From the very second he stepped to the podium, Craig MacTavish made clear that he wasn’t going to be pleasing anyone with a word he said.
“This availability will not satisfy anyone,” MacTavish said as his opening salvo.
He wasn’t wrong, either, as much of what the Oilers GM said spoke not to what the team would be doing going forward, but rather to how they’re going to continue down the path they’re on because the team, as a whole, has a method and a plan. He said the team is better than their record, and the thing is, he’s right.
In what was a five-minute monologue on how the team should be looking to go forward followed by a twenty-five minute question and answer period, MacTavish took on topics like the culture of the dressing room, sticking with the coaching staff, the draft record, and what moves the team may make.
Simply put, the answer always came back to accountability.
Whether it was the accountability of the players, the accountability of the coaches, or the accountability of management, accountability is the word that will be forever synonymous with this press conference. While talking about what the team needs more of from its player, MacTavish used the word accountability several times.
MacTavish, who made it clear he has only been on the job for 18 months, said the current team, and his impact, can’t be lumped in with what has happened in the past.
“We’ve made an incredible amount of change, tumultuous change, in our organization,” MacTavish said. “In my mind, we’re all frustrated. I’m pissed off. Nobody lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off. But we’re going to get to the bottom of it, we’re going to continue to make rational, responsible decisions in spite of the situation we’re in, and that’s the leadership I’m going to provide.”
When MacTavish speaks about rational decisions, what he was alluding to, more than anything, are the repeated calls for the team to blow up its core – the group of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, and Taylor Hall. Earlier in the press conference, MacTavish addressed the issue in a veiled way, saying the team has, “four or five players” who have significant value.
“I’m not naive enough to think there isn’t going to have to be changes,” MacTavish added.
And one of those changes is down the middle. The 56-year-old GM spoke of his want to bring in another center, something that has been reported for weeks now, but it was followed by MacTavish saying he doesn’t want to make a quick fix. Rather, he prefers to base all of his decisions on maintaining the “long-term vitality” of the franchise.
"I know we're all getting close to reaching our choke point, but that doesn't mean we're going to punt out our three best players," he said. "What I think I have now is a group capable of growth. They're still developing and it's taking time for them to become dominant."
Part of creating that vitality will be improving the draft record, something MacTavish admitted hasn’t been the best in the past, is going to be a sticking point. With few players making the team from outside the first round, MacTavish said it, “undermines the performance of everything (the Oilers) do.”
Things will begin to look up for the Oilers – simply put, they have to, because no team can maintain the awful luck Edmonton has had – but when that will be no one can really know. After 11 straight losses, you would expect the sails to be righted sometime soon, but for now the ship continues sinking.
MacTavish said he hoped the players felt the same way about the current streak. You can be sure they do. Now they need to show the desired results, because otherwise, MacTavish might have no other choice than to look for that quick fix.