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MacTavish wants more

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish addresses the media in Edmonton after signing a new four-year...

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish addresses the media in Edmonton after signing a new four-year contract with the Oilers. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Craig MacTavish was never going anywhere.

After leading the Edmonton Oilers to within a win of the Stanley Cup, MacTavish's return was always imminent.

"I was always anxious to come back," said MacTavish.

"You go to the finals, get a game away from winning the Stanley Cup, you want to come back and give yourself another opportunity.

"There wouldn't have been a lot of better situations out there from my perspective, that's for sure."

Yesterday the Oilers officially announced they signed MacTavish to a four-year contract extension. They also announced that team president and CEO, Patrick LaForge, would stay on for another four years.

MacTavish has been the Oilers head coach since the 2000-2001 season. In five NHL campaigns, MacTavish has amassed a 190-160-60 regular-season record. He has a 19-17 playoff record with 15 of those wins coming this spring.

DIDN'T PICK UP OPTION

Following the season, the Oilers didn't pick up the option year on MacTavish's last contract, fuelling speculation he might not be returning.

"The new NHL is all about parity," said Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe. "Every team is basically dealing with approximately the same amount of money, so I think as long as we were in the ballpark of what other teams were offering then he was going to come here.

"We're pretty excited about our team. He knows the talent we have as well as I do. We have a lot of weapons. I think if we were able to make it possible for him, he wanted to stay here and not go elsewhere."

It's the third contract MacTavish has signed with the Oilers.

He originally took the head coaching job after Lowe left the bench to be the team's general manager.

Then, prior to the 2003 season, he signed his first extension. "My personal mindset back when I signed my second contract here was that I was unsure how to evaluate myself as a coach," MacTavish said. "It seemed like the results were always the same.

"At that point my only concern was that I needed to go somewhere else to evaluate what type of coach I was. I had to think long and hard about that at that time.

"The difference being now, having that success, it gives you the confidence that you need in the coaching style that we have as a coaching staff."

MacTavish had seen his winning percentage decline behind the bench prior to leading the Oilers to a 41-28-13 record last season. He admits the Stanley Cup run might have saved his job.

"If the players don't perform at the level that they did through the playoffs ..." MacTavish said. "I knew we had to have success this year, everybody did. It was a very important year for the franchise, because we'd earmarked the year after the collective bargaining agreement."

FINAL PLAYOFF SPOT

Success did not come until the post-season. The Oilers finished the regular season in a familiar position - battling for the final playoff spot. However, the team went on to defeat the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Mighty Ducks on the way to their first Stanley Cup final appearance in 16 years.

"I always felt success was getting to the next series," MacTavish said. "Just win the series that you're in and you'll be satisfied, then you get through that and you go 'No. Let's get to the next series.' "

The pressure is now on to repeat the team's success. They'll have to do it without a number of key players from their playoff run, most namely Chris Pronger, who requested a trade following the season due to personal issues.

Jaroslav Spacek, Michael Peca and Sergei Samsonov have also left.

"I think (Joffrey) Lupul is a guy that can really help us," MacTavish said. "We have great forwards, maybe as good a group of forwards that there is in the game. The core of the team is still there and we still have some room to add some players along the way."


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