Hockey’s Different Here (The Future Part 2)

This is Ray Kinasewich in the uniform of the Edmonton Flyers. In 1949 he was playing in the AJHL for the Edmonton Maple Leafs, before heading to Calgary to play for the Buffalos (spelling is correct, that was their name. Source SIHR) of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League.

He spent his final season of junior (1952) with the Edmonton Oil Kings and then graduated to the Edmonton Flyers (WHL) when turning pro. He would have played with Johnny Bucyk, Al Arbour, Lorne Davis, Bronco Horvath, Norm Ullman and Glenn Hall as a Flyer.

Kinasewich played pro in the WHL and AHL until the mid-60s, once spending an extended period with the legendary Guyle Fielder on a very productive line. At age 24 he scored 43 goals in the WHL and must have been at least considered a possibility for NHL time but it never came for him.

By the mid-60s his playing career was winding down and he caught on with the Edmonton Oil Kings again as coach. With Kinasewich behind the bench, the Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup in 1966. He then moved on to Houston (CPHL) and Salt Lake City (WHL) before being hired by Bill Hunter as the Edmonton Oilers (WHL) first head coach.

The early (WHA) Oilers were not blessed with great depth, and in fact Hunter fired Kinasewich after a 20-23-2 start to the 1972-73 season. Hunter would do the same thing to Brian Shaw and Clare Drake later on (fire them in the middle of a season) before Bep Guidolin and then Glen Sather settled the coaching situation and the Oilers would fold into the NHL (1979).

It might be an idea to list the Oilers NHL coaching history at this time:

  • 79-80 Glen Sather (28-39-13)
  • 80-81 Bryan Watson (4-9-5)
  • 80-89 Glen Sather (414-202-86)
  • 89-91 John Muckler (75-65-20)
  • 91-94 Ted Green (65-102-21)
  • 94-95 George Burnett (12-20-3)
  • 94-99 Ron Low (139-162-40)
  • 99-00 Kevin Lowe (32-34-16)
  • 00-09 Craig MacTavish (300-307-47)

OTL’s are counted in the L column above. Three coaches have taken the Oilers into the Stanley Cup Finals (Sather, Muckler, MacTavish) and all three would have to be considered quality NHL coaches. Watson and Green were respected assistants who were given the chance at the head job but didn’t succeed (Watson failed quickly, Green over a longer period) and George Burnett was the Tom Runnells of Oilers history. Ron Low was good enough to find NHL employment and Kevin Lowe could probably have had a career in coaching.

Craig MacTavish has been a good coach for the Edmonton Oilers. Some years were excellent, others good and this past season was a disappointment. It reminds me of the day I knew my wife had heard all my jokes and knew my delivery backward (which meant decades of working harder to make her laugh).

She picked me up in her 1986 Honda Prelude at CFRN (I was finishing a shift) and we were tooling down the road when I told her a joke Rod Phillips had told me that day:

  • Me: I heard a joke today.
  • She: Yeah?
  • Me: Two guys talking. First guy says “man, I cannot complete a sentence today.” Second guy: “Really, what do you mean?” First guy says “well, I’m sitting in my office on hold with Air Canada waiting for a live person to say hello. Muzak, muzak, muzak and then all of sudden ‘hi Air Canada can I help you?’ and she scared the daylights out of me. So instead of saying ‘I’d like two tickets to Pittsburgh’ I say ‘I’d like two pickets to Tittsburgh!” Second guy: “I hear you, brother. This morning I’m sitting with my wife and kids having breakfast and instead of saying ‘honey can you pass the sugar’ I say ‘you ruined my life you stupid bitch.’
  • She: Yeah. We need hamburger.

Right then I knew she’d seen my schtick enough to see it coming. So you either have to work harder to make her laugh, give up that part of your life, or find someone else.

That’s where the Edmonton Oilers are today.

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21 Responses to "Hockey’s Different Here (The Future Part 2)"

  1. jon k says:

    Since the day Pronger left town for Mexico, I don’t think there has been a coach in the NHL who has worked harder than MacT.

    We’ve seen him struggle to motivate inconsistent players through praise (Nilsson), disparagement (Penner), and healthy scratches (see above).

    We’ve also seen him struggle mightily with teams that start the season out of balance. There has not been a year since the lockout where the team didn’t have holes.

    It’s ultimately unfortunate that he’s leaving without ever getting a chance with a complete team again.

    Some of the blame falls on him though. He set the expectations perhaps too high by failing to respect the team’s weakness down the middle. And unfortunately one of the results of that was the perception amongst the fanbase that this was a team good enough to get into the playoffs.

    I don’t know if he’ll leave the organization. I do know that I’m not holding my breath on a new coach turning this team around.

    I’m waiting on roster changes for that.

  2. boopronger says:

    Ah thats gold jerry. The jokes not bad but the wise words at the end are pure gold.

  3. Alex says:

    I think the high point of MacT’s coaching career (so far) was the Detroit series in ’06. In the years since I’ve been a fan (which is not many compared to some on this blog), that is the best example of one coach out maneuvering the other and willing his less talented team to a decisive win.

    I agree with jon k in that it is really too bad we’ll never get to see MacT get another shot with a complete team (at least as coach of the Oilers). The cup should have been his in ’06 and I know some will absolutely crucify me for this remark, but MacT would make a good 2010 coach at the Olympics.

  4. Doogie2K says:

    And unfortunately one of the results of that was the perception amongst the fanbase that this was a team good enough to get into the playoffs.

    I think at the end of the season, we can safely say that there were enough bad MacTavish decisions, and enough questionable efforts against bad teams at home, to say that this should have been a playoff team, without question.

    And it’s not like the optimists were predicting a divisional win, unlike management. Most of us had a lower seed and a quick playoff exit in the cards.

  5. mjsh says:

    I agree that from my distant look, Mac. T. worked hard to get the best out of this group and I for one will miss him. (It was only a few years ago that Lowe had to convince him to re-sign and I understand his contract is up and this time he will resign.)

    Maybe it is rose colored glasses but I do not think this team is that far away. Yes, it would be wonderful to get a big scoring left winger but if they had had a quality faceoff winning 3rd line centre this year, my opinion is that they make the playoffs.
    At some point guys like Nillson and Penner will make the decision to to there potential.

    I am concerned that Rolly might decide to play in the East because that is where his family is and so goaltending could be the hole next year.

    Nice to see some one else who has heard of Guyle Fieldler. My mom and he were classmates in school and he is certainly the most famous hockey player to come out of Nipawin. The next one I think was Lyndon Byers and not so sure they were in the same league.

  6. Jonathan Willis says:

    If the Oilers do the right thing (hire a coach from outside the org), we’re not going to note it as the start of a trend.

    We’ll note it as the continuation of a trend that saw Steve Tambellini, Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt and Rick Olczyk hired from elsewhere.

  7. Lowetide says:

    Damn you Jonathan you’re getting ahead of me. Basically the next chapter is going to be about betting. Betting that Katz will fall in line with “Edmonton dogma” and hire someone who has walked the streets of Bakersfield (that’s for Buck Owens fans) or this organization shows a sign of growing up and turns their backs on the darlings of the past (boys on the bus).

  8. Jonathan Willis says:

    Sorry ;)

  9. TorontOil says:

    So what’s the consensus on when Mac-T will resign/be fired/get an official vote of confidence (not by text message)?

    In other words, when should I expect this organization to do something interesting?

  10. bookie says:

    Since the day Pronger left town for Mexico, I don’t think there has been a coach in the NHL who has worked harder than MacT.

    Work Smarter not Harder!

    I know that everyone loves MacT and I really like the guy and think that he has done some things well, but he creates nervous teams who ‘overthink’ things just as he does.

    I am not saying ‘don’t coach’ I know this is the NHL, but don’t coach every moment of every play, let some stuff develop on its own (line chemistry for example). Hockey is part planned and part organic, MacT tries to plan and work his way through everything and never lets the organic aspect of development occur.

    I think having a different plan of attack for each team works durring the playoffs, but MacT does it in the regular season. Its too much! The team loses its coordination.

    I mean , on the PP this year you could just about see everyone trying to be the X and O on the board following the instructions to a T. When that happens, nothing happens. Pre-made plays are part of the game, not all of it.

    The whole decade, when an Oiler team gets up a few goals, they would stop skating, stop forchecking and essentially put themselves to sleep allowing other teams to come back on them (not just this year, all 9 years). Then when they are behind they crank things up.

    Anyway, I am not a MacT hater, but I do wonder what he has done so well that some people are ready to give him a coach of the year award. Even pre-lockout we had some decent teams at times. Sometimes the team overacheived, but just as often it underachieved.

  11. PunjabiOil says:

    The Edmonton Oilers today are dumb fucks.

    Should have offered OMark the max, and get him signed. But nope – these dummies thought it would be prudent to penny pinch, all while paying Pouliot 800K to sit 20-30 games in the PB, to pay another less talented SMURF in Liam Reddox, to pay 500,000 for Mathieu Roy to rot in the minors, and to pay a backup goalie who started what, 5 games? And Jacques a one-way contract, who has 1 career point.

    Just a stupid, stupid, organization; and the rumours of Messier further point that way.

    Fire Kevin Lowe, MacT, & Daryl Katz.

  12. alphahelix says:

    If MacT is given another year, he is going to work harder to make her laugh. He may yet be the best possible option. Or not. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

  13. jon k says:

    I’ve been thinking about the whole Omark situation and I had an idea.

    There were comments in the original news release implying that it was important for Harju and Omark to stay together.

    Given that Omark and Harju both would be subject to ELC salary restrictions until a certain age (25?), I’m wondering if they and their agent came up with a strategy to maximize their career earnings by ducking out to Russia for a few years.

    The thing is, if Omark and Harju signed with Edmonton and Tampa, respectively, there are a few issues that might concern them:

    1) They’re making a max of 875,000 on their ELC, probably less as we’ve seen.

    2) They are likely not to get the benefit of top 6 icetime throughout their ELC, hurting their boxcars and subsequently their career earning potential.

    3) They will not have the benefit of their playing chemistry, the “Övertorneå Connection”. By separating, even to play on different KHL teams, they risk lesser boxcars again and potentially less earning in the long run.

    Seems like a choice for more money now and possibly in the long run was more important than being NHL players right now or for the immediate future.

    Do we know if Harju had any ongoing negotiations with Tampa?

  14. Garnet says:

    The hard-work fetish might be part of the problem; I suspect it leads you to undervalue skilled people who don’t have to make a show of their effort in order to beat you. And frankly the Penner problem, given what we’ve seen statistically, suggests another problem: a streak of petulance. “You might be one of our best forwards,” the thinking might have run, “but I asked you to do a couple of things and you haven’t done them. So I won’t let you help us win.” If that’s how it was (and that’s how it looks), a dismissal’s in everyone’s interests.

  15. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    PunjabiOil said…
    The Edmonton Oilers today are dumb fucks.
    Fire Kevin Lowe, MacT, & Daryl Katz.

    Sounds like a plaintiff wail in favour of the EIG.

  16. Ribs says:

    In other words, when should I expect this organization to do something interesting?

    Expect an interesting and enlightening talk with MacT in the next coming days, TorontOil. Sunday or monday morning would be a good bet.

    He’ll let us in on why he chose to do some of the things he did throughout the season and why he felt the team wasn’t performing to expectations. We’ll find out at least a couple of our top players have played through injury since December (I’d say Souray and Horcoff) and he’ll comment on some of the prospects he got a chance to look at and will praise them all.

    He’ll tell us he will meet with Kevin and Daryl and that other guy and explain that he plans to be the coach next year and that unless plans change over the summer, that is what he will do. He’ll look up at the reporters and claim that he is looking forward to the challenge.

    And then we’ll wait until the golf season winds down before we get anything final out of anyone.

  17. dawgbone says:

    Assuming of course PJO, that we are only talking the max base salary, and not the numerous bonuses that go with it (that add up to a near $4mil cap hit).

  18. Schitzo says:

    Assuming of course PJO, that we are only talking the max base salary, and not the numerous bonuses that go with it (that add up to a near $4mil cap hit).

    I commented on this earlier today at MC79′s site. There are minimums in place for performance-related bonuses (20 goals, 35 assists), and achieving any single category only nets you about $210,000.

    Sure, you can get up to $2 million if you win the Hart or the Selke, but realistically Omark would have to get a Gagner-level push just to clear $400,000 in bonus money. The KHL is still a better bet if the money is his first concern.

  19. HBomb says:

    What LT, talking about the mid-50′s Flyers and no love for this guy?

    Granted, he was much more famous for what he did as a scout, namely laying his career on the line to convince the Flyers to draft some kid with diabetes out of Flin-Flon….

  20. CrazyCoach says:

    Betting that Katz will fall in line with “Edmonton dogma” and hire someone who has walked the streets of Bakersfield (that’s for Buck Owens fans) or this organization shows a sign of growing up and turns their backs on the darlings of the past (boys on the bus).

    LT, does this mean that Katz, has the hungries for our (Fans) love and he’s waitin’ in our welfare line?

  21. Lowetide says:

    Crazy Coach: lol. Love that song. This one too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHxSh-SvFVA&feature=related

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