MacT the Voice of Reason with Jason Gregor

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.

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19 Responses to "MacT the Voice of Reason with Jason Gregor"

  1. dawgbone says:

    A couple of things LT…

    1). Pouliot’s been behind physically the last 4 years mostly because of injuries. That bout of mono set him back last offseason, and I didn’t get the sense that Mac-T was necessarily frustrated with Pouliot (and a lack of effort), but more frustrated with the situation the kid is in overall. He’s not giving the kid a free pass, but he’s not really giving the kid the gears either.

    2). With regards to the goaltending, I think if Mac-T gets a pair of guys he can trust (which he’s never had to this point), he’d probably be willing to split up their starts. That being said, if Roli goes 3-0 with 2 shutouts in a stretch and there’s days off between games, I don’t doubt Mac-T will go with him for 7 or 8 games. That being said, I also expect Garon will occasionally get 2-3 games in a row if he comes out with a couple of good efforts.

    Last year, Jussi got in 22 games (16 starts) and he just wasn’t very good. I can easily see Mac-T giving an additional 10-15 starts to a goaltender who can come in and play well.

  2. danny says:

    Ahhh refreshing. It’s nice to hear someone from the Oilers speak and not sense that you’re being taken for a ride.

    LT, just an idea… add paypal to your blog. Lets start a MacT for Ownership fund.

    DB, good point on the injuries. It was a noticeable that the mentioned Pouiliot would be a gamer if he ever reached the conditioning of an average NHLer… in the same interview in which he claimed to coach the three best conditioned NHLers out there. Pouliot seems a nice bit behind the game, training in California shoule be quite the harrowing experience for the guy.

  3. Barry says:

    I think Greene is under rated in these parts. Last year was his first full season. At the start of the year he was averaging 11- 13 minutes a night. By the end he was up to 25 to 28 minutes a night. In 5 of the last 9 games he led the Oil in TOI (I know injuries, maybe auditioning) and seem to play his best hockey.

    He was second in hits and blocked shots and first in PIM. He is a big strong stay at home defenseman in the Jason Smith mould. You need someone who can take and give a hit, especially in the NW division.

    All he needs is experience.

  4. namflashback says:

    Well, that rings true with a bunch of observations that you have made about this coach.

    Playing time is earned. In preparedness, in training camp, in practice, and in game situations.

    He also has the more ideal scenario of having prospects really battling. 5 or 6 forwards who are on the bubble for really no more than 2 spots + PB. Thor, MP, Nillson, JFJ, Brodziak, Stortini.

    Greene, Smid, Grebeshkov, Gilbert and Roy for the final two spots in the D rotation. I see a bit of pump’n'dump in Gilbert’s future.

    It appears that they are applying the same “survival of the fittest” at the AHL level too, with the many AHL signings made there too. I expect the catcalls of the organization killing the skill prospects — but internal competitiveness is the forge where these guys get molded. Schremp had better “get-it” as Cogs, OMarra, Almtorp and others are going to make a case for themselves.

    By Guy Flaming’s latest HF article, they’ve invited a huge number of players to TC. I doubt anybody gets a free ride due to pedigree this time around.

    This interview is a great glimpse of what MacT must say and do in the room and in practice.

  5. Andy Grabia says:

    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?

    No. The problem was you took Gregor seriously.

  6. Andy Grabia says:

    It’s all a game of what you create minus what you give up.

    My favorite part, right there. Bang. Nuff said.

  7. Doogie says:

    I still hate the move, and am really unconvinced Penner can do that job Ryan Smyth did

    In terms of outscoring, no, but then again, was Smytty the same guy at 24 he is at 31? I heard from the Ducks’ local broadcaster on Fox Sports’ hockey podcast this past weekend (which I also guest-appeared on — I don’t think I embarrassed myself too severely) that Penner had been working on shot deflections towards the end of last year with Pronger. He’s got the physical assets to play that style of game and actually make it to his 33rd birthday without becoming a ticking timebomb, and if he is serious about improving his hand-eye coordination and work in front of the net, he may be able to play that role fairly well as time goes on. I still hate the contract, but I’m optimistic about the player himself; I think MacT can work with him, unlike Lupul, and I do think he’ll make himself useful in some fashion (and keep your fingers crossed it’ll be $4.25M worth of useful).

    Also, I agree that San Fernando will be a lot better next year. His kid being sick really threw him off, and it took him a couple of months to get back into the groove. I really think this is the year he’ll ding 20, and I would definitely love to see a 14-16-34 line in action for a good ten or fifteen games so they can really get a rhythm. (And so that you can stick Souray in there and not have to worry about his mobility affecting his +/- so much — playing with responsible players can do that for you — while still maybe squeezing out a few EV points.)

  8. Doogie says:

    I can’t believe I forgot about the bit Grabia highlighted. Isn’t that pretty much the Oilogosphere motto? (Especially now that “Fire Simpson” is off the table.)

  9. doritogrande says:

    The comment about Fernando Pisani being able to step in with Stoll and Torres makes me believe we’ll be running power against power again this year, and not throw a checking line out against top opposing lines. It looks to me like it’ll be another MacT even-strength team where skill is balanced by grit on the same line. Not that I’m against such a thing, but where does a young kid (Nilsson, Schremp, Cogliano etc…) fit on this team now? I was under the impression that a top-6 spot was Nilsson’s to lose. He certainly won’t be as effective on the third line and it may stunt his development. However, if his 3rd/4th line minutes are suplimented with first line PP, maybe I’ll be flip-flopping.

  10. Dennis says:

    Thanks for that LT, very much appreciated!!! I must admit that I’m a MacT guy and I enjoy the vast majority of his quotes. Thanks for the summary

  11. IceDragoon says:

    Good day…

    dawgbone,

    In talking to Jason after the interview, I raised the same points you have in 1). Apparently, players have told him that Pouliot hasn’t put enough effort into training. MacT’s comments have me hoping to add the words, “till now”.

    ………

    Danny,

    GMs all speak in spin, it’s in the job description. Must always sell to the paying customers, you know. The trick is in learning to read what isn’t said. Most jump to incorrect assumptions. ;-D fwiw – Coaches who aspire to be GMs will also spin.

    ………

    Interesting comments on Ryan Smyth.

    He meanders around and thru much admiration for the player and the man… “… whether it’s the players perspective, in this case it was, or the organization’s perspective, there are times in players’ careers… … there’s some, I guess the words philosophical differences, and when that crops up it’s best for both parties to part company.”

    Fit’s our conversation from the other day, does it not, Lain?

    Man… with all the activity this summer, we really needed this.

    MacT’s music has charms to soothe a ravenous fan’s savage breast.

    ………

    TC starts on Tuesday, September 11th. I’ll be there on day 1 and either Thursday or Friday. Call me, Lain.

    L8r
    Louise

  12. IceDragoon says:

    Oops…

    Danny, I meant to add…

    And owners should just shut the **** up about hockey operations. period.

  13. momentai says:

    It’s funny that the MacT supporters are such a select few when measured against the opinion that MacT “kills” offensive talent.

    MacT is honest and that for one is certainly appreciated where we tend to have to sift through the information from the media. I think that’s why I like him. Having sound logic is pretty much built into me as an engineer.

    I can probably understand the comments on Pouliot being not as physically up to speed as some of our other players. Most of the times I’ve seen him at the NHL level, it seems he paces himself at a lower tempo. I wonder if that’s just conditioning. If we see him up to speed, I’m hoping to see a big jump.

  14. Lowetide says:

    I’ll call you, Louise. Good comments all, seems as though a lot of us were waiting for the coach to say something, and if he feels good about this roster maybe there’s hope.

    An item in the EJ today did say something like he felt they needed another F, which makes sense. The Oilers have so many prospects at a similar level of ability knocking at the door, it’s too bad that none of them really stand out.

  15. Devin says:

    LT, I think we’ll see one of the middling prospects come to camp and wow us like Thoresen did last year. I could see a darkhorse like O’Marra coming in and seperating himself from the pack, forcing himself onto the roster.

    Of course, based on MacT’s comments I fully expect Pouliot to be an impact player right out of the gate this year (this could and should be his time to pull a Stoll 05-06). The tough thing about having a big whack of near-NHL players is that none can be booked to make an impact. The flipside is that it’s reasonable to expect one or two of them to take a major step forward — it’s just the law of averages.

    Louise, I’m sure MacDaddy would be thrilled to know he soothes your “savage breast” ;)

  16. Kyle says:

    IMO MacT is the most well spoken coach in the game of hockey. He’s honest, funny, smart and oftentimes unpredictable (at least in how far he’s willing to go).

    I’m not suprised to hear about Pouliot’s conditioning. Honestly, the training styles/methods in Jr. hockey are decades behind even high school football in the US.

  17. IceDragoon says:

    Man, Lain… You’re just pumping them out. (Setting up some comparables for this TC?) This topic may be bumped to the archives before I finish posting. ;-D Ah, well… It’s the only drawback to conversing on your busy blog.

    I’m slow, you know. Yesterday I started my comment after Barry, and 5 different people made 7 posts before I finished. I had some multi-tasking going on, but damm.

    Some (shiny) items caught my eye, but I didn’t have the time at the time… so… :-D

    ………

    namflashback,

    “survival of the fittest”… is an excellent assessment, imho.

    This sequence of MacT quotes has me grasping (at straws ;-)) some of the reasoning behind Buchberger’s promotion.

    On the expectations for the team’s prospects… “… It’s gotta be a clear and concise plan that you set forth for these players… All you want to see… is progress in areas of weakness… coachability… … diligent enough, dedicated enough, persistant enough & have the work ethic… Sometimes some of these lessons have to be learned in the American league.

    It seems that MacT’s requirements fit Bucky’s strengths.

    From the comments on Schremp, and his interaction with him at the ’05 TC, (only missed 1 day & I spend almost as much time watching the coaches as the players) I get the sense that MacT really wants him to “get it”.

    ………

    Andy,

    It’s all a game of what you create minus what you give up.

    Don’t ya just love simplicity.
    :-D

    This interview aside, because I think it was outstanding, Gregor is often a bit of a ditz. He’ll prattle on like he knows what he’s talking about, only to change his tune once someone does some research for him. It’d be nice if he did the research first. meh… it’s his show.

    ………

    doogie,

    I pretty much expect upper echelon free agents to receive deals in the ~$1MM too much and 1 year too long range. Both KLo’s RFA signings appeared to be even more extreme overpays in the first few years.

    Since Penner was a targeted free agent and is therefore obviously overpaid, I will presume, with you, that MacT sees “upper echelon” in him. *cheers* Here’s to hoping he’s right.

    Thanx for the working on improving his game insight.

    ………

    doritogrande,

    As Vic said in a previous discussion, MacT is likely to throw lot’s of stuff at the wall to start the year. Many of us, however, don’t think that he’ll be able to sustain PvP match-ups.

    Hemsky needed both Smyth and Horcoff to just tread water at PvP. To expect Horcoff to be able to carry both Hemsky and Penner against the Thorton’s and Iginla’s is a bit much, don’t you think?

    ………

    Devin,

    Thrilled? LOL

    I understand and have much appreciation for warped. I’ll have to keep my eye on you.
    ;-D

    L8r
    Louise

  18. Doogie says:

    icedragoon,

    The way I read dorito’s comment was with 14-16-34 as the “power” line, while Hemsky’s line would be a bit more hidden, based on Penner’s defensive record. Could be wrong, but that’s what made sense to me.

  19. IceDragoon says:

    doogie,

    I was reading it as ‘top 6′ and thought he meant 2nd ES line.

    Personally, I don’t think the pairing of Stoll & Torres has enough savvy to consistently go head to head with #1s, yet. Mind you, they could just come roaring out of the gate this year. Failure is one **** of a motivator.

    Went back and listened again, and MacT doesn’t even mention anyone playing with Pisani. Gregor comments on the age range of Hemsky, Stoll, Torres and Penner, and that, “many people think there’s a clear opening right now for a Cogliano… Nilsson… Schremp… somewhere in your top 6 forwards. … A different coaching philosophy for you at all this year with maybe so many young guys in offensive roles?”

    MacT takes him thru… “No, we’re still gonna be preaching responsibility… It’s all a game of what you create minus what you give up… balance… latitude… pre-season opportunities… we need one of those guys to step up.”

    He then goes directly to, “We have Fernando Pisani, who I think is being overlooked, to a certain degree. I know he had some issues physically… family issues… pretty much solved… Fernando has the ability to come in and have a real big year for us. We’re gonna need him to do that”

    Right into… “Stollie was having a great year till he got hurt. He, hopefully, can finish that off. Ales Hemsky, hopefully, Penner’s a good fit… and… can take advantage of some of the great passing we’ve seen from Ales, and he’s gonna be better.

    Internally we have the ability to be better. Personnel-wise we have the ability to be better. The rest is up to us…”

    Training camp cannot start soon enough.

    ………

    Lain…

    There is one more drawback to conversing on your blog. I can’t edit my typos. ;-D

    Have a good one…
    Louise

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