Thursday, May 25, 2006

Coach MacT

“The one thing we've maintained throughout the playoffs is that we don't want any regrets.

“It's been a long time since I've been in this situation. I used to take it for granted, but I don't any more. It's not an expectation of ours that if it's not this year, it's going to be next year. There's no thought of that. It's this year. Let's capitalize and maybe make it three weeks that we'll remember for the rest of our lives.”
If you were charged in mid-March with assembling a list of all the NHL coaches who were candidates to be fired in the offseason, the fifth-year bench boss of the Edmonton Oilers likely wouldn't be far down in the whacking order.

Some pundits were calling for his head early on in 2005-06, as the Oilers' bid for a playoff spot was up in the air until the second-last game of the season. Indeed, the phrase 'fire MacTavish' isn't short of results on Google — although some of that was spent as part of the backlash during past seasons.

Now? He's being lauded as a genius.

It's a the familiar adage: Win, and you're a hero; lose, and we'll show you the door.

For, as much of a renaissance as these playoffs have provided Oilers like Mike Peca and Dwayne Roloson (both of whom had rather dismal seasons), MacTavish has truly been the one to rise from the ashes during this run.

With his team now one win away from advancing to its first Stanley Cup finals since the franchise's last championship in 1989-90, MacTavish has cemented himself in this organization for years to come. Given that his contract expires whenever this magical run ends, a shiny new three- or four-year deal is coming this offseason, along with endless praise from the City of Champions' fans and media.

For all the fun made of the Oilers clinging to their now-distant dynasty, it's been two key cogs from that 1990 win — MacTavish and GM Kevin Lowe — who have led them back to that point yet again. And something tells me they won't be going anywhere for a while.

It may have taken 16 years, but that's nothing for the long-suffering fans of franchises like Toronto and Vancouver. In a City of Champions, however, it's an eternity.


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