Showing Craig MacTavish’s Work

Craig MacTavish6

Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said repeatedly in Monday’s year-end press conference that he’d felt his team had improved in two years under his care. He did, however, admit that he hadn’t gone through the exercise of comparing the players he inherited from predecessor Steve Tambellini with the roster he’s assembled now.

Let’s take a moment and do that comparison.

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4.14.15 C

Three of Edmonton’s five primary pivots this season were brought in under Craig MacTavish’s watch. As Leon Draisaitl was a No. 3 overall pick, I don’t know that we can give MacTavish much credit for the acquisition; any idiot could have guided the Oilers to a terrible finish and reaped the reward of a top prospect.

The question is whether the duo of Derek Roy and Boyd Gordon is superior to that of Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff. On talent, it’s debatable; Horcoff is and was a better offensive option than Gordon while Gagner is bigger, younger and posted better numbers this year than Roy (even if we isolate Roy’s Edmonton numbers, as I have done here). Taking salary into account, however, we can make the case that the Oilers are ahead because they have comparable talents in the same positions but are spending significantly less money on them.

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My assessment: The Oilers didn’t get much better, but they did get cheaper and that has value.



4.14.15 W

The big moves here are the transition from Hemsky/Smyth to Purcell/Pouliot. Smyth needed to be replaced, owing to age, and Pouliot delivered more in 2014-15 than Hemsky did in his last few seasons in Edmonton (both in terms of scoring and in two-way play).

I’m stifling a yawn looking at the rest of the list. With the exception of Hendricks, MacTavish’s additions aren’t terribly interesting, and with the exception of Paajarvi neither are his subtractions. I’d call the trade-off a wash or possibly a slight improvement, though it’s worth noting that MacTavish’s stated ambitions from early in his tenure really haven’t been realized here:

In today’s NHL you really have to be a threat to score at some point, even marginally. We had a lot of guys who really, the best they were going to be in any given game was a non-factor. There wasn’t a lot of upside for our guys, our role players to significantly help us, but the few times we did we ended up winning those games.

My assessment: Edmonton made decent progress, though in two years it basically comes down to one good free agent signing (Pouliot).

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Jeff Petry

4.14.15 D

The best additions to this group are Klefbom and Marincin, but as both were drafted under the previous administration MacTavish doesn’t get to take the credit for either.

In terms of veterans, Edmonton has traded down. The trio of Petry, Smid and Nick Schultz seems obviously superior to the current group of Fayne, Ference and Nikitin, and the MacT threesome comes with a higher price-tag, to boot (Petry may tip the scales if he gets a big free agent contract, but since MacTavish “felt strongly that [the Oilers] had to challenge Jeff on a one-year deal” I think we can file that under “preventable mistakes”).

Both Fistric and Potter were superior end-of-roster options to Aulie.

My assessment: MacTavish didn’t start out with a great group here, and improbably he’s made it worse. He can thank Tambellini for leaving some nice prospects in the system or this position would be even less impressive than it is already.

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4.14.15 G

MacTavish made a pair of reasonable gambles, and got burned on both of them. The best goalie on this list is the guy he started out with, publicly criticized and then traded after one lousy half-season (a half-season which, we should note, saw him post better numbers than either Scrivens or Fasth this year).

My assessment: The Oilers would be better off today if MacTavish had left the position entirely alone.

The Big Picture

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Jason Gregor asked MacTavish on Monday why he was optimistic about the team, and MacTavish gave this answer which launched this whole exercise. Let’s see how it stands up against our review:

Our potential to grow and the potential of our players. We’ve added a lot more players over the last couple of years. I haven’t gone through the exercise of putting – I’ve been at this job for two years, that’s been well-documented – I haven’t gone through the exercise of putting the list of players that we had when I took over to the list of players that we have now but I feel like the situation certainly has improved over the last couple of years. There was lots of work to do, there’s lot of development internally on the horizon. I don’t think we’re that far off; I don’t think I’m naïve in saying that. I’ve said this before about the organization: I feel more comfortable with the foundation that we have right now and that we can build from this foundation. We need some critical pieces, there’s no question; I’m not going to sit here and say that we don’t. We need an improvement in some pretty vital areas of our team performance, but I feel that some of those pieces may be in the organization already developing and the other pieces are going to be up to hockey operations to try and identify and bring in.

The situation may have improved, but if so it’s primarily due to the development of players who predate MacTavish’s promotion to general manager.

MacTavish’s own work wheeling and dealing established NHL players leaves much to be desired. The wing has seen some modest improvements since his arrival, but those upgrades are overshadowed by his hapless efforts on defence and in net.

The Oilers “need some critical pieces” and need “an improvement in some pretty vital areas of team performance” but that was the situation two years ago, too. The evidence strongly suggests that in two seasons at the helm, MacTavish has failed to substantially improve Edmonton’s roster.


  • Hemmercules

    Give Mact some time, he will have us back in 30th in no time just lapping up those first overall picks. He tried this year but only got them down to 28th. A solid summer of doing nothing will have them right back where they belong.

    I look at it this way, at least I’m young enough that when Mact and Lowe retire from the Oilers in 15 years I will probably still be alive to see if the next group of guys can get it done. 2030 is gonna be a good year, I can feel it.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    When MacT came in the Oilers needed a 2nd line centre, two top pairing defensemen and a starting goalie. Two years later he has not addressed one of those positions. Instead, he threw gobs of money at a border-line NHLer in Nikitin, put Draisaitle in a position to fail, gave Schultz the keys to the city and saddled the Oil with two of the worst goalies in the league. And don’t get me started on Eakins. MacT and his inability to put into place a plan and his total lack of ability to assess talent have been an epic fail. It’s so frustrating watching other teams make management changes but Al’s quiet on the Oiler front.

  • JBear

    Hindsight is 20/20.

    What was it, 2 or 3 teams that gave up on Dubnyk before improving in Phoenix and becoming a #1 in Minnesota? Could Dubnyk have been sent down to the minors to work on his game?

    Eakins. He has potential but his attitude sucks and he rubbed players the wrong way.

    Gagner, Hemsky and Horcoff… I’d say it’s even to what they have now in this present time. Horcoff is way older and Hemsky was a non-factor. Gagner is still the same old Gagner.

    Petry. Yes maybe sign Petry to a 2 year deal. But did Petry even want to be here? I say no and would’ve bolted after next season.

    Is he a good GM? Probably average.

    Should the Oilers hired someone with experience? YESYESYESYESYESYES!!!!!

    Does this organization have issues? Obviously. Honestly what the heck is going on over there. It’s becoming more sad and less frustrating every game.

    Is the team moving in the right direction? Yes, but Eberle/Hall/RNH will be almost retired by the time we have a playoff team.

    • Zarny

      By what metric are we “moving in the right direction”?

      Seriously, what are you seeing that I’m not?

      Statistically we are near the bottom of the league in every single metric, and have been for the entire 2 years of MacT’s tenure. Positionally we are no better anywhere on the ice now than we were 2 years ago. The only thing we have going for us is the hopeful maturation of players that we drafted because we’ve been terrible.

    • Dobbler

      Let me start by saying that what I don’t know about hockey would fill Rexall Place.

      I also agree that hindsight is 20/20. A great example of this is the signing of Scrivens and Fasth. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable bet.

      What I don’t agree with is calling MacT a “probably avarage” GM.

      Here’s some things that I recall either having read on this site, or thinking to myself well before 20/20 hindsight made it clear to McT.

      1) The consistent under-performing of Goalies in Edmonton made me think that Freddy Chabot needs to go. I was thinking that when Dubnyk imploded. For the record, hiring a science teacher who’s never played an game of pro hockey and whose premium resume credit is as a junior goalie coach strikes me as a weak move.

      2) The Oilers needed to start this season with a proven #2C, and Draisitl only gets the nod if he earns it. It seems like everyone on the planet but McT knew this, and his failure to secure a #2C until near the end of the season was, in my view, a clear and inexcusable failure. I could justify calling him a poor GM based solely on this.

      3) I get that not everyone was a Petry fan, but it seems to be mismanagement of an asset to fail to even enter into contract negotiations until the 11th hour. I personally would have been overjoyed to have resigned him. I thought he was the most competent Dman on a team that really needed competent Dmen. But to not even talk to him? That’s crazy.

    • Hemmercules

      I love how fans have resorted to finding ways of making the Oilers look even worse with every passing day. Its like a game to see who can drive them further into the toilet.

      Chiarelli, 7th most winning GM in the last 9 seasons. Missed the big show 1 time and gets fired. Keep collecting those paychecks Mact, you’re doing great!!!

      • Zarny

        I don’t think there is any doubt that Katz should clean house.

        However, I don’t think holding up Chiarelli being fired is proof of much considering he probably shouldn’t have been.

        • Hemmercules

          No doubt he shouldn’t have been fired. They must be taking crazy pills over there. Oilers fans would give anything to miss the playoffs once in 9 years and here we are, 9 years out and the same guys are running the team. It can’t be stated enough just how unbelievable that is. I think I have come to the conclusion that Katz just has so much money and better things to do that he just doesnt give two sh*ts about the Oilers.

          • Alsker

            You may be right but I beleieve Katz doesn’t want his adolescent “Gods”(BOTB)reputation tarnished in any way. He would have been better off hiring them as life consultants rather than putting them in a position to fail in running the Oil. Eventually this team will turn the corner, honestly that’s 3-4 years away. So a 10-13 year rebuild, when it finally comes together, all will be forgiven and the “Goofs on the Bus” can ride off into the sunset as winners.

          • Alsker

            At this point, even if they do become Stanley Cup competitive in 2 or 3 or 4 years, it will be tarnished with the record number of years of suckage.

            Even if they do make it to the top 5 or 6 in the league, it will be very difficult to have their reign last as long as they’ve been losers.

  • Leef O'Golin

    here’s another way to look at the situation

    if Marincin, Klefbom, Nikitin and Schultz were one person, the sum of all their hits (123) would rank them FIFTY EIGHTH IN THE LEAGUE among defensemen


    • Just a Fan

      I fail to see your point. Are you trying to say Edmonton should have signed Petry to a long term contract? For the right price tag I say sure but I think it is obvious that Jeff Petry was not signing a long term or any contract in Edmonton.

      Are you saying the Oilers ‘D’ does not hit? I am not sure your comparison is fair. Klefbom just came up to Edmonton at Christmas. Marincin was even later than that. Kikitin was hurt or not playing for long stretches of time.

      I get that it is fun to beat the dead horse but I for one am getting tired of it.

  • oilerjed

    Haven’t read the comments yet.

    What a good analysis. I was shaking my head through the whole read.

    It’d be something if Katz got a hold of this and compared it to Lowe’s yearly review.

    And if MacT believes what he publicly states, Lowe must be aware of this. Then it’s total incompetence. I just can’t believe these two guys are that bad. It MUST be their plan has been to tank all along.

  • charlie manson

    The Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011,are a team that had constantly made the playoffs,this year they don’t and Chiarelli gets axed…our GM can’t even add the years his team has been out of the playoffs, team keeps getting worse and everyone’s job is safe hahahahahahahahaha

  • ubermiguel

    Willis is spot on for every position except goalie. Dubnyk is putting up numbers much better than ever before in his career. Is that due to the team in front of him or is he playing out of his head? Only time will tell. What we know is MacT threw him under the bus and his career as an Oiler was over.

    Scrivens’ numbers this year are much lower than they’ve ever been. He had 70+ NHL game before this season and he was .915+.

    Are we going to make the same mistake with Scrivens and ignore his previous good play and judge him only based on this year?

    I want to see Scrivens behind an NHL defence before I make that call. This year’s defence was more AHL than NHL.

  • hagar

    Player Regular SHift games season pace under Nelson

    Eberle: 80gm 29G 51A 80P

    RNH: 80gm 38G 42A 80P

    Hall: 77gm 26G 44A 70P

    Pouliot: 77GM 32G 20A 52P

    Yakupov: 81gm 26G 32A 58P

    Lander: 80gm 18G 40A 58P

    ROY: 80gm 22G 19A 41P

  • TKB2677

    Everyone thinks Lowe and MacT are doing a horrible job, you are wrong. They are doing a great job…

    For Katz the Oilers are a business, they are not his pride and joy, nor passion.

    Katz clearly does not care for the team or the fans that pay gobs of money to go to the games. If he did, would Lowe or MacT still have a job? NO!!!

    Lowe and MacT are keeping the building full, night after night, the team is making lots of money. Katz is getting a sweet arena deal, that will continue to make him more gobs of money. How does that translate to not doing a good job? If you had a business and your top two in charge continued to make you rich, would what others thought about them matter, no, as long as they were making you rich.

    If Katz cared about the team and was passionate about the team and winning, Lowe would have been gone long ago, and MacT would not have been hired back.

    So, keep going to the games and buying product and supporting Katz, and nothing will change…

    • I don’t believe he is at all happy with his team as he’s a big fan too but has become over the years close to Lowe and the good old Oiler boys . Now he’s in a box and doesn’t want to fire his pals and he like the rest of us is hoping for a miracle but it is not coming. No doubt Lowe and MacT are blowing smoke up his ass about just about being there every day and proved out by MacT’s dismal presser earlier. Change has to come from the owner , the sooner he bites the bullet and gets better management for his asset the sooner he can realize his bigger dream of growing the brand world wide.

    • TKB2677

      I’ll bite. I’ll call you crazy.
      (not much else happening here today).

      Lowe and MacT have a plan. Build up the cupboards.

      In 06-07 when Katz bought the Oilers they had no minor league team and very little in development. For example I think they had Deslauriers playing in the Montreal system, probably not doing much for his development.

      Tambolini mentioned at some point they were going to create a minor league system, which they did quite a good job of.

      Then with the Heatley and other fiascoes, Oiler’s decided to develop through the draft. Since they had nothing in actual development, this was going to be a slow process. (This is when the first ‘rebuild’ started). Somewhere in here they hit a rash of injuries. I remember Hemsky being one. This is when the decided to start tanking for draft picks.

      Had they done a half decent job of drafting and trading for quality players, their rebuild will have been a lot shorter.

      Present day, they have a number of prospects expected to contribute and many that may.

      Nikitin and I think Aulie were signed to two year contracts. Poor signings but when you’re in tank mode, not a big deal (I get a little barf in my mouth sticking up for them here).

      The other big consideration is that McDavid has been on the radar for 4 or 5 years. It’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that they intended to have an opportunity to draft him this year.

      Now the tanks over. Now they have to pull themselves out and timing is going to work well with the move to the house that Katz built.

      Lowe and Katz were prepared to take the heat to accomplish this. The fan rebellion may even be going much better than they anticipated, because they didn’t realize how much people bleed Oilers around here.

      If nothing else, Edmonton has proven to be a true NHL city by supporting this team as well as it has over the past many years.

      If they had a do-over, I would hope they’d do it differently but things like this happen when you have an inexperienced management crew running the operation.

  • Anybody notice that in the last minute of a playoff game in Montreal Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert were on the ice. Unnder these idiots in Edmonton apparently neither was worth keeping. If McT was any more useless he could become the President of Hockey Ops. Sick and tired of the clowns running this franchise. Enough is enough how is Peter Chiarelli not hired to be the GM yet? Oh yes that’s right Craig’s on it.

  • TKB2677

    I have a really hard time judging what Mac T has done and if there has been any sort of improvement. The problem with the Mac T years is the teams goalies couldn’t stop a deflated beach ball for most of the last 2 seasons.

    Dubnyk took comments from his GM about him not being 100% sure on the goaltending and instead of using it as motivation, the curled up into a ball, pouted for the season and forgot the job of a goaltender is to actually stop the puck. This season they took a chance on 2 decent back ups thinking that between the 2 of them fighting for the crease, they should get decent goaltending (should of been a good gamble). Instead, both guys had career worst seasons at the same time posting numbers that usually gets you out of the league.

    The team has a lot of work to do for sure but are they as bad as this year or last year? Hard to say. When you have zero goaltending you can’t possibly win. Not only are you not getting saves but the team plays differently because they are trying to make up for bad goaltending. Blame Mac T for that I guess but how do you predict Dubnyk was going to fold like that last year. Sure he gambled on 2 back ups this year but both guys were career mid .91’s. Fasth was .914 last year and Scrivens was .916 for the Oilers. Both guys ended up being 26 points less this season. Most of that was not on the defense. An drop off would be playing at a low .900 level, not into the .890’s. Playing .890ish goaltending is AHL worthy.

    • TKB2677

      This must be McT’s cousin because no one that has watched the Oilers the last two years would be questioning McT’s incompetence. He is in way over his head, he has clearly passed his Peter Principle level. What boss publicly humiliates his employees time and time again and then expect that employee to actually perform at his best possible level? Oh yes, that’s right a boss that has no idea how to run or manage a business. This GM is a total incompetent fool and that doesn’t take any judging to tell, his record speaks for itself. He is already writing off next year as a development year. The three ring circus continues.

      • TKB2677

        I’m not saying Mac T has done a great job. If you bothered to read what I said I specifically said “the team has a lot of work to do”. The question is how much? If you look at the record, by eye it looks like they have little to nothing to work with. But is that seriously the case? NO.

        If the Oilers had goalies that gave them league average goaltending, where would they be? They had .890 goaltending. Put .890 goaltending on ANY playoff team and not one of them would be close to making it. I’m not saying the Oilers are good and that if they keep the same guys they will be in the playoffs next year. I’m not saying that Mac T has done a good job because he hasn’t. But how bad are the Oilers when their goalies can’t even give you .900 goaltending? Are you a hockey expect? Can you tell with confidence where you are willing to bet that you know that answer? A decent goalie can clean up a lot of mistakes. Unless the Oilers played a perfect shift, any mistake ended up in their net. It’s impossible for ANY TEAM to have to play with zero margin for error.

        Want an example? The last game of the year vs Vancouver. With a depleted blueline, the Oilers played pretty well put up 5 goals and lost 6-5. Scrivens gave them .739 goaltending. 3 of the goals were absolutely horrific.

        • Parallex

          Not a hockey expert by any means but apparently you are so I will just let you spew your words of wisdom. Oh and by the way the Canucks goaltending was worse so they can’t even win a game of bad goaltending. 3 of the Oilers goals were horrible goals so by your expert opinion the score was 3-2 for the Canucks

  • Joy S. Lee

    Quite honestly, JW, if you’re going to do a true assessment, you really need to look equally as hard at the players in the pipeline as well.

    MacTavish didn’t just inherit the Oilers; he inherited the organizational depth.

    Haven’t done it myself, but I suspect the farm team and junior prospects are fairly upgraded in comparison to how Tambo left those. And when I say farm team, I’m talking about the guys who are legitimate prospects to someday affect the Oilers’ on-ice product. Not journeyman veterans who are longshots at best, even if they are decent AHLers.

    I’m talking about real, honest-to-goodness prospects with a legitimate opportunity. The best of MacTavish’s work may have taken place in improving the organizational depth. (One example: veteran Smid for prospect Brossoit.)

    Seems to me that looking at the Oilers depth chart beyond the pro team a few years ago was like watching windswept tumbleweeds bounce across 97th Street. I could be wrong, but we won’t know until you do a complete assessment, will we?