Reactions: From Players and Media

Two and a half hours after Steve Tambellini's press conference where he announced that Craig MacTavish was no longer employed as head coach by the Edmonton Oilers, the Oilers scheduled a press conference with two veterans who both played under MacTavish for a number of seasons: Ethan Moreau and Steve Staios.

Unfortunately, the press conference was a bit of a disaster; after half an hour of waiting, which was punctuated by various reporters going up to the microphone and amusing themselves ("Marc Crawford is the next head coach of the Edmonton Oilers!") the players finally appeared.  Unfortunately, the audio disappeared at the same time, and the press conference morphed into a scrum.

Fortunately for us, though, Joanne Ireland did some quick typing and the comments of Moreau and Staios are now up at faceoff.com.  Staios made some fairly vanilla comments, but Ethan Moreau's comments grabbed my attention:

I don't think anybody's terrible surprised. We knew changes had to be made and this is the first one," Moreau said. "We have to get better in a lot of areas and it starts with the players. We fully accept that challenge and that responsibility... We need to change the culture and change the environment. We have to get back that pride we had in the organization. And win. Win games. Make the playoffs. Win playoff series."

My initial reaction was that if change starts with the players, why did the first change have to be the removal of the head coach? 

My second thought was that if the team's culture and pride are serious issues that need to be changed, why is Ethan Moreau the guy pointing it out?  Moreau's been the team captain for two seasons now; two seasons where much of the roster hasn't changed and the guys who frequently found themselves in the doghouse (Penner, Nilsson, Brodziak, Pouliot) have played for this team.

In other words, if there's a problem with this team's culture and pride, at least some of the blame should be directed at the team's ostensible leader - Ethan Moreau.

That is, of course, if you buy Moreau's notion that pride and culture were the key issues with this team - which I don't particularly.  Every team has problems - even Stanley Cup champions.  I finished reading Douglas Hunter's biography of Scotty Bowman this past weekend, and the things his former players say about him are shocking; there's a lot of hatred there, even though Bowman was so successful. 

No, I think the real problem with this team was a lack of experienced forwards who could play in both the offensive and defensive zones.  There were just too many young players to shelter - most of whom are small to begin with - and that, more than anything else, led to the disappointing result this season.  Sure, culture, pride and coaching decisions all played a part (and MacTavish has paid for those and it seems to me that the leadership group in the dressing room should to if the issues are as serious as Moreau has stated they are), but at the end of the day, the team icing a half-dozen unreliable players is going to lose more often than not.

The other reaction I thought was interesting was Michael Russo's (h/t to Pierre LeBrun).  Russo suggested that the Wild should move quickly to interview MacTavish "before somebody else snatches him up".  Tambellini said in his press conference that he rather expected Craig MacTavish to be coaching in the NHL next season, and I think Oilers fans as a whole have rarely given MacTavish credit for what he is: a smart, capable coach who is certainly worthy of an NHL job.

I doubt that Russo is the only one who feels this way; I'd be very surprised if Craig MacTavish was not standing behind an NHL bench at some point next season. 

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