Thirty years after leaving ULowell following his sophomore year to begin a pro career that saw him become an NHL All-Star and etch his name on four Stanley Cups, MacTavish is back in school, working for an MBA at Queens University in Kingston, Ont.
In what should come as no surprise, Craig MacTavish is using his time away from the game to better himself. As quoted above, Chaz Scoggins brings us news that MacTavish is going to add an MBA to his already impressive resume. That lengthy resume includes ECAC Player of the Year, All-American honors, playoff MVP, a Division II title, four Stanley Cups, three years as an NHL assistant coach, and eight years as an NHL head coach. Add to that an MBA and MacTavish's resume has all of the qualifications of a General Manager in the NHL.
I've often complained that management personnel in the NHL are woefully lacking of the background and skills necessary to run a large-scale business like a multi-million dollar pro sports franchise. A significant number of people within management have little more than an equivalency degree others have a single professional qualification -- they have a personal relationship with someone within the management of the franchise that they are working for. Craig MacTavish does not suffer from the same problem.
MacTavish understands what it takes to develop non-pedigreed players into outscoring NHL players. Under his watch, Fernando Pisani, and Shawn Horcoff developed into bonafide NHL outscorers despite having pedigrees that linked them more to a third-line plugger role. Horcoff, in fact, credits his success to MacTavish:
"I owe a lot to him. He did a lot for my career and he helped me a lot in becoming and putting me in the situation and making me the player than I am today"
His work with Liam Reddox was starting to pay dividends this year prior to the dirty hit by Buffalo's Clarke MacArthur, which derailed Reddox's game and sent him back to the AHL.
Not only does MacTavish understand how to develop those players without a draft pedigree, he's demonstrated an ability to develop, even if it requires a tear-down first, high-end talent into NHL outscorers. MacTavish turned Ales Hemsky into an outscorer without limiting his creativity and explosiveness. His work with Sam Gagner began paying dividends last year, and thus far this year, Gagner is still on track to become a tough-minutes NHL center.
When it comes to roster management, MacTavish was put into situations by his general manager, whether it was Kevin Lowe or Steven Tambellini, that forced him to coach majorly unbalanced rosters. Whether it was a lack of defense, a lack of forwards, an over-abundance of unproven rookies, or an shortage of proven veterans, each year the roster was incomplete. The effect was two-fold. The general manager's mistakes left him with a deep understanding of the need for a balanced roster as well as an understanding of the value of real NHL players, especially relatively cheap veterans from the Wes Walz genus.
In his final season with the Oilers, MacTavish seemed to burn out. He made no excuses for his poor season, and being the man that he is, he will take lessons away from a situation that he struggled to manage. MacTavish is intelligent enough to understand his limitations.
He pointed that out this year in an interview with TSN, saying "... the players lost their trust and faith in me and my ability to get the job done, and for a large part I think that was the same for me, that I lost faith in the players." The situation escalated and he made things personal in the media, something he hadn't previously done. More than most general managers in the NHL MacTavish is likely to learn from his mistakes and surround himself with competent assistants to handle areas in which he may display weaknesses.
He knows how to handle the media as anyone that has listened to a MacTavish post-game interview or press conference is well-aware. There will be no "...is it me?" moments, no "MACT ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE" moments, and no "deer in headlights" moments.