Pat Quinn: the truth? You can't handle the truth

Robin Brownlee
November 20 2009 05:18PM

So, I wonder how Pat Quinn's honesty will play in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room, given all the trouble former coach Craig MacTavish talked himself into last season by speaking his mind.

I'm not sure, but Quinn made some less-than-flattering remarks about Ales Hemsky and Mike Comrie today during his availability with reporters after practice at Rexall Place.

Last season under MacTavish, the kind of criticism Quinn offered up today was characterized time after time as "MacTavish throwing Penner under the bus" or "MacTavish throwing Nilsson under the bus" and blah, blah, blah.

People who latch on to catch-all phrases that mutate into inaccurate or meaningless jargon, people who say "at the end of the day" or "methinks," should be thrown under the bus or backed over by my Navigator, even, but I digress.

Telling it straight

Quinn was praising the practice habits and work ethic of journeyman Dean Arsene today. Then, he turned his attention to Hemsky in a question posed by Mark Connolly of CBC, who noted that associate coach Tom Renney had engaged in an animated discussion with No. 83 this morning.

Quinn said:

"Again, as a coach, you try to have... Our job is to help these guys get better. I mean, it really is. When you're putting in an effort to try to help them be better and some guys don't seem to value that effort that you're making because they have their own habits or maybe they don't need to practice that hard, they think in their minds game day is tomorrow, I'll turn it on tomorrow.

"They're the guys who often kid themselves. Yes, they've got great talent, but, you know what? We've missed the playoffs two bloody years in a row and five of the last eight, so, at the end of the day [oops], you've got to start saying, 'Well, wait a minute. Talent is what?' Talent is part of it, but we need a bigger package. How do you get the bigger package? Well, you ask people to work."

Of course, Quinn meant to say "three straight years" out of the playoffs, but that was probably just a slip on his part. I'm sure he knows it's three years -- I'll be sure to remind him in the hope of generating even better quotes. I'm also intrigued about getting that bigger package, but...

While Hemsky has been productive, albeit streaky, this season, he's no workhorse at practice. He's off the ice, showered and gone long before the grunts even get into the dressing room. In all the years I've covered the Oilers, only Joni Pitkanen got gone faster.

On Comrie

As for Comrie, who is out with mononucleosis, his name came up in a discussion about using Penner in shootouts. Quinn, to understate, wasn't impressed with a move Comrie made during the shootout in Ottawa -- Junior B stuff, where he tipped the toe of his blade down toward the puck before letting a shot go.

Quinn said:

"I don't feel uncomfortable using him [Penner] there. On that particular night, if I'm not mistaken, I'd watched Comrie turn his stick over and screw around in Ottawa. He wasn't going to get a chance again, I guarantee you that. If you want to clown around on my time, then, you know..."

For my money, Quinn calling it like he sees it is not only refreshing, but a godsend to reporters, who too often have to try to spin cliches and pat answers into something worth repeating.

While MacTavish was guilty of cutting the same cows out of the herd too often, namely Penner and Nilsson, and seemed to be doing so out of a mounting sense of frustration rather than as a way to get a meaningful message across, Quinn doesn't come across like that.

I'm guessing Hemsky and Comrie won't like what was said today, but too bad. It's not like they've been singled out time after time, as MacTavish fell into the habit of doing with Penner and Nilsson.

The Oilers are 9-10-3, so there's lots of criticism to go around. From where I sit, the old coach is calling it as he sees it and dishing out that criticism with an even hand.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor 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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#101 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 21 2009, 02:06PM
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Eddie Shore wrote:

The difference is that kind of stuff defines who superstars are..Gretzky, Crosby, Jordan. Hemsky is not and never will be same type of athlete as those mentioned so expecting him to just grasp this concept after, and I'm assuming here, 20 years of getting by on his skill without really applying himself in practice is a stretch.

People can change - I don't think you're giving Hemsky enough credit when you suggest that he's so set in his ways that it's unreasonable to expect these things.

My sister was an insurance broker for 8 years. She fell into the "I'll go back to school next year" trap and ended up falling into a rut. My parents always told her that she'd have more options if she went back to school.

It took a crystallizing moment of self-realization for her to realize that if she didn't get her ass in gear, nothing was going to change.

You guys might be right in saying that a top-down coaching approach might not spur him to greatness. What's going to be effective for a guy like Hemsky is someone who's talented enough to make him realize he wants to be better, and make him realize that the work is worth it.

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#102 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 02:18PM
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Wait so are we hating Hemsky right now, or not hating him? I'm having a real hard time keeping up, what with so many of you jumping on and off the bandwagon depending on weather the team wins or not.

You're tearing us apart Pat Quinn!

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#103 Dan the Man
November 21 2009, 02:21PM
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@jeanshorts

We don't hate Hemsky, we just want him to be the best damn Hemsky he can be.

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#104 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 02:24PM
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@Dan the Man

So, what you're saying is, we should trade him because he's a worthless bum? Which, in itself, is a contradiction of sorts.

I'm so confused. Excuse me.

*starts praying to his Jason Bonsignore shrine, hoping to find an answer*

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#105 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 21 2009, 02:29PM
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@jeanshorts

~Maybe we need a new coach. That's what sparked production in Penner, right?~

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#106 Dan the Man
November 21 2009, 02:29PM
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@jeanshorts

Now I'm confused...and where's my invite to the Bonsignore shrine?

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#107 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 02:35PM
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@Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

The only coach that would be able to spark Ales Hemsky is Ales Hemsky. Imagine all the ice time he would get!!!!

I like how this went from Quinn answering a question honestly about Tom Renney having a heated discussion with Hemsky in practice, to Pat Quinn hates Hemsky, to Pat Quinn is no better than MacT, to what time are we meeting up to run Hemsky out of town?

You think Flames fans are having this same kind of discussion vis-a-vis Sutter tearing Phaneuf a new anus after the Colorado game? I doubt it, although they should be since Phaneuf is incredibly over rated.

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#108 JackBauer
November 21 2009, 03:01PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Well what was that whole deal last year near the end of the season about? It was about him not being the go-to guy for the team. Sure, he didnt say he wants the "C" but he wants to be "The Man" on this team.

Weather thats your definition of being a leader on a team or not, the point is Hemsky wants to be the #1 guy on this team but does little to show hes committed to becoming it.

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#109 JackBauer
November 21 2009, 03:03PM
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"You think Flames fans are having this same kind of discussion vis-a-vis Sutter tearing Phaneuf a new anus after the Colorado game?"

You betcha they are.

I was listening to HNIC radio the day after this happened and the callers ranged from "Run Sutter out of town" to "Now that we got Bowmeester lets get rid of this problem child while we can"

Personally Phaneuf is trash. Hes the same caliber of scum the likes only Marc Crawford could train. Hes dirty but does little to step up to the plate.

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#110 Eddie Shore
November 21 2009, 03:06PM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

People can change - I don't think you're giving Hemsky enough credit when you suggest that he's so set in his ways that it's unreasonable to expect these things.

My sister was an insurance broker for 8 years. She fell into the "I'll go back to school next year" trap and ended up falling into a rut. My parents always told her that she'd have more options if she went back to school.

It took a crystallizing moment of self-realization for her to realize that if she didn't get her ass in gear, nothing was going to change.

You guys might be right in saying that a top-down coaching approach might not spur him to greatness. What's going to be effective for a guy like Hemsky is someone who's talented enough to make him realize he wants to be better, and make him realize that the work is worth it.

The point is we can want him to "see the light" all we want. Only he can change it and by the sounds of it, he doesn't see it as a problem.

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#111 Hemmertime
November 21 2009, 03:08PM
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deepoil wrote:

As per your musing, this team has bad contracts, are you going to TWITTER this now ?

Is it safe to safe that Tambellini had his butt tied to Lowe's mistakes before he even started... promotion by extraction... right.

The next time Lowe goes on the radio and calls someone a moron (his words).... an old saying is so on target... don't point fingers, as there is always more pointing back...

Two coaches employed by pharmacy company that is hampered by injuries and the flu... it appears that Cold FX is not enough.

By my calculations, the Oilers have two - three more seasons of missing the playoffs, but stubbing their toe with no lottery pick, reaching 9th or 10th place to hurt themselves longterm in the draft. This is due to non performance, bad contracts, and cap mismanagement. Change the coach, add two new voices, and you still no chicken salad.

Any of the contracts, I mean players make you get excited here ???

Hemsky - looked like value (not a steal) at the time, but it looks like he is more frustrating than performing - trade hemsky calls to start appearing MORE often, as his contract rises to 4 and 5 million, while his performance continues to be "adequate".

Horcoff - influence from the bat cave, second line centre earning first line dollars.

Pisani - 2006 hangover signing, due to health and injury issues in the past, the next team that signs him will be under $1.0 mm

Khabibulin - wall today, but over 40 at the end of the deal with JDD 4 years older - conflict here, can't move K at the end of the deal.

Nillson - WTF - MacT was benching this kid, claiming lack of work ethic, while Lowe is signing him to more term, GM not communicating, on his own cloud.

Penner - break even on the overall issues the past three years, but why would you give up the draft choices on potential, when the free market was an option - see comment below.

Free Agency Failure - maybe the best deals are the ones that evaporate and where free agents get matched (vanek), or when the player Nylander backs out of his deal (as lowe... text's stauffer - done deal from the highest authority - you didn't hear it from me)- egg on face.

Cap Issues - looking into next year, the Oil are already at 45mm, based on a high priced defence and over paid forwards - the perfect storm is brewing for Tambellini without trading a D man. Trouble is how many trades are made when dollars ARE NOT MATCHED UP. As per team 1260, Bob McKenzie has stopped following any trade rumors, as trades don't happen until the deadline, when the salary is a diminished factor.

Any Oiler fan would pray for three - four seasons of lottery picks, while the salary issues remove themeselves, except for the next 5 seasons of Horcoff, almost reads like a farmers almanac, continued drought.

Standings - worse or better than it looks, Ducks have two games in hand. That might be a good thing towards finishing in the lottery.

Speak for yourself, I sure as hell do not want 4 years of lottery picks. Something also tells me you'd be one of the first to stop watching while bitching about how piss poor this team is.

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#112 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 03:13PM
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@JackBauer

How can Flames fans hate a Sutter? Aren't those guys regarded as gods down there? I can absolutely understand if they'd want to get rid of Phaneuf, especially with Bow and Regher anchoring their back end. But to run Sutter out of town already? Yeesh. And I thought Oiler fans were fickle.

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#113 Hemmertime
November 21 2009, 03:17PM
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Hemmer is +6 with 21 pts in 19 games and an 11% shooting percent. I dont know about you guys, but thats worth the money we pay him. Hell, thats worth almost double the money we pay him. We are not Toronto or NY, we do not have the reputation of pulling skill players to our team (even though with Tor its really not true since the 90s) so we are a city where keeping our star player or two happy is better to me than ensuring he puts 100% effort into practices. As Quinn put it he saves his best effort for game days, which is a VAST difference than what Penner was doing last year with little effort during actual games.

When we were winning Quinn can criticize all he wants, people will attribute the wins to him since apparently by his estimation every Oiler is absolutely useless. However, now that we are under .500 and are doing horrible, calling out your players as frequently as he does while taking none of the blame for yourself just reeks. If we continue to be unsuccessful I wouldnt mind seeing Renney taking over the team in full, along with being the mouth of the Oilers.

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#114 rindog
November 21 2009, 03:21PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Thanks for saying what I was thinking because I wouldn't have said it as nicely because Mr. Rindog is making me insane with his inability to grasp the obvious -- and with his question marks where they don't belong . . . . RINDOG REVISION: Look, Noel, I'm really not trying to be a dick here, but do you really not know the answers to half the questions you ask? Jeezuz H, if you can't grasp the concept that being a piss-poor practice player, regardless of results during games, is poison for the atmosphere in a team game, then you know FA about this game -- or any competitive environment, for that matter. No, just working hard in practice is NOT the answer, and Horcoff is a good example of that. He needs to be better in games. But working hard in practice, or at least looking like you're half interested, is part of the package Quinn is talking about. FFS, man, stop throwing out meaningless stats and questions and get a grip on the very BASIC concept that having a player on the ice at practice who appears not to care about what's being said or worked on is a BAD thing. F*ck me.

There are 3 questions marks in my reply - why don't they belong there?

Anyway, if you ask me the simple question, "Would I like Hemsky to try harder in practice?"

My answer would be, "Yes!"

In reality, as long as the player goes out and does his job (which my meaningless stats exemplify), I am willing to overlook some of the more trivial things the player brings (or doesn't bring) to the table.

I hope my post did not come across as giving Hemsky a free ride for being a "cancer to the team" due to his practice habits?

I simply want to make it clear that I find it a bit puzzling that we would be getting on Hemsky at this time, when in reality he (and Penner & Khabibulin) are about the only things consistent on our team.

I am not going to try and compare my situation to an NHL hockey team; but of all the teams I have coached - I have come to the conclusion that some players just don't like to practice. I could be the type of coach that uses those so called "lazy" players as an example, but then I might be the one hurting the team (for many reasons we can discuss later).

Furtheremore, I can list off many great hockey players that are not "big" on practicing. Does that make them any less valuable to the team?

There are many different roles on a team and it has been clear since day 1, that #83 is not the: in your face, raw-raw, take charge vocally type of player. That being said, if wants to be an elite player - he probably has to add those elements to his game.

You mentioned in post #100:

"I'm not sure Hemsky has ever expressed the desire to be a leader on this team. What he wants is prime ice time, the best linemates and plenty of sugar time on the PP."

If Hemsky is making a stink about ice time, linemates, etc - we are talking about a entirely different situation. If he just isn't a good participant in practice (which is what I am discussing), then I think this whole topic is WAY overblown.

I have one other question (somewhat related).

Does the fact that a player doesn't make himself available to the media define that player in terms of effectiveness on the ice or contribution to the team?

RB, maybe we better hook up at intermission tonight and I'll buy you an $8 soda. I have more to say; especially about this quote:

"No, just working hard in practice is NOT the answer, and Horcoff is a good example of that. He needs to be better in games. But working hard in practice, or at least looking like you're half interested, is part of the package Quinn is talking about."

But I fear your disdain for my writing might cloud your judgement on the debatable issues.

Send me a message and I'll give you my number.

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#115 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 03:26PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

Speak for yourself, I sure as hell do not want 4 years of lottery picks. Something also tells me you'd be one of the first to stop watching while bitching about how piss poor this team is.

Yeah because loading up with potential franchise players for 3 years would be such a horrible thing. I mean it devastated Chicago right?

I don't think this team should "tank" or lose games on purpose or whatever, but we've already missed the playoffs for 3 straight years, would shedding the dead weight and having another losing season, this one actually paying off with a top 5 draft pick, really be such a terrible thing? Like I said we've already been a losing team for 3 years, what's another one or two?

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#116 Librarian Mike
November 21 2009, 03:37PM
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@jeanshorts

Also, if you take away the 2006 playoffs (did that REALLY happen?) you've got a team that hasn't even come remotely close to winning in almost 20 years. (insert obligatory '5 cups' douchebaggery here)

The only problem with getting a top 5 pick is that the Oilers get to pick him. Inevitably, they'd pick some guy who's 5'4" and has asthma attacks in cold weather, but boy is he fast...

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#117 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 03:44PM
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@Librarian Mike

He looked really awesome in his tier 2 Finnish league! He lit that bitch up! What's that? There's a 6'2" Canadian kid who has butter soft hands, that hits like Scott Stevens? Sounds worthless to me. More speed!

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#118 Librarian Mike
November 21 2009, 03:46PM
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@jeanshorts

HAHAHA.

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#119 Hemmertime
November 21 2009, 03:48PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Yeah because loading up with potential franchise players for 3 years would be such a horrible thing. I mean it devastated Chicago right?

I don't think this team should "tank" or lose games on purpose or whatever, but we've already missed the playoffs for 3 straight years, would shedding the dead weight and having another losing season, this one actually paying off with a top 5 draft pick, really be such a terrible thing? Like I said we've already been a losing team for 3 years, what's another one or two?

One year, fine, 3-4, no thanks. Detroit hasnt had a top pick in... hell 2 decades or more, they do fine. PLus, we might end up with Jason Bosignore 2.0. Losing does not guarentee you're going to get a star, only increases the chances. Chicago had been bad for more than just 2 seasons. And if you use the theory losing=good future I'd like to introduce you to the New York Islanders.

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#120 Ogden Brother
November 21 2009, 03:51PM
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@ Jeanshorts

Worry is though: You get bad, but not quite bad enough. Even with big time injuries, post Smyth trade and then the following year, the team couldn't get into the top 3 for DP. Outside of the top 3, drafting odds start going way down.

What if we "tank" 4 years in a row and draft in the 4 - 7 range each year, ending up with Steven Wiess, Scotty Upshall, Zherdev, Montoya.

All guys drafted in those spots from 01-04

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#121 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 21 2009, 03:56PM
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Is it game day, b*tches?

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#122 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 03:59PM
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@Hemmertime

Guy, come on, we are already going into year 4 of losing, and really it's more like year 5 of 6. Or do you consider finishing in 9th place a moral victory because we were oh so close to making the dance?

I'd also like to point out that not only have the Islanders made it to the playoffs 4 times to the Oilers 2 in the last 8 years, they've also loaded up with Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Josh Bailey, and Calvin De Haan, who is unproven but is a highly regarded pick.

No one wants their team to be horrible, but do you really want 5 plus more years of 9th to 11th place finishes? Strive for mediocrity I guess.

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#123 RossCreekNation
November 21 2009, 04:01PM
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Been a looooooooong week without internet access... well... I could read on my phone, but for some reason, ever since the upgraded Nations, I cannot comment from my phone.

Anyways... what'd I miss... uuuummmmmmmm, let me see...

Shouts out to all that 'missed me' (and vice versa)

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#124 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 04:02PM
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@Ogden Brother

Isn't this team already bad, but not bad enough? Obviously there is no science to the draft, and you're just as likely to get a bust as you are a Henrik Zetterberg, but I'm just really tired of this team not being good enough to make the playoffs but not being bad enough to find gold in a high draft pick.

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#125 Librarian Mike
November 21 2009, 04:05PM
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@RossCreekNation

I was wondering what happened to you. Welcome back!

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#126 Ogden Brother
November 21 2009, 04:08PM
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@ Jeanshorts

It is (bad but not bad enough) and I share your frustration. 9th - 13th does't cut it...go one way or another.

Just saying though, selling off Souray, Vish, Bullin and replacing them from whithin would be the logical "rebuild" step.... could you handle watching this team, without those three for the next couple of years and then ending up with a bust, 2 second liners and a 2nd pairing dman with your 1st rounders....that's very possible.

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#127 RossCreekNation
November 21 2009, 04:15PM
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@Librarian Mike

Thanks man :-)

*wipes away single tear drop*

A Flames fan says Sutter must go? Blasphemy! That phugly pussi, Herman Munster-looking muthaph... Dion Frankeneuf best be gone b4 either Sutter moves on!

YAAAAAA! FLAMES UP 3-2!

*now back to our regularily scheduled rant*

... Fcuk 'sloppy seconds' Phaneuf.

Well, not exactly. I may have got carried away there, but I'm sure some of you's were loving that. I don't mind Dion, but to question 'Lord Sutter' (this goes for any Sutter... except the drunk one) is NOT COOL, MAN.

In any case, this is one Flames fan who'd take Seabrook & Weber over Phaneuf 7 days a week. Bouwmeester is SO DAMN GOOD!

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#128 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 04:19PM
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@Ogden Brother

One of Souray or Vish should be kept around to anchor the D and help groom the Smid's and Grebeshkovs. It's the Pisani's, Nilsson's, Moreau's and Staio's that they need to get rid of somehow. Easier said than done I know, but there are far too many guys on this team, making way too much money to play a role that can easily be filled, and sometimes filled far better by guys already in the system, for a fraction of the cost.

And again drafting is a slippery slope, especially with the track record this team has. But something has to give. Whatever strategy this team has been using for the last decade or so (try to land a giant free agent, pick up mediocre NHL'ers to try and fill the gaps, etc) clearly isn't working.

I feel the same way about how this team is being built, that I did about MacT. What they're doing isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's probably time to look at going in a different direction.

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#129 Ogden Brother
November 21 2009, 04:22PM
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What your talking about has nothing to do with rebuilding, dropping "deadwieght" doesn't make this team drop into the lotto ....or they wouldn't be dead weight.

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#130 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 04:28PM
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@Ogden Brother

My mind completely wandered there. What were we talking about again? Trading Hemsky? How we should all hate Pat Quinn for being mean? Something about Jason Bonsignore?

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#131 jeanshorts
November 21 2009, 04:30PM
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@Ogden Brother

I think what I was trying to say in regards to cutting loose the players that seem useless and make too much money, is that I'm not against getting rid of these "NHL'ers" in favor of dressing a half Falcons squad. And I'm not guaranteeing that would make us drop in the standings enough to get a high draft pick, but. umm. yeah. I still have no idea what I'm trying to say.

In conclusion- drafting high, good. Finishing in the middle of the pack 20 years in a row, not so good.

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#132 Mitch
November 21 2009, 06:56PM
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Maybe just maybe what Quinn is pointing out will hit home with Hemsky and he will take his game to another level.Hemsky talks about wanting to be the leader but only shows very limited flashes.John Muckler was the one who pointed out that Gretzky was the greatest player he had ever seen but also the hardest worker in practise. Dean Arsene is like RUDY right now, All the players could learn from Arsene. The Edmonton Oilers have a whole roster of players who are not willing to pay the price wether it be a practise or a game.

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#133 deepoil
November 21 2009, 07:30PM
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@Hemmertime

So you would rather finish 9th, with an alleged dream team management team earning 1.5mm a year with a lifetime (friend contract)this is not katz' cash, but the season ticket holders - all kneel to King Kevin.... when the EIG Oil promoted Lowe to GM and one season of coaching, I rolled my eyes, as per training on the job - then years later the cap came in, and they hired Eddie O's brother to assist Lowe with the math - still not working, must be the metric system on this side of the border combined with the Canuck Buck.

Bottom line is Katz borrowed all this cash to buy the team from CIT and Rexall shareholders MCKESSON - so he can relive boys on the bus, when contract management and performance - all relating back to Lowe, who would be considered ground zero for name calling - real classy for a non winner in the management field.

No relief is sight, as time is the only healing that will fix these boondoggle contracts. Brownlee finally came close to challenging LOWE without using his name. Maybe some other media will start seeing that the King wears no clothes.

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#134 Robin Brownlee
November 21 2009, 10:51PM
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@deepoil

Finally came close? Listen, Jimmy, start paying attention before making remarks like that because you look foolish enough in your cloak-and-dagger outfit without adding lame faint praise directed my way to the routine.

Your obsessive vendetta against the Oilers is well documented here, be it through shots at Katz or Lowe or whoever you choose to focus in on at any particular moment.

I'm surprised you even spent a paragraph on the actual topic before trotting out the same tired agenda and inserting it into whatever the discussion is about: slagging the organization and references to borrowed money and McKesson and on and on and on.

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#135 devilsadvocate
November 25 2009, 07:09PM
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Robin Brownlee is annoying! As i drive home from work all i hear about is media guys complaining about how a guy practices. The only guy on our team that can even be considered a legitimate elite player and we start carving him because he doesn't stay on the ice after his job is done. When 330 hits and my workday is complete...I must admit that i like getting out the door to continue on with the other things in my life. Im sure Hemsky feels the same. I could understand if it was a player like Gilbert or neilson or maybe even o sullivan taking off right away might ruffle a few feathers because of their underachievement, but we are talking about Hemsky! It doesn't make sense.

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