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Craig MacTavish fired as Oilers head coach

EDMONTON, Alberta - Craig MacTavish was fired as coach ofthe Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday after they failed to make theplayoffs for the third straight year.

The ouster came on the same day the NHL playoffs began, andgeneral manager Steve Tambellini said the team needed a fresh lookbehind the bench.

"He gave everything he possibly could to help this team getbetter," Tambellini said during a news conference. "But we bothagree that it is time for a change."

The Oilers finished 11th in the Western Conference with a recordof 38-35-9 for 85 points. This was the fifth time in seven seasonsthey have not reached the playoffs.

"We shouldn't be comfortable when we're sitting here out of theplayoffs," Tambellini said. "Is there emotion when you have tolet a quality coach go? Yeah, there is emotion. But that's the hardpart of this business. Decisions have to made for us to getbetter."

The Oilers were a long way from 2006 when they made it to theStanley Cup finals, losing in seven games to Carolina. MacTavishhad just six players left from that team. This year, his playerswere younger and more skilled but lacked the grit and gamesmanshipof the club that came within one game of the title.

This week, MacTavish acknowledged that toughness was an issue.

"When you evolve from a team that would lay it all on the lineand then you try to integrate a bunch of skill, it's got to beproductive," he said. "Virtually all year, we're trying to getnonconfrontational players into confrontational areas where we'regoing to score goals. It was a losing battle from a lot ofperspectives."

MacTavish never coaxed consistent performances from forwardsShawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Dustin Penner played everywhere fromthe first line to the fourth.

Erik Cole struggled before being traded to Carolina at thedeadline for Patrick O'Sullivan. Sam Gagner had a poor first halfbefore finding his stride. Robert Nilsson was erratic.

The power play finished 23rd in the league and thepenalty-killing unit was 27th. Both were big factors in a homerecord of 18-17-6. The only teams with fewer points at home wereToronto, the New York Islanders, Atlanta, Colorado and Tampa Bay.

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