Return to glory: sticking it to the little guy

Ken Lowe sounded every bit the company man I expected he would when I talked to him today, even though, after 21 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, he’s no longer with the firm.

The official line from the Edmonton Oilers today is that Lowe, the team’s head athletic therapist and the older brother of president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, resigned.

By coincidence, pure happenstance, it turns out Lowe "resigned" on the same day the Oilers fired equipment men Barrie Stafford, who’d been with the Oilers for 29 seasons, and Sparky Kulchisky, who’d been loading and unloading equipment for 34 seasons.

"If that’s what they’re saying, then that’s what I’m going to stand by," said Lowe. "The Oilers have been good to me."

Less-than convincing was Lowe in denying he got sacked as part of the April housecleaning by GM Steve Tambellini that claimed assistant GM Kevin Prendergast earlier this week.

What’s he supposed to say?


With the Oilers out of the playoffs for four straight seasons and people demanding Tambellini do something, anything, to back up the pulpit-pounding he’s treated us to these past two Aprils, nobody can accuse him of sitting on his thumb.

But firing Stafford, who sharpens the skates, mends the equipment and has an eye for the knock-off Rolex watches sold on Time Square in New York? Yes, perhaps the angle-cut on Patrick O’Sullivan’s skates was the problem. "Hey, Staffy. These things don’t throw enough snow when I go into the corners. Jeezuz."

Kulchisky, who lugs the gear of the Oilers and their opponents to and from the airport, hangs it in the dressing room and knows every cheat area for smoking in every NHL arena? The guy who has been a second father to Joey Moss? What, he was putting the wrong bricks in the gloves of Shawn Horcoff?

And Lowe? Oooh, but all those man games the Oilers have lost to injuries in recent seasons. Maybe there’s something there, the speculation goes. I mean, Fernando Pisani got colitis on Lowe’s watch. Sheldon Souray busted his hand on Jarome Iginla’s big coconut on Lowe’s watch. Maybe he gave Mike Comrie mononucleosis. Gimme a break.

Who’s next? Moss? Maybe he’s filling out the white board in the dressing room wrong. Has his anthem singing slipped a bit, or is it just me? I’m told Moss is safe. I’m told he has a lifetime contract, just like Kevin Lowe. Thanks goodness for that much.


I get the need for change. I get the move to fire Prendergast, who made mistakes at the draft table as chief scout and saw the farm system go to seed on his watch.

When the move to sack Prendergast was made, as ham-handed as it was, I thought maybe Tambellini’s next volley might be directed at the scouting staff — don’t be surprised if there’s a personnel change or two coming there. What about contract man Rick Olczyk, the other assistant GM? Fans, of course, might suggest, rather strongly, Tambellini aim higher.

Instead, we got Lowe, Stafford and Kulchisky today. It reminds me of six or eight years ago when the Phoenix Coyotes were brutal and instead of turning hockey operations upside down, they fired media man Richie Nairn, who was one of the best in the business.

I’m told there might be jobs waiting for Kulchisky and Stafford within the organization — likely in helping set up the AHL farm in Oklahoma City — down the line. Maybe even Lowe, too. They’ll meet with the brass next week. In my mind, that doesn’t really mitigate these firings in the name of changing the team culture.

How do the moves Tambellini made today make this team better moving forward? They don’t. Change for the sake of change? Looks like it to me. Maybe to send a message? If so, then what’s the message?

I don’t get it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • OilFan

    What’s with all of the backlash for everything Tambi does? “We want changes…” so he changes things “GOD DAMNIT, HE CHANGED SOMETHING, GRAB THE PITCHFORKS! LIGHT THE TORCHES!”

    As hard as it may be for people to believe, Tambi isn’t sitting in his office like Snidely Whiplash twisting his moustache while plotting nefarious schemes to ruin the “once proud” Oilers franchise.

    All three are remaining with the franchise in different capacities, they just won’t be doing the jobs they were doing last season. Good job on everyone jumping to conclusions though.

  • Clangger

    good news as per Milhouse on twitter:
    dantencer: Not surprisingly, Steve Tambellini confirms that Joey Moss won’t be going anywhere. He’s got a lifetime deal and will be back next year.

  • Hemmertime

    Important question:
    Where do I donate to send Brownlee or Gregor to the draft?

    We did it last year with no notice… since this should be most important draft in Oiler history why don’t we be a little more prepared?

    If Brownlee or Gregor are unavailable I humbly volunteer my services

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Perhaps all three might have been seen as the source (s) of leaks on sensitive subjects that the organization wanted to remain internal? Perhaps even prematurely to the media ? Perhaps all three were not condusive to Tambellini’s actions and plans , and upset the room in a negative way beyond just what their positions warranted ? We might never know . We might only get that which the organization puts out for media and public consumption , and that might be all we get or are entitled to.

  • Skidplate

    Let me just say this: If Moss goes, there shall be blood…no, just kidding (no I am not).
    So here’s an idea, lets bring in this Nairns to do our play by play instead of Bob “The Masher” Stauffer. Solves two problems…hey? hey? anyone?
    So I see someone was going after Dan Tencer up there. I guess someone has a problem with fart catchers now. You know, Tencer is an Oilers employee, who I believe was responsible for the losing season…

  • Skidplate

    Wow, is that little squirt Tencer not the cockiest 25 year old on the planet? I heard him on his radio show once bragging about his ratings, and now this. I say we boycott that little suckers show and turn the dial down to 1260. Little Mr. Important. Robin, just wanted to say, as a media man, he doesn’t hold a candle to your commentary and interaction with the fans. I’d like to start a petition to fire Tencer. I mean, if you’re going to clean house, don’t stop at the radio guy.

    • Someone needs to give Tencer some perspective – he has a sports show at night on AM radio in Northern Alberta. He’s not quite Rick Dees yet.

      I don’t know where all the attitude comes from.

      ASIDE: People still know who Rick Dees is, right? Maybe I should have said, “Jim Rome”.

      • Most people who are successful in this business have a lot of confidence, and that’s OK. I know I did when I was Tencer’s age. He isn’t outside the norm in that regard.

        I have an issue, though, with his references to my “part-time” radio gig and how I have lots of time to hang around this website. The implication is clear — I have a lot of time on my hands and I’m not as busy at this point in my career as when I as jetting around with the Oilers. He’s right.

        I understand he was responding to what he thought was a cheapshot by me — is there anybody who doesn’t know Brownlee’s Irritants on Gregor’s show is a tongue-in-cheek bit? — but that reference is a bit cheap.

        Careers in this business can take big swings, there’s ups and downs and things can change in a hurry. He’s feeling good about himself right now and I get that because he’s doing well, but he should also remember I put together a run of 25 years of the kind of success he’s enjoying now. I don’t doubt I’ll string together a few more of those kind of years once some things get sorted out. I’m 51, not 71.

        So, if Tencer responds to something I say like he has in this case by being dismissive and painting me as small potatoes, like somebody who doesn’t really count, he’s losing perspective. And, he’s mistaken.

        • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

          Everyone needs a little encouragement to go an extra step every so often. Hopefully he lights a fire under your belly, Robin, and you come up with some of your best work. Am I sensing a little belly fire? I hope so.

        • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

          I have to politely disagree. I’ve seen guys have great careers here and move on to bigger things and never say anything about others.

          I never heard Al Stafford say anything bad about a competitor, nor have I heard Gregor even mention Millhouse.

          To me he is an arrogant jerk, who doesn’t know half as much as he thinks he does. Time will show his warts, you watch.

  • dimensha

    Tencer’s an arrogrant dick that fails to recognize his show’s ratings are a direct result of CHED being the Oilers’ radio broadcast rightsholders. His “scoreboard” attempts to rebut arguments reflect a serious disconnect with the reality of his position.

    Most obnoxious of all is his interview style – ask a question and let your guest answer. Don’t couch the question in a five minute monologue and then ask “Do you agree?” Idiot.

  • Of course this is an important draft. First #1 pick in Oilers history. Imagine if this kid turns into Mark Messier, and you could say, I was at the draft where we picked him.
    Fire Dan Tencer.

  • Reagan

    Well, The four minor changes this week, are a small sign that more changes are coming. The old comfort feeling will be soon gone, and agreed that times need to change regardless the position that were held. Maybe the players grew to comfortable with the old tenure behind the bench?

    I did find it interesting that Eliotte Friedman was poking around with Tambellini this week to find out if Quinn was going to be back next year. As far as Quinn was concerned he has every intention of being the head coach but Tambellini wouldn’t budge to the teams situations and what future plans regarding the coaching staff. I personally don’t see a change happening, but you never know?

  • Mitch

    Robin I have listend to Tambi’s comments on the oilers site, and he mentioned they have been listening to what the fans say, Tambi also mentioned the changing of culture ect. I EXPECT to see some major player changes as I have mentioned before Moreau, Pisani ect, that leadership core, otherwise the trainer/medical staff being changed will have been absoultely pointless, we have watched these Players yes it’s the Players on the ice that is the problem, that must be changed.

    As a diehard fan I can except the losing, but not while watching this certain group of Players anymore. They are making the correct changes in terms of player development, K.P. had his success in rounds 2 or 3 but had some major failure in the first round.

    I also understand letting go of the past and moving on to the future, we really need to do that in Edmonton. We need a new breed of managers/scouts/coaches/players. We should not worry about the Detriot or LA model of building a franchise, we need a oilers model, differnt new cutting edge technology in all areas.

    The time is right now to start over. The Oilers of the 80’s early 90’s will always hold a special place in my heart, it was a fun time to watch oilers hockey. We need a new model of Edmonton Oilers, we deserve are fun back.

    • Personally, the model I prefer that the Oilers follow would be the Buffalo model. Lousy little town, nobody wants to play there, but year after year, good teams. Whycome? Player development from within, and then retention. Retention. Don’t go chasing rainbows, work with what you’ve got. Imagine a team with Arnott, Smytty, Stoll, Greene, Guerin, etc etc. Retention. Retention. Develop and retain. True, Buffalo, due to being cheapskates, have let some big names go, but they still have a good team somehow without chasing Hossa around every year. Go figure.

      • dimensha

        not a bad model, i mean they do well, but can never seem to get over the hump. They do make it to round 3 from time to time, but that usually seems to be as far as they go. Maybe a big free agent would give them the strength to get over that last hurdle. maybe even win a cup.

        I know never making the playoffs sucks, but does getting knocked out year in and year out, knowing that all you are missing is that one piece, that much better. when the team reaches a point that they are that good, then it is time to chase that rainbow.

  • dimensha

    I am glad we have some new blood with the training staff… the Oilers look good for next year and after a few deals at the draft the playoffs are just over the horizon. The situation is not as dire as everyone thinks. Gregor and Millhouse are both pretty good at what they do.

  • Buchburgler

    Brownlee and OilersNation get a spot in the Edmonton Journal this morning in Jim Matheson’s Hockey World!

    “I agree with Robin Brownlee, the crack beat guy, that the Oilers should take a gander at six-foot-eight Minnesota Wild D-man John Scott, if he’s an unrestricted free agent. Scott put a licking on Dean Arsene late in the season. Arsene felt like a rag-doll against a combination pit bullrotweiler. “Somebody asked me from the bench if I’d taken one on my nose. I told the guy, if it had been my nose, the nose would have been all over the ice,” Arsene said with a laugh.”

    Baha, awesome.

  • Buchburgler


    A day later I will admit that “hate” was probably too strong a word. How about “distrust” them? No, never had an experience with them, just know they can fleece people. I was probably too worked up over Tencer and his 14 year old attitude. Should have just stayed with that comment. Apologies if I hit too close to home.

  • Dan the Man

    Per Matheson:

    Oilers scouts favour Hall

    At the last straw vote of Edmonton Oilers scouts, Taylor Hall apparently had the slimmest of leads — 6-5 — over Tyler Seguin as they try to decide whether to take the left winger (Hall) or the centre (Seguin) with the No. 1 draft pick in June.