Edmonton Oilers: Promoting Mediocrity and Failing Upwards, Part Two Redux

Edmonton Oilers

When reading part two of my series, I realized some things I had left out.

This was brought to my attention by some nice people on the oilers.nhl.com forums. While some of my omissions were on purpose, such as the Kruger firing or the Fayne/Pouliot contracts. I didn’t properly explain what my criteria was for inclusion in my article, and for that I apologize.

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Why I Omitted Anything

Well in all honesty it was mainly due to length. These things take a lot of research and Craig MacTavish has a very big black book. After two weeks of on and off research I compiled a list and starting writing. Draft one of my article was over 2200 words, which is far far too long for a comprehensible article. It had turned into a novella instead of an article so I needed to cut some things out.

To do this I decided to take what was reported as his role by this video by TSN and focus my criticisms around that role. His roles, as stated in the article, circulate around the Bakersfield Condors, and on pro scouting, so I put my focus around that. I decided that focusing on his ability to see talent and analyze players properly would more properly illustrate his lack of skill in management.

Things Omitted and Justification

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1. The Ralph Krueger Dallas Eakins fiasco.

This, while egregiously and utterly ridiculous, had nothing to do with his ability to see talent in players. Furthermore it isn’t unnatural to see a new GM bring in their own guy as coach. We saw it with Todd McLellan when Chiarelli was brought in, even though Todd Nelson was doing a fine job in an interim role. While I believe firing Krueger was a mistake, especially over Skype, Eakins was highly regarded at the time. Although he ended up being a disaster and set the team back years I don’t blame the change squarely on MacTavish, but that’s a topic for part three.

2.  Fayne contract.

This one I didn’t include because I touched on it in part 1. Also talking about free agency is a little tricky as as bad as Fayne turned out to be, I doubt that contract was 100% due to choice. I know Edmonton was close on Stralman, but eventually lost out to Tampa Bay.

Edmonton was extremely bare on defense and at forward in the summer of  2014. Edmonton lost Nick Schultz, Anton Belov, Ladislav Smid, and Phil Larsen and needed some replacements. MacTavish and Co. ended up filling those voids with Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin, and Keith Aulie. The free agent market that year was headlined by Anton Stralman, Matt Niskanen, Christian Erhoff, Kyle Quincey, and Dan Boyle.

  • Stralman signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Niskanen signed a contract with the Washington Capitals
  • Erhoff signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Kyle Quincey signed a contract with by the Detroit Red Wings
  • Dan Boyle signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You know what all these teams had in common? well they were all in or close to being in the playoffs. Good players go where they know they can make an impact on a good team. Edmonton was 28th that year. While it’s not clear what other players they looked at I don’t blame MacT for Fayne. I blame Howson and the rest of the pro-scouting department for overvaluing the player.

Ultimately it was their job to present MacTavish with targets and it was MacTavish’s job to try to sign the players the scouting dept. brought to him. Fayne had a total of 48 points in 242 career games as a Devil and was given a 4 year 3.65 AAV contract by the Oilers. I could almost guarantee after his last 2 year 1.3 AAV contract most teams weren’t offering more than 3, maybe even 2.5 but Edmonton ponied up 3.6 million…

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3.  Pouliot Contract.

Well for the same reason I didn’t include Fayne I didn’t include Pouliot. Edmonton was not a destination for free agents and still has trouble with them today. The top 5 forwards available in free agency that year were Paul Statsny, Thomas Vanek, Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, and Daniel Alfredsson. Isn’t it wild that that used to be a list of quality NHL players 4 years ago? Three of those guys are out of the league and Vanek and Statsny are no longer the stars they once were, anyway:

  • Statsny signed a contract with the St. Louis Blues
  • Vanek signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild
  • Iginla signed a contract with the Colorado Avalanche
  • Cammalleri signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils
  • Alfredsson signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings

Again, all of these teams were contenders at the time and I doubt any of the above players had Edmonton on their lists. Pouliot brought short term value to Edmonton and unfortunately was damaging to the long term success of the Oilers. His sudden drop out and subsequent buyout ended up hurting the team, which while unfortunate can’t be blamed on management. I would consider this to be a fair signing, given the circumstance. At the very least an argument can be made to justify the addition. 5 years is a lot of term on a third line player, but the 4 million AAV wasn’t horrible.

4.  Craig MacTavish’s draft trades

Honestly the only reason I didn’t talk about this is because I forgot to mention it. I pinned it in my research and I just forgot to add it in. It does however demonstrate some interesting logic from Oilers brass. This is an excerpt from an Edmonton Journal article from 2013.

“Craig MacTavish twice traded one draft pick for three lower ones. The net effect was the exchange of the #37 selection for FIVE picks in the #83-113 range. Theoretically, each spot yielded a player with about a ~20% chance of playing 100 games in the NHL, according to Cullen’s research. If one of the five achieves that minor milestone, that will be about average for players taken in this range. If two or more do — or better, if one really turns out — Stu MacGregor and staff will have beaten the odds.” – Bruce McCurdy

This was actually a really interesting bit of information. The logic here isn’t completely off base. If you have an excellent scouting department that can make good picks consistently, such as Edmonton’s current regiment under Bob Green and Keith Gretzky, I can see the value in this Idea.

However,

Head scout Stu MacGregor was a not a good head scout, his record speaks for itself. He was responsible for the three 1st round picks in 2007 that turned into Sam Gagner, Alex Plante, and Riley Nash. Yikes. Here’s a list of second round picks he drafted: Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, David Musil, Mitchell Moroz, and Marc-Olivier Roy. Woof. None of those players are in the Oilers organization and only 1 still has any NHL/AHL contract. That’s right, save Pitlick, this list of players is not even AHL quality.

So while the logic was there the ability to actually put the principle into practice was not and it cost both MacGregor and MacTavish their jobs. To put this even more into perspective here’s a list of Oilers draft picks under MacGregor that are still with the Oilers organization:

  1. Leon Draisaitl
  2. William Lagesson
  3. Tyler Vesel
  4. Darnell Nurse
  5. Jujhar Khaira
  6. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  7. Oscar Klefbom
  8. Tobias Reider

In his draft career as head of scouting from 2007-2014 Stu MacGregor drafted 61 different players. After all of that drafting, 8 are still with the organization. Not. Good. Enough.

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Wrap-up

Hopefully that clears up some if not all of the issues that came up with my original part two. I am so happy with how well this series has resonated with readers. It has given me the opportunity to engage and interact with fans in a way that I personally haven’t had in my short writing career. I appreciate the comments and how far this has spread and 100% welcome more comments/criticisms that get sent my way. Furthermore, this has been the most fun I’ve had researching and writing and am so glad it’s resonating with all of you out there.

Get ready for part three when I talk about the worst offender of the bunch!

 

 

 

 

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Author: Ryan Boonstra (OilersAholic OG)