I write this not so much as an Illegal Curve contributor, but rather as a concerned fan. Having watched the Oilers for many, many years, I think it is safe to say that I have never felt as uninspired as I do now. My main concern is the coaching, for many reasons.
I have been a MacTavish supporter in the past. I like his one-liners and quips and how he handles the media and how he can coach a team made up of quasi-skilled grinders like he had in the spring of 2006. That being said, this train wreck of a season has convinced me its time for him to move on. Leaving the bulk of the season out of the equation, the Oilers have for the last week been teetering in and out of a playoff position. Despite the fact that they are essentially playing playoff games right now, their games have the intensity of a father-daughter skate. I know that some of this blame must fall to the players, but ultimately the coach must get his team ready to play. The 4 or 5 minutes that they show any spark or life is simply not enough. Couple the lack of motivation with the decision to play Liam Reddox over guys who provide a spark (like JF Jacques or Zach Stortini), and you are left with a variety of equations that lead to the same answer. Fire Craig MacTavish.
The last 8 or so years have left a trail of mediocrity that shouldn’t be tolerated. Some years we have had the players, other years we haven’t, but the outcome is always the same, finishing 7th to 10th and typically getting bounced early in the playoffs. The lovely run of 2006 aside, this type of result should not have been tolerated for this long. Outside of the Liberal Party of Canada (Hello Drew!) and the US auto industry, where else is this ineptitude condoned? The problem is, unlike the auto industry, we can’t go running to President Teleprompter asking him to send us a 40 goal scorer riding on the back of a puck moving defenseman (because the team is in Canada, you see).
I see other coaches do more with less and wonder why this doesn’t happen in Edmonton. I see coaches that can motivate, coaches that can turn rejects into players and coaches that can win close games. I will acknowledge that MacTavish has successfully brought along a number of young players, but it seems for every kid he has brought along, he has ruined the confidence of another. When you are a team like the Oilers and you need some scoring punch, you simply cannot keep turning scorers into checkers. Defensive responsibility is one thing, but sometimes its ok to let a player play to his strengths.
We always seem to choke in must win games, we do not have a power play or a penalty kill, we healthy scratch our scorers for guys that “ONLY” end up -1 (which makes most Oilers fans happy because it fits well into their statistical databases) we turn players into rejects and our Captain has mastered the art of the meaningless penalty 150 feet from anywhere at times when we can least afford them. To me, this kind of problem needs a top down fix.
Agree, disagree, have a statistical model saying the Oilers are only Marty Reasoner away from winning the Stanley Cup? Lets hear it in the comments. (Disclosure Part 2: If your argument is in fact based on statistics, please use lay terms. I only passed Stats 151 because I had the good fortune to sit near a girl with low self-esteem. Do the math on that one).