Coaching…motivation, a necessary evil?

Posted: November 27, 2008 in NHL, Oilers


Al Arbour was a master motivator. Herb Brooks also falls into the category along with Scotty Bowman and I am certain quite a few others.

I have heard the school of thought that Craig MacTavish shouldn’t have to motivate millionaire hockey players, that their paycheque should be motivation enough. That being said, why are all the greatest coaches of all time considered great motivators?

In Ken Dryden’s book, The Game, he cited this about Bowman…”Scotty Bowman is not someone who is easy to like…. Abrupt, straightforward, without flair or charm, he seems cold and abrasive, sometimes obnoxious, controversial but never colorful. He is not Vince Lombardi, tough and gruff with a heart of gold. His players don’t sit and tell hateful-affectionate stories about him…. He is complex, confusing, misunderstood, unclear in every way but one. He is a brilliant coach, the best of his time.” Canadiens star Steve Shutt put it this way: “You hated him 364 days years, and on the 365th day you got your Stanley Cup ring.”

When I watched the Oilers last night, I saw some pretty good players. I saw some skill and some pretty good plays. I thought that the goalie was pretty good, especially in close.

There was one thing that I thought was entirely missing was the willingness to compete at the highest level. This was Craig MacTavish’s quote last night.

“It’s clear the will was there,” he said. “We’re a tight group right now. In particular at home. The will and the try and all of those things based on effort are there. It’s just a lack of execution in some pretty critical areas of the game offensively.”

It may be odd to some, but I have a differing opinion as to how the game looked. Not that the Oilers were dogging it. It wasn’t a brutal effort. But it would be easy for anyone who took the time to watch the first half of the TSN double header to see that the losing team (Detroit) would have hammered either of the teams that were on the Rexall ice.

The puck pursuit was very good, the effort on every play was at a high level. But then again, that is the difference between contenders and pretenders.

I have always been someone who could take or leave Craig MacTavish. He seems to be able to teach certain players and get the most out of them. Most players like to play for him. He seems to be accountable.

On the other hand, he can’t coach skill very well, he can’t motivate players, and maximize their potential. Skill players do not flourish under MacTavish, which is probably why Tim Sesito and Liam Reddox are up. Brule and Schremp do not fall under the prototypical MacTavish player.

With the Oilers property as it sits, I would have the following…

Penner Horcoff Hemsky

Nilsson Cogliano Gagner

Moreau Schremp Cole

Brule Brodziak Stortini(And if you aren’t happy with Stortini, move him and call up Potulny)


Souray Gilbert

Visnovsky Grebeshkov

Staios Smid


Garon/Roloson (Move one….and I am not concerened which.)


Set your line up with your best players and go to war. Motivate them and get them fired up…because I am certain Oiler fans are tired of mediocrity….and part, a good part is on MacTavish, like it or not. Motivating is part of the job, and if you can’t do it, there are others who can.

  1. […] latest from Xtreme Hockey discusses the role of motivation in coaching. It comes complete with references to coaches of yore, […]

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