Friday, October 31, 2008


MacT and the Oilers have them, as they stumble along in the midst of a losing streak whose length is yet to be determined.

Everyone knew that this opening fifteen games would be a challenge but a speedy start masked problems, both foreseen and not so much. Ironically now the team is playing better but has nothing to show for it and as is the case with offensive slumps things seem to be getting worse rather then better. The sticks are getting squeezed and there's not much a coach can do about it except to encourage players to go to the net hard. Except for Souray not a single player is producing up to par offensively so its not as if he can move Hemsky or Gagner to another line to kickstart a slumping teammate.

This team is flawed but other then the Red Wings, the Sharks and the Habs, every team has flaws in the new capped NHL. Big money given to one player means finding an outperformer elsewhere. Gone are the days where solid and trusty veterans could be found to fill out the bottom D pair, the third and fourth lines, the spot of the backup goaltender. Nearly every team now has holes somewhere, lack of depth, a kid or journeyman or two playing when a few years back they would be in junior or the minors. So the Oilers are no different then anybody else. Their D has three guys who are pretty green and the three vets all have their flaws. They don't have a bigtime stopper between the pipes. A little more size and experience up front would be nice.

There is however, no doubt, that this team has underperformed, as a whole and as individuals for the most part. And grumbling has begun about the coach.

While Jim Matheson may opine that the last two years this team had a legitimate playoff shot the truth is that both years were sacrificed to development. That's fine but a third straight year out of the playoffs for a team that can and has spent money would likely mean the end of MacT's tenure. He has a number of veterans in the lineup now and a whole lot of guys who have produced in the NHL. I think the only time during his time in Edmonton when he may have been in trouble was when the club struggled to make the playoffs in 2006. I think if this club doesn't get some results on the board soon that he may find himself in the soup.

The problem for MacT is that a lot of the problems this team has been having can be laid at his feet. Its one thing if a guy is slumping. Its another when the following problems are part of the mix:

The three headed goaltending situation. How much of this is management and how much is MacT is open for discussion but he should really be telling Tambellini that JDD has to be sent down. When Pisani was hurt they were left with no options up front but to play MacIntyre against the Avs in the second part of a BTB. Unnecessary and untenable. What I know about goaltending is very little but I do know that they need as much work as possible to stay sharp. Rotating two guys is difficult enough. Rotating three is ridiculous. They need to send JDD out and get another option up front. As I said this may be management but MacT has to get control of the situation here.

The Pisani experiment. Enough is enough. Send him to the wing and give Pouliot a shot at this position. Kid can win draws and it would be nice to see him play with a couple of veterans on his flanks which leads us to ...

The fourth line. Last year a strength after the arrival of Glencross its now a nonfactor. Stortini is an absolute cipher (some might say so what/told you so) and Brodziak hasn't a point. Moreau replicates Glencross' skill set for the most part. Send him, Brodziak and Stortini over the boards. While I will admit that the arrival of MacIntyre seems to have meant a lot less in the way of abuse for the Oilers the fact is the guy is not an NHL player, far from it, and everytime he steps on the ice its a lost shift for the club.

Special teams. The PP has never been a MacT strength and it cost the Oilers a Cup in 2006 as far as I am concerned. After a run last spring which saw players and the puck moving quickly and creatively they have gotten back to the old pass around the perimeter to tee it up for the D routine. Poor poor stuff. And on top of this the PK has been shoddy at times as they try and break in Penner and Gagner. I'd be rolling out Pisani, Horcoff, Moreau and three of Brodziak, Pouliot, Cole or Cogliano myself. The first two have played some in that role and Cogliano and Cole have the wheels.

Throw in a lot of poor starts to games, a general lack of intensity and a lack of accountability for mistakes and I can understand why a lot of people are pointing fingers at the coach. If Grebeshkov makes another backpass to nobody like he did against the Canucks the other night then he should sit in the pressbox. A soft play or turnover should end up with someone nailed to the bench. Its up to MacT to take control of this situation.

I like MacT, I do. The folks who don't give him credit for anything are way offbase. He had a brilliant run in 2006, he does a nice job developing kids and he can get a lot out of a little but presently this team is running in place and that just won't do. The underlying numbers suggest that its more of a case of bad luck then anything right now but I'm thinking that Daryl Katz may not care so much about the underlying numbers, not when he sees Ron Wilson whipping a team of scrubs into shape in Toronto.


Scott said...

That's a nice compilation of MacT's shortcomings so far this season. This is really the first year where I think one can lay a signigicant number of the problems the team is having directly at the feet of the coaching staff. Some of it looks like familiarity too, an unwillingness to move Pisani or Moreau to that fourth line based on past service. It might be helpful to get a new voice in town. Too bad Quennville was snapped up already. Who is really out there that would be good for a look? IMO Pat Burns would be awesome. The team would have a totally different feel. No nonsense. But he might be too old or just not want to do it.

grease trap said...

Couldn't agree more, BD. A team with this much talent and dare I say it, "upside", shouldn't be struggling right now.

When everyone but Souray is underperforming it's got to be laid at the coach's feet. There's nowhere else for the buck to stop.

R-Gib said...

Well put. Good summary of issues.

I whole-heartedly agree about the 4th line... sure would be nice to have a big energy crash-bang style that can roll out there and get the guys into it. Wouldn't mind at all if they brought up Potulny or Brule to make it work too.

Black Dog said...

True guys but I'm not saying its time for him to go.

What I am saying is that there are issues that are in his hands - 4th line, Pisani at centre, PK personnel, the whip - that he has to take care of.

And I think that if things don't turn around then he may be in trouble.

Not yet though.

Lord Bob said...

I suspect that MacTavish is a really first-class teaching coach: he knows as much as anybody does about teaching guys to get better. That's a rare asset and it should be valued as such.

On the other hand, as a tactical coach for a team that wants to Win Now, he leaves quite a bit to be desired.

The question is, which one do we need more right now?

Black Dog said...

l.b. - I'm not even sure about the tactical issue as such, although the goddamn PP is a disaster as usual

motivation seems to be the problem; guys are making the same mistakes over and over again, bonehead plays abound - cracking the whip made a difference with Nilsson last year, there should not be a fear of putting some fear into some of these guys

Matt Stajan was benched here in T.O. for indifferent play and responded with three goals in two games.

Scott said...

I don't think that MacT is going to be fired right now, but if this road trip results in fewer than five points, I think that there's a good chance that he doesn't live to fight another day.

It just seems like he's not putting out the best line-up possible to win games right now.

Vic Ferrari said...

Listened to the postgame podcast, and MacTavish sounds like a piano has been lifted from his back.

Moreau is always level headed in those things by the way, just unflappable. If it was my call, I'd make him Gagner's roommate on the road trips.

Also, on the 'cracking the whip' thing, I like Mike Singletary style wig-outs. I don't know how much good it does, but it's fun to watch.

raventalon40 said...

Did anybody else notice MacT throw out the Penner-Pisani-Cole line at one point. Interesting temporary plugging was pretty effective. I could imagine Moreau-Brodziak-Stortini would make a good temporary energy line as well.

Black Dog said...

Vic - yeah Moreau is an interesting guy - always calm and well spoken off of the ice, on the ice he can tend to stupid at times but he's a guy who makes everyone play bigger so to speak

If MacT goes Hal McRae on us we will know its over.

raventalon40 - I like that temporary energy line as a permanent energy line except Moreau seems to have other ideas in mind. Hard to argue with playing him as much as possible when he seems to be adding plenty to the mix so far.

Black Dog said...

And btw I'm not a betting man but I would lay money on Ethan Moreau being an NHL coach someday - anyone want to put money on that one?

Vic Ferrari said...

I think Moreau will coach one day too, Pat. In fact I think it's a given, whether he thinks so himself or not right now, I suspect that's the way it will roll.

HBomb said...

BDHS: I'm surprised you haven't deleted hunter1909's obvious trolling yet.

What a pile of shit.

Black Dog said...

Yeah just saw that - its gone.