The dreaded vote of confidence

Jonathan Willis
November 15 2013 09:42AM

Yesterday, Craig MacTavish spoke to the media about the Edmonton Oilers’ performance. Among other items, he made it clear that he still has confidence in head coach Dallas Eakins.

After uttering similar lines during his availability and stressing the need for stability behind the bench, MacTavish told Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now that he “really couldn’t be happier with the coaching.”

The Vote of Confidence

The interesting thing about the managerial vote of confidence is that it often seems to precede the firing of said coach in short order. There are, I think, a couple of reasons for that.

The biggest is that managers don’t have to give coaches with good records a vote of confidence. Reporters don’t generally ask whether guys like Jon Cooper or Joel Quenneville are going to get fired; it’s obvious that they’re safe. Columnists don’t speculate on the safety of Todd McLellan or Dan Bylsma, at least not when those teams are winning, because there’s no question that the results support their continued employment.

So by the time the manager is in a position to opine on his head coach, there’s something in the record that suggests said head coach should be fired. And as a general rule, the media will always be ready to fire the coach before management is, which means that even when the coach is going to be fired there’s often a period of time when the media thinks he could be and the manager wants to hang on a little longer to see if the coach can turn things around.

The other reason is a simple trick of memory: we tend to remember the contradicition of a general manager supporting his coach and then firing him a week or two later, while we don't necessarily remember the close call that turned out okay.

Eakins

The thing keeping Dallas Eakins safe right now isn’t necessarily Craig MacTavish’s public statement, and it certainly isn’t the record or the underlying performance of his team (both of which are awful at the moment). It’s history.

Too many coaches in Edmonton have fallen by the wayside. The traditional point of reference is Sam Gagner; he’s just started his seventh season with the Oilers and he’s on his fifth head coach. It's ridiculous. 

There has been too much turnover, and other things need to change before the coaching does.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 James
November 15 2013, 09:46AM
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If only MacT realized this before canning another coach at the drop of a hat as his first order of business.

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#2 Kevin
November 15 2013, 09:47AM
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"Other things need to change before the coaching does."

Exactly.

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#3 -30-
November 15 2013, 09:48AM
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Analyze. Analyze. Analyze. Analyze.

Paralysis by analysis.

JW, your columns are usually very interesting and relevant. This one... meh

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#4 Dave2
November 15 2013, 09:50AM
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James wrote:

If only MacT realized this before canning another coach at the drop of a hat as his first order of business.

Might have been OK if the new coach had NHL experience.

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#5 Drake
November 15 2013, 09:55AM
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Mact T called out Eakins by saying Oilers have made Junior hockey mistakes. Safe for now but short leash

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#6 D
November 15 2013, 09:57AM
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MacT made an amateur mistake firing Krueger when he did and the way he did. Ralph was popular with the players and I'm sure it rubbed a few of them the wrong way on how that was handled.

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#7 James
November 15 2013, 09:58AM
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Dave2 wrote:

Might have been OK if the new coach had NHL experience.

Maybe. Or maybe some stability for the younglings would have done more. I guess we'll never know. The Oilers were doing better last season until they petered out towards the end.

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#8 Hammer
November 15 2013, 09:59AM
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Oilers laughing stock in all sports world!!! Managment needs change. Actually Katz needs to pack his team and get out of Edmonton. We have a better chance at bringing in a new organization with class and integrity. Take down all memorabilia of old Oilers an start fresh. Change Wayne Gretzky freeway back to Capilano freeway. Change Messier Trail back to St.Albert Trail. Close down all rexall and turn them into Shoppers Drug Mart or better year Walmart. Just go Katz and his friends. No longer an Edmontonian. Leave please!!! Gary Bettman we want a new Franchise!!!

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#9 Walter Sobchak
November 15 2013, 10:00AM
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I see the Oilers winning maybe 3 more games this month on the top end.

why is this important?

Come December & January , the Oilers will be lucky to win 3 games the whole month of December, they may not even win a game in January... there are some tough teams coming this way.

It's going to get nasty.

I'm not sure how Katz or MacTavish is going to spin this.

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#10 Twoskidoos
November 15 2013, 10:02AM
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Didn't Shero give Bylsma the vote of confidence last June? http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/6/12/4422996/ray-shero-press-conference-dan-bylsma-stays-as-pens-coach

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#11 pkam
November 15 2013, 10:03AM
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James wrote:

If only MacT realized this before canning another coach at the drop of a hat as his first order of business.

The counter argument to your comment is if MacT doesn't see Krueger as a long term solution and foresees a change in the near future, the sooner the better.

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#12 pkam
November 15 2013, 10:07AM
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Drake wrote:

Mact T called out Eakins by saying Oilers have made Junior hockey mistakes. Safe for now but short leash

Didn't Eakins say some players were making junior hockey mistakes too and need to learn to get rid of those bad habits? I think MacT just backed up what Eakins had said before.

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#13 Lowe Expectations
November 15 2013, 10:07AM
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This team simply put has too many perimeter players. Not that players like this can't be valuable to a team, this one is overloaded with them. For me, other than Hall & RNH every other player on the current roster is available for trade. It's time to start the overhaul of this roster, as the way it's currently built will never be successful.

I don't know why the management of the Oilers would be so afraid of trading some assets. One of the reasons you draft the most talented player available rather than for positional need is that the more talent a player has the more value in return you'll receive.

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#14 James
November 15 2013, 10:09AM
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pkam wrote:

The counter argument to your comment is if MacT doesn't see Krueger as a long term solution and foresees a change in the near future, the sooner the better.

Fair enough, but don't whine about stability and the amount of coaches the team has gone through. He can't have it both ways.

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#15 LOIL99
November 15 2013, 10:09AM
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@JW - your claims that a vote of confidence come in short order before a firing is interesting. So I read on hoping to see examples of this, especially if this was the case for the 4 last Oiler coaches. But you gave none. Just made the claim and left it at that. Weak, weak article from a generally good writer.

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#16 RL
November 15 2013, 10:10AM
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Apologize to Krueger and get him back! There was now way his firing was justified after a 48 game lockout shortened season with no training camp. Everytime our guys would go out on the PP under him I felt like we were going to score, or had really good chances to score. When we get a PP now I cringe and turn away from the TV. Eakins has made some very questionable coaching decisions in my mind.

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#17 mayorblaine
November 15 2013, 10:16AM
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keep the coach. new GM or not the carousel is embarassing.

the players on the other hand, specifically the top 6...

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#18 BIGDAWG
November 15 2013, 10:17AM
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In this presser Didn't Mac T say he was looking to get bigger and have more grit??? ooooooooohhhhh wait.. so then why did we trade Smid and Brown??

Sorry Mac T but ur making yourself look like a fool and whats worse is that I actually think you guys think that us as fans are believing your bullsheet.. Lots of interest in the core.. well geezuz.... get gojng and make a sound trade... LETS GO ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#19 pkam
November 15 2013, 10:19AM
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James wrote:

Fair enough, but don't whine about stability and the amount of coaches the team has gone through. He can't have it both ways.

MacT started a new chapter this offseason, so if any changes need to be made, wouldn't you think it is the best opportunity, and hopefully things will settle down after that for an extended period of time?

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#20 Cold Hard Truth
November 15 2013, 10:21AM
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You should not keep a bad coach, just for the sake of keeping a coach. If Eakins is not fit for the job, he should be replaced by somebody who is. Yes it sucks that there's been such a high turnover, but sticking with a bad coach won't make things better.

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#21 Cold Hard Truth
November 15 2013, 10:25AM
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MacTavish is eating humble pie.

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#22 Crackenbury
November 15 2013, 10:26AM
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For me the biggest disappointment this year has been the lip service about accountability and earning your ice time. I didn't expect much out of Arcobello when he started the season with the big team, but man he showed himself to be head and shoulders better at a 2-way game than the most of the so-called stars on this team. He was leading the team in points and +/- at various times and where does he find himself? - 4th line. Acton is told he's not going anywhere a few games into the season and arguably your best playing player on the team is shuffled around to make room for an obviously still too injured to play player in Gagner.

If the Oilers would simply ice the lineup that gives them the best chance to win instead of slotting players where they think they should be based on contract/seniority/pedigree they would improve their chances.

Even the most casual fan can see Arcobello should be playing 2nd line centre and Gagner should be moved down the lineup and onto wing. Put Yakupov on the wing with Arcobello on the second line and start using his best asset - his one timer.

Eakins and MacT seem to be cut from the same cloth when it comes to tunnel vision with their players.

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#23 nick
November 15 2013, 10:27AM
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Not much one can say about this Sh*t show called the Oilers. It is a joke and emarassment to the city. MacTavish is an idiot and should never have been hired back here. We were rid of him and somehow he weasled his way back. With this current group of Management and coaches the Oilers will always be the laughing stock of the NHL

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#24 HOFFFF
November 15 2013, 10:32AM
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"MacT isn't going anywhere..."

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#25 James
November 15 2013, 10:33AM
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pkam wrote:

MacT started a new chapter this offseason, so if any changes need to be made, wouldn't you think it is the best opportunity, and hopefully things will settle down after that for an extended period of time?

Again. MacT can't complain about the coaching carousel then fire a coach who had 48 games with the club. If he wanted to fire him then fine, so be it. But don't complain about the number of coaches when you're part of that problem.

And if his master plan is that "hopefully things will settle down", we're all in for a tough go.

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#26 Bleak Winter
November 15 2013, 10:34AM
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Cold Hard Truth wrote:

You should not keep a bad coach, just for the sake of keeping a coach. If Eakins is not fit for the job, he should be replaced by somebody who is. Yes it sucks that there's been such a high turnover, but sticking with a bad coach won't make things better.

Suggest one who's available and capable of turning this around and would be best served in their career by taking the position at this point? Keep in mind if offered the job they'll likely believe their shelf life as an Oiler coach is a year at most and that they may never work again in the league is a real risk. That's sort of the job description these days.

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#27 Spydyr
November 15 2013, 10:37AM
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It is easy to see the entire "braintrust" is in over their heads.Every last one of them.President, GM and coach the trifecta of incompetence.All hired for their current positions with no experience at the NHL level.This will get way worse before it gets better.

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#28 camdog
November 15 2013, 10:38AM
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The immediate concern is the Oilers need to score one measly goal on home ice, if they don't at least score one goal tonight this entire Eakins is safe approach will change dramatically.

Imagine the headlines if the Oilers don't score tonight?

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#29 Reality Check to the head
November 15 2013, 10:40AM
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I cannot figure out why they ever canned Tom Renney, A coach who was willing to live through a rebuild. Modern and hard working. They could have fired Renney yesterday and he would have walked away expecting this. He said so himself in an old interview. To paraphrase; 'I (renney) seems to start rebuilds but I seem to be gone by the time the teams is doing well.'

Renney would have been the perfect Stop-Gap coach. Hindsight is 20-20, but I remember thinking that when they seemed to fire him for no reason.

The rest of the moves the Oilers have made in terms of coaching are amateurish. How are the Oilers ever going to attract good players and retain the likes of Hall, Eberle if they are living in a circus.

The Oilers say they are willing to live through a rebuild, but I am starting to think they are really just inept and have no choice but to be cellar dwellers.

Going to the game tonight, but only because the Ticket is free. I am starting to think, there may be more free tickets to be had.

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#30 Wonger
November 15 2013, 10:45AM
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Spydyr wrote:

It is easy to see the entire "braintrust" is in over their heads.Every last one of them.President, GM and coach the trifecta of incompetence.All hired for their current positions with no experience at the NHL level.This will get way worse before it gets better.

I agree! I like MacT but how can he be happy with his core - way too small, way to soft, etc.???? Keep Hall and Nuge and dump the rest -Eberle, Gagner, Yak, J. Schultz and load up on SIZE, FUNCTIONAL TOUGHNESS and GUYS who are proven winners - THEY PAY THE PRICE EVERY NIGHT! P.S. Hall's birthday dinner/party last night wouldn't even have been the BIGGEST or TOUGHEST table at Chuck E Cheese's!

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#31 Bleak Winter
November 15 2013, 10:46AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

I see the Oilers winning maybe 3 more games this month on the top end.

why is this important?

Come December & January , the Oilers will be lucky to win 3 games the whole month of December, they may not even win a game in January... there are some tough teams coming this way.

It's going to get nasty.

I'm not sure how Katz or MacTavish is going to spin this.

I agree, in fact I think we've basically got to catch a weaker team napping at this point to have a chance in any given game. This gets a lot worse before it gets better, it pretty much has to. How did you say in the other thread, we're in for a new version of suck?

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#32 Rama Lama
November 15 2013, 10:46AM
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If Dallas Eakins want respect from the fans...........do what you said you were going to do!

Ice time should be earned, and if that is true then Arccabello should be playing top line minutes. Yaks sat and for good reason, now sit Hall, Eberle, and Schultz when they have bad games.

He has two sets of rules, and this will continue to cause division until players tune him out permanently.

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#33 camdog
November 15 2013, 10:50AM
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@Reality Check to the head

Renney was fired because the President was putting pressure on Tambellini to win now! It's an ironic twist on hypocrisy. Kevin Lowe goes to his GM and season ticket holders and says lets bomb now to get high picks and they after they bomb for a couple of seasons he says we have to win now! Hence the firing of Renney.

The entire problem with the rebuild is we don't have any significant mid to late round draft picks make the team during Kevin Lowe's draft years, there was nobody, except Petry. First overall picks are great, but if you don't have any second, third or fourth picks make any progress you are in for a lot of hurt.

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#34 Hemmercules
November 15 2013, 10:51AM
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This team spends more time making excuses than actually trying to fix the problems. They have to have press conferences twice a week just to explain themselves and the current gong show of the moment. Mact and Eakins should cut off the media, buckle down and get us some wins. Enough talk, deliver already.

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#35 The Real JR
November 15 2013, 10:52AM
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I am disappointed in all of you .

This has all been a master plan of katz. Field a weak team, surround Edmonton with negatives day and night. then we all get sick , go to our doctors , get prescribed anti depression drugs and go to Rexall pharmacies to have them filled. Katz fills his pockets.

Come on boys and Stauffer figure it out ! and get some new dress shirts Stauffer

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#36 pkam
November 15 2013, 10:54AM
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James wrote:

Again. MacT can't complain about the coaching carousel then fire a coach who had 48 games with the club. If he wanted to fire him then fine, so be it. But don't complain about the number of coaches when you're part of that problem.

And if his master plan is that "hopefully things will settle down", we're all in for a tough go.

The hiring of Eakins started like this. Kureger told MacT that he needed an associate coach. But instead of him searching for the associate coach himself, he left this to MacT. This is where Kureger shot himself in the foot.

In the process of searching for the associate coach, MacT interviewed Eakins and felt he was a better candidate than Kureger. So what should MacT do? Keep Kureger for another year or 2 then fire him and switch to Eakins? If he likes Eakins more, shouldn't he make the change then instead of waiting for the change to happen a year or a few month later?

When I said things settle down, I means his plan. If items on his plan hasn't been accomplished, then we should finish them ASAP. And hopefully it works and we won't need big changes, like management, coaches and core players.

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#37 Hockey Problems
November 15 2013, 10:54AM
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Game day prediction, Same Old, Same Old...... No forecheck, No backcheck, No sustained offensive pressure, Weak, barely existent D zone coverage, Motionless power play, Can't finish a check (count the flybys, and stop and waves... Gagner), Goalie gonna let in at least one momentum killing goal, That's all we got, that's all we get ! Don't try to tell me otherwise as I have eyes and can see what goin on. Does Mac T think we are all vision impaired and will take his word for it.

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#38 2004Z06
November 15 2013, 10:58AM
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Free tickets or not, I have not and will not go to a game. That is the main problem here. People bitching about change at the top yet still selling out the building.

And before the Tier one fans comment, no one is asking you to give up your season tix, just boycott a game or two.

The images on T.V. of a half empty building (normally standing room only) combined with the loss in parking/concession/merchandise revenue would send a very clear message to ownership.

Further to that a petition was put forward to have Lowe fired. Last count 58 signatures!!!

Have yet to hear the "fire Lowe" chants reverberating through my television speakers as well. Has anyone walked into the Oilers office demanding a refund?

Step up, or shut up!

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#39 HOFFF
November 15 2013, 11:03AM
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Maybe Katz is following the plot from the movie "Major League" and setting the Oilers up like the Cleveland Indians so he can move the Team to Seattle. :)

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#40 Spydyr
November 15 2013, 11:06AM
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pkam wrote:

The hiring of Eakins started like this. Kureger told MacT that he needed an associate coach. But instead of him searching for the associate coach himself, he left this to MacT. This is where Kureger shot himself in the foot.

In the process of searching for the associate coach, MacT interviewed Eakins and felt he was a better candidate than Kureger. So what should MacT do? Keep Kureger for another year or 2 then fire him and switch to Eakins? If he likes Eakins more, shouldn't he make the change then instead of waiting for the change to happen a year or a few month later?

When I said things settle down, I means his plan. If items on his plan hasn't been accomplished, then we should finish them ASAP. And hopefully it works and we won't need big changes, like management, coaches and core players.

Please show me examples of how Eakins is better then Ralph.His record does not show it.The special teams have gone from top ten in the NHL to bottom five his system sure doesn't work. The kids are a year older and have all regressed this year.Not one player on the team last year has improved this year.

MacT got conned by a good salesman selling himself.

The sooner he admits to and rectifies his mistake the better.

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#41 Dave2
November 15 2013, 11:08AM
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@James

I totally agree with Crackenbury :

"Even the most casual fan can see Arcobello should be playing 2nd line centre and Gagner should be moved down the lineup and onto wing. Put Yakupov on the wing with Arcobello on the second line and start using his best asset - his one timer."

So why doesn't Eakins do this - are we wrong ?

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#42 TayLordBalls
November 15 2013, 11:09AM
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well it's groundhog day....again

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#43 Will
November 15 2013, 11:09AM
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One of the writers here said it best, last year was all heart no skill, this year is all skill no heart.

The things we got hammered on last year, shots, chances, possession, faceoffs, have generally been corrected this year.

Oddly, the things that were working last year, goal tending, pk, pp, have all taken a dive this year.

I think we put too much confidence in J Schultz. Clearly the swarm is a system that needs to be understood and executed by everyone on the ice and not just a few.

Here's hoping Eakins can turn things around and come as billed. Otherwise, I sadly miss the days of Renny and Kruger.

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#44 hockeycrazed
November 15 2013, 11:10AM
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It is natural for fans in this parts to lash out their frustrations at Management, and they, in fact deserved most of it, nevertheless, we shouldn't lose sight of the main issue here, the players are not performing to their capabilities! may it be they are getting paid too much? Scare to get hurt? there is so much to address, where should we place the blame? If 'Management types', 'Players' are not to blame, then who? Maybe the fans are! we bitch too much? every arm chair coaches out there are trying to give their two cents worth, and it pisses off the 'Almighty bunch' at Oiler land, and they do that deliberately to teaches us a lesson? It's the most logical conclusion I could think of!

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#45 James
November 15 2013, 11:12AM
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pkam wrote:

The hiring of Eakins started like this. Kureger told MacT that he needed an associate coach. But instead of him searching for the associate coach himself, he left this to MacT. This is where Kureger shot himself in the foot.

In the process of searching for the associate coach, MacT interviewed Eakins and felt he was a better candidate than Kureger. So what should MacT do? Keep Kureger for another year or 2 then fire him and switch to Eakins? If he likes Eakins more, shouldn't he make the change then instead of waiting for the change to happen a year or a few month later?

When I said things settle down, I means his plan. If items on his plan hasn't been accomplished, then we should finish them ASAP. And hopefully it works and we won't need big changes, like management, coaches and core players.

Why shouldn't he make the change? Because he says he wants stability. What if he talks to someone else and likes him a little more than Eakins? Do we just keep doing this forever?

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#46 ghostofberanek
November 15 2013, 11:12AM
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This season makes me sad, but thank goodness it's just a game. Step off that ledge guys, the sun still rises every morning.

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#47 Lochenzo
November 15 2013, 11:13AM
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They should post Lars Eller's comment on the dressing room wall. This is a young club and they're focusing on trying not to lose when they should be focusing on beating the other team.

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#48 Andrew
November 15 2013, 11:14AM
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Analyze this. Last year PK and PP are performing at an above average clip. Eakins arrives and the team falls apart on special teams and 5X5. Team confidence has vanished. MacT has brought in an improved line-up with limited results. What element has changed all of this for the worse? EAKINS. What this really showed me is that this organization is bad and going to get even worse. MacT's text book display of dissembling right in our faces sounded and looked the same crap coming out of KLowe's mouth for his entire tenure.

How can any credible GM suggest they are totally on board with such dreadful coaching results. Then to suggest he has 8 or 9 key players who are not available is patently ridiculous. No one is going to trade for players from the Oiler's 4th line for a stud 'D' or big skilled centre.

Strap on fellow Oilers faithful, because this has the potential to be a very long and bumpy downhill ride. MacT's blathering yesterday gives me no comfort.

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#49 sizzay
November 15 2013, 11:14AM
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I know what needs to change - Sam Gagner as our 2nd line centre

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#50 Danger Pay
November 15 2013, 11:14AM
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Mac T also addressed the fact that they are not giving up on Yakupov and he is not going anywhere.

My overall interpretation of this conference was that the Oilers have pressed the re-set button and have started (wait for it, wait, for, it) another Re-Build.

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