Too Long at the Fair

The Pat Quinn Oilers are rolling. A shiny new #1 line rolled off the assembly line last night and the club is also enjoying Ladislav Smid’s arrival as a real piece of work on the blue.

The Quinn/Renney system features a simple but effective breakout system that relies heavily on forwards and short passes; a wide open offense that allows creativity in one end and asks for button down in the other; a physical style that not all Oilers are well-suited to and most importantly a big fat bag of results so far this fall.

While we’re gushing over Quinn/Renney, Sam Gagner’s step up to the top line, Dustin Penner taking his place as this generation’s Frank Mahovlich and Laddy the D having the light go on, can we take a moment to tip the hat in the direction of Craig MacTavish for his contributions (good and bad) to this success?

After the 2006 Stanley run, management decided to change the direction of the team, move the center of the cluster toward youth, hold back the water on advancement. Which meant teaching, plenty of teaching. He coddled some, yelled at others, and went too far with Dustin Penner. It is interesting though to see the results of his work in each case listed above and I think it’s impossible to view this team moving forward without acknowledging the previous coach.

So, it’s morning in Oilerland. The birds are chirping, grown men are skipping to work and I’ll even say the dream of a post-season berth is alive. The whole fucking town is one giant Viagra commercial. As we go about our daily business, it might be an idea to put aside the (reasonable) feeling of disappointment over the years 2007-2009 and say a word of thanks to the old coach for his patience. He did not handle the Dustin Penner disappointment well, but he did teach the Gagner’s and the Cogliano’s and the Smid’s and even the Horcoff’s and Hemsky’s along the way. And while we should never condone bad behaviour in any fashion, Dustin Penner’s new look and performance is also tied to the old coach.

He did spend too long at the fair, and he is a part of the past. However, whatever future success this team enjoys is at least a little about the lessons learned from a very smart man who once walked these streets as a winner. I think we should think about that today.

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121 Responses to "Too Long at the Fair"

  1. Kristopher Milligan says:

    Well said, LT.

  2. quain says:

    Next up on the docket for LT:

    "Chris Pronger: Not Such a Bad Guy"
    "Shawn Horcoff, Great First Line Centre or Greatest?"
    "Wayne Gretzky — World's Greatest Monster"

    I agree with the post (and for all the bullshit he laid on Penner, it either worked to the point we have Give-a-fuck Penner or Penner was slowrolling this much talent and we can't blame him), but lordy, this post is just asking for rage. Because Pat Quinn is clearly to thank for every single player on the roster and MacT is solely responsible for Rob Schremp's failures.

  3. Bookie says:

    MacT is a great guy and had some real talents as a coach. I just think he also had some real shortcomings that prevented him from being a strong head coach.

    Nothing against the man, but I think that he needed more apprenticeship/learning time early in his coaching career.

    His achilies heal for me was always his focus on 'mistakes'. He tried to get players to play the perfect game. For many years this dominated his press conferences (post game "A couple of mistakes cost us the game").

    I think the vetrans could deal with MacT's overemphasis on this, but the young players had difficulty and played tentative. Penner was quoted that he would have never tried the things he is trying this year because he would be afriad to make a mistake.

    In my opinion, LT is right that MacT did some things well, but I think it will take success in a new position before he can be called a really good NHL coach.

  4. Cam says:

    bookie said…

    For many years this dominated his press conferences (post game "A couple of mistakes cost us the game").

    This is the M.O. for just about every coach in the NHL, including Quinn.

  5. Cam says:

    Although bookie I do agree with your broader point.

  6. raventalon40 says:

    You've read my mind again, LT, and I think all you said was said aptly.

    Scott Reynolds and I were just discussing the contributions of MacT to this team the other day and I was thinking about his role as a teacher, not as coach.

    A lot of the more emotional fans (as in, the ones that hated on Horcoff and Penner without good reason, and calling for Hemsky to be traded…) also wanted the head of MacT.

    I'll admit that he did some extremely strange things in his time, like putting Morrison in for Conklin for the shootout, playing Reddox on the first line, etc., but these are things that other coaches have done before as well.

    The LA Kings calling out of Frolov and Wilson benching Stajan were more questionable than MacT calling out Penner, imo.

    The reaction to putting Jacques in the spot vacated by Reddox was so much different. Was it because the coach was named Quinn and not MacT?

    I think the difference between MacT is that when you're in one hockey market too long people take his contributions for granted.

    Maybe Quinn hasn't been given a chance to "lose our respect," as of yet – I don't know. And I can't say we as fans and the Oilers as an organization didn't give him a long lease in the span of 8 years.

    But given the right tools, MacT had the right stuff to make the cup final. Even without an actual team to ice in 2007, he managed to break out more than a full line of rookies. And that's proof enough for me of his competency as an NHL coach.

  7. Al says:

    Credit where it's due indeed.

    It seems to me that last year we had a teacher teaching a class, and as in a lot of classes you get students who don't think they need that class, are paying more attention to the skirts and fuzzy sweaters, or spend the afternoon in the pool hall; and a teacher doesn't hold you accountable, your report card does. This year we seem to have some coaches.

  8. oilerdago says:

    A nice post LT but isn't it a little early for us to start feeling comfortable about the team?

    Yes the record is better than most of us expected but there are still some big issues (3C, too many duplicated skills/smurfs). We're very fortunate that Khabibulin has been up to the task so far because the way they've played some nites they have not deserved all the W's.

    Regardless I would say that MacT does deserve some thanks. Up until last season I was a big defender but felt that he did not respond to the new regime well and made several tactical mistakes which have been hashed thru many times.

    He developed more kids than he should have – trusted in a couple of vets who in the end could not deliver. At the least he continues to show great respect and class towards the org he toiled many years for. We should give him his due.

  9. quain says:

    Off-topic:
    Someone (PDO, I think) asked where I was pulling Corsi and everything from since Vic's app wasn't working… I've been grabbing the individual games and pivoting to get the info. I threw up the current running total at http://tinyurl.com/yfkpdqk for anyone interested.

    On-topic:
    I agree with Raven, eventually you just wear out your welcome and things start to get stale. A fresh pair of eyes and a fresh voice can do wonders, even if the overall message or bodies aren't going to change. Like I said, I don't think we can blame MacT for not having this Penner (which is the huge difference between last year and this year, so far, everyone else (sans maybe Gagner) is par), but I think MacT and Awesome Penner are mutually exclusive.

  10. MilkMan says:

    This is an interesting point of view and certainly a mature one. My immediate thoughts after last nights game were along the lines of what could have been last year if MacT was not around.

    But you're quite correct, MacT did have an impact and lets not forget, that the way things turned out this off season we really got two head coaches! That probably would not have happened if MacT was fired mid season.

    Great Blog as always.

  11. PunjabiOil says:

    So, it's morning in Oilerland. The birds are chirping, grown men are skipping to work and I'll even say the dream of a post-season berth is alive. The whole fucking town is one giant Viagra commercial.

    LOLLL

  12. dave says:

    something happened along the way. When things started to go poorly he made examples that were not in the teams best interest. TobyP, Reddox.

    And as a result the compete fell out of the room. I think he did stay to long, cause some of the good things he did were almost balanced by the bad habits.

    That said you don't find out much about people when they are winning. So we don't know much about our team and our coaches yet…

  13. kneedeepinit says:

    I wonder what would happen if nashville and Edmonton traded coaches prior to last year? Could both teams have made the playoffs?

    Both Mact and Trotz are very good coaches who have overstayed their welcome.

  14. Psyche says:

    I think, based on his comments, Dustin Penner's post-goal song played at Rexall should be "Afternoon Delight". If you aren't aware of what Penner was referring to by "sky rockets in flight", please take a look here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eplbDbp6XJQ

  15. shanetrain says:

    Whoa Penner! I saw him try to take it all the way like four times last night which is about two or three more times than he did all last year. MacT has to be livid he didnt see that last year. Gotta be.

    Im still on the trade Hemsky wagon.

    Ladislav Pronger does have a lot of potential as a top shut down guy.

    That Khabibulin signing is looking pretty good right now. When Columbus made it 4-1, they took it right back down and should have made it 5-1 but Khabby somehow kept it out and the rest is history.

    I just saw that pic of C Zeta-Jones .. Michael Douglas?! are you fucking kidding me?!

  16. anonymous says:

    So if they ask for Penner what do the Sharks need to add to a Heatley package to get him? I'm here all week, folks.

  17. Gret99zky says:

    I'm not going to dump on MacT.

    And there is no way on this planet or any other the Oilers come back from 4-1 with MacT behind the bench.

  18. Neil Sherwood says:

    I'm going to disagree with Oilerdago, if I may. All summer I have been reading blogs, posts and comments about a thrid line center and too many small guys with the same skill set.
    This locker room right now must have a feeling and an aura that it hasn't had for years. They believe in themselves and their coaches. They go out and get it done. Why would you want to change that for what the bloggers, writers and commenters believe should be so? Why bring in a guy who'll mess with that in any way?
    I accept that Renney,Quinn and Tambi are a hell of a lot smarter than I am in regards to their team.
    I believe that we have exceptional management now. So far, they have proven every expert blogger and writer from this past summer as wrong.
    I can't believe we are still looking for someone else to improve this team when the coaches have taken what they were dealt with and have so far gotten the best out of them.
    It is like we are waiting for something to bitch about: to say, "see, I was right. They needed a center that won 51% of faceoffs and weighs 223lbs."
    I am positive about this team.
    I am liking Quinn for coach of the year. Thinking Penner can keep it up makes me happy for him. Imagining Gagner is the C he can be excites me. Listening to the same repeated crap of armchair GM's who are waiting for failure pisses me off.

    I also think that this entry by Lowetide (the best blog about the Oilers) was long overdue.

    Even though Mac T lost his team, can anyone say that he didn't dedicate his life to the Oilers and wanted them to win more than anyone. He chose to live in Edmonton and do his best. I will always respect him for his teaching, coaching and playing as an Oiler.

  19. canablach says:

    LT,

    you still give too much credit to MacT as a smart man which he surely is. The fact is sometimes smart man don't think/coach smart hockey.
    I guess somewhere down the line MacT, the man,thought he could outsmart himself as coach and, not being so smart, got deservingly lost.
    Eight years were too much, should have walked the plank well before.

  20. Jon says:

    Lowetide: you did an excellent job of giving reasons why MacT's oilers missed the playoffs after 2006.

    My question is what about before?

    if my memory is correct, MacT was in hot water the two years prior to 2006, including Kevin Lowe having to come out and have a state of the union address proclaiming that MacT would not be fired.

    Mact was an average coach who rode a hot goalie, an elite d-men, and some crazy luck in 2006 to a three year extension. If he did not go on that run in 2006 he was fired…no question!

    I said it after he was fired on thsi blog….he would not be coaching this year and he will not be coaching in the next few years because there is such competition and better ptions out there then a guy who missed the playoffs 5 out of 8 years.

    Was he funny, yes
    Was he smart, yes
    Was he a great player, yes
    However, his coaching record and many of his choices leave something left to be desired.

    My 2 cents

  21. Forain says:

    Very nice, LT.

    You know, I'm not going to suggest that how MacT dealt with Penner would have been my prefered option, or even the best option, but I'm starting to wonder if there won't be some lingering positive effects. It might be that whenever Penner jumps on a weight bench or shows up for a skating practice, he's going to have MacT pushing him in the back of his mind. It's important to remember that Penner's still a young man, a young man with big expectations put upon him. He's got to be looking to prove himself, and maybe the MacT voice is something he can use to focus.

  22. Psyche says:

    Forain,

    MacT's voice in Penner's head as a motivator is short term at best. A person's motivation, to be lasting, needs to be tied into drive and desire. I don't think motivation is or was Penner's challenge. He has said it numerous times – that confidence is allowing him to play to a higher level. His confidence playing for the previous coaching staff was very low. This has changed with the new approach of the current staff.

  23. Greg MC says:

    Thank you Craig MacTavish for your fine work on TSN.

  24. kinger says:

    Gret99zky said…

    And there is no way on this planet or any other the Oilers come back from 4-1 with MacT behind the bench.

    How short our memories are.

  25. anonymous says:

    I always thought the problem with Penner was sorting out the parts of his game in his head. Kinda like a big defensemen who looks good in one part of his game early and then looks puzzled for a few years.

    Maybe MacT gets more credit than Tambellini for seeing what Penner could be, but MacT and Penner was a k>1 frustation reaction chain.

  26. oilerdago says:

    Neil Sherwood,

    You make good points in your argument. I appreciate the fact that you make your case and can disagree without trashing.

    A couple of thoughts.

    You only bring someone in who can improve the team/address an area of weakness. Is this group perfect now? No. Have they decided to see if guys can step up from within to address needs? Yup and so far so good but they really had no choice. And sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

    As I said, they've exceed my expectations and for that, like LT says it's a great day to be an Oilers fan.

    At some point though – you will have to address needs because over an 82 game schedule, holes get exposed. So all I'm really saying here is let's keep our feet on the ground – especially since the coach's see certain things as well (which they comment on in post game press conferences).

    I'm perfectly willing to cut OTC and Renney some slack with the team (and would regardless). They know lot's more than me and need time to put in their system. The nice thing is the early returns show that 3 important guys get it (Penner, Gagner, Smid) and Visnovsky is getting better as the season goes.

    Like I said, they've exceeded my expectations – which was not too hard and I hope they get better. It'd be nice if they could address issues from within, but I think at some point there has to be a trade because you also need to get dollars off the cap for next year to keep your RFA's. That's all.

  27. kinger says:

    I think people have already made up their minds RE: MacT regardless of what happens this year.

    Group A (supporters)
    Team does poorly: MacT was a good coach, the personnel were to blame.
    Team does well: MacT laid the foundation for the team to succeed.

    Group B (detractors)
    Team does poorly: MacT ruined the skill players.
    Team does well: MacT sucked, now that he's gone we are seeing success.

  28. Lowetide says:

    kinger: I generally agree, but would add that some of us were dumbfounded by Kevin Lowe's trading of Chris Pronger in the shadow of losing both Spacek and Tarnstrom with no real idea about how to rebuild the blue.

    That period of a couple of months (combined with signing all the future ufa's save Smyth) had a massive impact on the following seasons.

    We're still paying for it.

  29. Gregg says:

    This is as astute as a glorious piece of writing can be. In whatever shape or form, all our success comes from our past, it's what makes the Oil the Oil.

  30. CrazyCoach says:

    Listening to the same repeated crap of armchair GM's who are waiting for failure pisses me off.

    I agree with you Neil 100% The closest parallel I can make is from my numerous years of coaching minor hockey. It didn't matter what the teams record was, or god forbid that the kids were actually having fun. Some parent would always have to speak up and ask a tactical question about what system we were going to switch to or what player we could bring up from house league to "make the team better." And of course they were equipped with stats and believe it or not, even videotape.

    I have to admit that it pissed me off beyond belief, and probably lead to me giving up coaching and towards working on my masters. I simply got tired of the constant BS and did my best to absorb that crap so the kids could have some fun.

    Right now, I see a dressing room that is growing closer by the day and a group of guys who are willing to go to the wall for each other and for the coaching staff. What sort of message do you put forward when you make a trade? Great job guys, but you are all hot commodities right now and we need to receive good value. Isn't that the kind of thinking Pocklington had? And if you're a GM on another team are you willing to trade a valued player for one who has played well for 9 games?

  31. kinger says:

    Yea I remember well the summer of '06

    We all talked about the vaunt, how we would get scoring from all the lines. Turns out Kevin Lowe forgot that you actually have to ice defensemen that can get the puck to said forwards to have any success.

    Smith – Tjarnqvist/Hedja
    Staios – Smid
    Greene – MAB

    These guys had one break out move and it started with hard and ended with rim.

  32. till_horcoff_is_coach says:

    I would agree that he was a good mentor and help to this team. But his inability to get the most of his players regular season along with failure to re-evaluate his own approach seem like pretty big dings against his stature as one of the top tier of coaches.

    I would even say rather good coach, but IMHO for a person in that position of influence, there was no excuse for the crazy vendettas he went on last year. Mind you, there is even less excuse for the GM(s) to idly sit by and waste a season on it.

  33. R O says:

    Right now, I see a dressing room that is growing closer by the day and a group of guys who are willing to go to the wall for each other and for the coaching staff.

    How can you infer so much just from watching the Oilers on the ice for nine games?

    Reality often differs from the narrative.

  34. CrazyCoach says:

    How can you infer so much just from watching the Oilers on the ice for nine games?

    When was the last time you saw them come back in the third period like they did last night? Actually when was the last time they came back. Both Penner and Hemsky had 5 point nights. The last time that happened was November of 1988 when Glenn Anderson and Jimmy Carson performed the feat. Plus, there is more of an urgency and flow to the team right now. Call it a hot streak, call it dumb luck, call it whatever you want, but the team is playing well over 9 games and there is huge difference between this seasons team and last seasons.

  35. Lowetide says:

    Crazycoach: Are you sure about that timeline? I'd have to check but iirc Dougie Weight had some big nights and it isn't out of the question that one of his linemates came along for the ride.

    Does hockey-reference cover that?

  36. spOILer says:

    Do you know where I put my black dress shoes?

    …Have you seen my wallet?

  37. R O says:

    When was the last time you saw them come back in the third period like they did last night? Actually when was the last time they came back. Both Penner and Hemsky had 5 point nights. The last time that happened was November of 1988 when Glenn Anderson and Jimmy Carson performed the feat. Plus, there is more of an urgency and flow to the team right now. Call it a hot streak, call it dumb luck, call it whatever you want, but the team is playing well over 9 games and there is huge difference between this seasons team and last seasons.

    The team is getting good results over 9 games. There is definitely a luck component involved as the shooting percentages reflect.

    I'll tell you what I see, and this is from a non-fan's perspective.
    - Penner is playing very well. Hard to to take off the puck, hard to win puck battles against, he displays an element of speed that is uncommon for people his size and he is using it to pursue the puck with ferocity. The Oilers' best player.
    - Horcoff is struggling but he is also reportedly injured.
    - Hemsky was struggling but he surely benefitted from playing with Penner. Gagner benefitted also.
    - A pattern in the Oilers' play (aside from Penner's line) seems to be more time spent in the D-zone. I can't attest to the break-out as I am not observant enough to notice the difference between last year and this year but the EV goal differential (27-17) is not commensurate with the amount of time spent in the offensive zone vs. defensive zone. I ask you, is that sustainable?

    You'll notice those are all on-ice observations. It's difficult to infer dressing room cohesion or team solidarity from that, wouldn't you say?

  38. hunter1909 says:

    "there is huge difference between this seasons team and last seasons."

    Real NHL coaching?

  39. Oilers For Life says:

    Do you really think Horcoff would have been pulled off the first line under MacT's coaching?This year is all Quin and Renney.How good a coach is macT….well he suggests Horcoff should be on team Canada…….right now Penner should be on team Canada.

  40. Wil says:

    Kinger, don't forget Group C (I might be the only member…)

    Short term (2008/09 season): MacT fails spectacularly for good (too many kids, poor faceoff skills, fatso out of shape, etc.) and bad reasons (weird decisions, handling of said fatso, etc.)

    Long term: bright so far (insert everything LT has in post). One more thing, PDP is a man on a mission this year. I don't believe that happens if MacT takes his foot off the gas with him last season. Without MacT Penner has a good if uninspired season this year instead of what looks so far to be an outstanding one (insert quote from MacT last year about how Penner looked at his contract as a finishing point instead of a starting point… MacT knew Penners potential and his lack of commit…)

  41. Smytty777 says:

    Given Penner's Mahovolich-like tendencies this season and his quote of Old School. Should FTT (Frank the Tank) now replace PDP?

    Really I just love chanting "Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank!" and this would give me an opportunity to do it on a more regular basis.

  42. Hoos says:

    Alright folks, not to rain on everyone's parade here with OTC and Penner; no one is more thrilled than I am (he's in my fantasy draft this season), but does anyone see an Alex Selivanov parallel here?

  43. kris says:

    In his postgame comments, Quinn said he thinks Gilbert and Grebs have been taught to play to soft and have been playing as such.

    I don't know if I agree, but the major problem I see on this team is that only the Vis-Smid pairing can break the other teams cycle, and even they're not always doing it. As well as they've played, Vis-Smid are in the negative for Corsi. (Better than most of the team, though. Qual comp. suggests they're not seeing the toughest opp.)

    Indeed, the Corsi numbers -small sample size- seem to provide some evidence that our shot problems arise from not having D-men who can push opponents off the puck. (This causes the forwards to collapse, killing our breakouts, and leaving opposing D-men open for point shots. In short we run around in our zone and the shot totals go nuts.)

    The evidence: there are only two players on the team with Corsi's at or above 0? Souray at about 6 and Staios at 0.

    This team either needs Souray back, to add another defensive D who can win one on one battles, or for Gilbert and Grebs to get better.

    This can't continue.

  44. Neil Sherwood says:

    OilerDago
    Thanks for respecting my comment and I don't entirely disagree with yours.
    I could suggest that salary could be shed at the end of the year or when needed, but not while the team is rolling. So, I am frustrated by the chit chat of change remains.

    R O

    "How can you infer so much just from watching the Oilers on the ice for nine games?

    Reality often differs from the narrative."

    Why would you 'infer' any differently? What educated guess upon the information that you have has you thinking that the comment made would be incorrect?

    Has there been any report of a cancer in the room?

    Has there been some breaking news that the room is split in two betwen vets and rooks?

    Has someone tweeted you that Quinn has lost the room?

    "The narrative", really?

    Have you ever played on a team that engaged in sport activities?

    Have you ever been a team that was constantly trashed by the echelon of the fan base that call themselves bloggers, radio personalities and sport writers and proven them wrong?

    As a regular Joe with a limited vocabulary, I can infer that the dressing room of the Edmonton Oilers must be pretty tight right now.

    But that's just me.

  45. delooper says:

    A lot of you guys read far too much into too little data. If teams start putting more pressure on Penner and he goes into a mini-slump, the Oilers will soon have one of their 7-game losing streaks on their hands and you'll totally turn around and start calling for Tambellini to trade a defenseman. The sky is falling all over again, the team made no changes over the summer, yadda yadda.

    Group-think and short-term results have a powerful hold on people's imaginations. IMO part of this blog is to avoid all that, the idea being that through quantitative analysis you can get some more reliable and less hype-driven measures of a player's performance. Yet people start talking about single-game Corsi numbers, sort of defeating the purpose of the concept.

    No matter how much we change we all stay the same…

  46. Lowetide says:

    Oilers for Life: I think we (me, you) are a little guilty of seeing things as they are now and assuming it will always be thus.

    Horcoff is injured, I don't think anyone can argue it. Now, that doesn't mean Gagner's move to the 1line would have been delayed (hey, when he's ready–he's ready) but there are some real reasons it happened at this time.

    For me, a healthy Horcoff is like a warm coat in winter–welcome, necessary and extremely valuable.

  47. Oilmaniac says:

    "My immediate thoughts after last nights game were along the lines of what could have been last year if MacT was not around."

    - I totally disagree with this…

    I want not a fan of MacT last year, v cwith some of the shades of crazy coming out… but Donair Penner learned his lesson through the hardknocks of last year and reevaluation this last summer… plus all the kids were that much younger, etc… but even the things he needed to work on (and did) were specified CLEARLY by MacT…

    Great article LT, beauty viagra commercial tie-in… I would like to add Stortini to your list of players that MacT has positively influenced… At first I held it against MacT because I thought he was bringing along a pet project and that storts never really belonged… Eating crow, and more eating crow… with storts value sustaining (and growing, as per the comments made here the other day that jfj should not be getting more minutes than Storts because he is not as usefull – I agree, but not as a slight on JFJ)

    Plus The-Truth-about-Robbie (without MacT in the picture) remains the same as it was years prior…

  48. Oilmaniac says:

    Crap… now I re-read your sentence… my comment is an irrelevant reflection on yours… I just wanted to say this wouldnt have happened last year (even with the coaching change)… crap

  49. quain says:

    Do you really think Horcoff would have been pulled off the first line under MacT's coaching?

    Sam Gagner played 152 ES minutes with Ales Hemsky and only 41 with Shawn Horcoff… so, theoretically, Gagner centered Hemsky for, at least, 111 minutes.

    From all I've seen (and confirmed by multiple others), Gagner and Hemsky didn't work well together (before last night) so I can't really see how killing MacT for 'only' giving Gagsky two hours of ES time together is fair.

  50. R O says:

    Why would you 'infer' any differently? What educated guess upon the information that you have has you thinking that the comment made would be incorrect?

    I don't think there is ever an "educated guess" that you can make about team dynamics or locker room cohesion (one way or the other) just from watching the games.

    So you're left with watching or reading interviews to figure that stuff out. There are the rare occasions where problems are so obvious they are hard to ignore (MacT last year and his handling of Penner) but many coaches call out players publicly (Quinn too).

    And in the end, whether or not the players are tight or hate each other's guts, if it doesn't show up on the ice then what good is it? The on-ice product is what matters, and while the results have been excellent, the process and the details are still in flux.

  51. Phil says:

    I too thought this post would invite a lot of rage, but the fact that the comments, both for and against, are mostly well presented arguments, speaks volumes for the class of the readership here. Just another reason why I love this blog.

    I'm not a MacT apologist, but I think that there were off-ice forces at work both before and after the lockout that hindered what he could accomplish with the team on the ice.

    Pre-lockout, he was dealing with a team that could not compete payroll-wise with the NHL elite, but still managed to compete.

    Post lockout, he was given a flawed (they played two thirds of the year with AHL level goaltending) but veteran and talented lineup, and we all know how that turned out.

    And, as LT and others have pointed out, following the cup run, for two years he had to deal with one of the worst defensive corps in the league.

    Finally, by the time last year rolled around, he'd lost all but one of his faceoff men, the locker room, and his marbles to boot.

    I know that the argument of the day is that this team is doing with Quinn what it could have never done with MacT, but I would submit that had Quinn had the Oilers teams of the last three years, I doubt he could've done any better than MacT did.

    I'd also like to point out that almost the exact same thing that happened to MacT in Edmonton happened to Quinn in Toronto. He went 3 years without an NHL job. Now he's being heralded (at least by Oiler fans) as being a great coach.

    It would not surprise me to see the same outcome for MacT.

  52. George B says:

    Since we are tipping hats to former contributors….and I am in Mexico, here is a shout out and a tip of my Cervesa to Barry Fraser….

    Another aside. MacT is a smart coach. The message was lost because of duration…it just happens.

    New coaches, new message…talent coming out. Nice to see…for everyone. And yes. MacT deserves a hat tip.

  53. Neil Sherwood says:

    I don't think there is ever an "educated guess" that you can make about team dynamics or locker room cohesion (one way or the other) just from watching the games.

    I, like you, don't just watch the games.
    Edmonton's hockey media can smell a fart from Drayton Valley.
    So, I suppose I could make an educated guess based on other media outlets available to the public.
    The Frolov scenario in a non hockey market would be a pretty good example.
    I think they're tight, you think you're right.

  54. oil dude says:

    Tencer's Twitter:

    Oilers not recalling a forward…defenseman Theo Peckham is coming up. Not sure, but plan could be to use Strudwick on the wing.

  55. hunter1909 says:

    "I would submit that had Quinn had the Oilers teams of the last three years, I doubt he could've done any better than MacT did."

    But Quinn HAS the Oilers team from last year.

  56. CrazyCoach says:

    You'll notice those are all on-ice observations. It's difficult to infer dressing room cohesion or team solidarity from that, wouldn't you say?

    I know I've been in enough dressing rooms to say that I can identify team cohesion, whether that is a positive cohesion (such as this season) as opposed to a negative cohesion (last season). Sometimes there is cohesion because the players have all bought into the coaching system and are quite content, while sometimes there is cohesion because everyone hates the head coach (See-New York Giants and Tom Caughlin).

    Some say this idea of cohesion is over rated while some sports psychologists such as Dr. Saul Miller, will tell you its everything. IN my experience on-ice play exists in a symbiotic relationship with team cohesion.

  57. Mr DeBakey says:

    "But Quinn HAS the Oilers team from last year."

    Season before last
    MacT had the Oilers playing just as good as Quinn has them playing now.
    The two main elements of this goodness:
    - Consistently outplayed
    - insane shooting %

  58. Woodguy says:

    First off, there is no question that MacTavish contributed to this.

    How can the guy who has been the only NHL coach many of these guys have had not be a major contributor?

    I think MacT had three major flaws:

    1) Change the game plan according the opponent. Many players complained about this after he left. Great in the playoffs, not so much when you can have 5 different teams in 8 nights.

    2) Players feared making mistakes. Much has been made about this, anyone who has managed people (or been a parent) know that in order to grow you can't punish every mistake made along the way, then there is no growth at all.

    3)The rules were not applied evenly. Gagner was worse than an AHLer for a good part of last year and never missed a shift or changed lines. Cheeseburger misses a check and rides the pine. Moreau single handedly killed the momentum in 4-5 games with stupid ass penalties in the OZone and we get to hear about aggressive penalties.

    Confused players, playing with fear of being punished and watching the school marm turn a blind eye to the favorites is not a recipe for a happy family.

    Also,

    Right now, I see a dressing room that is growing closer by the day and a group of guys who are willing to go to the wall for each other and for the coaching staff. What sort of message do you put forward when you make a trade? Great job guys, but you are all hot commodities right now and we need to receive good value. Isn't that the kind of thinking Pocklington had? And if you're a GM on another team are you willing to trade a valued player for one who has played well for 9 games?

    I don't understand this comment.

    The Oilers face some deficiencies in their current line up and some serious contract problems at the end of the year. A good start to the season can blurr some of the line up issues, but is doesn't make the big picture problem that is looming go away.

    A good manager/business owner spends the majority of their time positioning their company for future growth.

    Sure they still work on the day to day stuff, but that is what most of the staff is for.

    Same in the business of hockey.

    The GM needs to be working on the future. There is a lot of staff to work on the day to day stuff (coaches etc)

    The future of the Oilers looks like this:

    Pending RFA's at the end of this season:

    Gagner
    Cogliano
    Grebs
    Pouliot
    Brule
    Stone
    JFJ

    UFA's

    Pisani
    Comrie

    That is 9 current roster players who need contracts next year.

    The Oilers have 45 Million already committed to the roster next year.

    Assuming the cap stays the same (many say it will drop, some say drop a lot…I'm in the drop but just a bit group) you have 11.7M available to sign 9 guys.

    Even if you don't want these 9 particular guys, you will still need 9 guys in those 9 spots who do not currently have contract.

    TambLowe seems to want to address this by doing a 3 for 1 type deal (Heatley v1.0), as this type of deal adds a higher end player and clears out roster spots at the same time.

    I think he will still do this, although now that 1LW doesn't seem to be the most pressing desire….what is?

    3C? Well, if you have a Horcoff at 2C and Gags playing toughs/2nd toughs can you get by with a Cog/Brule/MAP, or do you need someone else?

    Personally I see LW as the weakest position on this team.

    Gilbert + Brule/Cogs for something like Neal(Dallas) or Brown (LA) will go a long way to helping this team.

    If Gagner is now the defacto 1C, then Cogs/Brule/MAP cannot exist in the same space/time unless someone rolls out to the wing, and if they do that then some winger needs to go.

    The permutations are damn near endless and I could go on longer, but the bottom line is that just because the Oilers are off to a good start and everyone (myself included) is feeling goofy happy about this team, that doesn't mean the future isn't one day closer.

  59. Woodguy says:

    Edit:

    Grebs not Gilbert in above post given the very good arguments about RH puck moving defencemen.

  60. the 0 in 0rca is for 0 cups says:

    um…i hope that Strudwick twitter is inaccurate.

  61. kinger says:

    I know I've been in enough dressing rooms to say that I can identify team cohesion, whether that is a positive cohesion (such as this season) as opposed to a negative cohesion (last season).

    I'd say that winning and locker room cohesion are synonymous. There was plenty of cohesion under MacT during both the famous kid line run in late 07-08 and the cup run in '06. Seems to me that it's more about success than anything else. By my eye this team is enjoying more than its share of success. We'll see what happens when the numbers catch up to the results.

  62. Woodguy says:

    Oilers not recalling a forward…defenseman Theo Peckham is coming up. Not sure, but plan could be to use Strudwick on the wing.

    I like that alot.

    He's the NHL ready player they have on the farm and he's an upgrade on Struds, who was actually a fairly effective 4th liner when he played it last year.

  63. Black Dog says:

    Woodguy – that's the real elephant in the room, next season and getting this club under the cap.

    I would guess that the following moves would be made:

    - Moreau and Staios moved, buried in the minors, retired

    - one of the 'medium to big' four moved from the blue

    - regardless of what happens Stone, JFJ and Pouliot will not get substantial raises I think

    - if they choose to keep Pisani or if he does not retire then he will probably take a substantial cut

    - Comrie would be replaced by a low cost alternative

    - so they have to figure out a way to pay the three kid centres and Grebeshkov by my eye

    Cannot see Grebeshkov getting much more than his salary now

    So that is the challenge.

    I think it can be done but they will have to be creative.

    Now you will have to excuse me I think I left a roast in the oven.

  64. the 0 in 0rca is for 0 cups says:

    i want Peckham up too but Strudwick on the wing? against Calgary?

  65. knighttown says:

    It's time to turn the page on the great start. We've caught some really nice scheduling breaks:
    -no back to backs
    -7 of 9 at home
    -backups in at least 4 games (Niemi, Garon, Ellis, Harding)
    -only 1 dominant team (Chicago)

    Now the real test starts:
    -9 of 13 on the road
    -6 of those 13 are back-to-backs
    -finishing October at Cal, @Van, vs.Col, vs. Det, @Bos. That's a tough stretch.
    -then 6 of 7 on the road, all against teams considered "bubble" at best (NYI, NYR, Col, Ott, Buf, Atl, CBJ)

    What impact the various home-ice advantages had on our start? Will the kids in the mid-forties in faceoff percentage now drop down to 40% when they have to put their stick down first?

    Brule/Cogs/Comrie/Sullivan did their jobs in killing softies at home but on the road there going to be out there against Kovalchuck, Iginla and Gaborik. Can they hold on?

    We'll know what this team is by November 15th.

  66. Woodguy says:

    i want Peckham up too but Strudwick on the wing? against Calgary?

    Last year he played it better than he played defence.

    His "draw weight" on the dump in so he could hammer the defenceman was one of the better ones on the team.

    He almost single-handedly beat the Islanders last year when no one else on the team showed up.

    He can be sheltered alot more on the 4th line than the 3rd pairing.

    He plays his positioning well, and when he's not the last line of defence his foot speed doesn't cost you as much defensively.

    Solid move.

  67. CrazyCoach says:

    A good manager/business owner spends the majority of their time positioning their company for future growth.

    Isn't this what cost Lowe and MacT their jobs? What about the now? Does that not count for anything or is the Oilers management merely concerned about "next year country"?

    There I guess is the tricky part of business. You may not have a tomorrow if today does not produce results.

    Another big part of running a business is also personnel management, and what does it say to employees (players) that management wishes to make changes to their business when business is good? Would you want to work for a business that showed no loyalty to you? What message does that send out to other employees in the same business when the owner is only concerned with the future and the bottom line? Do I smell Florida Marlins?

    The Oilers need to shake a few perceptions around the league, among them: 1) Edmonton is a shitty place to play, 2) Edmonton is the new Winnipeg, 3) Oilers management only cares about the future bottom line (and not winning), and 4) Oilers fans are the most petulant spoiled rotten fans since the Habs.

  68. Racki says:

    Not at all a fan of MacTavish, sorry. I do recognize some of the good things he did here, but I don't really see his influence on Penner. Mayyybe you could argue that he helped his defensive game a bit. But it looks more to me like it was at the sever cost of his offensive side, and the same can be said with a few other players.

    Really, I think MacTavish would be a fantastic coach for the AHL level where you want to mold players into a certain type of player that fits the organization's needs.

    A wise coach once said that you don't teach your system to players. You coach a system that suits your players. MacTavish did the opposite, unfortunately. We all know the cliche – he tried to force square pegs into round holes and the players in a sense ended up revolting over time and quitting on him.

    I think he's a smart guy, a witty guy and very hilarious. But it was obvious that our GMs had a vision for the team that was different than we'd seen in years here. However, MacTavish was set in his coaching ways and tried to continue on with his usual business and adjust players to his style. Maybe he adjusted slightly, but not enough.

    I had been hope for a coaching change since 2007. It was too late, if you ask me, but I'm definitely glad it happened.

  69. hunter1909 says:

    "Confused players, playing with fear of being punished and watching the school marm turn a blind eye to the favorites is not a recipe for a happy family."

    But despite all of this, most posting think "Awww good old MacT."

  70. Bruce says:

    i want Peckham up too but Strudwick on the wing? against Calgary?

    Yes, please and thank you. I'm with Woodguy all the way on that one. Last year Struds was far more effective up front than he was on the blue, good enough defensively in a place where he's way less likely to be exposed, will grind the boards, hit, fight. W-a-a-a-y better option than Treebeard (hat tip to whoever came up with that, it's golden!), who tries to do all of those same things, but much less reliably. (I would even argue that Struds was a more effective scrapper than SMac last season, and the other aspects are Not Close)

    Ideally Brulé steps back in and Struds becomes a 13th F option, but the point is if Oilers do have to dress the guy they don't have to bench a whole line like happened last night.

    Bottom line: I like 7 minutes of Struds up front way more than 17 minutes at the back. Bring on Theo.

  71. Black Dog says:

    cc, if Edmonton is the new Winnipeg and Winnipeg gets a franchise then does that make the new Jets the old Oilers?

  72. CrazyCoach says:

    BDHS- it all depends on whether or not Quebec City gets the new Nords, who could in reality be the new old Hamilton Steelers.

    Or something like that. heh heh

  73. spOILer says:

    CrazyCoach,

    Business is good right now in the sae way that US auto sales were good in July.

    Or good in the same way the Dow Jones looks good now that the Banks have taxpayer money to buy their own stocks and prevent credit downgrades or fulfilling capital ratio requirements.

    Or good in the same way that losses are being held off the balance sheet of finance companies.

    A lot of the "Business is Good" right now is smoke and mirrors.

    Now I am not saying the Oilers haven't improved their play over the last 20 games of last year, but they've also benefitted from a goodly amount of luck, an easy schedule, back-up goalies, etc…

    The chaos is still thereand we don't yet know how they will handle the pressure when the ral pressure starts. MacT had these guys in a decent playoff position till they started hearing footsteps.

    And we can all see the present chaos on the ice.

    If I'm Tambellini, I'm still listening to offers. Maybe I'm taking calls not making calls, but there woud still be pans in the fire. This team is not as good as the record suggests.

    I said a few days back that the next 6 games will give us a better idea. CBJ was game one. I hope we'll still be in the same spot come mid-Nov, but I'm not betting on it.

  74. Woodguy says:

    Isn't this what cost Lowe and MacT their jobs?

    I would say that Lowe didn't think enough about the ramifications of his decisions (wow! look at all the forwards!)

    MacT lost his job because he was the day to day guy and it wasn't getting done.

    Another big part of running a business is also personnel management, and what does it say to employees (players) that management wishes to make changes to their business when business is good?

    That they want to be better than merely good?

    Would you want to work for a business that showed no loyalty to you? What message does that send out to other employees in the same business when the owner is only concerned with the future and the bottom line? Do I smell Florida Marlins?

    This makes no sense.

    This organization has been loyal to a fault.

    As for the bottom line, they have to get under that cap and Katz is spending the maximum allowed on players. That's pretty good as I can see it.

    Florida Marlins?? No they are not selling off assets, they are trying to improve the asset group.

    The Oilers need to shake a few perceptions around the league, among them: 1) Edmonton is a shitty place to play, 2) Edmonton is the new Winnipeg, 3) Oilers management only cares about the future bottom line (and not winning), and 4) Oilers fans are the most petulant spoiled rotten fans since the Habs.

    1)Why? Be more specific.

    2)Really? A lot of hockey players don't want New York. Most just want to win. That's the point of making the changes. Lots of good young players want to be rock stars, they get that in Edmonton.

    3) They have shown this to be incorrect. You do know there is a salary cap right?

    4)Who says this? (player quotes not media types please)

  75. spOILer says:

    Woodguy and Bruce,

    I think the Peckham call up might have something to do with the "softness" of G & G that Quinn has occasionally alluded to. A turn of the screw…

  76. Bruce says:

    spOILer: Likely so. I wondered if Quinn might even think of messing with the pairings. That said, with Smid and Strudwick/Peckham, there are only two defenders with any real sandpaper, so you won't get three balanced pairings unless Chorney comes out instead of Strudwick.

    Having just watched the video of last night's barnburner has reinforced my observation that G&G are certainly having their issues in Oilers end of the rink. e.g. on the first Columbus goal Grebs got beat wide, but Gilbert might as well have been on the moon as on the edge of the crease doing absolutely fuck-all to tie up Huselius or his stick. That was flat-out weak.

    In general I am pretty concerned at how easily our defensive units get sliced open, it seems one good pass and it's 2-on-1 (or worse) down low. Khabibulin made a number of excellent stops from five feet and in last night, or the story line would have been very different.

  77. CrazyCoach says:

    Obviously I'm not going to prove anything here, but as one who sat behind a bench for many years, I can only say that many in here remind me of over-involved parents in minor hockey: Never happy, never willing to give credit, and with obviously too much time on their hands.

    I'm enjoying this team right now. That's something I haven't said about this team in a long time, and yes, I am aware of the future and the many needs this team has, but please forgive me for simply enjoying a team going through a great stretch. Dennis provides probably the best analysis I've ever seen of this team and even he gives credit where credit is due.

    Maybe I don't need to come in here anymore. It seems every time I open my mouth, people try to make me feel like an idiot or ridicule my opinion. I admit I'm not a stats junkie or probably even up with all the lingo used in here, but I feel that my coaching experience gives me an insight that many don't have. I must have pissed someone off once and now am a pariah in here with some.

    Thanks LT, Dennis, BDHS, and many others.

  78. Woodguy says:

    spOILer,

    If he plays well I bet he sticks and Chorney goes back until a trade or the next guy goes down.

    I really liked 71/5 with Gagpensky.

    I think when 44 is healthy again it would serve the whole team better the other two combos were

    44/77
    24/37

    Good stuff coming with Peckham and Chorney being ready (assuming Peckham picks up where he left off last year)

    Gives the team some options.

  79. commonfan13 says:

    On MacT's future prospects, my completely unfounded suspicion was always that Sather never would have hired Torts last year if he'd have known MacT would be available.

    Before the season I predicted to friends that Torts would be fired after the first prolonged Rangers losing streak (and presumably his first accompanying string of rants trashinig his players to the media) and replaced by MacT.

    So far, Gaborik's good health and the Rangers' impressive start have me looking pretty stupid, but I'm still not ruling it out.

  80. spOILer says:

    CC,

    in no way are you a pariah. Please don't stop offering your opinion. That's what we're all here for, even if sometimes it seems a Battle Royal.

    I was so excited about this team last night I could barely sleep, but I know that there's still a lot of grief happenin on the ice, so I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm.

    And it does look like the team could use a veteran forward tweak and a little of the rough on D.

  81. spOILer says:

    Woodguy,

    they usually run Grebs out with Souray because he likes the right side ("off wing" altho I think with Staios at EVs Quinn has him on the LS with Steve being a rightie),

    and IIRC Grebs and Staios have been historically awful together.

    And then Vis likes the right side too, so its been a real mess to get the pairings set.

    Kind of like when Lowe traded for Cole to play LW.

  82. Woodguy says:

    Obviously I'm not going to prove anything here, but as one who sat behind a bench for many years, I can only say that many in here remind me of over-involved parents in minor hockey: Never happy, never willing to give credit, and with obviously too much time on their hands.

    No.

    Most of us are happy (ecstatic really)with the team so far this year, but were not watching our kids play minor hockey, we want the professional team in our city to win the Stanley Cup. Very different scenarios.

    I'm enjoying this team right now. That's something I haven't said about this team in a long time, and yes, I am aware of the future and the many needs this team has, but please forgive me for simply enjoying a team going through a great stretch. Dennis provides probably the best analysis I've ever seen of this team and even he gives credit where credit is due.

    As a season ticket holder I have suffered too, and most here are giving credit where its due, we just know they have to do something before next year so we speculate. That's the hobby. No shame in that.

    It seems every time I open my mouth, people try to make me feel like an idiot or ridicule my opinion.

    I apologize if I offended you. You made some broad statements that I thought were incorrect and tried to flesh out your arguments.

    No offense intended, just curious questions.

  83. Ender says:

    @CrazyCoach

    I don't think it's you. People 'round these parts (not everyone mind you) really dislike the concept of psychology in sports. It doesn't matter if they're winning by playing as a team rather than a number of individuals on the ice. It doesn't matter that if one person's having a bad night others will pick up the slack. It doesn't even matter if they're winning. If the underlying numbers don't fit into a view of what's good/normal/accepted, it's just plain wrong.

    I agree with you. The team must have a great locker-room right now given a) the wins and b) how well they're compensating for each other's strengths and weaknesses. Some stats might be unsustainable, but honestly, those can be compensated for as well.

    Me? I look at the last 9 games and rather than seeing unsustainable numbers or a weak schedule I see proof that it's at least possible for the team to play and/or win at this level. They might fail miserably, or they might take the div/cup, but at this point they've at least shown that they *can* hit that top end, and frankly, that's all I care about.

    Either way, it'll be fun while it lasts, however long or short that'll be.

  84. Smytty777 says:

    SpOILer: I agree that the Oilers have had an easier schedule to start this year, but isn't the big difference from last year that they've made the most of it?

    Last year the Oil had a tonne of home games to make hay after a brutal stretch of road games to start the year. They did nothing with it.

    This year they get a good stretch of schedule and turn it into 6-2-1. I'm not saying book the parade, but it's good to see them actually make some good use of an easier stretch, which they failed to do last year.

  85. Oilmaniac says:

    - Bruce:

    Dont you think that 77-37 stay together? seems like a solid pairing even without the sandpaper… or do they need to be split (talking about the scenario where theo is brought up and struds goes to the wing) because there is no way any coach would put out chorney and peckham as a pairing?

    -assuming 5-71 is set (with praise from penner last night!)

  86. Oilmaniac says:

    - crazycoach

    As someone that gets shit on every once in a while, I would say its an uncompromising crowd that so familiar with the content that if you bring up broad gut-feeling or re-hashed sentiments then it'll either get cut down or ignored…

    But it all comes down to how you want to waste your time, stroke the hobby.. I really appreciate what many posters have to say (and the people/source I read, LT and JW included, also praise the depth of analysis that occurs, at times, here)

  87. Bruce says:

    Oilmaniac: I'm lovin' the Ladi-Lubo pair, have been crying for Smid to play with a smooth puckmover for quite awhile. They complement each other very well indeed. So no, don't mess with that pairing.

    I sort of agree with you about balancing Chorney and Peckham with more experienced guys than each other, mind you Chorney has been playing with a very experienced guy in Strudwick and I don't know how much that is helping. The key man in that pairing is Wally Bulin.

    Long term, the sooner Souray gets back the better. The current situation is, uh, unsustainable.

    @CrazyCoach: I for one have always appreciated and enjoyed your input. Keep it coming.

  88. Smarmy Boss says:

    I for one don't care about Mac-T. The malaise I experienced as a fan of this team the passed few years was matched only by Pocklington's dismantling of the franchise.

    The Oilers were awful and more importantly, (to me) they were boring.

  89. DeeDee says:

    Ahhhh, the Manic Depressive joys of being an Oilers fan.

    Lets ride out the high while we can and see if the team can avoid the annual crapfest of a month long losing streak for a Christmas present.

  90. Asiaoil says:

    Sorry LT but I disagree – aside from one miracle run that could just as easily not happened – MacTs record is just plain mediocre at best. His flaws as a leader and motivator also became very very pronounced in his later years and almost cost us some guys who CAN play like Penner. He divided the room and coddled his favorites – so I for one – do not miss him one teeny tiny bit. In fact I even prefer Quinn's interviews as MacT had an air of enjoying listening to himself talk in his latter days. Good riddance as far as I'm concerned.

  91. Woodguy says:

    spOILer,

    New coaches, but last year.

    TOI with Souray:

    Staios 510:27
    Gilbert 505:30
    Vis 273:39
    Grebs 15:36
    Smid 13:12

    24/44 +0.705 G/60
    77/44 +0.594 G/60

    Wow. Staios was better net than Gilbert.

    I don't remember Grebs working with 44, was that this year?

  92. logical thinking says:

    MacT was right about schremp

    MacTavish said. "We all know what he can do, he's got decent hands, he can work a power play OK, but he's slow, he's not a physical player, he's soft at this level.

  93. Bookie says:

    Just read the interview with Penner on the Oilers' site. He indicates (with some subtlety) that MacT's approach of trying to target every mistake and remove it from the game really impacted his confidence.

    So, one more bit of info suggesting that MacT had a big focus on Mistakes.

    Here are some quotes I found in about 3 seconds of looking (to be fair you might get the exact same with any coach) using date restricted news searching. Not all are MacT, but of interest anyway.

    2001 – "When they had the lead, they didn't make mistakes," MacTavish said. "They're strong on the stick, strong on the puck and win a high percentage of the battles. That's why they've been so successful."

    2002 – "It was a matter of poor defensive zone coverage and lots of mental errors," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "You can't make those mistakes at this level if you want to be successful."

    2003 – "We scored early in the third, and it looks like the same recipe for a good finish for us," MacTavish said. "Then we made a
    couple mistakes."

    2003 – "Tommy played well enough to hide a lot of
    mistakes that we made, and it was good for him to have a game
    like that, too."

    2005 – "We have a 3-2 lead with six minutes to go and lose," MacTavish said. "We lose by the same stupid mistakes we have been making time and time again. We are playing with a junior-league-player mentality."

    2006 – "I fully expect us to go out and play and learn from the mistakes we made the last three games," MacTavish said.

    2006 – "I've had a few coaches over the course here in Edmonton, but this coaching staff, they have us dialed in," Smyth said. "It's so important now to realize any mistake can cost you and these guys are really focused at trying to get us not to make those mistakes."

    2007 – "Mistakes in execution cost us another hockey game," said MacTavish

    2007 – The win was the fourth in six games for Edmonton, which moved ahead of idle Colorado into ninth place in the Western Conference, six points out of a playoff spot. "We've been talking about trying to have fun again," Roloson said. "Making the plays instead of worrying about making mistakes.

    2008 "It's just the mental mistakes and the stubbornness, I don't get it," said MacTavish. "The same usual things that get us in trouble."

  94. Dennis says:

    Pat beat me to it but I don't see a lot of problems with all those guys up for new deals.

    Guys like 22 and 78 won't likely be in great bargaining positions and the Oilers will probably make a decision on either 13 or 89 or perhaps they'll sign one of them and move them along with one of the pricey D in order to add another forward.

    I think you'll see all of 5-41-49 in the top six and then one of 37-44-71-77 will be moved to pare salary and bolster the forward corps; and maybe 13 or 19 are packaged in that deal.

    You'll see the forwards being built around 10-83-10 and two of 13-19-89 and we still have a few lower paid candidates to round out the bottom.

    And, yes, there's always the options of farming 18 and 24.

    As for right now, it's a bit jarring – albeit in a delightful way – to see the club at +10 and four games over .500.

    Last year we were good enough at EV to make the playoffs but the PP sucked. This year we're doing fine in all three catergories and the return of 34 will help us further in two of those disciplines.

    I'm not sure how for real we are but heading into this year, based on the fact we didn't go outside to improve the club, I opined that the brass was banking on a big year from 27, an improvement in goal and the maturation of the respective kids.

    Some of those things are happening right now and I'm happy for it.

  95. Bookie says:

    And just to follow up, I posted the above quotes about Mistakes for interest. I realize that it has a selective bias and that it proves nothing, I just thought it was interesting.

    I should note that I did the same search for Quinn and similar quotes were much harder to find (I looked at his tenure for MLeafs).

    Do a search for Mactavish on Google news and limit the dates to 2000 to 2009 and have some fun reading articles. Its really interesting to see how some problems ran through the whole time period (and I am not saying that it is MacT, it could be team make up). Do it, it is interesting.

  96. kris says:

    I think all you can really say is that MacT was a pretty good coach and we had a decent coaching staff over the years. Most of winning in the NHL is personel, IMO.

    Let's not forget that the staff over the past few years did some good things, but had some flaws. Here's how I see it.

    Good Things:
    -Good PK every year except the last.
    -Really good player development.
    -Good at instituting and teaching complicated, defensive-minded systems play, especially in the playoffs. Good X's and O's.

    Cons:
    -Apparently had problems "with the room" the last year. Apparently mishandled Penner and Nilsson situation. Maybe a myth.
    -Rarely got the PP working well. Could've used Gagner and Hemsky more, and not moved everything through Souray last year.
    -Couldn't find a system of play to protect his younger, mistake prone players. (This may have been impossible. We'll never know for sure, though it does look -at least for now- that Quinn is doing a bit better at this.)

    Crazy Coach: I liked your comment about psychological team cohesion, even though I didn't agree with it at all. Sometimes folks here get edgy, sometimes they just sound edgy when they're not. (It's a little like road-rage; people tend to act a little less civil when they're not face to face.)

  97. Bruce says:

    You'll see the forwards being built around 10-83-10

    Dennis: That pretty much describes how the situation has been for quite some time. Nice Freudian blip.

  98. anonymous says:

    "You can not inspect quality into the product; it is already there." W. Edwards Deming

    That being said a focus on eliminating mistakes isn't a bad thing, but you have to be selective as to what mistakes you are asking which player to focus on when.

    Batting slumps can end by fixing the right mistake, but you can also prolong them with a player more focused on mistakes than batting.

    Penner's comments don't change my generally positive impressions of MacT or of him. With any coach he would have taken a while to put together a multi-dimensional game on either side of the puck. macT with no lives left amplified his natural level of confusion. Its probably a combination of experience, systems, commitment, a fresh start, quinn/renney, and luck bringing his game together now.

  99. Woodguy says:


    I think you'll see all of 5-41-49 in the top six and then one of 37-44-71-77 will be moved to pare salary and bolster the forward corps; and maybe 13 or 19 are packaged in that deal.

    Dennis,

    So what kind of forward would you shop for?

  100. Bruce says:

    It's a little like .road-rage; people tend to act a little less civil when they're not face to face.)

    When I have road rage I (try to) see the offender as the vehicle not the driver. Helps keep things impersonal even as the blue language sometimes proves what a nasty son-of-a-bitch I can be. But nobody else hears it 'cept occaisonally my own family. *blushes*

    Hey, gotta vent somewhere. Here is not really the place; despite the nifty psuedonyms, there are real people on the receiving end of every comment. I don't mind a little bar talk from time to time, but prefer that respectful dialogue among intelligent adults be the normal state of affairs. As indeed it usually is, which is why I keep coming back here. Exhibit A: this outstanding thread. Good discussion, honest differences of opinion, but nothing that struck me as flamethrowing.

    Me? I'm with CrazyCoach and Ender that the spirit of the team is really high right now. Might not last forever, but as a Quasi-Coach :) myself I know it's real good when it happens. The exuberance that was apparent on the ice and across the bench following Penner's 4-4 goal last night can't be faked. Not to mention in the crowd; it's a helluva lot easier (and funner) to pull for a team that pulls together.

  101. Hockey Noob says:

    RO,

    The Oilers are not the only team with an unusually high shooting percentage. In fact, your Calgary Flames currently have the highest shooting percentage in the league (16.5%). They also seem to have the lowest shots/game in the league.

  102. Dennis says:

    WG: I guess the easy answer would be an obvious talent on the way up like young Neal in Dal.

    But that kid's got size, intent and goal scoring so could you even get him for 77?

    I don't know.

    And if you thought that last year was a blip and this year's just a slight carryover, would you take a chance at Nathan Horton? The Cats don't have an abundance of young forwards so I'm not sure if they'd want to put more money in the backline while taking away from up front.

    If 13 doesn't want to play pivot, would you move 13/77 for Horton plus the Cats first rounder?

  103. P-Ow says:

    While it's a given that a lot of the players owe their development to MacT, my question is did he have a greater impact one way or the other than any other coach in the league would have?

    It's an impossible hypothetical to answer, but given the tone of this post, I think it's reasonable to wonder how much "coaching" improved these players as opposed to "Craig MacTavish's coaching."

    That said, I was never a fan to begin with, so I'm probably more apt to give him less credit.

  104. Bar Qu says:

    Ok, just erased my rant, inspired by sick kids, too much marking and how it has likely spoiled a weekend away with my wife
    (who is not home with me and said sick kids) before I posted it.

    The point I wanted to make was that I appreciated the back and forth I have seen here today. Its nice to see opposite sides of the fence act civil-like on as contentious a person as the Mactavish.

    While I don't think he was the sole reason for the collapse of the team last year (no person tends to hold that much power over a situation), I do think he needed to move on to remove built-in excuses for some players. Two of whom are my personal favourites in Smid and Penner.

    And I am definitely enjoying the balmy bliss of stolen points by this team the last few games (the hockey gods have been smiling on them since the second BoA). I don't think it will last – especially as I watch the wilting of one M. Comrie – and the absence of any reliable defensive forward outside of Horcoff (and some red-head down on the farm).

  105. R O says:

    HockeyNoob,

    Indeed. Which is why over at the Flames blog I frequent, enthusiasm over the Flames winning record is heavily tempered. Only the recent CGY-CBJ game showcased a glimpse of the type of EV play we are expecting from Calgary.

  106. Lowetide says:

    Peckham not in the Springfield lineup, so he may be in Alberta in time for the game tomorrow night.

  107. Dennis says:

    I don't think I've glossed over what LT said but the idea seemed to be that a lot of the teething happened under MacT's watch because he wasn't given vet options as an alternative.

    So, you see how 5 no longer regularily allows back door plays? That's because he was burned so many times previously.

    Under macT's watch.

    Numerously.

    So, while I think he cracked the whip too hard on 27, I didn't like what he did with garon and by the end of things there were times he was phoning it in with the line matching, fuck the guy seemed like he was always coaching rookies.

  108. knighttown says:

    @ Dennis

    There's a trade to be had with Dallas. Four power forwards with some skills somewhere between good and great.

    In order of value:

    -Morrow
    -Neal
    -Ott
    -Benn

    If Dallas decides to shift there age back a few years would Grebs + Sulli get you Morrow. Grebs + Cogliano?

  109. Woodguy says:


    But that kid's got size, intent and goal scoring so could you even get him for 77?

    Nieuwendyk stated that Neal is "not available", I think it takes 37/77 + 13 + smaller asset (2nd ish), but so worth it.


    If 13 doesn't want to play pivot, would you move 13/77 for Horton plus the Cats first rounder?

    I think Horton is a lot like Brule, just with more NHL experience, and better. I don't think you can have too many guys who are tough, but can score. Those are the guys who win playoff games with broken hands.

    If the 1st is there, you make that one I think.

    He's playing the toughs with Weiss and getting pounded.

    If he were more sheltered, he could be a real find.

    You might be able to do 13 + 12ish for him (if the reports of him on the outs is correct, Oilers love reclaim projects) and save 37/77 for a LW (if Brown/Neal type isn't available, who'd require 37/77 + 13_

  110. Asiaoil says:

    Dennis – sure Horton may be of interest but a bit pricey – how about something built around Grebs and Stafford. Young Drew has connections to the org which always helps this bunch – plus he's signed through next year and seems to be developing into a pretty fine big two way winger.

    27 89 83
    19 10 Stafford

    …seems like a pretty good top 6.

    We still need to rebuild the bottom six…. 22, 32, 34 (resigned cheap), 67, 46, 78 are all decent and affordable – but a couple of solid vets would help. I continue to beleive 12,13, and 18 will be moved for salary reasons. Hopefully 12 can rebuild some value and someone wants 18s mythical leadership at the deadline. Comrie can move along any time.

    77, 44, 5 and 71 are my top 4 keepers. Chorney and Peckham can be 6-7 but we need another decent cheap vet to babysit as a #5. Staios at half the salary would be fine.

    We have a few contracts to move out (12, 18, 24) with return not an issue. Plus we have 13 and 37 as major trade chips. If we get a solid affordable 2 way RW like Stafford and some solid affordable vets in supporting roles – I'm fine. No need to whale hunt and the 13/37 trade chips are more than enough to get the winger and more.

  111. Woodguy says:

    how about something built around Grebs and Stafford.

    AO,

    You are aiming too low with Stafford.

    Grebs (as the mythical Puck Moving Defenceman) is worth more.

    It might be the right move cap wise because Stafford is signed at 1.9 until the end of next year (RFA).

    I think you do it if they add their 2nd next year or someone like Myers or Butler, but to add those guys you are probably throwing a prospect back at them.

  112. Asiaoil says:

    Woodguy – sure maybe BUF adds a bit – maybe not – but Stafford's size, ability and connection to the org makes it a very stable low risk play. If BUF adds a pick then fine – but Grebs is a couple of years older and will be significantly more expensive both this year and next.

  113. Wikiwonk says:

    Contrary to media portrayals, there was no "crazy luck" in 2006. That they were still in the playoff hunt after leaking at least half a goal a game on substandard goal-tending for 60 odd games suggests they were a pretty strong team once goal-tending was addressed. The only luck there is that Roloson shook off the rust quickly enough to make it over the cut line.

    About "no way does a MacT team come back from a 4-1 deficit" the main difficulty in refuting that claim is that it's hard to find a sufficiently high-scoring game from the end of his rookie-to-the-gills 2007-2008 season where the Oilers managed to get that far behind. I find it hard to fault MacT on that basis.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/teams/schedule?team=edm&year=2008

    MacT was given a bad hand in net in 2006 until almost too freaking late. I subscribe to the theory that Lowe pulled the trigger on all those trades because Pronger had already indicated it was likely his last stand. I also suspect a verbal deal was reached where Lowe promised Pronger that if he performed well in the playoffs, he wouldn't hang Pronger out to dry as slow trade bait. Making a promise to a player, especially a promise a player barely deserves, ought to be a way to attract people to play for your organization, but for some reason that's not how it played out. Among many other things in the "we'll never know" bucket when it comes to assessing Oiler management.

    The truth of the matter is that this is a success oriented business and MacT wasn't often handed a success oriented roster. Eventually your weapon of last resort is to badger, bully, cajole, berate, and throw fatso under a bus. He burned his welcome because that was the last card available.

    It's also true that a change of coaching can work out as a short term boon. What the departed coach taught well the team still remembers, while the new coach provides new solutions where the team formerly struggled. After a couple of seasons, Quinn will no longer enjoy the "fresh eyes" bonanza, but by then, this could be a very different roster.

    If MacT got under Penner's skin enough to get him off the wheat wagon, all the more to his credit. That strikes me as the coaching edition of taking one for the team. Like most coaches, MacT preached leaving it all on the ice. As a coach, he did that, knowing he could look himself in the mirror when the axe fell. He certainly wasn't rewarded with job security for telling Penner what needed to be said. The diplomats out there will say MacT should have dealt with Penner behind the scenes. Who's to say that would have actually worked, or that it hadn't already been given a longer leash than it rightfully deserved?

    Against MacT, I suspect he wasn't a fun guy to play for when things weren't going well. Usually the bag-skate brigade exults in warranted abuse. How does one frame this? Too old school? Collar too tight? Misplaced perfectionism? None of these are exactly a crime in the coaching ranks.

    Where I fault MacT is for establishing a game plan in the regular season that demands post-season intensity 82 nights a season. "Structure" is this season's code word among the players for having options that don't make you look bad without having to skate yourself into oblivion, until you bonk an entire homestand in front of irate fans.

    It's no surprise to me that once MacT's team made the playoffs, the guys outperformed expectations. With any charity, that's how he deserves to be remembered.

  114. kinger says:

    /thread

  115. Dennis says:

    Wiki: I can't tell you how much my blood boils when folks talk about that '06 run being a fluke; that fucking Duhatschek is the first one to trot it out and he's one of the guys covering Alberta, for fucksakes.

    AO-KT-WG: I know we could get Stafford for less and that Horton would cost more in both assets and cash but I'd rather go with the proven guy. And I can't imagine the Stars will give up Morrow in any sensible scnario.

    BTW, if we could pick up a power forward who could score 25 goals, then I'd like our depth enough that a bottom six of 22-78-34-46-67-plus would do just fine.

    We'd be deep enough up top that all we'd have to do in the bottom six is hold serve and the crew listed above looks to be able to handle that.

  116. Black Dog says:

    crazycoach – you're one of the originals pal, don't be going now

    that would not be good

  117. Dennis says:

    One other note: right now you'd be looking to find someone to make 10/19 go but of course that's shortsighted because who knows when 10/83 will be back together.

    What we basically need is a 25 goal guy who's a plus player and can mesh with either 10 or 89 or 83.

  118. Black Dog says:

    Dennis – yeah the Stars aren't giving up Morrow or Neal.

    This whole talk of Stafford is a pipe dream afaiac, Les Sabres are small. Why woould they give up one of their few big men?

    And Horton is a child. They need a guy who is proven and reliable or a kid who looks to get there. Neither would come cheap or may be available. Look at what Lucic pulls down because of the type of player he is.

    I think that there is a lot to what CC says about the room, I also believe that when the worm turns we will get a better idea of what is out there.

    Its been a terrific start though. Frigging Smid.

  119. Black Dog says:

    Dennis, yeah I go over this lineup in my head and it seems to me that the weakness may be on LW.

    RW – Hemsky, O'Sullivan, Pisani, Stone, Stortini plus you have Eberle on the way up and I believe that he will be a player. A lot of this depth depends on Pisani but I think he will be effective

    C – Horc, Gagner, Cogliano, Brule, Pouliot – a lot of duplicate skills but by the looks of it this may be stronger than we thought

    LW – Penner, Comrie, JFJ, Moreau

    Not so hot. Moreau has been very good w/ 13/46 imo and Comrie or Jacques would be ok if they had a better alternative

    So a tough minutes guy who can pop 25 on the LW would be ideal but who the hell is out there and available? Glencross? ;) He won't score you 25 though.

  120. Black Dog says:

    One last before bed.

    Ponikorovsky (sic)

    Plus player every year except his rookie year when he was a minus 1

    He's very big.

    Always around 20 goals.

    Has played the toughs, I believe.

    And he's a UFA so he would come cheap(er) and he is motivated. And Quinn knows him. And he is experienced on the pK I believe.

    He is inconsistent and not as physical as you like for that big a guy but he's the guy I think, for a shortterm fix.

  121. Rob Gilgan says:

    Apostrophe abuse alert

    but he did teach the Gagner's and the Cogliano's and the Smid's and even the Horcoff's and Hemsky's

    When we run out, you'll wish you hadn't squandered these.

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