Craig MacTavish: Conspiracy?

Faiz-Ali VirjiCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 17:  Head Coach Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers looks on with his players Marc-Antoine Pouliot #78 and Kyle Brodzkiak #51 from the bench area during their NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2008 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings defeated the Oilters 4-0. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Ask almost any Edmonton Oilers fan what is wrong with the team, and 99 percent of the time the answer will most certainly be: Craig MacTavish (followed by a long line of obscenities). Most Oilers fans hate him because, well, it is easiest to blame the coach since there is a better chance they get fired then have all the players traded.

Unless you are MacTavish. He has been the coach of the Oilers for an astounding eight years, and other than one cup run, the team has been the definition of both mediocrity and inconsistency. Most people say it is because Kevin Lowe is his best friend and will never fire him. Others say it is because he is actually a good coach and doesn't have enough to work with.

It is a mystery as to why players seem to struggle under MacTavish. The list is a very long, and is mostly young players. Ales Hemsky recently said he was being asked to be a checker, and he did not seem to pleased about it. Some say MacTavish is just very defensive minded, and wants all his players to be responsible in the defensive zone. While that may be true, here is my theory:

MacTavish wants to be the most successful, accomplished player in the dressing room. The reason he doesn't like Dustin Penner? Sure he says its his work ethic, but in reality, in Penner's first two seasons of his career, he scored 29 and 23 goals. Mactavish's career high was 23 goals.

He cannot let Penner pull ahead of him in the hearts of Oilers fans. Same thing happened with Joffrey Lupul. He claims he wants hard workers, but he just wants players who will have no shot at upping his playing career.

Ok, but what about Hemsky? Once again, Mactavish's career high in goals is 23. Hemsky has yet to hit that, and Mactavish is very anxious of it, lest it be another blow to his "legend". Mactavish is also 13th on the Oilers all-time scoring list with 331 points. Hemsky has 322.

He cannot allow him to be passed, especially when he was just passed by Shawn Horcoff (that has to hurt). Remember, MacTavish only put Horcoff there because he thought he would fail miserably and bring Hemsky down with him. That plan backfired.

In the end, MacTavish has an inferiority complex that stemmed from his playing days. While he was a player, he made up for it by not wearing a helmet, thinking he was a "real man." Now as a coach however, he cannot do anything but make his players fail, and in comparison make his playing career look that much better.

But the players seem to be wising up, and three times this year a player has made a mention of how they don't like the system he coaches. Will Katz wake up and smell the ego? Or will the conspiracy be allowed to continue?