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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#151 RossCreek
April 08 2009, 10:23PM
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Phil wrote:

Unless the team has a shot @ legit top 4 shutdown D guy, preferably top 2… I don’t see why they should trade for your prototypical 4-5-6 stay @ home D-man. Swing for the fences on that one i.e. package somethin’ up for Komisarek or try to make room for a Bouwmeester signing by trading one of Souray/Gilbert. Hell, I wouldn’t care if they traded both at this point. I don’t see Souray having as good a year next year either. He’s better as a 3-4 guy, not a top 2. The minutes wore him down towards the end and his defense is lacking IMO. Also, the Simon Gagne ideas are excellent. Philly’s dealing from a vulnerable position and they’re going to have to make somethin’ happen there whether it’s Briere or Gagne. Edmonton should pounce at the 1st sniff of anything.

Komisarek is a UFA. No package necassary (aside from a briefcase full o' money)

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#152 esa tikkanen
April 08 2009, 10:24PM
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i think the single most important off season acquisition will be the coach. after he hires his staff they can meet with Lowebellini and decide who to trade, who to buy out who to cut, who to bring in. i think we are in much better shape than two years ago when we had 12 nhl players and a ton of money to spend. now we have those two awful horcoff and penner contracts but we have tons of other good assets to trade or work with. Visnovsky, Souray, Grebs, Smid, Hemsky, Gagner, yes Horcoff who had a brutal season I think because 25 minutes a game killed him 2 months ago, Cogliano, Pisani is a very useful although overpriced third liner, the same for Brodziak and Stortini on the fourth line. Jacques may be finally ready to play. So we need a third line center, maybe sign Kotalik and who knows what the hell to do with Penner. a tough willie mitchell type would do wonders as would a decent goalie. i think the right coach and mgmt decisions could make this team into the playoffs. GOd, two weeks ago we were 2 points behind Columbus, we went into a slump at the wrong time. clearly not a good enough team, especially on special teams, but i think they could be competitive next year. will be a long and painful off season. i know i am cheering for Columbus because i like Hitch and all the ex-oilers over there. i think they could take Calgary in 6 if Regehr is out.

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#153 RossCreek
April 08 2009, 10:28PM
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Deans wrote:

@ Phil: I wonder if a guy like Jay Mckee might be useful for the Oilers, He might be a little old and worn down though. Souray’s defence is actually pretty decent. If he can stay healthy I think he has another good year. That is a big IF. Gange would be great but if he gets hurt this team will be totally screwed cap wise.

Jay McKee IS too old and worn down. Barret Jackman or Eric Brewer would be better options (as would Bryan Allen). Nobody has mentioned Mattias Ohlund - he's a UFA with ties to Tambellini. Unlikely, but possible.

And any big injury to any key player of any team is gonna negatively impact the club. If Gagne were out any length of time, the team would put him on LTI and receive cap relief.

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#154 esa tikkanen
April 08 2009, 10:33PM
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two last comments. i think the power play problems were the coach's fault. too predictable, not enough looks, the opposition just keyed on Souray and Hemsky and the pp was done. the PK to me was the GM"s fault. It would not have been that hard to get a defensive specialist early in the season to play third line center and as number 5. Guys like Reasoner and Malik were available, and our decision to let the people on our roster develop on the job cost enough games early in the season where we allowed 2-3 power play goals per game to kill us.

5 on 5 our stats weren't bad for goals for and against but were terrible for shots. does anyone know what the average shots for and against were? i bet 35-20 or something. I can't remember an Oilers team being consistently outshot like this one. I bet they were outshot in 65 out of 80 games to date. (jonathan that might be a statistical post for you...)

finally at the end of the season they change the system to forecheck and we spent far more time in the other teams' zone getting more shots. i don't know why it took 77 games to figure that out. again, totally the coach's fault for trying to have Detroit's system without their talent.

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#155 TDSM31
April 08 2009, 11:28PM
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Well said Mr. Brownlee, well said.

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#156 TDSM31
April 08 2009, 11:47PM
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topshelf FMNF wrote:

@ Gerryd: If you’re so upset don’t renew your tickets.

Exactly...as soon as I read "I've been a season ticket holder for.." I stop and move on to the next post.

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#157 Reggie
April 09 2009, 08:25AM
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esa tikkanen wrote:

the PK to me was the GM”s fault. It would not have been that hard to get a defensive specialist early in the season to play third line center and as number 5. Guys like Reasoner and Malik were available, and our decision to let the people on our roster develop on the job cost enough games early in the season where we allowed 2-3 power play goals per game to kill us.

How about the coach as well ? PK is about hard work and effort and hustle. Any player on the team can do that. Yes, shot blocking helps, but if you are busting your butt for 30 seconds and with a bit of a system you can survive. The missing face off alternatives did hurt.

BUT ... why was the coach rotating 4 forwards through the PK instead of 6 like last year (as per Willis's post in the last week or so ?)

Why would the coach not try to work in the speediest forward (Cogs) into the mix when he could ?

Why wasn't brodziak used in more faceoffs ? or given increased minutes given his above average face off wins ?

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#158 Harlie
April 09 2009, 09:00AM
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Quote from Souray in Dan Barnes' Journal column

"It would be like Mardi Gras in here after a win and then we would lose in such a poor fashion that all momentum was lost. There was none of this," Souray said while holding his arm straight out to simulate an even keel."

Mardi Gras!? You mean the Private Eyes CLAP CLAP from the Captain after he got his first hatty and they won a game at home against the lowly Yotes? I remember thinking after watching that game that this Team had it's priority's in the worng place. And it was even sadder to see that it was the Captain leading the charge. At least with Souray after he scores a goal he's not jumping around like he just won the cup. I really hope that next year we ban the stupid skate by the bench for a hand tap after every goal. That looks so Junior hockey like it's not even funny. Heck when I played hockey we (up to Midgets) we didn't do that crap. You celebrated on the ice with the 5 or less guys you scored with and then you got ready for the drop of the puck. Now after every goal it's like 'YES, mission accoplished!". This is the wrong mindset imho! Kudo's to Souray for spelling it out so clearly in Barnes' article. I hung around Souray a few times back in the day and he said that Lou Lamoriello really made him grow up and appreciate his good fortune to be a professional hockey player and to be serious about his profession. This is something that is not evident with our current group of players and especially our young one's. I think this is yet another inditement against Moreau as a Captain. And I'm not saying that Souray doesn't like Moreau or that he wants Moreau out. I am saying that!

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#159 Zamboni Driver
April 09 2009, 09:28AM
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@ Harlie: On top of that....the single dumbest thing I've ever seen was that idiotic "jumpjumpjump" thing in the crease when they won.

Fortunately, I guess they didn't do much of that toward the end.

Talk about 'act like you've done it before...'.

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#160 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 09:39AM
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@ Zamboni Driver: It's things like that that build comradery within the team. I was happy when I saw them do that dumb stuff because it shows that the group was starting to get tighter..

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#161 J-Bird
April 09 2009, 09:50AM
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I think the room needs to be the kids room. I think Moreau and Staois hold them back. I listen to contradictions between what is said from players and what is said by the Captain and Staois, different things. It happens often.

As a fan all I hear from Moreau is excuses, all the time. As a captain, the man took more stupid penalties than anybody. And took zero responsibility for it.

As a fan I can't sit and listen to the team leader call out the fans for not being loud at games. We need something to cheer for man. What was the home record again?

Moreau's gotta go. It seems that there is a disconnect between him and the kids. If one of those kids took one stupid lazy penalty like Moreau, they'd get stapled to the bench. Forcing his 3rd line minutes from a 4th line player hurts the team too.

Calling out the fans was the end for me. I mean FFS, year 3 of missing the playoffs and it's on us now? It could be 5-6 years in a real hurry here too.

And now we have a meddling owner. I should become a leaf fan and get it over with!

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#162 Quicksilver ballet
April 09 2009, 10:52AM
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RossCreek wrote:

Mr P wrote: George wrote: gilbert for frolov How about Gilbert ++ for Simon Gagne? Ya, I’ve been trumpeting that one for a while. The Flyers won’t be able to move Briere IMO, so Gagne may be in play. Could be the perfect fit: LW 2-way game Speed & Skill Leadership Olympic experience with both Lowe & Tambellini The question is, what is the ++? Gilbert Brule? 1st round pick? What??

I like the idea of Gagne being an Oiler (hope he can stay healthy) but before we overpay for Simone i feel we're doing the Flyers a service here by addressing some cap issues for them, and this in itself alters what Simones net worth may be in a deal like this. They're not looking to take much on in return so i'd offer up Smid, Brule and a DP. I'd still like to move Gilbert and or Grebeshcov in another deal if it helps us right away.

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#163 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 11:05AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

RossCreek wrote: How about Gilbert ++ for Simon Gagne? Ya, I’ve been trumpeting that one for a while. The Flyers won’t be able to move Briere IMO, so Gagne may be in play. Could be the perfect fit: LW 2-way game Speed & Skill Leadership Olympic experience with both Lowe & Tambellini The question is, what is the ++? Gilbert Brule? 1st round pick? What?? I like the idea of Gagne being an Oiler (hope he can stay healthy) but before we overpay for Simone i feel we’re doing the Flyers a service here by addressing some cap issues for them, and this in itself alters what Simones net worth may be in a deal like this. They’re not looking to take much on in return so i’d offer up Smid, Brule and a DP. I’d still like to move Gilbert and or Grebeshcov in another deal if it helps us right away.

I disagree with you. The Flyers will try to move Briere. Failing to do so, they could look at moving Gagne. If everyone is smart, there will be no offers for Briere forcing the Flyers to consider Gagne. Now all of the sudden, everyone is interested. With a dozen teams showing interest, all of the sudden they are getting great value for Gagne. Of course, if this were to happen, a team that falls out of the Gagne sweepstakes, could decide they'd be better with Briere than nothing, and decide to make Philly an offer for Briere allowing the Flyers to hold on to Gagne.

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#164 Quicksilver ballet
April 09 2009, 11:15AM
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Briere may be in the same situation that Horcoff is now right now (difficult to move) Gagne has only a few good years left and is quickly becoming a deminishing asset.

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#165 RossCreek
April 09 2009, 11:42AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Briere may be in the same situation that Horcoff is now right now (difficult to move) Gagne has only a few good years left and is quickly becoming a deminishing asset.

I've basically stated the same about Briere. And Gagne has a legitimate shot at being a part of next years Olympic team once again. He's not exactly a "'deminishing' asset".

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#166 Dennis
April 09 2009, 02:03PM
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After those comments, you can count 44 in with 18 in terms of the rotten corps.

When you mention "juniors" in the context of your comments, you know who you're talking about.

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#167 rpk
April 09 2009, 02:30PM
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Add me to the Gilbert Must Go bandwagon. I see nothing but flashes of brilliance outweighed by huge errors...

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#168 Death Metal Nightmare
April 09 2009, 02:50PM
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i think the faceoff stat is way overhyped. this team cant score and thats simply it. theres plenty of time after faceoffs to retrieve the puck and make plays out of it and this team simply cant do it. would it have made life a little easier? sure. but lets face it, Horcoff winning 54% of his faceoffs didnt help him score worth crap.

we can also take a look at teams who are built to score who have wretched faceoff percentages that still made the playoffs. Chicago is one. Philly and Pittsburgh are another.

or maybe we can blame the PP? except CBJ and NYR are way worse than the Oilers and theyre still in. PK? welp, the Red Wings are about as bad as the Oilers and theyre still in. offset it with a ridiculous PP and there you go.

the faceoffs could have easily been offset but strength in another category but the Oilers roster is TOO SHITTY to pull that off.

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