    I could go on…

    And I will! Speaking of arrogance, I think this whole organization has a problem with it. Lowe, Mactavish, Eakins… Not one of them has admitted to making mistakes. The Oilers have no right to be arrogant. You know who has a right to be arrogant? The Detroit Red Wings. 24 straight seasons of making the playoffs. And I can guarantee they didn’t make that streak by being arrogant. Honest, realistic evaluation of players is key to building a playoff team. A little honesty and realism would be refreshing which is why I appreciate Todd Nelson. I hope he stays with the organization.

    End rant.

    • lucky

      Daryl Katz. Kevin Lowe. Craig McTavish. Dallas Eakins. Todd Nelson. Reminds me of the Sesame Street jingle … “one of these things is not like the others … “.

  • SRELIOFAN

    Honestly… I think MacT COULD be a decent GM EVENTUALLY. But a rookie GM who makes rookie GM mistakes like he has is not what the Oilers need. If he really wants to be a general manager in the NHL it should be no different than a job in the real world;Start at the bottom and work your way up. Maybe be an assistant GM and learn the ways of the trade. What gets be with Mactavish is his arrogance. He talks like a veteran GM who knows everything and had made no mistakes.
    I could go on…

    And I will! Speaking of arrogance, I think this whole organization has a problem with it. Lowe, Mactavish, Eakins… Not one of them has admitted to making mistakes. The Oilers have no right to be arrogant. You know who has a right to be arrogant? The Detroit Red Wings. 24 straight seasons of making the playoffs. And I can guarantee they didn’t make that streak by being arrogant. Honest, realistic evaluation of players is key to building a playoff team. A little honesty and realism would be refreshing which is why I appreciate Todd Nelson. I hope he stays with the organization.

    End rant.

  • camdog

    If Justin Shultz, Andrew Ference, Ben Scrivens, Victor Fasth were released by the Oilers I think they would still get NHL jobs at their respective position. If Mact was released I think he could get a coaching offer, however I don’t believe any team would give him a job as GM. Now if you have to ask the question as to what is wrong with the Oilers, you already know the answer.

    • camdog

      The last time MacT was released the only coaching offer he got was TWO YEARS LATER, the AHL Chicago Wolves. Either no one offered him a job or he was too arrogant to take one he was offered.

      My guess is no offer came.

      Then he left the Wolves to “to pursue other opportunities” … What other opportunities??? His buddy Kevin telling him to get an on-line MBA and that will qualify him to be a NHL GM??

      Funny, but I checked the curriculum of that MBA and there’s no Hockey GM 101 course!!

      If he wanted to be a GM he should have paid his dues in the minors … but then he didn’t have to pay his dues to be a NHL head coach either – buddy Kevin handed BOTH jobs to him, and he was a dismal failure at both.

  • Andy7190

    Laurent Brossoit? Geeze leave the kid alone, MacT. Don’t bring him up to this tire fire. You’ll only ruin him like so many other Oiler goalies before.

    And they were playing “Better” in Mid – October? How much better can the Oilers get? Is Craig MacTavish reading the NHL standings upside down or something?

    Katz has got to fire his Hockey Ops department from Lowe on down. He has to. They are delusional.

    They are not better. They are not visually better. This has been the worst season in franchise history and it comes after 8 previously horrible seasons in a row.

    Just get on with it, Katz. It isn’t rocket science. When you continually fail, it isn’t the goalie coach or the trainers.

    Gawd, the fans in Edmonton deserve so much better!

  • Andy7190

    Nothing mac has to say is worth a crap. He is a self-deluded tool. I am most concerned about the further damage this guy will do before he is finally kicked to the curb.

  • Mac is no optimist. He is delusional. Optimistic about what? Another dismal season of inept hockey? Another blown draft? More Nikitin/Schultz Optimism over yet another bottom feeder performance. Optimistic about your utter failure to acquire the needed pieces last off-season? Your continual mis-assessment of talent? Miving out those bad eggs like Perron and Petry? Optimistic about another off-season of dithering inaction and excuses galore?

    I on the reverse side am fully expecting more blundering this off-season as you, Lowe and Katz look for patsies to sacrifice to cover up for your blunders. Then the piece de resistance you callously jack ticket prices to double previous levels. Yeah more of the same optimism is what we need from you and the other fops on Kingsway.

  • Longtimers still suspect McTavish. How smart is the last man to wear a helmet in the NHL?
    Lowe…nice man. Thanks for your efforts.
    The team talent is and has been present..nice that Dubnyk was faulted huh?
    Where’s a Slats when you need one?

  • Aitch

    My favourite part of that interview (and admittedly, I may have misheard it) was when Cassie mentions the goalie situation this summer and showed a list of UFAs. At the top of that list was Dubnyk and Cassie says something along the lines of “you may not want to revisit that one” and MacT just kinda make a quick grunt or “nope” or something else negative.

    I honestly don’t know if it was MacT groaning over the fact that Dubs turned his career around so quickly, or if it was a “when hell freezes over” kinda dismissal, but either way I got the impression that the bridge between him and Dubs might have been burned down and the ashes trucked away.