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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • vetinari

    Great. At best, some areas of the organization got marginally better while the rest either treded water or took multiple steps back. The draft and develop model only lacked one big step– the development part.

  • 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.

  • Spoils

    first round pick, former WJC young goalie is given a new goalie coach and then placed in front of a terrible D, that buckles under the swarm system. the wheels fall off and he becomes a major liability in net…

    fast forward a year and a half. new team. that plays great positional hockey. that same goalie could possibly get a Vezina nomination.

    soooo I can’t say I wouldn’t have done anything better, but maybe a truly great GM wouldn’t have let it play out that way? maybe?

  • hagar

    This isn’t a team with a plan struggling to make the playoffs after having next to nothing (flames, jets). This is a management group that has been afforded opportunities that any gm or president could dream of.

    This isn’t a matter of patience, this is a complete and udder blunder of unheard of opportunity in professional sports.

  • CMG30

    I thought as soon as he would leave he would be on top of the world so when he went to the predators I ate Crow but now everyone can eat crow together hahaha

  • S cottV

    And also the year when dubs had the nine twenty and there was still everyone calling for his head , half the articles on oilers nation where about how good dubnyk really was considering how bad the team in front of him was. and now all those articles are completely proven right Hahah

  • hagar

    Hall, Nuge, and Ebs are NOT players we locked up as young guns to get us into the playoffs for a reasonable price, while we spend money on dman and such.

    The team is already obligated to pay them top dollar because they never managed to use them while they were cheap.

    There is no way for the oilers to lock up 3 or 4 solid dman, 1 or 2 good goalies, and still afford to pay the “core”. The “cores” initial value has already been squandered, and now we are starting a “re-build” WAAAAAY further towards the salary cap than any actual new rebuild team would ever be.

    The oilers are screwed with what they are paying, for what they have. This is why patience will not work.

  • WTF2

    Good piece. It’s so frustrating that management hasn’t been fired yet. Just the Petry blunder alone is grounds for firing (given the already pathetic state of the blueline). And what the hell does “potential for growth” mean anyway? He has sounded really defensive in the last few press conferences. I don’t want him to tell me as a fan that things are going in the right direction. I want him to admit his mistakes and provide an honest assessment of the situation. But he just keeps spouting nonsense about how awesome Player X is going to be next year…

    Daryl Katz has to do the right thing here. Clear the decks and bring in an experienced management group. The new arena would a lot be more fun with a winning team, and these guys cannot deliver that. Lowe and MacT have no clue what they are doing. We’ve burned almost an entire decade on this debacle.

  • Nobody could have predicted that Dubnyk would turn it around this much, but given what we know about goalies it should have been clear that last season was not representative of a very large body of solid work on a very bad team.

    I’m not sure why MacTavish would look down on Dubnyk’s performance before he made his infamous “if you have to ask the question” comment, but that was BEFORE Dubnyk fell apart. It speaks to a lack of ability in assessing talent, which is the single biggest reason that this franchise cannot and will not turn around with this management group.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    The main problem was klowe traded away all the useful nhl players with grit for skilled players that couldn’t make it on other teams. Then he emptied the prospect cupboards and promoted himself to poho. Tambo inherited a team that had no other option but to hit rock bottom. With no prospects in the system and poor drafting in the first couple years of the rebuild, the team is stuck in the position they are in. A winning record seems so far away, and MacT sees the team improving. Is he blind? I’m losing hope. Go Jets go.

    • hagar

      He promoted himself from oilers coach, to gm, to president. If there was such thing as super president, Klowe would now be that.

      This is the only sports team, or business for that matter, that will promote people that suck, to a higher position.

      “Hey Mact!!! You couldn’t really do anything with the team as the head coach.. you wanna try GM??”

      I am still waiting for Eakins to come back in some other role on the team. I would be less surprised to wake up to an alien jerking me off.

      • Just a Fan

        Most organizations promote people who ‘suck’ to a higher level. Sometimes it is the Peter principle (look it up) and sometimes it is to get them out of key positions they are not doing well. You promote them while at the same time reducing their responsibility and impact to your organization. It is my opinion that Kevin Lowe falls into the latter category.

        As for MacT, you are being pretty revisionist. MacT was a very effective coach. He had crap for teams but they always worked hard and were always competitive. Saying that he couldn’t do anything as a coach so they promoted him to GM just does not fit the facts.

        • Just a Fan


          MacTavish was a “very effective coach”? He was HC coach of the Oilers for eight years and THEY MISSED THE PLAYOFFS FIVE TIMES. Two other times they were gone in the first round.

          The Cup Run was a fluke. THEY GOT LUCKY AND THEIR GOALIE GOT HOT. Everybody knows that, that’s why he couldn’t get a sniff of another head coach job in the NHL.

          Three years ago Peter DeBoer led New Jersey to the Stanley Cup final. They got lucky and their goalie got hot. He has been fired twice since then, and can’t find an NHL HC job.

          Sometimes people get lucky. MacTavish is a fool.

  • Just a Fan

    Nice job, JW. Keep on disecting MacT’s nonsense.

    Since the MSM won’t ask the tough questions and use facts to back them up (or Oilers management won’t let them ask questions), we are relying on writers like you to take management to task.

  • Just a Fan

    Credit where credit is due: MacT has 2 prospects who are top 10 picks who aren’t guaranteed an NHL job next year. Sure Draisatl was rushed, but at least he was put back. Nurse has been developed properly. I’d like to see ALL for both, and that’s the test, but we have to have the most high end talent in our prospect pool with those w.2.

  • Andy7190


    Fire MacT. Peter Chiarelli is available. He’s proven he can build a team and win. He’s also one of the main architechs of the Ottawa Senators club that dominated their division for several years, but didn’t win the cup because they always had a GM who couldn’t get a goalie.

    Chiarelli would be a godsend to the Oilers.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    If they really wanted to do what is best for this organization, Chiarelli would be hired TODAY, and MacT would be “dejobified”, or whatever they want to call it to make it sound nice.

    Unfortunately, Katz sees the Oilers as a hobby that was the doorway to an epic real estate development. If logic gets in the way of his good time, it is paid no heed.


  • PutzStew

    I think Perron is a more interesting deletion than Magnus. That trade almost netted us a lottery pick and a fourth-liner. Yet he doesn’t warrant a mention in your article.

    I feel any improvement the team has made can be attributed to our high-profile young players getting another season under their belt, not with the moves management has made.

    RE: Dubnyk

    Dubnyk’s improvement was his decision with an assist from Elliot Friedman.

    As an Oiler fan, all you can hope for is many, many, many injuries in the Calgary/Vancouver series.

  • 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!!!!!!

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I just realized it is the two year anniversary of the press conference where Lowe famously derided tier 2 fans, said he know something about winning and proudly exclaimed that half the teams in the league would trade their roster for ours.

    2 year check point and what progress has been made?