MacTavish - The Devolution of an NHL General Manager

Bruce Bennett

On April 15, 2013 The Edmonton Oilers announced Craig MacTavish would take over as General Manager of the team. It was a day filled with mixed reaction from the media, the blogosphere and from twitter. Steve Tambellini was finally gone and there was a sense of cautious optimism from the blogosphere and Twitter. It was also the first time the main stream media in Edmonton questioned a move the Oilers made in over 7 years. What a day!

I for one was quite optimistic at first. I remembered MacTavish from his days as player and as a coach. He seemed like a level headed player, he made the best of what he was given as a coach and most importantly he could form a sentence without sounding like a bumbling idiot.

By the time Craig MacTavish took over there wasn't a lot he could, the trade deadline had passed and the Oilers were headed for yet another early end to the season. At the end of the season MacTavish and the team parted ways with the likes of Ryan Whitney, Lennart Petrell, Mark Fistric, Eric Belanger, Jerred Smithson, Theo Peckham, Darcy Hordichuk, Chris VandeVelde, Yann Danis, and most importantly Nikolai Khabibulin. As the summer rolled along MacTavish made some moves that could be considered reasonable. Instead of going out and getting the big tough guys he made reasonable legitimate NHL player acquisitions like Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Denis Grebeshkov, Linus Omark, Richard Bachman and Jason Labarbera. He also made what looked to be depth moves for the Oklahoma City Barons and signed Will Acton, Jesse Joensuu, Ryan Hamilton, Brad Hunt and resigned Mark Arcobello and Taylor Fedun. Granted he made some mistakes by resigning Ryan Jones and parting ways with Teemu Hartikainen but retained his rights by qualifying him. Finally there were the trades, the Oilers traded away Shawn Horcoff for some AHL help in Filip Larsen and they also traded Magnus Paajarvi for a legitimate NHL player in David Perron. Wow that is a long list!

Losing the team's 3rd/2nd and 4th line centres in the process of these changes also made acquiring legitimate NHL centres a top priority; a task that MacTavish wouldn't be able to accomplish. MacTavish filled the void of a 3rd line centre with Gordon but was still short a legitimate 4th line centre and a fill in for his top line centre. The void was "filled" when Taylor Hall moved to centre and assumed the role of top line centre giving the Oilers Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner, Boyd Gordon and vacancy at forth line centre. The competition for the 4th line role was up for grabs in a competition between Will Acton, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander. The line up wasn't ideal but could be used as a patch work for the time being, that is to say until this happened in Vancouver.

In what can only be described as a knee jerk reaction to a unfortunate incident, the next day this happened.

Then one day after the MacIntyre waiver claim this happened.

And one day later this happened.

Ryan Jones may not be the best player the Oilers have employed over the past few years but I don't think anyone would argue that he's at least more functional than Steve MacIntyre. Linus Omark is a good player that had a bad training camp and choosing MacIntyre over Omark was a short sighted move.

To start the next game against Dallas in OKC, September 27, 2013, the Oilers decided to dress a 4th line of Steve MacIntyre - Will Acton - Mike Brown as the night went on both Steve MacIntyre and Mike Brown suffered injuries (although Brown's injury didn't seem as severe). We haven't heard anything official from the Oilers on the severity of Steve MacIntyre's injury but one can suspect the injury will cost him the loss of more than a few games after this announcement from the team.

As I mentioned earlier the Oilers' true need was and still is depth at centre. Sure any team would in the NHL would suffer if the top 2 centres on their team went down but how many good teams would fill their need with players that couldn't play hockey. How many would address their depth issues with players that didn't play more than 3 minutes a game? How many would overlook legitimate NHL players to make their team worse? If the Oilers really needed toughness they still had Mike Brown and Ben Eager to fill that role in the interim. What really made the Gazdic claim worse was that there were some real proven depth centres available on waivers that same day but instead the Oilers decided to pick up some "heat" in an effort to protect the team.

This has been a major part of the Oilers issues for the past 4 years. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall have spent their entire NHL careers on a team has felt it more important to "protect" them with guys that can't play hockey than surrounding them with players that could actually help them win games. Since Hall's and Eberle's rookie seasons the Oilers have employed Steve MacIntyre x2, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Mike Brown and now Luke Gazdic. In what a lot of people thought was specifically a Steve Tambellini trait, Craig MacTavish has doubled down on these "protectors of the stars" and is making a clear statement as to where he stands when it comes to these types of players.

Not only has Craig MacTavish filled the 4th line with players that would never see NHL ice time on a contending team he hasn't addressed the more pressing matter that is depth at centre. To top it off the Oilers are now at 49 contracts which will make future trades and acquisitions very difficult because they will be starting from a position of weakness. This smooth talking "tactician" that many people were hoping would turn this team around has already made this team worse than they were when the season ended last year. Sure they shed some unwanted players but have acquired less functional players in the process.

The evolution or better yet devolution of Craig MacTavish's short career as a GM can be traced to a bad decision based on a play that didn't matter whether a goon was on the ice, bench or in the press box.

The Copper & Blue is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Edmonton Oilers and hockey in general. These posts do not necessarily represent the views of the staff of The Copper & Blue.

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