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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • S cottV

    JW –

    Good (yet depressing) analysis.

    What are your thoughts on the idea of trading Dubnyk last year for a spare part (although I’m a fan of MH) rather than showing some patience with a career .914 goalie and possibly sending him down to the minors last season to get his game back and attempting to salvage an important asset?

    We might be talking about year over year progress if Duby had simply regressed back to his career numbers had he stayed with the team.

    I had to ask the question ; )

    • oilerjed

      When Dubnyk was here EVERYONE was screaming for his head. The fact that he turned around is great for him but means ZERO for the Oilers. That is the point of moving guys sometimes, change is good. In Dubnyk’s case three changes were better. I wonder if the other teams that cut him loose are worrying about it?

        • Just a Fan

          Dubnyk only failed because of a very bad coach.

          Other teams (Montreal and Nashville) passed on him because they didn’t need a goalie and didn’t want to waste time and salary on him

          • hagar

            Are you serious? There is no way any team knowingly passes on a future Vezina goalie. His trade value alone would be huge. What do you think a Tuukka Rask or a Henrik Lundqvist is worth in a trade? Not only did the Oilers fail to see Dubnyk’s potential, but Nashville, Montreal and Arizona failed as well. Either all these teams are run by clowns just as stupid as MacT, or player evaluation is not that simple.

      • Paq Twinn

        Of the 4 teams to trade Dubnyk, 2 have legit #1’s with quality backups and 2 wanted to lose or at least didn’t care if they won.
        I admit to joining the Dubie hate Wagon I was one of the last on and I will never forget/forgive that mistake.

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Kevwan

    The worst part of presser seems to be no sense of relief in near future for much better results than this dismal season . A lot of rehashed gobblety gook .

  • camdog

    Balanced and fair blog, nice read.

    Mact essentially replaced Hemsky with Perron and then Perron with Pouliot. At first I wasn’t happy with the Perron trade but then I realized that Perron had been replaced in the line up by a FA acquisition.

    Once Pouliot was here, there wan not longer room for both.