16

Top 100 Oilers: Craig MacTavish (17)

Craig MacTavish’s tenure as a member of the Edmonton Oilers spans 32 years. That includes parts of nine seasons and 701 games as a player in which he won three Stanley Cups and served two seasons as team captain, which is the primary focus when it comes to his place on this list of Top 100 Oilers. It’s a tenure, of course, that is considerably broader and more complicated than that.

MacTavish’s time in Edmonton has seen him coach and manage with the Oilers since his playing days as a checking centre, face-off specialist and captain were done – with considerably less success than he enjoyed wearing jersey No. 14 with the Boys on the Bus. Of that, there is no debate. For those old enough to remember, it’s also a tenure that began with MacTavish as a reclamation project. Each day since then speaks volumes about MacTavish’s character as a man.

Craig MacTavish

Center — shoots L
Born Aug 15 1958 — London, ONT
Height 6.01 — Weight 195 [185 cm/88 kg]

Drafted by Boston Bruins

Round 9 #153 overall 1978 NHL Amateur Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1979-80

21

BOS

46

11

17

28

16

8

61

18.0

1980-81

22

BOS

24

3

5

8

-1

13

44

6.8

1981-82

23

BOS

2

0

1

1

0

0

1

0.0

1982-83

24

BOS

75

10

20

30

15

18

120

8.3

1983-84

25

BOS

70

20

23

43

9

35

135

14.8

1985-86

27

EDM

74

23

24

47

17

70

121

19.0

1986-87

28

EDM

79

20

19

39

9

55

140

14.3

1987-88

29

EDM

80

15

17

32

-3

47

90

16.7

1988-89

30

EDM

80

21

31

52

10

55

120

17.5

1989-90

31

EDM

80

21

22

43

13

89

109

19.3

1990-91

32

EDM

80

17

15

32

-1

76

113

15.0

1991-92

33

EDM

80

12

18

30

-1

98

86

14.0

1992-93

34

EDM

82

10

20

30

-16

110

101

9.9

1993-94

35

TOT

78

20

12

32

-14

91

122

16.4

1993-94

35

EDM

66

16

10

26

-20

80

97

16.5

1993-94

35

NYR

12

4

2

6

6

11

25

16.0

1994-95

36

PHI

45

3

9

12

2

23

38

7.9

1995-96

37

TOT

68

5

9

14

-9

70

58

8.6

1995-96

37

PHI

55

5

8

13

-3

62

42

11.9

1995-96

37

STL

13

0

1

1

-6

8

16

0.0

1996-97

38

STL

50

2

5

7

-12

33

26

7.7

9 yrs EDM

701

155

176

331

8

680

977

15.9

5 yrs BOS

217

44

66

110

39

74

361

12.2

2 yrs PHI

100

8

17

25

-1

85

80

10.0

2 yrs STL

63

2

6

8

-18

41

42

4.8

1 yr NYR

12

4

2

6

6

11

25

16.0

Career

1093

213

267

480

34

891

1485

14.3

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1979-80

21

BOS

10

2

3

5

7

1982-83

24

BOS

17

3

1

4

18

1983-84

25

BOS

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0.0

1985-86

27

EDM

10

4

4

8

6

11

17

23.5

1986-87

28

EDM

21

1

9

10

1

16

35

2.9

1987-88

29

EDM

19

0

1

1

0

31

12

0.0

1988-89

30

EDM

7

0

1

1

1

8

10

0.0

1989-90

31

EDM

22

2

6

8

6

29

21

9.5

1990-91

32

EDM

18

3

3

6

-3

20

24

12.5

1991-92

33

EDM

16

3

0

3

4

28

27

11.1

1993-94

35

NYR

23

1

4

5

0

22

15

6.7

1994-95

36

PHI

15

1

4

5

-3

20

13

7.7

1995-96

37

STL

13

0

2

2

0

6

11

0.0

1996-97

38

STL

1

0

0

0

-1

2

0

Career

193

20

38

58

11

218

187

8.0

NOTABLE

We can’t have a discussion about MacTavish as a player, coach or manager without recognition of the life-altering event that landed him in Edmonton. MacTavish was signed as a free agent after five years with the Boston Bruins by GM Glen Sather after serving a year in prison for vehicular homicide in the death of 26-year-old Kim Radley in Massachusetts in 1984. Radley died of injuries four days after a multi-car wreck that was caused when her vehicle was struck by a car driven by MacTavish, who was under the influence of alcohol. You can read a more thorough account here.

MacTavish served his time and made peace with the parents of Radley, Ron and Hazel Foote, in a face-to-face meeting upon his first return to Boston as a member of the Oilers. It was in that first meeting that Ron and Hazel Foote expressed their willingness to forgive and that MacTavish expressed his remorse to them face-to-face. That doesn’t change what happened, but it does lend context. MacTavish has visited the Footes more than once – I witnessed one of those visits during a morning skate in Boston.

“I was real apprehensive about doing it,” MacTavish told the New York Daily News. “Sure I was nervous. But I knew it was something I had to do. I wanted to do it . . . it was definitely a turning point. It alleviated some of my guilt, obviously. I can`t say enough about them. They were unbelievable. Just unreal people. They`re a real religious family, and I think their attitude toward it was it being an act of God rather than my irresponsibility.”

THE STORY

MacTavish scored 23 goals in this first season with the Oilers, then had 20 in his second on the way to winning his first Cup in 1987. He had a career-high 52 points in 1988-89. MacTavish would score 20-or-more goals four times with the Oilers, but his bread and butter was as a stifling defensive forward, a penalty killer and a guy who dominated on the dot. MacTavish claimed his fourth Cup ring in 1994 with the New York Rangers after being dealt for Todd Marchant at the trade deadline. That New York team, of course, was basically a reunion of former Oilers on a roster that included Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Esa Tikkanen and Jeff Beukeboom.

It didn’t take MacTavish long after his retirement at the conclusion of the 1996-1997 season to return to Edmonton. After two seasons as an assistant coach with the Rangers, MacTavish rejoined the Oilers as an assistant under Lowe for the 1999-2000 season. He took over as head coach for the 2000-01 campaign when Lowe replaced Sather as GM. MacTavish’s high-water mark in eight seasons as coach came in 2005-06, when the Oilers reached the 2006 Cup final, losing in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Relieved of his duties by GM Steve Tambellini in April of 2009, MacTavish returned to the Oilers and was later named Tambellini’s replacement as GM in April 2013. As the Oilers approached 10 straight years out of the playoffs, MacTavish was replaced as GM by Pete Chiarelli before the 2015-16 season. He remains with the Oilers as vice-president of hockey operations. It’s been a long and winding road for MacTavish, who sits fourth in franchise record books for shorthanded goals (29), seventh in game-winning goals (25) and eighth in games played (701) since he arrived, but it’s one that lands him on my Top 100 list as a player.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • Hemmercules

    Pretty amazing he had such a long career in hockey after spending a year in prison. These days that type of thing would probably sink your chances of ever playing in a major league again. Good for him for making peace with that family. That would be an extremely difficult thing to do.

    I was pretty young to still remember a ton from his tenure in Edmonton but I will never forget him being one of the only guys going helmetless pretty much his entire career.

    Its too bad he was such a terrible GM and couldn’t continue his career as successful coach elsewhere after that cup run, my freshest memories of MacT aren’t good ones thats for sure. At least for him he gets to remain with the team he loves even if he’s just a background guy.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    Something people may not remember about MacTavish is that he could really throw “em . Without looking I think I remember seeing him fight Brian Savage toward the end of his career and he absolutely destroyed him. I found it on hockeyfights.com, just not the video, but trust me he was a very good pugilist.

    • Spaceman Spiff

      Yes! I was actually going to mention his fighting ability but you beat me to it. He wasn’t a heavyweight – not even a light-heavyweight – but he was a legit-good middleweight whom others seldom trifled with.

  • Lamar's Javelin

    Love this series and enjoy the stories & writing. May the coming players’ write-ups strictly focus on their time as players without the need to harrow in any manure from time spent in other capacities with the club. That’s low-hanging fruit to be plucked, patently obvious stuff that isn’t worthy of a good writer. Spend the ltd # of inches on the player and their involvement in the team’s success.

    • It’s about context. So, if it fits, I will continue to include snippets not tied directly to on-ice performance. In this case, you cannot leave something this significant out. I have nothing but admiration and respect for Craig and for the man he’s been since getting a second chance with the Oilers.

        • Spydyr

          It is part of history. Kudos on Robin for putting it in the article. Mentioning his past be it in the article or the comments does not make anyone a “troll.” Some people think if you ignore the truth it will go away.

          • In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion,[3] often for the troll’s amusement.

  • braddos

    Craig was always one the boys on the bus i respected the most. Loved watching him locked down the other team’s power play! He was an amazing defensive player, best I’ve ever seen. His post-game interviews through that rough period are legendarily hilarious! The one where he just knocked his head against the mic and walked off… classic. And who could forget him ripping Harvey the hound’s tongue out…Loved Mac as player and coach and that’s how i decide to remember all his good he gave this franchise! https://youtu.be/8JeF271w2WE

  • Spydyr

    “Relieved of his duties by GM Steve Tambellini in April of 2009, MacTavish returned to the Oilers and was later named Tambellini’s replacement as GM.”

    A plot in a bad daytime soap opera or the Oilers during the decade of despair?

  • ubermiguel

    One thing that I clearly remember from watching MacT play back in the day was his relentless one-man forecheck; I don’t think I’ve seen a player that was better at forcing opposing defencemen back behind their own red line to regroup for the breakout.

    MacT has seen the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, and he seems to have come out of it a better man. His biography (if one ever came out) is one of the few in hockey books I’d ever read. And we should never forget Kim Radley and why drinking and driving is a stupid thing to do.

    • Craig has never forgotten. Like I said, Craig has met with her parents many times over the years and he’s done it mostly privately, out of the spotlight with no desire to make a public display of it. I watched them huddle and talk quietly that one day at the rink in Boston. I will never forget it.

  • D

    If memory serves me correctly, MacT was the one who took the final face-off in the 1994 Stanley Cup. It was in the Rangers zone when the Canucks were trying to tie Game 7 with the extra man on ice.

    I respect Craig MacTavish and all he has done in life. Really miss the days of him rocking on the ice for the Oilers in the 1980s.