Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz made a strong statement with a single text message.
"MacT is not going anywhere."
Clearly Katz was speaking of coach Craig MacTavish. Those five words were sent to every member of the Edmonton Oilers last week as the team is in the midst of qualifying for a playoff spot for the first time since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in June of 2006.
After coming within one game of winning the Cup it appears that all has gone downhill. All-star defenseman Chris Pronger enjoyed a great post-season before requesting a trade only a mere two days after the season ended.
The following season saw heart-and-soul veteran Ryan Smyth traded at the deadline to the New York Islanders. Although the Oilers received a package of young talent things quite haven't been the same in a place once known as the "City of Champions".
From calling players out to benching his stars MacTavish has tried night and day to motivate his players. And while it has worked on occasion, there have been as many times where it did little to impact his players.
It is evident that the Oilers are struggling to build momentum in the tight Western Conference playoff race. They sit in 11th place and need to win their remaining three games in order to have a chance at the post-season.
Whether it's the players inability to buy into their coach's system or their lack of effort there needs to be change in the Alberta capital. Some believe it will only take a few minor tweaks while the rest are in agreement that the Oilers need to rebuild.
Yes, Katz won't be firing MacTavish anytime soon. But is that because he legitimately thinks his coach can do the job, or is it because he doesn't want to embarrass a former Oiler by publicly letting him go?
On last Saturday's edition of Hockey Night in Canada analyst Al Strachan was quoted for saying that MacTavish might resign at season's end if they fail to make the playoffs. Although he knows his job is secured, he has been scrutinized for the better part of the season.
In last Tuesday's meeting with the Anaheim Ducks the Oilers trailed with one minute left and were pulling goaltender Dwayne Roloson for the extra attacker. MacTavish then made a call on Teemu Selanne for using an illegal stick. When it was deemed that Selanne's stick was legal Edmonton was then assessed a penalty, voiding any chance of a comeback.
General Manager Kevin Lowe was in the same situation as MacTavish is currently in. He was unable to make any significant moves to improve his team and was criticized heavily for proposing an offer sheet to Dustin Penner for a five year/$21.25 million contract. This offer came after Penner's first full NHL campaign and immediately made him the highest paid forward in Edmonton.
After the 2007-08 season Lowe decided to step aside and take a smaller role in Oilers' management as Steve Tambellini entered the picture. This now leads to the question of whether or not MacTavish should do likewise.
Judging by the way the Oilers have played down the stretch—six wins in their last 17 dating back to March 3—there has been no sense of urgency from the Oilers. It's more than likely that this group has not played like a team and much of that can be attributed to ineffective coaching.
Craig MacTavish has done a fine job with what he's been given during his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers. On the other side this team will need new life to get back on track and it could start as early as next season.