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.
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.