Well, this is a move that comes as a surprise to very few. Today, the Oilers announced that they have relieved head coach Craig MacTavish of his duties, citing a mutual agreement between Mac-T and team brass that a change was needed.
The Oilers faded badly down the stretch, and were leapfrogged by several teams scrambling to make the playoffs. When the dust settled on the NHL regular season the Oilers were in 11th place, 6 points out of a playoff spot. This season marks the 3rd consecutive year the Oilers have failed to qualify for the post-season. The year before that they made it all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before finally bowing out to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Oilers certainly have no shortage of talent to work with, and a fresh voice might be able to dredge up some work ethic to go along with it. The ’06 Oilers were famous for that very work ethic, yet somewhere along the way the grit and determination that made that squad so successful has fallen by the wayside. MacTavish had tried to inspire that determination in this year’s club, going so far as to call out underperforming players in the media, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. That, more than any other reason is why MacTavish is being shown the door.
It will be strange not seeing Mac-T behind the Oilers’ bench. He has been a fixture there as either an assistant or a head coach for a decade now. It is possible that MacTavish could wind up in another role in the Oilers’ organization, but I would bet that this won’t be his last stint as an NHL head coach.
It is too bad to see Mac-T fall by the wayside. He had a better sense of humor than most NHL coaches, and was always good for a quip or two in post-game interviews. He deserved better from his players, and I hope we see him back behind an NHL bench sooner rather than later.