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Oilers appoint Craig MacTavish as general manager

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON - President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe announced Monday that Steve Tambellini has been relieved of his duties and that Craig MacTavish has been appointed the new general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.

MacTavish had previously spent eight seasons (2000-01 to 2008-09) as the head coach of the Oilers and was brought back last summer as the club's senior vice president of hockey operations.

The Oilers also announced that the Scott Howson has been promoted to that role in MacTavish's place. Howson had been the general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets since 2007, but was dismissed of that title this past February. As a result, the Oilers brought him back to assist in their pro scouting department.

Before signing on with the Blue Jackets, Howson was the assistant general manager with the Oilers from 2002 to 2007.

"We believe our club needs a change in leadership," said Lowe. "In February of 2010, led by Steve Tambellini, we began a complete rebuild with the emphasis on acquiring elite player talent. But, despite showing areas of improvement, the fact of the matter is we're not where we want to be, nor where we should be.

"Because careers are short and opportunities for achievement don't come along very often, we feel strongly that it was important we make some changes right now."

As a result of its 30th, 30th and 29th-place finishes, Edmonton has been the centre of attention at the NHL Entry Draft, selecting Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov with the first overall pick in each of the past three seasons.

The Oilers are currently 12th in the Western Conference with a 16-18-7 record. Facing an eight-point spread between them and the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings, the club is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the seventh straight year.

Since being hired on Jul. 31, 2008, Tambellini led the Oilers to a 138-185-46 record.

"Let me be clear," said Lowe, "we're not where they should be right now and that is unacceptable. And we need to get better immediately. That starts today.

"Losing five in a row, how we lost, where we are (in the standings) -- all those things go into the decision. If we're going to do something, why wait?"

MacTavish made an immediate impact upon his re-arrival in Edmonton. He was instrumental in the acquisition of prized free agent defenceman Justin Schultz last summer and is described by Lowe as "a man of action with tremendous leadership skills."

‘MacT' played 701 career games with the Oilers and was the club's seventh captain in franchise history. He spent the 2011-12 season as the head coach of the AHL's Chicago Wolves, posting a 42-27-7 record.

"I'm an impatient guy and I bring that impatience to this situation," said MacTavish, the fifth GM in Oilers history. "We have to do some bold things and expose ourselves to some semblance of risk to move the team forward in a rapid fashion. The future is extremely bright, but we've got to add depth to help these young players and help our team grow. We've got to add competitiveness. We lack a true understanding of how difficult it is to have success at this level, and It's a difficult league to win in.

"Every morning when the alarm rings at my house, I understand there are 29 other teams trying to beat my brains in. We have to arm our coaches and our core players in that dressing room with the personnel that's going to go forward and compete to the level that we know they're going to get to.

"Not only to be highly competitive, but to be challenging for the Stanley Cup."

According to Lowe in what he described as one of the "greatest trades in Edmonton Oilers history," MacTavish was pivotal in the acquisition of Chris Pronger in 2005.

His ability to communicate, his understanding of the team, organization and market ought to be strengths in the role of general manager.

"You can tell a very compelling story with the youth that we have, the new building on the horizon, the Alberta economy -- there are a ton of positive things that we can sell to the players," said MacTavish. "The last couple players that we've gone after, we haven't been successful in landing, but we're in the ball game. That has changed in the last number of years. We had trouble attracting free agents five-or-six years ago, but now you don't hear as much about the weather because there's a great opportunity here in Edmonton.

"Anyone who's rational and realistic can see this will be an exciting team over time."

Considering the shift in the club's hockey operations staff, MacTavish was asked about the future of Head Coach Ralph Krueger and about how much of this season's result can be attributed to his performance behind the bench.

Former head coaches Pat Quinn and Tom Renney were both hired and dismissed under Tambellini. MacTavish wanted to make it clear that this season's standing has had little to do with coaching. In fact, he's quite pleased with the work done by Krueger and his assistants, Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger.

"We need to give our coaches better tools for which to compete at the NHL level," said MacTavish, the man who coached the Oilers all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.

That's the plan. The challenge is execution.

"It's not about yesterday. What matters is what I do tomorrow to make this organization better. Tomorrow is about getting our bootstraps on and getting the pieces together to make us great.

"I look forward to it."

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