The lowdown on Lowtide

Robin Brownlee
April 28 2009 01:58PM

ronlow

I got a kick out of Jason Gregor's interview with Ron Low on TEAM 1260 Monday. It brought back some great memories. There were a lot of laughs working the beat when Low was coaching the Edmonton Oilers, even when he didn't have great talent to work with.

Lowtide is one of the good guys in the game -- as Tommy McVie once said, "If you can't get along with Ronnie, you're the asshole" -- but he's been off the hockey merry-go-round since being let go by the Ottawa Senators.

Whenever I see or hear Low, I flash back to Feb. 19, 1999 at the Airport Marriott in Los Angeles and to an incident that marked the beginning of the end for Boris Mironov and Andrei Kovalenko as Oilers.

It was the night before that spawned the infamous "I was out looking for Kovy" line from Mironov, who never did admit he'd been out on a big-time bender with Kovalenko. And it also produced one of the most memorable WTF moments from Low when he realized I had the scoop and the details were destined to wind up in the pages of the Edmonton Journal.

Fun with Bobo

I'd checked out of the hotel the morning after a 3-2 loss to the Kings and stepped out front to wait for the team bus to the airport when I spotted Mironov in a cab.

I assumed he was getting ready to leave, so I walked over to ask if I could catch a ride. It turns out a blotto Boris wasn't leaving the hotel, he was just getting back from a night out. Mironov got out of the hack and started walking, in a manner of speaking, toward the lobby with the cab driver in hot pursuit.

"Hey, buddy, you've got to pay the fare. Hey, buddy..." Boris kept veering toward the door without looking back. Just before the cabbie put the arm on Bobo, which wouldn't have led to anything good, I stepped in. "How much?" I asked. "Twenty-two bucks," the driver said. I gave him $30 US. "No problem, keep the change."

It was at that point Low walked out. I said, "Did you see Boris?" Low hadn't, so I explained what happened. "You didn’t see that," says Low, who headed back into the hotel in pursuit of Mironov.

In explaining to Low what happened, Bobo hatched the "I was out looking for Kovy" angle. Suffice to say, Mironov, thinking Kovalenko had, ahem, gone missing, obviously stopped in every bar in town "looking" for his winger.

At the airport, a still-gooned Mironov thanked me for stepping in and pressed $30 into my hand. At that point, it looked like everything would stay on the bus. Problem is, Kovalenko missed the flight. It became news.

I wrote the story, complete with front-page photo of a dishevelled Kovalenko arriving in Edmonton later the same evening. Mark Spector wrote a column. Spec and I absolutely killed The Sun. As the credit card commercial goes, the cab fare was $30, but the look on Low's face that morning was priceless.

Tough call

I don't have a feel for which way Steve Tambellini is going to lean in picking a successor to Craig MacTavish, but no matter who gets the job it's going to be the biggest hire of Tambellini's brief tenure as GM.

Does he go with who and what he knows and favour experience in Pat Quinn or Marc Crawford, or will he take a look at Geoff Ward, Todd Richards, Rob Daum or Scott Arniel, none of whom have been NHL head coaches?

I have an inkling -- and that's all it is -- Tambellini will opt for experience, and think Quinn tops the short-list in that category because of the history he has with him.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't see a coach without an established NHL record of success walking into that dressing room and commanding the respect of the veterans.

Then again, whether Tambellini opts for experience or a new face, he should make it clear to the players in no uncertain terms the next guy is his guy and they'd better fall in line. Those who don't will be moved along.

For what it's worth, count me among those who think a systems whiz like Daum, should he not get the head coaching position, would complement Quinn as an assistant.

I'm telling you...

Oilers fans who take consolation in watching the Calgary Flames take the pipe in the first-round of the playoffs yet again -- that Schadenfreude thing -- lack self-esteem and need to get a life. "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, stupid Calgary, lost to the Blackhawks. Nice job, Jarome, you loser." The way I see it, Oiler fans razzing their Flamer buddies for biting the first-round weenie is a bit like two guys with diarrhea racing for one seat in the outhouse. The first guy soils himself two steps from the one-holer but takes solace in watching the second guy lose his stuff with one hand on the door. In the end, they both stink.

From a selfish point of view, I'd like to see Low throw his hat in the ring for the Oilers coaching job. He's a great quote. He coaches a puck pressure, up-tempo style. Alas, it isn't going to happen.

Daum could end up back behind the bench in Springfield, but that's not a conversation he's had with Tambellini yet and one that won't happen until the boss decides which way he'll go with the candidates for the big job.

Nice of the San Jose Sharks to spit the bit in the first round again. That'll free up Richards for his interview with Tambellini.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm 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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#51 Uncle Geoff
April 28 2009, 07:55PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ yo: In the case of Gagner, no. He wasn’t going to learn anything more going back to London and he was too young to play in the AHL. I’m sure all teams try to bring prospects along at a reasonable pace, but the definition of reasonable changes depending on your circumstances. Detoit has the luxury of waiting on guys. Teams in the middle of the pack and the bottom of the standings don’t have the depth, so younger players are pushed along faster than they might be with a set line-up. There’s also far more turnover with lower tier teams.

This is one area where Katz & Tambo should be able to work some magic. As I understand it, the only "cap" on salaries for coaches, trainers, scouts, support staff etc. is what the ownership wants to spend. With new, deeper pockets owning the team and a fairly stable farm-team system, I expect better scouting, better development, better "bringing along" of young talent.

Unfortuantely, other than shufflign some deckchairs in the offices on Kingsway, we haven't heard much about improving how the Oilers pick and develop their talent. This is a ripe opportunity for the Oilers to make significant change in their developemtn structure which will pay off in four or five years.

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#52 Harlie
April 28 2009, 08:12PM
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The Canes & Washington win. I called Canes for the Cup. Long way to go yet but 1 hurdle is done.

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#53 Robin Brownlee
April 28 2009, 08:50PM
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Harlie wrote:

Robin Brownlee wrote: As for the stepping in an righting the ship and taking control, having an established, veteran coach is one way to make sure that happens, but so is a clear message from Tambellini that what happens is on the players now and that, as I put it, the new guy is his guy and people better listen up or be prepared to move out. I’ve always wondered why a threat of a trade from a GM would be scary. These guys spend most of their playing lives on the road so does it really matter where they hang their hat? You’d think that if the player was underperforming and getting crapped on he would welcome a move. Some guys have wives and kids but a lot of them don’t, so moving shouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Doesn't matter if they're worried about a trade or not. If they're not professional enough to do their jobs properly to begin with, and if they don't respond even when prodded, then see ya. Let somebody else have the problem.

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#54 Chris
April 28 2009, 08:56PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

It's my contention that the Oilers are just beginning to pay the cost for bringing up so many young guys at once. As fans, we've seen some disturbing signs on the ice. Robin, even you, who so highly values having open lines of communication has hinted at this: Bad habits have been formed with this young group... Mactavish himself said that the team culture has taken a hit. This isn't the 80's... and lets face it: Gilbert, Gagner, Nilsson, and Coglino aren't Coffee, Gretzky, Kurri, and Messier. Modern NHL'ers can't preform at the ridiculously high level required to be successful while living in clans, eating take-out pizza, and partying like drunken frat boys. Times have changed. I'm talking about the collective commitment level of this group no longer being up to standards. I believe there should have been more of a vetran presence in that room the last few seasons. Detroit had the luxury of bringing Datsyuk up in his mid twenties and sitting him next to Larionov... Luxury? Or commitment?

After Pronger left and the rebuild was on: Lowe should have COMMITTED to bring along our young guys right. The trade-off would have been some short term pain for long term gain. (Like missing the playoffs for a few years) Fresh off the cup run there may have been more of a stomach for this... Everyone would have blamed Pronger anyway.

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#55 Robin Brownlee
April 28 2009, 09:37PM
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Chris wrote:

Lowe should have COMMITTED to bring along our young guys right. The trade-off would have been some short term pain for long term gain.

That's the problem right there. Lowe waffled between "win now" and doing a righteous rebuild and got caught in the middle.

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#56 yo
April 28 2009, 10:35PM
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RB - I went past what I wanted to say in the previous post. The best part of your article was RLowe's time with the Oil. I really enjoyed the interview. He seems sincere, candid and honest to a fault. Even when he coached here we(your basic garden variety fans) didn't get the chance to hear a conversation like that. When he coached here he probably didn't have the latitude to open up. Lest we start drifting into the memories of yesteryear and with all the gory awfulness around the Oil fan base over the last couple of years I thought he was a breath of fresh air. Unlike some others currently on scene with the Oil he actually admitted being wrong on occasion. If I were in Tambellini's shoes right now I think some of that openess and honesty might be two of the ingredients I would be looking for in the next coach. Or is pro sport too cynical to allow that?

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#57 Chris
April 28 2009, 10:53PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

You are the master at saying everything without saying anything at all. There are some very real issues with the Oiler roster that go way beyond just size, or faceoff ability... Issues that even a "hard ass" coach may not be able to sufficiently address.

And to think... There are piles of Oiler fans (some who contribute right to this site) who think Tambellini made a huge mistake by not offering Omark a roster spot after one good season in the SEL...

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#58 Milli
April 29 2009, 10:25AM
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I hate the Flames, I hate the Flames. I hate there fans. I am always happy to see them lose. This year, a little tougher to really enjoy after the soiling that was this season....

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#59 Robin Brownlee
April 29 2009, 10:52AM
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@ Milli: Don't get me wrong, I understand the sentiment and the dislike between Oilers and Flames fans, but sometimes both sides get carried away.

There's a difference between cheering against the Flames and fist-pumping when they lose, but there's over-the-top stuff out there from both sides. Fans of a team that's missed the playoffs for three straight years don't have much of a leg to stand on when they point at Calgary and get goofy with the "Calgary Sucks" slogans etc.

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#60 RossCreek
April 29 2009, 12:49PM
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@ Milli: Cup run + 3 years out of playoffs VS. Cup run + 4 1st round exits?

No questions here which one I'd rather have.

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#61 Dennis
April 29 2009, 02:01PM
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I get a kick out of seeing the Flames lose considering all the instances that I've seen or read all their supporters at work.

All the same, that team lost because of the injuries. I know Kipper isn't what he used to be but no team could withstand that spate of maladies.

RB: is it possible that the accompanying pic to that article is still available somewhere online?

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#62 bingofuel
April 29 2009, 02:05PM
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@ Dennis:

The [original] pic can be found here.

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#63 Robin Brownlee
April 29 2009, 03:43PM
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@ bingofuel: Or did he mean the pic of Kovaleno skulking into the arrivals area at the airport? It was a classic -- Kovy is trying to hide behind a newspaper and he's holding it in front of his face but one bloodshot eye is visible.

I looked for it, but aside from the original hard copies in my files, I couldn't find it on the internet anywhere. The only possibility is Journal photo in the reprints section.

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#64 bingofuel
April 29 2009, 03:44PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

Ah, of course... that makes way more sense. I'm gonna go spread swine flu now...

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#65 Smokin' Ray - NNC
April 29 2009, 10:00PM
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*puts on mask*

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