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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#51 Rick
April 09 2012, 08:47AM
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I liked MacT as a coach, right up until he left, but I do question the logic of an organization that has been so bad in recent history to resisting real change.

Anyways, prior to Tambellini being brought in wasn't there an unspoken understanding that MacT would be the guy to occupy the GM's chair when the time was right and he was ready for it?

That wouldn't be so bad...

Or even as an associate GM or something to start.

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#52 bumblebpete
April 09 2012, 08:51AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

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.

I would welcome MacT back as GM with either Nelson, Tippet or Krueger as head coach.

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#53 Clarkenstein
April 09 2012, 09:11AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I write here and elsewhere. I offer what I think, what I know and what I hear. It's what I do for a living. And I get it right a lot.

Don't like it? Don't read it. But don't be THAT guy who reads it and then whines about it.

Ha ha... at least you didn't threaten to beat me up this time!! Whew!!

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#54 Dman09
April 09 2012, 09:29AM
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Well when I look at this team and season as a whole a couple of things really stand out to me. The defense was aweful and the vet's didn't show up this season and the young guns did. With that said MacT is Defense first and relies and demands a lot from his vets. If he is willing to tweak his style for a little bit more offense I think he would be the perfect kind of guy to bring this team to the next level. Having said that I also feel the same way about Nelson. What he has done in OKC without any real top end offensive talent is very impressive makes you wonder what he could do with a group like the Oilers.

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#55 Neilio
April 09 2012, 09:45AM
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No

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#56 gcw_rocks
April 09 2012, 10:02AM
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dawgbone wrote:

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.

If you went to any other team in the league and said, would you like a coach that had a 37.5% success rate on even making the play-offs, and on a 12.5% success rate in making it out of the first round, to lead you out of hockey purgatory they would laugh themselves silly.

It should also be noted that a whole bunch of those players you mention bolted as soon as the season was over. Spacek, Samsonov, Peca and others ran as soon as they could, Pronger aside. I don't know how you can absolve the Coach of some responsibilty in that. It is at least an indicatation that they didn't like playing for MacT.

MacT's years were all about mediocrity. Others have been worse is a pretty poor arguement for why someone should be coach.

If you want to set winning aside, which is crazy if you ask me, did he develop any star players? Can't think of any, except maybe Hemsky. Guerin, Smyth, Weight were already performing near thier career averages when MacT got them. Everyone else was kinda mediocre. Was that because they didn't have the talent or because he is a mediocre teacher?

other than being one of the best quotes in hockey, I don't see compelling evidence that MacT is the BEST coach available. And why in heck should the Oilers be shooting for anything less than the BEST is beyond me.

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#57 VK63
April 09 2012, 10:04AM
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I like MacT but frankly, the entire ride horc and belanger thing is one of Renneys undoings. MacT is a good coach......... of players who play like he did. Its how he sees the game..... and that is difficult to change.

Props to him if he has re invented himself but Im a doubter.

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#58 dawgbone
April 09 2012, 10:37AM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

If you went to any other team in the league and said, would you like a coach that had a 37.5% success rate on even making the play-offs, and on a 12.5% success rate in making it out of the first round, to lead you out of hockey purgatory they would laugh themselves silly.

It should also be noted that a whole bunch of those players you mention bolted as soon as the season was over. Spacek, Samsonov, Peca and others ran as soon as they could, Pronger aside. I don't know how you can absolve the Coach of some responsibilty in that. It is at least an indicatation that they didn't like playing for MacT.

MacT's years were all about mediocrity. Others have been worse is a pretty poor arguement for why someone should be coach.

If you want to set winning aside, which is crazy if you ask me, did he develop any star players? Can't think of any, except maybe Hemsky. Guerin, Smyth, Weight were already performing near thier career averages when MacT got them. Everyone else was kinda mediocre. Was that because they didn't have the talent or because he is a mediocre teacher?

other than being one of the best quotes in hockey, I don't see compelling evidence that MacT is the BEST coach available. And why in heck should the Oilers be shooting for anything less than the BEST is beyond me.

Is it your opinion that those Oiler teams would have been better with other coaches and that better star players would have emerged?

Here's the fun thing about winning hockey games: It takes good players, and the Oilers haven't really had that, with the exception of 05-06.

And you can only develop star players out of quality young players which the Oilers also lacked. I don't think any coach was going to turn Stoll or Torres into PPG players, so why hold that against Mac-T?

Is Mac-T the best coach available? I don't know to be honest, I think there's a pretty good argument that he is (until the inevitable playoff firings come at least).

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#59 dawgbone
April 09 2012, 10:38AM
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VK63 wrote:

I like MacT but frankly, the entire ride horc and belanger thing is one of Renneys undoings. MacT is a good coach......... of players who play like he did. Its how he sees the game..... and that is difficult to change.

Props to him if he has re invented himself but Im a doubter.

Did he have many players who didn't play like he did?

It's not like he had a wealth of offensive talent that he ruined by turning them into own-zone robots.

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#60 Quicksilver ballet
April 09 2012, 11:54AM
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I'd give MacTavish another shot. I'd handicap him first though. If the Oilers could remove Shaun Horcoff from MacTavish's bench i think Craig would be a different coach. We all must agree, MacT was handcuffed with the talent he had at his disposal before he left. He was in defending mode because the Oilers were out talented every night back then.

If you can remove that 30pt player whom surrenders 70-80 goals a season for the opposition while he's on the ice, that 20 minutes a night could be used by someone more capable. Next yr it will be Hopkins and Gagner/Grigorenko going up against the other clubs first line. It's time Edmonton got out of the damage control and into the damaging side of the equasion.

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#61 longbottom/P.Biglow
April 09 2012, 11:55AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

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

LOL This is one time of the many or the few I agree with you.(Depends on your article and your mood, or vice versa.)

I remember MacT coaching a bunch of reruns and retreads to the 38-35-9 record and him thinking he was tuned out. What could he do with a team where Hemsky is what the third-fourth most talented?

If they decide they need a differnt coach I say a rejuvinated MacT is a better option than most.

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#62 dawgbone
April 09 2012, 12:15PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I'd give MacTavish another shot. I'd handicap him first though. If the Oilers could remove Shaun Horcoff from MacTavish's bench i think Craig would be a different coach. We all must agree, MacT was handcuffed with the talent he had at his disposal before he left. He was in defending mode because the Oilers were out talented every night back then.

If you can remove that 30pt player whom surrenders 70-80 goals a season for the opposition while he's on the ice, that 20 minutes a night could be used by someone more capable. Next yr it will be Hopkins and Gagner/Grigorenko going up against the other clubs first line. It's time Edmonton got out of the damage control and into the damaging side of the equasion.

Except the Oilers got damaged even further when RNH was on the ice against other teams best lines.

Hopkins got plastered on the road, even when you factor in the fact that the Oilers did their best to hide him for long stretches of the season.

RNH is still a couple of years away from being competetive in a PvP matchup.

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#64 Quicksilver ballet
April 09 2012, 12:21PM
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dawgbone wrote:

Except the Oilers got damaged even further when RNH was on the ice against other teams best lines.

Hopkins got plastered on the road, even when you factor in the fact that the Oilers did their best to hide him for long stretches of the season.

RNH is still a couple of years away from being competetive in a PvP matchup.

The Oilers are a couple yrs away from making the playoffs anyways. Why shelter him, let him compete and try and win some of those battles. RNH was better the second half of the season, if he's stronger and better next season the Oilers should be fine as far as non playoff teams go. Not sure a grizzled veteran like Horcoff would be much better.

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#65 Bucknuck
April 09 2012, 12:34PM
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There is no way Tambellini will swallow his pride enough to bring MacTavish back. I also have doubts that he will find goaltending to complement Dubnyk, since that would also admit to making a mistake signing Khabibulin long term.

But maybe Tambellini won't be here next year. I sure hope not.

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#66 Banger
April 09 2012, 12:51PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Did my comment use too much logic?

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#68 Smokey
April 09 2012, 01:23PM
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Jay Gray wrote:

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.

Uhm Tippet

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#69 gcw_rocks
April 09 2012, 01:31PM
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dawgbone wrote:

Is it your opinion that those Oiler teams would have been better with other coaches and that better star players would have emerged?

Here's the fun thing about winning hockey games: It takes good players, and the Oilers haven't really had that, with the exception of 05-06.

And you can only develop star players out of quality young players which the Oilers also lacked. I don't think any coach was going to turn Stoll or Torres into PPG players, so why hold that against Mac-T?

Is Mac-T the best coach available? I don't know to be honest, I think there's a pretty good argument that he is (until the inevitable playoff firings come at least).

So, what has he done that makes him best coach available?

Willis' series over a Cult of Hockey, which doesn't appear to be over yet, points to some coaches who are argueably better:

Coach NHL W% Career W% Playoff Adv Past 1st Champ (any level)

Mact .537 .537 3/8 1/8 0 Crawford .549 .540 11/18 6/18 1 hartley .581 .575 11/14 10/14 3 Cooper N/A .721 8/8 6/8 3 Nelson N/A .644 4/4 3/4 2

All have a better career win percentage. Hartley and Crawford have better NHL win percentages. All have won championships at different levels, including two Stanley Cups. MacT isn't even the best of the re-treads out there, let alone the best coaching option when you consider up and comers.

Frankly, looking at Cooper's bio, I would seriously give him a shot. Younger, innovative, overacheiver and seems to turn everything he touches to gold.

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#70 gcw_rocks
April 09 2012, 01:54PM
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dawgbone wrote:

Did he have many players who didn't play like he did?

It's not like he had a wealth of offensive talent that he ruined by turning them into own-zone robots.

The Wolves offensive production is down by Approximately 25% over the past 2 seasons average (199 vs 260 and 264).

Coincidence?

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#71 Rama Lama
April 09 2012, 02:13PM
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I like Mac T, except his defense first approach and his system of play will stifle the ability of the young guys playing a offense game.

If he can let the young guys play their game, then I say go for it but it seems to me he will not be willing to change his style to accomodate the young guys?

The old style of play under MacT was boring to watch!

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#72 gcw_rocks
April 09 2012, 02:32PM
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dawgbone wrote:

Is it your opinion that those Oiler teams would have been better with other coaches and that better star players would have emerged?

Here's the fun thing about winning hockey games: It takes good players, and the Oilers haven't really had that, with the exception of 05-06.

And you can only develop star players out of quality young players which the Oilers also lacked. I don't think any coach was going to turn Stoll or Torres into PPG players, so why hold that against Mac-T?

Is Mac-T the best coach available? I don't know to be honest, I think there's a pretty good argument that he is (until the inevitable playoff firings come at least).

Also seeing some rumours today that Lindy Ruff may be let go.

He also has a better winning percentage than Mac T, made the playoffs more often, and made it past the first round more times. He also went to a SCF. if he is cut loose, would he also not be a better choice than MacT?

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#73 Dog Train
April 09 2012, 03:28PM
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This would probably be the most talented team that he's ever coached. That said, let's not go down that path. If we are going to change, then let's change. Not run in circles.

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#74 will colford
April 09 2012, 03:45PM
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Two things. The power Play and the Penalty kill. I'm sorry but Mac T couldn't run a power play or a pk to save his life. You say it was different group of players, and that this one is better. True, but Renny got a bottom place team a top place power play and at lease a decent penalty kill.

I hope Renny gets one more year with a better D core, a few less injuries, and someone other than Habby to show what he can really do with this group.

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#75 Oilforlife
April 09 2012, 03:57PM
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Renney wasn't perfect, but he has the patience and right attitude for the youth. It's not his fault that management gives him veterans with no heart, or overpaid under achievers. We don't need Mac T back coaching, we need new management.

Any Manager these last few years could have made these draft choices, with this great scouting staff. Great Managers find the odd pieces that work and gel on the team, and that's the failure.

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#76 DieHard
April 09 2012, 04:02PM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

If you went to any other team in the league and said, would you like a coach that had a 37.5% success rate on even making the play-offs, and on a 12.5% success rate in making it out of the first round, to lead you out of hockey purgatory they would laugh themselves silly.

It should also be noted that a whole bunch of those players you mention bolted as soon as the season was over. Spacek, Samsonov, Peca and others ran as soon as they could, Pronger aside. I don't know how you can absolve the Coach of some responsibilty in that. It is at least an indicatation that they didn't like playing for MacT.

MacT's years were all about mediocrity. Others have been worse is a pretty poor arguement for why someone should be coach.

If you want to set winning aside, which is crazy if you ask me, did he develop any star players? Can't think of any, except maybe Hemsky. Guerin, Smyth, Weight were already performing near thier career averages when MacT got them. Everyone else was kinda mediocre. Was that because they didn't have the talent or because he is a mediocre teacher?

other than being one of the best quotes in hockey, I don't see compelling evidence that MacT is the BEST coach available. And why in heck should the Oilers be shooting for anything less than the BEST is beyond me.

I was on the fence with this one but your argument has swayed me.

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#77 Craig1981
April 09 2012, 05:55PM
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@Clarkenstein

Brownlee has great insight. He was not saying this will happen, just that it might. And he is right, it might. The thought surely must of crossed the mind of the Oilers high brass. And I enjoy reading his articals as they are informed and though a tad cynical, often painfully right. I don't want to hear people make trade talks about Omark for Price plus, I want to hear real options and Brownlee does that. That said, I would like to have an artical on how the Oil should bring Gord Mark back to add some grit please Brownlee

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#78 Raine
April 09 2012, 07:56PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

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.

Doesn't make much sense since the guy you want, Ryan Murray, was ranked #2 in CSS final rankings today.

Where will the Oilers be picking? Likely #2. Too perfect a situation imo.

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#80 smiliegirl15
April 10 2012, 01:20PM
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Gregor once wrote an article about not redating the exes. I think the same principal applies here. I wasn't sad to see MacT go and I certainly don't want to revisit him again. It's time for new and fresh in Edmonton! I bet there are some good options out there. Send Renney and Tambellini out on the same bus!!!

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#81 Oilers4ever
April 10 2012, 07:14PM
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I won't say much on this other than getting MacT back would be a huge error in judgement... He lost the team in the end the last time he was here... Do you really think guys like RNH, Hall, and Ebs want to be in that situation? Doubtful... I still Todd Nelson is the best bet... Or resign Renney for one more year.

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