SUN Hockey Pool

Stop blaming MacT for mess

JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

There is something to be said about having an NHL owner agree with you.

Or, for that matter, to be caught agreeing with an NHL owner.

When Daryl Katz exercised his fingers long enough to text a promise about Craig MacTavish's job security, he made it clear the head coach is not solely to blame for the problems of the Oilers, on ice or off.

In this space and other forums, I've been saying the same thing for a heckuva long time.

I think MacTavish is an excellent coach. I'm convinced the screamers who demand that he be fired are looking for a simple solution to a complex situation.

The truth of it is that everyone who is not part of the Oilers' solution, whatever the solution may be, is part of the problem.

Of course, this includes MacTavish. The team doesn't win.

And Kevin Lowe. He has paid so much for Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner and other under-achievers that it's nearly impossible to clear them out by trade when necessary. Besides, he has collected a group of players who would rather play softball than hardball.

And Kevin Prendergast. The scouting record is tolerable, at best.

And Mr. Katz himself.

If his act to free MacTavish from pressure means none of his long-term buddies will ever be criticized, and removed as necessary, future Oilers' success will be extremely rare.

ADD PRONGER

It makes sense, in fact, to add Chris Pronger to the list.

If he had stayed for the length of his contract, the defensive problems that cripple this team night after night would be eased considerably. More important, Lowe and his aides would not have been forced to change their plans so dramatically and so quickly.

Of all who operate today in the ceaselessly-secretive Oilers inner circle, only Steve Tambellini comes within range of being blameless. He stepped in after the shape of this season, and many seasons to come, had been determined.

Through all the chirping and burping, several players - the veterans, the so-called leaders - have somehow escaped the criticism that clear is their due.

From the outside, you hear that there are problems in the dressing room. The reports are never denied entirely but certain media guys get quiet confirmation that a series of little things may undermine the team's ability to perform at the required level.

More important, the paying customer and the die-hards who watch from the living room or the bar all see the same thing night after night.

The Oilers don't (can't?) focus for 60 minutes.

Almost never do they impose their will on an opponent.

It's a shock when they get off to a good start in their home building, although they understand that their fans are waiting for an excuse to get involved with the kind of verbal support that can demoralize the fiercest of visiting foes.

In any good team I've ever been around, veteran players take charge of the dressing room.

When someone needs help, a buddy gives it to him. When somebody needs a wakeup call of a different sort, a teammate is expected to provide that, as well.

It's a valid argument that Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano and other young players have not progressed as consistently as fans were led to expect.

But it isn't valid to ignore the failures and shortcomings of the over-30 group that includes captain Ethan Moreau and his assistants.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


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