Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Oilers looking for new coach

- By Joanne Ireland

EDMONTON — The to-do list is a long one. Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini wants more grit, more energy, more strength. In other words, more of what the club was lacking when it stumbled this season into 11th place in the NHL’s Western Conference.

And he’ll want to find a new head coach who can draw all of that from the players he has to work with.

Craig MacTavish couldn’t, and after failing to get his team to the playoffs again, he was relieved of his duties — which is another way of saying he has a year left on his contract but he won’t be paid to coach the Oilers.

“He gave everything he possibly could to help this team get better, but we both agree it’s time for a change,” Tambellini said Wednesday are firing MacTavish. “Our players shouldn’t be comfortabl­e. Our hockey operations shouldn’t be comfortabl­e that we’re sitting here out of the playoffs.

“Is there emotion when you have to let a quality person, a quality coach, go? Yeah there is, but that’s the hard part of this business,” Tambellini continued. “Decisions have to be made for us to get better. He’s a great coach, and I’d expect, if he wants, that he’ll be coaching in the NHL next year.

“We need a new voice, we need a new start, we need new expectatio­ns, new discipline.”

MacTavish, who had spent eight seasons working as the Oilers’ bench boss, wasn’t available for comment.

His assistants are now in limbo. Tambellini said he has not had discussion­s with Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores or Kelly Buchberger, but typically, head coaches want to work alongside assistants of their choosing.

A new coach will not be hired before the Stanley Cup playoffs end.

“One thing I want to make clear is that because we are changing our head coach and moving in a different direction, this does not absolve the players,” Tambellini said.

“The second part of this is do we need to address our personnel? Obviously we do. People say we weren’t gritty enough as a team. I agree with that. Do we need to get stronger? Yes we do.

“The job now is to think about how much of that can we get from what we have. We’ll make that assessment and if we don’t have it internally, how do we acquire it? We have some good pieces in place here . . . But I can tell you things are going to change as far as expectatio­ns and preparatio­n from the players standpoint.”

Tambellini said a new coach will be in place when he has the right man for the job — and that candidate will need to instill an aggressive, emotional approach to the game.

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