LOYALTY

Robin Brownlee
January 11 2014 02:29PM

If love is blind, as the saying goes, loyalty, as admirable as it can be, isn't far behind. Fans of the Edmonton Oilers can read an unflinching display of the latter from Oiler GM Craig MacTavish as it pertains to his team and friend Kevin Lowe in a terrific series by David Staples at the Edmonton Journal.

Lowe, as I pointed out in an item January 8, has been the focus of growing dissension within a passionate fan base with the Oilers on the way to missing the playoffs for an eighth straight season. While MacTavish is in his first year on the job as GM, Lowe has been at the top of Edmonton's hockey-ops department since 2000 as GM or president of hockey operations.

That focus isn't likely to change – nor should it – after an unexpected 4-3 overtime win over the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins at Rexall Place Friday. Framed in that, one snippet from the series – you can find it here – drives home how loyal MacTavish is to Lowe.

Staples writes: "With the Oilers losing so much in Lowe’s recent tenure, I suggest it is likely time to change the leadership of the organization, just as almost all NHL teams do when the losses start to mount."

MacTavish's response: "Well, I would say it would be a big mistake for us,” MacTavish says. "I appreciate Kevin Lowe’s leadership. I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go. Like, I really feel like we’ve got limitless upside with this group."

TIES THAT BIND

I'm not stunned MacTavish would offer such a response. I'd be stunned, having some insight to their friendship and respect for each other dating back to their time as teammates in Edmonton and New York, if MacT said anything else. They have each other's back. Always have. Always will.

That, of course, doesn't change the fact that, in a results based business, Lowe has survived a staggering amount of failure since he took over as GM in 2000 and then moved to POHO under new owner Daryl Katz. The record is there for all to see. Like I said January 8, "Draw your own conclusions." Just don't expect MacTavish to admit or suggest he's come to the conclusion all these seasons of failure since 2000 during Lowe's tenure mean it's time for him to go. Those words won't pass by his lips.

Fans can insist that Lowe must go. They can display placards at games, as they have, saying he must be fired. Unless they stop buying tickets, parking and merchandise to show their displeasure – the building was packed for the Penguins – it doesn't matter. Members of the media can sack Lowe in the prints, TV and radio. It doesn't matter.

In the end, a public declaration about an outcome that seems long overdue to those not bound by loyalty or self-preservation will have to come from Katz, who is Lowe's friend, or Lowe himself. With a waiting list for season tickets and Rexall Place at or near capacity at the start of every season, what are the odds of that?

WHILE I'M AT IT . . .

Newspapers are collapsing under their own weight because of reduced advertising revenue, consumer demand for immediate information online and failure to grasp and/or monetize online platforms for distributing the news that's fit to print, but it's still an unhappy day to see a newspaper like the Kamloops Daily News go down, as it did last night.

The knucklehead in the photo above is me, around 1985, in a staged shot for a story about some lame new type of exercise equipment. I spent four years at the KDN, which published for more than 80 years, before moving on to the Edmonton Journal.

Back then, smaller dailies like the KDN were jumping off points for those hoping to move on to bigger newspapers. You worked your ass off doing everything and if you could hack it and were lucky, you were on your way.

I worked with many terrific and talented people back then. Ben Kuzma, my sports editor, has being covering the Vancouver Canucks for the Province for years. Iain MacIntyre, the other writer in the department, is a columnist, and a fine one, for the Vancouver Sun now.

Lots of talented people there now, too, like Gregg Drinnan, who wrote the best damn junior hockey blog in the business, at least until the paper put its last issue to bed Friday night. Sad to see it go.

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 tom.MTL
January 12 2014, 07:18AM
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Lowe isn't getting pink slipped. If anything, he'll get promoted. Perhaps the new title of Supreme Leader of Hockey Winning / President Of Excellent

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#102 Brian
January 12 2014, 07:21AM
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tom.MTL wrote:

Lowe isn't getting pink slipped. If anything, he'll get promoted. Perhaps the new title of Supreme Leader of Hockey Winning / President Of Excellent

You forgot one ..., CEO Ring Counting

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#103 Neal
January 12 2014, 09:13AM
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It wasn't hard to see Lowe's ineptness as a manager. I remember knocking it around some years back on Cult of Hockey. It was always interesting because Lowe did know what it took to win. I remember him playing a hard playoff series with broken ribs. Yet the teams he built were almost exactly the opposite - smaller, faster, perimeter players with no heart to engage or understanding of how a team works together.

It was apparent that Lowe was so blinded by Gretzky's brilliance that he formed the belief that you only need elite level talent to win. "Talent" in his mind was stick handling and skating. He was a focused man and also an arrogant one, and that was all he considered. As a result we have the present day Oilers.

Lowe should be fired, but it probably doesn't matter. I think the torch has already been passed to Mac. From everything we've seen, Mac has a different view of what it takes (even though he will publicly support Lowe). He's smarter, and has a clearer picture of building a team.

The achilles heel with him though, is his ability to control his frustration. We've seen this many times as player and coach. While I even kind of like him not suffering fools gladly, he is in a job where he's going to experience frustration like he's never seen. Can he withstand this without an erruption? Don't know. Place your bets and watch the show.

In the meantime we still are where we are; praying that Nuge et all really are getting better, and hoping for trades that work.

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#104 a lg dubl dubl
January 12 2014, 09:37AM
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Im going to wait and see what MacT does at the deadline, at the draft and off season before I start wanting heads to roll.

Dithers left this team in a mess when he left, the only thing he did was call Hall, RNH, and Yakupov's names at the draft. Mac needs more than one year to change this team around.

Yes Klowe has been here for ages and yes the only thing constant while hes been here has been sitting at the bottom, but really, this team hasn't really done much since the great purge after the 5th cup. Even if Lowe did resign his POHO position, whats going to change over night? NOTHING! It would still take just as long to right the team towards consistant winning seasons as it would if Lowe stayed on, so as fans weather we stop going to games(still seceretly cheering them on) or not we have to deal with the hand that's dealt.

And besides the only thing that will help this team get the top UFA's is winning year in year out, it'll come.

See y'all back on the band wagon when this team does start winning again.

Cheers ON

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#105 dave
January 12 2014, 09:38AM
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@Neal

In the meantime we still are where we are; praying that Nuge et all really are getting better, and hoping for trades that work.

You forgot to add:

Pray that the Eakins understands and learns from his mistakes and that the team as a whole plays within a system.

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#106 Neal
January 12 2014, 09:48AM
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@dave

@dave

Good point. I'll pray for that too.

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#107 Bryzarro World
January 12 2014, 09:58AM
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You know it's bad when people start praying to wizards in the sky...

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#108 Oilers4ever
January 12 2014, 10:14AM
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Loyalty be damned. Its all about winning. Clearly with katz he likes being loser so long as he's making money. Every other nhl owner would have turfed lowe long ago. The oilers are just a play thing to katz. So long as he's making money Stanley Cups are just a bonus in his eyes. Sad But True.

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#109 Jay
January 12 2014, 10:15AM
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Things are as bad as they can be. The team has been at the bottom of the league for close to a decade. The only tangible progress made in this rebuild are the 1st overall picks. Why would anyone defend KLowe is beyond me

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#110 Freewheeling Freddie
January 12 2014, 10:24AM
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The ship must be turned in the right direction very soon . What player in their right mind would want to come to team that loses consistently. We have Hall and Nuge who will be consistent top ten players.The time is now ,we cannot afford much more losing or else this team will be in the rathole for years to come. No more excuses time to make it happen

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#111 outdoorzguy
January 12 2014, 11:13AM
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Hey McTavish, see what they did in Winnipeg. THATS A BOLD MOVE. You can start anytime now!!

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#112 outdoorzguy
January 12 2014, 11:17AM
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McTavish says I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go." I'm reassured much more now knowing that management approves of this train wreck spiralling off the High Level Bridge sinking to the bottom of the North Saskatchewan River. So reassuring. This entire organization is a joke.

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#113 PutzStew
January 12 2014, 12:15PM
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Tuningout wrote:

It used to be a game * Now it's a business. **

* maybe I was just more naive as a younger man

** as an Oiler fan born 1980 I have almost as many memories of trades for money, salary cap knowledge, and lockouts ... as I do actual hockey moments.

You know your comment about it being a game really made me think. With the the exception of the period where the EIG owned this team, it has always been a business in Edmonton.

I guess the winning in the 80's just helped mask it, so for people like myself, it was a lot easier to be naive, then it is now.

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#114 Kevin Lowe
January 12 2014, 01:59PM
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Shut up you big bunch of pansies ! I have 6 rings if there's ever a concern !

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#115 TigerUnderGlass
January 12 2014, 02:45PM
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@Neal

the teams he built were almost exactly the opposite - smaller, faster, perimeter players with no heart to engage or understanding of how a team works together.

This is an absurd statement. You're essentially ignoring half his tenure. How you could look at the fantastic roster he sent into the 2006 playoffs and say something like this is beyond me.

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#116 Jtfan
January 12 2014, 04:00PM
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Neal wrote:

It wasn't hard to see Lowe's ineptness as a manager. I remember knocking it around some years back on Cult of Hockey. It was always interesting because Lowe did know what it took to win. I remember him playing a hard playoff series with broken ribs. Yet the teams he built were almost exactly the opposite - smaller, faster, perimeter players with no heart to engage or understanding of how a team works together.

It was apparent that Lowe was so blinded by Gretzky's brilliance that he formed the belief that you only need elite level talent to win. "Talent" in his mind was stick handling and skating. He was a focused man and also an arrogant one, and that was all he considered. As a result we have the present day Oilers.

Lowe should be fired, but it probably doesn't matter. I think the torch has already been passed to Mac. From everything we've seen, Mac has a different view of what it takes (even though he will publicly support Lowe). He's smarter, and has a clearer picture of building a team.

The achilles heel with him though, is his ability to control his frustration. We've seen this many times as player and coach. While I even kind of like him not suffering fools gladly, he is in a job where he's going to experience frustration like he's never seen. Can he withstand this without an erruption? Don't know. Place your bets and watch the show.

In the meantime we still are where we are; praying that Nuge et all really are getting better, and hoping for trades that work.

For those of us who lived through the 80's city of champs we regret that our kids did not experince this feeling of pride in the city. I was happy to experience 2006 to give my son a taste of that winning atmosphere. Unfortunately #firelowe is the only tool i have to be part of a city groundswell against this crazy regime. Lowe ha been the common factor in oilers having worst winning % in the league. Maybe this is alright for florida but this is edmonton where we love and breathe hockey! Bring back the pride! #firelowe

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#117 Sandra
January 12 2014, 04:19PM
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You were good looking back then Robin!!!,Reminded me of the lead singer from Queen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-rkJmRiFug

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#118 Mr. Pederson
January 12 2014, 06:06PM
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Brian wrote:

You forgot one ..., CEO Ring Counting

CEOOOOOO.

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#119 Zarny
January 12 2014, 07:38PM
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Good grief, no GM would say anything but what MacT said about their boss. It had nothing to do with friendship.

There is certainly an argument for firing Lowe; but the haters have lost touch with reality. I read the comments before listening to Lowe's interview with Gregor. Talk about selective hearing. Many hear want they want to hear.

I wasn't excited about MacT as GM for obvious reasons, but I've changed my mind. It was a good interview. There is no kool-aid regarding what the Oilers lack. And he gets that the job is ultimately about relationships.

I also like that MacT hasn't wet his pants like so many on here. His demeanor is calm. He has no baggage from the past which I don't think you can say about Lowe.

4-14-2 over the first 20 games was a perfect storm of sh*t. However, the Oilers are 11-13-3 over their last 27 games. Certainly nothing to plan a parade over but if they had gone 8-10-2 over the first 20 games they'd be sitting in the mix with Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg. If you only count the final 62 games the Oilers likely end up 9th or 10th which is where they were expected to be.

And MacT's comments about Lowe are accurate. You don't get asked to be part of Team Canada's management group by being a dummy. Quite the opposite.

That doesn't mean he can't or shouldn't be fired. It's a results based business. The reason the Oilers haven't started winning when their core is ~ the same age as Pit and Chi is because the supporting cast is garbage compared to those two teams.

Ultimately that is the responsibility of the GM who was fired. Did Lowe have influence in not obtaining a better supporting cast? Perhaps...or perhaps it's simply that very few free agents will sign in Edm.

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#120 Robin Brownlee
January 12 2014, 07:43PM
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Sandra wrote:

You were good looking back then Robin!!!,Reminded me of the lead singer from Queen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-rkJmRiFug

It's that hat, right? Right?

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#121 Zamboni Driver
January 12 2014, 07:52PM
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@Zarny

You might want to Google "MacTavish screaming match with fan" and see how calm and collected he is.

Yet another Tier One Fan taken down by the "braintrust".

Honestly, don't fire Lowe.

Fire the ENTIRE PR DEPARTMENT of this sh*tshow.

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#122 Oilerz4life
January 12 2014, 08:50PM
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Lord of the Rings

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#123 Sandra
January 12 2014, 09:19PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

It's that hat, right? Right?

and the shorts!

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#124 Dave "Killer" Carlson
January 12 2014, 09:38PM
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pkam wrote:

So if the team starts to play better, does it matter to you if K Lowe is fired or not?

And will you start to support the Oilers if K Lowe is fired but they continue to suck?

I realize this article is a few days old now and people may not read this but figured it was worth replying to.

I couldn't care less who was in charge. All I care about is watching hockey where the players give an honest effort every game, all game. I've supported the Oilers through all the futility of the last 7 seasons, even beyond that. What did it in for me this year was earlier in the season, after back to back home shutouts to the Wings and Leafs (I believe), someone posted a comment on O.N. that the players were partying it up at The Rack after stinking out Rexall. I play in a competitive rec league and after one game that I played particularly poorly in, I couldn't bring myself to have a beer after the game - I didn't earn that reward. So tell me how can I support a bunch of millionaire hockey players who are more concerned about partying than competing?

I'll continue to support the team as soon as they put in an honest effort - win or lose, regardless of who runs the show. Until then, I'll get my the results from Oilersnation.

Wanye, you're doing a bang-up job. Keep it up.

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