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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#1 DigDeepNBleedBlue
January 11 2014, 02:32PM
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MacT is Gold!

That's all that really needs to be said....

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#2 Taylor Gang
January 11 2014, 02:36PM
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Lowe will be gone eventually. Considering less people show up to the games every year, Katz will start to sweat a little and finally realize that Lowe is just awful.

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#3 Mac962
January 11 2014, 02:37PM
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I like MacT and believe he will make things right however, if he is that devoted to Lowe , don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

Messier is patiently waiting, another friend but one with more balls and if his fire is still there which i think it is, he is he greatest leader perhaps in pro-sports history period. He will cut the ties work wise and fix this mess [ No pun intended].

All hail Messier.

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#4 seanjohn667
January 11 2014, 02:40PM
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skidding Lowe wouldn't change much other than display for all to see that times are changing, and perhaps instill some confidence in the organization for UFAs.

but, tell me this, what harm would skidding him do? none.

does Lowe deserve to still be here when this train wreck eventually rights itself (in about 3 years)? no.

his poor decisions have this rebuild at least 2 years behind schedule and less of a guarantee that it will work out.

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#5 Bucknuck
January 11 2014, 02:48PM
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I've seen terrible bosses whose staff hate them stick around for years after they should have been fired. Conversely, I've seen bosses who were greatly admired by their staff get the can for inexplicable reasons.

The point is that MacT is an employee of Lowe, and as such has no real power over whether Lowe goes or stays. So it's really just words on the wind either way. It just doesn't matter what MacT says about his boss.

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#6 Robin Brownlee
January 11 2014, 02:52PM
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@Mac962

Messier?

Unless he arrives somewhere down the road with at least a couple of years as an NHL general manager under his belt, what makes him more qualified than MacTavish to run hockey-ops?

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#7 Ed in Edmonton
January 11 2014, 02:53PM
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The Boys on the Bus are totally loyal to one another if nothing else. One might even conclude loyal to a fault.

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#8 Dave "Killer" Carlson
January 11 2014, 03:07PM
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Totally agree with the statement that we, as fans, need to quit financially supporting the team if we want to see change. I've personally quit buying anything NHL related as a result of the idiotic lockout last season, with the exception of NHL Centre Ice so I can watch the Oilers. But I've even stopped doing that unless I have absolutely nothing else to do. Instead I've been watching other hockey - Sharks, Preds, Hawks, etc. I still follow Oilersnation devoutly but am not making special time to watch the Oilers till there is a consistent effort.

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#9 Robin Brownlee
January 11 2014, 03:10PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

The Boys on the Bus are totally loyal to one another if nothing else. One might even conclude loyal to a fault.

Agreed.

Loyalty is an admirable trait, especially in a competitive business like the NHL. It cannot, however, trump results over the long term or you get what we're seeing here.

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#10 samurai003
January 11 2014, 03:12PM
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Ya, I read the article in the Journal. My take? Ass-kisser, politically replied statements. "I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go." - HA HA HA.

How else is he supposed to publicly respond? Who's side is MacT supposed to publicly defend?

Smooch-Smooch, lick-lick. Brown-noser.

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#11 dave faulkner
January 11 2014, 03:16PM
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Mr. Brownlee, you must have a personal vendetta against K. Lowe, you continually attack him.

Let's examine the record, were the Oilers capable of being a championship team before the salary cap was in place. I don't think so, but they were a competitive team. When the cap came into place we got Pronger and Pecca, were those bad trades? At the trade deadline we were able to get Roloson, Spacek, Samsonov, and particularly with having Pronger we almost won the cup. Was K Lowe a bad GM at that time. Could you Mr. Brownlee have foreseen that Pronger would leave along with Pecca, Spacek and Samsonov? Combine that with Horcoff having a great season and Pisani playing well as well as Moreau, we know we have to overpay UFA's and while in retrospect the deals weren't good, would you have let them walk, what would the fan base have said at that time.

Around 2008 Tambellini was hired and it wasn't until the following year, I think that the rebuild was suggested as the way to go. Did you think Tambellini was a bad hire at the time, it is certainly easy to say so in retrospect.

We have no idea at this point if MacT is the right choice but I think he deserves the chance, if he fails then rightly so the blame can be attached to K. Lowe for not getting the right General Managers, until then this continuing nonsense of hammering K Lowe, will do nothing to change the status quo unless you believe that MacT should go now.

Mr. Brownlee, give it a rest

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#12 Romulus' Apotheosis
January 11 2014, 03:20PM
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Thanks for the eulogy on the KDN Brownlee.

Local dailies are important for many, many reasons.

And, while the newspaper business needs to adapt or die like everything else, these papers tend to be an extraordinarily valuable check on power in local communities. That function needs to be maintained in some fashion.

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#13 Bucknuck
January 11 2014, 03:24PM
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In my mind, if MacT is as smart as he seems, and he is the one making the personnel decisions, then Firing Lowe doesn't make a bit of difference. All it would be is a sacrifice to appease angry fans.

People always want to blame someone, and Lowe is the logical choice, since he has been the one in charge. I am just not convinced it really matters, so I wouldn't put much energy into it.

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#15 Rod from Viking
January 11 2014, 03:26PM
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@dave faulkner

Dave Semenko is that you?

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#16 BloodyEyes13
January 11 2014, 03:31PM
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Kevin Lowe is loyal to the Oilers brand/franchise. We need more people like Kevin Lowe in the Oiler's organization. No doubt, he's putting 110% effort in to turning this team around. I have faith that he'll get the job done.

People make such a big deal about the "Old Boys Club", but when the winning begins (and believe me, we're not far off), people will jump back on the bandwagon.

Just have a little more patience, Oiler fans. GO OILERS GO!!!

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#17 gcw_rocks
January 11 2014, 03:36PM
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Love how he lied about the timing of the Acton signings.

MacT answers were such as load of crap I would bet Staples bad to get the janitor in to clean up the interview room. Probably needed a big bucket.

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#18 Jofa
January 11 2014, 03:37PM
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"I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go." ... Really MacT???

For a guy who started out with some very honest responses and assessments of his team, this statement, and frankly the whole interview, seems so naive and out of touch with the reality of the team's position in this league. Behind closed doors, it feels like the Oiler brain trust, such that it is, still feel like the potential of this roster is the envy of the league.

While other GMs may want access to the sort of assets the Oilers have at their disposal, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a GM who would suggest the Oilers have built an enviable roster given the time and picks they've had.

I still feel like this ship could still be turned around with a few major trades, preferably without Lowe in the picture and getting Eakins some fresh assistant coaches who have been untouched with the past 8 yrs of losing. Wishful thinking at this point, I imagine. All we can do is hope MacT finds some good returns for the players he does move this trade deadline and beyond, and that the Smid trade isn't an indication of what we can expect from him.

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#20 He Who Knows
January 11 2014, 03:39PM
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Hey I hope you are reading this Mac T. You traded away Smid for hockey pucks to a rival team after grooming him for 7 years! Go back to TSN and do some analyzing.

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#21 Surly Duff
January 11 2014, 03:42PM
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I understand why a loss of business revenue (empty seats, lower merchandise sales, etc.) would be the easiest impetus for change in hockey operations for Katz to make regarding his team, but why must it be the only one that fans & media suggest?

Was Toronto losing money when they canned Burke? Montreal when Gauthier was let go? Vancouver when Nonis was fired?

I've often said loyalty is my only vice... and if Katz is exhibiting the same to his friends, then why should money matter?

If it does, it shows more about his character than his presumed loyalty ever will.

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#22 Butters
January 11 2014, 03:47PM
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The Oilers completely recycled themselves. They brought MacT and Howson back into the fold. They had an opportunity to bring in a fresh set of eyes and they declined. The fresh perspective is Eakins, but he is way too green. He may win the Jack Adams some day, or go the way of George Burnett. The latter is looking more likely to me.

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#23 pkam
January 11 2014, 03:48PM
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Dave "Killer" Carlson wrote:

Totally agree with the statement that we, as fans, need to quit financially supporting the team if we want to see change. I've personally quit buying anything NHL related as a result of the idiotic lockout last season, with the exception of NHL Centre Ice so I can watch the Oilers. But I've even stopped doing that unless I have absolutely nothing else to do. Instead I've been watching other hockey - Sharks, Preds, Hawks, etc. I still follow Oilersnation devoutly but am not making special time to watch the Oilers till there is a consistent effort.

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?

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#24 Mason Storm
January 11 2014, 03:48PM
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MacT's job must be incredibly hard these days. Every other GM in the league knows how desperately the Oilers want to fill their obvious holes and are likely trying to bleed the Oil dry to "help" them.

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#25 #ThereGoesTheOilers
January 11 2014, 03:50PM
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@dave faulkner

From the autumn of 2006 up to yesterday, the Oilers have recorded 229 wins and 358 losses under Kevin Lowe's watch.

They win once every three games. Firing Kevin Lowe won't fix this.

However, it's hardly 'attacking' to point out that Lowe still retains his job despite this record. By what justification would you argue he should keep it?

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#26 TayLordBalls
January 11 2014, 03:54PM
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It's brilliant how owner and management have laid down a multi-year plan to create a dynasty.

There is NO WAY to trade for players to create a dynasty. It can only be assembled via the draft.

Keep that in mind as the team grows to the next level, then the level after that!

man.... its like a room full of nattering children

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#27 ColourMeImpressed
January 11 2014, 04:00PM
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gcw_rocks wrote:

Love how he lied about the timing of the Acton signings.

MacT answers were such as load of crap I would bet Staples bad to get the janitor in to clean up the interview room. Probably needed a big bucket.

He didn't necessarily lie. They may have had a verbal agreement with Will Acton and just been hashing out the details with the agent.

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#28 samurai003
January 11 2014, 04:02PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"Kevin Lowe is loyal to the Oilers brand/franchise."

You couldn't be more right. Nobody cares more about the Edmonton Oilers than Lowe does. Nobody takes losing harder than Lowe does. I have no doubt these past several seasons have been more difficult for him than anybody else.

That doesn't change the results.

Just because he's loyal, doesn't mean he knows what he's doing. Proof is in the stats.

He's loyal, b/c no other team will hire him. He'd be grazing grass when he's turfed.

The rebuild has to start top down, not bottom up.

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#29 Oliveoiler
January 11 2014, 04:02PM
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We are ALL armchair coaches, critics and GMs, but what do we know about running the business side of an NHL club? Diddly squat. While I truly believe KL should go, I cannot fault MacT. Compared to Tambellini, he is a breath of fresh air. He says it like it is, he doesn't dither and makes changes as soon as is humanly possible. Lets face it - would any of YOU slam your boss and admit he should go? I doubt it. It would be shooting yourself in the foot and talking your way out of a job. MacT is an Oiler through and through, just like Ryan Smyth. Be thankful we have him now instead of Mr. Dither.

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#30 -30-
January 11 2014, 04:03PM
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As a former and now happily retired newsroom employee (yeah, I remember seeing you and Spec popping into the corner office over the years) here's my take on MacTavish.

What could he say except that the "appreciates" all the hard work that Lowe does. To say otherwise would be to say the least uncomfortable?

How many times over the years have we seen wholesale house cleanings in either of EJ's or The Sun's newsrooms. With every editor or managing editor it was almost guaranteed that within a couple of years the old wood was quietly replaced with new wood.

It seemed that almost every seven to ten years we would have a major change in upper management and it was almost always necessary. Editors became too comfortable or myopic or too buddy buddy and forgiving of sloppy work.

The same needs to happen with the Oilers. A major shakeup needs to occur. It's only a guess but my take on the Rexall Group is that they aren't run in the same manner as the hockey team.

Lowe needs to go no matter what his subordinates say.

-30-

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#31 Oliveoiler
January 11 2014, 04:05PM
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Sorry, I forgot to add - the downhill slide started with Pronger leaving, then Smytty and others being traded, then Khabibulin being signed. THAT's when the problems started. You can't blame Mact for ANY of those.

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#32 morgie
January 11 2014, 04:05PM
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dave faulkner wrote:

Mr. Brownlee, you must have a personal vendetta against K. Lowe, you continually attack him.

Let's examine the record, were the Oilers capable of being a championship team before the salary cap was in place. I don't think so, but they were a competitive team. When the cap came into place we got Pronger and Pecca, were those bad trades? At the trade deadline we were able to get Roloson, Spacek, Samsonov, and particularly with having Pronger we almost won the cup. Was K Lowe a bad GM at that time. Could you Mr. Brownlee have foreseen that Pronger would leave along with Pecca, Spacek and Samsonov? Combine that with Horcoff having a great season and Pisani playing well as well as Moreau, we know we have to overpay UFA's and while in retrospect the deals weren't good, would you have let them walk, what would the fan base have said at that time.

Around 2008 Tambellini was hired and it wasn't until the following year, I think that the rebuild was suggested as the way to go. Did you think Tambellini was a bad hire at the time, it is certainly easy to say so in retrospect.

We have no idea at this point if MacT is the right choice but I think he deserves the chance, if he fails then rightly so the blame can be attached to K. Lowe for not getting the right General Managers, until then this continuing nonsense of hammering K Lowe, will do nothing to change the status quo unless you believe that MacT should go now.

Mr. Brownlee, give it a rest

Mr. Faulkner you sound like a Lowe apologist

Lowe is the very reason the oilers are what they are here's just a few examples:

- Mike comrie trade for Corey Freaking Perry, which got nixed at last minute because lowe asked comrie for 2.5 mill in return

- pursuing Danny Heatly and consequently missing out on signing Glencross

- Drafting Marc Pouliot instead of Zach Parise

- Getting nothing for Sheldon Souray

- Letting Brodziak go for nothing

- etc.etc

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#33 Chainsawz
January 11 2014, 04:07PM
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BloodyEyes13 wrote:

Kevin Lowe is loyal to the Oilers brand/franchise. We need more people like Kevin Lowe in the Oiler's organization. No doubt, he's putting 110% effort in to turning this team around. I have faith that he'll get the job done.

People make such a big deal about the "Old Boys Club", but when the winning begins (and believe me, we're not far off), people will jump back on the bandwagon.

Just have a little more patience, Oiler fans. GO OILERS GO!!!

If you think I'm off the Oilers bandwagon because I think Lowe isn't good for this franchise, you're wrong.

There's no doubt in Lowes effort. But he has a bad track record that suggests that he could give 200% and still fall short.

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#34 Brian
January 11 2014, 04:08PM
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WTF is the Messier buzz about? What the hell are his credentials to do anything? I am so sick of the rampant cronyism of the Bus riders. As a GM, I'd give MacT some time. POHO? I'd fire Lowe's ass. Bucky and Smith? Get lost. But now the Moose will bring his acumen to bear on this write off team . Is he bringing his Dad like he did at the worlds a few years ago?

Travesty.

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#35 Hockey mom
January 11 2014, 04:11PM
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MacT seems like a decent guy . Most of us are loyal to our friends but we don't give them all jobs . MacT needs to get a staff that can help him deliver a team that works hard every game because that's what loyal fans deserve. He needs to quit defending the boys on the bus and concentrate on surrounding himself with energetic coaches that can adapt to what's on the roster now. Take the rose colored glasses off and show your free loading friends the door.

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#36 Jerry
January 11 2014, 04:16PM
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Fans and Management have a religious belief in Lowe. Facts are pointless to them.

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#37 BLAKPOO
January 11 2014, 04:20PM
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Good job firing up the mob, Brownlee.

Not buying tickets and not supporting the team doesn't just see your management leave town, but the talent as well. The only reason half of these guys like playing here is because of the fan support. How do you think they'll react once that's gone?

Who wants to play amidst this circus?

I'm pretty sure that jerseys hitting the ice and bumper stickers on rusty pick-ups around town isn't gonna help draw quality UFAs.

They're certainly not coming here for the damn Mall.

But, of course, when MacT offers them a "can't miss" contract and they say "no", it's all management's fault.

Right?

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#38 Jerod
January 11 2014, 04:20PM
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Daryl's best friend is Kevin Lowe. What do you expect MacT to say. Any fool knows Kevin Lowe is a loser. Just look at the results. You would have to be insane to think Kevin Lowe should be employed by the Oilers

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#39 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
January 11 2014, 04:22PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Messier?

Unless he arrives somewhere down the road with at least a couple of years as an NHL general manager under his belt, what makes him more qualified than MacTavish to run hockey-ops?

Career points:

MacTavish: 480

Messier: 1887

~He knows a thing or two about winning...~

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#40 Mason Storm
January 11 2014, 04:29PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

Career points:

MacTavish: 480

Messier: 1887

~He knows a thing or two about winning...~

That's a KLowe quote. Not a MacT quote.

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#41 samurai003
January 11 2014, 04:33PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy! wrote:

Career points:

MacTavish: 480

Messier: 1887

~He knows a thing or two about winning...~

NHL Career Points: Messier: 1,887 Great One: 2,857 Scotty Bowman: 0

NHL points has no correlation in a successful upper management position.

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#42 Rod from Viking
January 11 2014, 04:33PM
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This is an Oilers website but I would like to congratulate my neighbor Darryl Sutter who coached his 1000th NHL game last week. He has a career winning percentage of .563 and has only been below .500 three times in 15 seasons. How successful his tenure as a GM was can be debated but anyone in the know about the Flames can tell you Mr King was very involved in the decisions on contacts(remind you of another team). He is a really good guy and even though he has been able to torment me about my Oiler loyalty the last 20+ years I say I hope you win another cup before you retire to the farm.

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#43 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
January 11 2014, 04:36PM
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@Mason Storm

Yes. And the squiggly marks represent sarcasm.

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#44 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
January 11 2014, 04:38PM
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samurai003 wrote:

NHL Career Points: Messier: 1,887 Great One: 2,857 Scotty Bowman: 0

NHL points has no correlation in a successful upper management position.

Oh yeah, you're totally right. I see that now.

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#45 pkam
January 11 2014, 04:42PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

MacTavish, in my mind, certainly does deserve more time to get the job done.

It doesn't naturally follow that, Lowe, the one constant at the top of hockey ops since 2000, should get the same benefit of the doubt.

If this team finishes 24-30 again, I'm not of the mind MacTavish should be fired. Change the man at the top, Lowe, and I'm of the opinion the status quo will change.

You have a different opinion, and that's fine, but don't tell me to give it a rest because I don't see things your way.

If you think MacT deserves more time to get the job done, then it is not the right time to fire K Lowe.

If we fire Lowe now, what is the likelihood that the new POHO will keep MacT for at least another year, unless he is not given the option. If he is not given the option to hire his GM for at least the end of next season, why do we replace Lowe with another POHO now?

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#46 Imirik
January 11 2014, 04:46PM
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When does that bus come back to pick these boys up?

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#47 Oliveoiler
January 11 2014, 04:47PM
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A few relevant questions.......

1 Did Robin Brownlee ever play NHL hockey? 2 Did Robin Brownlee ever coach or manage an NHL team? 3 Does Robin Brownlee have a degree in business management? 4 What did Robin Brownlee do in the 20 odd years before 1989 when he became a hockey writer? 5 Just who IS Robin Brownlee? - oh, right, another armchair coach/critic, just like the rest of us.

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#48 pelhem grenville
January 11 2014, 04:47PM
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Robin: is Messier on the Oiler payroll? T or F

if so, what is his title?

p.s. RIP KDN ...death of a great little rag, buddy of mine worked there after you, albeit for just a cup a coffee but he loved the place!

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#49 JohnCusac
January 11 2014, 04:55PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Messier?

Unless he arrives somewhere down the road with at least a couple of years as an NHL general manager under his belt, what makes him more qualified than MacTavish to run hockey-ops?

Messier wants to coach. I would fire Eakins in a heartbeat for Messier.

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#50 brad
January 11 2014, 05:04PM
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@dave faulkner

... now we know what Kevin's log-in name is here!!

Mr. Faulkner you forgot to mention that you...i mean mr lowe has 6 rings and knows a bit about winning if there is ever a question.

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