Famous last words

mactdeathwatch

If Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings was Craig MacTavish’s last gasp as coach of the Edmonton Oilers, and I suspect it was, don’t count me among those overjoyed with his demise.

But listening to MacTavish in the post-game news conference at Rexall Place last night, with each word dripping with defeat and disappointment, I’m more convinced than ever he will meet with team owner Daryl Katz and offer his resignation face-to-face in the next two weeks. No texts.

I’m convinced it’s for the best.

“It’s kind of a frame on the year we’ve had where we’ve put ourselves in position many times during the year, but we just haven’t been able to capitalize on that opportunity,” MacTavish told reporters.

“You can call it whatever you want. There’s going to be lots of time for analysis now, but that was indicative of a lot of nights where we’ve needed a game and just come up short.

“It’s not just the game tonight I’m going to wrap myself around. It’s a lot of nights like this over the course of the year. Thanks…”

Then, he stepped away.

MacT’s call

Having been up-close-and-personal when MacTavish contemplated walking away before, I can tell you he’s a man who doesn’t take defeat easily or duck his share of responsibility when it comes to failure, which this season surely was. I can tell you he’s an honest, honourable guy.

But, after a season in which MacTavish made too many decisions that didn’t make sense or play to the strengths of the personnel on the roster, a season in which he set the bar high in pre-season with talk of a Northwest Division title, it’s time to go.

Last night, MacTavish looked so far removed from the optimism of October and so used up, I can’t come to any other conclusion, even allowing for the disappointment of the moment.

Make no mistake, this is MacTavish’s call to make, and he deserves that much. While we don’t talk as much as we used to, I can assure fans MacTavish will look at the situation and make the right call. He won’t hang on when he knows he should let go, he won’t cling to the spotlight.

No cheering in the press box

Some media types can’t wait to fire the coach — the greatest misnomer in sports because what somebody in the press box writes has absolutely no effect, zero, none, on decisions — but I’ve never had the urge to scream that so-and-so must go. Not Ron Low. Not Kevin Lowe. Not MacTavish.

Fans? That’s different. You pay your dollar, so you get to holler. With the emotional and financial investment Joe Q has in the team, I get the passion, the over-reaction, the negative buzz on the call-in shows. It’s all good.

But, like I said, when MacTavish calls it a day, you won’t find me applauding his exit. He’s a big boy and he knows the rules of the game. So do I. And I also know he was as committed and passionate and driven to succeed as any coach can be. But, in the end, even with 300 wins and the 2006 Stanley Cup final on his resume, MacTavish didn’t succeed enough. He failed.

I find no joy in that, or at what comes next.

Second guessing

There’s no question Shawn Horcoff hasn’t delivered in the stretch drive with just one goal in his last 13 games, and that falls on him, but why has he been used as a shutdown centre of late?

That part falls to MacTavish, who has seen fit to turn his top-line pivot into a checker — at least that’s what he’s said in recent weeks to explain Horcoff’s drop in offensive production. With all the minutes he’s played, I wouldn’t be surprised if Horcoff’s simply out of gas. Looks like it to me.

The second part falls to Kevin Lowe, who was GM when the decision was made to let Marty Reasoner and Jarret Stoll go. The lack of a reliable shutdown and face-off guy has been a glaring need since training camp.

Speaking of gassed, Dwayne Roloson is the dictionary definition of that because a Senior B goaltender wouldn’t have let in the 1-0 goal by Alexander Frolov 55 seconds in.

As gritty as Roloson’s been and as much as he’s battled — the Oilers would’ve been eliminated weeks ago without him — he’s been victimized by bad goals in the last handful of games.

MacTavish hasn’t managed his goaltenders worth a damn since Mathieu Garon was traded. Three times during Roloson’s skein of starts, the Oilers played back-to-back games. Not once did Jeff Deslauriers get a sniff. By the time the crunch came, MacTavish left himself no option but to ride Roloson until the wheels fell off.

JUST SAYING…

— Patrick O’Sullivan might be a first-line talent, but he’s got some work to do before he’s more than a second-line winger. Not much bang for the buck since arriving at the trade deadline.

— There wasn’t room on Edmonton’s coaching staff for Rob Daum this season, but there should be next season. Fact is, Daum should never have been bumped to make room for Kelly Buchberger.

— Don’t hold your breath waiting for the “He’ll look like a bargain during this contract” talk from Lowe kick in when it comes to Dustin Penner because you’ll turn blue before it happens. From 29 goals with Anaheim to 23 here last season to 17 with two games to play, but the tab, $4.25 million per season, remains the same.

— With yet another second assist against the Kings, Tom Gilbert is living proof numbers don’t tell the whole story. I’m doing a running tally on those, but I’m out of fingers and toes. If I’m GM Steve Tambellini, Gilbert is the defenceman I move — before other GMs realize he’s a soft, complimentary player — if I’m dangling one of my blueliners in pursuit of a first-line pivot or left winger.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Robin Brownlee wrote:

    From 29 goals with Anaheim to 23 here last season to 17 with two games to play

    I fail to see how he is expected to score playing with Brodziak and Scoretini.

    Maybe he was meant to score in bunches playing with Needless penalties Moreau, or Goggles at center?

    Starts producing a bit (yeah I said a bit not lots) with Hemsky and Wolf Eyes and then knock him down to the 4th to be replaced with Reddox.

    If getting bumped around from line to line is supposed to be great motivation to play then you're all fooling yourselves. Ripping on Penner is useless, it's Kevin Lowe's fault for throwing the deal at him.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    @ Rick:

    Do you really think O'Sullivan would be moved in the off-season? He's young, reasonably cheap and signed long term; he wasn't acquired to be a rental. I know he hasn't produced yet but ~15 games on a team that is nosediving probably isn't indicative of what he can bring.

  • Tyler

    There might be more of a case 5 v 4 with Gilbert but I'd bet that every Oiler other than Hemsky has a disproportionate number of second assists on the PP.

    With yet another second assist against the Kings, Tom Gilbert is living proof numbers don’t tell the whole story.

    Incidentally, I don't know how you can prove that numbers don't tell the whole story by citing a number.

  • Rick

    Robin, regarding your point on O'Sullivan;

    I don't know if this is a logical choice in terms of who will be left standing, but who do you see here in October – O'Sullivan or Nilsson?

    Or am I missing the target altogether?

  • Tyler

    With yet another second assist against the Kings, Tom Gilbert is living proof numbers don’t tell the whole story. I’m doing a running tally on those, but I’m out of fingers and toes. If I’m GM Steve Tambellini, Gilbert is the defenceman I move — before other GMs realize he’s a soft, complimentary player — if I’m dangling one of my blueliners in pursuit of a first-line pivot or left winger.

    Gilbert's fourth amongst defencemen in first assists per 60 minutes of ES play and fifth in second assists per 60 minutes of ES play. He just gets a lot of assists. Without doing the math, I'd venture that his ratio of first assists to second assists is better than the league average for defencemen. Whether assists indicate anything is a different story but it's not like he's Ryan Suter or Marc Methot in terms of just collecting second assists.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    West Coast Oil wrote:

    I have said from the beginning the team Klowe built did not work to the strengths of MacT’s coaching. We should have changed the coach when we changed the dynamics of the team.

    I agree. It's been blatantly obvious ever since the new CBA kicked in that Lowe and MacT have vastly different philosophies.

    @Robin

    Do you think it will be 100% up to Tambellini to hire a new coach? It would be nice to see him get a chance to put his stamp on the team.

  • baggedmilk wrote:

    *places banner over ‘Fire MacT Bandwagon’ bring on the ‘MacT resignation Bandwagon’*
    JSBM Panel Van rolling through a neighborhood near you.

    We'll also be tossing out condoms like they toss candy from floats at the Klondike Days parade**

    **condoms may or may not be used.

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ RossCreek:
    I believe Daum should be on the staff because he brings an element that wasn't there this season — an eye for systems and the ability to adapt and change them on the fly.
    The thing is, if there's a new head coach, and there will be, the convention is he gets to pick his staff, so how that impacts Daum will depend on who gets the job.

    As for head coaching candidates, good question. Pearn is a technician like Daum, but I'm not sure he'd "sell" to fans as the head coach after three years our of the playoffs. Would Habscheid be considered another "old boy" hiring?

    You mentioned Prendergast, and I'd be stunned if there aren't changes at the top of the scouting department, and that's his territory.

  • humantorch

    RB wrote:

    MacTavish hasn’t managed his goaltenders worth a damn since Mathieu Garon was traded.

    Can you even call it "managing" when you simply do the same thing night after night after night?

  • RossCreek

    Whether MacT stays or leaves, changes have to be made to the coaching staff. I'm fine with Huddy staying regardless of whether MacT does or not, but Moores & Bucky gotta go. I'd be fine with Daum returning, but I think that names like Marc Habschied & Perry Pearn should come up. Either as a new asst. to MacT or as his replacement.
    If MacT does step down and wants to move into management, he could take the Asst. GM title away from Prendergast, and the Oil could find somebody else to replace KP's scouting duties.

    @ ROBIN
    Thoughts?
    Who would be on your short list for the coaching gig if MacT steps down?

  • Rick

    I have always been a big fan of MacT and think he is a very good coach. It that respect it will be disappointing to see him go.

    That said, I keep going back to coaching as the biggest factor in a disappointing season this year. I have never thought that in any of the other years he coached but there have been too many head scratching decisions.

    It's too bad but it does appear necessary to bring in a fresh pair of eyes that may see these players differently in terms of how they can be used.

    Now that it appears all but done, can anyone suggest a coach that would improve this team? It will be the biggest decision this org has to make this year and yet there hasn't been a name mentioned yet that makes me think it will be an improvement.

    And since I am ranting a little bit;

    It's tiring to keep seeing players shuffled in and out of the dressing room after only one or two seasons but there are more than a few players that need to be put in the crosshairs for this season. Changes please.

    It would truly suck to see MacT step down and Penner (for one) still here in October. The last thing that unmotivated lump of puddy needs is even a hint of validation that his crappy season is because of MacT's failure as a coach.

  • Mr P

    lets try and not turn 1/4 of the roster over this summer. If we can get a first line left wing – great. If not just get another centre to win draws and kill penalties. I agree that Gilbert should be the D to move Grebshekov should be a little cheaper and I think he's gotten better all season.

  • Archaeologuy

    There are some parts of me that agree with you about the honourable and stand up character of MacT. However, I am of the Lou Lamoriello mind set that if changes need to be made it then there isnt anything personal about it. I dont believe that the Oilers owed anything to MacT. He was a paid employee who had many problems accomplishing his goals. In the end it seems that the fans could identify that he was a problem from early on this season, so why not the management? Well, I'm sure they did, on some level, recognize change needed to happen but they didnt do anything about it.

    Penner had a sub-average season, absolutely. He also has scored more goals than Horcoff while not having the benefit of Ales Hemsky's smooth passes for large tracks of the season.

  • West Coast Oil

    I have said from the beginning the team Klowe built did not work to the strengths of MacT's coaching. We should have changed the coach when we changed the dynamics of the team.
    That said I wish MacT luck wherever he goes, he has been a solid Oiler for years.

  • I have mixed emotions on MacT. No doubt he is a good coach who will get another chance with another organization, but we need a change here.

    3 years removed form the SCF game 7 & a whole new cast of characters without a sniff at the play-offs again. Easier to change the coach than 20 players…

    Good luck MacT.