The Blame Game

EdmontonOilers2

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.”

– Oscar Wilde

With the Oilers all but eliminated from the playoffs, Craig MacTavish took a chance last night. Down a single goal in a must-win game, he asked for a measurement on Teemu Selanne’s stick, a decision which backfired when it turned out that Selanne’s stick was legal.Ducks players were surprised

; Bobby Ryan said that they “got lucky”, while Scott Niedermayer suggested that Selanne had a chance before the game to switch to a legal stick.
It doesn’t much matter now. MacTavish was wrong, and he took the blame for it afterwards – calling the decision a “terrible mistake” and saying that he felt his choice sabotaged what looked like a terrific comeback. That’s as it should be, of course, but that willingness to accept responsibility contrasts in an ugly way with Ethan Moreau’s post game comments.

“A lot of that game we played really well. I thought we were physical, we stood up for one another. There were some good hits, good fights and we went to the net harder in the third period and created some offense. There’s going to be games where we have to get four or five goals to help Roli out, and we haven’t found that offensive output yet.”

He expanded on that with Dan Tencer later in the evening; Tencer mentioned special teams and again Moreau said that they couldn’t score when they needed to.
It’s interesting to me that a guy like Moreau (who plays a major role on the penalty kill, and doesn’t play at all on the powerplay) would point a finger at offensive production on a night where powerplay production matched the penalty kill’s ineptitude. The Oilers went 1-for-4 on both the penalty kill and the powerplay. 25% is a fine rate for man advantage production (it would be second in the league over the course of an entire season) but it’s an awful number for the penalty-kill to be lugging around.
It’s especially ugly when you consider that it was Ethan Moreau who made the decision to creep out to the point and double-team Ryan Getzlaf; a decision that left the man he was covering (Scott Niedermayer) alone in the slot. Niedermayer then scored the first of three Ducks’ powerplay goals on the night. Given that it has been the penalty kill, more than any other single factor that has sunk the Oilers this season (and sunk them again last night) it comes across as self-serving for the team captain (a defensive specialist) to blame the offense on the night of a 5-3 loss.
There’s no doubt that Craig MacTavish bears much of the blame for problems this season. He’s likely to pay for that with his job, and if he holds true to form he’ll publicly claim responsibility for a poor season. Individual players deserve some of the blame, and that includes the captain, even if he is unlikely he is to admit it. Still, none of those targets should hold the final responsibility if (likely when) the Oilers miss the playoffs.
It was Kevin Lowe who decided this summer that the Oilers only needed one veteran centre on the team. It was Kevin Lowe who traded away key members of the penalty-killing unit without bothering to replace them. For that matter, while Craig MacTavish is frequently blamed for years of low achievement, it has been Kevin Lowe who assembled those teams from the G.M.’s office.
Steve Tambellini was brought in this summer after Lowe’s promotion. Whether the blame should fall to him or to Lowe is impossible to say from this vantage point, but between the two of them they decided not to address the penalty-kill all season long. They decided not to bring in another veteran centre; leaving Shawn Horcoff to play far too many minutes and take nearly every critical faceoff. They decided to invest a second-round pick in Ales Kotalik; a powerplay and shootout specialist who has helped the team but who is not only likely to depart this summer, but who never could be the answer to the Oilers’ biggest problems in the first place.
The problems with this team may not stop with the two men making the decisions, but there’s no doubt that they start there.

  • Hippy

    You know, I like most of the guys we have. I'm really interested to see what would happen with a different voice behind the bench. Did anyone recognize the guy wearing #27 in the last two games against the Ducks? That was the guy that KLowe signed the offer sheet for. Maybe a different coach could get that kind of effort out him on a more consistant basis.

    I'm not saying that the players don't deserve thier share of the blame for this season, but sometimes a different face behind the bench wakes players up.

  • Hippy

    Good write up Jonathan. I agree with you and share your perspective. Personally, I would like to see the Oilers rebuild their PK before re-structuring their PP. They don't need to restrip the line up. They do have good players here. But they lack specialists. They need to rebuild their 3rd and 4th line. Those are the lines that provide the spark and energy. The Pouliots of the world dont cut it for these lines. They need muscle, crashers and bashers. Like the Marchants, Maltbys, Griers of old.

  • Hippy

    Just face facts Oiler fans this team is managed on a reactionary basis. When we had too many grinders, we drafted all small, skilled forwards. When we lacked offense on the blue line, we brought in 4 players in that role. They don't seem to be able to fill the one or two pieces this team needs to move forward. Maybe its time to trade away one or two of the cornerstones to move forward. This group just can't get it done. Is there a plan in place at all????

  • Hippy

    The blame has to be solely put on the team itself and a lot of guys not showing up every night. When the Oilers skate, shoot and hit they make plays and make the other team look winded. MacT has been here nine years and made the playoffs four of those nine years and in this league its just not acceptable. I see too many gaps in this team and little to no coaching in the areas they need to address.

    Someone said that Ryan Smyth should have stayed and I'm starting to agree there. His leadership and effort on a nightly basis had never come into question and I hope they come to their senses and try and get him back here. I spend too much time invested as a fan trying to get home early to watch a game and I'm frustrated. Three years of no playoff action, heads have to roll and please get some people here who know how to win.

  • Hippy

    MattL wrote:

    Archaeologuy wrote:
    It’s a gutless move that 29 other teams wouldnt make.
    Let me guess, you want them to hire a top-notch coach to replace MacT by treating MacT with zero respect? A coach can still “resign” on someone else’s terms, ask Tom Higgins…

    I hope there was some sarcasm in that statement that was just lost on me. 8 years of employment for a coach is more than enough respect needed, not to mention the hightened role he has been given in off-ice issues. You arent honestly saying that it's disrespectful to fire coaches mid-season? It happens so often it cant possibly be considered wrong.
    If there's a top notch coach out there that's unemployed right now I'm willing to bet that he would sell MacTavish to a Mexican Drug Cartel for the opportunity to coach in the NHL again. There are only a few extremely powerful coaches that might even consider how fairly MacT was treated by the Oilers. And please explain how firing someone is disrespectful?

  • Hippy

    MattL wrote:

    Let me guess, you want them to hire a top-notch coach to replace MacT by treating MacT with zero respect? A coach can still “resign” on someone else’s terms, ask Tom Higgins…

    How is firing a coach on an underacheiving team "treating him with zero respect"? How many orginizations have never fired a coach?

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    You’d think by now I’d learn that people are far more stupid than I’d like to believe.

    How can you say that when seven out of ten people believe that they and their friends are above average?

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    It’s a gutless move that 29 other teams wouldnt make.

    Let me guess, you want them to hire a top-notch coach to replace MacT by treating MacT with zero respect? A coach can still "resign" on someone else's terms, ask Tom Higgins…

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    You're right Willis. As usual. You'd think by now I'd learn that people are far more stupid than I'd like to believe.
    You just gave me yet another reason not to smile today, thanks.

  • Hippy

    Archaeologuy wrote:

    It’s a gutless move that 29 other teams wouldnt make.

    I've never liked this particular line because it underestimates the stupidity of certain NHL franchises. There might be ten well-run teams in the league; the Oilers, frankly, are middle of the pack.

  • Hippy

    frickin' Lubo… what IS IT with shoulders on this team? a great trade that would have had this team in a playoff position, had he stayed healthy.

    (IMO, of course)

  • Hippy

    My only fear is that with the fan base looking for a scapegoat the team will turn inwards and wall themselves further up.

    I mean it happens all the time in sports, the us against them mentallity and Lowe has been fairly teflon regarding the blame before this season. The excuses seemed valid. So will his first response in this situation be to go back into that old Us v Them player mode? I mean the management and coaching staff are so close to each other and all 3 played the game.

    Personally, I think that has to be the only reason MacT has kept his job all season. What GM or President lets the coach decide when he's going to get fired/move on? It's a gutless move that 29 other teams wouldnt make.
    Before this year I never thought Lowe did a disservice to the team but he was clearly in derriliction of duty, and Tamby is walking around RX1 like he belongs on "Thuderbirds". I say fire them all and poach some real coaches and managers. Steal someone from the Detroit Trifecta and the best possible AHL coach, now.

  • Hippy

    I pretty much agree with what you wrote but the question I have is can the blame be properly weighted out at this point to see if the bigger problem this year was coaching or managment? Ignoring for the moment the players themselves.

    Or does it even matter to figure out which is the biggest probelm when it's safe to suggest that MacT will take the pipe for the whole group by himself?

  • Hippy

    I agree, there isnt much accounatability. However, I do believe like you said Mac T will take the blame when its over and will/should lose his job.
    Who knows about the managers, but I do think they made a great trade for Sulli for Cole, as Sulli is signed for a few more years and a reasonable price, and he will help the PK.

  • Hippy

    Could not agree more. Moreau will never take accountability for this inferior play. The minutes Horcoff, who is not a number one center, and Moreau, who at best is a 4th liner, get is ridiculous.