Hearts of Stone

It’s easy to describe the leaves in the Autumn
And it’s oh so easy in the Spring
But down through January and February
it’s a very different thing.

On and on and on
through the winter of our discontent.
When the wind blows up the collar
and the ears are frostbitten too

Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
Didn’t I come to lift your fiery vision
Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
in the flame.

-Van Morrison

I think we’ve known for some time (certainly since Gagner made the club) that we were a good arm’s length away from “comfort zone” for this coach and the team he was given. Craig MacTavish always seemed to be the kind of coach who liked to have a veteran line and a veteran pairing at the ready just in case the last shift felt like more ebb than flow.

MacT’s teams often had a scoring line (Weight-Smyth-Guerin/Carter) and a bona fide checking line (Marchant-Moreau-Grier) and at least 4 soldiers on the blue that he could call on at any time.

Tonight as we get ready for the Saturday HNIC season climax, I wonder how many men MacTavish feels he can count on. This is not the time to discuss how the sophomore’s have struggled and the myriad of first round failures he no longer looks too, this is the time to count the number of actual NHL players he can send over the bench.

And once again, there are not enough. Blame can be set aside for another day, today (I think) we’re watching the final games that matter for Craig MacTavish as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

I’ll be cheering for him, he’s a decent man. Come summer, as is often the case, the wrong man is probably going to walk the plank. Tomorrow night’s game is the last dance, the last chance, for hearts of stone.

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59 Responses to "Hearts of Stone"

  1. Lord Bob says:

    I think we’ve known for some time (certainly since Gagner made the club)

    I was more thinking “Mikhail Shtalenkov”.

  2. bookie says:

    Sorry LT, you either blame the coach or the GM for the state of the team. Looks like you blame the GM. Funny, I guess we were all saps at the beginning of the season when we thought this team was not going to suck.

    It could just be that MacT just doesn’t know how to drive this newfangled automobile and has ground the gears enough that its not working very well anymore. I think he just wishes he had his good old reliable cluncker back, not so good, but also not so complicated. Easy to handle as he putt putts along.

    Or we were all wrong and this whole team has no character and they are just a bunch of losers.

  3. Lowetide says:

    bookie: It isn’t that simple, though. The Oilers (since the lockout) have NEVER had balance, not ever. There was always either a huge hole on the blue or question marks in goal or three young centermen.

    You can overcome a lot of things, but extreme lack of depth up the middle is death.

  4. Bryanbryoil says:

    LT-Every team that isn’t a Cup contender has holes in their lineup somewhere, and many Cup contenders do as well.

    MacT brought with him a more defensive game and a less physical game. IMO it has made Oilers hockey outside of the ’06 Cup run less exciting. To boot we haven’t been any better as a team for the most part.

    This team has the players to bring fans out of their seats if they are allowed to do so and play their games.

    It’s time to bring in someone that likes that style of play, IMO Rob Daum could be that guy. Not to mention he’s not part of the old boys club and has paid his dues at every level.

    MacT has needed to be fired for a long, long time now. Lowe will likely never be held accountable, so ditching MacT is the closest that we’ll ever get to holding someone accountable.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Bryan: MacT has run more kids out there than any time since the boys on the bus. So many at-bats have been given to kids since the lockout and that imo is the story of the Oilers since the Stanley run.

    2006-07 Defense
    Ladislav Smid (1481)
    Jan Hedja (795)
    Danny Syvret (295)
    Tom Gilbert (241)
    Mathieu Roy (226)
    Bryan Young (151)
    Sebastian Bisaillon (28)
    That’s 3,217 minutes overall and I didn’t include Matt Greene. I did count Hejda as a rookie, however.

    2006-07 Forwards

    Patrick Thoresen (776)
    Marc Pouliot (600)
    Brad Winchester (476)
    JFJ Jacques (293)
    Zack Stortini (276)
    Kyle Brodziak (103)
    Rob Schremp (14)
    Alexei Mikhnov (14)
    The total is 2,522 minutes overall.

    2007-08 Defense

    Tom Gilbert (1820)
    Mathieu Roy (135)
    Theo Peckham (13)
    Bryan Young (4)
    1,972 minutes for the D, although it was pretty much just one guy. A helluva lot fewer than the year before, though. Here’s the F’s:

    2007-08 Forwards

    Sam Gagner (1238)
    Andrew Cogliano (1120)
    Kyle Brodziak (1033)
    Rob Schremp (14)
    Liam Reddox (6)
    3,411 overall minutes, given to three quality rookies.

    This season, there were fewer rookies but the main kids in the groups above (Smid, Gilbert, Gagner, Cogliano, Brodziak, Stortini) are taking on bigger roles.

    If the Oilers have even hired one more center I think this season ends differently.

  6. bookie says:

    bookie: It isn’t that simple, though. The Oilers (since the lockout) have NEVER had balance, not ever. There was always either a huge hole on the blue or question marks in goal or three young centermen.

    I certainly agree that its not that simple, but the argument still holds. The unbalanced nature of the team is then the GMs fault.

    I actually think that Lowe (if I may be so bold as to put myself in his brain) knew that the team was unbalanced, but that he felt if the team played anywhere near potential that they would overcome this long enough to make some stretch trades to balance things out.

    For me though, players that I respect, such as Cole, Hemsky, and Horcoff are not being the players they should be this season.

    I forget who, but about 4 years ago I remember a defensman making a comment that nobody on the team knows what they are supposed to do anymore because MacT keeps changing his mind (paraphrased). I think this is the case now. This was back when MacT blamed every loss on ‘momentary breakdowns’ and ‘mistakes’.

    I agree that it may be complex, and I actually really like MacT in many ways, but for years there has been a part of me that thinks that he has not been a very ‘balanced’ coach (and I don’t mean crazy, but rather ‘steady’).

    I think that he reacts too quickly to results/non-results and developes new ‘schemes’ to address them. Kind of like he is always looking for magic line combos.

    Yet, I am confident enough in my ignorance to also accept that the problem could be that Lowe and co have overlooked headcaseness and/or streakyness in selecting players and as a result we have a gong show of an effort every third night.

    I would love, just love, to have an open and honest sit down with a few of the players (lets say Roli, Gags, and Cole) and have them tell me how they honestly see it.

    Part of me thinks that they would say “Its like MacT has lost his mind and is acting like a mad scientist”, whereas the other part thinks they might say “MacT is an excellent coach, but we have some players with real work ethic problems”.

    So, maybe someone out there can take their Oiler buddy out for a beer and get the real scoop for us so that we dont have to stress anymore.

    I too would love to see MacT, the Oilers, and Lowe turn it around and make this thing happen. Maybe it will only take one or two smart trades. I don’t think it is as bad as it seems.

    to be honest, I dont know though…

  7. Scott says:

    Funny, I guess we were all saps at the beginning of the season when we thought this team was not going to suck.

    This is a gross exaggeration. Tyler predicted that the team would finish with about the same amount of points as last season. Matt picked the Oilers to finish dead last in the division. Both Black Dog and LT suggested a low playoff seed. I think that this team is playing at expectations.

    As for players that MacT trusts, I think he trusts quite a few guys actually. He clearly trusts Roloson. On D he trusts Souray, Gilbert and Staios and all his quotes on Strudwick seem to indicate that he trusts him too. At forward it gets dicey. I’d say he trusts Hemsky, Horcoff, Pisani and Moreau. I don’t think anyone else gets the benefit of the doubt with the possible exception of Gagner, though it would be a stretch to call that trust.

  8. Doogie2K says:

    This is a gross exaggeration. Tyler predicted that the team would finish with about the same amount of points as last season. Matt picked the Oilers to finish dead last in the division. Both Black Dog and LT suggested a low playoff seed. I think that this team is playing at expectations.

    Exactly. They look like underachievers at times, but they’re really within a point of exactly where we optimists said they would be (I had them at 7th; they’re currently in a four-way for that exact spot, but seed 9th due to GP). Now whether this means that this is the sort of thing we should have anticipated — the shit PK, the injuries, the imbalance and subsequent blending of the lines, the sophomore slump(s), the weird benchings — or whether it means that this team could be within hailing distance of the division if they just had a couple of things go right is another debate entirely.

  9. Asiaoil says:

    Blame…lots to go around.

    The GM(s) created holes in the summer that were easily filled but chose not too – and still haven’t done a damn thing as the obvious problems created in the summer festered like a dead cat on an Arizona highway. Sleepy Steve and Lowe-Brow will likely wake up a bit over the weekend which is far too late and then it’s back to doing nothing until the draft. Do we even have a GM in-season?

    Coach plays favorites, can’t motivate anyone he doesn’t personally like, in-game strategy way worse than normal, goaltending decisions are brutal as usual, looks like he doesn’t give a crap.

    Team leadership is old, mediocre, arrogant and hasn’t “led” anywhere except to the bottom of the standings every year. Moreau and his wingman Stevie needed to be dumped ASAP.

    Could go on but why bother this year….

  10. Mark says:

    I think there’s a significant argument that could be made that even without making the playoffs this year that things look fairly bright in the future.

    Gilbert looks to be the real deal.(in a 3rd defenseman sense)

    Visnovsky and Souray are a very capable 1-2 punch on defence.

    Smid looks to be a solid 4-5 dman and I still believe Staios can play fairly well as number 6.(I keep Staios any day over moreau which is really an indictment of moreau. I only say this because they are always linked when people complain and I think there is a world of difference.)

    for next year, all we need to look for is a 4th Dman and I think Grebs is still very plausible.

    Cogliano and Gagner are still very young, contributing more than a lot of players their age and I think we can expect improvement from them in the future. Even though they have only been in the league for two seasons, have already put up nearly 50 points and we can say that this is an off-year. We will know next year.

    Hemsky is all world. Horcoff is overpaid but very solid. Pisani is solid. Brodziak is a player.

    My only real complaint would be losing Cole. I think Cogliano, Gagner, and Cole can be a solid second line. Nilsson is not a second line player and I think a comparison to Rob Schremp is not far off. The difference being Nilsson has to play because he was part of an integral trade and the “fans” need to see evidence of return.

    Penner is decent for a second liner as well.

    All in all, we aren’t the NY Islanders and we aren’t the Senators. (both have very few quality prospects and both have shown very little on their current rosters)

  11. Ribs says:

    Fire LT!

  12. Steve says:

    Fire LT!

    He’s lost the comments section.

  13. Mark says:

    Speaking of Ottawa. They’ve got the line out for a new goaltender. Jason Spezza’s brother. The answer to all their problems. It’s on the TSN video list.

  14. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    I believe the optimist among us has a tag line on his blog that still reads “Second in the NW and 6th in the Conference. Book it”

  15. mjsh says:

    i agree that there are a lot of good pieces on this group of players. What is missing is the willingness to battle. No heart, no soul, no team. I can only think of two or three games the whole year that they played with heart. I think if some one had that chat with a couple key guys that the finger would get pointed to a cancer of some sort in the room.

    Maybe it the captain with the moronic penalties, maybe it is the young guys partying too much but there is something that makes them do nothing when their most valuable player is run like last night. There is something that makes them sleepwalk through games like both games this week.

    We have seen enough flashes to know that Hemsky can be all world, that Gilbert, Gregs, cogs, and even Nillson can be players. That Cole is a player, that Pisani is a player that Penner can be a player and yet we do not see it very often. If I was the GM I would be puzzled too.

    I am in the car business and we had a saleman who sold less than half the cars I did but had so much more talent than me it was a shame. The few days a month that he was on, he was incredible. The problem was it was only a couple days a month.
    That so much reminds me of this oilers team. They are rarely on.

  16. rickibear says:

    Horcoff is overpaid but very solid.

    Nilsson is not a second line player and I think a comparison to Rob Schremp is not far off.

    Penner is decent for a second liner as well.

    Mark Educate yourself!

    Go to behind the net. And check the players at each position ( LW, C, RW, & D) who are better than league average for players in all three categories:
    QuaL Comp -.1 or better
    Outscoring (+-/60) -.1 or better
    Corsi -.15 or better.

    1.This is set for 10 min TOI; 40 games played; All teams; All positions.

    http://www.behindthenet.ca/2008/5_on_5.php?sort=28&mingp=40&mintoi=10&team=ALL&pos=ALL

    2.Open up a seperate excel page and make sure you have 4 tabs. Rename them LW, C, RW, & D

    3. Go to each position and use the Qual Comp as the first sort. Copy the data for position that is -.1 or better and paste them in there own position tabs.

    4. Do a data sort on each Position using: (a) corsi descending. delete the rows worse than -.15
    (b) +-/60 descending. Delete the rows worse than -.1

    you will end up with very small lists of players who: face average to tough competition, outscores ther opponents, drive play in the correct direction. sounds like a 1st line player to me.

    I suspect you will end up with a list of less than 30 players at each forward position and less than 50 at the D position.

    5. Tell me which Oilers players are on the list.

    6.Then look at just the oilers and see who is close to covering the bet at all three and will still have time to develop rather than being old and on the way down.

    This should be the base of our team going ahead.

  17. Dennis says:

    I love listening to MacT’s off-day comments – the spiels that go like 9 or 10 min – and a lot of times you felt like you could follow along with him or you could see what’s coming and I like predictability.

    But I’ve seen enough now and it’s not like a coaching change would kill us.

    LT’s balance comment holds a lot of water and I can get behind that. But you still gotta get the most out of what you have and I don’t see that anymore from MacT.

    1. the way he dealt with 27. he gave him a kick and that was cool with me but you gotta play him based on what he does compared to what else you have to work with. Sure, he’s overpaid and it doesn’t look like he works hard all the time but the alternatives are lesser. accept it and move on with it.

    Note: not to get off-topic here but looking at the way MacT’s dealt with 5 and 27 this year, it’s almost like he’s rebelling against Lowe’s moves. Call me crazy but in his third season in the league, MacT’s benching 5 for 43 and he’s whipping 27 to boot. It makes you think. And to add to that, not sure where I read this but he also mentioned something recently about how he’s working 10 and how tough it is not to have another match-up centre. All that stuff makes me think it’s just time for him to go.

    - 85 over 78 and not letting 78 play pivot. I know I know;) but you’ve got one guy with close to 125 GP – I’m just taking a guess – and the other guy comes up and looks like he’s working harder because he’s smaller and viola he’s on the first line and eventually the other guy’s in the pressbox while 33 plays. Not to mention a lifelong centre all of a sudden isn’t fit to Play centre but 13 can get beaten all day of faceoffs.

    - the PP. who’s been here for the longest time? that’s the guy we can blame for the PP.

    - the PK. how long did the Oilers fuck around this year Not using the old plan of down-ice pressuring? and as soon as they did, they got better. but they still didn’t go back to blocking shots.

    He’s picking strange hills to die on and we always miss the playoffs anyway.

    I don’t want a guy out of work but what do we have to lose?

  18. rickibear says:

    You could just look at the oilers List to generate the oilers that achieve this. But the list at each position gives you an idea of desirables for trade at each position.

    Dawes LW
    Malhotra, Cullen C
    Armstrong RW

    Anyone.

  19. Mark says:

    @rickibear

    well we have Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner, Grebs, Visnovsky, and Penner.

    O guess you could make the argument that Vis and Horcoff are too old but they 35 and over.

    however Gagner and Penner surprised me a little. I guess just their optics are horrible.

    Gilberts in the wings(-corsi)
    Cole is losing the +/- race(I don’t think he’s back anyways.

  20. PunjabiOil says:

    The Oilers would be nuts not to pick up Sean Avery, who is rumored to be going on re-entry waivers.

    We would have priority over the Rangers, who are already licking their chops. At 2M, this guy is a steal – this is where you can look at moving Moreau, and upgrading the process.

    Will it happen? No.

  21. Coach pb9617 says:

    Armstrong RW

    Yes please! I’ve been on that bandwagon for two years.

    LT,

    Come summer, as is often the case, the wrong man is probably going to walk the plank

    If the coach is the wrong man as you suggest, keeping him means you have to get rid of JDD, Penner, one of Cogs or Gagner, Pouliot, Smid and Nilsson.

  22. Mark says:

    Also of note:
    18 teams have at least 1 dman in this list. 9 have 2 or more. We have 2. WE could say we are in the top third.

    17 teams have at least 1 Center in this list. 8 have 2 or more.
    We have 2. Again top third in the league

    17 teams have at least 1 right winger in this list. 8 have 2 or more. we have 1. We can say top half in this case.

    14 teams have at least 1 left winger. 7 have 2 or more. We have 1. top half of the league.

    questions:
    what does losing Visnovsky for a third of the season mean?

    What is wrong with a team that has enough talent to be in the top half of the league?

  23. Lowetide says:

    Coach: It’s likely several of those players are gone anyway.

  24. Dennis says:

    71′s our best D but we already knew that.

    Here’s the storyline for tomorrow.

    37′s coming off IR so that will give us 15 F, 8 D and 2 G and that means we’re one over the limit.

    We have waiver rights on both 49 and 85 so either or would be the easiest move.

    So it’s either that or we make a deal.

  25. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Word from CHED tonight that 78 will be playing on the second line tomorrow.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  26. Hoos says:

    The issue I see before me is this: Mac T needs guys to play HIS system; and he and Lowe may not be in the same head space as to what the horrible term “Oiler’s Hockey” should be.

    When I look around the NHL, coaches like Babcock and Ruff can mold the style of game their team plays to their personnel. The Cup run Sabers aren’t the Sabers we see today, but the coach and GM are both the same. Babcock’s Ducks aren’t the same as his Wings, but MAYBE he looked at the team he had in front of him and changed his style of play.

    Even in the “gap filled” ’06 SCR, did Mac T do anything unexpected except ere on the side of passive defensive minded hockey? Is that the game he wants to see? Mac T and Hitchcock are cut from the same cloth in mentality, at least I think, and we’ve seen what happened (and is happening to Hitch). It doesn’t mean that Hitch is a bad coach, it just means that maybe he gets played out like any song that a 12 year old girl likes. Over and over until you can’t hear another note of it.

    Mac T constantly talks about important things: “it’s what you leave”, “consistency”, “competitiveness” and such, but the bottom line for me is that I think that he believes there is one way to win hockey games and it’s his way. Do we have any evidence to disagree? Those players that don’t necessary fit the Mac T ideals are treated in a dismissive manner. If putting them in a position to succeed means changing something about the Mac T method, then too bad. YOU change, not me.

    Further, being a guy in my 20s, the public lashings that my friends receive would work against my engagement, and I might throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Most of the time I think the criticism of Mac T is too harsh and a lot of things said may be unjustified It’s stopped me from listening to the radio call in shows. But on this point I am sure … Mac T does not change his ideas. They might work somewhere (and we’ve seen them work at times). BUT, these are not the camels he needs to take him to the promise land; they’re stallions that need and love to run.

  27. knighttown says:

    LT, I still can’t get behind this line:

    There was always either a huge hole on the blue or question marks in goal or three young centermen.

    The other years there were glaring holes, but 3rd line center in 2008-09 is not near at the “glaring” level. People forget just how bad Stoll and Reasoner were last year and for Lowe to think their performance could be replaced by some combination of 78, 51, 67, 13 and 89 does not seem out to lunch. Probably thought “51 may struggle against the 2nd toughs but 89 and 13 will eat up the soft parade”. I’d have bought that. But instead we got 34 out of the gates at “toughs” center and a regression (of sorts) for 89 and a guy in 13 who starts every shift chasing the puck.

    The Edmonton Oilers are basically a Cap team. If we agree there are no AWFUL overpays like Gomez and Drury, and a few bargains (Hemsky, kids, Grebs) then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the Oilers employ some excellent hockey players?

    I can concede they are shallow at center but if the above presumption is true, then they must be deep somewhere else, right?

    Top 8 Defense:
    1. Visnovsky
    2. Souray
    3. Gilbert
    4. Grebeshkov
    5. Smid
    6. Staois
    7. Strudwick
    8. Peckham

    vs. the East leading Bruins:
    1. Z. Chara
    2. D. Wideman
    3. A. Ference
    4. M. Lashoff
    5. M. Hunwick
    6. A. Ward
    7. S. Hnidy
    8. M. Stuart
    To be honest, that looks like a lot of filler and youth after BIg Z and look, three kids playing KEY minutes in a position every bit as important as 3rd line center.

    Only Detroit and San Jose have pocket Aces so the rest of the teams have to make something on the flop. Based on the Oilers D/F mix, I’d say they were dealt A-10 and MacTavish made some stupid bets and now he’s down to his Toby Peterson Underoos and it’s not a pretty sight.

  28. bookie says:

    Note: not to get off-topic here but looking at the way MacT’s dealt with 5 and 27 this year, it’s almost like he’s rebelling against Lowe’s moves.

    Thats sometimes what I think…

    I also want to reiterate that I said that many of us thought that this team would not suck. 6th is not really sucking. I also think a little perspective is in line given that we are not 16, but rather 3 points out of a playoff spot.

    Is there any room for a “Clap Clap” anywhere in these comments?

  29. Coach pb9617 says:

    Coach: It’s likely several of those players are gone anyway.

    Rightly or wrongly?

  30. Lowetide says:

    hoos: I think these guys can play the system, eventually. Hell even Nilsson has really improved his play when not is possession of the puck over these last two seasons. The problems have to do with youth, mostly consistency.

    Has any NW team broken in as many kids as the Oilers? While Calgary has been rolling out long in the tooth wingers and mid-level free agents, Edmonton has been paying the price and introducing new talent for churn.

    It takes a toll.

    knighttown: Stoll and Reasoner were bad because the kids were playing the soft parade and Horcoff was hurt. They were not only heavy lifting, but doing it on a tightrope with sniper fire. Vic did a thing on that season I believe and those two guys had no chance for success based on the workload.

  31. Coach pb9617 says:

    Word from CHED tonight that 78 will be playing on the second line tomorrow.

    Robert Nilsson is to blame for the team’s performance in the last two weeks.

  32. Lowetide says:

    Coach: I think MacT has been blind on Penner. The guys is a good hockey player, and this is coming from a guy who hated the signing.

    I think they tried to work in way too many kids in 2006-2008. It would have been much better to let Cogs play as a rookie in 07-08 and perhaps Gagner this season.

    All of those at-bats given to kids (plus Nilsson and Pouliot and the others) basically meant school was in.

  33. knighttown says:

    Word from CHED tonight that 78 will be playing on the second line tomorrow.

    Draw your own conclusions.

    The conclusion that I draw is that Robert Nilsson is sitting in the press box and frankly, that pisses me off. In my world, if you ask a guy to commit to playing better away from the puck and he busts his ass to lave a sure goal and throws his tiny body at people even though he knows it’s ineffective, than for fuck sakes, give him some props in the media. Lord knows he took enough beats. Now he gets pulled and Sam-visible gets to stay. Just blatantly unfair.

    I’ve got no problem sitting 12 from time to time when the light goes off and from a production point of view it could be justifiable, but I see honest to goodness effort and if we’re going by results than there are others that can take a turn.

    Always playing: 83, 10, 26, 27
    There are no other players that are legit Top sixers so go with the hot hand in this order: 13, 89, 12, 51, 34, 18, 46, 78, 85, 33 depending on need.

  34. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    The conclusion that I draw is that Robert Nilsson is sitting in the press box and frankly, that pisses me off. In my world, if you ask a guy to commit to playing better away from the puck and he busts his ass to lave a sure goal and throws his tiny body at people even though he knows it’s ineffective, than for fuck sakes, give him some props in the media. Lord knows he took enough beats. Now he gets pulled and Sam-visible gets to stay. Just blatantly unfair.

    I have to agree. There were only a couple of players that broke a sweat last night and Rowbert was one of them.

  35. Coach pb9617 says:

    The Oilers team video for this year is going to show nothing but Penner and Nilsson errors.

    It’s their fault, after all.

  36. Hoos says:

    LT: So, knowing that there was yet another year of the influx of kids, coupled with the knowledge that Mac T has frequently, over the course of his tenure used young players … why the hell would he set the expectation for the season so high in such a public manner?

    I do think that Mac T’s stress on play without the puck is important, but overall is he making BEST use of the assets on his team? Can he get the best from his players in a system that plays to their strengths? I’m starting to question this. It’s easier with veteran players because their ceilings are well defined and their floors are regulated by their knowledge of what it takes to stay in the league. Nilsson is the prime candidate on younger players not knowing their ceiling of floor.

    One of my issues is that Mac T has blinders on sometimes when it comes to talent evaluation. You admit that he’s missing the boat with Penner. There’s countless posts on her from fans questioning 34 as a centre and where 78 plays and who plays in front of who … I won’t rehash it.

    There’s lots of evidence to show in the past that Mac T knew who a player was and wasn’t (i.e., Rita). Does he still have this skill? Was it over rated? Was it a fluke?

    To me, it seems like a lot of his bets are not covering (Hedja, for instance). Thoughts?

  37. knighttown says:

    If you’re looking for proof that this team should sell or hold, I did some digging. I often hear people say how maddening the Oilers are; they win the games they should lose and lose the games they should win. I assume this is a perception of most fans but if there is truth to it than I can get behind a buy of some sort. The though is that if a team is good enough to beat any team in the NHL on any given night then they could be one of those dangerous teams no one wants to face in the first round.

    Except, since Dec 11 here is the Edmonton Oilers record against teams ahead of them in the standings:

    6-16
    and they only elite team of those 6 wins is Washington. The others are fighting to make the playoffs (Van x2, CBJ, MIn, Mon)

    The Oilers record against teams below them?

    11-2

    The only really weak losses have come against Ottawa and Nashville.

    Get your head wrapped around this statement. “The Edmonton Oilers are consistent!” They beat who they should beat and lose to good teams nearly every time. You DO NOT add a piece at the expense of the future to earn the right to lose in the first round, badly.

    You remember last year when the Penguins lost on purpose against Philly on the last day of the year to avoid the Flyers and face the Sens? I’d bet teams trip all over themselves to get a matchup against the Oilers and avoid Dallas, Anaheim or Columbus. I would.

  38. Oilman says:

    The Oilers would be nuts not to pick up Sean Avery, who is rumored to be going on re-entry waivers.

    We would have priority over the Rangers, who are already licking their chops. At 2M, this guy is a steal – this is where you can look at moving Moreau, and upgrading the process.

    Will it happen? No.

    Funny you should say that:o)

  39. knighttown says:

    The Oilers team video for this year is going to show nothing but Penner and Nilsson errors.

    SPOILER ALERT****

    There’s a five minutes segment that breaks down Pouliot’s game losing give away the other night against San Jose in painfully slow motion. I think Mac-T does the narration and he keeps it simple, with a long, anguished noooooooooooooooooooo!

  40. Alice says:

    Why isn’t the guess that 89′s going to sit this one if 78′s going there. Sounds like he had a pretty dismal outting and a tour of the rafters wouldn’t do a bit of harm. Esp if 12′s actually busting it, which is like catnip for MacT

    LT: Nobody picked up on your lyric!

    /You’re restless baby
    The good is gone from your eyes/

    I actually pulled down a couple of Southside tunes last fall, as the older boy has hit HS and playing horns in music class. Didn’t seem as good as I remembered them, maybe they were an 8th place team too ~

  41. Coach pb9617 says:

    Nilsson in the PB is hilarious. The coach has been out of answers for a long time and this is all he can do? Penner benched, Nilsson to the PB. Nilsson benched, Penner to the 4th line, Nilsson to the 4th line, Penner benched.

    Good job Craig, keep motivating them. If only the whole team would understand that it’s all Penner and Nilsson’s fault, they’d play better. I bet Ethan will only take one asinine offensive zone penalty tomorrow, and whatever system it is that you’re running will work. I bet Cogliano will win 52% of his faceoffs and the penalty kill and power play will fix themselves.

    If only everyone will see it’s Penner and Nilsson’s fault. If only. Maybe a bag skate of Penner, Nilsson and Brodziak will get it done, big boy.

  42. Dennis says:

    - 78 on the second line could mean a lot of things. Things like:

    - it’s a 78 showcase
    - another kick in the ass for 12
    - 12′s on his way out.

    I think 12′s been hitting the ball hard now for a few games. Not sure how long ago I started making special notations for the actual guys who had the Oil’s scoring chances but it seems like 12′s showing up every night. Kid’s not scoring but I’d take him to have a bounceback year close to 50 points next season. Now, if we could dump 24 and then move 12 for a dman to replace 24, it would all work out. But to finger 12 specifically as a problem isn’t an idea I can get around.

    KT: LT nailed it best when he said that 16-19 didn’t have a fucking chance last year. I hang nothing on them for last year because they’d need a strong back to do anything but sag. And now 16′s back and 19′s playing in a shit division but he was +4 in actual plus/minus the last time I checked. Plus, you are a smart guy but not many of us would’ve picked fellows like 13 or 67 to be able to play the role currently being held by 13. the early pick seemed to be reuniting the 18-78-34 line considering some of those combos have had chem

    - Oilman: LT and myself have been on the Avery train for a long time now. 1.85 mill? That could be an unreal bargain.

  43. Dennis says:

    KT: nice job assembling those stats vs the best and worst teams.

    given the record so far, how should the Oilers fare in their last 21 games>?

  44. Bank Shot says:

    The thing that bugs me is that every short term problem turns into a season long one.

    The PK never gets better, they still stink at home, none of the slumping players go on a big tear to salvage their season, Moreau just keeps taking penalties, the forwards keep drop passing their way into the loss column.

    Isn’t the coach supposed to identify these things and correct them? You’ll hear Mact say “I told them this would happen” after games here and there, but there never seem to be any solutions.

    Lowe’s not doing him any favours with his changing team philosophy more then Darrly Sutter changes his shorts, and throwing away useful players for no reason. Even still, I don’t think anyone can say that Mactavish is wearing the white hat in all this.

  45. Traktor says:

    re: Stoll and Reasoner didn’t have a chance last year

    If this is true, and they didn’t have any chance of success then couldn’t anyone not have success?

    Couldn’t Brodziak and Pouliot be fed to the wolves and bled goals just like Reasoner and Stoll?

    Seems like common sense to me. Instead we convert Pisani and try and turn Cogs into Marchant while Gagner, Nilsson and Cole are all floundering in a scoring role.

    Excellent coaching! Yes!

  46. bookie says:

    I often hear people say how maddening the Oilers are; they win the games they should lose and lose the games they should win.

    Your stats bear out that this is not the case and I haven’t felt it was the case this year. In past years it was true, but not this year. THats what really bothers me about this year is the overt mediocrity…

  47. Woodguy says:

    .

    given the record so far, how should the Oilers fare in their last 21 games>?

    Going by KT’s metric, the Oilers get 24pts in the last 21 games of the season.

    That puts them at 7 games over .500 and 89 points.

    Coinflip if its enough for two more games at Rexall.

  48. Icecastles says:

    Great post, LT. When my friends complain that hockey is boorish and illiterate, I often point to your blog as evidence to the contrary.

    On a different topic, since we are talking about placing blame (ironic, since I agree wholeheartedly that for now, blame is irrelevant since for at least the next game, we have what we have and that’s not going to change in 24 hours).

    I was listening to Overtime Open Line after the Thursday game and fond myself becoming increasingly furious with Dan Tencer. A caller had made an analogy about hockey to a classroom, and the notion that the team seams to want to keep changing the students, thinking that the teacher will better reach a different group, rather than accepting that the current teacher (ie: MacT) just has nothing left to teach them or at least no way to communicate his knowledge.

    Tencer’s response: “Maybe the students are just stupid.” For a long time, I believed some flavor of this. There are bad players. There are players who just never quite fit with a team culture. There are players who have an off-year. The problem comes when the only way to believe the “stupid student” theory is to believe that not only are the majority of your class retarded, but that
    (a) They looked pretty good to you when you drafted/traded for them, and many of them have had perfectly respectable years before coming here, and perfectly respectable years after.

    Could Gagner just be a bust who never develops like we thought he would? Sure, it’s possible, however unlikely. But is it likely that Gagner, Cogliano, Nilson, Pouliot, and on down the line all have the same flaw? Well either we have the worst scouts in the world, or there is another cause. Penner, Lupul, Pitkanen and Cole (to name a few) came to Edmonton with all the expectation in the world on them not due only to potential (though with Lupul and Penner they were admittedly still somewhat unproven) but to results demonstrated at the NHL level. Lupul, Stoll and (to a lesser extent) Pitkanen are not looking nearly as bad with other teams as they did here.

    There comes a point when you have to isolate the variables and determine what the one constant is with so many players performing so poorly. And that constant seems to be that in this team’s culture (thus, this coach’s culture), players do not perform as well as they could.

    Nearly every team has holes. Not every team has superstars.To blame our lack of success on these things is to fail to examine the success and failure of other teams that can provide context. Good strategy, good leadership and good coaching *can* make up for the holes, to some extent by masking weaknesses, building on what strengths there are, and getting genuine buy-in and commitment from everyone in a dressing room.

    Boston is the number two team in the league right now and who on this blog expected that with the talent pool they currently have? It’s a good team, but I couldn’t even name more than three Bruins at the start of the season. One could argue that Chara is a bona fide superstar, but I don’t know that he is an any more likely one than, say, Ales Hemsky who, while I hope we never find out, might well be a 90-100 point player on a different team.

    We have become so accustomed to mediocrity in Edmonton that we have become masters of selective vision and revisionist history when we explain away the teams’ shortcomings. But a truly winning team doesn’t look at weakness and use it to explain failure. They look at weakness and seize upon it as an opportunity to overcome it, to move beyond it, and to get better.

  49. hunter1909 says:

    MacT blatantly plays favorites. Fine and wonderful, so long as you’re one of them. Otherwise, no matter how well you play, you’re on the outside looking in.

    This all by itself is enough for me to want him canned.

  50. Icecastles says:

    Holy shit that was a long post. Sorry, everybody.

    Reader’s Digest version: there have been too many failure stories here in the past few years to keep blaming individual players, or anything other than the culture, which is a product of the coaching. The management team needs to accept that every team has holes and commit to overcoming them with smart play and team unity rather than making excuses and accepting mediocrity.

  51. godot10 says:

    I believe MacT is a good coach, but he has made some really bad decisions this year that have “shattered” my confidence in him.

    Penner is NOT the problem with this team, and I think it is abominable that he has been scapegoated.

    The defense of Moreau’s lack of discipline by MacT is incomprehensible.

    MacT has made one atrocious personnel decision in each of the last two seasons. Hejda and Glencross.

    But in the end what it comes down too is that there are too many young players for MacT’s way of doing things. I don’t think there are too many young players, but too many young players for MacT. This season has revealed this limitation/weakness.

    There are more young players coming. So I sort of think that although MacT is a good coach, he is no longer the right coach for the Oilers.

  52. Coach pb9617 says:

    It’s unanimous – Craig MacTavish is the modern day John McGraw.

  53. hunter1909 says:

    Does anyone remember the pre-CBA days, when we were told that even though the Oilers blew, the future was rosy, because the men in charge, unburdened by money worries, were going to deliver a great hockey team?

    Well, where is the great hockey team?

    Answer: The guys in charge of the Oilers were actually more suited for running a second rate franchise, than the great one they promised.

  54. HBomb says:

    If Nilsson is taking an HS after last night and (as such) being “blamed” for what happened against Columbus, that’s fucking bullshit.

    No forward was particularly good, but Nilsson put in a good effort. The guy has been working hard the past month, and if he’s the guy taking shit for the worst Oiler game of the season, MacT needs to go now, because he’s out to lunch.

  55. Asiaoil says:

    MacT has been getting more out to lunch for a while now. A coach’s job is to motivate and get the best out of individual players. The best coaches “find a way” to work with players and have a lot of positive tools help guys get into a position to succeed. The worst only use fear, punishment and negative reinforcement to try force results. Guys either break or perform – but you lose a lot of guys like that and even the performance is short-term until players “tune out”.

    So irrespective of what the MacT apologists say – although he’s a decent technical coach – he’s never been a particularly good motivator and this year he’s been downright horrible in that area. It’s half the job and MacT gets a clear F in that area and he’s getting worse. If he’s back next year expect more of the same mediocre results.

  56. NBOilerFan says:

    MacT is definitely not the only one to blame here, Lowe has made plenty of errors the past couple years.

    I really have only had one real beef with MacT before this year and that being the “McBlender” thing where I felt he was never patient enough to let a team work through some erros and poor play to generate chemistry. It isn’t always immediate chemistry.

    However, I also think MacT has made far to many strange coaching decision this year and to me seem like he is out of ideas or just doesn’t know how to work with these players. I don’t think that necessarily we will improve with a new coach, but I think sometimes you just need some fresh ideas and philosophy’s.

    MacT seems to have hit a wall and IMO its time for a change… but my fear is that they just put Bucky in the spot which is teh next mistake Lowe will make.

    FYI – I think picking up Avery would be a great move. Yes, he is a handful off ice, but if you want a player who shows you for every game, Avery is it. There was not a Rangers game I watched that Avery was not giving 110% and was almost always a factor in a game. He is hard to contain for opposing teams.

  57. Lowetide says:

    Alice: Southside Johnny’s studio stuff never caught those horns properly imo. Springsteen did a version of Hearts of Stone and there’s some nice sax in there but SS did the better version.

    A great 3AM song btw.

  58. devin says:

    You remember last year when the Penguins lost on purpose against Philly on the last day of the year to avoid the Flyers and face the Sens?

    I guess you weren’t watching that game – the Pens soundly outchanced the Flyers all game and got unlucky, that’s all. Why would they have been worried about the Flyers, they beat them in 5 anyway. These little “stories” grow legs for whatever reason, but they are BS where they start and BS now.

  59. Chris says:

    I think MacT has run his course here. He’s given us alot of good years. On the other hand he doesn’t seem to be suiting to managing a team of this nature and his coaching has at time been bizarre.

    The way he’s handled Penner, Nilson and Smid while throwing Gagner out there game after game regardless of how horribly he plays is baffling. I’d be fine with the benchings at least if there was some consistency to it. If Moreau was thrown up in the press box for his stupid selfish penalties late in close games, and if Gagner was sat simply because as a soft minutes centre his production is aweful at least then I could say there was some method to this approach.

    Instead we have a coach playing favourites and failing to make obvious acknowledgements of fact. Penner is the best option on the first line, Smid should be in the line up (and as a defenseman). Pouliot or Brodziak should be given an extended audition as a third line centre as their skillsets make them the most obvious candidates.

    Were it up to me I’d be handing MacTavish a gold watch and seeing how quickly Tom Renney could pack his bags. We still have a shot at the post season, you really can’t make wholesale changes to the team but you can change the coach in relatively short order.

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