Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mac T, King of Oil Country

Early in last year's season, the Oilers went on an 0-7 skid. The first loss wasn't a big deal. Then one loss lead to two, and three. Three snowballed into four, and by the time five hit an all out panic seemed to hit the team. The sixth loss was practically expected, as was the seventh. When a team loses seven games in a row, its usually not a matter of luck. Pure odds would dictate you would win at least 1 of seven, even if you were a bad team, and the Oilers had a pretty good team, as everyone would find out later.

If you ask me, the Oilers were knee deep in quicksand. When they first fell in, the stayed calm, tried to think of a way out, they slowly sank deeper, then they began to panic. By that seventh game they were fully submerged. The team seemed almost resigned to their fate, they seemed exasperated, they were waiting for a break.

Nobody could have been sweating more than Mac T. He had been coach for 5 years, a long time in coach years, and his ship was sinking. I felt that, deservedly or not, he would be fired if they lost that eighth game. Now I could never prove this was the plan, but changes were coming, big changes, especially after all the money spent in the off season.

Luckily for the Mac T, they won that eighth game.

Later on in the season, with the playoffs on the line, Mac T's option year on his contract wasn't picked up. You can bet that the Oilers organization was already setting up the fall guy should the team miss the playoffs, or perform below expectations in the playoffs. And I'm not talking about general expectations-most people had the Oilers going out in 5 in the first round- I'm talking about expectations that Lowe had, that the dressing room had. That I'm sure Mac T himself had.

When the playoffs hit, Mac T's influence on the team became obvious. Everyone on the team did all the little things to be successful. Now I'm not talking about winning battles even- I'm talking about the things 4th line guys do to insure success - shot blocking, faceoff winning, check finishing, defensive zone desperation. These were the hallmarks of Edmonton's incredible playoff run. These were the hallmarks of Craig MacTavish's career.

Now Mac T has been given a new 4 year contract. To be honest, I'd be suprised if he lasted even three of those years. If 5 is old in coach years, Mac T is due to be 10 at the end of the contract. And expectations - are they even matchable anymore? How much worse is this new team?

But for now, the team has acknowledged what everyone in Oil Country already knew - Mac T is the King.

No comments: