SUN Hockey Pool

MacT's nightmare

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers used to be famous, in the pre-salary cap days, of squeezing $50 million worth of game from $30 million worth of payroll.

This year, it's been the other way around.

They've spent most of the year cramming $40M worth of resources into $20M worth production.

It's like the Oilers became a branch of the federal government.

Injuries had a lot to do with one of the most spectacular falls from grace you'll ever see.

UNDERACHIEVEMENT

But that doesn't explain widespread underachievement from the healthy bodies in the lineup.

"With the year that we had," said Shawn Horcoff. "I don't think there's one person in the locker-room who can look you in the eye and say they had a good year."

Craig MacTavish, evaluating his own performance in the wake of a 32-win season that left Edmonton in 25th place, admits he didn't come close to maximizing his assets.

"There's lots of blame to go around when you find yourself in this situation," he said in a closing address after the Oilers exited medicals yesterday at Rexall Place.

"I've never been one to shirk my responsibilities and I'll take my fair share of it. I had some failures on our team this year in terms of an individual perspective.

'GREAT DEGREE OF PRIDE'

"I've always taken a great degree of pride in our coaching staff's ability to get more out of players than anywhere else. We have a pretty good record of that, but this year ..."

Not one key Oiler improved his numbers from last season.

Shawn Horcoff swooned, Fernando Pisani took a big step back from the playoffs, Petr Sykora had long gaps in his production.

Raffi Torres and Joffrey Lupul emerged as lightning rods, deservedly so, for the club's woeful offence.

"Lupul was a failure from our standpoint," MacTavish said of the coaching staff's inability to get the same production Anaheim drew out of him last year.

"A young player with that much ability who scored 28 goals looked like he'd never get another one by the end of the year.

''That was difficult."

'IT'S UP TO ME'

Same goes for Torres.

"Raffi, I know there's more to get out of him than what I was able to this year," said MacTavish. "I put some of that responsibility on the players, but at the same time I take responsibility. It's up to me as a coach to maximize these players' performance.

"Quite clearly I didn't do that on a few of those issues. I have to get more out of some of those guys than I did."

Edmonton's scorers struggled with their heads as much as their hands and the psychologist in MacTavish always seemed a step behind.

"I went through the gamut of tactics with Joffrey," said MacTavish.

"I was pretty hard on him early, and at the end I was sympathetic because quite clearly he didn't have any confidence at all.

"Maybe that was a mistake I made earlier. I probably should have taken those minutes earlier and given them to somebody else and maybe that would have helped.

MAKING MISTAKES

''You always try and learn from your mistakes and we made a few."

So did the players, and MacTavish hopes they'll all be better for the experience.

"A lot of times, all the motivation you need is the disappointment of the year you had previously. We're hoping that's the case with a lot of the guys."

It is.

"I can't believe I just wasted a year," said Lupul, vowing it won't happen again.

"I'm going to train hard, get back to being a guy who just loves to play hockey.

''I can't wait until next year to get out there and play, show people, show myself and teammates that I can have a really long career, a good career."


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