Doing Their Job


I got the sense watching Kevin Lowe’s press conference last night that the local media were not going to go easy on him in the next few days, and that owner Daryl Katz’s heavy-handed attempt to cutoff conversation about the future of his head coach was going to backfire badly.

The early returns would seem to indicate that my feeling was right. We’ll start in the logical place, by taking a look at the rather excellent piece which appears in today’s Edmonton Journal under Dan Barnes’ by-line. Do read the entire thing, but there are a couple of excerpts that really stood out to me.

But the growing cacophony of discontent in fandom and the Edmonton media grew rather more hostile and centred on MacTavish Thursday afternoon and it prompted owner Daryl Katz to issue a cryptic, pre-game vote of confidence for his head coach, via text message to the team’s radio rights holder. He’s the boss, he can deliver his edicts any damn way and any damn time he chooses but this one seems to leap off the pages of a Wizard of Oz script, the unseen boss disseminating a message through a radio conduit.

Barnes hits the nail on the head there. Katz certainly has the power to run his team the way he likes, but a single “cryptic” text message is certainly not the best way to get the message out.

It was Barnes at last night’s press conference who raised the question of whether Craig MacTavish might be back in a different capacity next season. Lowe refused to answer. He delves into it further in his column today and he took away the same thought that both David Staples and I did; namely that the Oilers press conference last night left many questions unanswered – most specifically, the very question that Daryl Katz wished to quiet: the future of the head coach.

Barnes feels that Craig MacTavish will resign if and when the Oilers miss the playoffs; it seems like a reasonable conclusion to me.

Terry Jones, who I expected little from after his mild question to Lowe last night, surprised me with his column this morning. In retrospect it shouldn’t have been so surprising to me; Jones has always been suspicious of Katz in his columns. If memory serves it was Jones who first raised the name of Peter Pocklington when the EIG were considering selling the team to a single owner.

But it is Jones this morning who raises one of the other questions that I had last night: why wasn’t Steve Tambellini handling the press conference?

Obviously the owner has every right to be part of the process. But what does this say about the hockey people you hire?
In this case, especially, what does it say of Tambellini?
Does this not announce that he’s been hired as a puppet?
One of the reasons Tambellini was hired was to spend most of the year looking at this team and deciding what changes had to be made for the future – an outside opinion to look at everything top to bottom and make major decisions for the future. Not knee-jerk decisions.

Whatever the answers to these questions are going forward, it seems apparent that the local media wants them. That, of course, is a good thing – it’s their job.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:

    Well said, partner.

    There are quite a few questions that need answers heading into this offseason. Namely, what went wrong? Is it the coaching? The make up of the roster? The front office? I'd venture to say that all of the above are responsible for the failure to meet even the most modest of expectations, that being a return to the playoffs.

    As for Katz, he's doing exactly what a smart owner should do. He's protecting his head coach, who he's not going to throw under the bus with just a few games remaining on the schedule. Craig is Daryl's friend and a well-respected person in the organization, as he should be considering his contributions as a player and a coach. I have no problem with what Katz did, although like you and Barnesie said it would've been better had he done so in a Eugene Melnyk-esque fashion.

    It's going to be an interesting off-season for sure…Here's to Tambellini really being the man who calls the shots and moves this franchise forward. There's been too much tied to the glory days, we're almost 20 years removed from the last Stanley Cup and it's time to see some results.

  • Hippy

    I'm also getting the feeling that Lowe is losing touch a bit. Sounded last night like he was trying to bully the media/fans into shutting up about it. Hes forgetting that he works for us not the other way around.

  • Hippy

    Well, I'm just going to toot my own here (its a little early in the morning for that but I have free time).

    On wednesday I wrote:

    My only fear is that with the fan base looking for a scapegoat the team will turn inwards and wall themselves further up.

    "I mean it happens all the time in sports, the us against them mentallity and Lowe has been fairly teflon regarding the blame before this season. The excuses seemed valid. So will his first response in this situation be to go back into that old Us v Them player mode? I mean the management and coaching staff are so close to each other and all 3 played the game.

    Personally, I think that has to be the only reason MacT has kept his job all season. What GM or President lets the coach decide when he’s going to get fired/move on? It’s a gutless move that 29 other teams wouldnt make.
    Before this year I never thought Lowe did a disservice to the team but he was clearly in derriliction of duty, and Tamby is walking around RX1 like he belongs on “Thunderbirds”."

    That was wednesday. On Thursday Katz decided to try to stop the Fans from trying to make an impact on the team as he made that absolutely insane text message. He made the first act in walling the team up from the people who love it the most. He effectively confirmed my worst fear, that the club and its management would make this an Us v Them situation against their own fans.

    Also, the inactions of Tambellini in this firestorm all but confirms that he is not the GM of this team.

    I usually assume that you cant become a billionaire by being an idiot, but at the same time NORMAL people dont become billionaires. I personally know Millionaires, and, from my experience, despite being wealthy these people lack a balanced perspective on most subjects. I know very little about the Dark Knight, but I have the sneaking suspicion that this club will not be a team of the people as it has been under the EIG.

  • Hippy

    I just dont get why Lowe is so suprised that the fans are talking about this. He kinda reminded me of Bush JR last night. He looked genuinely pissed which makes absolutely no sense to me…. I get hes passionate about the game but how can you try and silence a discussion thats an obvious conclusion to mediocrity over the last few seasons.

    The fact that we're four games left doesnt erase the first 78 played…

  • Hippy

    Great article JW, The whole messs over the last week has got me wondering about the future. Will the right choices be made in the coming months in regards to what this team needs and who will be making those choices and then as a second thought: What are the right choices…

    I am getting to be skeptical as to whether or not the current group of management types will be able to find the correct options for choices and then act upon them.

    I will always be a fan and should just trust that they'll will do what needs to be done but isn't that what we've been waiting for since '06? I am trying to put it all out of my mind so I can just enjoy the hockey being played. Last night was a great game (IMO), if they played like that more often, I have no problem supporting them. Sure there were few gaff but tey played hard, fought hard and were very competitive (Gagner and Penner to me looked like some of the best Oilers). The post was in the wrong spot at 4 seperate times.

  • Hippy

    I don't see the same question regarding Tambellini that Jones is asking. At least not in respect to KLowe handling the presser last night.

    From what I heard of it KLowe was addressing Katz's text message, not the team. As such I think the president of hockey ops is a more appropriate conduit to represent the owner than the GM. The GM is supposed to be the conduit that represents the team.

    It was an appropriate separation of duties I think.

    As for Katz's comment itself, after the Hossa and Jagr attempts it was looking like the Oilers had an owner that was treating the team like a shiny toy. That's never a recipe for success when an owner over rules the hockey guys he hired.

    His text last night seems to point further in that direction.

    I am left wondering if KLowe's explanation of Katz not understanding why the focus wasn't on the stretch drive but instead the fate of the head coach was spin or if it was really Katz's mindset when he piped up.

    Personally I hope it was spin because if that was truly the reason behind it, it leaves me wondering what the future holds if the owner can't come to the simple and logical conclusion that the focus is on the coach because the faith in the team has been lost completely.

    It would have to qualify him as a guy who has his head in the sand.

  • Hippy

    It's nice to see the MSM actually trying to stir the pot a little and get some actual answers for once, rather than just resting on their laurels with the whole "whatever the organization says is right" attitude you typically see.

  • Hippy

    It is a strange soap opera we follow here in Edmonton.

    That is not the comment fans wanted to hear form the reclusive owner. Definately not the way we wanted to hear it either.