It was only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers started making changes. New GM Ken Holland needed a few moments to gather his bearings, see where the organization was at and make some moves in an effort to finally send the Oilers organization in the right direction. One of the first among the many expected exits is that of Craig MacTavish, who will be leaving the Oilers and joining the KHL.
It was reported by Igor Eronko early Thursday am that MacTavish had signed a 2-year deal with Lokomotiv of the KHL as head coach.
What MacTavish Leaving Means
For the last two seasons, MacTavish has been in charge of Edmonton’s AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. They’ve done fairly well under his watch.
When Jay Woodcroft was brought in as coach, the team ascended to the top of the AHL’s Western division standings and while it’s unclear as to whether or not that was MacTavish’s doing, it’s safe to assume he played a significant role.
But, because former-Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and amateur talent scouts Keith Gretzky and Bob Green get a lot of the credit (they may not get a lot of credit for much else), it shouldn’t be a surprise to see MacTavish on the outs, especially when you consider Holland has his own guy that was rumored to be coming with him from Detroit.
If Holland doesn’t replace MacT with his own man, speculation is that Gretzky might take on the vacancy, opening a spot up for a new assistant GM to be announced.
MacTavish New the Time Was Now
Apparently, Holland wasn’t the only one who felt things needed adjusting.
Darren Dreger reports that “MacT felt like he needed a change.” It makes sense. When you know your time is limited, when the opportunity somewhere else presents itself and when you’ve been lumped in with a losing culture for the past decade, MacTavish probably saw the writing on the wall.
His exit isn’t being listed as a firing, but will go down as a mutual parting of ways. For someone who has brought so much to the team, this is the way it should be.
What MacTavish Brought the Oilers
Now 60, this will be a big adjustment for MacTavish who hasn’t been a coach for some time. Add to that he’s leaving the NHL to get back behind the bench and he must have really felt he needed one last run.
Either that, or other NHL teams simply weren’t interested.
Having served as head coach, general manager and senior vice president of hockey operations at different times for the Oilers, he certainly brings a wealth of experience to his new job. It’s a bit surprising that nothing in the NHL opened up; but, because he’s viewed as part of the “Old Boys Club” his name will be saddled with the connection to a decade that wasn’t very successful for the franchise.
If the KHL presented the only head coaching job available and that’s what MacTavish felt he wanted, he’s now following a path paved by the likes of Mike Keenan and Bob Hartley.
He’s not completely alone either. His new roster now includes a familiar face in former Edmonton forward Anton Lander.
What’s Next in Bakersfield/Edmonton?
More changes in the front office of Bakersfield is a given. It will be interesting to see if the team can find someone as knowledgeable and experienced as MacTavish.
One thing seems to be clear, the Oilers will not be bringing in an ex-Oiler or someone connected to the glory years of the franchise to take his place. If MacTavish’s exit signifies nothing else, it shows Holland believes the Oilers need to get away from their old ways of doing things.
And, while Holland makes moves in the AHL, he’s still on the lookout for a new head coach for the Oilers. A decision it seems, MacTavish won’t have any input in.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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