The correct response to that statement is of course “how the hell do you know?”
I know because even is a season like this one Craig MacTavish makes sense. He makes sense at the time and he makes sense in hindsight. It’s a tough thing to do in his business because everyone questions the mistakes and heaps praise on others when things go well. Even when he got his team to the SCF most of the attention went to the players and the most often mentioned decision MacT made was dressing Ty Conklin in Game One of the SCF.
So, if you are not a MacT supporter what proof can I offer you in terms of his value.
- The players he chooses. I’ve mentioned this before, but MacT gave Fernando Pisani all kinds of opportunity when it wasn’t completely obvious he could play in the NHL. There were times when he was called up when Pisani did not in fact look like the smartest player on the ice and his pedigree (draft position, college and pro resume) gave no indication of the player he would become. Fernando Pisani turned in one of the outstanding playoff performances in Oilers history not long ago, and MacTavish was the coach who helped get him to that level.
- The players he sends away. I’m a big fan of Marc Pouliot, and on some level am puzzled by his not being played currently. However, several years of watching this coach tell me there has to be a reason for it and things will reveal themselves in time. Maybe MacT is forcing Pouliot to be better conditioned before he plays again, or maybe he sees things we don’t see. Or maybe he just needs more offense. Either way, I’d be far less understanding if there were a long list of young players who had left Edmonton and become stars. Not so. One dimensional players who don’t help you win stay that way, and given choices he tends to make the right one. During MacT’s rookie season as coach, the Oilers AHL team counted as their top 6 forward prospects (under 25) Peter Sarno, Jason Chimera, Michel Riesen, Chad Hinz, Shawn Horcoff and Fernando Pisani. Were the two players who ended up staying obvious choices? Not to me. And not to you, either. Among the Oilers rookie forwards who spent any time at all with the team 00-03 Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll and Fernando Pisani stayed with the Oilers and Mike Comrie, Jason Chimera, Dom Pittis, Brian Swanson, Michel Riesen and Jani Rita were sent away. We’re still waiting for