When it was announced that Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would be holding a press conference on Friday, the term used was a “forensic investigation” of the entire franchise.
While that might conjure icky images of black-lights and oddly shaped stains, MacTavish simply wanted to take a look at his team and its problems.
“I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” proclaimed Detective MacTavish, presumably not about the standings, where he’s already gotten to the bottom.
Here’s what we learned from MacTavish at this press conference about the Oilers:
1. The team is making progress, at least from what he’s seen from this GM’s box. Sure, these performances have them last in the League in points, with a minus-32 goal differential. But baby steps, we guess.
2. That said, he acknowledged the systemic problems with this team, such its penchant for getting all boo-boo faced when adversity hits. In the sense that when trailing after the first period or the second period, they’ve yet to win a game this season (0-19-3). The culture of losing is real, and it's spectacular.
3. That also said, he preached patience with the team’s young core, claiming that other star players who were high draft picks took time to develop, although we’re not sure who he’s speaking about. He mentioned Steve Stamkos, who had 23 goals in Year 1 and 50 goals in Year 2. We don’t know.
4. Is this Dallas Eakins’ fault? If it is, MacTavish isn’t going to fire him. He said the Oilers have had too many coaches in recent years, and the players want him to stay.
5. Is this the players’ fault? Yes, and MacTavish said it's essential they are held accountable for their actions. Does that mean breaking up the core of the team? No, unless the right deal surfaces for someone like Jordan Eberle. Which does make one wonder how players can be held accountable when everyone on the roster feels safe.
6. Is it MacTavish’s fault? His intense forensic investigation has discovered that ….
No, this is totally not his fault, according to no less an authority as Craig MacTavish.
When grouped in with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson as part of the Oilers’ braintrust, MacTavish bristled.
“I’ve been on the job for 18 months. So you want to lop me in … I coached the team for a long time, but I have nothing to do with management. So don’t lop me into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization,” he said.
MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. The idea that he didn’t have input on player personnel decisions is, frankly, nonsensical. So essentially here he’s passed the buck for the poor construction of this roster over the years to former GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, who is MacTavish’s boss and currently being helped from under a bus.
But MacTavish has attempted to position himself not as another example of the franchise’s addiction to nostalgia and cronyism, but as an “outsider” that is coming in to fix this mess. And claiming this isn’t his mess – and he lack of restructuring in both the roster and the team’s maligned scouting department says it is, at least partially – helps establish that persona.
“I’m pissed off. No one lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off,” said the Rebel GM.
“We’re going to continue making rational, responsible decisions based on the situation that we’re in.”
No panic buttons. Stay the course. Patience with the young players.
More of the same. Another year in the basement.