Numbers game: pass it on, Kevin

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers, Kevin Lowe, looks on during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

If Kevin Lowe has any sense of timing and drama, announcing Taylor Hall’s first contract with the Edmonton Oilers won’t be the only matter of business on the agenda at Rexall Place today.

Hall let the cat out of the bag when he told reporters yesterday at Commonwealth Stadium he expects to have his three-year, entry-level deal signed today, and that’s something Bob Stauffer confirmed on TEAM 1260 this morning. The announcement will be made at noon.

The numbers on Hall’s contract aside — the allowable rookie maximum salary and bonuses under the CBA — the digit I’m thinking about is No. 4, which, as everybody knows, is Lowe’s old jersey number.

Could there be a better time for Lowe to hand over his old number, which hasn’t been worn by anybody but him in Edmonton, to Hall in a symbolic gesture of passing the torch?

I think not.

Give it to the kid

Hall, 18, has already suggested he isn’t going to ask for No. 4, out of respect for Lowe, the first player ever selected by the Oilers in the NHL Entry Draft. That’s understandable. It’s not like he’s Rob Schremp.

Like I said this spring, it’s up to Lowe, then, to make the gesture — take the onus off the kid and offer Hall the jersey number he wore with the Windsor Spitfires and Team Canada.

In the broader scope of things, of course, it doesn’t really matter what number Hall wears with the Oilers. Still, Lowe could make a splash by delivering his jersey along with that new contract today.

What better way to send a message? "History and tradition mean a lot to this organization, but you’re the future, kid." "It’s time for us to look ahead instead of back." Hall isn’t going to fuss and make an issue of it, but Lowe should.

Why keep No. 4 in mothballs? It’s not like it’s headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame and, thus, the rafters at Rexall Place. Lowe was a very good player who won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton and another in New York with the Rangers, but he’s not headed to the HHOF.

If Lowe wants to make a statement today, he should find out where Sparky Kulchisky hid his linen, dust it off and hand it over to Hall at high noon with that new contract today. There’s a time and place for symbolism, and this is it.

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

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s refreshing to read an article that is not broken down into 20 different segments.

    I believe Taylor has mentioned something about the number 19 before, Kevin will and should take this opportunity and formerly offer him his old number 4

  • SkinnyD

    Why can’t they raise Lowe’s #4 to the rafters without retiring it? I could swear some of the older teams like the Habs and Rangers do that…could be wrong.

    Lowe and Hall are 2 significant draft picks in the team’s history – would be cool if they shared the number.

    • Dan the Man

      OTHER teams do retire Jersey’s without the player making the HHOF but the Oilers haven’t (aside from Hamilton’s #3).

      Teams like the Canucks or some others do it because they don’t have any true Hall of Famers so they retire guys like Linden and made up jerseys like #7 for the 7th fan.

      The Oilers just have a higher standard.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Why keep No. 4 in mothballs? It’s not like it’s headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame and, thus, the rafters at Rexall Place.

    I’ve always expected 4 to be retired eventually, even assuming Lowe doesn’t make the HHOF. While I’m not wild about Lowe’s work as GM, he has a Cup final to his credit. He’s been an Oiler longer than anyone else in a talent role at this stage I think (player/coach/GM), he was the first draft pick ever and he’s always represented Edmonton well. He’s the Jean Beliveau of the franchise.

    It won’t and shouldn’t happen while he’s active but I would assume that a year or two after he leaves the Oilers, there will be a big ceremony and his number will be retired. There really should be – whatever his flaws, he’s been a cornerstone of the franchise in a way that even Messier and Gretzky can’t claim. What’s more, he’s the guy who came home too, first as a player and then as a coach/management. Let Hall take some other number, just as long as it isn’t 15.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    So many people it seems have forgotten that Kevin Lowe as a player before he was a below-average GM. He shouldn’t have to have his name and number taken down from the rafters of Rexall just because we’ve got a new 18-year old who wore his jersey number for his CHL team. Lowe was an integral part of the Oilers on the ice in the 80s, and we would do well to remember his past contributions before demanding that his name and legacy be stripped from the confines of Rexall. Would anyone here ask that numbers 3, 9, 11, 17, 33 or 99 be offered up?

    Hall said all the right things about not wanting #4 in respect for Kevin Lowe. He’s worn the number in the past for his adoration of the great Bobby Orr. I’d think the chances of him being given 4 were he drafted by the Bruins instead would be less than zero. Hall has said he’d be taking a different number, so let’s let him do that.

    • Crackenbury

      Ummm, Lowe’s #4 is not in the rafters at Rexall, also you asked “Would anyone here ask that numbers 3, 9, 11, 17, 33 or 99 be offered up?” Number 33 is not retired and is currently worn by Big Steve Mac as an homage to his favorite Oiler Big Marty Mc. You should also maybe have #7 in your list as well. IMO it’s up to Kevin Lowe the player not anyone else, not even Keven Lowe, President of Hockey Operations.

    • No Clue

      Try and keep up doritogrande, #4 is NOT in the rafters at Rexall! Nor is 33, but I’m guessing that was a typo. The only thing keeping Hall out of jersey #4 is Lowe.

  • Crackenbury

    I disagree completely. Look up at the rafters and tell me Lowe doesn’t belong up there with the rest of the players from that team. 6 Stanley Cups, 1st ever NHL goal scored by an Oiler, 1st NHL draft pick, former coach, former gm.

    It’s one thing to break from tradition, but giving Hall #4 is a slap in the face of tradition. Brownlee, why such little respect for Lowe? Granted, he wasn’t the best GM we’ve ever had, but that’s a small portion of his history with the club.

    • Karth

      well said! Put yourself in Lowe’s shoes- if you had 5 rings with one team wouldnt you want to receive some recognition for your contribution by being in the rafters if not in the HHOF. If you really want to move on from the past wouldn’t it be more logical to choose a different # versus being tied in to the past. Also, lets not put the horse before the carriage- Hall hasnt won anything at the NHL level. He is just starting a new career and could very easily choose a new number. Hell if Gretzky can change #’s then so can Hall.

    • The Hall Way

      If you understood the Oilers traditions and conventions you speak of, you’d know that since Hamilton’s No. 3 was retired under special circumstances, a place in the rafters at Rexall Place is reserved for the numbers of players inducted into the HHOF.

      Jersey numbers only go up here after the get the call from the HHOF. Lowe isn’t getting that call.

      • Robin,

        While the Oilers waited for the Hall call to induct the last several players, they won’t do the same for Lowe. There is a reason the number is in mothballs.

        Lowe was the first draft pick, scored the first goal, was a key cog in the Oilers’ glory years, one of the “Silver Seven” along with Gretzky, Coffey, Messier, Kurri, Anderson and Fuhr. He was an assistant captain throughout the Stanley Cup wins. He left and won a Cup with the Rangers, then came back and finished his career with the Oilers. He was then an assistant coach, the head coach and the GM before taking his current position of President of Hockey Operations.

        He has been an Oiler through and through, and the plan has always been to retire his number, whether he makes the Hall or not. He’ll have to wait a lot longer than the others, as not only does he not have the Hall induction to expedite things, but he won’t want to be seen to retire his own number, so as long as he’s a key guy in the organization, he can’t go out there and pull his number up to the roof.

        Now, you don’t seem to have a lot of use for Lowe, and you’re not alone. He’s been unpopular post-Pronger, because he struggled to find a path after the Cup run and subsequent exodus of the better part of that team. But that shouldn’t take anything away from Lowe as a player and as an Edmonton Oiler. His number does belong with the rest of them, and will be eventually.

        Hall has said numbers aren’t particularly important to him, so why is there a need to pull that jersey out of the mothballs? If Lowe hands it over, great…that’s a magnanimous gesture. But I don’t think there should be any pressure on him to do so. The organization has gone out of its way to hold that jersey aside for special recognition. I’m quite fine if they maintain the status quo there.

      • Crackenbury

        I understand the Oilers recent history of tying into HHOF inductions. It’s also my understanding the organization has already suggested retiring Lowe’s number and it was Lowe who said no to it, as long as he was still actively involved with the Oilers.

        I don’t understand the purpose of this article, other than to stir things up. This isn’t the first time it has been brought up either. What’s the point?

        • No Clue

          That’s my memory of events, too. #4 goes up to the rafters the year that KLowe retires from the org, and it’ll be a Messier-like ceremony, regardless of recent history.

  • The Hall Way

    My guess is he is saving it for Keegan, who I fear will be forced onto the Oilers (as he has been with the Oil Kings) to hold down the worst D man in the league position that he is currently holding in the WHL.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I agree RB, Lowe should pass the torch/number to Hall. To deliver the number along with the contract sends a positive message that this organization is moving forward instead of keeping a foot in the past.

    The Oil need to do everything possible to help Hall and the rest of these young guys succeed, so if the jersey number helps accomplish this then I say c’mon Lowe, dust off #4 and give it to the kid!

  • I'm a Scientist!

    The only act of class was when Hall made his comments about not worrying about the number on his back. I think it would be a great gesture on Lowe’s part but don’t expect it folks. He is the poster boy for the tradition of entitlement in the Oiler organization.

    When has any Oiler exec. shown class at any time in the recent past?

  • smiliegirl15

    It would be total good PR for the Oilers to make a production of Lowe passing the torch as it were.

    Wasn’t it kind of a slap in the face to Horcoff when they presented Hall with a #10 jersey? Seriously, they couldn’t use a number not used by someone currently on the team?

    \/\/\/ Fair enough – that makes total sense.

  • misfit

    It would be a really cool gesture on Lowe’s behalf if he offered it to him, but I also don’t think he should be expected to. On a side note, I don’t really like it when forwards wear numbers lower than 9. 4 just seems more like a defenseman’s number to me.