Deep Thoughts VIIII: Making it up as I go

Robin Brownlee
April 15 2009 08:40PM

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The only thing that's nearly as important as getting the story right in the journalism business is getting it first. The challenge and the joy in this game is doing both consistently. Sometimes, even when you're right, it sucks. Like today, when Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini made it official the team and Craig MacTavish had parted ways.

Officially, MacTavish has been "relieved of his duties." I suspect he resigned, but the bottom line for fans, be they applauding the move or lamenting it, is he's gone. Not a happy day for reporters, those of us who've had MacT filling our notepads for a decade.

Then again, having been off the beat since January 2007 after 10 years of nagging MacTavish for The Journal and The Sun, I won't be impacted as much as today's everyday scribes, especially if the new guy is a stiff as a quote. That's their problem, but I digress . . .

Having written MacTavish off April 9 in Already Gone, again last Sunday in Armchair GMIII and finally in Tuned Out on Tuesday, it's the reaction to an item at the bottom of the last bit that got me thinking about the challenge of getting it right and getting it first.

I'm referring to a few sentences I wrote regarding a rumour Sheldon Souray might have requested a trade. It's a mention I wouldn't have made for an MSM outlet, but one I thought was fine here. I still do.

What's the buzz?

Burned like Grant Ledyard on a Todd Marchant breakaway when I disregarded an e-mail Chris Pronger wanted out of town in 2006 as bogus, I mentioned the Souray rumour, which also came to me by way of e-mail. The response was frenetic.

I wrote:

"Perhaps one of the reasons Souray didn’t make himself available to reporters Monday is he didn’t want to address speculation that he’s asked Tambellini for a trade. Rumours Souray has asked to be dealt began several weeks ago and they’ve persisted since. To this point, neither Souray or anybody in the Oilers front office has gone on the record to put the talk to rest. Until that happens, and there’s a flat-out denial from one of the parties, this has legs. Stay tuned."

Having sat on the gossip a few weeks waiting for the right time to raise the issue with Souray -- there's seldom a good time when a team is pooping itself -- I made the mention after Souray left the rink without talking and when I heard another media outlet was on the sniff.

While I wouldn't have dropped the hint something might be up if I was writing for the Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail or another MSM outlet because it wouldn't get past an editor looking for substantive sources and more meat, I see this gig as different.

If it has legs . . .

Before Tambellini's on-the-record "No" today and without a comment from Souray -- I sent him an e-mail asking him about the rumour -- I thought a couple of paragraphs would suffice.

I was amused by the reaction of some fans at sites like Hockey's Future. Some folks read the item and took note it was framed as a rumour before adding their two cents. Many did not. It made for much braying, even after I clarified the item in a subsequent comment.

I wrote:  "Like I said earlier, this is a rumour and nothing more at this point. To discount it completely would be foolish, but it’s also premature to take it as fact and start working out trade possibilities. The rumour, and the fact Souray has been separated from his kids, plus the fact he didn’t talk to the media Monday are all bits and pieces. Do they add up to him requesting a trade? Maybe. Maybe not. All we can do is ask Tambellini if the request has been made.

If I had it firm from Souray or anybody else, I wouldn’t be burying the item at the bottom of the story. It would be the story."

Even with that disclaimer, somebody named Homesick wrote: "Brownlee's man crush doesn't handle rejection well." Somebody who calls themselves IDrinkMomma'sPee, actually it was Replacement, declared: "Brownlee has gone south and has been hit with the blog bug. So much more fun to say anything and make it up."

Walking the line

Make it up? Well, no.

While I suspect Homesick and IDrinkMomma'sPee figure I make it up with my other writing gigs as well, there's no question the rules at Oilersnation are different -- I make them. In that regard, I have an advantage over MSM peers like Dan Barnes or Jim Matheson or Ryan Rishaug.

Good thing, because they're sharp and I'll take any edge I can get. They can't go with the Souray item, at least not the way I presented it. I can't either, if I'm writing for CP. But for OilersNation? Absolutely.

That said, I try not to get too loose with the journalistic rules I've grown up with. I won't write something I know is bogus. Making stuff up for the hell of it isn't my style. Without credibility, I might as well be wearing pajamas. You don't want that.

Fact is, if a player reads something that's a fabrication, he doesn't care whether it was written here or in the New York Times. All he wants to know is why you wrote that he wears women's clothing on the weekend, or wants to be traded when he doesn't.

Make stuff up, and you don't get another interview. I'm not worried about that with Souray. There's some smoke here -- he's not a happy camper, but much of that is because he's away from his children and this season sucked -- but apparently no trade fire.

Anyway, as I try to get the hang of this interweb thing while still wearing my MSM hats, I'll let the times I get it first and get it right speak for itself. In this business, that's how we keep score.

As for that talk about Pat Quinn and Tambellini's short list . . .

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. 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 Sandra
April 15 2009, 08:55PM
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Nice to see that the Oilers did the right thing in "firing" MacT. Now after talking to to friends at Beaver Lake Reserve #131, where Sheldon Souray's father was visiting, and has family there, it looks like Sheldon will be back with the Oilers. Yes he did say that if MacT was back with the Oilers, he would request a trade. Would request, he did not request it yet. MacT was at his witts end, A change will be good for both. So maybe Atlanta for MacT?

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#2 socaldave
April 15 2009, 08:59PM
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effin A Robin, EFFIN AAAAAAAAA!

I think you're absolutely right with your last comment on Souray. You certainly did NOT portray anything as gospel, just something you heard and were pretty much as curious as anyone else. It's one of those things that I would lay a LOT of money on, that - to a man - your MSM colleagues would absolutely say they've heard the same things you've mentioned.

I really find it amusing and ironic that fellas like you've mentioned call you loose with your sources yet pop off like Orville used to. On a blog. Showing their combined IQ to be somewhere south of 70. Good times, eh?

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#3 Smokin' Ray - NNC
April 15 2009, 08:59PM
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@ Robin: How come all these players are separated from their families if the team says that the "family life" in Edmonton is great? Is there more to the "background" stuff then we know?

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#4 17
April 15 2009, 09:00PM
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It's insane how fast these rumours/tips/whispers can be blown out of proportion. Nice to be kept in the loop somewhat though, so thanks for keeping us Nationeers(?) updated.

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#5 Helicopter Guy
April 15 2009, 09:00PM
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Crappy. I'm not saying that Souray would never request a trade (I had no idea his family wasn't with him) but....that would really be terrible news. You thought it was hard to get players to come to Edmonton after Prongergate? Just wait - the Chernobyl Ice-o-topes would have a better chance of getting a first line player to relocate willingly. Add to that - Hemsky's at least partial dissatisfaction with his handling and the "relieving" of the head coach. Yikes! What amazing potential for a glorious clusterf*ck.

I was born and raised in Edmonton, a kid in elementary school playing knock-downs with Wayne Gretzky rookie cards as the legendary Oilers tore up the league for years on end. I even get teary eyed when I see really emotional heartfelt play from the team....yeah I said it. I follow no other team and if the Oilers ever moved I'd only watch the UFC from now on. I've lived and breathed Edmonton Oilers for almost 30 years.

This situation as it stands now (and as it has the potential to become) hurts big time.

Here's to hoping for better things.

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#6 Robin Brownlee
April 15 2009, 09:01PM
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@ Sandra: Thanks for that. Between the e-mails, talks I'd had with colleagues and chats I'd had around the dressing room, I felt relatively sure about the possibility of a trade request or I wouldn't have even mentioned it -- that'll burn you with a player in a hurry and you don't stick around long if you do that. The problem was, I never did ask Sheldon the question because it's not something you do in a scrum and it's not like you can just bring it up casually when the players are already miserable.

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#7 The Cartoonist
April 15 2009, 09:01PM
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Seems to me as though Souray is a good team leader. I wouldn't like to see him go.

Ps. Farewell, MacT.

Finally.

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#8 17
April 15 2009, 09:02PM
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@ Smokin' Ray - NNC:

I think Souray's kids live with his wife in California...

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#9 17
April 15 2009, 09:04PM
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sorry, ex-wife. Other than that, and Roli, I think they were the only 2 that were separated from their families - that I can recall anyway.

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#10 Jonathan Willis
April 15 2009, 09:05PM
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Robin was absolutely right to mention it, phrased the way he did. And the sort of folks that jump all over him for it are the sort of folks who it isn't worth taking the time to please anyway.

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#11 The Cartoonist
April 15 2009, 09:06PM
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Sandra wrote:

Yes he did say that if MacT was back with the Oilers, he would request a trade. Would request, he did not request it yet.

Could it be that Souray was the "anonymous veteran player" who mentioned a need for a coaching change a while back?

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#12 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
April 15 2009, 09:08PM
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Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison just reported on CBC that indeed MacT was fired, and not given the chance to resign. Robin what do you think?

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#13 Robin Brownlee
April 15 2009, 09:15PM
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Jack "FMNF" Bauer wrote:

Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison just reported on CBC that indeed MacT was fired, and not given the chance to resign. Robin what do you think?

I think he resigned, but I do not know for sure. Tambellini talked about it being mutual, and I don't have anything concrete to contradict that.

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#14 CurtisS
April 15 2009, 09:24PM
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Rindog

You were bang on a long time ago my friend.

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#15 albundy
April 15 2009, 09:30PM
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What does the events of today say about the words that Katz has to offer? Did he just not text something the other day about MacT that was announced over and over again on the radio?????????

(edited by WG)

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#16 Harlie
April 15 2009, 09:34PM
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way to throw the deflection to the Quinn shortlist talk. ha ha!

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#17 Rusty Shackleford
April 15 2009, 09:35PM
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Now that Mac is gone, my hope is that a new head coach will mean new assistants. Would a new coach want Bucky around?

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#18 albundy
April 15 2009, 09:37PM
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Is it true when I heard that MacT was on an airplane heading out of town today? What is up with that? He makes big money, he resigned, so why be scared of the media? He looks like Pronger today when he left, I mean got traded. What is up with that?

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#19 Librarian Mike
April 15 2009, 09:38PM
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Rusty Shackleford wrote:

Now that Mac is gone, my hope is that a new head coach will mean new assistants. Would a new coach want Bucky around?

Would anyone?

Just kidding. I think it's important for this team to start asking of its coaching/management staff, "What can you do to help?" If the answer involves the words 'Mess', 'Gretz', or 'Eighties', they need to not be here.

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#20 Harlie
April 15 2009, 09:44PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Jack “FMNF” Bauer wrote: Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison just reported on CBC that indeed MacT was fired, and not given the chance to resign. Robin what do you think? I think he resigned, but I do not know for sure. Tambellini talked about it being mutual, and I don’t have anything concrete to contradict that.

doing a search of msm sites they are saying MacT was fired. I also think the term "relieved of his duties" means fired. How can you quit when you have 1 year left on your contract? The only way out was to be "fired". Or relieved. Or whatever.

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#21 heavyd
April 15 2009, 09:50PM
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doesnt souray have a 3 year no movemnet clause?

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#22 Robin Brownlee
April 15 2009, 09:52PM
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@ Harlie: I've been relieved without being fired.

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#23 JB
April 15 2009, 10:03PM
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Just a thought here: if Souray was given the opportunity to wave his no-trade clause, wouldn't the Kings be a good fit for a deal. Frolov is one year away from free agency; some package revolving around the two of them perhaps?

Or maybe I need to act like a normal person, watch the playoffs, and patiently wait for things to go down.

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#24 BarryS
April 15 2009, 10:22PM
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@ albundy: No longer being an Oiler Employee, nor employeed in this city, he no longer owes the media nor the fans anything. If you got relieved of your job would you want to discuss it with the paper? Comments like that make you look small and pety. The man's gone, let him go.

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#25 Dwayne
April 15 2009, 10:25PM
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Why would we get rid or let him go of Souray? He shows up every night. Lets Get Pronger Back..that bastard could play hockey every night.

I wish Mac T the best, if he had a team that would come out every night or execute the frigging plays on the fucken board we may have been in the playoffs. As usual Oilers fans...there is always next Season. Go Oilers GO!

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#26 Antony Ta
April 15 2009, 10:28PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Like I said earlier, this is a rumour and nothing more at this point. To discount it completely would be foolish, but it’s also premature to take it as fact and start working out trade possibilities.

Eklund says this a lot. That's right. I went there.

But in all seriousness, with the kind of team he described as wanting to build, I think the shortlist is really, really short indeed.

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#27 Tod
April 15 2009, 10:32PM
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How did Tom Renney coach the Rags? His name was mentioned on CBC but is he the "aggressive" coach that Tambellini wants?

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#28 ryan
April 15 2009, 10:36PM
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Mac T was a nice guy but just could not get them going to bad Souray leaving I sure hope not. Unless the Oil some how get Jbo. Trade Lubes and Nilson for picks sign Jbo and that guy in Atlanta. Trading Horcoff wouldn't be that bad of an idea Oilers need that sniper they have been talking about for the last five years, without the 40 goal man the team has no chance. Every good team has one guy with 40 plus goals. Hemsky needs top play more PK we need are best players on the ice in all key situations, just hope he doesn't block shots. Just my Thoughts

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#29 ryan
April 15 2009, 10:40PM
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@ Antony Ta: sound right

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#30 cgh
April 15 2009, 10:43PM
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albundy wrote:

Is it true when I heard that MacT was on an airplane heading out of town today? What is up with that? He makes big money, he resigned, so why be scared of the media? He looks like Pronger today when he left, I mean got traded. What is up with that?

After how negative all of the fans in this city have been, I would be on a plane out of town too....

The guy has always (until this week) been very open with the media and very accessible to the throngs in Edmonton. Give the guy a break

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#31 ryan
April 15 2009, 10:43PM
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I do know that Jbo has a house in Edmonton so we will see what the Oil management can do. Wondering does Hemsky have good relations with K-chuck? anyone?

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#32 ryan
April 15 2009, 10:46PM
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Mac T never once in any interview (other then the year end) mention him self it was always the team. Good coach and great guy

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#33 ryan
April 15 2009, 10:55PM
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The team just never would respond to Mac T. It took Gagne untill March to play hockey, Nilson shows so much talent but quits playing all the time, Penner just is not the player K Lowe projected, Horcoff took every faceoff that wear him out, Rolli played great in the end and still never won any games by himself( other then the Ducks )PK killed the team and the goals against in the last min or first min of any period To bad K Lowe and Tambellini never got any player other then Souray for Mac T in the last 8 years. Fire K Lowe he cost Mac T his job and us the Playoffs again!!!!!!!

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#34 Sandra
April 15 2009, 11:38PM
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The Cartoonist wrote:

Sandra wrote: Yes he did say that if MacT was back with the Oilers, he would request a trade. Would request, he did not request it yet. Could it be that Souray was the “anonymous veteran player” who mentioned a need for a coaching change a while back?

I really think it was Staios, Yes Staios. The locker room was fine. It was when Penner, a well liked player int the room, was "belittled" by MacT, that the room started tuning him out. Souray, Staios and Penner are great chums.

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#35 ryan
April 16 2009, 12:00AM
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Sandra wrote:

The Cartoonist wrote: Sandra wrote: Yes he did say that if MacT was back with the Oilers, he would request a trade. Would request, he did not request it yet. Could it be that Souray was the “anonymous veteran player” who mentioned a need for a coaching change a while back? I really think it was Staios, Yes Staios. The locker room was fine. It was when Penner, a well liked player int the room, was “belittled” by MacT, that the room started tuning him out. Souray, Staios and Penner are great chums.</blockquote. Maybe hes gone now so we need to look forward, hopefully souray stays they can get Jbo and a good goal scoring forward, sad to see some of the younge guys traded but the team needs to do something about the guys partying all the time and get more leadership. Maybe Ethan and Horcoff need to go bring up Brule, Ethan plays 3rd line very easy to replace. Get Sutter out of New Jersey we need him
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#36 West Coast Oil
April 16 2009, 12:24AM
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@Robin first a statement then a question.

You just keep walking that fine line between respected reporter and internet basement crazy guy the way you have been as I think you are doing a great job. I also know that if you leaned too far one way or the other (whether it be loony or straight laced) there would be lots of people jumping out to let you know! MacT should know better than to pick on the most popular/funny kid in class, in the end everyone sides with the popular kid. I have high hopes that Tamby will be turning this ship around. I thought Tambellini looked quite pissed off during the press conference is he that upset and frustrated with the organization or was he more upset he was forced into letting a friend go?

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#37 Victoria
April 16 2009, 02:34AM
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Sandra wrote:

I really think it was Staios, Yes Staios. The locker room was fine. It was when Penner, a well liked player int the room, was “belittled” by MacT, that the room started tuning him out. Souray, Staios and Penner are great chums.

Dustin? Is that you?

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#38 Jeremy
April 16 2009, 06:12AM
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@ ryan:

For the record due, only 8 teams in the NHL had 40+ goal scorers this year. And 2 of those were Atl, and Buf. Now by your logic does that make the other 22 teams crap, and conversely make Atl and Buf good teams?

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#39 Matt N
April 16 2009, 06:44AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Thanks for the work Robin. For what it's worth, you have this fans trust and respect. Keep 'em coming.

Re: Pat Quinn

Based on his work in Toronto I am a little skeptical about him.

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#40 Robin Brownlee
April 16 2009, 07:35AM
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Sandra wrote:

The Cartoonist wrote: Sandra wrote: Yes he did say that if MacT was back with the Oilers, he would request a trade. Would request, he did not request it yet. Could it be that Souray was the “anonymous veteran player” who mentioned a need for a coaching change a while back? I really think it was Staios, Yes Staios. The locker room was fine. It was when Penner, a well liked player int the room, was “belittled” by MacT, that the room started tuning him out. Souray, Staios and Penner are great chums.

You've got it right. While I've criticized Penner often, he's a popular guy in the dressing room and MacTavish's treatment of him -- especially discussing his shortcomings publicly -- did not sit well. That's a fact.

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#41 douggy
April 16 2009, 07:40AM
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hahahahahahaha. that picture is hilarious. haha. i wish i had some nunchucks!

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#42 Milli
April 16 2009, 07:45AM
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Robin, I think you where pretty clear when you first wrote the piece, there was a chance, it wasn't like Pronger. People should relax. I'd hate to see you and Gregor leave the Nation, love the insight and candor. I still say that I like the fact that Souray is so pissed. I cannot remember another time when a pro has shown so much hate at the team having a brutal season. He had a great year, but, he wants to win. None of this to much expectations BS. Maybe he has asked, maybe he was trying to put pressure on Mgmt to deliver the changes that are needed. Either way, firing macT had to happen, will benifit this team, even if I am a little sorry to see him go. Oh ya, do you think he will be the coach of the Minny Wild next season?

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#43 Robin Brownlee
April 16 2009, 07:56AM
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@ Milli: MacT has gone under right now and I don't know if or when we'll get a chance to talk with him, or how much he'll say.

I'm not sure if he's of the mind to jump back into things in time for the start of next season or if he'll take a year off to unwind. He's getting paid and money is no problem.

When he wants back in he'll be on the short list of any team needing a coach. Keep in mind, his strongest ties outside of Edmonton are with New York.

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#44 RossCreek
April 16 2009, 07:58AM
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I didn't realize Penner was as close to some of the vets as he seems. I know he hangs with the young' n s, but if vets like Souray and Staios are buds with Penner, then its easy to see how MacT lost the room with his treatment. Not only with Dustin, but some of the others.

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#45 RossCreek
April 16 2009, 07:58AM
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I didn't realize Penner was as close to some of the vets as he seems. I know he hangs with the young' n s, but if vets like Souray and Staios are buds with Penner, then its easy to see how MacT lost the room with his treatment. Not only with Dustin, but some of the others. Good work Robin (and Sandra)

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#46 Jonathan Willis
April 16 2009, 08:00AM
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Typical "albundy" comment:

Stauffer doesn't like Smyth. Does this make him evil??? What about (unsubstantiated rumour/folksy tale/blatnat slander)??? An what about the Daryl Katz (unsubstantiated rumour/folksy tale/blatnat slander)??? I just hate the way (random management figure/Oilers player) (dodges the media/is scum/kicks puppies), don't you???

My son is doing a high school report. Do you know of any Oilers who (have had illicit affairs/kick puppies/are scum/dodge the media/Stauffer doesn't like/negative item of your choice)???

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#47 Jonathan Willis
April 16 2009, 08:02AM
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Calling out players publicly was something MacTavish avoided during his time here, for the most part. His treatment of Penner this season (I mean the public stuff, not the benchings/reduction in icetime) was IMO the biggest sign that he was getting increasingly frustrated and finding that his tactics weren't working.

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#48 RossCreek
April 16 2009, 08:02AM
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@ Milli i heard the Wild's next coach will be their minor league coach - Kevin Constantine.

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#49 ryan
April 16 2009, 08:23AM
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@ Jeremy: Ok it doesn't make every other team crap, but the last couple of years the team that has won the cup had a 40 goal guy. Do you think the oil stand a chance with no goal scorers and scoring from committee ? Give me a break!!!!!!! How many Oilers scored over 20 goals? 2? CAN'T WIN IF YOU DON'T SCORE

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#50 RossCreek
April 16 2009, 08:24AM
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Could MacT head to Philadelphia next year? I'm just sayin.

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