The Pot and the Kettle

Robin Brownlee
April 24 2008 04:10PM

Being a man of principle, Edmonton Oilers boss Kevin Lowe made it clear this week he doesn't hold former player agent Mike Gillis, now the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, in high regard. Lowe remains rightfully unhappy about being shunned by Michael Nylander, who backed out of a deal with the Oilers last summer when his wife tugged on the trousers and pulled out the hammer, informing hubby there was no way she was coming to Edmonton. Nylander's agent was none other than Gillis, and Lowe doesn't think he handled the situation as ethically as he should have. Suffice to say, Lowe won't be picking up the phone to talk trade with Gillis in his new capacity any time soon. "We haven't done many deals with Vancouver, although Dave Nonis and I had many conversations,” Lowe told Darren Dreger of TSN. "I suspect we won't be doing any in the future." Lowe went on to say: "A lot of deals are done based on honesty and trust. He (Gillis) is going to be in tough earning trust. To orchestrate a trade, you have to have that trust going in." Pardon? Putting aside the fact Nylander stiffed in Washington after spurning the Oilers for an $18.5-million deal with the Capitals, is this the same Lowe who asked Mike Comrie to pay $2.5 million to complete a trade to the Anaheim Ducks? The same Lowe who, according to agent Ritch Winter, never said a word to Anaheim GM Bryan Murray about the money component as a requirement to get the trade completed? The same Lowe who told Murray and Winter they could begin working on a new contract, then made the $2.5 million stipulation at the 11th hour? That Lowe? Hmm.

Family Matters

The Oilers have always looked after their own, and that's unlikely to change under incoming owner Daryl Katz, who was a hardcore fan long before making his billions with Rexall. As tight as Katz is with Lowe and other Oilers he cheered for and became friends with in the 1980s, nepotism—the unconditional embrace of those who've worn the Oil Drop—might get cranked up a notch.

  • Talk persists Craig Simpson will leave the TV booth again, this time for a front office job with the Oilers—likely in the capacity of an assistant GM to Lowe. What, exactly, qualifies Simpson? The answer escapes me. Oh, wait, 20 years ago, he scored 56 goals one season.
I'm wondering if some of the players who didn't enjoy Simpson acting as the vocal hammer for pal Craig MacTavish as an assistant coach will like him any better if he's kicked upstairs.

  • Still on the Once-An-Oiler-Always-An-Oiler front, I keep hearing former captain and devout company man Kelly Buchberger will be promoted to MacTavish's staff after spending this season running the AHL show in Springfield.
If that move comes at the expense of Rob Daum, as opposed to being an addition to the existing staff, it's a mistake. Daum brought new ideas and a new perspective to the strategic mix. Daum complements assistants Bill Moores and Charlie Huddy. Daum can coach talent. Bucky?

Another thing...

  • Nobody asked, but the first three names that come to mind ahead of Simpson if the Oilers really are looking to add to the front office are Doug Armstrong (he's still getting a cheque from Dallas), Winter (when hell freezes over) and Nonis (he'll end up in Anaheim with Burke).
  • So, Joni Pitkanen will play for Finland at the World Championships. I'd have thought he'd need time to rest and let all those bumps and bruises that had him in and out of the Oilers line-up. The same could be said for Mathieu Garon, who'll be Canada's third stopper.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Oilersninja
April 24 2008, 08:08PM
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I think I recognize this guy from an eisode of "to catch a predator" he said he came to help

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#2 Asher
April 24 2008, 09:02PM
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What exactly qualifies Ritch Winter to be an Ass't GM? I can accept the arguement that players are not qualified, but agents? Other than (most likely) having a professional background, what makes them qualified to run an NHL team?

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#3 PunjabiOil
April 24 2008, 09:17PM
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The rumors that Simpson and Bucky making their way into the Oilers organization are disgusting.

Old boys network!

I have a hard time imagining a multi-billionaire will allow such a thing to happen. He didn't get to where he was by hiring best friends.

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#4 RobinB
April 24 2008, 09:56PM
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Asher: I'm not making the argument players aren't suited to be in the front office as GMs or assistants and agents are. Many of the best GMs in the game are former players. Likewise, there's some former agents who are pretty sharp. Obviously, there are people from both groups who'd be lousy at it. In the case of Winter, he's a lawyer by trade. He's familiar with contracts, the salary cap and evaluating players. I believe Winter is a forward-thinking guy -- that doesn't mean I think all agents are.

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#5 fyvmvv
April 24 2008, 10:50PM
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Bucky a coach of the Oil? Oh great, another slug-knot-head who couldn't score a goal if he was allowed to pick a puck up in his hand and throw it into the net! He'll be great for the kids. How will Simmer enter Rexall? There isn't a doorway big enough for his head to fit through.

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#6 jdrevenge
April 24 2008, 11:07PM
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Listened to the show today and it was pretty interesting listen to Winter talk about the whole Comrie debacle. Were the rumours that were flying around at that time true?

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#7 MikeP
April 25 2008, 05:47AM
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You'll take Winter's word over Lowe's? The same Rich Winter who, in those same negotiations, said that once all was said and done the full story would be coming out? Half a decade later and we'd still be waiting, if we still cared.

The same Rich Winter who... oh, never mind. Winter's got a *long* history of manipulating through the press himself, and I doubt you've forgotten that Robin. Are you ignoring that in favour of making a point, or do you really thing Winter's more trustworthy than Lowe?

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#8 RobinB
April 25 2008, 07:19AM
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MikeP: It's not a case of Winter's word over Lowe's if you're talking about the demand for $2.5 million, so don't cloud the issue. I talked to Bryan Murray at length about the Comrie fiasco at the time and I believe it went down exactly as Winter indicated. The point Winter was making Thursday is it's a bit odd for Lowe to talk about trust and ethics when it comes to Mike Gillis, given his dealings with Murray. That's legit, at least in my mind. As for attempting to manipulate the press, that's the stock and trade of player agents -- the same can be said of GMs -- and Winter does it all the time. Getzlaf at $10 million a season? The arguments both sides make in a case like the Comrie situation are best taken with a grain of salt -- followed by many phone calls.

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#9 ecec
April 25 2008, 08:12AM
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PJO, To put into that perpective...

Katz didnt get to where he is by only hiring strangers eithers. If he wants to hire his best friends....what are you gonna do about it?

Jesus, some people...

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#10 Tom
April 25 2008, 08:13AM
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Was that jab at Pitkanen really necessary? By my count it will have been a month since the Oil played their last game of the season, thats plenty of time for any "bumps and bruises" to heal, imo. The guy wants to represent his country at an international tournament and you're giving him a hard time about it? Give me a break.

Get Joni signed Lowe!

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#11 Rev
April 25 2008, 08:14AM
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Couple the reaction of Lowe to Gillis, the friends he made in Burke and Regier last off season with Bucky and Simpson coming back - I am concerned. The Oilers hold everyone else to a high standard - but seem to excuse themselves of it due to the 'winning tradition' and excellence in Edmonton. Unfortunatly - those two attributes have not been terribly prevelant since the early 90's.

Slamming the door closed on other teams does nothing to help this club - organization inbreeding is going to make it worse.

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#12 PunjabiOil
April 25 2008, 08:27AM
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Katz didnt get to where he is by only hiring strangers eithers. If he wants to hire his best friends….what are you gonna do about it?

Bitch and complain, of course

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#13 Tommy
April 25 2008, 08:54AM
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Yeah I agree with Rev.

Some things you can keep private. If I don't like someone who I may have to deal with at some point in the future, I'm likely not going to call them out in public and burn that bridge. The fact that Gillis has a point in that the Oilers are better off without Nylander (which he basically spelled out) only contributes to that thinking.

And as much as I like Bucky, I think new (non-old boys club) blood in the front office/coaching staff would be a good thing.

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#14 Sean
April 25 2008, 09:37AM
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In regards to the "Old Boys Club" I am not a big fan of it myself, however, after listening to Robin and Bob ramble on about it last night, not having the same type of philosophies behind the bench etc and remebering a certain radio hosts picking the Habs to win it all,I find it interesting to see the coaching and management make up of the HABS, Gainey, Carbonneau, Muller(actually not bad early on-pts wise), & Jarvis. What a group of offensively minded hockey players in their day. I think not. They all were winners thouigh if I remember correctly.

Just some food for thought!

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#15 Sammy
April 25 2008, 09:46AM
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On what possible basis can you say with any clue that Winter is converscent with the cap, & can evaluate players? And your rant against The Warrior was profoundly lame, particularly since you had him on mute.

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#16 OilerBlueRiderGreen
April 25 2008, 09:56AM
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Robin, your comment about maybe Garon should be resting is interesting. Do you feel he could have played some of the remaining regular season games that he missed? Do you think he is a malingerer? I thought the injury was legit.

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#17 hockeyaddict101
April 25 2008, 10:01AM
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And why was Lowe obligated to tell Burke that he was going to do an offer sheet?

In fact it would have been stupid to do so.

Lets tell Burke what we are going to do so he can do something about it. Yeah that makes sense.

He told Regier that he was going to do an offer sheet, did that quell his anger?

Lowe followed the CBA which incidentally , one of the creators was Brian Burke.

Also how many organizations hire former players in different roles throughout the organization. What makes them qualified?

While I would agree that it is not always the best strategy the Oilers are no different than 29 other organizations.

I agree that Lowe shouldn't have said a word, it really served no purpose but I think some of your reasoning is erroneous.

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#18 hockeyaddict101
April 25 2008, 10:04AM
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Actually I read it wrong.

I agree that the Comrie thing was handled incorrectly.

But the Old boys club system is followed by 30 clubs.

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#19 1011011
April 25 2008, 10:14AM
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Not by every club. I hardly think that the Columbus Blue Jackets have a rich club history from which to draw.

The Red Wings hire smart people, not necessarily their people. Lets be more like them yeah?

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#20 rock
April 25 2008, 10:40AM
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Funny how you and Dan Barnes had completely different takes on the same situation as they were happening.

According to Barnes, the deal was not agreed to and in fact Murray was told by Lowe that he needed to do one thing before the trade would be accepted.

Then again, your articles during the whole comrie-gate were less than honest... after all, how many times did you quote Rich Winter in him saying that we'd hear the truth when all was said and done?

Still waiting on that Robin.

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#21 RobinB
April 25 2008, 11:14AM
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Sammy: Right. Why, as a lawyer and an agent, would Ritch Winter have any understanding of contracts, the salary cap or player evaluation? And the quick transition to the "lame" Warrior rant? On mute? I know where you stand -- reporters in general, and especially those who criticize the Oilers, are dopes and I'm particularly dim. At least you're consistent in your lack of understanding of who knows what.

OilerBlueRiderGreen: I was surprised either accepted the invitation. Ankle sprains, like Garon was dealing with, can linger. Likewise, the groin problems Pitkanen struggled with can take more than three weeks to settle down.

Tom: Count again. The last game was April 3. It's April 25. That's 22 days. Short month. It wasn't a jab at Joni.

Hockeyaddict 101: You're right. Hiring those you know isn't exclusive to the Oilers. The thing is, those who have a problem with what they call the "Old Boys Club" have openly asked if there might be a move away from the hirings of former Oiler players under Katz. What I hear leads me to believe that won't happen.

Rock: It's not "funny" how Barnes and I had different takes on the Comrie situation, it's called differing opinions. Barnes brings his perspective to the table and I bring mine. That's fine. You're right about the "whole story" not coming out as Winter repeatedly suggested it would. He bailed on that and hasn't budged despite being asked to deliver that he kept promising.

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#22 Chaz
April 25 2008, 11:15AM
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Will Gillis still be allowed to act as a player agent now that he's a GM? If so, will Lowe deal with him when it's time to re-sign Sam Gagner? I think Lowe should take the high-road with Gillis and not add fuel to the fire by making unnecessary public comments. Don't deal with the guy, fine. But also, don't pubically black-ball him either. Tell Gags to get a new agent!!

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#23 Sammy
April 25 2008, 11:32AM
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You cant honestly believe that because you are an agent, you are actually a talent evaluator. Thats frankly stupid & illogical, & i dont think your that. In terms of the cap expertise, because you try & get an individual client as much as you can does not mean you have anything more than passing knowledge of the intricacies of the cap issues.

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#24 samwise
April 25 2008, 12:00PM
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Really it was not a shot at pitkanen Robin. Who are you trying to fool, you take shots at him in your sleep. Leave the guy alone he still has more personality than you. Did you forget it was Comrie and Winter who screwed the Oilers not lowe. Only thing lowe did was get pissed and ask back some of the millions Lowe gave him thinking he would stay an Oiler atleast untell he was a UFA. All this for a kid who is not man enough to play in his hometown. If Rich Winter wants to be liked atleast by me and others in this town. Action is louder than words convince Hossa to sign with the OIl for a smart contract that works in to are cap so that we can build a winner. But in reality he is just going to screw the oilers like he has always done in the past. Your right robin Winter is a great guy....NOT.

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#25 phase
April 25 2008, 12:10PM
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RobinB would never take a shot at Pitkanen. Saying he has "the pain threshold of a four-year-old" is literary genius Edmonton Sun style.

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#26 RobinB
April 25 2008, 12:23PM
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phase: Yes I would and I have.

The pain-threshold remark you cite is a good example of that, and one I thought was warranted. So why would I deny taking at "shot" at him now?

If you really care, as opposed to just writing in to make smart-ass remarks, I didn't see Pitkanen or Garon on the radar when I did an earlier post about Gagner and Cogliano being "on notice" for the World Championships because of the injury problems both had. Believe what you want.

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#27 DJ Spin Cycle
April 25 2008, 12:50PM
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Samwise, you have the intelligence of a wet pea if you think Lowe's attempt to extort Comrie was anything more than a complete slap in the face.

"Thinking he would stay an Oiler atleast [sic] untell [sic] he was a UFA"? Are you effin' kidding me? In business this would be like Microsoft offering to buy Yahoo... but then telling Yahoo that by "buy" they meant "go f*ck yourself."

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#28 samwise
April 25 2008, 12:58PM
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Robin is Joni that bad?. When i watch him play i am in awe of his obviuos talent. But you seem to disregard his obvious talents and point to injurys and call him a 4 year old and such. Does he have the Pain threshold of jason smith?no But to say he has a pain threshold of a 4 year old is out of line. In fact i would bet you a hundred dollers that Joni played games hurt and not like 2 games like half the games he played this year. For a guy that makes a living writing smart-ass remarks do not get upset if someone writes one about you.

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#29 samwise
April 25 2008, 01:03PM
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DJ you do not think Comrie deserved a slap in the face after that bs are you effin'kidding me. Was it professional? no. Did comrie deserve it? YES.

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#30 fyvmvv
April 25 2008, 01:08PM
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Let's face it, R.B., you act like you have many years of pent-up frustration stored up and you have to rely on this site to vent what you can't say outside of it. Pull in your bottom lip and man up. You are showing a tendency to take more and more shots of the cheap variety without backing it up. Your negative opinions would have much more validity if they were balanced off with a constructive suggestion for once. You have a unique perspective and could offer alot of insight to those of us who can only express opinion based on what we see from the outside looking in. There is no question your access should give your views much more weight. However, you have me hoping that Penner and/or Pitkanen ram your words right back down your throat with their play next season and that just shouldn't be the case.

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#31 Jason
April 25 2008, 01:15PM
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Holy damn! A guy doesn't visit the site for a few weeks and BAM! everyone's talking.

I think samwise is partly right. Comrie was a total douche. But I don't think that Lowe's behaviour made him seem any better. What's more, I think that other players see that kind of action from a GM like Lowe, and it doesn't do a lot for his cred.

Did Comrie deserve to be smacked? Yeah, I think so. But while Lowe's actions were hilarious, they make him seem like a vindictive prick too. And I don't think that's cool.

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#32 RobinB
April 25 2008, 01:21PM
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fyvmvv: Penner and Pitkanen might do exactly that. I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again.

As for the rest -- there's no pent up frustration on my end. You're right, though, this forum does allow more latitude to be more direct and critical than working at the dailies, as I did for 18 years. I can see you reading that as a "tendency to take more and more shots of the cheap variety."

While you might not agree with some of what I write, I AM expressing opinions based on what I see from the inside. It's not like I get up in the morning and say, "Hell, I think I'll pull something out of my ass" just to generate interest or controversy. I get no percentage or money based on page hits or responses to my articles on this site. I've got no reason to go over the top just for the hell of it.

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#33 samwise
April 25 2008, 01:26PM
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Robin whats so bad about Joni?

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#34 fyvmvv
April 25 2008, 01:32PM
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R.B. - I speak from the bottom of my copper and blue heart...thank you for not pulling anything out of your ass or any other orifice for that matter.

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#35 samwise
April 25 2008, 01:40PM
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oil nation would get zero hits if he started pulling stuff out his bum. thats a good call on your part robin...

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#36 Tom
April 25 2008, 01:47PM
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Just going back to my initial remark Robin, the month that I was talking about was the one from the Oilers last game (April.3) to Finland's first game (May.3). I must have mistaken what you wrote for sarcasm, the same kind of sarcasm we've all heard you dish out about Pitkanen all season...

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#37 samwise
April 25 2008, 01:53PM
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I still want him tell me whats so bad about Joni. I just do not see whats so bad about him.

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#38 phase
April 25 2008, 02:00PM
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samwise: I think Joni doesn't give him the warm and fuzzy feeling Lupul did. I think it's more about the trade than Joni's play or talent at 23.

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#39 Sammy
April 25 2008, 02:12PM
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I'm still astounded that RB thinks because a guys an agent, that makes him some sort of talent evaluator. Or that because a guy negotiates contracts on a one of basis, that makes him have more than a passing knowledge of the Cap. My god, get your nose out of Winters jock.

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#40 samwise
April 25 2008, 02:26PM
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The only thing winters Knows is how to screw a team over.

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#41 samwise
April 25 2008, 02:28PM
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he said so on total sports.

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#42 Cu and Blue
April 25 2008, 02:35PM
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Im really tired of you bashing Pitkanen. He's an extremely skilled d man something the oil really need. Hes exciting to watch and will only get better. It seems like you have been running him out of town ever since he got her. Give it a break.

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#43 samwise
April 25 2008, 02:42PM
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Is it just me or does gillis look like a shady dude.

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#44 fyvmvv
April 25 2008, 03:00PM
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Regarding Gillis/Van.owners, I hope they succeed to the extent all NW opponents are in effect partners with the Oil. The Oil need to have their partner's buildings full of happy fans and corporate supporters. If they fail and the NW division becomes a colossal goat rodeo who loses? We do. What concerns me especially with the Oil being on the verge of sole ownership again, is the chance of people who are nothing more than fans with exceptionally deep pockets taking over a hockey organization with no more knowledge about running an NHL team than I have. Do these guys in Van.look like they have good listening skills? Not at all. Not after what they did to Nonis. In my view it was hasty and risky in the extreme. We shall see.

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#45 OregonStateFan
April 25 2008, 03:05PM
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Although I think this topic is getting driven into the ground, I'd like to add my 2 cents. I think it's not a question of Pitkanen's skill level that makes him expendable, it's the mere fact that he has two gaping holes in his game.

Hole #1: He's prone to defensive brain cramps. Not to the degree the Marc-Andre Bergeron had, as Pitkanen is obviously more confident passing the puck and has better vision, but the fact remains that on occasion he just gives up the puck for a 2-1.

Hoe #2: He's injury prone. Not sure about this? Let's see what TSN says about his injuries this season:

15-Mar-08 Missed 1 game (undisclosed). 13-Mar-08 Undisclosed, day-to-day. 19-Feb-08 Missed 1 game (hip injury). 16-Feb-08 Hip injury, day-to-day. 22-Jan-08 Missed 2 games (knee injury). 18-Jan-08 Knee injury, day-to-day. 13-Jan-08 Missed 1 game (flu). 10-Jan-08 Flu, day-to-day. 02-Jan-08 Missed 1 game (back injury). 31-Dec-07 Back injury, day-to-day. 22-Nov-07 Missed 13 games (knee injury). 31-Oct-07 Knee injury, late November. 23-Oct-07 Knee injury, sidelined indefinitely.

Maybe he just needs to learn to stretch? I sure as heck stretch before each game to avoid injury, but maybe stretching isn't stressed enough in the Finnish leagues or the Swedish Elite League.

Joni isn't likely to be overpaid because of his skill, he's likely to be overpaid because of his liabilities, both defensively and physically.

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#46 GiveBackTheGame
April 25 2008, 06:37PM
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Montreal Boys Club vs Edmonton's boys club is different in terms of where they started the coaching and management. Gainey(coached in France, Coached and Managed in Dallas and Minnesota before coming to Montreal), Jarvis(AHL experience 3+years and countless years as assistant in the NHL...some would say he deserved the role before Carboneau and some say he deserves a lot of the credit as he managed in Hamilton for a couple of years growing the rookies 41 25 10 4 0.600 second year 38 29 6 7 0.556)

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#47 Tommyjr26
April 25 2008, 07:58PM
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Robin, Great venue for your articles, I love the open forum. I am sure if you had Kevin OTR he would admit the attempted Comrie heist was a mistake, and chalk it up to inexperience. As I heard of 1260 today, KLowe was more dissapointed that Gillis never picked up the phone to tell him what his client was doing. And the question I would have to Winter would be 'as a respected agent' would he ever permit a client to do what Nylander did? I would think as an agent I would terminate the relationship and not represent him. Winter was however way offside attacking the Oilers draft record by rattling off players that they could have had drafted. Is it me or does Winter have a love affair with the Red wings. Yes they are a fine organization, but I am sure you can go through the draft day mistaked with them as well.

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#48 RobinB
April 25 2008, 09:44PM
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Tommy: Ritch seldom passes on a chance to take a dig at the Oilers and he did it again with the draft record reference. No need, really, but he can't seem to help himself. And yes, Ritch clearly has a thing for the Red Wings.

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#49 Hockey Addict 101
April 25 2008, 11:05PM
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Thanks for your answer Robin but you haven't really answered how the "the Old Boys Club is wrong"

Sather was an Old boy, a friend of Pocklington and a former Oiler and then went on to win 5 Stanley Cups

Toe Blake was an "old Boy: and I believe he had 8 cups as a coach/manager.

Neither of these legendary people had experience as coach/manager when they were hired.

I could go on and one as obviously it is more of the rule than the exception.

Being an "Old boy" doesn't make you a bad choice.

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#50 RobinB
April 26 2008, 07:59AM
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Hockey Addict 101: When and where did I say the "Old Boys Club," in terms of a general approach, is wrong across the board?

You've cited examples where it works very well. It's perfectly natural to feel comfortable working with people you know and like and have some history with. In the case of hockey, people you've played with or against. I get that.

All things being equal -- experience and ability etc -- why not take someone you know over somebody you don't? It can get complicated,though, if you put way more weight in that familiarity than in credentials and experience.

I just get a feeling, knowing how tight MacTavish and Simpson are, he's going to be hired come hell or high water -- even if he's not the most qualified guy for the job.

In the case of Buchberger, my only objection would be if his hire came at the expense of Rob Daum. I saw first-hand how well Buchberger works with certain types of players during the lockout, when I covered and travelled with the Roadrunners of the AHL. He was a great help in developing Kyle Brodziak. He spent hours and hours grooming the kid. I know what Bucky brings to the table. I just don't want him forced into the mix if it means losing Daum, who has a real knack for working with skill players and provides the coaching staff a tactical component in terms of defensive zone coverage and breakouts etc.

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