Thursday, April 16, 2009

Exploration time in Oil Country

The Edmonton Oilers bid adieu to head coach Craig MacTavish on Wednesday, a not unanticipated result of missing the playoffs once again, but still a bit of a shock for hockey fans who had become used to seeing MacT behind that bench night in and night out.

It was only a few short years ago that he was the keynote speaker for lower cap coaches everywhere, taking a team with few huge names but lots of heart into the Stanley Cup playoffs, a few key defections later and they were back to the middle to bottom of the challengers, falling out completely as the season was winding down.

Yet it probably Wednesday's announcement wasn't such a surprising turn of events for the Oilers coach, after all it was only a few weeks ago that he received that dreaded "vote of confidence" from team owner Daryl Katz , though one wonders about the heartfelt intent of a confidence vote issued by text message to reporters. Commitment just isn't what it used to be we guess.

The lethargic nature of his players down the stretch most likely sealed MacTavish's fate, the stumbling nature of their quest for a playoff spot and the inability of the coach to impress upon his players the dire straits of their situation left many wondering if MacTavish had lost his room, or if his room was losing MacTavish. Regardless of who was at fault, the growing consensus among Oiler fans was that change had to come if progression into the Stanley Cup playoffs again was ever to follow.

As the summer progresses many of those same players might find new mailing addresses to forward to friends and family, for surely the dismal nature of the Oilers end to the season cannot be laid on the shoulders of their now former coach.

The boxes from the office desk have barely left the building and already there is a growing list of potential replacements, some of them the usual suspects that always seem to come up when a coaching position comes open, to others that seem fanciful at best for the faithful of Oil country.
Regardless, whoever ends up taking the job will find that like many other Canadian cities, coaching above the 49th parallel requires much more than just making sure the line up gets on the ice each night.

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