Defiant MacTavish refuses to take blame for previous management mistakes in Edmonton

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It was around 27 minutes into this morning’s press conference when Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish really showed his frustration.

A reporter started a question with, “You and Kevin [Lowe] and Scott Howson have been off and on and in and out running this organization for most of a decade…”

The reporter wasn’t allowed to finish that thought.

“I’ve been on the job for 18 months,” said MacTavish (audio). “I coached the team here for a long time, but I had nothing to do with management, so don’t lop me in into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization.

“I’m going to get to the bottom of it, and this is part of the process of getting to the bottom of it.

“We’ve made an incredible amount of change, tumultuous change, in our organization, and we’re all frustrated. I’m pissed off; nobody lives it more than me. Our fans are pissed off.

“But we’re going to get to the bottom of it. We’re going to continue to make rational, responsible decisions in spite of the situation we’re in, and that’s the leadership I’m going to provide.”

Firing the coach, Dallas Eakins, is not one of the decisions that MacTavish will make. Not right now at least, even with his team mired in an 11-game losing streak. A new coach would only come in and preach the same message that’s being preached now, according to the GM.

Nor does a big trade appear imminent. Yes, the Oilers need a second-line center, among other things. It’s just not that easy to find one of those, and the prices are high.

“Trades into today’s NHL are very difficult to consummate,” said MacTavish, who doesn’t want to “solve one problem” only to “create another.”

So, it’s up to the players.

“In my mind, it’s the execution of the team at critical moments,” said MacTavish. “It’s the execution on the ice. It’s the turnovers. … It’s the on-ice decisions. It’s the competitiveness.”

But it will be MacTavish’s remarks related to the previous management and scouting regimes in Edmonton that will be the most talked about in the wake of today’s press conference.

When a reporter asked about the Oilers’ drafting in the last 10 years, and the fact that, outside the first round, the club had only selected one “semi-impact player” in defenseman Jeff Petry, MacTavish was brutally honest.

“It undermines the performance of everything we do, on and off the ice, and it has to get better,” he said. “From the minute we took over, we focused on improving our draft record.

“You’re right, there were two players in our lineup the other night in Winnipeg that were drafted outside of the first round. So we’re acutely aware of our former inadequacies of our draft after the first round, and we’ve worked hard to improve all our processes, in terms of our drafting.”

In case you’d forgotten, Steve Tambellini was the GM before MacTavish took over, and Lowe, the current president of hockey operations (i.e. MacTavish’s boss), was the guy before that.

The Oilers (6-15-5) host the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.