Craig MacTavish was on Jason Gregor’s show last night on Team 1260. It’s archived at justagame.ca and really is worth your while. I’m typing as he’s talking below, so some of the words are out of place but I did try to get the point right at the very least. My comments are in italics.
Allow me to go through each point:
1. Craig Simpson: “It’s not a great day for us and our coaching staff”. MacT mentioned he did a great job for them, that the Oilers will be bringing someone else in because there’s so much work. Moores and MacT on the PP, Huddy on PK. The guy they bring in will have emphasis on pre-game work (scouting, etc) and Huddy will have more time to spend with all the new defenders.
2. Revamped blueline: “Last year we felt the blueline had an opportunity to evolve over the year but the injuries made it difficult to overcome. We said after the season that (defense) was a focus for our team and on paper we have done that.”
3. D pairings: “We don’t have to pencil anything in, we’re going to have a very competitive camp. We have 9 defensemen we feel are NHL players. 9 is too many, so there are going to be guys on the outside looking in or there are going to be some trades made.” Jason Gregor mentioned possible pairings to his way of thinking and had Matt Greene on either the 1 or 2 pairing which I haven’t heard before from pretty much anywhere. There seems to be some distance between Greene’s results and his reputation. Are we missing something? Did he turn a corner and we missed it?
4. Penner: “My initial hope is that Dustin can come in and fill in some of the strengths because of the Ryan Smyth departure. Maybe it’s a bit of a gamble but a calculated one, and one that we had to make in my mind.” This is the best answer I’ve seen to the question of why sign Dustin Penner. They needed the bat at this time or they wouldn’t be able to compete. I still hate the move, and am really unconvinced Penner can do that job Ryan Smyth did, but there’s your answer: risk necessary because the level of established NHL talent was so low after the trades for picks and prospects they were dead in the water. God I love clarity.
5. Opening for young forward like Cogliano, Nilsson, Schremp: “We’re still going to be preaching responsibility. It’s all a game of what you create minus what you give up. If you’re creating a lot you’re going to get more latitude to try and create offense, but if you’re not productive then the balance is out of whack. We want to win hockey games. We need one of those guys to develop.” They should have MacT speak more often, the guy just makes so much sense. As hard as it is to marry some of these offseason moves to a MacT team, THAT quote is pure MacTavish. There won’t be any JFJ-style auditions this winter.
6. Veteran forwards: “I think Pisani is being overlooked to a certain degree. He had some issues that are all pretty much solved, I feel like Fernando has the ability to come in and have a really big year for us. Stollie was having a great year until he got hurt, hopefully Penner is a great fit for Hemsky.” I think some of us have talked about Pisani as a guy who might fit into that Stoll-Torres line nicely. If the Oilers need a 20-goal right winger who can play responsibly, is there a better ufa or trade option than Pisani? They might have to sign a Mike Johnson for the 3line but it’s not a bad way to go.
7. Balancing youth/experience: “It’s got to be a clear and concise plan that you set forth for these players, and all you want to see is progress. As long as you’re seeing progress, then you’ve got an ally in me and the coaching staff. If you’re diligent and have a work ethic, then you’re going to have an ally.” Always interesting to see which of the prospects gain the coaching staff’s confidence and which ones never get it. Marc Andre Bergeron is about as far from textbook hockey as you can get and yet he played and played and played for this coach and imo the reason is in the quote above.
8. Significant progress among JFJ and Pouliot: “They’re training hard. JFJ has always been fit and strong and powerful, he has to get a little composure in his game and hopefully he can develop that some of those things come a little slower than other things. Pouliot is almost the polar opposite of JFJ, he’s got lots of composure and lots of hockey sense but he’s got to train himself as a pro. This is his 4th camp coming up and he’s been behind physically through each of his previous camps. He’s exhibited the work ethic to start to train like an NHL player, he’s been to California with Chad Moreau to train. We have three of the best conditioned guys in the game in Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll and Ethan Moreau, and when you see these guys train it has to be an eye opener for these players to realize the depth of the commitment physically that you have to have to play at this elite level. Pouliot is at the wheel, if he comes and is anywhere near as fit as the average NHL player he’ll be a big help for us.” Most interesting part of the interview for me. MacT points out that Pouliot still has some work to do and reading between the lines there sounds like some frustration in the fact that he’s been behind physically in the past. Also, I’m glad they are being patient with Jacques, who remains the most unique prospect in the system.
As an aside, I’d like your help. Over at HF, a poster who heard the interview live posted “Pouliot (needs to be better physically) and Jacques (needs to be smarter) will be on the line this year and both might get the can”. I assume “can” means being cut from the roster but here’s the thing. I didn’t hear it. No blame on the poster, it’s freaking hard to get this when it’s archived let alone live, but the general feel of the Pouliot/Jacques portion of the interview was way more upbeat than that. To my ear, anyway. So if you’re listening to the interview, please pass along your opinion (especially if it differs from mine).
9. Schremp: “I think there’s a lot for Robbie to overcome right now with the injury. I’ve had some pretty clear and frank conversations about what he has to do to put himself into a position where he’s competing for an NHL job. He admitted that is was a learning process for him in his first year and that in itself is a sign of development where a player has recognized there are other things (other dimensions) needed. The injury was a setback for him. He’s another guy who was in California for a week.” Word today in the EJ that Schremp “blew out a quad” while fitness training in California. “We don’t expect it to be too severe” his agent said. However, added to the quote above it doesn’t look like Schremp is a solid bet to break camp with the big club. If he does, it’ll be news.
10. Garon: “I’d like to see him play possibly 40% of the games ideally, maybe a little less than that. You’re looking at maybe 2 out of every 5 games I think is a good balance for a very capable backup. We’re pretty optimistic about our goaltending, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a game or two out of Deslauriers or Dubnyk at the NHL level.” I’m a MacT guy, but don’t believe this for a moment. Come on! He rides the hot hand for crying out loud. You’re telling me that if Roloson is on a five game win streak he’ll give him a rest if there’s a full day between games? I haven’t examined the schedule but if Roloson has a great season Garon might not get 20 starts and I don’t care if he is pushing 40.
Overall, a great interview, definitely worth a few minutes of your weekend. Everyone always talks about Kevin Lowe having the ability to sway opinion with his winning personality, but I find MacT’s interviews at least as compelling. His handling of the Penner comments, and his remarks on Pouliot and Schremp are just good solid sense and in an organization that spins every damn thing imaginable, the line “maybe it’s a bit of a gamble and a calculated one, but (Penner) is one we had to make in my mind” has both reason and clarity.