Very soon, Maxbone will be no more...
Relax, my 3 and a half regular readers - I am not going anywhere. I am just going to start posting under my real name, as it looks like I am going to be a regular Oilers contributer here. I am still negotiating things with Eklund, and it appears contract talks have stalled. For one thing, I want a No Trade Clause, as I don't want to be given to a different hockey rumor site if my writing here starts to slide. The other hold up is that I have asked for three virgins in lieu of a salary, and where I live...ummm...Sorry ladies, I am kidding. You're all beautiful and virtuous, honest.
I've received some feedback about the last couple of blogs regarding the "dreaminess" of the suggestion that Kessel, Sundin, Heatley and others could end up becoming Oilers before the season begins. And you're right - The Pipeline does do its share of pipe dreaming. It's all fine and well for me to suggest best case scenarios for the Oilers, but in truth, the team will more than likely go into training camp with the same players on the roster as they have now. Maybe that's not the worst thing.
Like most Oiler fans, I was not a fan of Craig MacTavish. Some people in the media spent an awful lot of time last season defending him. The reasoning was, many players have stated publicly that MacT was the best coach they ever played for. Mike Peca for one, and most people thought he hated playing in Edmonton. Erik Cole is another player who stated publicly that he would have been willing to sign in Edmonton, even though it appeared he was uncomfortable as an Oiler.
My issues with MacT as Head Coach were as follows:
1. He appeared to play favorites with his players, and his favs were players that were like him when he played. Marc Pouliot is a great example of this. Pouliot is a hard working and dedicated player who has no hands. I truly believe he does not belong in the NHL. And yet, under the MacT system, Pouliot would often get second-line ice and be out there on the power play. Horcoff is another example of a MacT player. Horcs has made a lifetime of being an over-achiever, but he is in over his head as a first-line center. Hemsky and Gagner looked offensively terrifying on the nights late in the season when they were allowed to play together. In the last two seasons, Gagner became a point-a-game player in the last 20 games of the year playing with Hemmer. And yet, most of the year Horcoff got 25 minutes a game and first-line ice. It made no sense.
2. If the set line combinations don't make sense, if the Oilers were losing, fans could expect to see half way through the game the infamous MacT Line Blender. I assume all of you have played Yatzee? Five dice with six numbers, the number of combinations you can roll are endless. So imagine playing Yatzee with five dice that have 12 numbers. The line combinations were often not logical, seemed completely random, and the players looked uncomfortable playing.
3. MacT also had this annoying habit of breaking up lines that had chemistry for no reason. Two seasons ago, the Oilers signed Petr Sykora. MacT tried him at Center, playing with Robert Nilsson and Ales Hemsky. Sykora and Hemsky clicked, and Nilsson, for once in his career, looked motivated. After a succesful stretch, the line played a few bad games, and MacT broke them up for the rest of the season. All three players didn't look the same after that. Patience, Craig. Patience.
4. As much as MacT had favorites, he also had whipping boys. You could literally see the confidence of players like Dustin Penner be drained from him, and MacT's benching and under-using of Penner turned the fans on him. The fans in Edmonton all want Penner, or Penne as his fan nickname became, traded. But if you put Dustin on a team where the coaches look to him to lead instead of benching him, give him power play time, and promote him instead of call him out publicly, and Penner could be the 30 goal guy Lowe thought he was signing. MacT has messed with a number of player's brains along the way - Penner, Nilsson and Schremp were most notable last season, but there have been many others.
5. Finally, under MacT, the Oilers became stale and predictable. They lost a number of games due to being out-coached...teams knew what the Oilers were going to do, especially on the power play and penalty kill, and had plans prepared going into games to defeat Oiler strategy.
Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make. New coaches Pat Quinn and Tom Renney need time to evaluate talent, and to assess team needs and weaknesses. Because Quinn and Renney are completely new the to fold, they can make decisions on players based on what they see team need as actually being; not on long-standing relationships and philosophical similarities. While the Oilers depth chart shows Pouliot and Jacques currently on the starting roster, it wouldn't be a surpirse if the Oilers start the year with two rookies on the team instead of Pouliot and Jacques.
Who could take out Pouliot and Jacques? Jordan Eberle and Rob Schremp will earn roster spots, as they would bring a serious increase in talent over the previously mentioned players. Eberle in particular has a chance to make the Top 6 if he can prove himself in training camp. The Oilers need scoring, and Eberle's skill as a scorer in junior is well documented.