Tuesday, April 30, 2013

MacTavish will have himself one busy off-season

It was the same old same old on Monday morning at Rexall Place. Another end of season address from the Edmonton Oilers General Manager...with one difference. Craig MacTavish did not pull any punches. He made it very clear, that this organization needs to make some major changes, if they are to take that next step and become a perennial playoff team. The job is obvious but finding those necessary answers, may not be so easy to acquire.

It was a very entertaining and informative thirty minute presser from the Oilers new GM. He spoke his mind, said his piece and did so in very confident and matter of fact manner. The former bench boss appears more than ready to take this team into a different direction and look towards finally trying to end this organization's seven year absence from Stanley Cup post season play.

When asked by Hall of Famer writer Terry Jones if it would be fair to expect as many as eight new Oilers in the lineup next yr, MacT answered with a very simple and direct, "I think that's fair...I think that's fair". He went on to add, "There is going to be some significant and meaningful change...for sure. I think in today's era, even when you win, there's significant change and when you're in the situation we're in, at this stage in our development as a team, there is every reason to expect there will be at least that many".

According to the former four-time Cup winner, Ryan Whitney will not be returning and it surely did not sound promising for Ales Hemsky and Theo Peckham. That's three players right there and we haven't even mentioned the likes of Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Nikolai Khabibulin, Lennart Petrell and Jerrad Smithson.

It sounds as though the time for being patient is clearly over and the time to look towards not only improving the roster in the immediate future but also the"culture" inside that room, has arrived. MacTavish made no bones about this lineup needing a face lift but also recognized that the players who do stick around need to be better.

Be netminder Devan Dubnyk needing to take his game to the next level or the plethora of talented forwards improving their play away from the puck and  cutting down on what, at times, can be a absolutely ridiculous amount of turnovers. They need to be better in almost every area, of that there is no question.

That being said, the vast majority of those core pieces that are an absolute necessity in building a winning club, are already in place or on their way. Leaving MacTavish the task of adding those missing ingredients, to help them along the way. He is more than aware of what type of player this organization needs.

"Our overall team strength and depth has to be improved upon," he said. "It's my position that we've got to address that to a large degree and we're going to be trying to do that through personnel changes. We want more toughness, more meat and just more depth in our lineup."

So where does MacTavish go from here. He re-iterated the organization would be open to possibly moving their first round pick and said change will need to come via "draft, trade or sign". While no one they draft at the 2013 Entry Draft would likely benefit them in 2013-14, deals and/or free agent signings, are a completely different matter.

The names of Andrew Ference, Martin Hanzal, Eric Nystrom, Steve Ott, Robyn Regehr, Keith Yandle and Brandon Yip have all been mentioned by yours truly as possible targets and there are obviously many other options out there for MacT to seriously consider but at what cost. While he can definitely bring in some pieces via free agency, someone will need to eventually be moved, in order to improve the lineups overall depth.

Not surprisingly, he confirmed Ryan Smyth would be back for the final year of his two year pact, albeit in a limited role. He also hinted at taking a long hard look at bringing Ryan Jones back into the mix, despite becoming a UFA on July 3rd. Surprising? Yes but in my mind, I'd take a healthy Jones over an aging Smyth any day of the week. Though it looks as though many in Oil Country will get their wish and have one more season of the Mullet Brothers.

If you listened to the entire press conference, it's obvious the new GM is a big fan of Sam Gagner and frankly, he should be. Some feel I am a little hard on #89 but to be completely honest, I think he is a helluva player. Outside of Taylor Hall, Gagner likely competes harder than any other forward and has shown the ability to put points on the board. That being said, he has limitations to his game and the fact he is small in stature, doesn't help.

Could Sam be moved to the wing? Of course he could, I suggested as much prior to the 2011-12 season. Having said that, should the former sixth overall pick remain in the Alberta Capital...who goes. No matter how you look it, the overall mix needs to change and in order to do it, trades are going to have to be part of the equation.

Craig MacTavish talked about this organization making "bold moves" when he took over from Steve Tambellini back on April 15th and I have little doubt, he will do exactly that. Though it will be far harder to accomplish, than many might think. One thing is obvious, MacT has his work cut out for him.

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