Right Now: Pressure to Get Better Very Quickly

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rys5dyXwrpk&w=560&h=315]

Craig MacTavish stopped by the Sportsnet panel during the Oil Kings-Val d’Or Memorial Cup game yesterday. Aside from saving us all from Satan’s Power (Damien Cox), MacTavish was ostensibly there to chat up the Oilers’ future.

Here’s the short video of MacTavish’s remarks.

Let’s leave aside the trip down memory lane between MacTavish and Kypreos. It’s barely interesting.

I want to focus on two points.

Mitch Moroz

MacTavish talked a little bit about Oilers’ prospect Mitch Moroz (32nd, 2012). He said the organization is excited about the player, likes his toughness and was happy to see his production spike this past year (boxcars: 2012-13: 69 13-21-34; 2013-14: 70 35-28-63). He also suggested Moroz reminded him of Kypreos.

Moroz has been a point of much contention in Oilers’ Land since his draft day. To the long time draft watcher, he looked like another top 100 pick wasted on a coke machine drafted far too early. Last night’s comments led to some fun-piling-on concerning the pick, Oilers’ current expectations for the player and MacTavish’s poor choice of comparable.

Here’s a representative take from a newly conjured parody account

I want to make a couple of points here.

First, I think it is par for the course for an NHL GM to project maximal confidence in a prospect publicly, especially at a tournament in which a given prospect is competing. I don’t think we should be surprised at all that MacTavish had nice things to say about Moroz last night. In the same vein, I don’t think him using Kypreos as a comparison was anything more than a ‘in-the-moment’ tip of his hat to a former teammate. So, we should take these comments with a grain of salt.

That said…

Second, I don’t think you can actually shave much fluff off MacTavish’s comments. Every indication seems to suggest the Oilers’ brass does in fact highly value Moroz as part of the future. MacTavish likely sees Moroz as one of the “role players” of the future, players he can plug into the 4th line to add some toughness and “support” the good china higher up the batting order.

At least, that’s the “we’re still being reasonable, right?” take on the player and his future — several years away, with the possibility of being a good 4th line NHL regular one day.

If MacTavish has Moroz pencilled in for NHL duty (and top 9 duty at that), at anytime over the next two years without a massive bump in Moroz’ performance, we are in trouble.

Win Now, or Find Another Way to Die

Lowetide woke up in a mood today. Not a good one. He has the Oilers seriously considering pissing away the Summer in the hopes of landing a shot at Connor McDavid at next year’s draft.

I don’t think this is something the Oilers are currently considering. I don’t think so because just last night MacTavish reaffirmed the pressure he feels to get better.

“The trade deadline was a little anti-climatic I thought this year,” he said. “But it’s really a little bit of a lull right now from a managerial standpoint. There’s not too too much going on with the NHL playoffs, including here in the next month but it will heat up very quickly. There are a lot of teams that are going to have a lot of pressure to get better very quickly, the Edmonton Oilers certainly being one of those teams and we’re going to be doing what we did last year. (That is) making the phone calls and trying to see what the market is out there to help ourselves improve.”

I’ve highlighted the important part. Barring a cynical PR gesture (which is entirely possible, but unlikely IMO), it sounds like MacTavish intends to try and turn the team upstream RIGHT NOW.

And, I don’t think he has an option really.

The great failure of the Tambellini era wasn’t the colossal losing run, it was the structural damage done to the roster and the cupboard. Many who felt optimistic about MacTavish and the Oilers’ chances this time last year failed to properly ingest the decimation of the Tambellini era.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s that re-building actually means you have to start building at some point. MacTavish did so this year with key additions (Perron, Gordon, Scrivens, Fasth, Ference, Hendricks). Not all his attempts panned out––he famously referred to Denis Grebeshkov as a “failed experiment“––but, to my eye at least, these are the moves of someone slowly re-building a foundation.

So, I fully expect MacTavish to go hunting for improvement and not look to McDavid as the answer.

This is not to say, however, that any number of off-season moves can change the nature of this team enough to see them get “better very quickly.” Nor is it to say, MacTavish won’t, despite his best intentions, bungle the off-season acquisitions. I could easily see him, in good conscience with himself, failing to aim high enough in his acquisitions and becoming too comfortable with the idea of going young.

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