Edmonton - November 7, 2014 - With his fan base on the verge of once again pulling out their pitchforks and calling for heads to roll within the organization, Craig MacTavish is about to enter the toughest stretch he has yet to face since taking over as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.
As they are currently constructed, this group was always going to have to fight like crazy to simply stay out of the bottom two in the Western Conference during the 2014-15 season. While some may have bought into the idea of this roster somehow being greatly improved from what we were forced to watch in 2013-14, one would hope that ridiculous notion has now been erased from everyone’s mind.
In order for this team to have had a hope of battling for a playoff spot come late March or early April, they were always going to need near perfect seasons from the vast majority of this roster and that was never going to happen. Add to that the fact they have now lost the services of their best player for an extended period of time and even the staunchest of Oilers supporters has to give into the reality of the current situation.
While it may be a slight improvement on last season, this year is already over and done with and we have yet to hit the fifteen game mark. Now some of that is on Dallas Eakins and his coaching staff, another chunk is on the players but arguably no one has played a bigger role in what we have watched unfold over the opening five weeks of the season than MacTavish and the rest of his front office team.
For any GM to have put together the sort of roster MacT did and not come right out and say this was nothing more than another rebuilding year is frankly embarrassing. Unless of course he truly believed that this group legitimately had a shot at competing for a playoff spot and if that is indeed the case, he may want to consider stepping down from his current position within the organization.
In his defence, he did not exactly inherit a solid situation when he took over from Steve Tambellini, one can easily make the argument that this team has actually regressed since he was handed the keys to the car. Be it from a coaching and/or player standpoint, this organization continues to leave those in other hockey markets shaking their heads in disbelief at what they are watching.
Whether you agree or disagree with the notion that the Oilers started their rebuild with the drafting of Taylor Hall, the fact of the matter is they should not be this bad at this stage of the game. Now expecting them to be among the league’s best teams would have been unrealistic but what we currently have is downright embarrassing. Is it so much to ask for incremental improvement in the standings on a year to year basis? In my mind it is not and yet this group has failed miserably in accomplishing even that.
Despite talking a big game upon his arrival, the fifty-six year old has yet to deliver during his tenure as being “the guy” in Edmonton. It is all well and good to go on about needing “change” and everything being a “process” but at some point a general manager has to take that leap of faith and make a move. While the masses were all over Tambellin for his unwillingness to act, outside of tinkering along the perimeter of this roster, MacT has not been much better.
While he may have come in and wasted little time in making the correct observation that Devan Dubnyk was not a No. 1 goalie, he muddied the waters further by bringing in a pair of backup goaltenders in Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens as his replacement and simply hoping things would somehow get better. What the definition of insanity again?
Same goes for his blueline and forward group. Yes he has brought in slightly better players than what was here when he took over but as a collective unit, they are no better than what was already here. Second line centre has been a black hole on this team from the moment they decided the duo of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner was the way to go and yet they refuse to address it with anything more than one band-aid solution after another or throwing a nineteen year old kid to the wolves for the sake of doing so.
Having said all of that, now is not the time for Craig MacTavish to give in and make some sort deal he will come to regret in the not too distant future. Don’t get wrong, he certainly needs to make one or two of those so-called “bold moves” he went on about when being introduced as the Edmonton Oilers GM but those are deals that are generally better suited to take place during the off-season and not when panic has set in and make no mistake...that time has now arrived.