Just Because

Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009 12:40PM

And we continue to wait for the other shoe to drop.

Craig MacTavish had his season-ending press conference today, but didn't answer key questions, refusing to comment on his future or that of Dustin Penner. The Oilers have the tenth worst record in the NHL this season, but we have to wait for the lottery to see where they end up exactly. The rumours of a massive shakeup in the front office are everywhere, and Robin Brownlee has as good a take as anybody on them in the post below this one.

There's a sense that the changes this summer will define the Oilers for the coming years, either for good or for bad, but there's still no concrete idea what those changes will be, so we wait. This seemed like a safe video for the interim, given that neither Coffey or McSorley is in contention for the Oilers' head coaching job, so we can safely enjoy their connection to the glory years without the distaste many feel for the occasional nepotism of the current club. Dave Hodge also has a cameo.

On a completely different note, with the draft coming up I've been thinking about the way picks are made. I realize that having the worst teams pick first helps ensure parity and prevent laughing stocks in the league, and also that the lottery is supposed to discourage tanking for the number one overall spot. But my question would be why the NHL doesn't do a zig-zag style draft.

If, as expected, the Islanders win the lottery, they'll get the rights not only to the first pick of the first round, but also of the second round, third round, and so on. Wouldn't it be fairer to good teams as a whole if the second round were conducted in reverse order of the first round? Bad teams would still get their superstars to build around, but it wouldn't be so difficult for good teams to restock on the run, and would minimize the advantages of holding a firesale and tanking the season. Just something to keep in mind while we wait,

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 12:49PM
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Zig Zag would be an interesting concept.... lets wait until we're in the upper 3rd of the league.

What do you think the odds are of the team trying to trade up into the top 7?

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#2 shakey
April 13 2009, 12:51PM
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Jonathan, I didn't hear his press conference on CHED but a buddy sent me a text saying that MacT was throwing the players under the bus saying they didn't show up etc.

What is your take on his comments? Do you think there was anything there that gives a hint as to if he's coming back as coach here?

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#3 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 12:51PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

What do you think the odds are of the team trying to trade up into the top 7?

No idea. We won't have a clue what the plan is until it starts going into effect (or until somebody starts leaking bits of it).

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#4 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 12:52PM
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@ shakey:

I think there are going to be huge roster changes if MacTavish stays. Certainly Penner and Pouliot, probably Nilsson, maybe more. The only people he really exhonerated to any degree were the defense.

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#5 Rick
April 13 2009, 12:54PM
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shakey wrote:

Jonathan, I didn’t hear his press conference on CHED but a buddy sent me a text saying that MacT was throwing the players under the bus saying they didn’t show up etc. What is your take on his comments? Do you think there was anything there that gives a hint as to if he’s coming back as coach here?

If by "throwing them under the bus" your buddy meant he gave a pretty accurate assesment, then sure he did that.

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#6 topshelf
April 13 2009, 12:54PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I would hope that there would be roster changes whether or not MacT stays or goes. With the players drafted this year we should be able to get a feel for the type of team that Tambellini wants to see on the ice in the future. I am anxious to see the moves the GM takes this summer.

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#7 shakey
April 13 2009, 12:56PM
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@ Rick: Obviously you listened to it. Did he accept any responsibility for the team being as bad as they were?

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#8 Chris
April 13 2009, 12:58PM
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I posted my reaction to MacT's pressor on the last thread. I was in aggreement with much of his assessment. I also appreciated his candor... Bottom line is; the coaching staff never found a baseline system that consistantly worked... nothing to fall back on. The guys were either not physically committed enough, or just plain too small to win enough battles to dump and chase; and weren't able to move the puck well enough to play a puck possesssion style. The season was a complete failure and there is plenty of blame to go around.

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#9 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:00PM
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topshelf wrote:

I would hope that there would be roster changes whether or not MacT stays or goes.

I'm probably alone here, but I don't think a major overhaul is the answer. Just adding some NHL players to key positions (centre, left wing, bottom defense pairing, backup goaltender) will be a big help, and could hopefully be done either through free agency or minor trades. There's nobody on the team who I think definitely needs to be gone before next season, unless MacTavish is back.

With the players drafted this year we should be able to get a feel for the type of team that Tambellini wants to see on the ice in the future.

Hopefully he has the good sense to stick to best player available.

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#10 David S
April 13 2009, 01:01PM
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Kathleen Edwards is so hot. Loved seeing Mcsorley and Coffey. As for the presser, it seems the next day or so will reveal part of what's ahead.

And yes, ~MacT admitted he totally messed up the team by his rank incompetence. Apparently, it had nothing to do with the players.~

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#11 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:02PM
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Chris wrote:

The season was a complete failure and there is plenty of blame to go around.

Honestly, I think steps forward were taken. Despite the total points, this was a better team than last year's edition.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:02PM
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Audio is up at the Oilers' site now.

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#13 topshelf
April 13 2009, 01:04PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

There’s nobody on the team who I think definitely needs to be gone before next season

But if it didn't work this year, what makes you think it will work next year with a new coach?

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Hopefully he has the good sense to stick to best player available

~Hopefully it's the 5'8 170lbs skilled winger~

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#14 Mother Pucker Hockey
April 13 2009, 01:04PM
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Yeah that zig zag would be an interesting way to do it. The best team in the league would benefit with the 30th and 31st picks, and the worst wouldn't be able to stack quite as well.

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#15 Rick
April 13 2009, 01:05PM
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@ shakey:

He took his share of it. He was kinda short on details which is probably what the fans are the most frustrated about but my take was similar to what Chris posted above.

The season was a failure and everybody had a finger in the pie. Everybody.

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#16 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:05PM
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topshelf wrote:

But if it didn’t work this year, what makes you think it will work next year with a new coach?

I think the problem is more the players they didn't have than the players they had, if that makes any sense. Certainly some players will need to go to make room for upgrades, but I think most of the pieces that are here could fit in somewhere on a winning team.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:06PM
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topshelf wrote:

~Hopefully it’s the 5′8 170lbs skilled winger~

Like Zach Parise?

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#18 topshelf
April 13 2009, 01:08PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: But I thought this team is already too small? Can't have it both ways..

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#19 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:09PM
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topshelf wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: But I thought this team is already too small? Can’t have it both ways..

The team is too small. But if you don't take best player available, in a few years the fans are calling for the scouting staff to be burned at the stake because they took the big, gritty, playmaker (Pouliot) over the small goal scorer (Parise).

Best player available, period. You don't draft for need, you trade for need, or sign free agents for need.

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#20 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 01:10PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

topshelf wrote: I would hope that there would be roster changes whether or not MacT stays or goes. I’m probably alone here, but I don’t think a major overhaul is the answer. Just adding some NHL players to key positions (centre, left wing, bottom defense pairing, backup goaltender) will be a big help, and could hopefully be done either through free agency or minor trades. There’s nobody on the team who I think definitely needs to be gone before next season, unless MacTavish is back. With the players drafted this year we should be able to get a feel for the type of team that Tambellini wants to see on the ice in the future. Hopefully he has the good sense to stick to best player available.

I agree, unless a homerun is presented (without selling the farm) I'd be more interested in depth moves and swapping out one PMD/small forward for their shutdown/big forward equivalents.

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#21 shakey
April 13 2009, 01:12PM
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@ Rick: It was a failure and I hope the fingers get pointed all around starting at the top.

@ Jonathan Willis: How do you see that steps forward were taken? They had a worse point total than last year, 2nd lowest in 8 years I think I heard. They fell off the planet in penalty killing and their power play was worse than years past. They seemed to hit less and once Vishnovsky went down, our break out was brutal. Where was the improvement you saw?

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#22 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:13PM
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shakey wrote:

They had a worse point total than last year, 2nd lowest in 8 years I think I heard.

How many shootout/overtime wins last year?

Last year's team was not as good as it's finish. This team should have been better, but IMO their finish accurately reflected their play.

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#23 Chris
April 13 2009, 01:14PM
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Tambellini will go bigger, signalling (to me) the end of the "puck possession" experiment.

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#24 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:15PM
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shakey wrote:

How do you see that steps forward were taken?

Sam Gagner was a far better player at even strength this season than he was last season. The results don't reflect it, but it seems obvious to me. Other players also progressed this season, to different degrees, but Gagner isn't a bit piece or a support player over the long haul.

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#25 Hat Pughes
April 13 2009, 01:15PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote: <I’m probably alone here, but I don’t think a major overhaul is the answer. Just adding some NHL players to key positions (centre, left wing, bottom defense pairing, backup goaltender) will be a big help, and could hopefully be done either through free agency or minor trades. There’s nobody on the team who I think definitely needs to be gone before next season, unless MacTavish is back. With the players drafted this year we should be able to get a feel for the type of team that Tambellini wants to see on the ice in the future. Hopefully he has the good sense to stick to best player available.

I didnt hear the presser either but this team: - couldnt execute the game plan and that is probably because it was too complex or they just didnt have the skill; - could not execute -- on many nights they could not make 3 tape to tape passes in a row...this isnt coaching -- its the players to me. - didnt bring its "compete" level with consistency or on enough nights --- sure we saw Gagner and Cogliano in the corner getting pushed off the puck but why were they the ones put in that position. When the big boys wanted to be a force "Penner, Moreau et al" they were, but there was too much Jason Arnott in them ("I wasnt in it tonight")

They need to get less vanilla in their personnel. Too many guys are average at everything but not great at anything -- players need to be either greasy or skilled...too many on this roster are tweeners and are trying to be something they are not. This may be a management or player personnel decision issue.

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#26 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:17PM
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@ Hat Pughes:

So what do you change?

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#27 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 01:19PM
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shakey wrote:

@ Rick: It was a failure and I hope the fingers get pointed all around starting at the top. @ Jonathan Willis: How do you see that steps forward were taken? They had a worse point total than last year, 2nd lowest in 8 years I think I heard. They fell off the planet in penalty killing and their power play was worse than years past. They seemed to hit less and once Vishnovsky went down, our break out was brutal. Where was the improvement you saw?

Team got too pumped up with their finish, it was looking like a lotto team at game 60

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#28 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 01:19PM
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Anybody wanting to depress themselves should listen to the Ales Hemsky season ending interview.

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#29 shakey
April 13 2009, 01:24PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I don't know JW, point totals are what get you in the playoffs not marginal improvements from one bad year to the next. I guess we're nit-picking over different things but at the end of the day, we're trying to find the best shade of blue to put on our pig. End of the day, or season, it's still a pig and it wasn't pretty.

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#30 topshelf
April 13 2009, 01:24PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: For the record, Pouliot was not big and gritty in junior. I am in agreement with you regarding drafting the best player possible as well but I would rather go with a bigger skilled forward because nowadays it isn't long before top ten picks are in the NHL as an everyday player.

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#31 topshelf
April 13 2009, 01:26PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Anybody wanting to depress themselves should listen to the Ales Hemsky season ending interview.

Is that on the oilers website?

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#32 Deans
April 13 2009, 01:29PM
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That song by Kathleen Edwards is fantastic. There are some brilliant Canadian artists/songwriters who dont get the mainstream attention they deserve. Canada's indie, folk and alternative rock acts are world class. Oh ya this Oilers Nation uuuhhh F**K THE FLAMES!!! They will get swept in 4. FIRE MACT.

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#33 humantorch
April 13 2009, 01:29PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Anybody wanting to depress themselves should listen to the Ales Hemsky season ending interview.

Wow. That's... that's just... wow.

So what he's saying is that management didn't do what's necessary to win, there's nothing he needs to do to improve as a player at all, the other veterans didn't do their part, and he did his best?

Wow.

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#34 jdrevenge
April 13 2009, 01:30PM
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Willis you're so crazy..

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#35 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 01:34PM
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@ humantorch:

The luster of Ales Hemsky is starting to wear off...I'm starting to think I liked him better when he didn't speak to the media.

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#36 Duster
April 13 2009, 01:51PM
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whoa, wait a minite here...what is with the 'if' Mac-T leaves?! I hope we are not back to that, i thought it was a done deal, all over but the crying.

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#37 Hat Pughes
April 13 2009, 01:52PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Players and those responsible for player personnel selection. With the kicker being how quick can this be done ...cause methinks MacT has already been tuned out by the on-ice personnel which means he goes too.

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#38 David S
April 13 2009, 01:52PM
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humantorch wrote:

Wow. That’s… that’s just… wow. So what he’s saying is that management didn’t do what’s necessary to win, there’s nothing he needs to do to improve as a player at all, the other veterans didn’t do their part, and he did his best? Wow.

Not quite. He said he knew his last month was sub-par and that he had to get better along with everybody else. He did say he was trying his best, but that it obviously wasn't enough - he couldn't explain it any better than that.

Maybe try listening to the whole interview instead of blocking out the 98% of it that doesn't agree with your point of view.

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#39 Chris
April 13 2009, 02:01PM
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For our anniversary, my wife surprised me with a one time seat upgrade to the last Annaheim game. We sat right at the glass in section 104. When seated so low, you tend to lose sight of the puck due to limites sight lines... However, it was stunningly fun (and a real eye-opener) to watch the facial expressions of the various players as they do battle. Two things really stuck with me that night: 1) JF Jacques hits hard. (Man those boards shake when he takes a guy in... 2) Ales Hemsky looked completely disengaged. His body language, expression, and most noteably, his eyes: they were completely vacant. If the eyes are the window to the soul, it was lights out for Hemsky that night... (And that was a critically important game occurring shortly after Hemsky's outburst)

I don't know if that is just Hemsky's style, or if he was having a bad night... But it sure looked like he was just going through the motions. I came away from that game with resolve to watch Hemskys compete level more closely... He really surprised me.

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#40 Rob
April 13 2009, 02:02PM
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@ David S:

You beat me to it David S. I thought it just sounded like he didn't want to be there answering all those stupid questions that no one has the answers to at the moment. I have to agree with Ogden here though, I like hemmer better when he doesn't do interviews.

I'm actually getting a little worried about Mact staying. It sounds like the players are taking the grunt if the blame like usual. Mact did say he couldn't find a system for them that worked. I'm starting to think we keep him, trade the whole team and give him more influence on the players we bring in. At least he said they wouldn't drag it out so hopefully Tambo works quick and gives us an answer soon.

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#41 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 02:02PM
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topshelf wrote:

For the record, Pouliot was not big and gritty in junior.

Well, he wasn't huge, but he was quite a bit bigger than Parise. As for his grit, one of the biggest concerns with him out of junior was that he'd lose his cool and take bad penalties; he was the emotional leader of a lousy Rimouski team and one of the few guys with both talent and the ability/desire to go into traffic.

I was not a fan of his AHL career, but his junior career was quite good, even before Crosby joined the team.

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#42 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 02:03PM
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The thing about the Hemsky interview that I didn't like was both the obvious frustration and the lack of ideas as to what exactly went wrong.

He just sounded like a guy who needed a good long break from everything.

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#43 RossCreek
April 13 2009, 02:04PM
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Hey... maybe next season will be the season that Ales Hemsky takes the next step. - signed Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

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#44 humantorch
April 13 2009, 02:05PM
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David S wrote:

Maybe try listening to the whole interview instead of blocking out the 98% of it that doesn’t agree with your point of view.

"Ales... what do you have to do to get better as an individual?"

"Uh... that's a good question. I don't know. I think I did everything I could."

Since you're really smart, could you explain how that fits into your worldview? I mean, if you're not too busy sitting in your ivory tower?

Yes, he admits that he wasn't happy with his last month of the season, but that was after he clearly said THERE. WAS. NOTHING. HE. COULD. DO. TO. GET. BETTER.

A point he reiterated later on, after implying that the OTHER veterans didn't carry their weight ("I think the veterans know what to do... for myself, I felt strong, I felt like I skated well, but as a team you need to get better, just one or two guys can't do it... some things you can't control, I felt like I did my best..."), and after implying that management didn't bring the right players in ("[management] tried, it's tough to say. You have to ask them. We didn't make the playoffs.").

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#45 socaldave
April 13 2009, 02:09PM
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just listened to Lubo, and it was exactly what I was hoping for. Loves the team, loves his mates, etc.

Nice to see he's got a sense of humour - he said he hasn't been able to do anything for the last two months, and is a little overweight, but his summer training program starts this Thursday! ;)

good stuff - I still think we woulda made the playoffs if he stayed healthy all year.

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#46 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 02:09PM
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Chris wrote:

For our anniversary, my wife surprised me with a one time seat upgrade to the last Annaheim game. We sat right at the glass in section 104. When seated so low, you tend to lose sight of the puck due to limites sight lines… However, it was stunningly fun (and a real eye-opener) to watch the facial expressions of the various players as they do battle. Two things really stuck with me that night: 1) JF Jacques hits hard. (Man those boards shake when he takes a guy in… 2) Ales Hemsky looked completely disengaged. His body language, expression, and most noteably, his eyes: they were completely vacant. If the eyes are the window to the soul, it was lights out for Hemsky that night… (And that was a critically important game occurring shortly after Hemsky’s outburst) I don’t know if that is just Hemsky’s style, or if he was having a bad night… But it sure looked like he was just going through the motions. I came away from that game with resolve to watch Hemskys compete level more closely… He really surprised me.

Just from the comforts of my easy chair, but I've noticed the same thing with Hemsky the last month or so. Not sure if it's injury/personal issue/problem with coach or teamates or whatever. But I wouldn't be shocked if he asked to be traded this summer.

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#47 Ogden Brother
April 13 2009, 02:11PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The thing about the Hemsky interview that I didn’t like was both the obvious frustration and the lack of ideas as to what exactly went wrong. He just sounded like a guy who needed a good long break from everything.

...Or a guy that doesn't care.

I'm a huge Hemsky fan, but his previous interview and the following on-ice responce aren't promising.

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#48 David S
April 13 2009, 02:15PM
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humantorch wrote:

“Ales… what do you have to do to get better as an individual?” “Uh… that’s a good question. I don’t know. I think I did everything I could.” Since you’re really smart, could you explain how that fits into your worldview? I mean, if you’re not too busy sitting in your ivory tower? Yes, he admits that he wasn’t happy with his last month of the season, but that was after he clearly said THERE. WAS. NOTHING. HE. COULD. DO. TO. GET. BETTER. A point he reiterated later on, after implying that the OTHER veterans didn’t carry their weight (”I think the veterans know what to do… for myself, I felt strong, I felt like I skated well, but as a team you need to get better, just one or two guys can’t do it… some things you can’t control, I felt like I did my best…”), and after implying that management didn’t bring the right players in (”[management] tried, it’s tough to say. You have to ask them. We didn’t make the playoffs.”).

^ See Jonathan's post. All I got was that Hemsky was emotionally drained and didn't have any answers as to why his play slid over the last month other than the obvious fact that he end everybody else had to be better. The rest? Meh.

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#49 Jonathan Willis
April 13 2009, 02:17PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

I hope you're wrong. I wish I could say that you're wrong, but at this point I can't.

But he does care enough to go into traffic, and into the corners, so I'm not ready to write him off just yet.

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#50 Rick
April 13 2009, 02:25PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

He is an enigma in that he clearly has the talent to be a guy that could carry a team but doesn't seem to have the fire to accept it.

For 3,4 or 5 plays a game he brings you out of your seat and makes the opposition look silly but for 18 minutes a night he looks like a lost child out there.

Until he stops playing the game only for those 5 opportunities a night he is going to leave the fans and the team wanting.

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