Off the top of my head: what did I miss?

I got into the habit during my days covering the Edmonton Oilers beat of taking the middle of July off because it seemed nothing notable ever happened then. The draft is done. The top free agents are picked over. It is, essentially, the NHL’s dog days.

It’s a routine I maintain today, three years removed from the grind of being chief fartcatcher at The Journal and The Sun, an exhausting gig that required 82 games of positive spin during the regular season and then kissing GM Kevin Lowe’s backside for another eighth- or ninth-place finish — one must maintain a seat on the charter and a place in the team buffet line, after all.

When the season and playoffs (when there was any) inevitably wound down, usually by April 15, 2006 notwithstanding, it was time to take dictation and write news releases extolling the virtues of the Oilers off-season signings and trades.

Then came mid-July, and that much-deserved break to recharge and apply Chapstick before beginning preparation for training camp and penning a season preview in which I often picked the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup.

So, being a creature of habit — make no mistake, I’m Melvin Udall from As Good As It Gets — I packed the Magnificent Mrs. B., Michael and Sam into the Family Truckster and headed to Kelowna last weekend to spend seven days not caring about what happened here or in the hockey world in general.

Save for Sam tossing his cookies for the entire 1,100 clicks each way with car sickness and the triple-fatal accident that blocked the Trans-Canada for four hours — ever wonder why they post those "No Passing" signs on narrow and winding stretches? — it was a wonderful break.

So what did I miss while I was gone? And, more importantly (I know you’re asking yourself), what does Brownlee think of what he missed?

Ahem…

On the air

I did pack my laptop so I could keep tabs on goings on and one newsy bit that grabbed my eye was the Oilers news release (who is writing them now?) that Bob Stauffer wasn’t going to be the man to replace Rod Phillips as play-by-play man on 630 CHED.

With spin liberally applied, it was explained Stauffer’s contract as colour analyst was being extended, as opposed to him not getting the play-by-play job. Apparently, the Oilers have decided Stauffer would be best used as a sidekick, in part because they see that job is a better fit with his gig on Oilers Lunch on TEAM 1260, a show the Oilers want Stauffer to grow and improve.

I don’t necessarily buy the line of thinking it’ll be easier for Stauffer to concentrate on Oilers Lunch as an analyst rather than as the play-by-play guy, but if president Patrick LaForge and Allan Watt are serious about improving the scope and reach of the show, that’s a good thing.

Contrary to popular belief, and our friendship aside, I think Stauffer is best suited as the analyst, so the bottom line is the Oilers are making the right call. The guy I feel bad for in this is Kevin Karius. He worked well as the analyst when Stauffer filled in for Phillips this season and I’d like to see him get a shot. They had chemistry together.

I have no idea what the short-list for the job looks like, but I’m guessing LaForge and Watt are savvy enough to pick through the pretenders — "Hey, I’m a TV/radio guy with some profile and I did play-by-play (14 games on community TV in 2001)" — and land somebody with real chops. They’re replacing a hall-of-fame voice in Phillips and they have to get it right.

Please, no lightweights. Fans want and deserve substance and style, thank-you very much.

In no particular order

— I don’t share the angst of some at the possible outcome of Gilbert Brule’s arbitration hearing because I don’t see him getting an award that’s out of line with what I expect him to produce over his next deal.

I’m not of the mind the strides Brule made last season constitutes a one-off. He’s a developing player. If he gets $2 million a season, I’m fine with that. I think we could see a deal before his Aug, 3 hearing.

— I expect new coach Tom Renney to add a third assistant coach to his staff. I think the team should re-visit Rob Daum as the technical guy to complement Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, but so far, that isn’t in the cards. The Oilers haven’t talked to Daum.

— I enjoyed listening to Allan Mitchell, better known as Lowetide, on the podcast of Oilers Lunch last week. Mitchell’s got an eye for the game and he brings a lot of valuable perspective to what he writes. For my money, he’s a better read than a lot of scribes drawing nice salaries in the MSM.

— I mentioned this in the comments section of a Lowetide item here at ON, but I’ll reiterate here: Tambellini is essentially ticking off the boxes of a template provided him by Daum with the minor league signings he’s made so far this off-season. Now, to find a goaltender…

— I ran into Dany Heatley in Kelowna and we went out and had a few beers and a few laughs …I keed, I keed. I did, however, run into Ryan Getzlaf outside the Paramount Theatre. He’s not coming here, either.

— If you haven’t read Mark Spector’s piece on the Edmonton arena debate on Sportsnet.ca, give it a look. Spec’s bottom line is the real bottom line when it comes to all the back-and-forth.

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

  • Oilchange64

    Oil_Loc8or:

    Would the NHL have a say in moving a team ?

    Yes. A huge say.

    Balsillie and Moyes tried to do an end-run around hte NHL by taking the Coyotes into bankruptcy court, but it didn’t work out. the only reason they went that route was because the NHL refused to allow them to move the team to Hamilton.

    If the NHL doesn’t want the Oilers in Hamilton (and there’s good reason to believe they don’t) the Oilers won’t be in Hamilton.

  • JohnQPublic

    “If you haven’t read Mark Spector’s piece on the Edmonton arena debate on Sportsnet.ca, give it a look. Spec’s bottom line is the real bottom line when it comes to all the back-and-forth.”

    Rubin nails it. It’s the best thing Spector has written. Er, maybe Spector nailed it … and Rubin noticed.

    (?)

  • Cru Jones

    Bob is a better colour guy than a play by Play guy. Just is. PBP is a specialty for sure. I suppose the reverse is true. Rod might have been a poor colour guy. Kudos to Bob for not being your 630 Ched homer.

  • Cru Jones

    @ Jason Gregor, Tyler, Wanye, et al.

    No, we have not seen the Oilers books, but some people have spent the time to pour over those of the Coyotes. The Coyotes were managed vary poorly by Moyes, but it gives a place to start.

    http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=801858&page=5
    post #101
    Fourier is an accountant in Ontario, IIRC. He is a moderator of the Business of Hockey board at HFboards.

    The numbers Fourier comes up with have been supported by statements by Melnyk and Doug MacLean.

    The issue is not revenues from NHL hockey. The issues are revenue sharing and building revenues. If the owner of the team gets $10 to $20 million or more in non hockey arena revenues, and has low hockey revenues so he gets another $5 to $15 million from revenue sharing…

    It is not difficult to see how the buisness would work better in some American markets than it does for the Oilers in Edmonton with Northlands running the building.

    $15 million would put Nashville and Florida at higher revenue than Edmonton, and there is less pressure there to pay to the cap and run expensive management and scouting programmes.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    There is a lot of people upset with the Katz Group wanting Tax payer dollars to fund a large portion of the new stadium. Many people want Katz to fund the entire project or a larger portion because he is a BILLIONAIRE! The way I look at it, it’s kind of like when you go to a local shop in Mexico and you are interested in buying an item. If you offer a price and the shop keep jumps at your first offer you know you over paid. When you low ball them you eventually meet somewhere in the middle. The Katz group is just trying to get their authentic Mexican maraca’s for as few peso’s as possible.

  • Jerk Store

    @30

    Wow. Nice to see you have no bitterness or hard feelings about your own shortcomings that would cause you to attack someone simply because they are successful.

    Daryl Katz is a VERY successful businessman, so obviously he is immoral, unethical, or just plain lucky, right?

    Your belief is because you can’t afford to go to an Oilers game, you should not be on the hook for any potential subsidies or infusion of city or provincial funds – never mind if there is a huge financial, civic pride and aesthetic upside to the city (and yes potential profit to Mr. Katz). Fine, let’s play that game. I don’t drive on the $100 MM interchange by South Edmonton Common, so please adjust my taxes accordingly. I am not a huge art fan so please knock down the recently constructed Gallery downtown, because I won’t be gracing it’s doorways with my presence and should not pay the ongoing operating costs. I am in pretty good health, stay away from fries and don’t smoke so where do I check off the box so I don’t have to pay into the healthcare system? Enough already!

    Who do you think drives the economy, people sitting in Mom’s basement waiting for their EI cheque or “clever greedy businessmen”? Daryl Katz has spent $200MM already, has committed another $200M. Heaven forbid he see any return on this investment.

    If you want to make an educated argument on how the deal should be structured and who should pay for what costs and revenues should go where – even whether there is an economic benefit to the city, fine. But please make your decision on the numbers and facts, not simply that you are unhappy with your own lot in life and anyone successful should be knocked down to your financial level. Nothing like blowing out someone else’s candle so that your’s burns brighter.

  • VMR

    There’s one thing that is missed in most of these discussions. The Oilers may not have received the non-hockey related revenues but they also had a sweatheart deal in terms of lease. They’re paying $1 a year for Rexall place, not a lot of teams are getting that. The Penguins are paying more than $4 million per season plus they were allowed to let an operator run a casino out of the building that pays another $7+ million per year. It’s fine to give them all the non-hockey related revenue if they are willing to pay that much in terms of a lease but I dont think the Oilers are.

    All this talk of other teams getting all non-hockey related revenue is a bit more complicated than what we hear in little sound bites. There are a multitude of ways to structure who pays for what and just because someone is getting the extra revenue doesnt mean they arent paying for it. Unfortunately Spectors piece comes off as sayingjust shut up and pay whatever Katz wants, when in reality its a virtual certainty a new rink gets done the only question is who pays for what.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Robin B wrote:

    — I expect new coach Tom Renney to add a third assistant coach to his staff. I think the team should re-visit Rob Daum as the technical guy to complement Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith, but so far, that isn’t in the cards. The Oilers haven’t talked to Daum.

    Does anyone get why Daum has been taken out of the loop? He seems like a valuable resource.

  • GSC

    Well, Robin, first the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil.

    Spector is absolutely right when it comes to the bottom line for the new arena. Speaking out of my own experience (I come from a Rust Belt city in the US), when an opportunity arises to make your city more attractive and to bring in revenue, you take it and run with it. Otherwise, you’re left with woulda, coulda, shoulda. There are only so many chances to make an impression, especially on outsiders (individuals and corporations) who would consider relocating to Edmonton. Anyone with half a brain can see that the city’s population is growing exponentially. Hell, it’s grown by over 100,000 in the last decade, pretty impressive. It will continue to grow with the downtown project. It did wonders for Columbus, Ohio, now the largest city in the state.

    This is an opportunity that Edmontonians can’t afford to pass up.

  • Ryan14

    Arch:
    Apparantly. I applied for a business student grant, and got declined. I got a descent Tax return, but I still payed quite a bit in taxes. I get “free” healthcare, but they decline every receipt I send in.

    Maybe a little bit more research would help me get in on these benefits.