Burn It Down

Bruce Bennett

Despite initial high hopes for Craig MacTavish in the role as General Manager, the team's unrelenting habit of acquiring ineffective assets means its time to Burn this thing to the ground.

I'm a Craig MacTavish fan. Genuinely, I am. I loved him as a coach and had honest hope that he could succeed in the role of General Manager of the Oilers. Those hopes are quickly beginning to fade into the darkness.

MacT has made some excellent moves. He was credited with the recruitment of Justin Schultz before being named GM, he signed Boyd Gordon last summer (which was a player the Oilers HAD to have, and he got it done) and he robbed St. Louis of David Perron in exchange for Magnus Paajarvi in a move which showed skill at identifying under-valued assets. He also moved former Captain Shawn Horcoff without retaining any salary in a deal many thought couldn't be made. Heck, I'll even give him credit for trading Ladislav Smid before the rest of the league realized his game had fallen off and may not be coming back. He didn't hit a home run on that trade, but he got himself out from under yet another contract that may have hurt the team over the next few years and taken a roster spot from a more effective player.

A guy who makes moves like these can be a successful GM. Unfortunately, that's only half of the Jekyll and Hyde routine that exists when it comes to MacTavish's job performance.

You see, he's also claimed Steve MacIntyre AND Luke Gazdic off waivers, re-signed Ryan Jones to an overpayment of a contract and bet on Ryan Hamilton, Jesse Joensuu and Will Acton to be contributors to the team rather than signing actual NHL players instead. "But those are all 4th line guys...they don't play enough for it to matter" you might say. I disagree with that because I think accepting that your 4th line cannot have positive value is accepting mediocrity (Chicago's 4th line says hi, BTW), but even if we grant that point, these signings display poor judgement and an inability to effectively evaluate organizational needs and whether or not a player is fit to fill them.

He also signed Andrew Ference to an overpayment of a contract that goes at least a year (more likely two) too long. There are a lot of people who disagree with me about Ference, and that's fine. Debate is pretty much what the internet exists for. The biggest issue I have with Ference is that last summer, the team needed two top 4 Dmen...MacT got none. Instead, he signed Ference, who is a reasonably decent 3rd pairing Dman, and placed him in a role he was incapable of filling successfully. Unsurprisingly...it hasn't worked.

That laundry list of bad moves is nothing compared to the epic garbage fire that was the tenure of Steve Tambellini, but "Better than Tambellini" is a pretty low bar to clear. I think Oiler fans can and should expect much more. Until today, my assessment of Craig MacTavish was that he made some smart moves, but didn't go far enough to get the job done and showed complacency in filling out the bottom of his roster with marginal players. The mistakes were worrisome, but not enough that I would endorse another change in the General Manager role.

And then, today happened.

The Oilers wanted to move on from Devan Dubnyk. That was obvious. But, instead of just letting his contract run out at the end of the season, they moved him out mid-way through a season that was already lost, and took on another marginal NHL player who now carries a commitment for this year plus an additional three seasons at a cap hit of $1.85M/yr., which to me, is an overpayment of about 100%. The Oilers could have just let Dubnyk walk away, or waived him and if necessary sent him to the AHL for the remainder of the season if they wanted to make space for Scrivens. Instead, they now carry a contract that may inhibit them from acquiring some necessary pieces next off-season (if you think the size of this contract is inconsequential, I'm happy to explain why its not) and have a below-average NHL player likely taking up a spot on their 4th line for the next 3 years when the team is supposed to be improving.

Let me be clear about this. Matt Hendricks will not make this team even the slightest bit more likely to make the playoffs next year or in any of the years remaining on his contract.

To me, that is how a GM should be evaluated. Do his moves make the team better for either the short term or the long-term. This deal did neither. He took a non-existent problem (the season is already lost and they had no commitment to Dubnyk beyond this year) and created a circumstance which makes the team's ability to pull itself out of this endless rebuild even more difficult than it already was.

I don't accept that. I don't think Oiler fans should accept that. It should piss you off. Its difficult to do after 8 years, but I refuse to lower my expectations or settle for mediocrity. Make smart moves. Get Better. Win. End of story. If you can't do it, then you're not the guy for the job.

I haven't gotten into the whole "Fire Lowe" movement because I really don't know who is the source of the problem. That said, I think the mantra that we've lived by here at Copper & Blue for the last few years is still the right way to go.

"Fire Them All To Be Safe"

If you don't know who the problem is, get rid of everyone. Leave no doubt the problem is gone.

I've been trying to find the right way to articulate my thoughts on Oiler management, and then I realized that Linkin Park had already said it better than I ever could...

You lost that right, to hold that crown

I built you up, but you let me down

So when you fall, I'll take my turn

And fan the flames

As your blazes burn.

We can't wait, to burn it to the ground.

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