Craig MacTavish is telegraphing the shot I expect he’ll deliver not long after the Edmonton Oilers play out the string against the Calgary Flames Saturday, namely that he’ll resign as coach.
If MacTavish’s tone after the Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday didn’t spell it out loud and clear, and for me it did, then he’s spoken even more loudly by saying next to nothing since then.
While MacTavish won’t tender his resignation to owner Daryl Katz, president of hockey ops Kevin Lowe and GM Steve Tambellini until after the 82nd game is in the books, he’s already begun to detach himself, to step back. MacT has one foot, at least emotionally, out the door.
With assistants Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Kelly Buchberger running practice again today, there was a message written on the white board in the dressing room regarding Friday morning, which would be the usual game-day skate, in preparation for tomorrow’s tilt with the Flames.
It read: “See staff for game-day line-up. No a.m. skate.”
No a.m. skate and more-than-likely, no access with the coach. Really, could MacTavish possibly say more without saying anything, especially framed by Katz’s “MacT is not going anywhere” text message?
I wrote here at ON Tuesday I was convinced MacTavish had already made the decision to step down. The only question was when he would decide to deliver the message to his bosses. Columnist Dan Barnes wrote he’d been told the same thing in The Journal today.
Of course, that’s something a lot of people often late to the angle are suggesting now as well — a year or so after former TEAM 1260 talk show host and current 630 CHED analyst Bob Stauffer said that’s exactly how things would play out if the Oilers missed playoffs a third straight year. If it wasn’t clear when Bombastic Bob first said so, it is now — seems he’s got a pretty good source on these things.
Be that as it may, MacTavish will walk away because he feels he’s taken this team as far as he can, which isn’t far enough based on the roster, talent and potential he saw in pre-season.
MacTavish will pass up about $1 million in salary by doing so, but money isn’t an issue for him after nine seasons behind the bench as a coach and 17 NHL campaigns as a player.
MacTavish can step away, be it within the organization or with ties severed, take some time to recharge and jump right back into the fray in a year or so. If and when he wants another coaching job, he’ll get one.
A look ahead
When a season goes as badly as this one has, there’s always unrest and a fire or two to put out in the dressing room. That’s certainly the case with this edition of the Oilers.
By stepping away instead of hanging on and forcing Lowe or Tambellini into the unpleasant task of firing him, MacTavish is helping set the table to mend some fences within the dressing room.
Call it positive spin, but bringing in a new coach with a fresh outlook and a new game plan is a selling point for Lowe and Tambellini.
I’m guessing players like Ladislav Smid, who requested a trade more than once this season, Robert Nilsson and Dustin Penner, who ended up yanked off the first line, off the power play and in MacTavish’s doghouse, to name just three players, could use a sales pitch between now and training camp.
So could Sheldon Souray, who, as mentioned by Barnes today, hasn’t been thrilled with how this season came off the rails.
Who might the Oilers new bench boss be? Well, that’s an item for another day, and something best discussed after MacTavish makes his departure official. Rest assured, that day is coming.
He’s already gone.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.