In two years as Edmonton Oilers general manager, Craig MacTavish consistently made it clear that he had no desire to move the team’s core players. The definition of the core moved a little over time, but it was clear at all points along the way that as far as the G.M. was concerned the team’s best young players would provide the best value right where they were.
On his first day as general manager, Peter Chiarelli sang a very different tune.
The Old Song
- MacTavish, April 2013: “If you’re referring to [trading] the young core that we paid such an exceptionally high price to acquire, we would part with those assets very begrudgingly.”
- MacTavish, April 2014: “We’re building our team around this group. You have to have pieces in that locker room that you view as guys that are going to develop into winners, guys that are going to develop into superstars, and I feel strongly that we have a number of those pieces in there and those are the guys that we’re going to build that team around. I want them to feel the ownership, I want them to feel the loyalty, from myself and the coaching staff that we have the confidence in them to drive this team forward. When you talk to those players, Jordan Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, certainly Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz, those guys have to feel that they’re the Edmonton Oilers and they have the responsibility to drive this core for many years.”
- MacTavish, April 2015: “Growing with the players that we’ve committed to and we want to support these players; that’s what we want to be all about as an organization. We want to bring players in, we want a relationship with our players that’s deeper than a mercenary relationship, we want the players to feel the support of the organization. I think that’s still exactly what I want to do moving forward.”
The New Guy
Chiarelli famously traded Tyler Seguin, originally taken No. 2 in the 2010 Draft, to Dallas in a massive blockbuster deal. It’s worth noting too that the Bruins only had the Seguin pick because earlier on Chiarelli had moved a 22-year-old Phil Kessel to Toronto for draft selections.
TSN’s Ryan Rishaug asked Chiarelli about the Seguin trade and framed it against the Oilers’ group of young forwards, and the answer he got was very different from the sort of things MacTavish has said:
I’ve actually made a few trades of good young forwards so that’s something I won’t shy away from. That was a trade that had underlying reasons that I won’t get into, but he is a terrific player, he was our leading scorer and that’s what I’ll say about that one. In this business you can’t be afraid to make trades. The way that the parity is developing, the way that the cap is closing in, the margins are really small, so those are ways to improve your team. I’m not afraid of doing it; it has to be the right moment. There are some very good young players on this team; doesn’t mean that I’m going to trade any of them. But those are deals you can’t be afraid to make. They have to be well-measured, you have to be well-informed. That deal was – obviously he’s a very good player and there were reasons for doing it.
There are many who would consider the Seguin deal to be a significant loss for the Bruins in terms of on-ice impact. I’m one of them, and if Chiarelli were to trade Taylor Hall tomorrow for the equivalent of Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson and futures he would be rightfully condemned.
But in the big picture, there does need to be a willingness on management’s part to consider any move that would improve their team. There can be no sacred cows on a team as perpetually inept as the Oilers have been.
Twice Chiarelli commented that a general manager can’t be afraid of making trades, and he’s right. Every move is a gamble and some of them aren’t going to work out; a G.M. guards against mistakes by being well-informed and carefully weighing his actions and over time the good ones have more wins than losses. The knowledge that a loss is possible can’t prevent a G.M. from taking a good risk, even if the stakes are high.
Chiarelli enters the job with fresh eyes and beholden to nobody. He may choose to keep the core together, but on Day 1 he made it extremely clear that all options are open.
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