Fire Craig MacTavish

Craig MacTavish: you're fired

I’ve been a fan of Craig MacTavish for a long time. I defended him last season, and I defended him at the start of this season. He’s a smart guy, and has done a good job getting unheralded players to perform beyond what one would reasonably expect to be their level of ability. People look back at the early days of Lowe/MacTavish and say “mediocrity”, but maybe they don’t remember the budget this team was run on pre-lockout; there was a certain joy to watching players like Smyth, Smith, Marchant, Grier, Niinimaa, etc. put their nose to the grindstone and grit out a playoff spot while team with a higher payroll and greater individual talent swung and missed. Then there was the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals run, and great things seemed to be in the making.

The two seasons following the Cup Run weren’t great. The team was brutally unbalanced entering 2006-07, and Kevin Lowe seemed determined to undo every good decision he made the previous year. The defensive corps was dismantled, and entered the year with a top three of Daniel Tjarnqvist, Jason Smith, and Steve Staios. It was so bad at one point that Danny Syvret, Bryan Young, and Sebastien Bisaillon were all on the active roster. I gave MacTavish a pass that year, as the team had been so obviously mismanaged that expecting a playoff spot was folly.

2007-08 was a great building year; the team rode Mathieu Garon’s stellar play (especially in the shootout) and dressed a truckload of rookies, most of who impressed. They missed the playoffs by a hair, but seemed to be clearly a team on the rise, and MacTavish probably deserved some credit for it.

Enter 2008-09. Kevin Lowe, despite an apparent aversion to having more than one veteran centre on the team, had an excellent summer before being promoted. The Oilers had a young group of forwards, but that was balanced somewhat by an excellent top-four on the back end, and a legitimate tandem in Garon and Roloson. It wasn’t a perfect roster, but it was a vast improvement over what Craig MacTavish had been given in previous seasons.

Unfortunately, Craig MacTavish has been coaching like a man unhinged for much of the season. For example:

1. Ladislav Smid: Left Wing

So, when developing a 22-year old defenceman with 132 NHL games who is finally starting to emerge after looking like he was in over his head for the past two seasons, what’s the best place to use said defenceman? On left wing, of course! Or in the press box — because those are the two places where promising defencemen blossom.

2. Fernando Pisani: Centre

Looking down the roster, I see five natural centres (Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano, Pouliot and Brodziak). Only one of them is a veteran, and my preferred choice for third-line centre (a good one choice: Marty Reasoner) was dealt away by the GM. Still, I have a) a speedster with some size issues b) a former first-round pick who’s shown well defensively in parts of two previous seasons and c) a face-off ace and regular penalty-killer to chose from. My solution? Convert Fernando Pisani, a stalwart defensive presence to centre, moving two centres to the wing and dropping Brodziak to the fourth line. Of course, Pisani can’t win a face-off, and struggles against tough opposition, so I respond by leaving the line together, and playing them against lesser players, until Pisani’s injured.

3. Dustin Penner: Fat and Lazy

I have a player who was my second-best power-play point producer (behind only Ales Hemsky) and best power-play goal scorer last season returning again. Logically, it makes sense to bump him to the second unit, because I have another player coming in (Cole) who is a) historically a poor power-play option and b) playing out of his normal position to replace him. Makes good sense, right? And since this guy has only once played tough minutes (last season, with Horcoff and Hemsky), it makes sense to toss him on his off-wing with Pisani as his centre and run him against tough opposition.

In any case, he responds by posting great scoring numbers for his icetime (2.00 PTS/60, behind only to Ales Hemsky) and one of the best +/- numbers on the club. That needs to stop, so I call him out not once but twice in the media as being lazy/inconsistent/etc. Then I healthy scratch him for a couple of games, to be sure he got the message.

4. Staios and Strudwick: It’s like having Stevens and Langway on the same pairing

Since I’ve decided that both the team and Ladislav Smid are best served by him playing LW on the fourth line, or serving as the number seven defenceman, my default third pairing is Staios and Strudwick. I make it easy for them — lots of minutes against softer opposition and lots of offensive zone draws (despite the fact that I have four offensive defencemen who could make use of those draws to, you know, score), yet they’re still getting out-shot by an awful amount. I decide that the best course of action is to praise the pairing in the media.

5. Kyle Brodziak: who needs linemates to succeed anyway?

After my centre juggling earlier, I needed to find somewhere to use Kyle Brodziak. Brodziak was great last year, catching fire along with Stortini and some guy who wasn’t quite good enough to be brought back in the summer. I decide to use him with a rotation of Moreau, Stortini, MacIntyre and Jason Strudwick. As an added bonus, I think he can probably handle starting in his own end for every single shift (Brodziak has 205 defensive zone faceoffs and only 91 offensive zone faceoffs, for a difference of 114. The next closest Oiler is Horcoff, who has 66 more defensive than offensive zone draws).

Sadly, Brodziak can’t seem to handle even this dream scenario, in a contract year no less. I decide that the solution is to call him out in the media and healthy scratch him as well.

The Final Straw

There are other things that stand out: the love for Liam Reddox, the complete lack of tolerance for any error by Mathieu Garon, using three defencemen on the same power-play unit, running other players out of position, icing a miserable penalty kill and a mediocre power-play, but I only have so much time. Besides, it’s all secondary to the cardinal sin that MacTavish committed today.

Days after a 10-2 loss (with no bag skate) and in the same season as a 9-2 loss (with no bag skate), Craig MacTavish decided today following a listless 2-1 loss to Nashville to bag skate the Edmonton Oilers.

He didn’t decide to bag skate the whole team, though. Instead, he ran practice, and then picked out his favourite whipping boys — Dustin Penner, Kyle Brodziak, and Marc Pouliot — and bag skated the three of them by themselves.

I’m a numbers guy, so I have a certain level of skepticism when somebody floats the chemistry/momentum/gut-check card by me. But the idea of picking out three players who have already been harped on all season, and skating them alone when they were far from the only culprits in this lukewarm season, or even in that last loss, is so repugnant to me that I can’t even fathom what made him do it.

You win as a team, you lose as a team, and if need be you bag skate as a team. Craig MacTavish should know better.

It’s time for a new coach.

  • Hippy

    @ David S:

    Why shouldn't we expect similar results to last year's conclusion?

    If the decisons MacT made down the stretch were the reasons why we did so well at the end of last year, shouldn't we be doing the same or better?

    Lowe went and made a great 5 for 5 trade. He traded:

    Pitkanen for Visnovsky
    Greene for Souray
    Stoll for Horcoff
    Glencross for Cole
    Reasoner for Moreau

    Why wouldn't he be overly enthusiastic?

    Unless maybe it wasn't his great coaching schemes that contribruted to the good run at the end of the year and it had more to do with players overachieving (cough, cough………cup run '06)

  • Hippy

    Greatgazoo wrote:

    He also claims that Cole was a historically poor power play performer when coming into this season, 25% of Cole’s career goals were on the PP and was coming off a season of a career high 10 PP goals.

    All numbers from 2007-08.

    Goals/60 minutes of powerplay time:

    Penner: 2.44 Cole: 2.30

    Points/60 minutes of powerplay time:

    Penner: 4.07 Cole: 3.13

    Hurricanes PP%: 18.81
    Oilers PP%: 16.57

    In other words, Penner scored more goals, and more points, on a worse powerplay. Any questions?

  • Hippy

    Greatgazoo wrote:

    Funny that the blogger didn’t point out that Smid’s play improved after the trial at LW.

    What, you mean when the coach played him as a top-six defenseman?

    Who would have thought that a defenseman's play would improve when he's used as a top-six defenseman? Baffling!

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ RobinB:
    Fair enough, Robin – I was going by TSN’s story, where yours made it sound like less of a big deal. If it wasn’t a bag skate, but something as simple as extra practice, then it isn’t as big a deal.
    On the other hand, calling out Penner yet again would seem to be an act of desparation, and letting MacTavish publicly complain about the lack of a LW makes me wonder if he’s getting a little too much latitude from the GM.
    As for Brodziak, he was HS’d along with Penner and then singled out again today, so I’d assumed that he was one of the targets as well.
    I don’t claim to know what’s going on in the room; I do wonder why MacTavish has been so brutal in his public comments toward certain players (Penner in particular, though there are others) and I’m increasingly inclined to think that he’s getting desperate. Is that accurate?

    Even Dan Tencer and Fred Stauffer said this Robin, And those three were also not aloud to talk to the media and you don't think this was a bag skate

  • Hippy

    Jack "slacking off at work" Bauer wrote:

    I dont see how anybody can make the arguement that MacTavish should still be coaching this team.

    These are the same people that take Dan Tencer as gospel truth.

  • Hippy

    Some people seem to think that a coaching change should only be made if it is going to guarantee the playoffs, but why does it have to be that way?

    In my mind MacTavish is making the mistakes he has made because of pride and nothing more. When he makes a decision and it doesn't work he tries to make it work rather than admit it was wrong. A coach cannot make stubborn decisions with no more basis than pride and a snidely arrogant attitude towards anyone who questions him.

    If he is losing the ears of the players than he has to go. Period. If the team tanks afterward and finishes last, at least the players will know that the organization will do whats best for the team.

    People are saying things like "who do we hire to get us to the playoffs," but I say we need to get rid of the coach who has begun making decisions out of spite, and has apparently become a bit of a poison to some, if not many, of the players. At this point who cares who they get, as long as they have even the slightest thread of common sense.

  • Hippy

    I lost faith last year when Coach said he hoped Cogliano could one day turn into a player like Todd Marchant.

    Marty Reasoner = Joe Sakic without the foot speed;
    Andrew Cogliano = Todd Marchant, but not as tall.

    Really?

    If that's the case, lets all cross our fingers and hope that JDD learns how to channel his inner Mikhail Shtalenkov. Or maybe we can groom Smid into Ales Pisa redux.

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    I was a Fan Of MacT: the player. As an aging grider, and Captain of a brutal Oiler Squad; I watched him live, in the Saddeldome score a hat-trick. I, along with Willis, backed MacT until this season. It is terribly depressing to watch this proud, intelligent, Oiler icon descend into madness… Even a casual observer of this team can see how poorly MacT is managing his assets this season.

    Take out the word MacT and add Lowe – still makes sense.

  • Hippy

    Ender the Dragon wrote:

    @ Jack “slacking off at work” Bauer:
    OK, Jack, so who’s your answer to step in tomorrow and take us to the promised land? I hear Hartsburg’s available . . . how loud will you cheer when we announce that name at a press conference tomorrow?

    humantorch wrote:

    Jack “slacking off at work” Bauer wrote:
    I dont see how anybody can make the arguement that MacTavish should still be coaching this team.
    These are the same people that take Dan Tencer as gospel truth.

    Remember Allan Watt gives Dan T crib notes every afternoon

  • Hippy

    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:

    I agree 100%, But it will never happen Mac T and K lowe are best friends and I think the only reason Mr Katz bought this team is so that he can hang out with the oilers from the past and chum with the team.We are turning into the Toronto Maple Leafs organization ( The late Harold ballard era) and we dont even realize it.When will someone, anyone get some balls and do something!!! I know one thing, my days as a Oilers season seat holder are coming to an end, I am tired of the Oilers propaganda machine working full time and feeding us fans with bull s_it!!

    D Katz – said nothing since pressor – code of silence
    bought team for branding and cash flow reasons
    bonus – he is an oilers fan and loves the boys
    on the bus

    B Katz – liason to McKesson Drugs – loan
    LaForge – riding the past years of the boom – sold out
    Watt – controlling – favorite book 1984
    Nicholls – payment to be Katz spokesperson – mercenary

    Lowe – spends – overpays and handcuffs cap – hides

    Tambellini – prop – Scott Howson replacement

    MacT – misuses players – poor callups (Lowe?)
    groundhog day with media and verbose
    players are bored with same old same old

    Team – 0.500 non playoff result

    Arena Music – reason the oilers are never prepared

    Fans – divided over this keystone cops movie

    Result – futility

    Correction – Lowe will find it difficult to fire his friend – very cozy boys on the bus…. maybe move him into another role and consider Tortorella – when he speaks on television, I listen to him – he is stong and commands respect – something this team needs today and tommorrow.

    Oiler fans are used to golf in April – so why is everyone upset.

  • Hippy

    I used to ride the "Fire MacT" bandwagon and while I've not come back 180 degrees I am back to at least 90 deg. This is not "his" team, it is Kevin Lowe's. He is the one and only person that is responsible for this .500 hockey team…ie. mediocrity, year after year. I've almost come to the realization that maybe MacT is perhaps a good coach after taking this pile of chicken shit and trying to make chicken salad out of it. When you have one and only one player in your entire system that is "untouchable" that falls on the shoulders of the GM or whatever he calls himself these days. He's had enough time… it's more obvious than ever… he can't do the job!!

  • Hippy

    @ Deep Oil:

    Tortorella, huh? Just for fun, let's ask some Tampa Bay fans what they had to say to their dearly departed coach. Here's a sampling of some real comments:

    by gus Sep 10, 2008 08:12 AM
    Good riddance Torts! If you didn't get your way, you threw tantrums. Nice way to treat Artie. Your all offense and no attention to defense caused your problems. Your defense never gave your goalies a chance (Kuba and Boyle) Great plus/minus!!!!!!!

    by Bob Sep 06, 2008 06:30 AM
    Let's face it…Torts was, and is, a poor coach. No offers have come his way. Now he is showing that he is also a poor sport by taking verbal shots while knowing full well that no one in Lightning management will respond…nor should they.

    by rich Sep 06, 2008 04:20 AM
    It's a surprise that he got fired? How can you finish with the worst record in hockey with the talent that team had. He had no choice but to point your finger at Tort's. From the day your hired it's only a matter of time until your fired.

    by Graham Sep 06, 2008 03:04 AM
    Kuba is a 35-40 point guy. Here's where Torts shows exactly what did him in. That's fine, except, HE'S A BLUELINER!!!! I don't care about scoring. I care about stopping. Again, he misses the mark.

    by Coach Bill Sep 06, 2008 03:03 AM
    . . . Torts was a frustrated angry coach. He constantly dissed his players in the press. It must have been a nightmare playing for him. These "stars" are really young men and need to be encouraged, not humiliated.

    by Matt Sep 06, 2008 03:01 AM
    He only wanted to continue here to spite the players. He's a liar and more than half the players wanted him gone. He was pissed when he said he wanted to leave and no one begged him to stay so, he changed his mind. Move on…

    by Denny Sep 05, 2008 09:47 AM
    It's comicle hearing Torts talking about players getting run out of town. He ran out a few including his key to the cup- Andrechuk.

    by Joe Sep 05, 2008 09:47 AM
    WOW…What a bitter idiot…the team won the cup despite his brutal coaching…the owners get zero respect? You mean just like the players got from you? CLOWN. Wear some floppy shoes and red nose on TV. FOOL.

    Sounds like a step in the right direction to me . . .

  • Hippy

    @ Ender the Dragon:

    Without knowing the availability of all the NHL assistant/head coaches, or whose available in the AHL it would be hard to make that decision.

    But I do know this joke of a coach has produced pathetic results for 7 of his 8 years here. Weve only made the playoffs 3 times under his tenure here. What part of this lack of success do you find endearing? So what about Mactavish makes you think he SHOULD be coach of this team?

  • Hippy

    Chris wrote:

    These guys bore me. I never ever slept through games played by the terrible teams of the mid 90’s…

    This above all else is why MacT should be fired! Does anyone else remember Oiler's Hockey? It was a hard forcheck, quick transition game, that even with the crap teams of the 90's still gave the opposition fits. Edmonton used to be a hard team to play against now they are a bunch of patsies.

    MacT has systematically dismanteled Oiler's Hockey, we don't forcheck anymore, we have no transition game and we don't activate the defense except on the powerplay. He has modelled this team after the Minnesota Mild, and its very BORING hockey to watch!

    I'd rather we would lose games 8-6 than the snoozefest 2-1 losses we are seeing now.

    He has made Oiler's hockey boring hockey and for this above all else he should be fired!

  • Hippy

    lego wrote:

    Chris wrote:
    These guys bore me. I never ever slept through games played by the terrible teams of the mid 90’s…
    This above all else is why MacT should be fired! Does anyone else remember Oiler’s Hockey? It was a hard forcheck, quick transition game, that even with the crap teams of the 90’s still gave the opposition fits. Edmonton used to be a hard team to play against now they are a bunch of patsies.
    MacT has systematically dismanteled Oiler’s Hockey, we don’t forcheck anymore, we have no transition game and we don’t activate the defense except on the powerplay. He has modelled this team after the Minnesota Mild, and its very BORING hockey to watch!
    I’d rather we would lose games 8-6 than the snoozefest 2-1 losses we are seeing now.
    He has made Oiler’s hockey boring hockey and for this above all else he should be fired!

    You win the internet.

    Above all of MacTs other failings, this would be his cardinal sin.

  • Hippy

    Ultimately it boils down to the fact that the Oilers, in spite of an above average roster, continue to play wildly inconsistent hockey, and once again find themselves in a playoff dog fight with teams of noticably less talent IE Minesota, Nashville, etc.

    Consequently MacT MUST go.

  • Hippy

    Ender:

    I'm going to get into who I like as new coaching candidates at some point here. Tortorella isn't high on the list (although some of those fan comments seem a little out to lunch) based on my limited impression of him.

    I like Ted Nolan, no matter how many GM's he destroys, but I've got other guys in mind too.

  • Hippy

    kingsblade wrote:

    In my mind MacTavish is making the mistakes he has made because of pride and nothing more. When he makes a decision and it doesn’t work he tries to make it work rather than admit it was wrong. A coach cannot make stubborn decisions with no more basis than pride and a snidely arrogant attitude towards anyone who questions him.
    .

    His stubborness goes back to even the Mike York era. Persistantly using him on the point for the powerplay. York couldn't hold the line to save his life…….but MacT kept putting him there. Because it worked….once.

    York breaks his wrist. 2 days later MacTavish had him on the point for the powerplay again. TWO DAYS! Dallas was pretty sure there was no boomer coming from the point. York was rendered useless in that game.

    How STUBBORN is that? Better yet. How embarrassing is that?

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Ender:

    I like Ted Nolan, no matter how many GM’s he destroys, but I’ve got other guys in mind too.

    Well I am certainly not a Nolan backer at all.

    But I certainly wouldn't mind seeing our own GM destroyed…..

  • Hippy

    People! people! I am a lot of miles away from Edmonton in the scalding wastes of Oz but somehow seem to be the only one who gets it. Come closer and let me explain. The most basic psychology says publicly berating people doesn't make them work harder, faster, stronger or longer. This kind of browbeating lowers the bar and makes it easier for them to fail. Not once in any mediaspiel have we heard MacTool say "this player has our full support in finding his game again" or "we will work as a team to put this right". Okay, so Penner didn't settle in as fast as we would like. Nowhere near as fast but that can of woop ass was opened and tipped over him pretty quick like. Nilsson can be a touch ethereal. Or just float. And some others like to wander off for a nap midway through their shift, if they show up at all. Wouldn't it be great if there was someone on the team, like some kind of player-developer-direction-giving-figure, let's call him a 'coach' who could help address these shortcomings as a team rather than name and shame in a not very veiled attempt to offload his own responsibility?

    Answer me this … if a bully kicks you in the junk and takes your lunch money does it make you love him? How about when he gives you a wedgie in front of the whole playground? And MacThug wonders why he can't motivate anyone to play with any kind of consistency. But that's okay, if you have a bunch of unmotivated, tuned-out players you can always make them play better by, hmmmm, let's see… randomly firing up the line blender and unsettling them a little more……

    Why is it that crappy players suddenly get better (admittedly to varying degrees)outside MacTwit's humilition radius (Lupul, anyone?) and good players crap out as soon as they fall under his sway (whatever happened to that Schremp kid anyway? He's gonna make some coach look real smart one day…)

    In conclusion, jump on the Jeanshorts and BaggedMilk bandwagon with me and let's FIRE MAC T!

  • Hippy

    @ lego:
    This above all else is why MacT should be fired! Does anyone else remember Oiler’s Hockey? It was a hard forcheck, quick transition game, that even with the crap teams of the 90’s still gave the opposition fits. Edmonton used to be a hard team to play against now they are a bunch of patsies.

    MacT has systematically dismanteled Oiler’s Hockey, we don’t forcheck anymore, we have no transition game and we don’t activate the defense except on the powerplay. He has modelled this team after the Minnesota Mild, and its very BORING hockey to watch!

    I’d rather we would lose games 8-6 than the snoozefest 2-1 losses we are seeing now.

    He has made Oiler’s hockey boring hockey and for this above all else he should be fired.

    there should be a penalty for playing the trap because this is what the oilers play. some ppl butter it up calling it "aggressive forcheck". this kind of hockey is soo boring, thats why you can hear more snoring in the crowd than actual cheering. i have yet to dislike a coach up until these last couple years. FIRE MACT! nuff said