MacTavish not the problem

SCOTT MORRISON, FOR SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

A talk show host asked the question yesterday: Did Craig MacTavish save his job Tuesday night?

Did a 7-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets spare the Edmonton Oilers the indignity of having to fire their coach of seven-plus seasons?

Suppose we might never know although, as we've come to learn, one win doesn't always save a teetering coach, anyway. Just ask Denis Savard.

But it is difficult to believe that MacTavish's job was even in jeopardy, if it in fact was, or whether the hot seat on which he supposedly was sitting existed more in the minds of media and fans than the heads of Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini.

Fact is, MacTavish is a terrific coach. As Oilers fans know, he has got more out of the roster over the years than was probably there, meaning they quite often did better than expected.

This season, his 9-8-2 team already has played 14 road games and just five at home. That is hardly the type of schedule that allows you to fairly pass judgment on the coach and his performance.

He also has had to deal with a revolving door in goal, a sophomore jinx that has struck a few, injuries, a slumping Dustin Penner, and the list goes on. Through all of that, they were still .500 (okay, a new NHL .500) heading into Columbus, where they managed to produce just eight shots through the first two periods and 19 overall. So, all is still not right, but even MacTavish said the times were getting desperate and a win is a win.

No, there are a lot of things the Oilers could use, a coaching change is not one of them. And before you even contemplate that type of move, there are other things that have to be tried first.

Bottom line, before you fire a coach of the calibre of a MacTavish, or even contemplate it, ask who out there is a guaranteed upgrade?

A good idea

The idea was put forth by a scribe in Boston the other day and it makes perfect sense.

It is one thing for Boston Bruins ownership to publicly endorse the work of general manager Peter Chiarelli and his management team, and insist it is not looking to add Brian Burke to that group, or to replace them.

It is entirely another thing to put your money where your mouth is, meaning give Chiarelli a contract extension and a raise to put the exclamation point on the endorsement.

Chiarelli has one year remaining on his contract and is undoubtedly amongst the more cost-efficient GMs, so term and money, both deserved, also would add some stability to the organization.

Lightning strikes

In the last Tampa game Barry Melrose coached, star centre Vinny Lecavalier had 16:32 of ice time. Tuesday night, with Rick Tocchet coaching, he had 21:05.

In that last Melrose game, rookie Steven Stamkos had 9:51 of ice time and a dozen shifts, which was pretty much the norm. Tuesday he was three seconds shy of 18 minutes of ice and 23 shifts.

Stamkos also had nine shots on goal which, according to the league, tied the highest single-game total by a rookie over the past three seasons. Boston's Phil Kessel had nine shots against Ottawa on Oct. 28, 2006, as did the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky against the Sabres on Feb. 23, 2008. Alex Ovechkin had 10 or more shots seven times during his rookie season.

Winging it

Not surprisingly, the Detroit Red Wings are one team that is a big fan of the new rule that, on a power play, puts the faceoff in the offensive zone. The Wings, of course, lead the league with a 32.4% success rate on the power play, with 24 goals on 74 opportunities.

"It's unbelievable what a difference it is," said coach Mike Babcock of the new faceoff rule. "I never would have believed it. You're in the driver's seat. If they don't get a clean win and fire it down, now, you're wearing them out."

Of course, it doesn't hurt when you can use Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa and Nicklas Lidstrom with the man advantage.


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