Already gone

Robin Brownlee
April 09 2009 03:02PM

Craig MacTavish: you're fired

Craig MacTavish is telegraphing the shot I expect he'll deliver not long after the Edmonton Oilers play out the string against the Calgary Flames Saturday, namely that he'll resign as coach.

If MacTavish's tone after the Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday didn't spell it out loud and clear, and for me it did, then he's spoken even more loudly by saying next to nothing since then.

While MacTavish won't tender his resignation to owner Daryl Katz, president of hockey ops Kevin Lowe and GM Steve Tambellini until after the 82nd game is in the books, he's already begun to detach himself, to step back. MacT has one foot, at least emotionally, out the door.

With assistants Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Kelly Buchberger running practice again today, there was a message written on the white board in the dressing room regarding Friday morning, which would be the usual game-day skate, in preparation for tomorrow's tilt with the Flames.

It read: "See staff for game-day line-up. No a.m. skate."

No a.m. skate and more-than-likely, no access with the coach. Really, could MacTavish possibly say more without saying anything, especially framed by Katz's "MacT is not going anywhere" text message?

Time’s up

I wrote here at ON Tuesday I was convinced MacTavish had already made the decision to step down. The only question was when he would decide to deliver the message to his bosses. Columnist Dan Barnes wrote he'd been told the same thing in The Journal today.

Of course, that's something a lot of people often late to the angle are suggesting now as well -- a year or so after former TEAM 1260 talk show host and current 630 CHED analyst Bob Stauffer said that's exactly how things would play out if the Oilers missed playoffs a third straight year. If it wasn't clear when Bombastic Bob first said so, it is now -- seems he's got a pretty good source on these things.

Be that as it may, MacTavish will walk away because he feels he's taken this team as far as he can, which isn't far enough based on the roster, talent and potential he saw in pre-season.

MacTavish will pass up about $1 million in salary by doing so, but money isn't an issue for him after nine seasons behind the bench as a coach and 17 NHL campaigns as a player.

MacTavish can step away, be it within the organization or with ties severed, take some time to recharge and jump right back into the fray in a year or so. If and when he wants another coaching job, he'll get one.

A look ahead

When a season goes as badly as this one has, there's always unrest and a fire or two to put out in the dressing room. That's certainly the case with this edition of the Oilers.

By stepping away instead of hanging on and forcing Lowe or Tambellini into the unpleasant task of firing him, MacTavish is helping set the table to mend some fences within the dressing room.

Call it positive spin, but bringing in a new coach with a fresh outlook and a new game plan is a selling point for Lowe and Tambellini.

I'm guessing players like Ladislav Smid, who requested a trade more than once this season, Robert Nilsson and Dustin Penner, who ended up yanked off the first line, off the power play and in MacTavish's doghouse, to name just three players, could use a sales pitch between now and training camp.

So could Sheldon Souray, who, as mentioned by Barnes today, hasn't been thrilled with how this season came off the rails.

Who might the Oilers new bench boss be? Well, that's an item for another day, and something best discussed after MacTavish makes his departure official. Rest assured, that day is coming.

He's already gone.

-- 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 mazola
April 09 2009, 03:11PM
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You are too much for me MacTavish, you sonofawhoreson bitch! I wish I knew how to quit you.

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#2 jeff
April 09 2009, 03:19PM
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Well at least they should have enough time to find the right replacement.

Nilsson, Penner, Smid I hate to say it but what will they give us in return? 2 are overpaid and 1 is already demanding trades?

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#3 Hocknee Fann
April 09 2009, 03:21PM
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MacT is a class guy.

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#4 Jorge
April 09 2009, 03:24PM
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It deffinitely feels like the end of an era

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#5 topshelf FMNF
April 09 2009, 03:27PM
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Officially retiring my FMNF..

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#6 topshelf
April 09 2009, 03:28PM
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ahhhh.. that feels so much better. Thank you Craig for taking the high road.

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#7 DonDon
April 09 2009, 03:30PM
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@ mazola: This comment is out of line!

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#8 Sandra
April 09 2009, 03:31PM
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What I am hearing and reading is that K.P. Kevin Predergast will be the fall guy who will be let go by the organization and that will be the spot that MacT will take, excluding the scouting department , which will all be new staff. Also Souray has said he wants to see changes or he will ask for a trade. Hopefully MacT will stay in the organization, he is a classy guy with a lot of knowledge that can be benificial for the organization. I hope Huddy, Moore and Bucky are gone to, unless bucky does some scouting which he is good at. Huddy has to be let go, as does Moore who has been in the coaching staff as long as MacT has. Lowe will escape unscathed again.

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#9 Rick
April 09 2009, 03:35PM
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Robin;

When you mentioned mending fences in the room, is it a case of curring problems that were between MacT and the players specifically or are you just talking a general mood based on how the season ultimately played out?

As for Smid, Penner and Nilsson the only guy I would like to see stay is Smid.

If losing MacT means that the other two are likely to stick around I may have to reconsider my position on if I would like to see a new face behind the bench or not.

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#10 sean
April 09 2009, 03:37PM
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Smid isn't the only player who has requested a trade this season, see Hemsky & Visnovski. In regards to Smid, he requested a trade becuase of how he felt things were progressing for him and his relationship with the coaching staff same for the other two that I know about. All the talk about the city, the fans the weather etc is not for the most part the issue with players coming here and wanting to stay here- it is the coaching staff and quite obviously the success of this franchise.

Time for a change that will bring in some fresh ideas, positivity, and a strong coaching background.

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#11 topshelf
April 09 2009, 03:37PM
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Sandra wrote:

Also Souray has said he wants to see changes or he will ask for a trade.

Is there truth to this demand or is this just your opinion?

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#12 socaldave
April 09 2009, 03:40PM
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Sandra wrote:

Also Souray has said he wants to see changes or he will ask for a trade.

source? I haven't seen anything quoting Souray saying that. Inferring, MAYBE, but not an out-and-out quote. Worrisome if true!

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#13 topshelf
April 09 2009, 03:44PM
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sean wrote:

Smid isn’t the only player who has requested a trade this season, see Hemsky & Visnovski.

Where are all these trade requests coming from?? The only one talked about on here this season was Smid's.

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#14 West Coast Oil
April 09 2009, 03:45PM
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sean wrote:

Smid isn’t the only player who has requested a trade this season, see Hemsky & Visnovski.

I have not heard of the Visnonovski unhappiness.. who is your source? Regarding Hemsky as far as I know he stated he was unhappy in how he was being used and that is it..

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#15 West Coast Oil
April 09 2009, 03:46PM
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@Robin,

I know MacT would have obviously liked to win a cup here as coach but do you feel this is a move (stepping down) he is looking forward to?

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#16 Rick
April 09 2009, 03:47PM
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topshelf wrote:

Where are all these trade requests coming from?? The only one talked about on here this season was Smid’s.

No kidding, what is with all these sources that are suddenly popping up?

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#17 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 03:52PM
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As far as I know, there has been no published report that any of Souray, Hemsky or Visnovsky have requested trades.

If anyone wants indulge in these kinds of rumours, please provide a source. Either that, or change your name to Deep Oil and lose the grammar.

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#18 Quinn
April 09 2009, 03:54PM
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Sounds like Sandra is mad and reading stuff into things. I have not heard any of those trade requests (~y'know with all my inside knowledge~) but it does sound like a lot of unhappy players. Too much reality sinking in this last 20 games or so.

I think the same can be said of the fans too.

I personally wish MacT well; it is not how I would like to have seen him leave.

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#19 Robin Brownlee
April 09 2009, 03:54PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

sean wrote: Smid isn’t the only player who has requested a trade this season, see Hemsky & Visnovski. I have not heard of the Visnonovski unhappiness.. who is your source? Regarding Hemsky as far as I know he stated he was unhappy in how he was being used and that is it..

Hemsky has requested a trade? Visnovsky? Souray? You're confusing some internal grumbling with trade demands/requests. Nobody is happy when a season goes this badly, but the only players who'd have been hard-pressed to come back and perform well under another season with MacTavish are Smid, Penner and Nilsson. Only Smid, as far as I know, asked to be traded. Souray's unrest in based on the concerns he outlined in the Barnes column.

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#20 topshelf
April 09 2009, 04:00PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

If anyone wants indulge in these kinds of rumours, please provide a source. Either that, or change your name to Deep Oil and lose the grammar.

That is gold Jerry gold! Funny stuff Willis...

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#21 West Coast Oil
April 09 2009, 04:04PM
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I personally am not sure how to feel about this year and what is to come.. I want to feel optimism but this years addition of the Oil has left me hollow inside, they have given me no reason (as of yet) to think next year we will be a much better team. With the improvements of so many other teams in the West this year next year may be a bigger fight to reach the play-offs. The one bright spot I do see is that this year most of the players Tambellini drafted/acquired for the Canucks have finally matured. Players like Kesler and Burrows who were with the Canucks well before Gillis took over are the ones willing the Canucks to victory.

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#22 swany
April 09 2009, 04:12PM
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Fans---I guess that's why we are called Fickle Fans. We start on players early here, first it was Souray's contract all the talk was how bad of a deal it was Trade him he's not worth that money. Now everyone is freaking out about Horc's deal ( and i to think it's a HUGE contract) but can we see what happens NEXT year before we rip the guy a new one, before his shoulder went out he had 50 points in 53 games. Souray has stated that it takes a year to fully recover from that. If Horc comes back on the pace he was at before great if he has another year like this one I will start the ripping, but can we atleast wait until we see what he can do? As for players asking out, with a new coach I think the players will have a wait and see attitude, plus if we start winning everything will be fine.

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#23 Dennis
April 09 2009, 04:38PM
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I guess it goes to personal success vs team success but if Souray is indeed unhappy, I doubt the new coach could hand him the keys on anymore occasions than did MacT.

The comments from Souray in the last couple of days are more indicitive of the guy I thought we were getting in the first place.

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#24 humantorch
April 09 2009, 04:46PM
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Once again, I'll say this.

If Kelly Buchberger is announced as the 2009-2010 coach of the Edmonton Oilers, I'm buying a Flames jersey, AND subscribing to the flamesnation.ca RSS feed.

THAT'S RIGHT, WAYNE. THAT'S WHAT I SAID.

*tries to shoot imaginary AK-47 in the air, runs away sobbing*

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#25 Robin Brownlee
April 09 2009, 05:01PM
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humantorch wrote:

Once again, I’ll say this. If Kelly Buchberger is announced as the 2009-2010 coach of the Edmonton Oilers, I’m buying a Flames jersey, AND subscribing to the flamesnation.ca RSS feed. THAT’S RIGHT, WAYNE. THAT’S WHAT I SAID. *tries to shoot imaginary AK-47 in the air, runs away sobbing*

Buchberger isn't going anywhere . . .

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#26 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
April 09 2009, 05:17PM
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And Buchburger isnt going to be the head coach. None of our assistants will be. That rarely works that a teams assistant becomes its head coach.

And its Wanye, not Wayne

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#27 Dennis
April 09 2009, 05:18PM
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Also, I know it's a younger crowd here but I can't believe no one threw out any Eagles lyrics after that headline from RB.

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#28 Quinn
April 09 2009, 05:22PM
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~Eagles? Who dat?~

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#29 Robin Brownlee
April 09 2009, 05:29PM
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Quinn wrote:

~Eagles? Who dat?~

Used to open up for the Backstreet Boys . . .

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#30 Milli
April 09 2009, 06:07PM
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If Souray is pissed, thats great. The guy played his ass off this season, was one of very few bright spots, and, by being pissed, he WANTS TO WIN. If there is a guy on this team that isn't pissed, I'd cut em. These guys should be embarassed to a man with the effort most nights, and that I think is what Souray is getting at. I ain't a moreau hater, thought he should be the captain, but Souray is the leader of this club. That said, I wish MacT all the best when he goes, he is a Class act.

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#31 Rusty Shackleford
April 09 2009, 06:29PM
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I wonder what Nilsson thinks of Mac bailing on the morning skate tomorrow. I'd place my nickel on Nilsson being pretty bummed there's no skate. What about JDD? Oh right, he shouldn't need a skate before game day the way things have gone for him in his career thus far.

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#32 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 06:34PM
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Jack "FMNF" Bauer wrote:

And Buchburger isnt going to be the head coach. None of our assistants will be. That rarely works that a teams assistant becomes its head coach.

Except in New Jersey, of course ;)

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#33 Tony Stacey
April 09 2009, 06:36PM
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Its been a hard season to digest thats for sure. For the first time in many years I am not so optimistic about next season. The only two bright spots of the season were Roloson and Souray. Hemsky was good at times but yet so inconsistent. A guy of his caliber should be a easy 30 goal scorer. I think it was a terrible mistake to have given up on Jarret Stoll so easily but yet the team was willing to bet the farm on Penner and numerous others. What we have now is a team full with underachievers with an overachiever salary so its nearly impossible to trade them. McTavish is a pretty good coach and has alot of class but its obvious his time has come and the results just arent materializing no matter what personel the organization puts on the ice. I think most of the blame should have been placed on upper management for making some bad deals and not doing what it took to keep the key guys from the 2006 cup run. Pronger wasnt the only thing that left town...so was the willingness to compete and win as well.

Lets cross our fingers and pray to the hockey gods that "next" season we have a reason to cheer on the Oil and validate the huge price of hockey tickets. Go Oilers Go!

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#34 Hocknee Fann
April 09 2009, 06:50PM
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@ Milli:

You hit it 'Milli.' Most of the Oilers should be embarrassed with their effort on most nights (or lack thereof).

Souray has shown that he is more the leader than Moreau, and as such should be the captain next season. You need the captain to jump on those on the team (particularly the drifters and deadweight) who appear not to care if they win. We didn’t need to hear guys like Moreau and Horcoff saying, “Hopefully we can turn things around next game.” Hopefully my big-fat pay cheque ends up in my account after a dreadful effort at home in front of fans that gave up a quarter of their measly middle class pay cheque to watch us.

I too say good luck to MacT and agree that he is a Class act.

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#35 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
April 09 2009, 08:03PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Are you talking about Brent Sutter?

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#36 Chris
April 09 2009, 08:08PM
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swany wrote:

Fans—I guess that’s why we are called Fickle Fans

Oiler fans are amoung the longest suffering, and most loyal in the league. Many fans weren't around, or were too young to remember the great teams of the eighties... Even Leafs fans have seen their team skate to a 100pt regular season twice in the last ten years... In fact, since Sather left every single team in the league except the Oilers, Islanders, Coyotes, Thrashers, Kings, Panthers, and The Blue Jackets have had at one time or another dominant regular season performances (100 points or more)... Not a stellar group.

Call us fickle. Call us bandwagon jumpers. Where else do fans sell out a building every night, flood sites like OilersNation with insightful commentary, keep radio stations hopping till past midnight on game day, and on, and on, when the ON ICE PRODUCT has been sooo sub par for nearly twenty straight years? The fact that fans are so loyal (opposite of fickle) could be a factor in the recurrent lack of change.

Want to be critical of the fans in RX1? The same group who pays top dollar, for this league, to sit in the smallest, most out-of date building, after paying $12 to park 2kms away from the front door...The group that watched it's team soundly outshot, and physically dominated almost every night on the way to one of the WORST home records in the league. You try clapping when your team lets in another sloppy goal, less than 60 second in to a must win game...AGAIN AND AGAIN. It breaks your heart. 16 teams of 30 make the playoffs- more than half! The Oilers have managed that feat twice in SEVEN years. This is supposedly the HEARLAND OF HOCKEY!!!!

Call out the Management, ownership, coaches, or the players.... The FANS deserve a pass.

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#37 Dennis
April 09 2009, 09:11PM
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There's no doubt that Oilers fans are loyal. After years of being promised that a new day post-lockout would bring new results, fans are still packing the place, watching the local TV casts and ordered PPV to boot three years into yet another bloody rebuild.

Myself, for instance, I'm negative nearly;) to a fault - though pessimism is the new Oilers realism - and I still watched every game down the Titanic '07 stretch and I've missed just one game this year.

And certainly a lot more props go to those that pay for the ducats.

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#38 Racki "FMNF"
April 09 2009, 09:57PM
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Good to hear that MacT will step down. Of course, I'll believe it when I see it though.

Not a guy I want to see stay here, but I have a lot of respect for MacTavish. I think it's a more manly way to go out, stepping down, then having the team can your butt. It's amazing he's lasted as long as he did.. I'm not sure if that's a testament to his coaching skills or to our management's inability to notice a problem obvious to many of us for a few years.

So thanks for the memories, MacT... I wish you the best. Please take Billy, Kelly and Charlie with you. Let's get some fresh faces in here.

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#39 Jonathan Willis
April 09 2009, 10:08PM
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@ Jack "FMNF" Bauer:

Ftorek/Robinson.

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#40 Sandra
April 09 2009, 11:47PM
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Barry Melrose

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#41 yo
April 10 2009, 12:28AM
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I don't think MacT deserves all of the hoopla and gentle massaging he seems to be getting. This guy screwed with alot of players and ruined some players reasonable expectation of development. Besides, he is pretty much a failure as a coach and because of his ineptness we go once again down the long road of years(?) of rebuilding. Fire his sorry ass now. Tio heck with his feelings I say...

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#42 Harlie
April 10 2009, 07:34AM
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Dennis wrote:

Also, I know it’s a younger crowd here but I can’t believe no one threw out any Eagles lyrics after that headline from RB.

The first song that came to my head when I read this post's headline was

http://www.singingfool.com/Title.aspx?publishedid=224821

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#43 Robin Brownlee
April 10 2009, 08:59AM
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@ yo: Really? What players did MacTavish "screw" with? What players did he "ruin?" MacTavish takes all the blame? What about Kevin Lowe? Kevin Prendergast? Players who didn't perform? You're way over the top.

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#44 Sandra
April 10 2009, 09:36AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ yo: Really? What players did MacTavish “screw” with? What players did he “ruin?” MacTavish takes all the blame? What about Kevin Lowe? Kevin Prendergast? Players who didn’t perform? You’re way over the top.

Nice to see that you are not a Lowe G.M. Fan

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#45 sean
April 10 2009, 10:23AM
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The source is a very good one-in the business of representation. The issue is the players are frustrated with losing and the coaching staff has alienated certain players as well as not implementing a system that works to the strength of the players.

There is certainly a disconnect between the management and the coaching staff when it comes to the type of players management brings in and likes and what the coach likes.

At the end of the day 8 years, only three playoff appearances-the message gets old.West Coast Oil wrote:

sean wrote: Smid isn’t the only player who has requested a trade this season, see Hemsky & Visnovski. I have not heard of the Visnonovski unhappiness.. who is your source? Regarding Hemsky as far as I know he stated he was unhappy in how he was being used and that is it..
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#46 Jayman
April 10 2009, 12:18PM
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I have tremendous respect for Souray because he's the only one that talks to the media openly and honestly. Everyone else seems to sugar coat things or flat out lie about it (like saying they battled hard after getting smoked). He's also the only one I see trying to take control of this team. Horcoff and Moreau look and act like they could care less.

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#47 Chris
April 10 2009, 12:32PM
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Jayman wrote:

Horcoff and Moreau look and act like they could care less.

It's sad that the Oilers need to find leadership from a UFA that parachuted into the organization for a huge payday; specially when you consider that Souray has played less games for the Oilers than Sam Gagner... It's not that I'm down on Souray: It's just ridiculous that the Oilers management haven't been able to draft, develop, and retain the services of their own quality leadership structure.

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#48 killerbass
April 10 2009, 02:51PM
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humantorch wrote:

Once again, I’ll say this. If Kelly Buchberger is announced as the 2009-2010 coach of the Edmonton Oilers, I’m buying a Flames jersey, AND subscribing to the flamesnation.ca RSS feed. THAT’S RIGHT, WAYNE. THAT’S WHAT I SAID. *tries to shoot imaginary AK-47 in the air, runs away sobbing*

good ridance to you then

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#49 Sandra
April 10 2009, 03:22PM
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Chris wrote:

Jayman wrote: Horcoff and Moreau look and act like they could care less. It’s sad that the Oilers need to find leadership from a UFA that parachuted into the organization for a huge payday; specially when you consider that Souray has played less games for the Oilers than Sam Gagner… It’s not that I’m down on Souray: It’s just ridiculous that the Oilers management haven’t been able to draft, develop, and retain the services of their own quality leadership structure.

Thats The LOWE down on the Oilers

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#50 Robin Brownlee
April 10 2009, 04:11PM
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@ Sandra: Really?

How do you look when you couldn't care less? Asd who do they act? Are you talking about in post-game interviews? If I labelled every player who gave a bland answer or applied positive spin -- if that's what you're interpreting as not caring -- instead of telling the truth after a bad gamne or a loss, as somebody who doesn't give a squirt, I'd have three guys on every team to talk to.

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