The dreaded vote of confidence

Yesterday, Craig MacTavish spoke to the media about the Edmonton Oilers’ performance. Among other items, he made it clear that he still has confidence in head coach Dallas Eakins.

After uttering similar lines during his availability and stressing the need for stability behind the bench, MacTavish told Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now that he “really couldn’t be happier with the coaching.”

The Vote of Confidence

The interesting thing about the managerial vote of confidence is that it often seems to precede the firing of said coach in short order. There are, I think, a couple of reasons for that.

The biggest is that managers don’t have to give coaches with good records a vote of confidence. Reporters don’t generally ask whether guys like Jon Cooper or Joel Quenneville are going to get fired; it’s obvious that they’re safe. Columnists don’t speculate on the safety of Todd McLellan or Dan Bylsma, at least not when those teams are winning, because there’s no question that the results support their continued employment.

So by the time the manager is in a position to opine on his head coach, there’s something in the record that suggests said head coach should be fired. And as a general rule, the media will always be ready to fire the coach before management is, which means that even when the coach is going to be fired there’s often a period of time when the media thinks he could be and the manager wants to hang on a little longer to see if the coach can turn things around.

The other reason is a simple trick of memory: we tend to remember the contradicition of a general manager supporting his coach and then firing him a week or two later, while we don’t necessarily remember the close call that turned out okay.


The thing keeping Dallas Eakins safe right now isn’t necessarily Craig MacTavish’s public statement, and it certainly isn’t the record or the underlying performance of his team (both of which are awful at the moment). It’s history.

Too many coaches in Edmonton have fallen by the wayside. The traditional point of reference is Sam Gagner; he’s just started his seventh season with the Oilers and he’s on his fifth head coach. It’s ridiculous. 

There has been too much turnover, and other things need to change before the coaching does.

  • Bryzarro World

    I would be the first to admit this year, thus far, has been a diaster, but I keep hearing how the Oilers re-build has been 8-years. Where did this “8-year” thing originate from? The first obvious observation is that they were 1 game away from winning the cup in 2006, which is 7-years ago, so were they re-building as they went to the final too? It is safe to say 1-year after almost winning the cup, they were not re-building, which would have been the 2006/07 season.  The following two seasons they had winning records and still had the core from their 2005/06 roster (Hemsky, Horcoff, Pisani, Roloson, etc.., with the exception of Pronger and other spare parts).  I wouldn’t constitute these years as re-building years either, as they were still chasing the latest free agents and were not focused on the draft at all (largely due to Lowe trying to repeat his success with acquiring Pronger, Roloson, Pecka, and Samsonov).

    That brings us to the 2009/10 season, when clearly they began to stop chasing free agents (Vanek, Hossa, Nylander, Heatley) and build the team again through the draft.  That would be 4 years ago, so the 8-year re-build is “just a little bit outside”.

    The blue print for the shift in strategy was the Hawks, who last qualified for the playoffs in 2001/02 prior to their break out season in 2008/2009, which is 7-years.  It’s interesting to note when the key pieces of their Stanley Cup team were drafted or signed:

    2002 – Keith drafted 
    2003 – Seabrook/Byfuglien drafted
    2006 – Toews drafted
    2007  – Kane drafted
    2008 – Campbell signed
    2009 – Hawks have first winning record since 01/02
    2010 – Hawks win the Cup

    So you can see, it doesn’t happen overnight.