Don’t Let Go The Coat

If Craig MacTavish were a songwriter he’d be Pete Townshend. Clearly smarter than the other brains of his generation (Lennon, for one), with a mind that enjoys the questions as much as the answers. Some of his seasons have been massive highs and terrible lows (Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy), 2005-06 was clearly “Who’s Next” and this past season was probably “The Who By Numbers.” One of the songs from that album is called “Slip Kid” and includes the line “Slip kid, slip kid, second generation, You’re slidin down the hill like me, No easy way to be free.”

Which is where I think Craig MacTavish is right now. The things he knows to be true appear to have failed him this season, to the point where he (according to the Journal today) will resign on Sunday.

I’ll be interested to see where he lands. His main strengths (even strength hockey, with his best teams also PK demons) will no doubt get the desired results in his new town. The new GM should make sure there are enough veterans, that there is balance on the roster and that development doesn’t become the main goal of a season.

I think that’s the lesson for Craig MacTavish post-2006: there is a point when juggling kids becomes impossible because there aren’t enough actual NHL players to bail them out while they learn on the job.

Balance. Veterans. It’s been awhile since Craig MacTavish had those things. And if clarity is a strength of Craig MacTavish (and it most certainly is), then is it also a strength of this organization?

We’ll see. Should MacT resign on Sunday the Oilers need to find a replacement in the next 8 weeks or so. One would hope they have a list of requirements and perhaps an early draft of the people they’d like to talk to in the next couple of weeks.

Do we think that’s the case? Based on how quickly this thing fell apart and the verbal from management and ownership the preceeded it, I’m beginning to worry if the Edmonton Oilers even have a plan. Part of me suspects Katz puts full stop on the resignation before Sunday.

And worry has been a consistent part of being an Edmonton Oiler fan this decade. Craig MacTavish was one of the things we could hold on to, as an intelligent, rational individual who had a plan. Stubborn? You bet. Perfect? Not a chance.

When he walks away Craig MacTavish will have no problem telling people what he stands for, the things that he values, the mission statement for his coaching philosophy and the tools needed for the long road ahead. What can we say about the Edmonton Oilers without him? The strongest personality in the organization is walking toward the exit and there’s a chance those he leaves behind haven’t a clue about how to go about the business of replacing him.

This team has been porridge since summer 2006. Kevin Lowe traded Chris Pronger for kids and then neglected to use the saved money on experienced hands who could pick up the slack for the Pronger loss (and that of Spacek and Tarnstrom).

I can’t help feeling the nadir of this franchise is on the other side of Sunday.

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24 Responses to "Don’t Let Go The Coat"

  1. Highlander says:

    I am not a MacT hater. He is all that you give him credit for in your post but he has also been here a LONG time. He is, current tense, a good coach but his time with the Oil properly should come to an end if only to bring in a new perspective.

    I hope that they go outside the organization. Tom Renney is my first thought. I know others who really like Ted Nolan. There are rumours that Sutter might be leaving New Jersey.

    I’m not set on any one person, just the notion that for an organization to grow it needs to bring in new people who have different ideas, experiences and skills.

    If MacT does leave on Sunday, he would be welcomed into another organization quickly and will likely thrive in the new setting for the same reasons why I think that for the Oil he needs to go.

  2. rickibear says:

    We got a new engineering manager at work.

    The last three have tried to get everyone to fit into the same system. A lot of young people have been brought on in the past few years and they are sinking.

    The new manager knows the young guys and the senior Engineers and he has deligated certian roles to the seniors and asked the juniors to work in the areas of there strength. letting themstep slightly out of there skill set.

    Productivity and atmosphere has never been better.

    MacT used to do this. This year he asked senior Mech engs to do electrical work and Juniors to lead projects. Not good.

    Rob Daum Please!

    Hopefully the HR dept. fills the holes in staffing.

  3. Phil says:

    I am choosing, for the sake of hope, to disagree with your suspicions about the management’s lack of a plan, LT. I really do think that what JW hit on earlier is true; that they will hire a qualified replacement, and it will be further evidence that the team is migrating away from worshipping the heroes of the past.

    Thinking the alternative is true is just too depressing.

  4. bookie says:

    I have never understood those who absolutely hate MacT (or Lowe or even Eric Brewer for that matter), BUT I also don’t understand those who raise him to the levels of ‘one of the best coaches in the league’ etc…

    Why? His achievements are not that fantastic. While he cracks the odd witty comment (which I appreciate), I have never really thought of him as a great hockey mind. I, for one, am tired of 9 years of hearing ‘we just didn’t come out prepared to play’ or ‘we played well but made a few crucial mistakes’.

    With the exception of this year, this is the flavour of a Craig MacTavish team – When a game is unimportant, early in the season, or when the team is in a playoff spot – they play with no enthusiasm. The last 5 minutes of the game, the last 15 games of the season, and anytime they are in the playoffs, they play like a team possessed.

    When they are behind by a couple of goals, they ramp it up and play pretty good hockey, when they get ahead a goal, they shut down and lose all agressivness.

    His teams have the same pattern of inconsistency. Up when down and down when up. That has to have something to do with coaching.

    I believe that the Oilers would benefit if they had a coach who coached the game similarly when they were up a goal or down a goal. Not identically, but similarly. I think the Oiler’s coaching system has soooo many game plans that the players are not able to execute. This ain’t football.

    Some argue that MacT coached well, but that the primary problem with this team was that they were massively unbalanced. What part of that imbalance made them sleepwalk though about 120 periods of hockey this year?

    I think the guy is great, but I am not so convinced of the coach!

  5. Bank Shot says:

    Of course the Oilers have a plan, Lowe said it himself. Copy Detroit.

    In the lockout year, he talked about copying Philly, not sure who he was trying to emulate in 06-07 when he loaded up on forwards at the expense of defense. Seemed like a change of plan at that junction though.

    He also made a philosophical decision to turn his back on goonery, only to turn about face two years later.

    About the only consistent plan I’ve seen out of Lowe since the the lockout is that he likes to chase guys with alot of press clippings surrounding them, and he likes to continuosly change up the plan.

  6. Bank Shot says:

    Bookie- I’m with you on that. Mactavish looks like a replacement level coach to me.

  7. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    “Pinball Wizard” would seem to be an appropriate swan song for Lowe circa 2006.

    Since then, Zip A Dee Doo Da.

    That’s cricket talk for you younger folk.

  8. Jon says:

    Great post LT! I agree with what your saying, but MACT must go. You cannot miss the postseason this often and still have a job in any other organization.

    You are either selling wins or your selling hope and the fanbase has no hope with Mactavish behind the bench. Whether it is the right man for the canning or not is debateable but unless your Mike Shanahan in Denver, you do not last this long with such piss poor results.

    The names so far that I would consider realistic possiblities are
    Quinn, Renney, Scot Arniel, Geoff Ward, Rob Daum..any others I’m missing?

    At the risk of being scrutinized, I will throw one more name into the ring. John Paddock.

    He has been successful in the AHL and got a bum rap in Ottawa…just something to consider.

  9. pboy says:

    I have never understood those who absolutely hate MacT (or Lowe or even Eric Brewer for that matter), BUT I also don’t understand those who raise him to the levels of ‘one of the best coaches in the league’ etc…

    Why? His achievements are not that fantastic. While he cracks the odd witty comment (which I appreciate), I have never really thought of him as a great hockey mind. I, for one, am tired of 9 years of hearing ‘we just didn’t come out prepared to play’ or ‘we played well but made a few crucial mistakes’.

    With the exception of this year, this is the flavour of a Craig MacTavish team – When a game is unimportant, early in the season, or when the team is in a playoff spot – they play with no enthusiasm. The last 5 minutes of the game, the last 15 games of the season, and anytime they are in the playoffs, they play like a team possessed.

    When they are behind by a couple of goals, they ramp it up and play pretty good hockey, when they get ahead a goal, they shut down and lose all agressivness.

    His teams have the same pattern of inconsistency. Up when down and down when up. That has to have something to do with coaching.

    I believe that the Oilers would benefit if they had a coach who coached the game similarly when they were up a goal or down a goal. Not identically, but similarly. I think the Oiler’s coaching system has soooo many game plans that the players are not able to execute. This ain’t football.

    Some argue that MacT coached well, but that the primary problem with this team was that they were massively unbalanced. What part of that imbalance made them sleepwalk though about 120 periods of hockey this year?

    I think the guy is great, but I am not so convinced of the coach!

    I couldn’t have possibly put that as well as you did but it reflects my opinion almost to the letter.

  10. pboy says:

    Might have been the game of the year in Boston tonight. Montreal – Boston would be a fantastic 1st round matchup.

  11. Dennis says:

    - Kevin Lowe traded Chris Pronger for kids – read: magic beans.

    /fixed.

  12. hunter1909 says:

    This is an incestuous, corrupt, incompetant, second rate organisation.

    For the past near two decades they have been using excuses, to the point where suddenly losing a coach who after 8 seasons of embarassing mediocrity, and who hasn’t made the playoffs in 3 seasons?

    If MacTavish was in the music business, please stop comparing him to the greats. Compare Messier to the greats, not MacTavish.

    MacTavish you compare to a sideman from the Tonight Show band.

  13. Colby Cosh says:

    I gave Townshend a call. He had only this to say:

    “The music must change, for we’re chewing a bone.
    We soared like the sparrow hawk flied, then we dropped like a stone.
    Like the tide and the waves
    Growing slowly in range
    Crushing mountains as old as the Earth, so the music must change.”

  14. Quinn says:

    The return of the nadir. Doesn’t this organisation thrive on achieving new lows?

    I hope that the recent expressed opinions on the ability of Tambellini are correct. I would hate to see the return of those years of futility endured i the 90′s.

    On the other hand, a few judicious moves could have this team back in the playoffs as early as next year.

  15. oilerdago says:

    What’s also been interesting about the team this year is the lack of compete.

    I thought Dan Barnes article yesterday nailed it with the split in this team. Souray’s quotes also provided great insight into what really went on.

    You could see that by the middle of the year this team was not going to get there and the coach was losing his grip. The little run at the all-star break was a tease that was quickly squashed by Chicago – the game (debacle) that I think was the final straw for the coach with some of the players in the locker room (and vice versa).

    Roli gamely kept them in it to the finish, but as a team this group was done.

    I would not be surprised if the team took a step back next season but first things first, they need a man at the helm who can help them find their identity, who’ll hold their respect and get players to buy-in to the system that will make them successful.

    And I think in doing that, there will be 5 player changes at least (and one of our top 4 d-men will be traded to fill the hole in our top 6 forwards).

  16. godot10 says:

    //Kevin Lowe traded Chris Pronger for kids – read: magic beans.//

    MacT sat Hejda on the bench for 40 games and thought nothing of letting him walk.

    Kevin Lowe gave MacT a pretty good defense this year. MacT decided to play Studwick over Smid most of the time.

    There have to be some pretty serious communications problems between MacT and Lowe. How can one guy give Pouliot a two year contract when the other guy thinks he is crap. Pouliot’s contract meant Reasoner was NOT going to get one. Do these guys talk to each other?

    The things that made MacT good enough until recently was that he didn’t made mistakes on players, and that he had a top 10 PK. That tilted the balance in favor of the good MacT over the bad MacT. Well, the PK abandoned him. Did MacT turn over the PK to Buchberger? Cronyism over results?

    But where there is a mess on the roster today is as much MacT’s fault as is Lowe’s. Hejda, Glencross, Pouliot, Penner, Moreau.

    Penner has his flaws, but MacT refused to use him to his strengths. It was. I don’t like this guy. I’m going to throw him under the bus. Results (team results) be damned. He wasted Cole’s season because of it, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    With the horrid PK, Moreau was never held accountable for the bad penalties. It is one thing if one has a good PK. Okay. Let Ethan be Ethan. It is another if the damn PK is blowing up the teams’ season.

    If not for the emerging craziness, I had resolved myself to accepting the insane goaltender management and a horrible powerplay as part of the MacT package.

    I’m exceptionally glad that MacT was Gagner’s and Cogliano’s coach for their first two seasons. They are far more likely to be complete players because of it.

    But there was far too much bad MacT this year, and far too little good MacT.

    Lowe gave him a team (though flawed) that should have made the playoffs.

  17. James Gunner says:

    This is a happy day and you had to go and ruin it by thinking too much man.

    You’re like that battered wife who wonders where she’ll go and what she’ll do if she finally leaves her abusive husband. Life will be different, but we’ll all be okay LT.

    There are other people who know how to coach a hockey team, probably a lot better than MacT could. That’s what we’re going to find out. If you never try, you’ll never know.

    I think we’ve given MacT enough time.

  18. Jasper says:

    LT, I love your blogs but you gotta listen to James Gunner on this one. Sounds like a case of Stockholm syndrome around here.

  19. Dennis says:

    Even in today’s day and age I imagine there are some head coaches who don’t have a lot of say in who ends up on the roster. For instance, Howson and Hitch seem to have a great relationship but Hitch was befuddled when Howson brought up Filatov a week ago or so.

    With the Oilers we have read that MacT has a lot of input into personnel, so, if we consider that to be true then he holds a lot more blame than some would give him. Or maybe that’s the word so that all can shoulder the blame equally.

    Can anyone really figure any of this out?

    Honestly?

    And at some point you have to take some responsibility yourself and I believe MacT will come Tues or Wed. For instance, 78′s a pivot his whole career and he wins ~45% of his faceoffs. But it’s very late in the season before you let him take draws in 89′s stead and all bloody season you let 13 chime in at ~33%.

    So, do you do that as self-fufilling prophecy?

    Everything here doesn’t add up though in the case of 78 it might be that he’s the new Rita in that the GM wanted him on the club and the coach didn’t.

    Check on 78′s GF/GA from the time he was called up for the last road game vs CBJ. What seems telling to me is the Oilers racked up that impressive streak with a lot of one goal victories and SO wins so the GD wasn’t exactly great. Yet, I think 78 was something like 10/5 down the stretch. So, it was against lesser comp but those are good numbers when you look at overall GD.

    Yet, when effusive praise was being handed out in those now laughable and laudatory comments from Lowe and MacT last year, it took a lot to draw praise for 78 from MacT.

    So, it seems his mind was pretty much made up and it probably traces back to when he was sent out early in the ’08 season because at the end of ’07 I can dig up a quote that shows he was in the Oilers plans according to the skipper.

    But, things changed just as they did for 27. MacT handled Penner like he was the guy personally paying his contract./

  20. Dennis says:

    Oh, and before I forget, Happy Easter to all and let’s remember to try and be on our best behavior with all of our friends and family; even the ones that honestly don’t deserve it:D

    I’ll be checking in sometime tomorrow to read tonight’s GDT and I hope to be entertained:)

  21. Kyle says:

    I think his stubborness got the best of him this season, and while I don’t think the failure of this season was his fault I don’t think he helped either. He just wasn’t making ‘MacT’ like decisions this year.

    I still think he’s a great coach though. Maybe the Flames would pick him up after Keenan gets fired.

  22. dave says:

    I’m with LT, I’m nervous for the future. Any two of: Messier head coach, Jager and Rolli for 2 years and we are the Leafs. book it. And you know we could go 3 for 3 on that. one…

    Favourit MacT wittism would be this year with biting incident regarding player getting hungry towards the end of the game and asking if it happened in the third

  23. quain says:

    If MacT writes a book on this season I have to imagine it’s called “I Hate Kevin Lowe,” because a good portion of his moves only make sense if he’s sticking it to Lowe.

    But, really, can we stop bringing up every minor issue we have with his coaching? You can bang one drum and win the argument going away: special teams. They sucked. And not just ‘bad luck’ sucked, I mean underlying numbers sucked as we had two players in the bottom ten of SA/60 for the PK and three people in the bottom fifteen for SF/60 for the PP (Min GP: 40, Min PP/60: 3.00).

    If hockey were played entirely 5 on 5 this team would be in the playoffs so I can’t figure out why we obsess over who is taking faceoffs for who in the offensive zone. It’s like hating Fidel Castro because you don’t like the colour green.

  24. gogliano says:

    Well said Quain. Special teams killed this team.

    MacT has never been able to run a successful powerplay or one that matches the skill we can put out there.

    He has had success with PK units but this year he didn’t and when you add them both up in one year it pretty well killed the season.

    Perhaps we can blame the PK on personnel but the PP you can’t and so when the PK isn’t clicking it is hard to justify a PP that falters with Hemsky and Souray and Visnovsky.

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