MacT and the future of the Oilers

backtothefuture

As the Oilers signed sticks, pictures, jerseys and said goodbye after another disappointing season, all of the buzz around the locker room was whether Craig MacTavish would resign or not.

I’ve said it all season that if they missed the playoffs he would step aside, and it seems that announcement will be made official later this week.

MacTavish opened his press conference saying he wouldn’t answer any question regarding his future. He will speak with Steve Tambellini tomorrow and Wednesday, but MacTavish did say that his future plans will be made public later this week.

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The biggest statement, and the one that confirms he will step aside in my opinion, was when he stated, “The thing most disappointing for me was that our culture took a hit; in terms of our work ethic, our selflessness and the universal commitment that we had here for so many years. There were a lot of nights as a coach I had to ask for more and sometimes the tank was pretty empty. It was difficult year for sure.”

That sounds like a coach who is wondering whether he can get the most out of his players. Whether you like or hate MacTavish, you can’t question his commitment to the team. When he leaves later this week, it will be because he feels that this group of players and him just don’t gel.

MacTavish has to shoulder some of the blame as well.

He didn’t throw any players under the bus. When asked about Penner, he said that he had already commented enough on Dustin this season and didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

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Regarding Nilsson, he said he made strides at times, but once again fought inconsistency. Not really what I would call throwing players under the bus. I think a more direct message was when Penner, Nilsson and Brodziak were in the pressbox on Saturday. A final message or possible parting shot from the coach came in that move more than what he said today.

Tambellini’s in charge

While the optics make it fair to question how much control Steve Tambellini has, I was told today that he is the boss.

Does Tambellini ask Kevin Lowe for his opinion on certain matters? Yes. Does Lowe go to Tambellini with suggestions? No.

The plan, as I was told today, was to bring in Tambellini and let him assess the team for the year. It is clear now, that this team was not as good as the organization thought they were and now it is up to Tambellini to start the renovations.

Tambellini will put his fingerprints on this team ranging from the coaching, to veterans moving out and which youngsters will be coming in. It would be unrealistic to expect massive trades and a complete purging of the team, but don’t be surprised to see at least one, if not two, significant player moves over the summer.

Oilers at the worlds

The golf season will be delayed a few more weeks for certain members of the Oilers. Tom Gilbert and Patrick O’Sullivan will suit up for the USA at the worlds. Denis Grebeshkov will play for Russia, Ales Hemsky and Ales Kotalik will play for the Czech Republic and Dwayne Roloson has confirmed he will wear the maple leaf, with Shawn Horcoff committed to playing as well. Robert Nilsson hasn’t been asked yet and he hinted he has some injuries, so even if a call comes, which is doubtful, he won’t be playing for Sweden.

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Stanley Cup and Regular Season tidbits

The Columbus Blue Jackets will finally play in a playoff game when they battle the Red Wings in round one. Will the Steve Mason v. Chris Osgood matchup allow the Jackets to pull off the major upset?

Only one team has ever won the Stanley Cup the first year they made the playoffs. The Leafs did it back in 1918. The Florida Panthers came close in 1996 when the lost in the Finals. The Habs (1918) the Bruins (1927) and the Blues (1968) are the other teams that lost the final the first year they made the playoffs.

Sixteen teams lost in the first round. Anaheim, San Jose (who beat Detroit in 1994), Washington, Phoenix, the Islanders, Pittsburgh and Dallas all won one round. The Wild won two rounds in 2003.

Don’t pick the Jackets to win the Cup, but 14 of the previous 29 teams have won at least one series during their first trip to the dance.

  • Claude Lemieux will try to become only the second player to win a Cup with four different teams. Jack Marshall is the other.
  • Olli Jokinen will play in his first playoff game after 799 regular season games.
  • The last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, they finished the season with 119 points. They had 116 this year, their highest total since 1972.

  • Chris

    RossCreek wrote:

    Here’s my list of potential head coaches for the Oil:
    Scott Arniel
    Marc Habscheid
    Paul MacLean
    Kevin Dineen
    Marc Crawford
    Randy Cunneyworth
    Willie Desjardins
    Dale Hunter
    Perry Pearn
    Peter Laviolette
    Pat Quinn
    Missing anyone with a legitimate shot??

    Johnathan Willis did a nice article on this very topic on the 12th. Marc Crawford should not be considered…the man is an idiot. I like Don Lever. Many think he was the brains behind the resurgence of Montreal's special teams last season… Exactly what needs to happen in Edmonton if guys like Gagner are going to get playoff experience next season. As for becoming an elite organization: baby steps people, baby steps. (I know we are all sick of waiting but nothing is going to speed this up: Lowe tried to rebuild on the fly and that is ironically what probably set us back)

  • Sick of bitchy Oilers fans

    @ oilersseasonticketholdersince99:

    I am an Oilers fan that lives in Calgary. I get sick and tired of people ripping the Oilers. Granted, it wasn't a good season and, in hind sight, some of the coaching decisions can be questioned. But people like oilersseanticetholdersince99 really get on my nerves. Lots of people react in an overly emotional fashion to events on the ice. I recognize sport is all about emotional investment but too many people seem to have taken leave of their senses and left all rational thought by the way side. It is human nature to look at events, AFTER THE FACT, and point fingers. But if you were MacT and the team was floundering, wouldn't you be trying different things to get them going? I am not an apologist for MacT. But he deserves much more regard than the visceral garbage that so many fans are throwing at him.

    Jason: I have a question for you. Do you think that part of the reason that Edmonton has challenges attracting free agents has anything to do with the fact that fans get all over the players after one or two bad games? The list of players that the fans have run out of town is fairly lengthy.

  • RossCreek

    rindog wrote:

    @ RossCreek:
    Habscheid would be great. I only wonder if he is “hard” enough??
    Geoff Ward would be another consideration??

    Ya, Ward would be another possibility I forgot.

  • Jacob

    "Until then quit blaming a decent coach for doing his best with a mediocre team."

    Well, that's just it. I'm not entirely certain he did his best with the team. The Oilers were not a perfect squad, that's for certain, but when your top scoring left winger spends a good amount of time on the second and third lines while Liam Reddox is manning the top, there's an issue.

    An odd game here and there, sure. Penner definitely needs to be better. But the fact remains that he was (and likely is) the best option we have there at this point. Like him or not, his 17-20-37 (+7) was 8th overall in points, fifth among forwards, and first among players listed as left wingers. A player with 5-7-12 (-6) in Liam Reddox is hardly a suitable substitute.

    I don't have the exact numbers to support this, but there was an article about a month back about the first line's production with and without Penner. The short version is that they were better in the games in which he played on the first line. And it seems like it was shortly after Penner was removed from the first line again that Hemsky and Horcoff combined for three goals over thirteen games.

    No, we didn't have a perfect team, but some of the coaching decisions were a bit baffling.

  • RossCreek

    @ Chris:
    Wasn't Don Lever in Hamilton until Carboneau's firing? Or was he with the Habs last season? And I have a feeling he may get the job in Montreal anyways.

  • Rice

    @ rindog:
    Fair point…my judgment is clouded because it was a crappy end to another mediocre season.
    I am definitely not a MacT supporter, but I am tired of people looking at this team with their heads up their asses. It wasn't just the coach that let the fans down. The players shouldn't have to be lead around by with by carrot in order for them to show up every night. Yes sometimes MacT did beat them with the carrot.. I'm just saying that everyone one had a finger in this smelly ass pie (of a season).

  • Reggie

    RossCreek wrote:

    (Did he run Buffalo’s PP a few years back when it was clicking pretty good? Anyone?)

    Yes, Arniel ran the PP for Buffalo. I remember hearing a quote from Ruff that said, the past 3 years we have been hovering around 22-26 and so we decided to bring Scott in to run the PP. The result as either #2 or #3 PP that year with virtually the same group of players.

  • rindog

    @ Rice:
    Rice wrote:

    Fair point…my judgment is clouded because it was a crappy end to another mediocre season.

    And the ONE common link to all of these crappy seasons is……

  • Jacob

    @ Rice:
    I think the problem is the other six years of smelly ass pie-seasons. And again, I'll not claim any of those teams were pefect, nor will a assert that many (or any, in some cases) could have done much better.

    It just seems that with all the on-ice personnel changes over the last eight years, he seems to be the common denominator.

  • Archaeologuy

    Is the team bad? YES. Not good enough skill, not gritty enough role players.

    Did the coach do the best with the players he was given? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Anyone who argues that is as disconnected from reality as the Oiler brass has been all season.

    MacT has 301 wins over 8 seasons, for an average of 37.625 wins per season. This year the Oilers finished with 38 wins. Exactly where a MacT led team should expect to find itself. There is no reason to believe that different players would provide him the opportunity to win any more than he does on a regular basis. In 8 years the team has gone through continual and sometimes radical player changes. From the Doug Weights to the Todd Marchants to Dustin Penner to Chris Pronger, the one constant has been the coach's ability to get no more than 41 wins in a season. Not good enough.

  • Mark

    @ Jacob:
    point taken, maybe Mac T isn't the best coach for the spot, but my point was that at the end of the day a fundamental change in strategy is needed for the entire organization if you want to put a true championship contender on the ice.

    I agree Penner is the top choice for the first line, but the point is that at 4.5 mil a year he's a lot of salary to under-perform. I mean go to nhl.com and actually compare where most of the oilers stack up (I agree points to always measure the player but they're a good starting point).

    If you want a championship team and you're in a place like Edmonton you need top draft picks that will become the league's next superstars. I just hope that the organization doesn't think that a coaching change will make a fundamental difference to the performance of this hockey club other than putting them at the top end of the playoff race next year.

  • Sick of bitchy Oilers fans wrote:

    @ oilersseasonticketholdersince99:
    I am an Oilers fan that lives in Calgary. I get sick and tired of people ripping the Oilers. Granted, it wasn’t a good season and, in hind sight, some of the coaching decisions can be questioned. But people like oilersseanticetholdersince99 really get on my nerves. Lots of people react in an overly emotional fashion to events on the ice. I recognize sport is all about emotional investment but too many people seem to have taken leave of their senses and left all rational thought by the way side. It is human nature to look at events, AFTER THE FACT, and point fingers. But if you were MacT and the team was floundering, wouldn’t you be trying different things to get them going? I am not an apologist for MacT. But he deserves much more regard than the visceral garbage that so many fans are throwing at him.
    Jason: I have a question for you. Do you think that part of the reason that Edmonton has challenges attracting free agents has anything to do with the fact that fans get all over the players after one or two bad games? The list of players that the fans have run out of town is fairly lengthy.

    What is your problem?
    I am just stating the obvious,Mac T basically came out and said it himself this morning that he could not get his players to play for him,I just repeated what I said back in November that the players stopped listening to him.The last time I checked this is a Oilers fans website where we can express our opinions if you dont like it then dont visit and read what we write,If it upsets you so much or is the real reason your upset is because you live in Calgary?

  • rindog wrote:

    How can you know that? Even with all of the turmoil of the season; we controlled our playoff destiny with less than 10 games left.

    I think you just answered your question as to why MacTavish wasn't fired during the year. For one of the rare times under MacTavish they were in a position where they controlled their won destiny.

    I think Tambellini wanted to see exactly what parts he had. My conversation today with an Oiler management personnel made it pretty clear to me that Tambellini had more power than we all thought.

    And rindog wrote:

    Why is it okay to now say his time has come? What would have making the playoffs this year changed?

    I said at the start of the year that if they missed the playoffs it was a certainty that MacTavish would resign. And if they made the playoffs, but lost in five or even six games, it was an 80% chance that he would have left. So I'm not surprised at all that MacTavish will step aside later this week. (If he stays then the question of why will be the most debated topic in a long time.)

    THe only way I saw MacT staying was having some playoff success.

    Whether his firing would have made a difference during the year is a great debate, but with the new owner and Lowe's relationship with MacTavish it would never have happened.

  • RossCreek

    Reggie wrote:

    RossCreek wrote:
    (Did he run Buffalo’s PP a few years back when it was clicking pretty good? Anyone?)
    Yes, Arniel ran the PP for Buffalo. I remember hearing a quote from Ruff that said, the past 3 years we have been hovering around 22-26 and so we decided to bring Scott in to run the PP. The result as either #2 or #3 PP that year with virtually the same group of players.

    Well then that, along with his tenure in Manitoba (winning coach of the year honors), more than qualifies him for an NHL gig, be it here or somewhere else.

  • RossCreek wrote:

    @ Gregor
    Tom Gilbert, Kyle Brodziak & a 2nd round pick for Simon Gagne

    Edmonton makes that deal in a heartbeat. The Flyers scoff and say try again.

    YOu picked the right team though. The Flyers have six forwards making $4.2 million or more a year, and they need a puck moving D-man.

    They need to shed salary and Gilbert and Brodziak combined won't save them much. I think the Flyers will try to move Briere to anyone that will take him.Sick of bitchy Oilers fans wrote:

    Jason: I have a question for you. Do you think that part of the reason that Edmonton has challenges attracting free agents has anything to do with the fact that fans get all over the players after one or two bad games? The list of players that the fans have run out of town is fairly lengthy.

    Not at all. I think the negative fans are the vocal minority. Games are sold out, merchandise at places like the Sports Closet sell quickly.

    The reason that players haven't signed here lately is more about the lack of success than anything else. Sure travel is an annoyance, but Detroit travels just as much, if not more than the Oilers, yet players sign there.

    Win and people might be enticed to come here. The Oilers did sign Souray. Some would argue they overpaid, but I don't think anyone thought he wasn't worth his contract this year.

    A losing atmosphere is much more of a problem than negative fans. Win in this city and the players are considered Gods by most fans. They would love it.

  • jake

    Mark wrote:

    @ Rob: come on people. stop looking at this team like an Oiler fan and give them an honest shake:
    – your top scorer finished #75 in goals and #46 in overall points (just north of some dude named James Neal).
    – your second highest scoring player was Souray (a defenceman)
    – your starting goaltender was dealt here after losing the starting job somewhere else – and not to mention has left his best days behind him.
    – you have a solid core team of very young players that need a lot of development (Gagne proved that this year)
    In short, the Oilers don’t have a playoff worthy team. I think Mac T did the best with what he was given. A bunch of overpaid, solid, but probably second line on any top 10 team players.
    Get this simple fact into your heads: no one wants to play here. The Western conference sucks because you have to travel way more as a player, Edmonton weather sucks, and whether you want to admit it or not most guys making 7 mil a year would pick a lot of other places to call home.
    If Edmonton really wants to put together another truly worthy cup contender (rather than a barely playoff worthy team that gets hot at the right time), we need to draft better players. I don’t mean, hey this dude could be a solid 60 point scorer in 7 years, I mean names like Crosby, Teows, Kane, Malkin, Gaborik, etc etc. TOP players. ELITE players. The only way you do that is by sh**ing the bed for a few years. Instead of always trying to scrape by and make the playoffs by over paying and clinging to scraps the Oil need to REBUILD by tanking and getting better draft picks. Teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa have all done it. If we want this to be the city of champions again we’re going to need to suck it up and check our pride for a few years.
    Until then quit blaming a decent coach for doing his best with a mediocre team.
    Lace ‘em up – it’s gut check time!

    Very well thought out comments. I agree with the approach. I would add that the team publicly state this ("it's a rebuild folks, will be hard but hang with the team for a few seasons and we'll be back") so everyone is on the same page and players won't get "run out of town" by the fans. Let them grow as a team.

  • rindog

    @ Jason Gregor:
    Jason Gregor wrote:

    For one of the rare times under MacTavish they were in a position where they controlled their won destiny.

    And yet we finished with the 2nd least amount of points in MacT's tenure??

    Why is management giving him the option of quitting?

    I know it's semantics, but is there any value in management sending a message? It seemed okay for MacT to send messages??

  • Chris

    @ RossCreek:
    Ouch… My time-lines are off. Good thing I'm not on the hiring committee. I've liked Don since he was a player: He was a real character guy with offensive upside. I followed him casually through the sports pages into the AHL as a coach. He won coach of the year his first year in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. As a player Lever played on the powerplay and killed penalties (Rarer in the 70s-80s) As a coach, he breathed life into Rochester's special teams and coached a cinderella group to the finals. (Lindy Ruff was on that team and is very complimentry of Lever)
    I can't figure out why I was under the impression Lever was an assistant to Carbonneau last season… I remeber reading a large, sweeping article about Carbonneau: while still a player he assumed a high level of leadership behind the scenes in Dallas… often working as a go-between Hitchcock and the players. The article drew many parallels between Don Lever and Carbonneau both as players and later as coaches. I was left with the impression that they were working together at the time… and then I drew my own conclusions. My bad. I still like Lever though. After taking a closer look at his coaching career it seems likly he is ready for a shot at an NHL head coaching gig. I doubt the Canadiens will hire a head coach who doesn't speak french.

  • David S

    rindog wrote:

    Why is management giving him the option of quitting?
    I know it’s semantics, but is there any value in management sending a message? It seemed okay for MacT to send messages??

    Because whether they'll openly admit it or not, management was a good part of the problem and everybody knows it. I don't think Katz would allow it either. Fact is, it's a redundant question because MacT will probably resign. So why nail him to the wall by firing him when in the team's eyes he doesn't deserve that kind of send off?

    Let's get it clear. The fans don't run this team or have any say other than on fan fantasy boards. Darryl Katz however, does have the ultimate say. As much as a few of the vocal minority think otherwise, MacT will not be fired. He's a class guy that will do what he thinks is right for the team. Some of his comments regarding damage to the team's culture allude to exactly that.

  • Archaeologuy

    Jack "FMNF" Bauer wrote:

    What does it matter man? Quit, fired, as long as hes done and gone who gives a crap how it happens.

    It mattered this season didnt it?

  • Rice

    rindog wrote:

    @ Rice:
    Rice wrote:

    Fair point…my judgment is clouded because it was a crappy end to another mediocre season.
    And the ONE common link to all of these crappy seasons is……

    There isn't just one. MacT, Klowe, Hemsky, Horcoff, Moreau, Staios, Pisani, The Fans… Now don't think I am blaming the fans for any of this, I am again pointing out that there is not one issue, there is a lot of them. As Jacob pointed out, "the other six years of smelly ass pie-seasons"

    Again, I am not saying keep MacT, I am saying don't get your hopes up that the next coach will save the team. It can't, however, hurt much more.

  • Rice

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Not at all. I think the negative fans are the vocal minority. Games are sold out, merchandise at places like the Sports Closet sell quickly.

  • Rice

    Rice wrote:

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Not at all. I think the negative fans are the vocal minority. Games are sold out, merchandise at places like the Sports Closet sell quickly.

    Stupid fingers….

    Anyway… I would venture a guess that even the negative fans are still going to games and buying merchandise.

  • Homie

    rindog wrote:

    @ Jason Gregor:
    Jason Gregor wrote:

    For one of the rare times under MacTavish they were in a position where they controlled their won destiny.
    And yet we finished with the 2nd least amount of points in MacT’s tenure??
    Why is management giving him the option of quitting?
    I know it’s semantics, but is there any value in management sending a message? It seemed okay for MacT to send messages??

    The message is that we value loyalty. Sometimes its to the detriment of the team, like it can be for any business, but no one can claim that the Oilers don't take care of their own.

    And back to one of your earlier points – what is the common link to the crappy seasons? Well, do you mean the years where the Oilers were hamstrung financially and still didn't have a winning season? Or since the lockout when they have made the Cup Finals 25% of the time, but missed the playoffs in the other 75%?

    If you look at the post-lockout years, there are a bunch of common threads, both in management and on the ice. I would venture to say that none of them have lived up to their expectations, including Hemsky and Horcoff.

    This summer is a chance for the Oilers to begin to change their identity and culture like they haven't had in a long time. But fans need to keep in mind that the team is a work in progress and changing the coach is not going to fix everything that is wrong with the team.

    Hopefully there is more of an "under-promise and over-perform" mentality going forward.

  • Archaeologuy

    @ Jack "FMNF" Bauer:
    I understand your point. I just believe that not firing MacT was and is a mistake. Its a bad message to the Public and the Team.

    It's a big middle finger to the paying fans, who dont run the club but are needed nonetheless. This club is stagnant and the veil was lifted this season. From very early on the average fan could see many of the problems as clear as day, yet nothing has been done to fix that. All we have are promises that things will get better. Tambellini (who apparently had more power than we assumed) not firing MacT when it was obvious the team wasnt responding was doing his best Nero impression, fiddling while Rome burned.

    For the Team, not punting MacStifle doesnt exactly show the comittment to winning that guys like Hemsky and Souray are complaining about the direction of the team. How can those guys be expected to be accountable if the club isnt even willing to fire a guy who has never accomplished anything and came with questionable credentials?

    Overall, I think HOW the team gets things done does matter. In the Oilers case, The Ends dont justify the Means. That is to say that if this club were a winner, then it wouldnt matter if they were so lax' with how they went about doing business. Too bad this isnt a winning organization.

  • Homie

    Homie wrote:

    And back to one of your earlier points – what is the common link to the crappy seasons? Well, do you mean the years where the Oilers were hamstrung financially and still didn’t have a winning season?

    That should read "losing season".

  • David S

    This is a crazy good interview. Jason, the sooner you guys start putting up these podcasts, the sooner alot of the crazy comments will go away.

    hxxp://www.justagame.ca/audio/robin%20brownlee%20apr13.mp3