Acting as the general manager of a professional sports franchise is likely a difficult undertaking. Holding the armchair version of that position is significantly less challenging.
Craig MacTavish officially took over as the actual general manager of the Edmonton Oilers in April. During his introductory press conference, MacTavish expressed that the organization needed to make bold decisions and take risks in order to improve the team. He got specific on Thursday afternoon when he stated during a radio interview that the organization would like to move on from forward Ales Hemsky and captain Shawn Horcoff.
While it truly might be in the best interest of the Oilers to have Hemsky and Horcoff wear different-colored sweaters next season, the armchair version of his position questions why MacTavish believed it was necessary to publicly state this via radio interview.
While the club has the ability to administer a compliance buyout, it doesn't appear to be a course of action the Oilers plan to take. MacTavish stated that if an ideal situation didn't present itself, the players would be welcomed back, according to Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal. While it might be a matter of interpretation, that language seems to indicate MacTavish will attempt to trade both players this offseason. In the event an attractive deal doesn't materialize, he and the Oilers will 'welcome back' the players with open arms.
This sounds like an overly simplified solution to a complex issue.
While the players have yet to comment about MacTavish's plans, one would imagine that there is at least some semblance of animosity. It would only get worse in the event that these players don't get traded and then were forced to return to the team after management openly told all of Edmonton they didn't want them.
Another facet of MacTavish's plan to rebuild the Oilers was to change the culture in the room. In essence, he expressed a desire to avoid a culture of losing. Are Hemsky and Horcoff really going to come back into the Edmonton dressing room and help establish this positive culture after being told that management didn't want them there any more? Of course, this is assuming that MacTavish has already shared this decision with the players' representation, which hopefully was the first outside source with whom he discussed this plan. If not, those two players are probably not too happy to have learned this information via the media.
The decision to move on from Hemsky and Horcoff is the Oilers to make. MacTavish wants to surround his young stars with a deep roster capable of supporting their talents. Apparently, Hemsky and Horcoff don't fit into that plan.
However, the perplexing component of yesterday's admission was that it literally came from MacTavish. This wasn't sourced or found in a report. It came from the manager's mouth -- and it wasn't about a pair of free agents. It was about two players still under contract (Hemsky has one year remaining, while Horcoff has two years). Was this an attempt to improve trade negotiations? What benefit do the Oilers, Hemsky or Horcoff gain from this information being shared?
To publicly say that you no longer want them, but will still take them, isn't a bold move. It's certainly risky, but seemingly not in the same way MacTavish meant on his first day of the job.
But hey, that's easy for an armchair GM to say.