Fire MacT? No chance

Robin Brownlee
February 02 2009 10:10PM

mactdeathwatch

While there's plenty of sentiment out there, some of it well-founded, that Craig MacTavish should be fired forthwith by the Edmonton Oilers, it isn't going to happen. At least not right now.

Aside from having the Oilers in a tenuous playoff position at 25-21-3 and owner Darryl Katz and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe firmly in his corner, MacTavish got what was essentially a vote of confidence from GM Steve Tambellini today.

While votes of confidence often come just before the GM walks into his coach's office with a blindfold and a cigarette, I'd be willing to wager that's not the case when it comes to the embattled MacT.

That's not to say a case can't be made for a pink slip, because it can, but the reality of the situation, given the personalities and alliances involved, is that MacTavish isn't going anywhere, yet.

The boss says

Tambellini talked to assembled media at Millennium Place today, taking a variety of questions. Dave Mitchell of CTV cut to the chase when he asked Tambellini if a coaching change might "get this team going."

"We're right in the middle of a playoff hunt here," said Tambellini, eyeballing his bald inquisitor. "We're in fifth place a couple of days ago.

"This coaching staff is working hard. Craig is one of the top coaches in this business and we're right there. So, you're asking me a question when we're fighting for a playoff spot right now, like many teams.

"Our job is to get better from within first, not to look on the outside. If that happens, like I said, we look daily. If we can upgrade our hockey club, we will. If we can upgrade on the last day possible of the trade deadline, we will.

"The most important thing here is to maximize what we have here, be a good team every night. This coaching staff is doing a good job."

Moves pending?

Tambellini was also queried about the possibility of making a deal to bolster the team, maybe shake things up, before the trade deadline.

"To look on the outside, to say there's always something greener on the other side to get better, that's an easy way," Tambellini said. "Every team is saying that.

"You have to get better from the inside. We have to get better as a group (and) individually. That's the only way you'll be able to sustain something... it's difficult. Teams are looking for energy players. Teams are looking for defencemen. They're looking for top-six forwards.

"It's difficult to move players. It's not the only way you get better. We have to look not only on the outside, we have to look from the inside out sometimes. How do we get better as a group?"

The bottom line

So, like it or not, that's Tambellini's take, as of today. In the end, while some Oilers fans might see things differently, the reality is Tambellini, along with Lowe and Katz, have the only votes that really matter. And those votes won't be cast until this season is done and the Oilers miss the playoffs, if they're cast at all.

MacT isn't going anywhere, yet.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 jdrevenge
February 02 2009, 10:17PM
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Agreed.

I think Mac's been guilty of overcoaching this year. Trying to build an overpriced armoire from Ikea with too many pieces (some broken) and no instructions. That to me would spell comfort in his present situation, not him pulling his hair out trying to save his a$$.

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#2 jdrevenge
February 02 2009, 10:24PM
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To expand on that...

He's thrown out the instructions and doesnt have his wife breathing down his neck on a Sunday afternoon telling him to get it done. He's slowly trying to build something with something he hasnt had before. Depth.

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#3 David S
February 02 2009, 10:24PM
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Thanks Robin.

I know I'm going to sound like a shill for The Team 1260, but I'm getting tired of people putting words in this teams mouth (so to speak). Here's the interview. Please guys - listen to it. Then go to MacT's interview afterwords. I understand it when alot of guys are saying that the hard questions aren't being asked. But today wasn't one of those days.

http://www.justagame.ca/audio/Steve%20Tambellini%20Feb%2002.mp3

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#4 David S
February 02 2009, 10:25PM
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And uhh...WHY is this ^ comment awaiting moderation?

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#5 RobinB
February 02 2009, 10:30PM
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@ David S: Perhaps our ON Troublemaker Weeder-outer software mistook you for Traktor.

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#6 bingofuel
February 02 2009, 10:34PM
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@ David S: The comment system assumes that links = spam. You guys would not believe the volume of spam comments we get each day: a minimum of 50.

Success comes at a price.

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#7 Ender the Dragon
February 02 2009, 10:34PM
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Robin, as you say, it is what it is and MacT isn't going anywhere. Still, stating facts has never been why people come to this site, and not having any has never stopped people from having an opinion. For the record, then, I'd like to know what you think besides what you know. If you were the GM, would you move MacT at this point in the season? If so, who would you bring in to replace him?

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#8 David S
February 02 2009, 10:42PM
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RobinB wrote:

Perhaps our ON Troublemaker Weeder-outer software mistook you for Traktor.

Traktor? Nooooo...

*facepalm*

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#9 RobinB
February 02 2009, 10:47PM
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@ Ender the Dragon: That's a tough one seeing as what I think is because of what I know, but no, I wouldn't take out MacTavish now.

First, there are no suitable replacements within the organization, unless Lowe was to come back being the bench. Going outside means an adjustment period. The timing isn't right for a team that still entertains thoughts of making the playoffs.

Second, I'm not as worked up about where the Oilers are in the standings because I didn't project them any higher than this in pre-season. As I said in a comment on Jonathan's story, I think MacT made an error in suggesting in pre-season he had a division contender on his hands. I think he overrated the team -- not smart, but not a firing offence.

Third, I haven't had a veteran player, or any player, tell me MacTavish has lost the room. When that happens, it tends to get out to us, and by the time it gets to us it's already been made clear to management.

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#10 Smokin' Ray
February 02 2009, 11:10PM
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Thank you for sharing Robin. I think a lot of people really needed to hear this. It's time to focus on something else now. Ahh... who am I kidding? This will be brought up again in a week.

Where did the Horcoff haters go?

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#11 rindog
February 02 2009, 11:13PM
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@ Smokin' Ray:

We're still here!!!!!

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#12 Traktor
February 02 2009, 11:29PM
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Steve Tambellini said: "Craig is one of the top coaches in this business."

Based on what? Certainly not results.

Of course the obvious question never gets asked. That would be taboo.

There's zero evidence that suggests MacTavish is anything but an average coach. None.

Another slap in the face from the organization.

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#13 David S
February 02 2009, 11:36PM
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Traktor wrote:

There’s zero evidence that suggests MacTavish is anything but an average coach. None.

At worst, you don't fire someone who's average.

Putz.

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#14 Dropping Deuces
February 02 2009, 11:39PM
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I think the next time the Oil practice At Millenium Place they should watch my 2 year old daughter try and make it up the climbing wall. Now thats determination.

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#15 Traktor
February 02 2009, 11:43PM
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David S wrote:

At worst, you don’t fire someone who’s average. Putz.

You do if you aspire to be anything but average - but as history has shown, Edmonton is more than content with mediocrity.

"I'm not in this business to make friends." - Kevin Lowe

How comforting.

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#16 RyanD
February 03 2009, 12:05AM
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RobinB wrote:

Third, I haven’t had a veteran player, or any player, tell me MacTavish has lost the room. When that happens, it tends to get out to us, and by the time it gets to us it’s already been made clear to management.

This reminds me of that piece that Mark Spector did a few months ago - MacTavish on Thin Ice:

A veteran Oilers player, who requested anonymity added: "Maybe a trade, then the coach. After this long, a change might be good."

To your knowledge (maybe Mr. Gregor and Mr. Staples can chime in here, too), is this quote accurate? Obviously this anonymous player spoke to Spector directly, but did anyone else discover if there was any truth to this?

It always seemed odd to me, because I believed that if it were true it would be quickly explode and become a huge issue...one that management would need to address in some way.

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#17 mwhite.dking@nd.sympatico.ca
February 03 2009, 12:10AM
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1: The Spector quote seemed to get swept under the rug, didn't it?

2: Not sure if Robin and Jon can track down the dates of the pics that were posted but just look at how much older MacT looks in the pic posted alongside the Willis piece!

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#18 humantorch
February 03 2009, 12:57AM
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This organization has become such a disgrace that it sickens me.

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#19 alon
February 03 2009, 01:36AM
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@RobinB RobinB wrote:

Second, I’m not as worked up about where the Oilers are in the standings because I didn’t project them any higher than this in pre-season. As I said in a comment on Jonathan’s story, I think MacT made an error in suggesting in pre-season he had a division contender on his hands. I think he overrated the team — not smart, but not a firing offence.

Perhaps you also shouldn't get over excited as to where the Oilers are in the standings because its a 2 point difference between 5th and 11th place in the division. Someone, in Willis' blog mentioned the fact that we are in the playoff spot as well. Here's a newsflash for you, there is a massive difference between being in 5th and being 3 points ahead of 6th and being in 5th and 2 points out of 11th.

Also correct me if I am wrong, but when a team fires a coach, don't they improve in most cases? Isn't firing the coach a better wake up call then scapegoating Dustin Penner? Is there not only 3 cases in NHL history where a team who changed coaches in the middle of a season not experience immediate improvement?

Thirdly, and this is for everyone, lot's of people on the boards have kind of suggested that the real problem is player inconsistencies. Well, there is an established pattern among society to in effect shadow the actions of authority figures, and well lets face it, MacT has been anything but consistent this year. We could start with our goaltending situation. MacT stated that to start the year that Mattieu Garon was the defacto starter of the team. After the Vancouver and Boston games, it all of a sudden changed to "We will play the hot hand". MacT didn't even to that. He just kept playing Roli (See Philly then Columbus, Detroit then LA, San Jose then Dallas, although admittedly by this time Roli was the starter. Interesting to note that Roli did not sit 27 days here). He hasn't been consistent with the forwards either, to start January MacT finally gives Brule a chance to play on the top line and gives Brule 6 minutes of ice-time that game. Meanwhile Reddox (who has less skill than Brule) is logging 1st line minutes on the top unit. Sadly, MacT couldn't even use the cliche of "But grinder x works hard" because Brule works just as hard as Reddox. Penner also is a good example for MacT's coaching inconsistencies as well, but for that I suggest you read Johnathon's article and his paragraph on Penner.

In short the solution is simple, if you want consistency out of your players you have to have a coach set the example for them. If the coaching is sporadic the playing becomes sporadic, hence the highs and lows we experience every year as Oiler fans.

So, I guess you could say, Fire MacT.

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#20 Dropping Deuces
February 03 2009, 02:14AM
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humantorch wrote:

This organization has become such a disgrace that it sickens me.

Then get off this website. Its for Oiler fans. They are having consistency problems, they're not the New York Islanders you pessimistic twat.

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#21 Jonathan Willis
February 03 2009, 06:13AM
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For those of you wondering, the picture above is from the 2003-04 season, while the picture in my article is from two weeks ago.

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#22 Ender the Dragon
February 03 2009, 06:40AM
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@ alon:

As referred to in the last post, firing MacT is only half an answer. If you advocate firing him tomorrow, who do you propose to put behind the bench? Answer the whole question, not just the easy part.

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#23 RobinB
February 03 2009, 07:43AM
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@ RyanD: I don't doubt the quote is accurate.

If a player is asked a question like, "So, if the team continues to struggle, does that that force management into making moves? And what moves do you make? Trade some players? Fire the coach?"

When you're trying to get the pulse of the room you can throw out "what-if" scenarios. That's different than asking: "Listen, tell me straight up, what has to happen to turn this team around?"

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#24 RobinB
February 03 2009, 07:47AM
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alon wrote:

Here’s a newsflash for you, there is a massive difference between being in 5th and being 3 points ahead of 6th and being in 5th and 2 points out of 11th.

Thanks for that. I didn't realize the difference before you pointed it out to me.

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#25 BUCK75
February 03 2009, 07:48AM
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While I agree with Robin's statement that bringing in a coach that has no NHL experience or another guy would pretty much kiss the play-offs good-bye. While you shouldn't have to tear everything down with 33 games left, the management is placing alot of confidence in 22 guys managing to motivate each other to play better.

Watching 2 blow-out games, a loss to Ottawa(who was winless in 14?), a loss to Florida (a team that hadn't won in Edmonoton since some guys on this site were in elementary school), and a leafs team that should have been beat if the boys played more than 20 minutes. And the penguins if they played more than 20 minutes it might have been different.

The frustration comes from the hype that built this year up. MacT says we can win the conference. We have a terrible record to start the seaon on the road - but wait till we get home. How come the 22 guys in that room can't get their shit to gether & win more than 3 in a row? Longest win streak is 4...3 months ago. If you have a chance @ play-offs you should be competetive every game, but their not. So I guess if that is 3 guys fault, it must be 3 guys fault.

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#26 Deep Oil
February 03 2009, 07:53AM
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RobinB wrote:

alon wrote: Here’s a newsflash for you, there is a massive difference between being in 5th and being 3 points ahead of 6th and being in 5th and 2 points out of 11th. Thanks for that. I didn’t realize the difference before you pointed it out to me.

Peace Now - everyone play nice..... doesn't this say something about Gary Bettman's plan for parity so all markets have a chance to make the post "players play for free" season.... this brings up the valid discoussion that 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime win, and one point for a shootout win - no points for losses and then the ability to separate good from bad is realized.

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#27 Greg MC
February 03 2009, 07:57AM
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Bring back Bep Guidolin. Oops, he is deceased.

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#28 Deep Oil
February 03 2009, 07:58AM
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BUCK75 wrote:

While I agree with Robin’s statement that bringing in a coach that has no NHL experience or another guy would pretty much kiss the play-offs good-bye. While you shouldn’t have to tear everything down with 33 games left, the management is placing alot of confidence in 22 guys managing to motivate each other to play better. Watching 2 blow-out games, a loss to Ottawa(who was winless in 14?), a loss to Florida (a team that hadn’t won in Edmonoton since some guys on this site were in elementary school), and a leafs team that should have been beat if the boys played more than 20 minutes. And the penguins if they played more than 20 minutes it might have been different. The frustration comes from the hype that built this year up. MacT says we can win the conference. We have a terrible record to start the seaon on the road - but wait till we get home. How come the 22 guys in that room can’t get their shit to gether & win more than 3 in a row? Longest win streak is 4…3 months ago. If you have a chance @ play-offs you should be competetive every game, but their not. So I guess if that is 3 guys fault, it must be 3 guys fault.

oilers lack self confidence that they can win

this is more psychological than talent

as a fan when was the last time that you had an oiler swagger

lightning in a bottle resulted in the next season fall as most teams are proving (PITT, OTT, DUCKS,)

oil need someone to boost their ego, in the words of bob the builder (my kids show) CAN WE BUILD IT, YES WE CAN - CAN WE BEAT THEM YES WE CAN - maybe the team needs to watch this cartoon

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#29 RobinB
February 03 2009, 08:02AM
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By the way, I'm not seeing any reference to a "bag skate" involving Penner, Brodziak and Pouliot yesterday. In my my mind, as I said yesterday evening, inital reports characterizing the extra work the players did after practice as a bag skate were a bit overblown. If MacT cracks the whip on those three and skates their bags off while everybody else is sipping water and taking it easy in the dressing room, it's a story in both dailies today.

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#30 Chaz
February 03 2009, 08:09AM
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Is it just me or could there not be a worse time for a Tuesday night PPV game against the high-flying Black Hawks? All signs point to the Oil getting spanked....but you know what? I'm turning over a new leaf...In response to all the negativity surrounding our heros in Copper and Blue (Even though as of now we're in the playoffs-perspective people!) I'm predicting an Oilers win tonight....in regulation....and one of the famous 3 bag skatees will pot the winner. You guys like apples? (Wait, I used that line a few Months ago. What a weak blogger I am....I should be fired...)

BTW: I'm way too cheap to have one of those fancy box things that orders the PPV games, so cheer hard Oiler nation. Times are tough and the journey seems arduous right now, but that will make our Stanely Cup run all that much sweeter in the Spring!

I've changed my mind. Gags will pot the winner!

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#31 humantorch
February 03 2009, 08:13AM
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Dropping Deuces wrote:

Then get off this website. Its for Oiler fans. They are having consistency problems, they’re not the New York Islanders you pessimistic twat.

Do you really think pretending to sound British makes you appear smarter?

Despite your attempt at trolling, I'll stick around, thanks. I've likely been a fan of this team longer than you've been alive, and will continue to cheer my little orange & blue heart out whenever they're on the ice regardless of how incompetent the front office becomes.

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#32 humantorch
February 03 2009, 08:15AM
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They are having consistency problems, they’re not the New York Islanders you pessimistic twat.

They've also been having "consistency problems" for the better part of the last decade, which you'd know if you were old enough to have your parents let you watch TV in the late '90s.

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#33 Fortboy
February 03 2009, 08:56AM
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At 4:24 am this morning I welcomed my second son into this world. He is healthy 7lbs7oz's and Mom is doing fine too. All is good in the Fortboy compound!!

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#34 Daveee
February 03 2009, 08:57AM
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@ RobinB: I agree. Did these players not play as many minutes as usual in the last couple games, they are just getting some extra conditioning in it seems like to me.

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#35 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 09:08AM
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@ Fortboy:

Congrats. Nice to see the first thing you did when you got a chance was check out the Nation. Hard Core.

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#36 bingofuel
February 03 2009, 09:10AM
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@ Fortboy: Congratulations, Fortboy! What's the youngin's name??

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#37 RobinB
February 03 2009, 09:10AM
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@ Daveee: No they didn't play as many minutes as usual, especially in Penner's case. He was pulled from the first line two games in a row. It wasn't "just" some extra conditioning because MacTavish was making a point, but it wasn't a bag skate either. Maybe you should follow the story before you agree or disagree.

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#38 MattL
February 03 2009, 09:11AM
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alon wrote:

Also correct me if I am wrong, but when a team fires a coach, don’t they improve in most cases?

Is that why Ottawa just keeps getting better and better the more they fire their coaches? Tampa Bay is really lighting up the league now... The Islanders have been on a tear since Nolan left...

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#39 Thenosebleedsection.
February 03 2009, 09:13AM
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So I got one good question. Everyone is calling for MacT's head. Dont get me wrong, I think that if the Oil just soil the sheets and some how knock themselves out of a playoff spot he should be fired. But as of right now, today in 8th place with the chance of moving to 5th. If you were in Tambo's shoes and you had to axe the coach. Who would you put behind the bench?.

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#40 shakey
February 03 2009, 09:17AM
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@ Chaz: Have faith, someone on here usually supplies a link to watch the game on-line...free of charge.

Anyone?

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#41 shakey
February 03 2009, 09:19AM
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@ Fortboy: Congrats to you and Mrs. Fortboy and little fortboy junior #1!

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#42 Chaz
February 03 2009, 09:22AM
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@ Fortboy:

Congrats. A new citizen of the nation is born. Here are some name suggestions:

Ales Fernando Ethan Ladislav or Lubomir (Either or) Dwayne Sheldon Or Mac T's number one choice: Liam

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#43 Chaz
February 03 2009, 09:25AM
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@ shakey: Prove Shakey right people. Where's my link?!? I want to see Patrick Kane cry again. Maybe a Souray shot off the ankle will do it!

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#44 Fortboy
February 03 2009, 09:35AM
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bingofuel wrote:

@ Fortboy: Congratulations, Fortboy! What’s the youngin’s name??

Thanks!! Cholo (first) Blaze (second) (then my last name) his 19month older brother's name is Brando (first) Cruz (second)

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#45 Hockey Gods
February 03 2009, 09:42AM
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@ Fortboy: Congrats buddy, I hope you have already bought him his first Oiler jersey and his first words are Fire MacT!

Congrats again to the Mr and Mrs Fortboy and all the best to you family.

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#46 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 09:42AM
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Fortboy wrote:

Thanks!! Cholo (first) Blaze (second) (then my last name) his 19month older brother’s name is Brando (first) Cruz (second)

*takes another hit*

That's good sh*t!!!

haha Seriously though, I like origianl names.

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#47 moose66
February 03 2009, 09:43AM
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How come we never get a quote from Katz. "Katz the ghost" is his new name!!! I don't like when an owner is too involved but can we get anything out of him. Kevin Lowe looks extremely comfortable in his new digs! An owner that idolized him as a player and also an owner not getting involved in the decision making of the organization. What a perfect situation for K-Lowe!!! At least that's from a fan's point of view. This summer is the time for the "ghost" to clean house.

Management is a good start, Kevin Lowe - mediocrity (need i say more) Patrick Laforge - everyone talks about his marketing and how we sellout every game. News flash, a monkey could have sold out every game after that playoff run!! Alan Watt - Mr. Big Brother himself, definitely little man syndrome!!! It's time the media doesn't fear to critique the Oilers.

Coaching All 4 coaches - Mac -T may flourish somewhere else but its time to move on. Also, how can buckee have the pedigree to be an assistant in such a short time! Do you notice that teams try and pluck the great assistant coaches in the league to become head coaches for their teams. How many times over the last number of years have you heard of GM trying to take anyone of our assistants to become head coaches for their team!

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#48 Travis Dakin
February 03 2009, 09:44AM
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moose66 wrote:

How come we never get a quote from Katz. “Katz the ghost” is his new name!!!

Katzper?

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#49 Fortboy
February 03 2009, 09:45AM
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Back to the hospital now. Just swung by home to shit shower shave and pick up th enew guy's older brother. Take care everyone!

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#50 Bruthah
February 03 2009, 09:48AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

For those of you wondering, the picture above is from the 2003-04 season, while the picture in my article is from two weeks ago.

NO PLAY FOR MR. GREY! Somebody should hand that man some 'Just for Men'.

and a pink slip.

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