Famous last words

Robin Brownlee
April 08 2009 01:20PM

mactdeathwatch

If Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings was Craig MacTavish's last gasp as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, and I suspect it was, don't count me among those overjoyed with his demise.

But listening to MacTavish in the post-game news conference at Rexall Place last night, with each word dripping with defeat and disappointment, I'm more convinced than ever he will meet with team owner Daryl Katz and offer his resignation face-to-face in the next two weeks. No texts.

I'm convinced it's for the best.

"It's kind of a frame on the year we’ve had where we've put ourselves in position many times during the year, but we just haven't been able to capitalize on that opportunity," MacTavish told reporters.

"You can call it whatever you want. There's going to be lots of time for analysis now, but that was indicative of a lot of nights where we've needed a game and just come up short.

"It's not just the game tonight I'm going to wrap myself around. It's a lot of nights like this over the course of the year. Thanks..."

Then, he stepped away.

MacT’s call

Having been up-close-and-personal when MacTavish contemplated walking away before, I can tell you he's a man who doesn't take defeat easily or duck his share of responsibility when it comes to failure, which this season surely was. I can tell you he's an honest, honourable guy.

But, after a season in which MacTavish made too many decisions that didn't make sense or play to the strengths of the personnel on the roster, a season in which he set the bar high in pre-season with talk of a Northwest Division title, it's time to go.

Last night, MacTavish looked so far removed from the optimism of October and so used up, I can't come to any other conclusion, even allowing for the disappointment of the moment.

Make no mistake, this is MacTavish's call to make, and he deserves that much. While we don't talk as much as we used to, I can assure fans MacTavish will look at the situation and make the right call. He won't hang on when he knows he should let go, he won't cling to the spotlight.

No cheering in the press box

Some media types can't wait to fire the coach -- the greatest misnomer in sports because what somebody in the press box writes has absolutely no effect, zero, none, on decisions -- but I've never had the urge to scream that so-and-so must go. Not Ron Low. Not Kevin Lowe. Not MacTavish.

Fans? That's different. You pay your dollar, so you get to holler. With the emotional and financial investment Joe Q has in the team, I get the passion, the over-reaction, the negative buzz on the call-in shows. It's all good.

But, like I said, when MacTavish calls it a day, you won't find me applauding his exit. He's a big boy and he knows the rules of the game. So do I. And I also know he was as committed and passionate and driven to succeed as any coach can be. But, in the end, even with 300 wins and the 2006 Stanley Cup final on his resume, MacTavish didn't succeed enough. He failed.

I find no joy in that, or at what comes next.

Second guessing

There's no question Shawn Horcoff hasn't delivered in the stretch drive with just one goal in his last 13 games, and that falls on him, but why has he been used as a shutdown centre of late?

That part falls to MacTavish, who has seen fit to turn his top-line pivot into a checker -- at least that's what he's said in recent weeks to explain Horcoff's drop in offensive production. With all the minutes he's played, I wouldn't be surprised if Horcoff's simply out of gas. Looks like it to me.

The second part falls to Kevin Lowe, who was GM when the decision was made to let Marty Reasoner and Jarret Stoll go. The lack of a reliable shutdown and face-off guy has been a glaring need since training camp.

Speaking of gassed, Dwayne Roloson is the dictionary definition of that because a Senior B goaltender wouldn't have let in the 1-0 goal by Alexander Frolov 55 seconds in.

As gritty as Roloson's been and as much as he's battled -- the Oilers would've been eliminated weeks ago without him -- he's been victimized by bad goals in the last handful of games.

MacTavish hasn't managed his goaltenders worth a damn since Mathieu Garon was traded. Three times during Roloson's skein of starts, the Oilers played back-to-back games. Not once did Jeff Deslauriers get a sniff. By the time the crunch came, MacTavish left himself no option but to ride Roloson until the wheels fell off.

JUST SAYING...

-- Patrick O'Sullivan might be a first-line talent, but he's got some work to do before he's more than a second-line winger. Not much bang for the buck since arriving at the trade deadline.

-- There wasn't room on Edmonton's coaching staff for Rob Daum this season, but there should be next season. Fact is, Daum should never have been bumped to make room for Kelly Buchberger.

-- Don't hold your breath waiting for the "He'll look like a bargain during this contract" talk from Lowe kick in when it comes to Dustin Penner because you'll turn blue before it happens. From 29 goals with Anaheim to 23 here last season to 17 with two games to play, but the tab, $4.25 million per season, remains the same.

-- With yet another second assist against the Kings, Tom Gilbert is living proof numbers don't tell the whole story. I'm doing a running tally on those, but I'm out of fingers and toes. If I'm GM Steve Tambellini, Gilbert is the defenceman I move -- before other GMs realize he's a soft, complimentary player -- if I'm dangling one of my blueliners in pursuit of a first-line pivot or left winger.

-- 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 BUCK75 - FMNF
April 08 2009, 08:48AM
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I have mixed emotions on MacT. No doubt he is a good coach who will get another chance with another organization, but we need a change here.

3 years removed form the SCF game 7 & a whole new cast of characters without a sniff at the play-offs again. Easier to change the coach than 20 players...

Good luck MacT.

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#2 West Coast Oil
April 08 2009, 09:04AM
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I have said from the beginning the team Klowe built did not work to the strengths of MacT's coaching. We should have changed the coach when we changed the dynamics of the team. That said I wish MacT luck wherever he goes, he has been a solid Oiler for years.

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#3 Archaeologuy
April 08 2009, 09:11AM
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There are some parts of me that agree with you about the honourable and stand up character of MacT. However, I am of the Lou Lamoriello mind set that if changes need to be made it then there isnt anything personal about it. I dont believe that the Oilers owed anything to MacT. He was a paid employee who had many problems accomplishing his goals. In the end it seems that the fans could identify that he was a problem from early on this season, so why not the management? Well, I'm sure they did, on some level, recognize change needed to happen but they didnt do anything about it.

Penner had a sub-average season, absolutely. He also has scored more goals than Horcoff while not having the benefit of Ales Hemsky's smooth passes for large tracks of the season.

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#4 Mr P
April 08 2009, 09:13AM
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lets try and not turn 1/4 of the roster over this summer. If we can get a first line left wing - great. If not just get another centre to win draws and kill penalties. I agree that Gilbert should be the D to move Grebshekov should be a little cheaper and I think he's gotten better all season.

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#5 Rick
April 08 2009, 09:17AM
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I have always been a big fan of MacT and think he is a very good coach. It that respect it will be disappointing to see him go.

That said, I keep going back to coaching as the biggest factor in a disappointing season this year. I have never thought that in any of the other years he coached but there have been too many head scratching decisions.

It's too bad but it does appear necessary to bring in a fresh pair of eyes that may see these players differently in terms of how they can be used.

Now that it appears all but done, can anyone suggest a coach that would improve this team? It will be the biggest decision this org has to make this year and yet there hasn't been a name mentioned yet that makes me think it will be an improvement.

And since I am ranting a little bit;

It's tiring to keep seeing players shuffled in and out of the dressing room after only one or two seasons but there are more than a few players that need to be put in the crosshairs for this season. Changes please.

It would truly suck to see MacT step down and Penner (for one) still here in October. The last thing that unmotivated lump of puddy needs is even a hint of validation that his crappy season is because of MacT's failure as a coach.

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#6 RossCreek
April 08 2009, 09:20AM
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Whether MacT stays or leaves, changes have to be made to the coaching staff. I'm fine with Huddy staying regardless of whether MacT does or not, but Moores & Bucky gotta go. I'd be fine with Daum returning, but I think that names like Marc Habschied & Perry Pearn should come up. Either as a new asst. to MacT or as his replacement. If MacT does step down and wants to move into management, he could take the Asst. GM title away from Prendergast, and the Oil could find somebody else to replace KP's scouting duties.

@ ROBIN Thoughts? Who would be on your short list for the coaching gig if MacT steps down?

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#7 I'm a Scientist!
April 08 2009, 09:24AM
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*ghost rides the bandwagon*

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#8 humantorch
April 08 2009, 09:33AM
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RB wrote:

MacTavish hasn’t managed his goaltenders worth a damn since Mathieu Garon was traded.

Can you even call it "managing" when you simply do the same thing night after night after night?

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#9 Robin Brownlee
April 08 2009, 09:35AM
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@ RossCreek: I believe Daum should be on the staff because he brings an element that wasn't there this season -- an eye for systems and the ability to adapt and change them on the fly. The thing is, if there's a new head coach, and there will be, the convention is he gets to pick his staff, so how that impacts Daum will depend on who gets the job.

As for head coaching candidates, good question. Pearn is a technician like Daum, but I'm not sure he'd "sell" to fans as the head coach after three years our of the playoffs. Would Habscheid be considered another "old boy" hiring?

You mentioned Prendergast, and I'd be stunned if there aren't changes at the top of the scouting department, and that's his territory.

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#10 baggedmilk
April 08 2009, 09:36AM
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*places banner over 'Fire MacT Bandwagon' bring on the 'MacT resignation Bandwagon'*

JSBM Panel Van rolling through a neighborhood near you.

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#11 jeanshorts
April 08 2009, 09:44AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

*places banner over ‘Fire MacT Bandwagon’ bring on the ‘MacT resignation Bandwagon’* JSBM Panel Van rolling through a neighborhood near you.

We'll also be tossing out condoms like they toss candy from floats at the Klondike Days parade**

**condoms may or may not be used.

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#12 Mike Krushelnyski
April 08 2009, 09:45AM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

I have said from the beginning the team Klowe built did not work to the strengths of MacT’s coaching. We should have changed the coach when we changed the dynamics of the team.

I agree. It's been blatantly obvious ever since the new CBA kicked in that Lowe and MacT have vastly different philosophies.

@Robin

Do you think it will be 100% up to Tambellini to hire a new coach? It would be nice to see him get a chance to put his stamp on the team.

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#13 The Towel Boy
April 08 2009, 09:46AM
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I'd totally trade Gilbert before ever moving Grebs...I just see more upside with the Goat. There, I said it.

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#14 Tyler
April 08 2009, 09:46AM
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With yet another second assist against the Kings, Tom Gilbert is living proof numbers don’t tell the whole story. I’m doing a running tally on those, but I’m out of fingers and toes. If I’m GM Steve Tambellini, Gilbert is the defenceman I move — before other GMs realize he’s a soft, complimentary player — if I’m dangling one of my blueliners in pursuit of a first-line pivot or left winger.

Gilbert's fourth amongst defencemen in first assists per 60 minutes of ES play and fifth in second assists per 60 minutes of ES play. He just gets a lot of assists. Without doing the math, I'd venture that his ratio of first assists to second assists is better than the league average for defencemen. Whether assists indicate anything is a different story but it's not like he's Ryan Suter or Marc Methot in terms of just collecting second assists.

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#15 Rick
April 08 2009, 09:47AM
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Robin, regarding your point on O'Sullivan;

I don't know if this is a logical choice in terms of who will be left standing, but who do you see here in October - O'Sullivan or Nilsson?

Or am I missing the target altogether?

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#16 Tyler
April 08 2009, 09:50AM
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There might be more of a case 5 v 4 with Gilbert but I'd bet that every Oiler other than Hemsky has a disproportionate number of second assists on the PP.

With yet another second assist against the Kings, Tom Gilbert is living proof numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Incidentally, I don't know how you can prove that numbers don't tell the whole story by citing a number.

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#17 Mike Krushelnyski
April 08 2009, 09:51AM
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@ Rick:

Do you really think O'Sullivan would be moved in the off-season? He's young, reasonably cheap and signed long term; he wasn't acquired to be a rental. I know he hasn't produced yet but ~15 games on a team that is nosediving probably isn't indicative of what he can bring.

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#18 baggedmilk
April 08 2009, 09:53AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

From 29 goals with Anaheim to 23 here last season to 17 with two games to play

I fail to see how he is expected to score playing with Brodziak and Scoretini.

Maybe he was meant to score in bunches playing with Needless penalties Moreau, or Goggles at center?

Starts producing a bit (yeah I said a bit not lots) with Hemsky and Wolf Eyes and then knock him down to the 4th to be replaced with Reddox.

If getting bumped around from line to line is supposed to be great motivation to play then you're all fooling yourselves. Ripping on Penner is useless, it's Kevin Lowe's fault for throwing the deal at him.

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#19 Rick
April 08 2009, 09:56AM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski:

I don't know, there have been alot of guys shuffled in and out again after only brief stays over the last few years.

I would have expected O'Sullivan to show more than he did so why should he be out of consideration.

The one thing I am pretty sure of is that there are too many players of a similar ilk and this team is suffering because of it. Nilsson and O'Sullivan are part of that group.

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#20 Reggie
April 08 2009, 09:57AM
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One measure of a coach or manager or team leader is to assess how well the people below him fare.

Go down the lineup and count the numbers of players who had good years or exceeded expectations.

1)Zach 2)Roli 3)Grebs (sorry Wayne) 4) Souray 5) Strudwick (?)

Maybes ...

Maybe Cogs (maintained his previous numbers). Moreau ? Had a decent year statswise ... unless you count his penalty stats and his B goes to an F.

Hemsky was until the last twenty games. Visnovsky before he got hurt.

Which players do you think met or exceeded expectations this season ?

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#21 I'm a Scientist!
April 08 2009, 09:58AM
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Rick wrote:

I don’t know if this is a logical choice in terms of who will be left standing, but who do you see here in October - O’Sullivan or Nilsson?

Wow... i would choose O'Sullivan in a heartbeat. That kid has drive. ANNNDDD...st. patrick's day games are so much better with him around! Nilsson is too inconsistent. Then again, so was Torres.

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#22 oilersseasonticketholdersince99
April 08 2009, 10:00AM
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Why are we getting rid of Mac T as coach? did we not make the playoffs the last three years,did we not contend for the division title,Mac T always gets the most out of his players does he not? This should have happened in late november way to go K lowe,Tambalini and Katz. Thanks for saving me my playoff money, time to make changes top to bottom, starting next week and Please wait till the season is almost over before making any predictions as to where this great team will be finishing nothing like getting everybodys expectations up.Then you guys complain as to the atmosphere at Rexall, give me something to cheer about not some overpriced beer,food,and players that have no desire to compete.

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#23 Peter Pan
April 08 2009, 10:00AM
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@ Robin:

Good article RB. I hope you continue to write on this site often during the offseason.

Another big issue they need to address is the goaltending issue for next season. In your opinion, what options do they have and more importantly, what decision do you think they'll make in regards to goal? I believe that should be priority #1.

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#24 JRocks247
April 08 2009, 10:00AM
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it's all over....but I'm still here.

Let's hope MacT won't be saying the same thing

GO OILERS!

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#25 Robin Brownlee
April 08 2009, 10:01AM
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@ baggedmilk: Of course it's Lowe's fault for offering the deal and Penner would have been brain dead not to sign it.

And yes, Penner got buried by MacTavish, but big Dustin had his fingerprints all over the shovel as well with as badly as he played for long stretches.

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#26 jeanshorts
April 08 2009, 10:01AM
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@ baggedmilk:

To be fair though, in regards to the line switching, and I can't believe I'm siding with him once again, but I think MacT just finally ran out of options. He was playing like a bag of balls on the first line. So MacT sat him. He came out on fire for a few games and then resumed looking like he was out there just to cash a fat cheque for showing up at the rink. Trying to find the right way to spark the guy and keep the fire was the only thing MacT was looking for. I agree that he's not going to score half as many goals out there with two grinders, but in think the whole idea behind it was to try and motivate him to play hard and work his way back up the ladder.

Sadly absolutely nothing has worked on this guy all season. I really like Penner and I'm still not giving up on him but night in and night out he's looked like one of the worst players on the ice. I just hope they find someone that can come in and put the fear of god into him. Either that or they somehow land Getzlaf and Perry and reunite those a-holes on a line again.

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#27 Mike Krushelnyski
April 08 2009, 10:02AM
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@ Rick:

From what I've seen, O'Sullivan plays a very different game than Nilsson. O'Sullivan could only be lumped into that group because he's undersized, but he battles in the corners, spends time on the PK and generally plays a two-way game.

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#28 baggedmilk
April 08 2009, 10:08AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

And yes, Penner got buried by MacTavish, but big Dustin had his fingerprints all over the shovel as well with as badly as he played for long stretches.

You're right he didn't show up on many nights, but then maybe he's one of those guys that needs to be babied rather than thrown under the bus. You know him, does he need reassurance rather than a step-fathers beating?

@ jeanshorts:

I'm thinking the dude is brain shy and needs to be told he's playing well to get confidence, and rather than tell him all the ways he sucks tell him what he's done well. And under no circumstance is putting Liam Reddox on the first line any way to find a spark.

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#29 Archaeologuy
April 08 2009, 10:09AM
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I still cant wait for next season when the new coach puts Horc on the 3rd line with Pisani and Moreau. If Cogs can score more than our #1 without the PP time and without quality players surrounding him then i'd like to see what he does with the opportunities that were squandered on other players this year. His faceoffs suck, whatever, thats why we have 5 other players on the ice.

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#30 Ogden Brother
April 08 2009, 10:11AM
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Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

@ Rick: From what I’ve seen, O’Sullivan plays a very different game than Nilsson. O’Sullivan could only be lumped into that group because he’s undersized, but he battles in the corners, spends time on the PK and generally plays a two-way game.

Agreed, the only way I'm trading O'Sullvan is if a big forward of similar skill (J Staal/Horton) or as part of a package for a top end forward.

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#31 Kyle S
April 08 2009, 10:12AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I still cant wait for next season when the new coach puts Horc on the 3rd line with Pisani and Moreau. If Cogs can score more than our #1 without the PP time and without quality players surrounding him then i’d like to see what he does with the opportunities that were squandered on other players this year. His faceoffs suck, whatever, thats why we have 5 other players on the ice.

That might actually be a decent line.

Faceoffs...goalies take them now? Or are you suggesting we pull the goalie when Cogs is out there so we can have a 2nd centre?

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#32 jeanshorts
April 08 2009, 10:12AM
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@ baggedmilk:

Wait, wait, wait. The SAME Liam Reddox that is 4 foot 1, 90 pounds, and can't score a goal further than 2 feet from the net? If THAT Liam Reddox doesn't make the starting line up in the All-Star game next year I will boycott the NHL.

Remember when this team used to win? Yeah, it was way more fun back then.....

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#33 Harlie
April 08 2009, 10:13AM
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I for one will miss MacTavish if he leave. I won't miss the way our team has played for him since the Cup run but I will miss his funny remarks after games and all his pressers! He has a good personality it's too bad it never translated into good results. Good luck to him wherever the future takes him.

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#34 Kyle S
April 08 2009, 10:15AM
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jeanshorts wrote:

@ baggedmilk: Wait, wait, wait. The SAME Liam Reddox that is 4 foot 1, 90 pounds

Is that in full equipment and skates?

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#35 Archaeologuy
April 08 2009, 10:15AM
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@ Kyle S: Ha, no. The goalie is there for the 63% of the time when the other team gets the puck first. Lose the puck, get the puck back.

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#36 Mike Krushelnyski
April 08 2009, 10:19AM
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Kyle S wrote:

jeanshorts wrote: @ baggedmilk: Wait, wait, wait. The SAME Liam Reddox that is 4 foot 1, 90 pounds Is that in full equipment and skates?

I heard he's going on a gruelling off-season regimen to be able to grow facial hair.

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#37 baggedmilk
April 08 2009, 10:19AM
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Kyle S wrote:

Faceoffs…goalies take them now? Or are you suggesting we pull the goalie when Cogs is out there so we can have a 2nd centre?

I'm wondering what would happen if they can pull in a solid centerman and move Cogs to the wing. He would have more chance at offence and less responsibility defensively than he does right now at center. I'm sure they can easily find someone to replace his ineptitude on the dot.

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#38 Harlie
April 08 2009, 10:21AM
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ugggh! They are playing the song "Your Still The One" on the radio at work this morning. That song brings back memories of the Boys on The Bus era. Wrong choice of tunes this morning EZ-Rock!

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#39 Harlie
April 08 2009, 10:21AM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski:

Peca should be his mentor.

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#40 offside
April 08 2009, 10:21AM
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Does MacT get another coaching job somewhere in the future? Others have commented on it as well but I lay more of the blame on KLowe, I do think MacT did well with what he had.

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#41 Kyle S
April 08 2009, 10:23AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

Kyle S wrote: Faceoffs…goalies take them now? Or are you suggesting we pull the goalie when Cogs is out there so we can have a 2nd centre? I’m wondering what would happen if they can pull in a solid centerman and move Cogs to the wing. He would have more chance at offence and less responsibility defensively than he does right now at center. I’m sure they can easily find someone to replace his ineptitude on the dot.

Why wasn't Pouliot taking the draws? He's at 48% right now and did he and Cogs not play together most of the season? Pouliot took 200 faceoffs compared to Cogs taking almost 700.

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#42 Mike Krushelnyski
April 08 2009, 10:24AM
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@ Harlie:

Poor Peca, that guy could shave before warm up and have a full beard by the 3rd period.

Hey guys, how bout that water

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#43 Archaeologuy
April 08 2009, 10:25AM
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Kyle S wrote:

Why wasn’t Pouliot taking the draws? He’s at 48% right now and did he and Cogs not play together most of the season?

That was probably due to the fact that Pouliot isnt a good hockey player.

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#44 jeanshorts
April 08 2009, 10:26AM
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Kyle S wrote:

Why wasn’t Pouliot taking the draws? He’s at 48% right now and did he and Cogs not play together most of the season? Pouliot took 200 faceoffs compared to Cogs taking almost 700.

Yeah but that would be proper asset and talent management. And we all know that is very, very low on the list of priorities for this team.

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#45 jeanshorts
April 08 2009, 10:26AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

That was probably due to the fact that Pouliot isnt a good hockey player.

And also that too.

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#46 Kyle S
April 08 2009, 10:27AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Kyle S wrote: Why wasn’t Pouliot taking the draws? He’s at 48% right now and did he and Cogs not play together most of the season? That was probably due to the fact that Pouliot isnt a good hockey player.

Obviously. But they did play on the same line almost the whole season, so why not have the better centre taking the draws?

I want Stortini to start taking draws as well...he was 64% this year (7/11). I kid, I kid.

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#47 baggedmilk
April 08 2009, 10:27AM
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I'm willing to bet a bunch of players have career years next year with a new coach and a clean slate.

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#48 Mr. S
April 08 2009, 10:30AM
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I was not surprised by last night. Actually, I have become numb to this feeling year after year that I was not at all phased by what transpired. Honourable or not is not the question, it is quite simply time to look at the numbers and the common denominator: The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs 4 out of the last 5 seasons (not counting the lockout of course) and the one common denominator related directly to play and performance has been the coach. There are no other explainations that have the same impact as this one fact. Whether MacT is provided the opportunity to retain his dignity and chooses to resign or not is not even an issue (for most) at this point, as it seems so painfully obvious that one of the things that is desperately needed to help this club persevere again and what fans have been trying so hard to communicate is quite simply, CHANGE. The system as it is does not work and there are no more excuses; they're all used up. MacT seems to be an honourable man and one can admire his commitment to the franchise (because it surely is not the performance). However, I'm sure with that commitment and care comes wisdom. You tried your best and we thank you for that... but you have to know when when to quit. I feel that this is not not a personal initiative and feeling should not be a factor. Rather, it is time to look at the facts in a very calculated and precise way - CHANGE is needed.

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#49 Archaeologuy
April 08 2009, 10:31AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

I’m willing to bet a bunch of players have career years next year with a new coach and a clean slate.

How great would that be?! I want to see Penner score 30 goals and Gagner have 80 points next year under John Q NotMacT!

In your face Oilers! Not even your terrible play can kill my dreams for next year!

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#50 Archaeologuy
April 08 2009, 10:33AM
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@ Archaeologuy:

note to self: stop using exclamation points for every sentence! Damn it! Stop!

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