The Odd Couple

Craig MacTavish and Rob Schremp have spent much of this summer on the outside looking in. One of them appears to have landed gainful employment. The other is still job hunting. For both men, the last several years have been a series of highs and lows.

For many Oiler fans (including me) Craig MacTavish remains a high water mark in terms of competent coaching for the town team. A solid technical coach and in game tactician, he was a big part of the Oilers Stanley run 2006 spring. His coaching strategy in that stretch (especially against the Red Wings) earned him a reputation of being a guy who could take a good team a long way.

Unfortunately for MacT, he never had the horses after the Chris Pronger deal. Coaching is a tough career because if the team loses too many games a change is required; firing the coach is easier than firing 23 hockey players–and less messy. MacT was the Oilers head coach a long time but perhaps spent "too long at the fair" in Edmonton.

It has taken a long time for coach MacTavish to land on his feet. Recent days have revealed he’s off to coach the Chicago Wolves of the AHL (Vancouver’s farm team) and I think he’ll be coaching an NHL team (maybe the Canucks–you never know) in the next year or so. He was considered for Minnesota’s head coaching position this summer and with his credentials one would think it is only a matter of time.

Why did it take so long for MacT to get another gig? His bout with cancer must have taken him out of the running for a time, and I do think his very public comments in regard to Dustin Penner may too have cost him. Having said all of that, I expect Vancouver fans will be thrilled with their prospects progress this winter. Good for MacT, hopefully this stint in the minors ends that crazy idea that he couldn’t develop the kids.

Which brings us to Robbie Schremp. Schremp’s fanbase (which is miles and miles) railed against MacT’s handling of him as an Oilers prospect. Robbie Schremp led the league in nicknames (Hockey Jesus, Sugartits) before he ever played a game, owing mostly to youtube and Phil Esposito length shifts in the land of legends (London).

The day I posted that Schremp had been placed on waivers, blogosphere commenter "quain" said the following:

  • You’re aware this isn’t the end right? He’s going to go 12-41-53 -29 on the Island playing top PP unit time and we’re going to have to hear how we let a complete stud go, over and over again. It never ends. Rob Schremp is like herpes, you can only hope to contain it.

Damned if Rob Schremp didn’t go to the Island and post better than expected numbers. 44gp, 7-18-25 -4 and his CorsiRel was a pleasant surprise. He needed to build on that half-season but what the hell the guy has talent, right?

Along came a guy named Michael Grabner via (once again) the waiver wire. Grabner ate Robbie’s lunch, and that coupled with a very average season (63gp, 13-13-26 -20) meant he was exposed to waivers again (end of Feb) and lost to the Thrashers. By March 24 the Thrashers were trying him at center between Evander Kane and Radek Dvorak and on the 25th he scored the GWG against the Islanders in what must have been a highlight of the season for him.

Of course, the off-season has been about change. The Thrashers became the Jets and the Jets set him free about a month ago. Schremp has been shopping for work since, but as the summer wears on one wonders if he’ll have to return to the minors (or Europe) and wait for another opportunity.

Schremp as an NHL player hasn’t been a world beater, but has been able to post some offense. That is the kind of player that often gets multiple chances; although he’s played for three NHL teams already Schremp’s NHL career likely has a few stops to come.

Another busy edition of Nation Radio today at noon. Scheduled to appear:

  • Guy Flaming from The Pipeline Show and Coming Down the Pipe! I’ll talk to Guy about the Team Canada WJ team’s prospects camp in Edmonton this coming week and he’ll try to educate me about the NCAA/CHL border war.
  • James Mirtle, Globe and Mail writer and one of the best hockey writers on the planet. I’ll ask him about the Lombardi-Tambellini Milagro Beanfield War, Nikolai Khabibulin’s situation and the Islanders arena situation.
  • Mark Spector from Rogers Sportsnet. One of Edmonton’s most credible media people gets a one hour daily show and I’ll ask him what Oiler fans can expect when the show hits the air.
  • Jim Byers from the OKC Barons. We’ll talk about the Oilers activity this summer and how it might impact the Barons. There’s a chance players like Teemu Hartikainen and Jeff Petry return to OKC and I’ll ask him about which of last season’s prospects he considers most NHL ready.
  • Dustin Nielson from Team 1260’s Nielson and Chase morning show. A draft geek like myself and a guy who loves sports, he’s got yet another gig starting in the fall and I’ll ask him about it.

As always, email questions and comments are welcome at and I imagine there will be a few questions about NK, the Smyth-Fraser deal and Team 1260’s brand new shows. Bring it on, we’ll answer everything we can and make sure your comments hit the air.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Schremp seems like a guy that might do well in the KHL. Wonder if he is willing to go that route. I can’t see him making too many teams out of training camp so odds are he is making peanuts in the AHL for most of the year.

    • justDOit

      I don’t see any benefit of larger ice for a guy who can’t stay with his check after losing a faceoff.

      The best thing for Robbie Youtube’s hockey career would be to go to the Swiss league, where he can learn how to play defence.

      Aside from that, he should probably hire a good coach and apply for his PGA card!

  • justDOit

    Not to take anything away from MacT, who did a great job of getting that Oiler team to the SC finals, but I felt that injuries and the ’06 Olympics hurt the Wings in the first round against the Oilers.

    And Schremp? I think “Bye” was about all we really needed to say about that guy. I watched him play a preseason game here in Calgary, and that was one of the most pathetic performances I’ve ever seen.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    There is one other difference between these two. MacT had a silver spoon in his mouth after his playing career ended. He had what…two seasons as an assistant coach before he became a head coach. Does that happen in the real world of pro-sports unless one of your best buddies hires you when he takes a premature jump to GM? When the going got really tough he had only his experience as a player to call upon. I think he waited a long time to get hired because his conduct vis-a-vis public criticism of players messed up his reputation with alot of organizations. His stand up act in front of reporters was not well received in all quarters I guess.

    Shremp was probably a reach by the Oil when they drafted him. He too was lacking good coaching in London when Hunter et al let him off the hook as far as learning the complete junior game not to mention preparing him to be a complete player at the NHL level. MacT got lots of chances, eight seasons worth, and had to finally fire himself.

    Both MacT and Shremp were lacking a proper apprenticeship to be able to produce at the pro-level. Maybe neither one will be able to completely live that down. We’ll see…

  • a lg dubl dubl

    There isn’t anything in sport more tacky and kitschy than a coach or GM taking a media commentator job when trying to land a real job. It’s as if your previous job was done so poorly that only a media outlet will hire you while every team takes a few years to forget what you’ve done. Reminds me of Matt Millen and the Detroit Lions. What’s worse is that there is nothing about commentator work that really makes you a better coach or GM, so your skills become obsolete as time passes. Cripes, at least take an advisory gig with somebody, even a junior team, but at least find something with substance.

    I liked MacTavish. He used solid strategy and tactics, and his teams always OVER-ACHIEVED for their given talent level. That is a sign of a good coach. However, taking that job with TSN was a terrible move, and because of that: having to wait a few years before getting an AHL job is no surprise. In fact, I thought it would have taken even longer.

    MacT was (and maybe still is) a very good coach, but he needs to get better career advice.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I like MacT. However, not as a coach. Do you think the reason he is not back in the NHL is because lots of other people, like MacT, but not as a coach? The fact he landed in the minors tells me someone is going to see if they are wrong and maybe he is a good coach.

    As for the Oiler cup run, Mac T was in the right place at the right time, he could do no wrong. The team KLowe assembled had more to do with the run, than MacT’s ability

    • Lowetide

      From what we know, his players hated Bowman on a day to day basis. Loved the Stanley’s and playoff bonuses though.

      Winning is the currency for coaches. There aren’t many easy going types in the union.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Which makes it odd that you support a guy like MacT?

        If one is to give him credit for the cup run in ’06 – one must also hand him the blame (or a lot of it) for all of the other failed seasons during his tenure.

        MacT had CFP which enabled him to sit back and trap the Redwings. Being able to throw Pronger out for 30 minutes a night is an easy recipe for success. Throw in Roli’s heroics and a Kontos/Druce like performance from Pisani and you have a pretty smooth path the Stanley Cup Finals.

        I try to be objective, but it was very difficult to watch the style in which the Oilers played while MacT was coach.

        My biggest complaint in regards to MacT’s coaching was the inability to have the team play an actual system of any kind. Everything his teams seemed to do was reactionary – in that; the team would sit back and take what the other teams had without dictating any set game plan. This was extremely evident on home ice.

        Too many times I watched his dmen “bang it” around the boards or his forwards collapse to the goal crease or dump it in and sit back.

        In a game where puck possession is key – MacT coached teams seemed to always be without it and no real plan on how to get it.

        To this day I still feel MacT was here for way too long considering what he did (or DIDN’T) accomplish.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    LT, you get up earlier then my twins! Sorry about the grammar, but edit button doesn’t work on the IPAD. Just glad to be #1 like the Eskimos.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      We’re fortunate to come away with 2 pts last night. Watching it on the tube it sure looked like Toronto won the battle in the trenches when Ray was on the field. Even with just three guys coming the O line had trouble keeping them out of the backfield.

      It’s a good thing Toronto didn’t have a quarterback or we may have been blown out last night. It doesn’t get any easier next weekend going into Winnipeg, their D,line has almost double the QB sacks compared to the rest of the league going into week six.

      • RPG

        I’d argue that sometimes a good team finds a way to win, even when things aren’t going well, and that is what they did. Yes Toronto had a third string quarterback playing, and didnt have their star running back, but their D played tough. I fully agree another good measuring stick will come vs a very stingy Winnipeg D, which is killing it right now. Hopefully the Oilers will be on the good side of night like this, finding ways to win games that they have no business winning.