One of the more egregious arguments tossed out by the uninformed fringe of Oilers' fandom is that Craig MacTavish is simply unable to coach skill because he was a checking line player. The argument reasons that because MacTavish was a checker, he will have little/no insights to pass on to players like Gagner and Hemsky about how to produce offensively. A typical example can be found in the comments section
at Oilers Nation, and I'm quoting it in part below:"Mact hates Shremp and his skill because Mact had no such skill and seems to have a tough time adjusting to skill players when he can’t turn them into his clone, Marty Reasoner."
"Look at the coaching staff he has now surrounded himself with. It is a veritable compendium, a list if you will, of offensive stiffs, stoops and pluggers. How are any of these Oiler coaches going to effectively coach Hemsky, Gagner et al when they don’t know their offensive asses from page 2?"
Without further referencing MacTavish, I'm going to show the sophistry inherent in such reasoning.
This season, for example, the Ottawa Senators were the league's highest scoring team. They were coached by John Paddock (NHL career: 82GP, 8-14-22) and Bryan Murray (ex-gym teacher). The second ranked team was Montreal, coached by scoring defensive legend Guy Carbonneau (18 NHL seasons, average pts/yr: 37). the third ranked was Detroit, coached by former BHL defenseman Mike Babcock.
But, the argument goes, these teams were veteran teams- the coaches didn't need to teach the players, they were already taught. Untrue in the case of Montreal, but can we think of any offensive, dynasty teams that were coached by pluggers? I dare say we can.
Edmonton Oilers (Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, et al.): Glen Sather
New York Islanders (Bossy, Trottier, Tonelli, Gillies, et al.): Al Arbour
Here's a better question: can anyone think of a successful, high-scoring team that was coached by an offensive star? I'm sure there's at least one out there, even if I can't think of it.
Regardless, I think it is beyond argument that a coach who lacked high-level offensive talent as a player can still successfully teach a group of talented players, and foster an environment that stresses offensive creativity.