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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below



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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below



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

Craig MacTavish16

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.


  • Kr55

    Don’t forget coaching. Hired and stubbornly stuck with a guy that regressed the entire team and stalled (and reversed in some cases) the development pretty much all of our prospects. Fired a very intelligent talent (Krueger) that probably could have been promoted to POHO and done a better job than Lowe and MacT combined based on what he’s done in the EPL, aside from obviously being a better coach than Eakins was.

    • S cottV

      Agreed – the coach decision on Eakins was a disaster.

      Petry – losing him was almost as bad as bringing in Eakins. Valuing Nikitin, and Shultz over Petry – is mind boggling.

      Dubnyk – would still be a productive Oiler if not for Eakins and his complete [email protected] swarm. That thing was enough to shell shock anybody tending an Oiler net.

      An NHL GM – gets the high profile job and big money to get the major things – like the above – right. No excuses.

      At least – that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

  • Fossil

    No matter how you try to explain it, he is a bad GM. His bold moves became bad moves and he is not capable of assessing himself or NHL talent. Everybody sees it and on any other team he would be fired. This will be Dallas Eakins all over again at the GM level. With a long period of recovery after. The supposed core does not have an NHL work ethic and therefore, will never be leaders. Until the GM is let go, poor performance will continue to be accepted. I don’t get it but the owner is allowing it to rot.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hard to believe they let a couple egotistical unqualified ex jocks fire the one guy the organization needed most in Ralph Krueger.

    The current reality is exactly what what these bozos deserve. Fire anyone more capable than they are. MacTavish, by his own admisson has taken this team to new lows under his watch.

    It’s obvious he’s in over his head like his choice in Eakins was. He should be fired as well before he sets this team back even further than Eakins did. He’s already let 25 players off the hook before next season even starts. That is a shining example of a losing culture.

    By his own admission, Craig’s NOT on it.

    • PutzStew

      Some one mentioned this on another thread and I picked it up. They also quoted Ference something about expecting to be a loser will only make you loser.

      I just wanted to point out that Burke was very clear in Calgary at the start of there rebuild that losing was not an option.

      Funny where the two teams are two years later. MacT planning on losing again next year and Burke is in the play-off.

      Good job Brian (Slow Clap). Way to show Edmonton how it is suppose to be done.

  • Serious Gord


    The roster mact inherited from tambo was a perennial bottom feeder. Macts job was to make it better than that and after two years it remains debatable whether any progress has been made. That is an abject failure on macts part.

    • hagar

      Not only is it two years later in time frame to have added support players, the players that needed support, and should have grown, are still struggling to reach their potential.

  • WTF2

    First, I find it increasingly difficult to look at the photo image.

    MacT’s comments in all their rambling glory confirm he is making this stuff up as he goes along. If for a moment he believes the development of the team they iced for the last game will happen magically over the next year is simply idiotic.

    Craig has spoken as only he can. Apparently the Oil have only been out of the playoffs for 7 years. Thank goodness I thought it was nine.

    He was also heard to say the Oilers can be a competitive team, and there are good things around the corner. Katz must be supplying him with premium pharmaceuticals.

    MacT continued his Norris like banter by claiming Oscar is a potential star player.

    What I heard and saw was a nervous, unimpressive little man who is clearly not ready for prime time. How one idiot can appear and sound so utterly incompetent to perform as a GM is beyond all reality.

    • nuge2drai

      What’s shocking is that this is following another idiot who seemed utterly incompetent speaking in front of the media and performing as a GM.

      #steadysteve #craigsonit

  • 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.

  • S cottV

    Did anyone ask MacT at press conference about how he traded Dubnyk? You know the guy who has gotten Minnesota to the playoffs and how goaltending is an area of weakness? Would be funny to see his excuse

  • Hemmercules

    The fact that MacT still have his job is flabbergasting. I can’t think of another professional sport franchise that would keep its GM after such a poor performance. Oakland Raiders maybe? No, probably not even the Raiders.

    This better be the best offseason ever, because I can’t handle another season wasted by November.

  • Ready to Win

    People really need to stop giving MacT a free pass on Dubnyk. That the majority of fans were happy to see Dubnyk go is irrelevant; MacT is a guy who is being paid a lot of money to evaluate hockey talent and he should have been more savvy to the fact that a goalie who had been trending upwards for years might just be having a bad half season.

  • Fossil

    Honestly if MacT had just shut the #$%k up and not have verbal diarrhea, I would have thought there was light at the end of this long and dark tunnel. There’s only Mike Milbury standing at the end, laughing his fat rear off stating “Finally, some GM is on my level”…


    Great article as per usual Willis. I feel like these charts should be forwarded to Nicholson for use in his audits. I liked MacT as a coach and I thought he would do well as a GM. I was wrong. I am not usually one of those guys calling for heads in upper management, but I think a wholesale liquidation may in fact be what the doctor orders.

  • S cottV

    If he believes himself, then he is betting it all on the development of Nurse, Klefbom, and especially Schultz. I think he’s also got his fingers crossed for Draisaitl. Problem being he’s trying to develop all those kids all at the same time, and likely at the NHL level. That wouldn’t be so bad if the team didn’t already have a very young core, who themselves had no mentors to learn the game from.

    Not on any level does it make sense to not bring in some top talent in key positions. The fact that he hasn’t tells me he doubts his ability. And if that’s the case, they need to find someone who can get it done.