It didn’t take long, but Craig MacTavish’s stint with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is already over. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team fired its head coach this week only eight games into the regular season.
MacTavish wasn’t available for comment after his firing. The former Canadian professional ice hockey player and executive played center for 17 seasons in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues.
MacTavish’s KHL record was so-so. After being by the Russian club in May, 2019, he led Lokomotiv to three wins and five losses. His team’s loss 4-1 to Jokerit Helsinki sealed the deal for the 61-year-old former NHL coach and general manager.
MacTavish was a head coach with the Edmonton Oilers from 2000 to 2009, his record with the team was 301-252-103. In 2012 he held the job as a senior vice-president of hockey operations, and the next season took over as general manager. However, he lasted just two seasons and was re-assigned within the organization. Eventually, he had become more estranged from the team as new management took over the reins.
In the NHL, MacTavish experienced some success as both a player and a coach. He won four Stanley Cups as a player (three with Edmonton and one with the New York Rangers). He also led the Oilers to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, where they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
Edmonton Oilers fans will remember that was the season that Chris Pronger and Mike Peca played for the team. The Oilers might have done better had their goalie not been hurt. During game one, the Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson suffered a series-ending knee injury during a collision. He was replaced with Ty Conklin, although eventually, Jussi Markkanen became the Oilers goalie for the remainder of the Finals. He performed reasonably well, including having his first career playoff shutout at Rexall Place in game six.
Ironically, MacTavish took the fall after his team lost to Jokerit Helsinki, the Finnish game his Edmonton Oilers buddy Jari Kurri controls. Dave King, a former head coach in NHL who also coached Lokomotiv twice during the last six years, was not surprised that MacTavish was fired. (from “Dave King wasn’t surprised Lokomotiv jumped on Craig MacTavish,” The Edmonton Sun, 9/24/19)
As King tells it, the Russians are really impatient with their coaches. If they want to change the coach, they simply change the coach. That isn’t true just the team MacTavish coached, but it’s true everywhere in Russia. As King tells it, in the KHL, they don’t wait around. They’re impatient. And if someone isn’t performing, the coach is held accountable for it.
In the big scheme of things, MacTavish wasn’t the only coach let go. Another KHL team (Magnitogorsk) fired its coach Josef Jandac after only three games.
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