The news hit just before air and I barely had time to post the item (below) you’ve been commenting on today. Although it certainly didn’t come as a major surprise, the timing was curious—there’s a game tomorrow and this (under normal circumstances) would have happened during a period when there was a day to adjust. I suspect (and said so today) this order came from above Craig MacTavish’s office and either Daryl Katz or Bob Nicholson (or both) brought pressure on the GM.
He should get used to it.
Although Craig MacTavish had only two summers to improve the roster (and draft the future) the returns under Dallas Eakins at the NHL level were so poor a change was deemed necessary. In a just and fair world both probably exit the stage at the same time. As it is, Eakins is free as a bird today, not so for Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson, Stu MacGregor and any number of scouts, coaches and hockey ops staff. This is the beginning of a major overhaul, in my opinion. Will it be productive? We can’t know that today.
Craig MacTavish takes over as coach along with Todd Nelson, with the OKC Barons’ coach having what appears to be a legit chance to keep the job. Nelson has been an effective coach for the Barons, graduating current regulars (Jeff Petry, Mark Arcobello) and some impressive kids who are looking to emerge (Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, others). Nelson is a solid choice to my mind although a more veteran presence may end up being the better plan.
THE MISTAKES OF THE MACT-EAKINS ERA
I’ve been thinking about this today, because the only way to move forward is to understand what went wrong. Part of the problem is trying to solve so many issues via free agency—made necessary because of several seasons of scorched earth after the SC run. Edmonton needed to make smart bets in the Tambellini era to have success now and that did not happen. The club also needed a strong 2007 draft for success today and again that didn’t occur.
In the MacTavish era, we’ve seen some good free-agent bets (Boyd Gordon, Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot) and some that have not worked out (Niki Nikitin so far, others). I’m not certain what the average is for free-agent success but it sure as hell isn’t 100% league-wide. I’ll leave it to others to inform us about how many mistakes were made versus what number is tolerable, but for today’s purposes I want to establish that making a bunch of free-agent bets every summer is a poor idea.
Another area Edmonton has been shortsighted is elevating draft picks right away. A team that was so poor up the middle a year ago basically traded Sam Gagner for Leon Draisaitl and in doing so continued the insane cycle of keeping first-round selections. These aren’t No. 1 overall picks mind, they are picks after the top player has been selected. A full stop on that would be wise.
Finally, Craig MacTavish at the draft table showed impressive ability to quickly improve the ‘up the middle’ look of the depth chart. I’d suggest D Darnell Nurse, C Bogdan Yakimov and C Leon Draisaitl will change the look and feel of this Oilers team someday and those are MacT picks. The problem is getting to that day while also remaining employed and that my friend is going to be an issue.
For all intents and purposes, this is the new head man of hockey ops for the Edmonton Oilers until further notice. Today the business side of Daryl Katz’ empire appears to have performed a soft reboot on the hockey side, bringing it back online with some subtle changes. The previous decision-making process for the hockey side would have (I believe) involved Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson and any number of men from the hockey portion of the team.
Today we have a new scenario, one I don’t think we’ve seen before. Is it a positive? I’m inclined to say yes, with two caveats:
- I’m not sure of Nicholson’s qualifications to make hockey decisions. I like the list of names he’d have access to but if we’re talking about a person who is making hockey decisions then really we’d have to know what qualifies Nicholson to do so. If he’s put in charge of finding a new head of hockey ops, I don’t think there are many who would have Nicholson’s rolodex.
- Despite what appears to be the beginning of a changing of the guard, we found out later that Kelly Buchberger will go to OKC as part of the coaching group replacing Nelson’s absence. If you’re going to do this Oilers, do it. Don’t half ass this thing.
I did a quick survey today asking people if they thought Dallas Eakins would be an NHL head coach again someday. It was about an equal split and that didn’t surprise me. The absolute worst time to do this is day of, we’re all kind of mindblown no matter how much experience helps you cope with the event. I do think Travis Yost did a solid job of summing up the Oilers under Eakins here.
- Yost: In summation: (1) Edmonton’s likely improved this season; (2) The team’s improvement is being masked by brutally unfavorable percentages; (3) It is possible that subpar talent in net is partially contributing to the team’s ugly PDO.
With that, I’ll leave it to men wiser than myself to perform instant analysis. It’s never been my strength and a man has to know his limitations.
One thing Craig MacTavish mentioned today I found very interesting: He wants to see the team on the ice and dressing room ‘eye-to-eye’ which tells me there may be something he’s unsure about on this team.
If they’re shopping/discussing Hall leaving then the entire organization is tangled up in blue and at the the mercy of any idiot wind that blows their way. Has Taylor Hall asked for a trade? WHY would the Oilers shop their best player unless someone better is on the return? That quote from Darren Dreger is an extremely unsettling item for the Edmonton Oilers and their fans. It does dovetail with the ‘eye to eye’ comments from MacT today, however.
The Edmonton Oilers are still a bad hockey club in the National Hockey League and they still make decisions that leave them open to question and derision. Fans can at least be secure in the knowledge that something was done on their behalf today. I’m not certain it went far enough and we await the rest of the plan. The Hall drop is a potential monster and absolutely you should be concerned if you’re an Oilers fan. This is a most disturbing and absolutely unsatisfying day, but it was probably necessary if only to break the spell of hopelessness and begin the build for a better day.