ANYONE FOR AN ENCORE?

Robin Brownlee
April 08 2012 10:08PM

With no word yet on a new contract for coach Tom Renney, there's going to be plenty of speculation in coming days and weeks about his future, or lack of same, behind the bench with the Edmonton Oilers. I'd like to add a bit of a twist to that.

Given the uncertainty of Renney's status, it's not surprising that Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe was spotted in Oklahoma City Saturday. After all, Todd Nelson, who has done a fine job coaching the Oilers AHL affiliate, is considered a strong candidate to end up behind the bench in Edmonton, should a change be made. Perhaps Lowe and Nelson had a chat, a little lunch, did some catching up.

What I do find a bit curious, assuming the Lowe sighting in OKC is accurate, is that Nelson and the Barons were playing the Chicago Wolves, who just happen to be coached by Craig MacTavish. Hmm. It makes one at least ponder the same possibilities about two old teammates and friends like Lowe and MacT – a little chat, a bite to eat, some catching up?

I'm wondering if MacTavish, 53, who is now three seasons removed from stepping away as coach of the Oilers following the 2008-09 season, might be a candidate to step back behind the bench here, if Renney isn't retained. Is an encore a possibility Lowe and owner Daryl Katz, both close friends of MacTavish, are willing to consider? Something they have considered?

SECOND TIME AROUND

When MacTavish departed after the Oilers went 38-35-9 for 85 points in 2008-09, it seemed the right time to go. After eight years running the bench, MacT wasn't sure if his message to the players on the roster then was getting through any more. The relationship had grown stale. It was time.

Now, three years later, MacTavish looks and sounds rejuvenated despite an ongoing battle with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. MacTavish says he feels good. Signed by the Vancouver Canucks to coach the Wolves, he's got his team sitting atop the Midwest Division of the Western Conference.

At the same time, the Oilers are almost a completely different team than the one MacTavish left, the one that, critics insisted, was tuning him out. Only Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner and Ladislav Smid remain from that team. It's a new group. So, is there a possibility that MacTavish is the right coach for this group? Is this the right group for MacTavish?

While MacTavish is considered to be a bit of an old-schooler, defense-first and all that, which doesn't sound like a fit with this young bunch, it should be noted coaches, smart coaches, evolve in their approach. A tweak here and there. Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis comes to mind, to name one.

MacTavish wants to be back in the NHL. He was in the running for a couple of jobs he didn't get before he signed on with Vancouver for the Chicago gig. I'm guessing the Canucks wanted a commitment of at least one season from MacT before any out clauses to move up with another team kick in.

I'm just thinking out loud, but, given MacTavish's longstanding relationship with Lowe and Katz, his ties to Edmonton and his desire to return to the NHL, I think it would be foolish to dismiss the notion that MacTavish could return, should the team decide Renney has run his course. Just sayin.'

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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 Stack Pad Save
April 08 2012, 10:15PM
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I say why make the same mistake again?

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#2 The Farmer
April 08 2012, 10:17PM
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Meet the new boss, same as the old bo... Oh wait he is the old boss.

Honestly they could do worse, we saw what MacT did with what was obviously an under talented group, and what the new coaches have done with much the same, minus the kids obviously. Hmm curious proposition.

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#3 Talbot17
April 08 2012, 10:18PM
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Its plausible but i highly doubt it as the direction of the organization is about the new, or you hope it is anyways

I really like Nelson, think he would do a great job

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#4 Reality Check to the head
April 08 2012, 10:18PM
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I have to say, I always liked and respected Mac T. I wonder if he would actually come back, but considering there are only 30 NHL coaching gigs out there, people shouldnt be surprised.

I loved the way MacT coached in the playoffs and I think he is a quality coach.

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#5 jumanji93
April 08 2012, 10:19PM
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Exactly how has Hitchcocks coaching strategy changed?? Seems like the same old boring, no shots, win hockey games approach.. I agree with at least considering MacT, whether his approach has changed or not.. he understands the game, and relates well to the players, especially if they work hard, whic h the important pieces of this Oilers team take pride in. You may be on to something Reuben..

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#6 Jay Gray
April 08 2012, 10:19PM
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He's the best available NHL coach out there as of now. I was thrilled when he was fired, but I'd also be just as thrilled if he was hired back. He did take a 8th seed to within one win of a Stanley Cup after all.

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#7 Jay
April 08 2012, 10:23PM
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id be thrilled, Mact is a smart guy and i believe help this team win

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#8 Muji 狗
April 08 2012, 10:28PM
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I like MacT. And I hope he returns to the NHL soon. He deserves to. However, I hope it's not with the Oilers. It's too dangerous. If it happened and the Oilers didn't improve, it would make the organization look really really bad (even worse than now). Players would have even more reason to avoid signing with the team.

I mean, can you guys imagine if we had stuck with the management team that got us in this mess in the first pla... crap.

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#9 justDOit
April 08 2012, 10:31PM
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and the best candidate is already behind the bench, listening to Renney as 'associate'...

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#10 Jonathan Willis
April 08 2012, 10:33PM
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One of Vancouver's execs the other day basically admitted they expect to lose MacTavish this summer. His words were something along the lines of 'we'll be better for the year he spent in our system.'

I'm probably one of a half-dozen guys or so who would be just fine with a MacTavish return.

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#11 Tim in Kelowna
April 08 2012, 10:37PM
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I like the idea of a MacT return. But if we don't have a substantial upgrade on the back end it doesn't matter if Toe Blake himself rises from the grave to stand behind the Oilers bench, we will miss the playoffs.

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#12 flyin ryan
April 08 2012, 10:41PM
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Interesting thought that has some merit for sure...Don't hate the idea but, think I'd almost rather see Charlie Huddy back. Did some very nice work here, with Dallas & now the Jets.

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#13 6 ring circus
April 08 2012, 10:43PM
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How about bringing MacTavish back as the GM? Didnt he go back to school and get his MBA? I would take a Mac T and K Lowe Tanden over Tambellini anyday.

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I'm excited about the prospect of a new coach. MacT, Nelson, Tippett, etc. There are many excellent names out there. Add this to a hopefully interesting and exciting summer.

Regarding T-Ren: I really liked him in NY and I was glad to see him get the job here. But as well spoken and deliberate as he is, other guys will bring their own qualities to the table. It's time for a change. So thank you and good luck, mr. Renney.

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#16 Hoos
April 08 2012, 10:53PM
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Brownlee,

This article reaks of the tone you used in your "Radio Ga-Ga" series. For those articles, your "speculation" turned out to be spot on.

Are you "speculating" again?

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#17 Team Hall
April 08 2012, 10:54PM
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I say bring him back. We all thought he was the problem until he left and we instantly got much much worse. He can teach these kids defense.

Fine, fine coach. We'd be lucky to have him. Good teacher, knows systems and defense. Rather like a certain Hitchcock who is the talk of the town.....

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#18 sean17
April 08 2012, 10:55PM
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Can somebody please photoshop a picture of MacT and Renney on the movie poster for Step Brothers. I can't help but think of the line from the movie "you curly, haired f*ck". Awesome.

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#20 Jonathan Willis
April 08 2012, 10:56PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Strictly hyperbole. Some days it feels like remembering the MacT days fondly is a good way to get your house egged :)

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#21 CrazyCaptain88
April 08 2012, 10:56PM
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There are definite possibilities of why and how Mac T would end up back with the Oilers as Robin stated in his article. Can't deny that. However, to me it just seems like a sideways move(which shouldn't surprise us under this current management group). Both Renney and Mac T are very good communicators and tactical coaches and IMO are more defense first oriented. So with such similarities it would be hard for me to justify the Oilers making this move. I believe if Renney is let go the Oilers really need to find a coach that fits the mold of the team they have assembled and are going to assemble. Is Nelson that guy? I don't know enough of his style of play to say he is or isn't. However, it would be a huge risk to bring a rookie head coach into year 3 of the rebuild with expectations of fans to be playoffs or bust next year.

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#22 Wanyes bastard child
April 08 2012, 11:02PM
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Might Mac T be the one to bring the vet's around whilst providing a gap to the young guys? I don't no.

At first when reading this I was saying "Nooooooooooooo" but after giving it some thought I can't see it being a bad thing.

Craig is a good coach and without the numbers to back it up i think he has a better success rate than Renney, it could very well be a change in the right direction.

Speculation aside I guess time will tell.

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#23 Hax
April 08 2012, 11:04PM
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What's the definition of insanity?

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#24 friday the FISTeenth
April 08 2012, 11:04PM
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BRING BACK TOBY PETERSON!!! 1st LINE POWERPLAY BABY!

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#25 Stone Hands McOsta
April 08 2012, 11:06PM
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I can't wait for Mac-T to come back. Been saying it since we started slumping early this year. Tom did a good job introducing these kids to the NHL, now let a real systems coach come in and show them how to bring the cup back to Edmonton.

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#26 Devolution
April 08 2012, 11:11PM
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I would take him back in an instant. I think it should be obvious to all now, three years on, that he wasn't the problem when he was fired, the issues were much more deep seated.

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#27 Racki
April 08 2012, 11:12PM
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Count me on the side that thinks this is a bad idea. I really respect Craig MacTavish, though. But there's that old adage of insanity being "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Yah, the team has changed.. we've lost some supposed bad apples and such, but I think we shouldn't be recycling coaches. If we're moving on with Renney (whom I also like), then I'd rather see someone brand new here. Todd Nelson does seem like a pretty good candidate. It definitely can't be bad that he's already familiar with our younger players.

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#28 Jonathan Willis
April 08 2012, 11:15PM
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@Hoos

It's probably not a coincidence that both Brownlee speculated last night and Matheson speculated today that the Oilers would trade down at the draft either.

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#29 Clarkenstein
April 08 2012, 11:17PM
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So last week it was Dave Tippet, this week MacT... keep throwing $h*t against the wall Brownlee. Sooner or later you're bound to get it right.

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#30 No really
April 08 2012, 11:35PM
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The Oilers are or should be about progression and moving forward. Not going back to something that didn't work.

Two first round exits and one miracle run out of 8 seasons as a head coach does not spell winner to me.

MacT demonstrated his ability to coach and teach a team not to lose and he did it fairly well. I want a coach that teaches how to win plus I have seen enough of the macblender.

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#31 RossCreekNation
April 08 2012, 11:36PM
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A MacTavish return is the most predictable thing since "Darryl Sutter to LA" was the moment the Flames fired him. ZERO surprise factor.

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#32 Reg Dunlop
April 08 2012, 11:37PM
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There is a substantial number of coaching candidates who have no previous Oiler ties. Do we always have to dip into the old boys club? MacT was not hired by another NHL club as coach, possibly for a reason. Also, going outside the org. to hire Quinn and Renney worked out pretty good. Wait a second... Maybe MacT is the man for the job; at least he can relate to Bulin,go for a few pops.

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#33 Ambassador humantorch
April 08 2012, 11:43PM
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Put me firmly in the "happy when he left, would be happy to see him back" camp as well. His time was definitely up after 08-09, but I think a return of MacT to the Oilers bench is a much better choice than many of the alternatives (Crawford? lol).

That said, I also think he should be an eventual candidate for the GM chair, too. Tambellini's useless ass needs to be let go, I could see Lowe taking the GM role back for a year or two with MacT as the Assistant GM, being groomed for the spot afterwards (I'd like to see Lowe gone as well, but with Katz that's never gonna happen).

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#34 Wanye
April 08 2012, 11:50PM
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Oh this is GREAT news! We can just keep doing the thing that didn't work for all those other years and then

*smashes head on keyboard repeatedly*

At least I can recycle all of those FMNF articles

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#35 RossCreekNation
April 08 2012, 11:51PM
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Also, I don't buy the Todd Nelson hype. The notion that he has some kind of connection to the youth of this organization - beyond a handful of games from Paajarvi & Lander, and the majority of a season from Hartikainen & Teubert - seems like a silly thing to base his promotion on. He has no more connection to the young core than Marc Crawford or Geoff Ward. And he comes off as a dullard in his interviews.

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#36 Wäx Män Riley
April 08 2012, 11:56PM
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@Ambassador humantorch

@ Robin Brownlee

Any chance this is the reason he was in OKC?

Any chance of MacT as a GM?

I watched every single game of the 2006 run and it was a miracle run (great deadline/mid-year acquisitions), but every single series was played differently, and the players bought into the system each time. I think MacT out-coached his opposition in every series.

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#37 sean lecomber
April 09 2012, 12:02AM
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always a big MacTavish fan. For anyone who doesn't like his defense first approach I guess you must have yawned your way through the Oilers playoff run in 2006 because we trapped and trapped and trapped. The one year he had a group that could compete, we were competitive. He wasn't wrong about Penner, he wasn't wrong about Schremp. Many fans felt we were going to improve with him out of the picture. We did not. There was a lot of talk about "culture change" once he was fired, implying MacT had allowed a tumour to grow in the dressing room under his watch. How do you like your culture change now? Apparently it takes 20 years to implement properly.

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#38 JackBauer
April 09 2012, 12:04AM
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Ugggg...Why not just trade Hall for Marty Reasoner and Eberle for tony Peterson while were at it.

This team needs fresh management, enough of these deadbeats.

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#39 Yonsy
April 09 2012, 12:12AM
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Never had a problem with MacT as a player or coach. But we have already tried MacT as a coach, time for some new blood. I would prefer a younger coach with some experience at the NHL level, a young promising assitant coach thats learned the game from a well run organization. On the other hand if Tippet becomes available and he is willing to come up North than its a no brainer...Also I am done with Tambo, time to shift to the next phase of the rebuild, obviously the new GM would have to choose the new coach. And hopefully we finish bringing in Ex Oilers that are friends with Katz.

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#40 mlselli
April 09 2012, 12:29AM
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I wouldn't mind seeing MacTavish coming in as GM and Nelson coming in as coach. Maybe Kevin killed two birds with one stone. I can't imagine the Oilers keeping Tambie around if MacT returns as the coach.

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#41 bdiddy18
April 09 2012, 01:06AM
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MacT can come back as an assistant coach no problem because that's what he has always been at the NHL level. He just happen to be fortunate enough that this organization hires assistants to be head coaches for decades. If you are going the route of former coaches removed from the NHL game and ready for another try then interview: Pierre McGuire, Marc Crawford, mike Keenan, don hay too

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#42 OilerLand
April 09 2012, 01:50AM
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I'd be fine with MacT as an assistant under a real head coach.

Otherwise, no thanks.

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#43 Weasel Wellwood
April 09 2012, 01:51AM
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I've always liked Craig; thought he was a good player making the most of his limited physical talents, thought he was a good coach, perhaps a bit too defensively minded. Then again, looking at the talent he had to work with, he knew the firewagon route was out of the question.

Craig for GM is interesting. No way he'd ever do worse than Uncle Steve, just don't know if; i) He wants to be a GM, and; ii) Whether his first year he'd suffer from the 'deer in the headlights,' syndrome.

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#44 knobby
April 09 2012, 02:46AM
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I don't trust MacT. Bringing people back is not moving forward. At best it's moving sideways. MacT did a great job in the playoffs in 2006. He was given an Oiler roster with numerous vets like Pronger etc. Some cherubic ink-stained wretches could have coached that team.

But he left a sour taste in alot of people's mouths in his last incarnation here and I don't see it working this time.

At the same time I'm not sure about Nelson as a head coach right of the hop at the NHL level. Wouldn't he be better off as an assistant for at least a couple of years before moving to the big chair?

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#45 Walter Sobchak
April 09 2012, 06:43AM
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@Wäx Män Riley

Given this is all hypothetical.

I think that actually makes the most sense,I can actually see him as the GM more then I can see him as a replacement to Renney, or Renny's assistant.

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#46 Stack Pad Save
April 09 2012, 07:05AM
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The problem all of you can't see through your rosy 2006 glasses, is that as soon as Mac T starts with his line blender 1 time, everyone will go crazy, as soon as he puts Belenger on the PP everyone will scream TOBY, and as soon as someone like Paajarvi doesn't make the team everyone will cry ROBBIE. Too soon for Mac T to be back in Edmonton.

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#47 gcw_rocks
April 09 2012, 07:19AM
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It would be a show of just how incestuous the Oilers organization has become, and how completely lacking of vision or creativity the leadership of the Oilers is, if the Oilers re-cycled Mactavish as coach.

Why the MSM and bloggers are stumping for MacT when there are lots of lots of other options out there (as Willis is showing) is beyond me.

One more example of looking back instead of looking forward. Pathetic.

This organization is doomed to flounder until it stops living in the past and charts a new course.

How desperate are you people to annoint him as a saviour when all he ever delivered was one play-off run?

Have you all forgotten his post season record? Let's have a look, shall we:

Starting in 2000/2001

- Lost in round 1 - Out of playoffs - Lost in round 1 - Out of playoffs - Lost in finals - Out of playoffs - Out of playoffs - Out of playoffs

Thats 5 misses and 2 1st round exits. Sounds like the perfect coach for this team, if you want to keep missing the play-offs.

In fact, based on his long term record, you could argue the 2006 SCF run happened in spite of MacT, not because of him. As much as we hate Pronger, this team's only playoff success happened with him. Without Pronger, MacT's record as a coach looks pretty damn dismal.

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#49 michael
April 09 2012, 08:21AM
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Coach? No. GM? Yes.

Renny? Yes.

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#50 dawgbone
April 09 2012, 08:38AM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

It would be a show of just how incestuous the Oilers organization has become, and how completely lacking of vision or creativity the leadership of the Oilers is, if the Oilers re-cycled Mactavish as coach.

Why the MSM and bloggers are stumping for MacT when there are lots of lots of other options out there (as Willis is showing) is beyond me.

One more example of looking back instead of looking forward. Pathetic.

This organization is doomed to flounder until it stops living in the past and charts a new course.

How desperate are you people to annoint him as a saviour when all he ever delivered was one play-off run?

Have you all forgotten his post season record? Let's have a look, shall we:

Starting in 2000/2001

- Lost in round 1 - Out of playoffs - Lost in round 1 - Out of playoffs - Lost in finals - Out of playoffs - Out of playoffs - Out of playoffs

Thats 5 misses and 2 1st round exits. Sounds like the perfect coach for this team, if you want to keep missing the play-offs.

In fact, based on his long term record, you could argue the 2006 SCF run happened in spite of MacT, not because of him. As much as we hate Pronger, this team's only playoff success happened with him. Without Pronger, MacT's record as a coach looks pretty damn dismal.

And without Pronger, the talent level of those Oiler teams were pretty dismal.

05-06 was the first year in the last 20 where you could legitimately argue that the team had a true balance everywhere in the lineup.

At both F and D there were good veteran players, good young players who could contribute. And when the Oilers finally got good goaltending they went on an incredible playoff run.

Sure, if you strip away a lot of the quality players on a team, they are going to struggle... I don't think that's on the coach though.

I mean MacT's last year here was significantly better than anything we've gotten since then, including the first year of Quinn when it was a similar team that finished dead last.

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