The Pot and the Kettle

Being a man of principle, Edmonton Oilers boss Kevin Lowe made it clear this week he doesn’t hold former player agent Mike Gillis, now the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, in high regard. Lowe remains rightfully unhappy about being shunned by Michael Nylander, who backed out of a deal with the Oilers last summer when his wife tugged on the trousers and pulled out the hammer, informing hubby there was no way she was coming to Edmonton. Nylander’s agent was none other than Gillis, and Lowe doesn’t think he handled the situation as ethically as he should have. Suffice to say, Lowe won’t be picking up the phone to talk trade with Gillis in his new capacity any time soon. "We haven’t done many deals with Vancouver, although Dave Nonis and I had many conversations,” Lowe told Darren Dreger of TSN. "I suspect we won’t be doing any in the future." Lowe went on to say: "A lot of deals are done based on honesty and trust. He (Gillis) is going to be in tough earning trust. To orchestrate a trade, you have to have that trust going in." Pardon? Putting aside the fact Nylander stiffed in Washington after spurning the Oilers for an $18.5-million deal with the Capitals, is this the same Lowe who asked Mike Comrie to pay $2.5 million to complete a trade to the Anaheim Ducks? The same Lowe who, according to agent Ritch Winter, never said a word to Anaheim GM Bryan Murray about the money component as a requirement to get the trade completed? The same Lowe who told Murray and Winter they could begin working on a new contract, then made the $2.5 million stipulation at the 11th hour? That Lowe? Hmm.

Family Matters

The Oilers have always looked after their own, and that’s unlikely to change under incoming owner Daryl Katz, who was a hardcore fan long before making his billions with Rexall. As tight as Katz is with Lowe and other Oilers he cheered for and became friends with in the 1980s, nepotism—the unconditional embrace of those who’ve worn the Oil Drop—might get cranked up a notch.

  • Talk persists Craig Simpson will leave the TV booth again, this time for a front office job with the Oilers—likely in the capacity of an assistant GM to Lowe. What, exactly, qualifies Simpson? The answer escapes me. Oh, wait, 20 years ago, he scored 56 goals one season.

I’m wondering if some of the players who didn’t enjoy Simpson acting as the vocal hammer for pal Craig MacTavish as an assistant coach will like him any better if he’s kicked upstairs.

  • Still on the Once-An-Oiler-Always-An-Oiler front, I keep hearing former captain and devout company man Kelly Buchberger will be promoted to MacTavish’s staff after spending this season running the AHL show in Springfield.

If that move comes at the expense of Rob Daum, as opposed to being an addition to the existing staff, it’s a mistake. Daum brought new ideas and a new perspective to the strategic mix. Daum complements assistants Bill Moores and Charlie Huddy. Daum can coach talent. Bucky?

Another thing…

  • Nobody asked, but the first three names that come to mind ahead of Simpson if the Oilers really are looking to add to the front office are Doug Armstrong (he’s still getting a cheque from Dallas), Winter (when hell freezes over) and Nonis (he’ll end up in Anaheim with Burke).
  • So, Joni Pitkanen will play for Finland at the World Championships. I’d have thought he’d need time to rest and let all those bumps and bruises that had him in and out of the Oilers line-up. The same could be said for Mathieu Garon, who’ll be Canada’s third stopper.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

  • Jason

    Holy damn! A guy doesn't visit the site for a few weeks and BAM! everyone's talking.

    I think samwise is partly right. Comrie was a total douche. But I don't think that Lowe's behaviour made him seem any better. What's more, I think that other players see that kind of action from a GM like Lowe, and it doesn't do a lot for his cred.

    Did Comrie deserve to be smacked? Yeah, I think so. But while Lowe's actions were hilarious, they make him seem like a vindictive prick too. And I don't think that's cool.

  • RobinB

    fyvmvv: Penner and Pitkanen might do exactly that. I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again.

    As for the rest — there's no pent up frustration on my end. You're right, though, this forum does allow more latitude to be more direct and critical than working at the dailies, as I did for 18 years. I can see you reading that as a "tendency to take more and more shots of the cheap variety."

    While you might not agree with some of what I write, I AM expressing opinions based on what I see from the inside. It's not like I get up in the morning and say, "Hell, I think I'll pull something out of my ass" just to generate interest or controversy. I get no percentage or money based on page hits or responses to my articles on this site. I've got no reason to go over the top just for the hell of it.

  • Tom

    Just going back to my initial remark Robin, the month that I was talking about was the one from the Oilers last game (April.3) to Finland's first game (May.3). I must have mistaken what you wrote for sarcasm, the same kind of sarcasm we've all heard you dish out about Pitkanen all season…

  • Sammy

    I'm still astounded that RB thinks because a guys an agent, that makes him some sort of talent evaluator.
    Or that because a guy negotiates contracts on a one of basis, that makes him have more than a passing knowledge of the Cap.
    My god, get your nose out of Winters jock.

  • Cu and Blue

    Im really tired of you bashing Pitkanen. He's an extremely skilled d man something the oil really need. Hes exciting to watch and will only get better. It seems like you have been running him out of town ever since he got her. Give it a break.

  • fyvmvv

    Regarding Gillis/Van.owners, I hope they succeed to the extent all NW opponents are in effect partners with the Oil. The Oil need to have their partner's buildings full of happy fans and corporate supporters. If they fail and the NW division becomes a colossal goat rodeo who loses? We do. What concerns me especially with the Oil being on the verge of sole ownership again, is the chance of people who are nothing more than fans with exceptionally deep pockets taking over a hockey organization with no more knowledge about running an NHL team than I have. Do these guys in Van.look like they have good listening skills? Not at all. Not after what they did to Nonis. In my view it was hasty and risky in the extreme. We shall see.

  • OregonStateFan

    Although I think this topic is getting driven into the ground, I'd like to add my 2 cents. I think it's not a question of Pitkanen's skill level that makes him expendable, it's the mere fact that he has two gaping holes in his game.

    Hole #1: He's prone to defensive brain cramps. Not to the degree the Marc-Andre Bergeron had, as Pitkanen is obviously more confident passing the puck and has better vision, but the fact remains that on occasion he just gives up the puck for a 2-1.

    Hoe #2: He's injury prone. Not sure about this? Let's see what TSN says about his injuries this season:

    15-Mar-08 Missed 1 game (undisclosed).
    13-Mar-08 Undisclosed, day-to-day.
    19-Feb-08 Missed 1 game (hip injury).
    16-Feb-08 Hip injury, day-to-day.
    22-Jan-08 Missed 2 games (knee injury).
    18-Jan-08 Knee injury, day-to-day.
    13-Jan-08 Missed 1 game (flu).
    10-Jan-08 Flu, day-to-day.
    02-Jan-08 Missed 1 game (back injury).
    31-Dec-07 Back injury, day-to-day.
    22-Nov-07 Missed 13 games (knee injury).
    31-Oct-07 Knee injury, late November.
    23-Oct-07 Knee injury, sidelined indefinitely.

    Maybe he just needs to learn to stretch? I sure as heck stretch before each game to avoid injury, but maybe stretching isn't stressed enough in the Finnish leagues or the Swedish Elite League.

    Joni isn't likely to be overpaid because of his skill, he's likely to be overpaid because of his liabilities, both defensively and physically.

  • GiveBackTheGame

    Montreal Boys Club vs Edmonton's boys club is different in terms of where they started the coaching and management. Gainey(coached in France, Coached and Managed in Dallas and Minnesota before coming to Montreal), Jarvis(AHL experience 3+years and countless years as assistant in the NHL…some would say he deserved the role before Carboneau and some say he deserves a lot of the credit as he managed in Hamilton for a couple of years growing the rookies 41 25 10 4 0.600 second year 38 29 6 7 0.556)

  • Tommyjr26

    Robin,
    Great venue for your articles, I love the open forum.
    I am sure if you had Kevin OTR he would admit the attempted Comrie heist was a mistake, and chalk it up to inexperience. As I heard of 1260 today, KLowe was more dissapointed that Gillis never picked up the phone to tell him what his client was doing. And the question I would have to Winter would be 'as a respected agent' would he ever permit a client to do what Nylander did? I would think as an agent I would terminate the relationship and not represent him. Winter was however way offside attacking the Oilers draft record by rattling off players that they could have had drafted. Is it me or does Winter have a love affair with the Red wings. Yes they are a fine organization, but I am sure you can go through the draft day mistaked with them as well.

  • RobinB

    Tommy: Ritch seldom passes on a chance to take a dig at the Oilers and he did it again with the draft record reference. No need, really, but he can't seem to help himself.
    And yes, Ritch clearly has a thing for the Red Wings.

  • Hockey Addict 101

    Thanks for your answer Robin but you haven't really answered how the "the Old Boys Club is wrong"

    Sather was an Old boy, a friend of Pocklington and a former Oiler and then went on to win 5 Stanley Cups

    Toe Blake was an "old Boy: and I believe he had 8 cups as a coach/manager.

    Neither of these legendary people had experience as coach/manager when they were hired.

    I could go on and one as obviously it is more of the rule than the exception.

    Being an "Old boy" doesn't make you a bad choice.

  • RobinB

    Hockey Addict 101: When and where did I say the "Old Boys Club," in terms of a general approach, is wrong across the board?

    You've cited examples where it works very well. It's perfectly natural to feel comfortable working with people you know and like and have some history with. In the case of hockey, people you've played with or against. I get that.

    All things being equal — experience and ability etc — why not take someone you know over somebody you don't? It can get complicated,though, if you put way more weight in that familiarity than in credentials and experience.

    I just get a feeling, knowing how tight MacTavish and Simpson are, he's going to be hired come hell or high water — even if he's not the most qualified guy for the job.

    In the case of Buchberger, my only objection would be if his hire came at the expense of Rob Daum.
    I saw first-hand how well Buchberger works with certain types of players during the lockout, when I covered and travelled with the Roadrunners of the AHL. He was a great help in developing Kyle Brodziak. He spent hours and hours grooming the kid. I know what Bucky brings to the table. I just don't want him forced into the mix if it means losing Daum, who has a real knack for working with skill players and provides the coaching staff a tactical component in terms of defensive zone coverage and breakouts etc.

  • fyvmvv

    R.B. – Maybe the Oil management should stop looking at the old fashioned model of one size fits all as far as coaching is concerned. Could there be room for both styles in dealing with skill players and third and fourth line guys who may bring a little of both to the table. Coaching is seemingly more specialized with each passing season and team preparedness is critical expecially with players entering league play at younger ages and earlier stages of development. You can't really push the younger players into high pressure competition without the support behind them and get the kind of results you want. The speed of teams pursuing the D on the forecheck has seemingly altered forever the required skill-set of D-men.

  • RobinB

    fyvmvv: Absolutely. Coaching staffs need the right mix. You need the "work hard" and "c'mon boys" menntality, but you also need tactical expertise. It's nice if you can get both in the same guy, but that's rare.
    The right mix, the riht chemistry — whatever you want to call it — is very important.

  • Robin, being a hypocrite doesn't mean you're wrong. Lowe can perfectly well talk about Gillis' record in dealing with the Oil while he also was (and I'm not conceding the point) less than ethical with Anaheim. I'm not clouding the issue, I'm saying that everybody in the biz has pulled BS at some point or another. That doesn't mean none of them are allowed to point it out when it happens. And yeah, Winter can point fingers at Lowe all he wants, in the same vein – but using his own logic, wow, it's weird that a guy with a 20 or so year history of manipulation and shady dealings is pointing out somebody else's couple of dealings, eh? So, using his own logic, he should just sit in the corner and be quiet, especially since it doesn't really concern him at all.

  • Hockey Addict 101

    Robin.

    Thanks again for the responses. I want to say how refreshing it for a person to give well thought out responses to questions.

    Appreciate it. You have created a fan!

    These are some questions that came to mind, not sure if you can answer or have any insight.

    I completely agree on the Buchberger angle I wouldn't want him hired at the expense of Daum but could it possibly be a switch of portfolios. Would Daum coach in Springfield?

    Also do we know that Armstrong (pulling up that name because I know it was mentioned on the show) would be interested in an Assistant GM job?

    Lastly if you had to put a percentage change on Simpson being Assistant GM here. What odds would you lay?

  • RobinB

    Hockey Addict 101: I haven't asked Daum, but I can't see him turning down an offer to coach in the AHL for the sake of returning to the U of A because it keeps him in the organization.

    Armstrong can do as he pleases because he's drawing cheques from Dallas for two more years and doesn't need the money. I suspect he'd prefer to remain at the GM level as opposed to being an asst. GM, but, as always, specifics of each situation will dictate.

    As for Simpson — keeping in mind I haven't talked to him and he probably wouldn't tell me anything if we did talk — I'd put it at 50-50. If the Oilers decide to fill the position of asst. GM, even with Rick Olczyk in place as the "cap-olgist," my hunch is the job is Simpson's if he wants it.