Stick a fork in 'em

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 6:53 AM ET

Put tags on the Edmonton Oilers' toes.

And put a noose around Craig MacTavish's neck.

The 2008-09 Edmonton Oilers are deceased and MacTavish's coaching career here likely ended at the same time he made a call in a stick measurement which will be remembered for years and years after all other details of last night's 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks are long forgotten.

First it looked like the time of death of the Oilers was at 19:22 of the first period when the Oilers took a too many men on the ice penalty and the Ducks scored a soft power-play goal on Dwayne Roloson. Then, for sure, it looked like it was over at 3:20 of the second period when Tom Gilbert took a double minor for high sticking and the Ducks scored another soft one on Roli the Goalie.

In the end, you could put the official time of death down at 17:46 of the third period for the Oilers - likely the same expiry date on MacTavish's career here, although who knows with recluse owner Daryl Katz, the now insulated former GM Kevin Lowe and rookie GM Steve Tambellini, if indeed the latter two heads are spared by the owner and there isn't a miracle finish ahead.

The odds on the Oilers making the playoffs are 8.1% according to an outfit called Sports Club Stats, who pegged their chances at 35.1% if they would have won the game.

If the Oilers odds are 8.1%, MacTavish's can't be much better.

The measurement came after Dennis Grebeshkov and Zack Stortini had scored late third-period goals to get the Oilers back in it, MacTavish called for a stick measurement on Teemu Selanne. Instead of a power play, the Oilers ended up a man short when Teemu's stick was judged legal.

"We had some what we thought was really good, reliable information," said MacTavish, a stand-up guy right to what was probably his end in Edmonton.

"Visually it looked to be not even close. I was that sure, I made the call. Obviously it was a terrible mistake.

"You gotta be sure. I thought we had enough information to be sure enough," he said.

"It's a terrible feeling to sabotage what looked like what was going to be a hell of a comeback."

He may be as good as gone, but in a lot of ways we're going to miss this guy who definitely hasn't lost the press room, especially with his Vortex of Death commentary after the morning skate yesterday.

But coaches who lose five of their last six in a playoff run, make a wrong call on a stick measurement to kill their team's last hope to turn it around to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year seldom keep their jobs.

But let it be said there were others to blame this night than the man behind the bench for whom the game will be remembered for years and year and years when all other details are forgotten.

Like Tom Gilbert.

The Oilers, for all purposes, were dead when Gilbert took that double minor.

"I wish I could take that back," said Gilbert.

Roloson, who last night became the oldest goalie ever to play 60 games in a season in the NHL, looked it.

He gave up a soft between the legs goal on the too-many-men power play and another soft one high to the short side on the Gilbert four-minute penalty.

"Their power play is lethal," said MacTavish. "To take a four-minute penalty ... there's a big difference between a two-goal lead and a three-goal lead," he said of the margin which went from 3-1 to 4-1.

But the season didn't go away until the bottom fell out of their Drop of Doom ride when MacTavish made the call on the stick measurement.

"Teemu has been called before," said Dustin Penner, Selanne's former teammate in Anaheim. "I think he does have two (different sticks, one legal, one not). If it ends up illegal, it's great for us. It's a risky call. Unfortunately it broke the wrong way for us."

Selanne said he had a stick for the situation.

"I tried to have it was wide as I can because the ice is so bad in a lot of buildings. It's borderline but I knew it was going to be good, so I knew I didn't have to worry about it."

Referee Kerry Fraser said it wasn't even close to being illegal.

Selanne had the last word.

"Whoever thought he spotted it, maybe should have signed the stick for him."

Not the sort of souvenir Craig MacTavish might want to take away from his career here.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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