It has been eight years since Craig MacTavish took the job of coaching the Edmonton Oilers. Eight years, zero Stanley Cups, and only three playoff appearances later, MacTavish is leaving his job behind the bench.
Now whether you believe this decision was mutual, or one-sided, the fact remains that it had to happen. It had to be inevitable.
After taking a team to the last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, a coach cannot miss the playoffs three years in a row. Coaches on other teams have been fired for less.
But the Oilers organization owes MacTavish a lot. He played great, gritty hockey when he wore an Oilers uniform. He coached a mediocre team throughout the '90s when it was hard to find and keep fans, let alone owners.
He gave the city and the fans the greatest playoff run seen in a long time in 2006. And he took our criticism, armchair coaching, and smack talk all year.
Like Steve Tambellini said in his press conference yesterday, if MacTavish wants to coach somewhere, he'll find somewhere to coach. There will not be a shortage of teams looking for his kind of talent. And his talent seems to be the anomaly in the Edmonton equation.
MacTavish is one of those few guys who can actually see the game for what its worth. He know the intricacies, he knows what works, he knows what doesn't.
It just didn't seem to transmit to the players on the team. I don't know if that's because they weren't listening or if it was because he didn't know how to show them, but it didn't happen.
Oiler fans know from listening to his press conferences that he is a smart coach and has a smart hockey mind. I think the issue may have been the age of his team.
In 2005-2006, he had older, more seasoned veterans like Ryan Smyth, Jaroslav Spacek, and Chris Pronger to deal with. I think he works well with guys who already know the game.
The young ones, not so much.
So the question is now, where do the Oilers go from here? Do they stop there with the changes, or do they do a blitz: Bye bye Kevin Lowe, Bye bye seasoned veterans, Bye bye grit players?
Time will tell. MacTavish will take a much deserved break before deciding his future.
Oiler fans should thank MacTavish for the eight years he put into this team. Criticize, yes, worry about the Oilers' future, yes, but don't forget.
Don't forget all that MacTavish has given up for this team.