Craig MacTavish: Sometimes, it is what you don’t do that matters

What an exciting past couple of days for Oiler fans. Tambo is out and MacT is in. The Oilers have done what all poor teams do which is to distract fans from the poor performance with an offer of hope for the future. “Don’t worry about how disappointing this season has been. We have a new guy that will be a beacon of positive change. Even if he did work at TSN for a year…. That was a joke guys.”

I will admit that the new hope tactic has kind of worked on me, despite being aware of what they are doing.  I am not sure why I should believe that a charismatic individual with no practical GM experience would likely bring success. He is supported by the same boobs that have run the place into the ground over the past seven years. What has changed? I will say that MacT does have a nice head of hair and contagious smile. He just seems like a leader. Is there a particular font that should be used for sarcasm?

The bad news for me is that the firing of Tambo kind of ruined a piece related to the importance of actions one decides not to take. The notion is inspired in part from this post from Blackdog Pat. The team might have been better off doing nothing than the moves they made. It got me thinking about how value gets created and how teams get better or worse.

Value creation or destruction can occur in one of four ways:

  1. You take some action that creates value (good).
  2. You take some action that destroys value (bad).
  3. You opt to not take action on something that would have destroyed value (nice).
  4. You opt to not take action on something that would have created value (dang).

Folks tend to focus on creating value through action (#1 above). They also tend to discount or explain away actions that end up destroying value (#2). “How could we have known that bringing in Mike Brown was a complete waste of time and a draft pick?” *

* A tangent that I cannot resist for those folks that thinks Mike Brown makes the Oilers better. Envision a scenario where you have twelve Taylor Hall’s making up your four lines. Now envision eleven Taylor Hall’s and Mike Brown. Is that a better team? Of course not. Skill and skill only should be the focus of all four lines.

What folks tend to not grasp is how value is created simply by avoiding poor decisions (#3). You cannot see the non-action therefore it never seemed to have occurred. In business, most poor decisions involve acquiring other companies or taking on big, complex capital projects based on budgets that are wildly optimistic. By passing on these opportunities, value is optimized. At my last job, the boss and I had a mantra that we wanted to see a hundred potential deals before we acted. In was a mindset to always be prepared to do nothing or defer on a decision if it was not clearly better than what we were currently doing. While I always wondered if any of those opportunities were #4 above, I think we generally avoided making any big strategic mistakes.

In hockey, many of the poor decisions relate to contracts awarded and trades. Pat’s post was in part a look at what the Oilers would have looked like if they had simply kept the players they had. If they had done nothing but re-sign the players the Oilers had seven years ago, they would have Stoll, Greene, Hejda, Gilbert, Cogliano, Brodziak, and so on.

The Oilers would not have Hordichuk, Eager, Brown, Sutton, Khabibulin and other guys who are not very good at hockey. The overall quality of the club would be greater had Tambo failed to act in certain circumstances. Fistric. That new guy from Florida. The list is really quite embarrassing.

During yesterday’s press conference, Kevin Lowe was quite proud at the fact the Oilers have added Hall, Eberle, RNH, Yakupov, Dubnyk, Paajarvi and Justin Shultz. He seemed fairly oblivious to the other side of the equation, the side where Oilers’ management has destroyed significant value through many of the moves they made.

The Oilers have even started making mistakes with their young talent. Yes, they have Eberle, but they have him at too high a cost that will cause difficult decisions down the road. Why would anyone sign a player under contract for another year to a big money, long-term deal right before a lockout that would likely fundamentally change the economics of the game? Six Stanley Cup rings cannot tell you how to manage your cap space I guess…

MacT mentioned yesterday how he was an impatient man of action. Fortunately, he made those remarks in the context of the lack of quality hockey players in the bottom six. I hope his impatience is just bluster as patience is often vital to making good decisions.

Assuming MacT correctly diagnoses the issues with the Oilers, the face punchers will be gone and replaced with reasonably priced bottom six players with an ability to play. Most importantly, the elite defenseman void will be filled via trade or free agency. That move will be the one that will make or break the Oilers attempt at relevance.

As interested as I am in those moves that MacT makes to create value for the club, I am equally interested in those moves he makes that destroy value. To the extent smart Oilers fans cannot find bad moves to blog about, that will strongly suggest to me that the team is on the right track.

1 Comment

Filed under Edmonton Oilers

One response to “Craig MacTavish: Sometimes, it is what you don’t do that matters

  1. Wayne D. Joyce

    Quite enjoyed this piece. Perspective, action, non action – all with consequences. DAD

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