by Lisa McRitchie on 04/16/13 at 12:00 AM ET
Out with the old, in with the… older?
The Edmonton Oilers clearly needed to see and make some changes in their head office, as evidenced by the fact that they aren’t pulling off changes for their on ice product. True, there have been multiple 4th line and bottom 6 player changes, there have even been a few defencemen moved in and out of the lineup, but the 4th line isn’t what needs to change to propel the team to the playoffs.
Through the failings of season after season, the Oilers have amassed an impressive amount of talented and skilled young players. This is cannot be disputed. Just how the team failed, that’s something that can be debated.
Was it coaching? Was it management? Was it a plan to fail? Or is the losing mentality just that well rooted in the building, could it even be haunted?
The Oilers tried to change out the coaching staff, starting of course with Craig MacTavish and ending with Ralph Kreuger, but the results have been much the same year after year. The first assumption in the coaching moves was of course, that the team was adequate, but that the coach just couldn’t motivate or manipulate the lineups enough to create wins. You can make that assumption once, maybe even twice, but at some point you have to realize that there is something more going on.
Cue the management change.
People were surprised to hear that President of Hockey Operations, Kevin Lowe, called a press conference Monday morning, but surprised because people were beginning to wonder if the Oilers would even let Steve Tambellini go. After all, he was the first fresh blood brought into the organization; he wasn’t one of the boys on the bus.
But while Tambellini was able to successfully win the lottery, three years in a row, he wasn’t able to take the team beyond those bottom of the league finishes. He’s a very nice man, a patient man, and a man that isn’t going to lose his temper with anyone.
That’s not to say that we expect Craig MacTavish to come into his first press conference and start throwing chairs and screaming obscenities, but this is the man who ripped out Harvey the Hound’s tongue in a moment of passion. This is a man who was able to take the 8th place Oilers to game 7 of the 2006 Stanely Cup playoffs. Given the right players, MacT could surprise us once again, but from the front office.
Right now for the Oilers, the gaping holes are not goaltending, and even defence is shaping up. Right now, the Oilers need a top six player who can add grit (not another bruiser, just toughness) to the lineup as well as keep up with the untouchable young talent. To get that, the Oilers will have to give up something of value. It will have to be more than Ryan Whitney, Theo Peckham or even Ben Eager. No, instead of players that the Oilers don’t want, the Oilers are going to have to trade a player that they do want, to get a player they need.
And while you can see Tambellini as being unable to pull the trade of a player he thinks is a “really nice guy” you can’t quite see the same from MacT. Even if it means a player he has history with, like Sam Gagner.
Changing out the GM office staff, even for what seems to be more of the same is a good thing at this point. MacT has excellent hockey knowledge, is articulate, passionate and knows what being a winning team is like. Whether he knows exactly what players will be the right balance and mixture for another winning Oilers’ team remains to be seen, but something had to change, and MacT was clearly brought in for just this occasion.
Bring in MacT won’t magically make things better, but things really can’t get much worse for the Oilers, and the team HAS to make the playoffs next season. Even though MacT is one of the boys on the bus, and a close personal friend of the owner, Kevin Lowe, the assistant coaching staff and even a number of the players he won’t be given unlimited seasons to make improvements. So while this move is a gamble, it’s a mitigated risk, and at least it’s a change in the front office staff.
MacT may be old news, and not new to the team, this will be his first crack at being a GM. And while coaching and TSN media personality may not be his calling for the rest of his career, perhaps GM is.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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