Craig MacTavish opened his press conference with, “This availability will not satisfy anyone.”
Bang on, but some of his responses to question did grab my attention.
“I think we are visually better than our record. We played a smarter more mature game vs. Winnipeg than we do normally. Nashville was the same. I’m not naive enough to think there won’t have to be personnel change over time, but for me the focus, currently, is helping this group of players execute at a high level.”
He is correct that in those two games they were better, but what about games vs. Arizona, St.Louis and others? Two games doesn’t equal 26. The reality is that this team still plays more inconsistent games than consistent ones. So who should rectify that?
MacTavish was asked if that falls on coaching to get more consistency?
“One philosophy doesn’t reach every player, as a former coach I know that.
If you are talented player and every time you turn the puck over you
come to the bench and the coach yells at you, you won’t have the
confidence to make plays. Where we struggle internally is how do we
approach that. I think we are getting better.
“I think people who
cover our team regularly recognize that that level of accountability is improving.
“It starts with the coaching staff identifying these situations, but it
doesn’t end with the coaching staff. It has to come internally from the
“Taylor Hall has to be a voice in that. Jordan Eberle has to be a voice
in our leadership group and he has to be demanding more of the team.
Taylor has to be demanding more of the team, and when you start
demanding more of the team it has a residual affect in your decision
making on the ice. When that starts to happen at a greater level to what
it has happened at this point I think we will make a turn.”
We have seen Schultz get benched, so I guess that would classify as improvement in accountability. The remainder of his response was a challenge to Hall and Eberle. They have been here five years. I felt MacT challenged them in a way without ripping them. He basically said if those guys demand more from the team then they will demand more from themselves, thus limiting turnovers and bad decisions. It makes sense, but are they ready to do that? I don’t know the answer, and what happens if they aren’t?
MacTavish did expand on coaching…
“When we asked Dallas to commit to us he had plenty of opportunities
and was a heavily sought after coach. I think he is a good role model
for our players. He is passionate about the game. He is evolving as a
coach. I like his resiliency as a coach. It is not easy feat to have had
the record that we have and still, in my mind, have the support of the
entire group (players) in there.
“Make no mistake the coaching is
under scrutiny, but in my mind at this time to make a coaching
change…we’ve changed assistant coaches, we’ve brought in co-coaches,
we’ve brought in former coaches and we’ve made four coaching changes.
All four coaches were bringing the same message; we need a higher level
“I believe our team is evolving to the point where the expectation internally is that they do have to execute at a higher level.”
group, for whatever reason, does not exhibit the urgency that the
situation requires. That’s the work ethic and competitiveness that we
need at a greater level out of this group. The shortcomings in our team
game…we are very seldom on the dial on the competitive moments of the
game. We don’t control them, we play well in spurts, but when the game
is on the line the opposition normally dictates the pace and tempo of
There is much to discuss in this response.
I have no idea how many other opportunities Eakins had, but I don’t think that is very relevant to today. Results matter, and I think it is obvious that MacTavish doesn’t want to scapegoat another coach. If the losing continues he might have no choice, but he is adamant it just isn’t the coach. Eakins has made some bad decisions, and I think not asking for more accountability from his skilled players early on was his biggest mistake. Can he reverse that now and be harder on them? Time will tell.
The last part of that response speaks volumes. Essentially he is politely saying the team is soft, either mentally or physically. He is bang on. I’ve been saying for years this team does not battle hard enough most nights, and this season their ability to make horrendous errors at the most important areas of the ice is the main reason they are losing so frequently.
Can they change that? Will they learn to play smarter and harder? I firmly believe not all of them will, and those who won’t, even young players, need to be weeded out.
WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THIS?
It is in our DNA to want to find blame. Most fans wanted that question answered, but, not to my surprise, that didn’t happen today. Here is what MacT said on that topic.
“I am accountable for it all. I’ve switched out 14 or 15 players in the 18 months I’ve been on the job, and what I think I have now is a group that is capable of growth and what I think I inherited was a group on the demise.
“My evaluation of the group is that they are still developing and it is taking time for these guys to develop. Outside of the real generational talents, Crosby, Toews, Kane who arrive at the NHL as a pretty finished product, it takes time for most players to develop into dominant players.”
“We are close to reaching our choke point, but that doesn’t mean we are going to punt out our three best players.”
I would agree that the majority of players he didn’t resign or traded away were garbage. Of course he also brought in Fraser, Belov and Grebeshkov, so he has also erred in some of his acquisitions.
I don’t believe they can win with this group. He needs to make some trades, and I’m fully aware that is very difficult to do and will take time. I know he has looked at those options, but the organization needs to realize that the combination of young players they have assembled is not a winning formula. They have too much of the same and need to make a trade to alter that.”
I asked MacT if starting the season with two NHL centres was a mistake?
“I wouldn’t say it was a mistake. It would be foolish to not have tried to find another centreman to come in here. We are not in a position to pay the asset ask for a positional bias. We just don’t have the number of assets to make the moves. We have four or five players who could get us a good return, but then it is fixing one hole and exposing another.”
I disagree. It was a mistake. Entering the season with only two NHL centres, the most important forward position, was a bad call.
I do agree fixing one hole will create another, but I’d rather have a hole on the wing than down the middle, however, if he would have signed a stop gap centre in the off-season he wouldn’t have had to give up anything. I know a stop-gap wouldn’t make them that much better, but it wouldn’t have forced them to rush Leon Draisaitl.
Speaking of Draisailt…MacTavish was asked if they will lend him to Germany for the WJC
“We have talked about it. The one factor with Leon is his own personal
development and that is the singular most important decision for us. It
is unlikely we will send him (WJC). I thought he played well in Winnipeg
and I’m satisfied he is developing.”
I will never agree that the best decision for Draisaitl was to be here this year. Even if he went to Germany to play against men would have been a better option. The NHL is not a development league, and MacTavish admitted earlier that they have underestimated how long it takes for players to get comfortable. So if that is the case, why rush another one?
He was asked about poor pro scouting and specifically Niktin?
“I will argue about Nikitin. We needed help on
defence and we needed to stop gap our defensive position before Darnell
Nurse and Klefbom were ready to get in our lineup. Klefbom has shown he
is ready now, based on his play.
“Nikitin to me is an NHL talent.
He has been up and down in terms of his perfomance level, but I don’t
think there is anyone who will question he isn’t an NHL player. He has
played at the Olympics and has played at very high levels of hockey. He
has been inconsistent in his performance here so far…
“As for the
pro scouting…the players that we bring in should, and has been better
than the previous years. Prior to that we were left with players who
had very few alternatives on where they could play. Now when I’m
recruiting these free agents I have a much better story to tell. I know
we haven’t realized any of the upside that I forecasted for these
players, but we have a better story to tell now.”
Sure, Nikitin is an NHL d-man, but he is an inconsistent one. Playing in the Olympics doesn’t mean much, considering Belov was on that team as well, so I wouldn’t have used that experience as why he is good. Watch Nikitin when he defends the rush. He backs in too far and allows too many quality shots or passing lanes to the opposition.
Right now the only story the Oilers are telling is a horror story. It will need to change, and the organization can’t expect to rebuild their team through free agency. It won’t happen.
His thoughts on Ference’s Arizona post-game comments.
“The coaches can go in there and talk about competitiveness and going to the net, but there has to be a level of internal accountability in there (dressing room) and good teams have it. Andrew’s comments were emotional at the time, but they were directed in the right frame of mind. We need a more competitive group and at times we get it, but it is not there consistently enough to have success and get off this treadmill that we are all on.
Getting off a treadmill can be very difficult. And the way this season has gone, the Oilers will likely struggle as much as others have.
DAY 4…MONTH OF GIVING…
Thanks to Derks Menswear for their shopping package and to Ken for his generous bid of $2,350.
A 4322 Performance Assessment and 12 one-on-one training sessions courtesy of River Valley Health. This is great for your son or daughter who is training, or for yourself if you want to dominate men’s league.
Package #2: Tee It Up.
- 10 rounds of golf at the Ranch Golf and Country Club (hole 14 above) with a power cart with each round and use of driving range before every round.
- One round of golf for three people with their Head Pro Shawn Piercey.
- One round of golf for two with GM Murray McCourt and Kevin Karius from Global TV. This is a spirited match and usually involves some friendly “wagering.”
Thanks in advance. All proceeds go towards Santas Anonymous.
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