Pressure falls on Oilers players as owner defends MacTavish

With a five-word text message, Edmonton Oilers’ owner Darryl Katz took the heat off embattled coach Craig MacTavish Thursday and put it directly on his players.

EDMONTON — With a five-word text message, Edmonton Oilers’ owner Darryl Katz took the heat off embattled coach Craig MacTavish Thursday and put it directly on his players.

Katz’s unequivocal vote of confidence for MacTavish was delivered by way of text message to Bob Stauffer, the team’s radio analyst and pre-game show co-host with 630 CHED, before a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

It read: “MacT is not going anywhere.”

With six losses in the last seven games and their Western Conference playoff hopes fading fast with four games remaining, Katz’s message has resonated through the dressing room.

“The onus is always on us,” said captain Ethan Moreau. “We always put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform.

“We don’t make any excuses. We don’t blame anything on coaching or injuries or media or the fans. If you’re professional, you’re accountable in the room and you take responsibility for all your team’s shortcomings.”

MacTavish discussed his future Wednesday, in the context of what missing the playoffs for a third straight year could mean to him, amid speculation he’ll be fired or step down at the end of the season. MacTavish said then he wasn’t afraid of losing his job.

The Oilers sat in seventh place two weeks ago, but their untimely slide has them at 36-33-9 for 81 points — four points behind the eighth-place St. Louis Blues.

“You’ve got to deal with the disappointment,” MacTavish said. “There’s plenty of heartache in this game, as we can see first-hand. You’ve got to dust yourself off and get yourself ready to play.

“I don’t know any other way. You just wake up and you get grinding and you try to do what you can to turn the result around.”

When the subject of MacTavish’s future was raised again on the team’s pre-game show Thursday, Katz felt compelled to send the text message, making it clear it was for public consumption.

“He said he was extremely disappointed and somewhat frustrated with the fact we’re in the middle of a playoff race and all the discussion and focus was on the future of our head coach,” said president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe.

“He found that somewhat odd. He just wanted to suppress that once and for all. It’s as simple as that.”

Players interviewed Thursday echoed the sentiment expressed by Moreau: the onus to produce and push for a playoff spot, however remote the likelihood of getting in is, falls on them.

“I don’t listen to a lot of what’s going on, but I heard about what happened last night,” said Kyle Brodziak. “I think everyone agrees, why is the talk about that (MacTavish)? Ultimately, it’s not the coach who is on the ice, it’s the players.

“We have a game plan to stick to. If we’re not sticking to that game plan, whose fault is that? We have a job to do out there and when we’re not executing the way we should, it should fall on the players. That’s the bottom line.”

MacTavish said in pre-season he expected the Oilers to be in contention for the Northwest Division title, but they’ve spent the entire season just above, or below, the playoff cutline.

Just Posted

Sunny weather improves farmers’ prospects

A harvester kicking up dust. It’s a picture that will bring a… Continue reading

Rural transit pilot project being considered

Penhold, Innisfail and Red Deer County councils to decide whether to go ahead with project

Red Deer fire station up for sale

Home sweet home at Fire Station 4

Most surveyed Innisfail residents give urban chickens the thumbs up

Town of Innisfail will discuss whether to allow backyard chickens on Monday

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Sky’s the limit as Calgary opens testing area for drones and new technologies

CALGARY — The sky’s the limit as the city of Calgary opens… Continue reading

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day

ORLANDO, Fla. — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when… Continue reading

Court weighs ‘Apprentice’ hopeful’s suit versus Trump

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers hope to persuade an appeals… Continue reading

StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony… Continue reading

Annual pace of inflation slows to 2.2 per cent in September: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed more than expected in… Continue reading

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

CALGARY — A jury has convicted a Calgary couple in the death… Continue reading

Most Read