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

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.


  • oilerjed

    I think some of us are overlooking the elephant in the room; the fact of the matter is a rebuild requires waiting. Anyone could have traded the young guys and had a playoff team for a year or two. The stated mission is to build a team that is competitive for a period of time, and can compete for a cup(s). It’s most definitely debatable whether or not the chosen method will work, but either way these guys deserve some credit for sticking to the plan rather than doing the easy thing that would benefit their own images. Of course there have been mistakes, virtually every team in every sport over or under estimates player abilities along the way. A look back at the drafts in every major sport will make even the most highly regarded executives look foolish from time to time. We all look at Ference and say how incompetent management is, but when he was signed I would suggest most thought it was an excellent move. A little over a year ago MacT was being back-slapped by all of us for solving the goaltender problems. I know misery loves company, so trash away, but I personally don’t agree that the management group are the buffoons we like to think they are. Numerous things have gone sideways, but these guys have not taken the easy way out.

    • hagar

      I think the only way for a market like Edmonton to become perennial contenders is through the draft, and through player development. That requires patience.

      But if you look at Edmonton’s prospect pool, where are the obvious blue-chippers other than Nurse and Draisatl? Whoever they draft in the first round (1st or 3rd/4th), sure. Given the stated strength of this draft, whoever they pick with the Pitt #1, could be a blue-chipper. But I would think it’s fair to say that anyone of those is years away from being an impact player (except McDavid if a miracle happens).

      Every team needs quality depth down the middle, on the blueline and in net, both in the NHL and in the system. I don’t see that in Edmonton, despite the fact these have been weaknesses for years.

      So fans do need to be patient. But the current management has inspired no confidence that they will turn things around, or suddenly be able to identify blue-chip defence or goalies, draft and develop them, or sign them.

      • hagar

        No, the only way to get this team on track is to stop hiding behind our “core” like they are building us a good team.

        The oilers don’t have an infinite amount of time to wait around for players to progress. That is not how hockey works.

        Let’s say our dreams come true, and yak becomes OV 2.O, Nuge becomes Dats, Hall becomes Seguin (yeah, little inside joke there), and Eberle becomes all he can be.

        Now let’s suppose Nurse becomes the next pronger like we hope in 4 years, and let’s throw Leon in as a stud second line center in 2.

        That is not how a team is built. We are talking about players that are running into contracts on the way out, while players we are waiting for are wanting contracts on the way in.

        The oilers can never put this crazy dream team that some think can happen, together in one piece, they just won’t be able to afford it.

        We are pissing away our locked up first overall picks, while waiting for the day that every piece of the puzzle in development will come together to join them. It’s absolutely ridiculous planning!!

        Every year since the oilers signed Hall to his contract has been a complete waste, every year they signed Nuge has been a complete waste, every year they signed Jordan has been a complete waste.

        This team is going to wait till the end of time if it thinks it will make a competitive team based off top 3 draft picks.

  • hagar

    The team is way worse, but I believe it has come to that in accordance with a plan the owner and management have.

    I still strongly believe that the Oilers have shat the bed on purpose for the last number of years. The players the signed, in my opinion, are rentals and the real push for competition will start in a year or two. At that point, I believe the management will go for one or two big/impact players signings.


      If that’s the case then they are all kinds of awe full at tanking as well as winning as they couldn’t make bottom for supposedly the best talent of a generation in McEichal.

      Is their anything that McT’s Oilers don’t suck at? Can’t win can’t tank, what’s left?

    • Kevwan

      Agreed. Dubnyk didn’t turn his game around until his third stop after Edmonton. Arizona’s goalie coach however is the goalie whispered, who uses the arcane arts to infuse his charges with the spirits of the gods who hold sway between the pipes. In all seriousness though Sean Burke is some kind of goalie coach genius.

  • Boom76

    Being an out-of-province Oiler fan I have the luxury of not hearing the negative sound bites 24/7… but I must say things will turn around next year. The only mistake with their scorched earth plan was to NOT procure their stud D ahead of time. I think Chicago accidentally stumbled upon the perfect scorched earth model in drafting Seabrook and Keith first, and then drafting their Fwd Superstars in Kane and Toews and company.

    If I recall correctly, Lombardi was on the brink of losing his job before he landed Carter in February 2012 and then they won the Cup. Garth Snow was the GM punch line of every mgmt joke and now he’s not even mentioned in the bad company reports. Frankly (and no… I’m not a PR robot… ha ha) I appreciate that MacT is being up front and calling next year a development year. It will be.

    Our Oilers are close. They made some mistakes in the rebuild. But I think they are close, and once the pieces come together I agree that we’ll be a league power house for years to come.

    My 2 ¢

    • Ever the Optimist

      ok if you think the mistake was not acquiring the stud defense first, and i do agree there. How can you suggest they are close with still no stud defense even on the horizon? Unless you consider Nurse the future number 1 but even if so he is likely still 4 years or more away from claiming that spot. At that point Eberle and Hall are in UFA status.

      The Oil have tried to draft BPA with picks but have failed to trade from strength for areas of weakness. I just don’t see this changing so we are likely to see an unbalanced roster for the foreseeable future.

      • BlazingSaitls

        And this should be a real concern for the Oilers, by the time Edmonton sures up it’s defense, our core will be UFA. Personally, I would draft Strome #3, and try and get Jeremy Roy in the draft. ( He might slide to 15th, since defensemen quite often draft lower then predicted). Then I would not hesitate in packaging Hall for a good young Defensemen. I would love to get Seth Jones in a package deal including Hall. I would try my best to address goaltending on the UFA market. Sadly, I think our AHL goaltenders were probably better then our NHL goaltenders this year.

  • camdog

    Kind of a strange time to be assessing his current day roster. First day of next season makes sense. I mean, he did trade players for picks and others for prospects. Did we lose the Smid trade? The 1st rounder for Perron? Not defending the GM at all, but some variables, such as Dubnyk becoming a great goalie, where quite possibly impossible to know, or even happen in Edmonton. I would say he’s treaded water as a GM. I’d personally give him the summer before I made a decision on him. Unlike how he treated Dubnyk, I think just one more off-season (hiring a coach, the draft, vital trades and signings) will magnify our GM’s true ability, and he can be fired then, if he is subpar.

  • 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.

  • Ready to Win

    Question I have is would you rather have klinkhammer and a late 1st pick this year or Paajarvi and Barbashev?

    I think Paajarvi would bring good side and speed on a 3rd line with his old Swedish teammate lander, and Barbashev is one heck of a prospect who scored almost 2ppg in the Q. We’d have some really good depth on the left side

    • Kevwan

      To be fair the Oilers got 1 and a 1/2 seasons of a top 6 forward also Paajarvi was on waivers.

      The question becomes Barbashev for Klink and a probable top 20 pick and some time with Perron.

  • I do like what you’ve put up here Jonathan, but the overriding assumption is that the goal of the team was to improve – which theoretically should lead to more winning. That we’re not seeing much of that leads us to conclude MacT is a failure.

    In fact what we’ve witnessed is a team that has no real interest in winning for the time being, and the improvement we’ve seen is a result of drafted players maturing. I’d venture that MacT has been very careful to make sure a minimum of secondary players brought in from outside the organization were of the type that could actually facilitate improvement. They were available, but by doing nothing (conscious ignorance) or picking up marginal talent we’ve managed to pretty much remain in a holding pattern.

    There hasn’t been much improvement because that’s exactly what the Oilers want right now. God knows why but it’s pretty obvious they’re being throttled.

    • hagar

      It is now 3 days since the last fiasco was thankfully played. First of all we need Katz or Nicholson to call a presser and fire Lowe, maybe, just maybe MacT can survive with out Klowe pulling his strings, I don’t think MacT does squat without Lowe’s approval so it is a crapshoot. Aside from all the improvements we need is probably a early decision on the coach, if its Nelson fine, I doubt if anyone we’d want would come here unless Lowe for sure is gone and possibly MacT but not sure, all I know is MacT didn’t get another NHL job til he returned here . After that IMHO we mostly need a goaltender the guys can trust, Saturdays game was a microcosm of the season, weak sloppy defense and the team quitting knowing their goalie isn’t going to get it done, like someone said earlier, if we had Kerry Price it would look a lot different, not playoff bound with this defense but a lot closer.

  • 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

  • a lg dubl dubl

    The MLSE & Shanny made the right decision to clean house. In the NHL joke that the Coilers are, MacT has a presser in which he contradicted in own words of two years earlier. What a joke. If the NHL was the English Premiere League, the Coilers would be a 2nd tier club.
    Have fun with your rebuild, fans!!!
    There will be NO playoffs in Deadmonton for 2015-16. Get used to it!!!!

    GO FLAMES GO!!!!!

    GO HABS GO!!!!!!

  • 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.

  • WTF2

    From Zero to Hero

    If Mac T wants that title he needs to improve his assessment of talent, especially in goaltending. Ask yourself just where we would be if we had a Carey Price on our team. Where would we be if we had a Drew Doughty? That’s only two players but IMHO ……..those two players added to the roster would drastically improve our fortunes.

    So I for one do not buy the theory that we have yet again be patient with drafting and development as the only strategy. Mac T could add quality players to the roster but he would have to give up at least one core player………say Yaks? His rationale of “acquiring diminishing assets”, just does not hold water in my books.

    If that is your fear then why on earth would we have acquired players like Pronger, Gordon, Hendrix, Klinkhammer………just to name a few.

    I liked his presser but his comments about “diminishing assets”……..tesll me he is scared of making a deal……..this alone sets us back.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      That’s exactly what worries me too. I get not wanting to get a 33-37 year old on a long term deal(Chara for example) for klefbom and the Pitts pick, but if Boston comes to you and says Chara for Marincin and a 2nd, you should take that because Chara, even on the down swing of his career, is better than all the defence the Oilers have right now.

      I will give KLowe one thing, when he traded for Pronger he used his assets to get him. MacT thinks using assets to get better is trading 1 pick for 2 later picks in the same draft.

      I wouldn’t care if MacT traded Marincin a prospect and a pick to get a high end defenceman in his late 20s early 30s because it’ll help make the team better now, and the next few years. Not waiting for 5 yrs from now.

      The only thing Craig is on is the fence, and he’s scared to jump.

      Still a fan of the Oilers, just getting tired of waiting on “promise”.

      • oilerjed

        Pronger was in his prime and was traded because his team could no longer afford him.
        Chara is too old and too expensive.
        But… Targeting CHI or NYR or other cap stressed teams for talent is indeed good. But, picks and prospects from OKC should be all that’s needed.

        • Just a Fan

          Pronger wasn’t traded because he was too expensive – wifey told him SHE wanted out and she wanted him away from “distraction” – aka the weather girl. The only thing that would have been too expensive was an ugly divorce and that wouldn’t have counted against the salary cap.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.