Craig MacTavish will forever be known as the last NHL player to play the game without wearing a helmet. He came into the league before helmets were mandatory, and didn’t feel a need to wear one. He retired from playing in 1997. A four time Stanley Cup Champion with the Oilers and New York Rangers, MacTavish was last seen in the NHL behind the Edmonton Oilers bench as head coach. He was the guy who helped pen the Cinderella story in 2006, when the 8th seeded Oilers got within one win of a Stanley Cup championship. The momentum from that run didn’t translate the following season, as the Oilers missed the playoffs the next 3 years under MacTavish, and he was fired in April of 2009. Last August, MacTavish was named the head coach of the Chicago Wolves, the Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate. Today, the Edmonton Oilers announced that MacTavish was back with the team, but this time, not behind the bench.
On Monday morning, Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini (fresh off a new contract of his own) announced that MacTavish would join the team as the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. Many feel that Tambellini, who’s team hasn’t seen the postseason under his management, is on thin ice as GM. If the Oilers don’t start showing some on ice results, he may not be around for another draft. Is MacTavish the next GM in waiting? As a former player and coach, and a guy with a lot of Oilers history, he certainly knows the ropes in the NHL, and this new role will give him some management experience. There’s a strong sense that the selection of the new head coach of the Oilers will have MacTavish’s fingerprints all over it. Of course there is only speculation regarding what his role may be in the future, regardless of the team’s performance. For now, Tambellini is still the man in charge.
The Oilers held a press conference yesterday afternoon to introduce MacTavish in his new role. His comments on the new position:
“There’s a lot more optimism and rightfully so. It’s an exciting time. It’s going to be fun. I’m going to be another voice. In this business it’s all about making good decisions based on your experience. It’s time to move this team from the developmental stage to a stage with much more competitiveness. I appreciate the opportunity and the confidence the organization has in me”. (Edmonton Oilers)
GM Steve Tambellini also weighed on the hiring of MacTavish:
“We feel that we need a voice that has this type of pedigree and experience for what this market brings. I expect Craig to be involved in all decisions regarding the hockey club. His opinion is incredibly valuable.” (Edmonton Oilers)