The Craig MacTavish resignation watch will go on another day or two, but nothing he said at Rexall Place yesterday leads me to believe he’ll be back for his 10th season behind the bench with the Edmonton Oilers.
After three straight years out of the playoffs, MacTavish sounded like a coach frustrated that he did everything he could to get more out of this edition of the Oilers, but, ultimately, failed.
That said, the only options remaining are to significantly change the mix of players on the roster — a group that only faintly resembles the 2006 Stanley Cup finalists already — or find a new coach.
That, even with last week’s vote of confidence from owner Daryl Katz, is exactly what fans can expect to unfold after MacTavish sits down with GM Steve Tambellini this week.
While MacTavish refused comment on his plans, including speculation he has already tendered his resignation, he addressed the obvious — it’s been a frustrating and disappointing season.
“There were a lot of inadequacies in our game,” MacTavish said. “The thing that was maybe most disappointing for me was our culture took a hit here in terms of our work ethic and our selflessness.
“This year, there were a lot of nights as a coach I had to ask for more and, sometimes, the tank was pretty empty.”
After a torrid 14-5-1 finish to 2007-08, MacTavish said during the pre-season he expected the Oilers to contend for a Northwest Division title. The Oilers never came close to meeting that expectation as they finished 38-35-9 for 85 points.
That left the Oilers 11th in the Western Conference, 15 points behind the Vancouver Canucks, who won the division.
MacTavish and assistant coaches Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Kelly Buchberger never did manage to coax consistent efforts from the mix of players on the roster despite juggling lines almost game by game.
Shawn Horcoff had an off-year offensively. Ales Hemsky had stretches of brilliance and then disappeared here and there. Sam Gagner got nothing done in the first half.
Dustin Penner was in and out of MacTavish’s doghouse and the lineup, playing first line some nights, fourth line on others. Penner finished with 17 goals after scoring 23 last season and 29 the season before with Anaheim.
Special teams were abysmal. The power play finished ranked 23rd after a promising start. The penalty killing never did rise above being lousy, finishing ranked 27th.
So it’s next-year time again. Don’t hold your breath expecting MacTavish to be a part of it, at least not behind the bench.
• Shawn Horcoff and Dwayne Roloson have been named to Team Canada for the World Hockey Championship. Ales Hemsky and Ales Kotalik will play for the Czech Republic, while Tom Gilbert and Patrick O’Sullivan will play for the U.S. and Denis Grebeshkov will suit up with Russia.
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