Did I ever tell you why I’m a fan of Craig MacTavish? It all started when he arrived as an Edmonton Oiler—I knew him as a Bruin, but didn’t really see him as he became. The truth is, MacT wasn’t MacT until he got here, he had all the parts but didn’t become the classic checking center until he was an Oiler. The old timey Habs had Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard, and they were dynamite. But their third center was a guy named Ralph Backstrom, who was a MacTavish. Backstrom probably could have scored more on another team but the Canadiens used him in a checking role. Now, this is all stuff that I recall from stories my Dad told, but the history books confirm it and I did see Ralph as a Hab when a kid.
Anyway, the beauty of MacT as a player was a sense of purpose, unerring devotion to the plan, and consistency. Clarity. I grew to appreciate his hard work, his dogged determination, his ability to delay sorties and chip in on offense. At his peak, MacTavish as a player was overshadowed by others (Messier and Kurri got the Selke votes) but he skated miles in the name of delaying an effective sortie. Ralph Backstrom would have loved him.
As a coach, MacTavish was very similar to MacT the player. I learned a tremendous amount from MacT as coach, he made so damn much sense. Just one year into his time as GM, I think there’s a thread of logic in his style. Not perfect, but a thread of logic and reason.
Which brings us to Mr. Eakins.
- Dallas Eakins: “You could argue which team was better five-on-five tonight… It was one of those nights where we came up short on the PK.”
There’s a lot to dislike about last night’s game: the PK was horrible, SJS would have been tired from their schedule, veterans taking penalties is never a welcome addition to the plot, but the Corsi for % at 5×5 slightly favored the Oilers. Oh, and they LOOKED organized for long periods. Small victories are big steps. I like Eakins clarity, his sense of the team and for the most part his in-season moves. There are exceptions, but you’re going to get that with any coach.
I believe it’s important to remember he’s a rookie too. A lot of the fanbase is put off by his arrogance, but for me that’s not a big deal. After Saturday night’s game against Calgary, I wrote “the only way we’ll be able to keep track is results on-ice, and it is scarcely possible it can get any worse than last night.”
It was better last night, despite the final score. The Oilers looked organized for a long time, and the penalty kill and a two mistakes by their best defenseman (along with a goal that should have been saved) did them in. I’ll take that if it’s combined with the Corsi above, because history tells us if you play that kind of game the result will turn your way often enough to make the effort worthwhile.
Dallas Eakins is a rookie coach. He’s arrogant, has Punch Imlach’s ability to say “they” when he should say “we” and vice-versa, and is extremely unaware of the “better to say too little rule” when asked a direct question. I like his clarity, and believe it’s prudent to add help at D and C this summer, and to give this another try. Make no mistake, an evaluation will/may be taking place and there could be a change at the coaching position.
This fan would prefer roster moves. I don’t think there’s a coach alive who could bring this defense home inside the playoffs. The man responsible for that was fired April 15, 2013.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
I’m not taking part in winter anymore, so we’ll be ignoring the elements on the Lowdown this morning. Happy spring! A busy morning, scheduled to appear on TSN 1260 beginning at 10:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We’ll discuss last night’s game and Eakins future.
- Ryan Marsh, Hockey Director Vimy Ridge Academy Assistant Coach of University of Alberta Golden Bears Hockey. The Golden Bears are a dominant hockey program over decades, we’ll talk to Ryan about the championship won this weekend and the power of teamwork.
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. Baseball! We’ll talk about the growth of the sport and the big week for Montreal Expos fans.
- Tom Dakers, Bluebird Banter. Blue Jays opening day roster is known (well, kind of) and we’ll talk baseball season.
10-1260 via text, @Lowetide_ on twitter. Spring!!!!