Losing the Room

MacT and the team

The Edmonton Oilers fired Springfield Falcons head coach Jeff Truitt back in early February. The Falcons have struggled mightily this season and Truitt’s replacement, Rob Daum, has made some gains but has been unable to turn the team around.

Here’s what the players in Springfield had to say about Truitt being fired:

“I personally didn’t think he deserved to be fired — he was a great coach — he didn’t make the mistakes out there, we did. We let him down, along with ourselves and I think that he would want us to go out and play hard and do as well as we can for the rest of the season.”

– Springfield Falcons captain Tim Sestito

“We let [Truitt] down and he took the fall for it.”

– Springfield Falcons forward Ryan Stone

“It’s still a shock.”

– Springfield Falcons forward Rob Schremp

“Truitt was well-liked by his players, coaching staff, the media and the team’s staff. But in a results-oriented business, the Falcons weren’t producing.”

– Springfield reporter Frank Sypek

“ [Ryan] O’Marra described Truitt as a player’s coach and made it clear that even though the team has struggled mightily for the last couple of months, there was no dissention and that the coach had not lost the room.”

– Edmonton reporter Guy Flaming

“I asked Reddox if it was fair to say that Truitt was indeed liked by everyone and that he felt the Falcons coach was ‘a player’s coach’. Reddox echoed what O’Marra had told me in that Truitt had the respect of all of the players and that the team was taking responsibility for the poor play upon themselves rather than looking to pass blame to the coaches.”

Where am I going with this? There’s a popular notion that Craig MacTavish has “lost the room” in Edmonton; that players are tuning him out and aren’t willing to try for him.

I don’t spend time in that dressing room, but I haven’t read anything from the reporters who do to indicate that this theory is at all accurate. There’s the odd quote that is mildly critical of MacTavish (Hemsky’s quote yesterday being a good example), but no frequent grumbling.

When asked why they fell MacTavish has lost the room, the common answer I get from proponents of this theory is “look at their record this season” or “do you think they’re playing to potential?”

This is my response. The Falcons have been miserable this season; far worse than the Oilers. Players like Stone, Schremp, O’Marra and Sestito haven’t exactly had banner years, yet they praised the coach despite his firing. In short: a team’s record does not necessarily show how much they like or respect their coach.

  • Hippy

    humantorch wrote:

    You really think Cole, though?

    I can't take the credit for it. David Staples said something (I'm paraphrasing here) like this: "Journalism 101: See who else was quoted in the article."

    The only player quoted was Cole.

    It's just a guess; I have nothing more substantial to back it.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    True that.

    While we're picking on him, here are some tangible reasons why this team may need to start looking for a new coach:

    -terrible special teams all year long. These are very coachable aspects of the game.
    -Throwing players into unfamilar roles at inopportune times: IE: Having O'Sullivan and Kotalik playing 4 on 4 during the first period of their first game with the Oil seemed reckless to me.
    -Mismanagement of his backup. Mac T publically promised JDD a start on the 4 game road trip in Feb. They won the first two games of the trip, and then Mac T changed his mind and still didn't get him in for a game.
    -Poor starts to games and lack of 60 minute efforts all season long. Is this the coach's fault, or the players? A lot of people say it's the players, but if most of the room is bad on most of the nights then one must look at the coach and / or mangement.
    -Playing people out of position. Considering none of these experiments have been successful (Cole, Smid, Kotalik, Pisani, Reddox on the 1st line) I can't understand why he keeps making these moves.

    I have got to get a hobby…

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    ~I’m guessing that your parents are cousins. How else can I explain your attack on statistics when I never even used any?~

    ZING! Though my 0 average in Math 20P would suggest a dislike for stats, when theyre wielded in the right context they put quite the stamp on a good argument. Willis, you make stats cool, even though an online Willictionary would be usefull.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    @ humantorch:
    @ baggedmilk:
    I read that article too, and I was curious as to who it was (my money’s still on Cole, btw).
    I think it could be interpreted a number of different ways, but the best interpretation is probably the simplest (i.e Occam’s Razor): when a team is struggling, the GM generally tries to shake things up via trade, and if it continues by firing the coach.
    If you’d have asked me what the Oilers would do had they really struggled this year (say, in 9th or 10th right now) I’d have given that answer. It shows awareness; not necessarily hatred.

    Fair points, can't say I really disagree.

    You really think Cole, though? Seems like an odd thing for someone so new to the organization to say. Having said that, I've got no idea who it COULD have been, so Cole is as good a guess as any.

    (Sorry, kind of off-topic from the original post.)

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    If you’d have asked me what the Oilers would do had they really struggled this year (say, in 9th or 10th right now) I’d have given that answer.

    The problem is that we're a couple straight losses away from 9th or 10th place. We're too far up against the cap to have a finish in 9th be acceptable this year. Although that's Lowe's fault and not MacT's. Personally I think Tambellini has a big mess to fix with what Kevin Lowe has done with the contracts on this team. Hemsky's excluded of course. At some point though, the coach has to be accountable for the performance of the team.

    IMO it could have been one of the goalie's at the time. Roli probably wasn't too happy and neither was Garon. Tossing that out there although I really have no idea.

  • Hippy

    Xavier wrote:

    I’m guessing that you’ve never played hockey a day in your life. Using stats to explain everything is useless considering the majority of players have no idea what a Corsi number is.

    ~I'm guessing that your parents are cousins. How else can I explain your attack on statistics when I never even used any?~

    See what fun we can have with assumptions?

  • Hippy

    Here's a solution to the Oilers' woes. If Edmonton's performance over the past – say – seven seasons has been sub par to par save for 2006 when they came within a period of hoisting Lord Stanley's mug than why not try a new coach. If the same old same old is surely not working, then a change in coaching can only mean one thing: better results. Give it a try boys. It just might work.

  • Hippy

    Xavier wrote:

    If you think that players like Brodziak and Penner or those that have been thrown under the bus in the media still have respect for MacTavish, you’re crazy.

    Do you remember Dan Cleary? Look him up some time; both what MacTavish said about him (the organization bought him out, btw), and what he's said about MacTavish since.

  • Hippy

    Chaz wrote:

    I agree with this your article JW, but I also don’t think an organization needs to wait until a coach “loses the room” before making a personnel change behind the bench.

    I completely agree. In point of fact, I've argued that MacTavish should be fired, an argument that I think still stands.

    I think that "MacTavish should be fired because…" is fine, but "MacTavish should be fired because he lost the room" is baseless.

  • Hippy

    Xavier wrote:

    I’m guessing that you’ve never played hockey a day in your life. Using stats to explain everything is useless considering the majority of players have no idea what a Corsi number is.

    Show me one stat I used in the article above. Please, just one. And if there aren't any, please explain why your comment has any relevance to this discussion.

    And for the record, I've played plenty of hockey.

  • Hippy

    @ humantorch:
    @ baggedmilk:

    I read that article too, and I was curious as to who it was (my money's still on Cole, btw).

    I think it could be interpreted a number of different ways, but the best interpretation is probably the simplest (i.e Occam's Razor): when a team is struggling, the GM generally tries to shake things up via trade, and if it continues by firing the coach.

    If you'd have asked me what the Oilers would do had they really struggled this year (say, in 9th or 10th right now) I'd have given that answer. It shows awareness; not necessarily hatred.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    I'm guessing that you've never played hockey a day in your life. Using stats to explain everything is useless considering the majority of players have no idea what a Corsi number is. If you think that players like Brodziak and Penner or those that have been thrown under the bus in the media still have respect for MacTavish, you're crazy.

    @ baggedmilk:

    I read that article as well, and I was going to bring that exact same thing up.

  • Hippy

    Word wrote:

    It goes to show why sudden a outburst like the one from Hemsky can cause such an uproar. When a player loses their cool enough to accidentally let the media and fans into the real dressing room, we pounce. The rest of the time it’s just 110%, one game at a time.

    True enough. It seems that every time a player speaks his mind it's blown out of proportion.

    Sometimes I don't like my boss. He's actually a very good boss, but he bugs me enough occasionally that I'll make a snide comment.

    Can't do that as a hockey player.

  • Hippy

    I agree with this your article JW, but I also don't think an organization needs to wait until a coach "loses the room" before making a personnel change behind the bench. All of the Ottawa Senators, to a man, deflected blame from Hartsburg after he was canned, but they are still playing way better and getting more wins under Clouston. I'm not saying a new coach will always improve performance of a team, but you'll never know until you try. Sometimes it takes a new vision / direction to tap into the true potential of a team, and it seems that a lot of the supporters of this team are ready for such a change.

    That being said, I think it's best to let Mac T ride out the season, then make a change. I think he deserves at least that.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    don’t spend time in that dressing room, but I haven’t read anything from the reporters who do to indicate that this theory is at all accurate.

    I guess you didn't read Spector's article on Sportsnet a while ago with a quote from an unnamed veteran that said a change would be good.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    What about the anonymous Oilers' player who was quoted earlier this season as saying "maybe a trade, then the coach?" (obviously I'm paraphrasing, as I don't have the exact quote in front of me). How do you interpret that?

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    No, and I agree with you. Truitt wasn't even there long enough to truly work up a large degree of disdain anyway.

    I just don't think that in hockey culture you can take most player comments with any more than a grain of salt. The only comment above that shows an actual understanding of the business of hockey is Schremp's.

    It goes to show why sudden a outburst like the one from Hemsky can cause such an uproar. When a player loses their cool enough to accidentally let the media and fans into the real dressing room, we pounce. The rest of the time it's just 110%, one game at a time.

  • Hippy

    For all the gnashing of teeth over MacT's '09 performance – and I've contributed to that since the loss in Mtl – he'd be under much less scrutiny if even say just the PK wasn't weapons-grade ugly.

  • Hippy

    @ Word:

    I've never seen a word otherwise; even a hint of an indication from anyone in Springfiled/Edmonton that any of the players had a problem with Truitt even off the record.

  • Hippy

    Word wrote:

    In short: a team’s record does not necessarily show how much they like or respect their coach.

    Also known as:

    "Hockey players aren't known for insightful commentary."

    I'm surprised nobody said that "Truitt, y'know, uh, went out there, and uh, just gotta play the game, y'know, and uh, he gave 110%. Helluva coach. But y'know, we uh, just gotta move forward, and uh, take it one game at a time. Just nice to get a win."