New Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish had some scathing things to say about the role players left to him by the previous administration. Notably, he made it clear that players at the bottom of the roster needed to be improved upon, and they needed to be a threat to score more often than they had been in the past. Has he accomplished his summer goal? Or has he fallen victim to the same pitfalls as his predecessor?
The Oilers' six most oft-used forwards in 2012-13 were Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. With these players as an outline for the top of the lineup, we find that the team deployed 14 other forwards throughout the course of the year. Below is a table that details the seven players who departed from that group in the off season, as well as their replacements.
So far things aren't looking particularly different, let alone improved. To MacTavish's credit, he righted a wrong with Linus Omark, but whether or not he's an improvement on Paajarvi is plenty debatable. Boyd Gordon assumes the old Belanger role, and yet as everyone knows he's somehow Horcoff's replacement as well. Even more alarming is that the situation at center is getting so desperate that Jerred Smithson is beginning to look good.
Beyond these players, there are seven returnees who will once again be plying their trade in Edmonton. These are: Ales Hemsky/Nail Yakupov (depending which you prefer on a lower line), Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones, Anton Lander, Ben Eager, Mike Brown, and Mark Arcobello. Tyler Pitlick may get a shot, but one cannot credit MacTavish for acquiring him.
So the choice is yours. Assuming a healthy lineup, which group of role players is better: Steve Tambellini's ragtag bunch from 2012-13, or the fruit of Craig MacTavish's promised growth and change?