What’s old is new again in the perpetual carousel of the Edmonton Oilers as Steve Tambellini was relieved of his duties as general manager Monday morning and the reign of Craig MacTavish has officially begun.
With the Oilers’ season virtually finished barring any sort of miracle and most already focused on both the NHL Draft and the off-season, the organization is getting some fresh blood in the mix in hopes of shaking things up.
Wait a minute. No, they’re not.
The Oilers have practically coined, perfected, and redefined the term “Old Boys Club” and this move at the top of their management pyramid solidifies it even more. Along with MacTavish’s new position, Scott Howson was promoted from pro scout to Senior VP of Hockey Operations. Their insistence to keep everything within their circle of regulars is like a weird form of nepotism but if they’re adamant it works for them, so be it.
The much-talked about press conference with Lowe, MacTavish, and Howson was as entertaining and intriguing as it gets when it comes to big news pressers. For those of you who haven’t yet watched it and want a full run-down, here’s a good recap from Tyler Dellow that offers some great insight.
With Tambellini taking the fall for Lowe and an entire group that has been on the mend for too long, MacTavish doesn’t seem at all apprehensive about the position he’s in but instead as fiery and determined as they come.
Some of the key words and phrases to take away from his address include describing himself as an impatient guy, declaring this is the time in the rebuild to do bold things, and to be vulnerable to risks because the team needs to make faster progressions forward.
What does that mean exactly?
Mostly, it sounds like MacT—who eats, sleeps, and breathes Edmonton Oilers hockey—is ready to change both the mentality and appearance of the organization. The Oilers have long been lacking the proper supporting cast for their young talent to make any real improvement and the new GM understands that.
“Our mandate is to quickly add some depth to the team, see a significant improvement in the group going forward,” said MacTavish, quickly including Howson in this belief as well.
“Development is seldom a straight line, and although we’ve made some incremental improvements over the last little while, I think that given the right set of circumstances and a little bit different mix in the room that considerable gains can be made.”
While it’s still too early to tell since no real moves can be made until the draft, MacTavish’s forward thinking and openness to change looks like it will compliment Lowe’s old school mentality for the better.
MacTavish deeply understands that the league and the game have changed significantly since the Glory Days and that in order to add to their rich history with present success, substantial and almost radical remodelling has to done.
As for the players reacting to this move in management, they realize the responsibility on their shoulders and that their performance on the ice does a lot more than affect their position in the standings.
“I think it trickles down to us, the responsibility is on us,” said Jordan Eberle. “Right now, our pride and egos are in check and we’ve got to play as hard as we can for the fans and for this team and get things back together here starting Tuesday.”
The advantage of having someone as familiar as MacTavish in the GM role is that he’s instantly respected and thought very highly of among the players who once had him as a coach. While he’s now obviously working in a different venture of power and influence, the trust in judgment is ever-present.
“He’s a very knowledgeable man, he’s a guy that really thinks things through,” said Ryan Smyth. “I think he knows what this is all about right now with the youth and everything that’s gone on, so he’s well aware of what’s happening.”
It might be too little too late in terms of salvaging a season that looked like it was making a turn for the better, but the Oilers organization should be a great focus in the weeks and months to come.
If MacTavish is as eager and willing to retool this hockey club in new and different ways, there’s no telling what his first move will be. For that, Oil Country should remain optimistic.