Edmonton - September 17, 2014 - When the Edmonton Oilers decided to part ways with Steve Tambellini, they had the opportunity to take the organization into a completely different direction but instead went the route of hiring Craig MacTavish as their general manger.
While many would have preferred to see them to look outside of their immediate four walls for a replacement, in my mind, bringing MacT back was a solid move. However, that was before the 2013-14 season. After watching how things unfolded both on and off the ice during his first full year in charge, questioning the hire was more than fair.
The product on the ice was downright dreadful and despite coming out an talking about making some “bold moves” with his roster upon taking the job, they were arguably as bad if not worse than they had been at any point over the last couple of years. Dallas Eakins was a complete and utter disaster during his rookie year behind a National Hockey League bench and don’t even get me started on how the organization treated a guy like Ladislav Smid prior to shipping out of town.
Add to that the fact, the mantra we kept on hearing was focused on this being a potential playoff team and being just a “few” moves away from being able to compete with some of the better teams in the league and how could one do anything but question the direction this ship was headed. In a span one short season, this group took a major step back and not all of it was on the players.
While MacTavish actively tried to improve his roster during both the latter part of 2013-14 campaign and this past summer, the Oilers are still a ways away from being where they need to be in order to compete with the vast majority of teams inside the Western Conference. To his credit, instead of giving us the usual spin on how things are looking extremely promising for the coming season, the second year GM has kept expectation at a reasonable level…something we are rather unaccustomed to in this neck of the woods.
After watching MacT during what was a rather lengthy and enlightening interview with TSN’s Bob McKenzie, which can be seen here courtesy of TSN, it appears as though the fifty-six year old has finally accepted his lot in life. Last year was an eye-opener for the four-time Stanley Cup winner and it clearly left a mark. There was no talk about “playoffs” being a must but instead focusing on making “some sort of progress”.
There is no easy fix and it will unfortunately take more time and more suffering for everyone involved to see this thing through. Many may not want to hear it but this lineup still has some massive holes and thinking they can be filled with what they currently have in house is not being realistic. Sure it could happen but the likelihood of that occurring would frankly be almost astronomical.
During his interview with McKenzie, MacTavish came right out and questioned whether or not Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle would develop into star players like their good buddy Taylor Hall or just turn out to be very good NHLers. While he rightly remains optimistic about this team’s future, he also made it abundantly clear they still have a ton of work to do. Coming out and admitting that could not have been easy but it was rather refreshing to hear.
Many have accused me of being rather negative when it comes to the team but prior to last season, it was the complete opposite. 2013-14 left a sour taste in my mouth as well and led me to sit back and honestly re-evaluate where this group is and it isn’t pretty. Expecting more from the young core of this team is completely understandable but those expectations have to make sense and how anyone can see a team with RNH, Boyd Gordon. Mark Arcobello, Leon Draisaitl and possibly Anton Lander as a potential playoff team is simply baffling.
Make no mistake, the Edmonton Oilers will be better but they are at least two or perhaps even three years away from being able to compete with the better teams in this league and their general manager appears to have finally accepted the situation for what it is. This organization could push for a full decade of futility when it comes to reaching the post-season but as of this moment, they have no other choice than to sit and see how this plays out. More patience is needed and for their sake, hopefully this fan base has a little more left in them.