TIES THAT BIND

Robin Brownlee
April 15 2013 05:29PM

If there's anybody who is actually surprised Craig MacTavish was named the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers today after Steve Tambellini was fired and made the fall guy, they haven't been paying attention.

That doesn't make Kevin Lowe's end-around of anything remotely resembling due diligence and process in terms of scouring the NHL for other candidates – a fact that's been bemoaned at great length in the aftermath, and a criticism that certainly has merit – right, and it doesn't mean critics shouldn’t be hacked off about it, but it should surprise nobody.

This is a shot that could have been called, and was, the second MacTavish returned to the organization as vice-president of hockey operations under Lowe. The only real question about when – not if – what happened today would come was tied to the health of MacTavish, who has had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for a couple of years now.

No matter what happened with the Oilers this season, Lowe was not going to be blown out by owner Daryl Katz because they’re friends. Again, you don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t make it less true. That remains so today and it isn’t going to change. That's a pound of flesh fans aren't going to get.

Likewise, if things went sideways, as they have, Tambellini was positioned as the fall guy. The first guy who'd be offered the job was MacTavish because he and Lowe go back more than 25 years – hell, they were teammates in New York with the Rangers in 1994 when they first discussed what it might be like one day to jump into coaching and the front office as a tandem. They like each other. They respect each other. They have history. Ties that bind.

No surprise. None.

SETS UP NICELY

Process (no small matter for debate) or lack of same aside, the bottom line for long-suffering Oilers fans facing a seventh straight season out of the playoffs has to be this: will the organization be more competently guided and better built for success under MacTavish than under Tambellini?

My best guess is the answer is yes, and there's plenty of reasons for that – not the least of which is that I believe, lack of experience aside, MacTavish has a better grasp of what it takes to build a team than Tambellini does (or at least a better grasp than the often indecisive Tambellini displayed).

I could be mistaken, of course, but my opinion of MacTavish was formed over many years of picking his brain about hockey – from the time he was captain here to his brief tenure as an assistant coach in New York to his return to Edmonton. We spent a lot of time in airports, hotels and hockey rinks across the continent.

Fact is, I think MacTavish's approach to the game and team building will see him more successful as the GM of this team than he was as head coach. And, as he said today (and I've seen first-hand), MacT's got an impatient streak – that in itself is a welcome change for fans frustrated by Tambellini's guarded approach to getting things done.

ALL IN THE TIMING

MacTavish is sharp. He's aggressive. He has very strong opinions about the kind of players he wants and what it takes to build a team. Those traits aside, MacTavish is taking over the big chair at the perfect time and it would take a face-plant of biblical proportions for him not to be more successful than was Tambellini, who, like departed coach Tom Renney, stepped into the breach with the team at its lowest point.

As disappointing as the last five games have been and as much as the weaknesses in the roster have been exposed during that stretch, this isn't a team that is hopelessly far off returning to contention in terms of the number of players needed and how much the mix must be tweaked. The core is going to continue to get better – no matter who is GM.

The trick, one Tambellini never did grasp or at least never did act on, is to plug in the right forward here, a defenseman or two there and veterans in support positions who can bring the kids along. MacTavish, rest assured, will move on that. Will he make the right moves? We'll see soon, which was never the case with Tambellini.

Bottom line is MacTavish, like returning Scott Howson, is stepping back into the Oilers fold at exactly the right time. From where I sit, they're set up to enjoy infinitely more success than Tambellini ever was. That, of course, has yet to be played out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a year or two from now the Oilers are right where fans want them to be.

If that happens, I'm guessing results will trump process, no?

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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 Lochenzo
April 15 2013, 08:36PM
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DSF wrote:

He was passed over twice in Vancouver.

That should have been a tell.

And it WAS Lowe who hired him.

You just can't erase those fingerprints.

I'm talking about that summer when the Oil were looking for Kevin's replacement. Not when Nonis took the job in Van.

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#102 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:39PM
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Gaz wrote:

Really? Because you've said many times on other articles that role-players are easily available "off the scrap heap" all the time. Quick, backtrack!

I'm no fan of Lowe, but your statement earlier that MacT rode Pronger to the final, and that was it, clearly illustrates your prejudice. I'll trust greater hockey minds that yourself on that one.

Again, your inability to reasonably comment on anything Oilers makes you look foolish.

Trust whomever you like.

The results speak for themselves.

The Oilers have missed the playoffs for 7 years in a row and Kevin Lowe had been driving the bus all along.

Do you really think he got up this morning and was all that much much smarter?

Do you really think his playing buddy from 20+ years ago is the answer?

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#103 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:43PM
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Gaz wrote:

Agreed. We can all (myself included) question Lowe's ability to run a hockey club, but he's a master at placing human shields for protection.

In the end, he's got a long career in management, making great coin, and a number of shiny rings to look at in his massive house. He wins.

Cue DSF.

Exactly how it played out for Bob Pulford in Chicago.

Years of incompetence were lavishly rewarded by Bill Wirtz until he died.

It wasn't until his son took over and cleaned house that the Hawks returned to respectability.

If you want a lesson in a lack of respectability, go back and watch Lowe's performance today.

If I were Katz, Lowe would have been fired before he got back to his office.

Shameful.

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#104 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:47PM
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Gaz wrote:

I really dislike defending Lowe, but I like taking you to task. So:

Why is he involved with Team Canada if he's such a useless tit? Don't tell me that "anyone can put together a Team Canada" because my phone never rings, and I'd do it for free!

Old boy's club? Houdini-like hypno ability? Reversing the earth's rotation? How does that evil Lowe-down magician do it!?

Sorry...but successful GM's are kinda busy at that time of the year.

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#105 Gaz
April 15 2013, 08:52PM
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@DSF

Talkin' Olympics, but alright.

Burke?

Yzerman? (for the WCs)

Babcock to coach?

Come on.

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#106 DSF
April 15 2013, 08:56PM
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Everyone who has a modicum of intelligence needs to read this analysis of today's events by a smart guy who doesn't have a dog in this fight:

http://espn.go.com/blog/nhl/post/_/id/23413/oilers-dont-need-another-buddy-system-promotion

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#107 TDSM31
April 15 2013, 08:58PM
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DSF wrote:

It's decent but it might not be as good as you think it is.

Yeah, well the jerk store called and....ah, nevermind.

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#108 Chris.
April 15 2013, 08:59PM
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I just edited my handle.

I'm sick of hearing Kevin reference his athletic success to legitimize his incomprehensible/reprehensible managerial tenure.

WAKE UP KATZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#109 The Real Scuba Steve
April 15 2013, 09:10PM
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Gaz wrote:

Agreed. We can all (myself included) question Lowe's ability to run a hockey club, but he's a master at placing human shields for protection.

In the end, he's got a long career in management, making great coin, and a number of shiny rings to look at in his massive house. He wins.

Cue DSF.

Yeah, how many shiny rings as a G.M? Better yet how many times have we missed the playoffs under his watch.

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#110 Gaz
April 15 2013, 09:14PM
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@DSF

It's a good article.

Well, except for that part about Howson - he assembled the team that is now pushing for a playoff spot, with the exception of the pickup of Gaborik. They were in the conversation before that trade happened.

Otherwise, it's a fine opinion. One that I agree with.

Can't help but think that if Tallon or Bowman added a MacT/Howson combo to their clubs you'd be humping their leg, though.

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#111 Gaz
April 15 2013, 09:17PM
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@The Real Scuba Steve

That wasn't the crux of my point. Good job.

I put the disclaimer in almost every post tonight - I'm not saying he's a good GM or hockey ops man. I'm just calling DSF on his typically myopic anti-Oilers agenda.

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#112 DSF
April 15 2013, 09:22PM
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Gaz wrote:

It's a good article.

Well, except for that part about Howson - he assembled the team that is now pushing for a playoff spot, with the exception of the pickup of Gaborik. They were in the conversation before that trade happened.

Otherwise, it's a fine opinion. One that I agree with.

Can't help but think that if Tallon or Bowman added a MacT/Howson combo to their clubs you'd be humping their leg, though.

The only reason Columbus is still in it is Bobrovsky and his .932 save percentage.

While Howson should get credit for recruiting him that has to be tempered by his .899 save percentage last season.

If recruiting a goalie with an unsustainable percentage trumps 5 years of failure, fill your boots.

I won't be humping anyone's leg for recruiting a couple of long term losers.

Sorry.

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#113 Harlie
April 15 2013, 09:23PM
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Lowe: So uh, I'm gonna give Tambo the green wiener and install you as Gm. Is that coo?

MacT: Thanks tips, I already got the memo

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#114 DSF
April 15 2013, 09:36PM
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From the Edmonton Sun:

"Edmonton Oilers fans are being asked to remain patient while the guy who can’t get the job done now is replaced by the guys who couldn’t get the job done before.

Seriously.

In a surreal and combative media conference that some described as a cross between a Saturday Night Live skit and a military dictatorship explaining the latest “election” results, President For Life Kevin Lowe stepped to the microphone Monday and laid out the Oilers master plan:

Steve Tambellini has been fired for his inability to clean up the mess left behind by Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson, a task so daunting that owner Daryl Katz decided it can only be tackled by Lowe, MacTavish and Howson.

Seriously. That’s what you are being asked to swallow.

No word yet on when Tom Renney and Pat Quinn are coming back, or when Ethan Moreau assumes his position as Assistant to the GM."

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/04/15/president-kevin-lowe-fails-to-provide-change-in-leadership-he-says-the-team-needs

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#115 Neal
April 15 2013, 09:50PM
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I had a couple insightful comments, but like Dave, I'm a mini pack holder... so don't know if that makes me a Class 1 fan or Class 2? The badge idea was a good one, but useless on ON...maybe everyone can clearly identify whether they are Class 1 Fans or just Class 2. That way we won't have to read them all... and it would clearly delineate who should be commenting. They really defined classes on the Titanic...

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#116 Bucknuck
April 15 2013, 10:03PM
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DSF wrote:

Did you ever watch Groundhog Day?

This is the hockey version.

Bend over.

I am seriously hoping you are wrong. Time will tell. I don't think it is possible to be much more inept than Tambellini, so I feel rather confident. Though I must say the term "bold moves" used by MacT today was exciting and scary at the same time.

It won't be like groundhog day, though. It will be a different brand of sucking, the making dumb trades kind, which will be more exciting than the last four years of a$$, at any rate. EDIT - or else maybe MacT really does understand hockey (which I believe) and will make this team compete.

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#117 Kypreos
April 15 2013, 10:15PM
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Katz is the problem and scared of Kevin Lowe, maybe because he grew up worshiping him now he does have the testicles to fire him.

You better grow some Darryl!

Get rid of this guy. He got his cups riding the coattails of other good hockey players. He was in the right place at the right time.

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#118 Kypreos
April 15 2013, 10:21PM
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Romanus wrote:

Right. That's how he became a billionaire.

Then why does he not get rid of him?

He has no balls!

Anyone with half an IQ can see what is going on.

Pull your head out of the sand.

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#119 Kypreos
April 15 2013, 10:24PM
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The good ol boys club!

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#120 GVBlackhawk
April 15 2013, 10:27PM
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DSF wrote:

Exactly how it played out for Bob Pulford in Chicago.

Years of incompetence were lavishly rewarded by Bill Wirtz until he died.

It wasn't until his son took over and cleaned house that the Hawks returned to respectability.

If you want a lesson in a lack of respectability, go back and watch Lowe's performance today.

If I were Katz, Lowe would have been fired before he got back to his office.

Shameful.

Agreed.

If he was my buddy and running the team, I still would have removed him after his performance today. Lowe could not control his emotions and said some things that I would assume he regrets. People who cannot control their emotions are not suited to management positions -- they make too many needless mistakes.

He needs a career change.

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#121 Kypreos
April 15 2013, 10:35PM
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Romanus wrote:

Right. That's how he became a billionaire.

You really Lowe has not said that same line to Katz? "I have won more cups than you Darryl"

Come on, that came out way too easy!

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#122 andrewmk20
April 15 2013, 11:36PM
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@DSF

ummmm... how old are you, are you immortal or was that a typo cause you said "your 86 year old" did you mean 8 and 6 year old sons, cause otherwise you'd have to be over 110 years old. If you are over a hundred and ten though I can now understand the majority of your posts.

I do agree I don't like these decisions though. Kevin Lower does need to be held to the same amount of accountability as Tambi. Quite frankly the entire management team needs to be broken down and analyzed to see who is still a relevant contributor and who is dead weight.

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#123 Jimmy
April 16 2013, 01:10AM
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What Lowe did today really exposed him for what and who he is. He didn't get the usual soft-ball questions from the media and it doesn't appear he liked it much.

That classless outburst may have shown the high foreheads at Rexall Sports that the 1980's man-love on display may be the beginning of the end for KLowe.

Sleep tight Kevie. If you think you are hearing footsteps in future it may be ownership coming to relieve you of your duties.

" Sleep tight mate in your quilted chambray sleepshirt" your turn may be coming soon.

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#124 j
April 16 2013, 07:58AM
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I think it is a good sign that we are all so opinionated about this move. Tambo wasn't getting it done - period. I really don't care what 'mess' he inherited considering most of the roster has been turned over i.e. this is now his team and it isn't good enough. Moving forward, is MacT able to deliver? We don't know yet as he has never been in this position with the org before. People are quick to throw him under the bus yet we have no idea what he is capable of. Stevie Y was heralded when a rookie GM. His team is no where near the playoffs this year yet no one is asking for his head. MacT is labelled because he struggled the last two years as a coach. Is that really indicative of his executive abilities? And his last two years as a coach remains the high point for the Oilers the past 5 years. Give him a chance. As far as Lowe goes - he is a loose cannon and always has been. There are far wackier, insensitive people in this business. At least Lowe wants to win. Badly.

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#125 Rob...
April 16 2013, 08:24AM
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DSF does impact the number of hits and comments blogs get here, and that ultimately gives ON the ammo it needs to bring in advertising revenue. That revenue in turn can go to pay high quality bloggers we love to read. It sounds ridiculous, but if DSF turns out to be Wanye writing under a pseudonym to increase ON's value that would be brilliant.

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#126 Spydyr
April 16 2013, 08:28AM
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DSF wrote:

This was posted in the last thread and every one of us needs to read it:

Sorry for comments here kevin. Afterall, I am one of those other fans.

I remember going to Oiler games as a Bay Blueliner. Yep, up there in the deep end, WHA days, cheering the boys. My family didnt have much, so that's all I could afford. Sorry I wasn't a better fan Kevin.

Then the NHL came. I was a student at the Uof A, paying my tuition, scartched together a few dollars to attend the odd game or so. Sorry i did'nt do more.

The I graduated! Got a job. Still couldn't really afford tickets, but i got a jersey and watched all the games I could. I know I could have done more.

Then I got transfered to Thunder Bay! I subscibed and got the Saturdat Journal mailed to me, before the internet came Kevin, to keep tabs on the TV. I missed the games pn ITV, but found out ITV was carried in the town of Long Lac, four hours north. I went there every Wednesday I could to watch the team. Youare boys were fantastic Keven. All those cups. I bet there would have been more if I did more.

Then, I got transfered to calgary. Close to home! Still an Oiler fans. My kids are 21 and 18 now. Since they were 4 and 2, I bought tickets every Christmas when I came up and took my father and my two sons to a game. We have been faithfully doing it every year, except the strike years of course. But i understand, you needed more money.

We didn's miss this year though. We came up just a few weeks ago and say you beat calgary. My 86 year old and my sons loved it. What a tradition! Alas, it's not enough however.

I'm so sorry I am not an "A" fan Kevin. I havn't missed a game on TV yet this year, I have a bunch of jesey's, even one signed by Smyth when my son was ill and in the hospital.

It's not easy being a die-hard fan in calgary Kevin. My neighbours don't like me. My co-workers are on me for the last seven years. But I stayed true. Now you don't like me.

On behalf of all of us, who have been there from the beginning, who grew up with the team, I'm sorry for not being a better fan.

Now it's your turn to apoligize to all of us.

Infinite props. Lowe just does not "get it".

There has been segregation at Rexall for years. Try bringing your kid down to see the Oilers come on and off the ice without a club seat. Or go for a beer at the river Cree bar.

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#127 positivebrontefan
April 16 2013, 10:04AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Infinite props. Lowe just does not "get it".

There has been segregation at Rexall for years. Try bringing your kid down to see the Oilers come on and off the ice without a club seat. Or go for a beer at the river Cree bar.

+1 on that. Try explaining to a six year old Taylor Hall fan that you can't go down there when there's an entire group of kids crowded down there. Makes you look like an a$$hole to your kid. Thanks Oilers. And yes I know you can buy a club pass. Another cash grab. Maybe if I had won 6 Stanley Cups I could afford to buy club seats. This last couple of days has turned me off so bad. Unfortunately I will be one of the sheep lining up to get tickets next year so my kids can go to the game. That's my fault.

Signed 1 1/2 class fan.

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#128 The Soup Fascist
April 16 2013, 10:33AM
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positivebrontefan wrote:

+1 on that. Try explaining to a six year old Taylor Hall fan that you can't go down there when there's an entire group of kids crowded down there. Makes you look like an a$$hole to your kid. Thanks Oilers. And yes I know you can buy a club pass. Another cash grab. Maybe if I had won 6 Stanley Cups I could afford to buy club seats. This last couple of days has turned me off so bad. Unfortunately I will be one of the sheep lining up to get tickets next year so my kids can go to the game. That's my fault.

Signed 1 1/2 class fan.

Just as an FYI, after the game you can go down to the Club area and wait by the Oiles dressing room with your kids. You do not need club passes after the game - at least they didn't when my kids were at the age where they wanted autographs.

If this has changed, someone please correct me.

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#129 match16
April 16 2013, 10:50AM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

I never saw any of the loss to Calgary on Saturday night. Tonight on the news I saw a clip of the end of the game and despite losing 4-1, what really struck me was the fact the seats were still full at the end of the game. Amazing you put up with this!

I understand the fans love for their hockey team, but until such time they start to stand up, leave games like this, don't attend games and leave seats empty, stop buying Oiler items, this is what you'll get.

Make no mistake about it, despite what Loser Lowe said today, public pressure did have a role in Timid Tambellini's firing. Take a stand and hopefully sooner than later, Loser Lowe will be going out the door as well.

We stayed so we could keep booing

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#130 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
April 16 2013, 11:00AM
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Are the Oilers going to hold another press conference to correct some of the mistakes from yesterdays press conference?

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#131 positivebrontefan
April 16 2013, 11:26AM
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The Soup Fascist wrote:

Just as an FYI, after the game you can go down to the Club area and wait by the Oiles dressing room with your kids. You do not need club passes after the game - at least they didn't when my kids were at the age where they wanted autographs.

If this has changed, someone please correct me.

To be honest I haven't tried that. When I have had club seats I have not seen to much of the players after the games. They're to busy counting K Lowes cup rings.

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#132 Ryan2
April 16 2013, 11:50AM
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This line from Robin sums up what we can expect from CrackedT:

"He has very strong opinions about the kind of players he wants and what it takes to build a team. "

I can't wait for him to add more Thoresen, Petersen and Pouliot types to the roster. Awesome! Stanley Cup, here we come.......

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#133 Oiler Al
April 16 2013, 01:03PM
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Don't for a minute think that Howard Katz holed up in the top floor in Vancouver is not a major player in running this team in terms of personnel! Yes he might be an astute businessman, but he may also be sniffing jocks and playing with his toy the Oilers.I guess its his right, he owns the organization, but does he know enough about hockey, beyond Lowes six rings, to make the right calls.

He personally calls players while the chase is on, and really beleive he made the draft day table call Yak and not Murray.

In the meantime while Howard hides in the suite, Lowe gets to bash balls on the front line, supported not only by the owner but by his longtime cronies.

Its been replayed over and over, that orangizations run by buddies or family most likely fail.

Whos the curly kid on the draft podium? More coming.

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