Gene Principe reflects on General Manager Craig MacTavish's end of the season press conference
Dallas Eakins isn't going anywhere and the Edmonton Oilers are.
A couple of the major points were easy to pick up on during Craig MacTavish's final media availability to wrap up the 2013-2014 season. After the players and coach spoke on Sunday, on Tuesday it was the General Manager's turn. MacTavish spoke at length about the season that was, which was also his first full season as the architect drawing up the plans for this hockey team. He is the man with the pencil or marker and the open canvas to envision what he wants, put it on paper and then onto the ice.
MacTavish opened with a statement and his first words caught my attention immediately; “There is a lot of work to do."
In an instant, MacTavish clarified that he is not about to sit still or rest easy after another non-playoff season. He can't and neither can anyone in the organization. On and off the ice, the hardest of work continues. MacTavish understands what it takes to win and that's why he's in the process of building a Stanley Cup contender, not for one season but for a few.
To do that, the workload is immense but MacTavish doesn't strike me as someone who is afraid of rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty. I mean, that's what he did as a player so why wouldn't he do the same thing as GM? I believe his status as an important 'role player' for those cup-winning teams and not a 'star player' makes him understand better than many what the characteristics are of a successful team.
One of those is obvious and that's stability on the bench. Joel Quenneville in Chicago, Mike Babcock in Detroit and Todd McLellan in San Jose are just a few examples of long serving, winning coaches who, year in and year out, have a team built to succeed. Craig MacTavish wants and expects Dallas Eakins to be that coach for Edmonton. That's why he hired him and that's why he has supported him though out Eakins rookie season.
Over the last few days of the season he spoke of what he had to change, what he learned and the trials and tribulations of year one. An honest assessment of himself and year one with Edmonton. Every time Craig MacTavish has spoken this year and has asked about Dallas he has had his back. That was the again the case on Tuesday. Dallas Eakins is and will continue to be the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Another thing that caught my attention was when MacTavish said with everything he does he asks himself how this is going to help Edmonton build a Stanley Cup winner. For all the questions out there regarding this hockey team that's the one question the former Oiler has been appointed to his position to answer. A year into his tenure and he's come a long way in getting closer with his responses.
MacTavish's workmanlike effort, just like when he played, has netted the team two goalies. He's solidified the bottom 6 up front. The GM hasn't had to do as much with the defence as the growth has come from within (Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Justin Schultz). MacTavish is still looking for a high-end defenceman. He'll also be looking for anything else that brings Edmonton closer to a Stanley Cup. It's his job but it also appears to be his passion. A man on a mission and one he doesn't consider to be impossible.