Already gone

Craig MacTavish: you're fired

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?

Time’s up

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.

  • I wonder what Nilsson thinks of Mac bailing on the morning skate tomorrow. I'd place my nickel on Nilsson being pretty bummed there's no skate. What about JDD? Oh right, he shouldn't need a skate before game day the way things have gone for him in his career thus far.

  • Tony Stacey

    Its been a hard season to digest thats for sure. For the first time in many years I am not so optimistic about next season. The only two bright spots of the season were Roloson and Souray. Hemsky was good at times but yet so inconsistent. A guy of his caliber should be a easy 30 goal scorer. I think it was a terrible mistake to have given up on Jarret Stoll so easily but yet the team was willing to bet the farm on Penner and numerous others. What we have now is a team full with underachievers with an overachiever salary so its nearly impossible to trade them. McTavish is a pretty good coach and has alot of class but its obvious his time has come and the results just arent materializing no matter what personel the organization puts on the ice. I think most of the blame should have been placed on upper management for making some bad deals and not doing what it took to keep the key guys from the 2006 cup run. Pronger wasnt the only thing that left town…so was the willingness to compete and win as well.

    Lets cross our fingers and pray to the hockey gods that "next" season we have a reason to cheer on the Oil and validate the huge price of hockey tickets. Go Oilers Go!

  • Hocknee Fann

    @ Milli:

    You hit it 'Milli.' Most of the Oilers should be embarrassed with their effort on most nights (or lack thereof).

    Souray has shown that he is more the leader than Moreau, and as such should be the captain next season. You need the captain to jump on those on the team (particularly the drifters and deadweight) who appear not to care if they win. We didn’t need to hear guys like Moreau and Horcoff saying, “Hopefully we can turn things around next game.” Hopefully my big-fat pay cheque ends up in my account after a dreadful effort at home in front of fans that gave up a quarter of their measly middle class pay cheque to watch us.

    I too say good luck to MacT and agree that he is a Class act.

  • Chris

    swany wrote:

    Fans—I guess that’s why we are called Fickle Fans

    Oiler fans are amoung the longest suffering, and most loyal in the league. Many fans weren't around, or were too young to remember the great teams of the eighties… Even Leafs fans have seen their team skate to a 100pt regular season twice in the last ten years… In fact, since Sather left every single team in the league except the Oilers, Islanders, Coyotes, Thrashers, Kings, Panthers, and The Blue Jackets have had at one time or another dominant regular season performances (100 points or more)… Not a stellar group.

    Call us fickle. Call us bandwagon jumpers. Where else do fans sell out a building every night, flood sites like OilersNation with insightful commentary, keep radio stations hopping till past midnight on game day, and on, and on, when the ON ICE PRODUCT has been sooo sub par for nearly twenty straight years? The fact that fans are so loyal (opposite of fickle) could be a factor in the recurrent lack of change.

    Want to be critical of the fans in RX1? The same group who pays top dollar, for this league, to sit in the smallest, most out-of date building, after paying $12 to park 2kms away from the front door…The group that watched it's team soundly outshot, and physically dominated almost every night on the way to one of the WORST home records in the league. You try clapping when your team lets in another sloppy goal, less than 60 second in to a must win game…AGAIN AND AGAIN. It breaks your heart. 16 teams of 30 make the playoffs- more than half! The Oilers have managed that feat twice in SEVEN years. This is supposedly the HEARLAND OF HOCKEY!!!!

    Call out the Management, ownership, coaches, or the players…. The FANS deserve a pass.

  • Dennis

    There's no doubt that Oilers fans are loyal. After years of being promised that a new day post-lockout would bring new results, fans are still packing the place, watching the local TV casts and ordered PPV to boot three years into yet another bloody rebuild.

    Myself, for instance, I'm negative nearly;) to a fault – though pessimism is the new Oilers realism – and I still watched every game down the Titanic '07 stretch and I've missed just one game this year.

    And certainly a lot more props go to those that pay for the ducats.

  • Racki "FMNF"

    Good to hear that MacT will step down. Of course, I'll believe it when I see it though.

    Not a guy I want to see stay here, but I have a lot of respect for MacTavish. I think it's a more manly way to go out, stepping down, then having the team can your butt. It's amazing he's lasted as long as he did.. I'm not sure if that's a testament to his coaching skills or to our management's inability to notice a problem obvious to many of us for a few years.

    So thanks for the memories, MacT… I wish you the best. Please take Billy, Kelly and Charlie with you. Let's get some fresh faces in here.

  • yo

    I don't think MacT deserves all of the hoopla and gentle massaging he seems to be getting. This guy screwed with alot of players and ruined some players reasonable expectation of development. Besides, he is pretty much a failure as a coach and because of his ineptness we go once again down the long road of years(?) of rebuilding. Fire his sorry ass now. Tio heck with his feelings I say…

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ yo:
    Really?
    What players did MacTavish "screw" with? What players did he "ruin?" MacTavish takes all the blame? What about Kevin Lowe? Kevin Prendergast? Players who didn't perform?
    You're way over the top.

  • Sandra

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    @ yo:
    Really?
    What players did MacTavish “screw” with? What players did he “ruin?” MacTavish takes all the blame? What about Kevin Lowe? Kevin Prendergast? Players who didn’t perform?
    You’re way over the top.

    Nice to see that you are not a Lowe G.M. Fan

  • sean

    The source is a very good one-in the business of representation. The issue is the players are frustrated with losing and the coaching staff has alienated certain players as well as not implementing a system that works to the strength of the players.

    There is certainly a disconnect between the management and the coaching staff when it comes to the type of players management brings in and likes and what the coach likes.

    At the end of the day 8 years, only three playoff appearances-the message gets old.West Coast Oil wrote:

    sean wrote:
    Smid isn’t the only player who has requested a trade this season, see Hemsky & Visnovski.
    I have not heard of the Visnonovski unhappiness.. who is your source? Regarding Hemsky as far as I know he stated he was unhappy in how he was being used and that is it..

  • Jayman

    I have tremendous respect for Souray because he's the only one that talks to the media openly and honestly. Everyone else seems to sugar coat things or flat out lie about it (like saying they battled hard after getting smoked). He's also the only one I see trying to take control of this team. Horcoff and Moreau look and act like they could care less.

  • Chris

    Jayman wrote:

    Horcoff and Moreau look and act like they could care less.

    It's sad that the Oilers need to find leadership from a UFA that parachuted into the organization for a huge payday; specially when you consider that Souray has played less games for the Oilers than Sam Gagner… It's not that I'm down on Souray: It's just ridiculous that the Oilers management haven't been able to draft, develop, and retain the services of their own quality leadership structure.

  • killerbass

    humantorch wrote:

    Once again, I’ll say this.
    If Kelly Buchberger is announced as the 2009-2010 coach of the Edmonton Oilers, I’m buying a Flames jersey, AND subscribing to the flamesnation.ca RSS feed.
    THAT’S RIGHT, WAYNE. THAT’S WHAT I SAID.
    *tries to shoot imaginary AK-47 in the air, runs away sobbing*

    good ridance to you then

  • Sandra

    Chris wrote:

    Jayman wrote:
    Horcoff and Moreau look and act like they could care less.
    It’s sad that the Oilers need to find leadership from a UFA that parachuted into the organization for a huge payday; specially when you consider that Souray has played less games for the Oilers than Sam Gagner… It’s not that I’m down on Souray: It’s just ridiculous that the Oilers management haven’t been able to draft, develop, and retain the services of their own quality leadership structure.

    Thats The LOWE down on the Oilers

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ Sandra:
    Really?

    How do you look when you couldn't care less? Asd who do they act? Are you talking about in post-game interviews?
    If I labelled every player who gave a bland answer or applied positive spin — if that's what you're interpreting as not caring — instead of telling the truth after a bad gamne or a loss, as somebody who doesn't give a squirt, I'd have three guys on every team to talk to.

  • RossCreek

    Sounds like MacT's season may NOT be over. Sources indicate he's on the shortlist to be named Canada's coach at the yearly World Championship (otherwise known as the Oilers playoffs).

    One step closer to being named an assistant for the Olympic team? Maybe.

  • Does anyone really care that Mac T is going? His buddy K lowe does not have the balls to fire him so he has to resign.Mac T is not our only problem he is one of many problems with this organization if major moves are not made this summer Oiler fans this will be a regular occurance come April a new coach will not solve all of our problems hopefully the billionare will give some advice other than blame the fans for the atmosphere at Rexall.Peter Puck at one time was the toast of the town and look where he ended up. Katz better take a long look in the mirror because he could end up going Puck one day.

  • Sandra

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    @ Sandra:
    Really?
    How do you look when you couldn’t care less? Asd who do they act? Are you talking about in post-game interviews?
    If I labelled every player who gave a bland answer or applied positive spin — if that’s what you’re interpreting as not caring — instead of telling the truth after a bad gamne or a loss, as somebody who doesn’t give a squirt, I’d have three guys on every team to talk to.

    Thier actions on the ice. Body language, during games also, like when Hemmer doesn't get a point in the first five minutes of the game, 80% of the time after that he floats and looks disinterested