Monday, November 17, 2008
There is rarely a dull day when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers and today is no different as reactions fly with regard to MacTavish calling out Dustin Penner, who will not play again tonight.
Lowetide has made a pretty big deal about this one and I tend to agree with his assessment of the situation. MacTavish pretty well questioned everything about Penner's commitment. This may be a motivational ploy but if so, MacTavish has nowhere else to go on this. If Penner comes back and after a game or two reverts to his indifferent ways then its going to be one or the other and this is where it will get interesting.
First of all there's no doubt in my mind that Penner has been a huge disappointment ever since he came to Edmonton. People point to numbers here and there to prove that he is getting a raw deal but the fact is that he has never shown the passion in Edmonton that he showed in the 2006 playoffs when he was dominant shift in and shift out, overwhelming defencemen with his size and power. He came to camp out of shape last year and while his fitness is better this year the fact is he has underachieved grossly and unlike other guys whose numbers we point at accusingly he does not have the excuse of coming off of a major injury or of playing a new position or of being a teenager to fall back on. Yes he has not had a lot of power play time and that may be a mistake but if you are the highest paid forward on the team and a very big man besides, then you had better have some impact of some sort instead of being a cipher who gets pushed off of the puck by Alex Steen.
Now having said all of that we have reached a crossroads here because unless Penner finds God and comes back as the second coming of Maurice Richard and starts showing that he gives a damn then its going to be either him or the coach. So its going to come to that because I know and you know that Penner may come back and be hard charging for a week or two but then he's going to backslide because that's the way he is. When Shawn Horcoff or Ethan Moreau have a game where they appear disinterested its easy money if you bet that the next game their effort will be terrific. Dustin isn't of that mold.
So its him or MacT.
I like MacT and I think he's a pretty good coach. Prior to the lockout I would grade the work that both he and Lowe did as better then average. They had the constraints of a tight budget and yet every year they produced a competitive team. There were a few small budget teams that did more then they but they were better then a lot of others and some big market teams as well. MacT did a good job at developing young players and of having them play a nice energetic game.
In 2006 they had their finest moment. Some breaks in the playoffs sure but MacT took a nice roster and did some nice game planning and in the end they were a break or two away from winning it all. Can't really ask for more then that. Of course I also have to mention the power play which cost them the Cup, imo, and this is a big issue with MacT, regardless of the personnel.
So for the past two years he's been dealt a bum roster, forced to develop a ton of kids all over the place and last season may have actually been his best coaching job ever. A lot of luck involved but that team was beyond green and still was a pretty competitive team.
But now things have changed. First of all lets get one thing straight - the reality is we, as fans, have no idea what is going on with Oilers' management. There is plenty of speculation but lets start with these truths:
There is a new owner who has spent a lot of money on this club.
Kevin Lowe is no longer the GM and we have no idea how much power he has when it comes to decision making.
We have no idea how much power Steve Tambellini has.
We do know that this team has quality throughout the lineup. They could use a veteran centre to handle the tough sledding and we could quibble about another Dman but they are pretty solid. Pretty young still but a playoff team I would say.
And I'm not the only one. The playoffs are the expectation and I would guess that this expectation comes from the top. The old line that Lowe and MacT know what they are doing because they won a bunch of Stanley Cups as players is not going to hold water here and I would say that 2006 is fading fast as well. After all John Tortorella and Jay Feaster are gone and they actually won a Cup and Peter Laviolette is apparently on thin ice in Carolina and he won one too, remember?
I don't know if Katz is exerting pressure on his hockey people but as long as he doesn't go all Koules/Barrie on the Oilers where is the problem if he is? Expecting a team to make the playoffs and win - what a concept. So perhaps the hockey guys are feeling pressure for the first time in a decade. Its about time I would say.
Maybe Tambellini does have the hand in Edmonton now and he wants to bring in his own guy - that's just more speculation - but I do know one thing. Despite a pretty nice start to this season in terms of wins and losses this team's effort has been uneven and they have left points on the table. A lot of games where a full sixty minutes has not been played. We all know the old saw that the players are professionals but preparation is up to the coach too, lets not kid ourselves, and the fact that this team has lacked in the effort department speaks to the coach. And yes the three goalie situation is ridiculous but the power play has still looked anemic and there have been a lot of weird decisions from the bench and something just doesn't seem right.
It bothers me that it took benching Penner and Brodziak to produce Saturday night's effort, probably the best this season, imo, or up there anyways. The question is whether that was the wakeup call that the team needed or if that was MacT's last gasp.
I think MacTavish is in trouble. I think that some players may be tuning him out and that this may be the beginning of the end for him. I like MacT but I don't necessarily think that a change behind the bench would be a bad thing.
I think its coming.
Posted by Black Dog at 3:30 PM