August 02, 2011
In Hollywood, the "what if" game about movie casting is one of our favorite pastimes. What if Sean Connery had played Gandalf? What if Christopher Walken had played Han Solo? What if Will Smith had played Neo instead of making "Wild, Wild West"?
Of course, in Hollywood it's the actor passing on a role; in the NHL, it's the general manager passing on a coach. But it's always interesting to hear about who was or was not up for a particular job, and former Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish commented on his recent interviews after being named the new head coach of the AHL Chicago Wolves.
MacTavish, 52, interviewed unsuccessfully for vacant NHL jobs in Minnesota, Ottawa and Winnipeg this spring, but lost out to Mike Yeo (Wild), Paul MacLean (Senators) and Claude Noel (Jets).
"I was getting a little tired with the interview process," he said, "but it's a good experience. I'm not at all bitter. Everybody is pretty good to work with at the NHL level and they're pretty honest. Everybody is under a lot of pressure in a lot of different areas and they make the best decisions [on coaches] as they see fit. Like I said, I'm not bitter but I'm anxious to get back coaching. This is my skill-set. I wasn't prepared to walk away from it just because I wasn't able to secure an NHL job."
Another one of our favorite pastimes: Reading between the lines.
MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. He coached in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. He had a record of 301-252-56 with 47 ties. He's been making television money for the last year. When he says "everybody is under a lot of pressure in a lot of different areas" and the teams he interviewed with opted for what was undoubtedly cheaper labor, one wonders if MacTavish may have Vokoun'd himself in negotiations. In any event, he's an AHL coach now making AHL money, talking about his passion to just get behind the bench again and work with players.
Two of the jobs he lost out on were the result of previous relationships — Yeo with GM Chuck Fletcher, Noel with Jets ownership. So in the end, it's sometimes just about who you know. Which is probably why MacTavish was hired by his former agent.
Along with being a damn good coach, of course. Wonder if the teams that passed on him will feel like they hired Tom Selleck to play Indiana Jones after a few years ...