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.
BABY WITH THE BATHWATER
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.