SUN Hockey Pool

MacT sends message

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Some Oilers fans were stunned.

Others wondered why it took so long.

Craig MacTavish almost never sends a veteran to the press box, but he finally reached the end of his rope with underachieving forwards Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll, scratching both players for yesterday's game with St. Louis.

"I'm obviously displeased by the way that they've played," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who met with each player individually but didn't want to get into the specifics of the meetings. "All you guys need to know is that I'm not happy with the way they're playing."

Nor should he be. Stoll and Torres, who were supposed to be offensive leaders, haven't come anywhere near the pre-season expectations. Stoll is a team-worst minus 10, with just three goals in 29 games. Torres is like a full moon: he can be brilliant, but he only comes out once a month. He went 14 games without a point, playing about 17 minutes a night.

"For Raffi it's just the inconsistency," said MacTavish. "He hasn't been terrible, it's just time to start playing more consistently, night in and night out. Be a little bit more predictable."

MacTavish has always been loathe to scratch veteran players, no matter how long they slump, but with their sub-par seasons threatening to submarine Edmonton's playoff hopes, he needed to send a message.

"Nobody ever likes it, it's just part of it," said the coach. "There always has to be accountability in the dressing room."

The last straw came Wednesday night, when Stoll, Torres and Zack Stortini were on the ice for most of Pittsburgh's third-period comeback.

"They were out there to shut down the opposition and they were on for two goals in the third period, which I thought were preventable," said MacTavish.

Needless to say, the duo is properly embarrassed.

"I'm not too happy about it," Torres said of the benching. "He said we're not doing the job out there and it cost us the game against Pittsburgh.

"It sucks, but there are some other guys playing better right now so we have to get them out there. It sucks. I don't know what to say."

Stoll, who hasn't been the same player since coming back from the concussion that cost him the last 30 games of last season, has been asked to compete harder.

"It's obviously disappointing to not be out there playing and helping your team win," he said, adding he hasn't been a healthy scratch since he was a 16-year-old rookie in junior.

"Obviously I want to be out there. It's not something you want to be doing, watching games from the press box.

"We have to take it as a positive, for whatever that's worth, and be better. Watch the game and take things out of that. Hopefully we can come out of this better players."

MacTavish, who replaced Stoll and Torres with Liam Reddox and Patrick Thoresen, isn't saying when the veterans will be back in.

"The door is open for anything," he said. "A lot of things will go into that decision. I like to think that they'll be back quickly, though."


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