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Oilers add familiar face to hockey ops staff

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton, AB - The Edmonton Oilers have brought a familiar face back into the fold. General Manager Steve Tambellini announced Monday that Craig MacTavish has been hired as the club's Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.

MacTavish had previously spent eight seasons (2000-01 to 2008-09) as the head coach of the Oilers and hadn't held an NHL coaching gig since his dismissal in 2009. In total, he'd amassed a 301-252-103 record in 656 career games.

The 53-year-old spent last season with the Vancouver Canucks organization, manning the bench for the club's AHL team in Chicago.

Under MacTavish's guidance, the Wolves assembled a 42-27-7 record en route to a third-place ranking in the AHL's Eastern Conference.

"Being on the outside looking in for the last number of years, it sure looks more optimistic and positive going forward," MacTavish said in an exclusive. "The franchise is in a lot better shape than when I left three years ago -- maybe as exciting a franchise as there is in the game going forward. We've got to make sure we do the right things to continue with the positive vain that the franchise has had over the last little while.

"It's a real exciting time and it looks like it's going to be fun."

In addition to his long tenure behind the bench, MacTavish played 701 career games with the Oilers and was the club's seventh captain in franchise history, leading the orange and blue from 1992 to 1994.

He's an Oiler, through and through.

"When you've been in one organization for as long as I'd been in Edmonton -- the 10 years I'd been as a player and nine years as a coach, it's tough to wipe that stuff all off," MacTavish explained, noting that it was an interesting transition to the Canucks organization.

"Vancouver was a pretty heated rival of ours for all those years."

While there were some rumours about MacTavish's assignment and long-term role within the organization when it was announced Monday morning, coaching was never in the cards. Even in returning to the Oilers, revisiting that duty back in Edmonton -- whether it was mutally decided or not -- didn't seem like a good idea.

"I enjoyed my year this year in coaching [Chicago]," he said. "But the coaching part of it is very difficult to go back to a team that you've coached for as long as I'd coached the Oilers. To go back into this situation in spite of the fact that a lot of the personnel has changed over, would have been extremely difficult."

The Senior VP of Hockey Operations is a new role with the organization. Its description is still cloudy in many respects, but it's expected that MacTavish will be a strong voice in almost all areas of management and player personnel.

"I'm going to be another voice," he said. "In this business, it's all about making good decisions and relying on experiences that I've had over the course of the past 30 years or so at this level. I'm going to add another voice and another opinion to the conversation, and we'll spit out and make the right decisions going forward.

"As much as I know this organization very well, I think the best strategy for me going forward is to observe and add my opinion where I think it could be of value -- but more as an observant for the first little while and just try to get my feet wet at this new job."

MacTavish admits that patience isn't his strong suit, but credits the Oilers for doing so during the rebuilding process. Still, he's ready to be a part of the team's uprising en route to a contender status; and, someday, a champion once again.

"This is a very interesting time to get back involved with the Oilers," he said. "It's really a tribute that the team has been patient enough -- and it's not normally one of my strengths, patience -- but it's tribute, really, to the team to have been patient enough to have been able to accumulate the assets that we have right now.

"Now's the time that we have to start moving this thing forward and become more competitive. The players want it, the fans want it, the management wants it, the ownership wants it. Given the right moves here and there, I think there's every reason to expect that the team will, in fact, be highly competitive next year."

Adding another bright hockey mind who bleeds orange and blue certainly can't hurt.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
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