Dan Barnes’ Must-Read Column

even-keel

As happens with astonishing regularity, Dan Barnes has once again written a must-read piece on the future of the Edmonton Oilers. It’s both wide-ranging and incriminating of much of the roster, although I’m only going to focus on a couple of excerpts.

Much of the article is based on a conversation with a surprisingly candid Sheldon Souray; although for my money the best quote is this one:

“It would be like Mardi Gras in here after a win and then we would lose in such a poor fashion that all momentum was lost. There was none of this,” Souray said while holding his arm straight out to simulate an even keel. “Even to consistently be average, we couldn’t do that.”

We’ve heard tales of rifts in the room before, but to my knowledge no other player has talked so plainly about the emotional roller-coaster in the dressing room. Craig MacTavish has hinted broadly that the team was far too up and down (“the vortex of death”) but this is the most explicit statement and there’s no reason to disbelieve Souray – all the evidence is there.

That even keel shouldn’t be viewed solely as the fault of the youngsters either – it seems to be a common enough problem in young players, and it’s up to the veterans and the coaching staff to instill the professional culture that the team needs. Souray, refreshingly, painted with a broad brush, omitting only goaltender Dwayne Roloson from criticism.

President of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will ease further into the background and general manager Steve Tambellini will step forward to put his mark on the team. This will not be a Lowellini roster next September.

I have been told MacTavish will not be here to see it through, that he will step away because he has failed to achieve the desired results more often than not. He surely knows how damaging this season has been for the organization and is cognizant of exactly where this buck stops. While a host of players should take the rap for their terrible seasons, and there will undoubtedly be significant roster changes, MacTavish will pay the biggest price.

Lowetide wrote about this at some length yesterday, but this summer is going to show one way or the other which direction the Oilers are going. Here’s the comment I made on one of his posts:

If the Oilers do the right thing (hire a coach from outside the org), we’re not going to note it as the start of a trend. We’ll note it as the continuation of a trend that saw Steve Tambellini, Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt and Rick Olczyk hired from elsewhere.

The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return) means that in just a year of ownership, Daryl Katz will have completely overturned the brain-trust in Edmonton. People playing significant roles on the team have come from outside the organization, and if Katz holds true to form, the next head coach will as well. Scott Arniel should be one of the names considered (and is a logical candidate since he has some past history with Tambellini), but the important thing is that whoever is brought in be the best candidate for the job; an experienced coach, someone with (at least) an extensive track record in the AHL or as an NHL assistant.

For all the negativity this season (and there’s more to come), if the Oilers make the right changes this summer we could be watching the renewal of the team and a cultural change taking place right before our eyes.

Tambellini wants a bigger and stronger top-six corps of forwards and will probably have to move a defenceman to do it. Because, by playing their way out of the playoffs, the Oilers sent a strong signal to potential free agents; this is not a team ready to win much more than it loses.

I hope that the team realizes that Barnes is correct and avoids a likely-fruitless run at Marian Hossa. If another top-six forward is brought in, it seems to me that some of the current group (Robert Nilsson being the likeliest name) will not be brought back. Although from the sounds of it (and not solely from Barnes – both Brownlee and Gregor have said similar things) the trade that Barnes refers to will be just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Hippy

    Reggie, couldn't agree more.

    I believe in the early 90s we needed to start looking at this team differently than we had during the glory years and it was important for the team leaders to change our perception of the players and let them off the hook because, at that time, they WERE playing their best, because they were a team without much, if any, talent. I believe that attitude has been passed down and now we still have that attitude in the dressing room with our team's leaders.

    For the longest time it seems like this team has had the attitude of "oh well, we did the best we could" every year and just accept losing, instead of rocking the boat. We need to get a captain in here who will look to change the attitude and the culture in the dressing room. Ever since the glory days it seems it has been more important for the Oilers leaders to tell the fans everything is okay and to lay off the players. It has been almost 2 decades since we hosted a playoff series and everything "is not okay".

    Moreau is awesome at what he does, but I do feel someone from outside of the organization, like Souray, could be the breath of fresh air this franchise needs to bring back the competitive nature this team once had.

  • Hippy

    Rob wrote:

    “The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return

    I too would like to know where this information came from..

  • Hippy

    "The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return) means that in just a year of ownership, Daryl Katz will have completely overturned the brain-trust in Edmonton."

    I missed the part that said Lowe is stepping back, or was that just speculation???

  • Hippy

    DArchaeologuy wrote:

    RossCreek wrote:
    The captain of this current group of players should be Souray or Horcoff.
    *throws up in mouth at the thought of Horcoff wearing a C on his sweater*

    Why is that?
    Does he not provide the effort a leader should?
    Does he not take key faceoffs at every spot on the ice?
    The ink on the contract is dry. He will be here for the next 6 years. He produces 2nd line numbers and can play 1st line minutes. But don't hold any of that against him. There is not another forward to even consider.

  • Hippy

    RossCreek wrote:

    Ogden Brother wrote:
    Interesting that we always complain about hiring friends but then turn to those with connections to Tambs when discussing who should be brought in next….
    People often hire people they are familiar with (Burke hired his buddy Dave Nonis). No one (at least not me) is suggesting you can’t hire your friends. The sentiment is no more “old boys club/former Oilers” getting hired just cuz of who they are. If Tambellini has connections to certain individuals he is comfortable with and in his mind, deserving of the job, then by all means, I would expect him to hire that man. What is he supposed to do… hire someone he knows nothing about just to bring in someone thay makes the fans happy?

    Nice contradiction.

  • Hippy

    Ogden Brother wrote:

    Interesting that we always complain about hiring friends but then turn to those with connections to Tambs when discussing who should be brought in next….

    People often hire people they are familiar with (Burke hired his buddy Dave Nonis). No one (at least not me) is suggesting you can't hire your friends. The sentiment is no more "old boys club/former Oilers" getting hired just cuz of who they are. If Tambellini has connections to certain individuals he is comfortable with and in his mind, deserving of the job, then by all means, I would expect him to hire that man. What is he supposed to do… hire someone he knows nothing about just to bring in someone thay makes the fans happy?

  • Hippy

    RossCreek wrote:

    The captain of this current group of players should be Souray or Horcoff.

    *throws up in mouth at the thought of Horcoff wearing a C on his sweater*

  • Hippy

    Reggie wrote:

    I like what I am hearing from Souray and seeing from him on the ice. I would like to see him be the next Captain.

    The captain of this current group of players should be Souray or Horcoff.
    Check the ice time stats of all the captains throughout the league – Moreau is at or near the bottom of that list.
    Both Souray & Horcoff play the minutes. Horcoff is a leader – a key faceoff guy, key PK guy, key shutdown guy. Basically the most responsible guy on the team. And although his offensive production was disappointing, thats no excuse to argue that he shouldn't be the captain. Chopper, Gator, Bucky, MacT, Lowe – not exactly a lot of offensive threats on that list. And if he were able to be used more efficiently, he'd probably produce better.

  • Hippy

    "If the Oilers do the right thing (hire a coach from outside the org), we’re not going to note it as the start of a trend. We’ll note it as the continuation of a trend that saw Steve Tambellini, Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt and Rick Olczyk hired from elsewhere."

    Rob Daum was run out of Edmonton in favour of a card carrying member of the Dynasty group. Truitt was already the asst coach of the AHL club, wasnt he? Steve Tambellini was hired but not given any control of the team, and Rick Olczyk is an accountant. Who cares where we get the accountant from?

    In one year of ownership Katz has refused to allow his GM to make the changes that were in obvious need and the club took a big step back. He was also accused by Mark Spector of having a hand in giving Horcoff that insane contract. Then there's the issue of his busy thumbs trying to shut up the fan base. I would hardly consider this last year a movement in wiping the slate clean of the Oilers' Brain-trust. Quite the opposite in fact.

  • Hippy

    I doesn't sound like souray was referring to a rift in the dressing roomto me. Sounds like he is saying collectively they had to many ups and downs. Everyone happy after a win and eveeyone down after losses. When there is a rift in the room guys form clicks and the room empties out and people go there own way. I don't know if this is the case.

  • Hippy

    Marc Habschied – former Oiler player has earned his coaching stripes and could be a happy-medium. I wouldn't consider him one of "the old boys cub"
    Perry Pearn – has been an assistant coach at the NHL level for over a decade and has ties to Edmonton from his NAIT days obviously.
    Scott Arniel – Connections with Tambellini from Van. If I'm not mistaken, he also ran the Sabres powerplay a few years back (with pretty good results if memory serves).
    Dale Hunter – has had success at the junior level, he may be ready to make the jump. Coached Gagner in London.
    Marc Crawford – obvious ties to Tambellini, it'd just be nice to get him off the airwaves. Decent coach with decent track record.
    Pat Quinn – again, obvious connection to Tambellini. Not sure if he'd be the right fit.
    Tom Renney – also coached in Van before, prob too similar to MacT.

    Who else?

    I like Habschied & Arniel.

  • Hippy

    Regarding Coaching, guy that hasn't gotten much play but on many levels would be an Oiler type move in terms of hiring is Geoff Ward.

    They were high on him before, he was in the organization but obviously isn't anymore, he has experience…

    Alot of ducks line up on that one, although I don't honestly know if that would be a positive move or not.