SUN Hockey Pool

Telegraphed farewell

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 6:52 AM ET

I'm going to miss this guy.

If Craig MacTavish was telegraphing his imminent departure - and it certainly seemed like he was yesterday - he did it with some of the classiest comments ever made by a man coaching from the edge of a cliff.

After the failed stick measurement fiasco that almost certainly will be remembered as the exact moment the 2008-09 Oilers put themselves out of the playoffs, the suggestion was made in this space that you could now put a noose around his neck and that the night marked the expiry date for his coaching career here.

Similar thoughts, I'm sure, were held by fans in thousands of seats at Rexall Place and in front of TV sets all across the country.

RARE DEPARTURE

Yesterday after practice with a hockey team which is now on playoff position life support, MacTavish made a rare departure from never talking about himself or his situation. He delivered a lengthy commentary which defined the class act he is as a coach and a person - the honest, decent, highly quotable, highly intelligent individual that no media man would ever wish to see relocate for reasons which are strictly selfish.

Whether his comments could indeed be read as a "my time is up here," going-away speech or not, they should be printed in every coaching manual as part of the chapter about being hired to be fired.

MacTavish had opened the session, in good humour, by saying "Make the questions good, my tactic today might be a 23-minute filibuster."

He then took the opportunity to re-emphasize his own blame in calling the stick measurement on Teemu Selanne which backfired big time.

"It ended up being an ill-advised stick call by me which poisoned what was going to be ... looked to be a terrific comeback," he said.

"I made a judgment call which was a poor call at the time and I feel terrible about that. It left a horribly sour taste in my mouth for sure.

"If you make a call like that it has to be the right call. It was a bad call on my part and I take full responsibility for it," he said and went through how he thought he had sound information and a good visual to make the call "to try to take advantage of it - but it took advantage of us."

With that out of the way, MacTavish was asked a question about "being under fire for quite some time now ..." And the man who will coach his 652nd game tonight against the San Jose Sharks, knowing the much larger questions behind it, left it open ended and began.

"I've had great support here," he began.

"That's the way I look at it. I've been here nine years and had terrific support from virtually everybody.

"So if I've got less, it's the hazard of the profession. And for me, that's never affected me, whether it's criticism or praise or whatever it is - more criticism lately with the way it is. There's not been one point where I've ever been afraid of losing my job.

"The criticism, when it comes, is part of the business and in a lot of ways warranted. It has always been, in my mind, fair here," he said.

There's a reality involved, MacTavish added.

"You have a fixed amount of time to deliver the goods and ... I don't know ... I'm not forecasting anything, but it's just a case where you are always evaluated as a coach on how many games you win and that's just part of it.

"It's the circumstance. Like in politics it's the economy. In coaching, it's the wins. And we got ourselves in a position where we should be in a better position than where we are today ... and that's not saying we won't improve on that situation in the next five games."

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD

MacTavish has every right to point out that it was Kevin Lowe who saddled him with so many coach-killers in his lineup, etc., (and a lot of other et ceteras). But he wouldn't go there.

"I was involved in the discussions on every move made and in my mind there was enough here to get in the playoffs ... as we hope will happen in the next five games."

I'm really gonna miss this guy.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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