I'm getting really tired of the uber-critical analysis of the job Craig MacTavish is doing (i.e. the players he's adding). I get the frustration with the Oilers' not making the playoffs in 7 seasons. I get that there has been negativity that has permeated the locker room and the fan-base. I get that we're all tired of hearing the word "rebuild". But, let's take a look at the changes that MacT has made since he's been in charge and then let's see if the team has gotten better or worse.
Significant Departing players
Whitney, Khabibulin, Horcoff, Paajarvi, Belanger (Danis)
Likely departing players
Hordichuk, Petrell, Smithson, Peckham, Plante
Significant New Oilers
Belov, Ference, Gordon, Labarbara, Perron (Acton, Joensuu, Hamilton)
- Whitney/Peckham/Plante/Teubert replaced by Ference, Belov, Klefbom & Hunt
- Khabibulin replaced by LaBarbera
- Horcoff replaced by Gordon
- Paajarvi replaced by Perron
- Petrell replaced by Joensuu
- Smithson replaced by Acton (likely Lander on the roster)
- Danis replaced by Bachman (not relevant to the NHL roster)
Then they added Joensuu and Hamilton to possibly play bottom-six minutes.
I don't see any area where the team has gotten worse than last year, except maybe that Bachman isn't what Danis was as an AHL goalie, but then, maybe he is.
As far as I can tell, the team has made changes that are both substantive and improvement-oriented. It's one thing to sit in a sports-fantasy world, crunching numbers and poring over statistics to analyze the pros and cons of the various players. It's another thing to take a more Gestalt view of the team as being more than the sum of its parts.
If you've ever played team sports, you know that some days you feel amazing and kill it, other days you don't. Sometimes you know why, sometimes you don't. There are many intangibles both individually and as a team. The job of any athlete is to maximize the number of days you perform well. You can't predict it, you can't bottle it, it just happens. Pros find ways to be more consistent performers. In a number of areas it shows in the stats sheets, but there isn't a statistic to measure every aspect of every player or the team as a whole.
What we saw in the Oilers last season was a young, raw team that had little practice time. They were poised for success with 10 games remaining and then faltered. I believe we'll see a different Oilers team this year. Eakins has something to prove and by all accounts, he runs a tight ship. I don't think that Krueger was a bad coach, but I think Eakins will set a very high bar for his players. More practice will help - a lot!
Being a GM or a coach is equal parts art and science. You can't just pick and choose who is going to be a part of your team. There are other factors involved. Trades don't just happen because you want them to. Players don't always want to leave their city, home, family, friends, teammates, etc. to pick up and move to a new place. MacT has done a great job of overcoming those challenges. All in all, MacTavish is doing a great job of working with what he has - not many professional athletes in North America want to live in Edmonton for 8-9 months of the year. This is not NHL 13!
Last year the expectations for this team were high, perhaps unreasonably high. This year, the expectations are low, perhaps unjustifiably low. Seems like a great recipe for success to me.
I'm not saying the Oilers are done. Maybe they can move Hemsky, maybe they can't. They could still use a top-pairing defenseman and they could definitely improve in some areas (like a 4C), but MacT has stated numerous times that he's committed to improving and I see no evidence that he hasn't put his best efforts into it. Bottom line, the team is improving and the process will continue . . . indefinitely.