Silence speaks volumes

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Craig MacTavish announced he had nothing to announce yesterday. But I thought I heard him say a lot.

I thought I heard him say this team in its current configuration is uncoachable.

I thought I heard him say he never wants to be forced to write the name Dustin Penner on a lineup sheet ever again.

I thought he just told the poor sod who is likely going to have to replace him as coach of this team, that he has no chance to succeed with this mix of players who can't combine skill and will and don't have enough of either even if they knew what kind of team they wanted to be.

And I think he told free agents everywhere that you really don't want to go to Edmonton because there's more wrong with playing for the Oilers right now than just the weather.

"I'm not going to comment on what my future may or may not be," MacTavish said in opening his end-of-season photo day/packing day press conference, at which many expected him to announce his resignation.

'WON'T BE LONG'

He said he intended to talk to GM Steve Tambellini in the next few days, adding, "It won't be a long time before I have a clear picture for you all. It's not going to be something that's going to be long term or dragged out - in my mind, anyways."

To many around the team, it's seemed like MacTavish has had his mind made up for some time and is at peace with his decision to end his coaching career here after eight seasons.

But there's still an owner with the "MacT is not going anywhere" text and the fact there's one year remaining on his contract.

But after joking that his not commenting on his future "is probably going to eliminate a lot of questions," MacTavish said a lot.

Like on the subject of Dustin Penner.

When questioned about the elephant in the room, Kevin Lowe's $4.25 million US per season restricted free agent mistake, MacTavish took another time out.

"I said I wouldn't talk about one thing. I'm going to add another thing to the list ... I'm not going to talk about him. It's not worthwhile to discuss it any further."

Does that sound like a guy who is going to have to coach him again?

"The thing that was the most disappointing for me is that our culture took a hit here in terms of our work ethic and our unselfishness and the universal commitment we had here for so many years," said MacTavish.

"There were a lot of nights as a coach I had to ask for more, and sometimes the tank was pretty empty. You just can't have any success unless you are totally committed," he said, adding there are six or seven players who need to think about that if they're to have much of a career.

"To evolve from a team which would lay it all on the line and then to try to integrate a lot of skill, you've got to be productive. Virtually all year, we were trying to get non-confrontational players to confrontational areas where they were going to score goals. It was a losing battle."

DYSFUNCTIONAL MIX

As the team sits now it's a dysfunctional mix trying to combine skill and will when there's not enough of either.

"When you finish like we did, that's clear. The mix has got to change in terms of playing successful hockey," he said, adding that size matters, too and "we're small.

"My responsibility as a coach is to find a system that this team can play successfully. I wasn't able to do that. We didn't have the size to get it in and get after it. If you're a small team, you've got to be able to move the puck and open up the game so they can't take the game to the wall. It has to be will or skill and a lot of nights both were lacking."

The bottom line?

"I love the job and the Oilers, but the joy in this business is success," he said. "I don't really have any overall regrets. We did it to the best of our ability this year and that's all that you can ask."

I repeat: I'm going to miss this guy.


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