A losing streak to end the season would be the best thing for the Edmonton Oilers

Well on their way to a seventh consecutive season without the playoffs, fans of the Oilers are probably long past being sick of trying to find the upside in losing. Despite that, one last run of terrible play – say five losses in their final seven games to match the current five-game losing streak – could be exactly what the team needs, for three reasons.

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The Obvious Reason

All of a sudden, the Oilers have just a three point lead on Calgary and Carolina for the third overall (pre-lottery) draft position. Based on the scouting reports there seems to be a gap between the top-four in this year’s draft – Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov – and the rest of the pack. While the Oilers should be past the point where they’re tanking for picks, with the playoffs out of sight there’s no reason not to grab the best talent available.

Let Go

There are a lot of players on the roster who should have been cleared out some time ago. The summer re-signings of Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk come to mind, as do the deadline decisions to retain guys like Ryan Jones and Ryan Whitney.

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Other lists will have other names, too – and there’s no doubt in my mind that both at least one of the Oilers’ compliance buyouts should be getting used this summer (Ben Eager, Eric Belanger). [As pointed out in the comments, the rules allow for compliance buyouts to be held over to the summer of 2014, so it’s only prudent to retain at least one of them – JW].

A lousy run to end the year might just break management’s tight grip of their underachieving depth players, and encourage them to be a little more aggressive about trying to make the team better.

Which brings me too…

Ownership Impatience

What will it take for the top men in hockey operations to be shown the door? The post-Pronger collapse of the team under EIG ownership didn’t do it. Neither did the implosion in 2009-10 after the acquisitions of Pat Quinn and Nikolai Khabibulin (the latter’s contract should have been a firing offence in its own right). The failure to climb out of the draft lottery in 2011-12 cost Steve Tambellini’s third coach his job, but once again accountability stopped just short of the general manager’s office.

Virtually every position on the team – from the assistant general manager to the head coach to the trainers to the players – has seen change during the slightly less than five-year reign of Tambellini. If the difference between a 10th-place finish and a 13th-place finish is the difference between regime change and the status quo, the Oilers are likely to be better off in the long-term with a 13th-place finish.

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At some point, the team hopes to start winning again, and for that to happen they’ll need a highly competent executive in the top hockey operations job. Based on the last few years, is there any reason to believe that person currently works in Oilers management?

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      • DSF

        The team needs a GM with a track record of success….one who has proven repeatedly that he knows how to build a winning hockey team.

        There is no time, while the ELC’s of the high draft picks are being burned, to have anyone learning on the job.

        If you could get Jim Nill, fine, but I doubt you can.

          • DSF

            Im in.

            If I were Katz I would clean house from top to bottom and let the new guy hire his own staff.

            I expect Kruger, Smith and Buchburger wouldn’t make the short list.

          • Eddie Shore

            I will preface this by saying that I completely agree with Willis in that there were no assurances that MacT was the best man available, and there should have been more time spent in looking for two alternatives to Howson and MacT.

            Howson, like Burke, was crucified until people started to look at the team’s success the subsequent year, however. I am not sure he brings anything new right now though and do not see him as being outspoken enough to make his opinions known in head office.

            MacT said all the right things today that shows an honesty about the team that Tambellini and Lowe have both been unable to publicly acknowledge for 7 years. He would not have been my first choice, but he has accomplished more in the last few years than the vast majority of people have, I presume yourself included DSF (unless you have obtained a masters degree in business administration and coached a professional hockey time in the last few years while battling a chronic disease).

            That being said, as you alluded to, you need to be able to make your workers accountable. Ultimately this is where the hiring falls short for me.

            If MacT is honest with the views he expressed today, we should find out much sooner than Tamby whether or not he has been successful. For one, the situation now demands results more than ever. Additionally, it sounds like for better or worse, everyone outside the top 5 players on the team are fair game for a trade, even if it is done “begrudgingly”. I suspect 2 of the top 6 forwards will be new faces next year, and a there will be a new D-man in the top 4. Khabby will not be asked back, and if either of these 3 things have not happened after this conference, then Lowe will truly be in charge and we are all doomed for another 2 decades of incompetence.

        • DSF

          Don’t mistake me saying no to Brian Burke as an endorsement of maintaining the status quo. I think that if we want to build a winning team and culture we need to steal from those that do. Go after an assistant GM from any number of consistently good teams, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Boston, Detroit. If we want to have a GM that actively seeks out players to better his team then look back over the last few years and find a team that has made deals and finds value and keeps winning, L.A, Chicago and until this year Philly and steal someone from there. Grab someone from a winning organization and say build that here, stop looking at the wings, penguins and blackhawks saying that we are following a model when it is painfully obvious that there is no plan other than improve through the draft, which as we all know is not a plan…

    • wiseguy

      I agree. I don’t think it’ll happen but we can dream. My only concern is Burke being the second coming of Eric Tillman- a guy with a good résumé and reputation for building teams coming to Edmonton and making an even bigger mess while using his past history as justification for making crazy moves.

    • wiseguy

      I agree. I don’t think it’ll happen but we can dream. My only concern is Burke being the second coming of Eric Tillman- a guy with a good résumé and reputation for building teams coming to Edmonton and making an even bigger mess while using his past history as justification for making crazy moves.

  • Clarence Oveur

    Fans have lost hope of our managerial group putting forth a winner at any subsequent season even if we choose first every year . Fans tired of managerial group and they are getting more hostile because of the rhetoric and poor results they are giving the fans . Fans will stay and be more positive if management takes their hits and a new vision is implimented to fit the new NHL .

    • Fans have never had patience since Slats left. Fans wanted Lowe fired the minute he was hired. They wanted Lowe fired after he made his first trade as GM. Lowe even received death threats after trade. Fans are the reason Lowe is no longer the GM.

      I wouldn’t have matter who became GM in 2000, that person would have been bashed for every move.

  • oilerdago

    The answer to your last question is no. The results speak for themselves regarding pro player acquisition, trades and the signing of free agents.

    Obviously however, Mr. Katz refuses to hold the men he idolized as players to the same level of accountability as he does the managers of his drug store empire – and last night is another in a long series of losses in what is the second phase of a rebuild that is now 7 years old.

    Time to clean house.

  • M22

    Agree completely that management change is needed. But I think Lowe will stay, we’ll get Howson or MacT Gming, and we’ll get a lot more of the re-tread BS with similar results. This is a really hard team to cheer for.

  • Clearly Katz doesn’t give two left testicles about the Oilers’ fortunes on the ice. As long as he can con the city into bending over and giving him a free arena, why should paltry “wins” and “losses” by the “hockey players” even cross his mind?

    • Supernova

      Everyone wants to win to some degree, especially a man with high level of success. He might not have the team or the know how, but guarenteed he wants to win.

      I don’t want “free” from you if this deal is “free”

      Sure he is getting a lot but free is what would have happened if EIG owned the team, or you were in a US city in the mid 2000’s

      • Reg Dunlop

        Free stadium… US city mid 2000s… like Miami. Actually, the team was responsible for about 125 mil on that deal, comparable to Katz’ burden. And similarly,watch Katz do a fire sale after moving in because he knows us dumb Edmontonians will blindly support anything with the NHL label attached.

        One more thing. Jasmine, don’t you have your husband’s laundry to iron? Leave hockey talk to the fellas.

        • Supernova


          I could list plenty of free stadiums. I never stated Miami, and Jeffrey Loria has almost single handed made himself own of the most despicable owners of all pro sports.

          There is one being built in Quebec in fact that is entirely free.

          My point was free isn’t what Katz got, did he get a good deal? Sure, but it wasn’t free. He is Also putting in the ticket tax which is currently his.

          I am not defending him or the deal, just saying the deal shouldn’t be looked at in a microscope.

          The simple point is this deal is good for Edmonton and for him. I don’t begrudge him his rights to ask for as much as he can get, or to develop around the arena. Edmonton should be joyous for finally getting pushed to develop in its downtown.

          I can give many examples of many other sports owners doing the same as Katz. Look at the Bell Centre expansion plans, I could list many more. These owners want the team and arena for the area around the arena. If you and I had the cash we would want the same thing.

          I for one, am happy it is finally happening in Edmonton. It isn’t free for either of the parties, and we shouldn’t look at it in isolation.

  • Jeropotato

    I give you credit for calling out the most incompetent GM in the NHL. HIs obsession with fourth line players has littered our AHL team with all his failed experiments.

    Nothing will change until this clown and Lowe are fired. Just how many times do we have to be told to be patience. IT seems in one month, the Flames have moved ahead of our seven year rebuild. All of their youth out played our youth and veterans.

    Tamby proclaiming that Horcoff has taken control of the team, therefore no deals at the trade deadline, demonstrate how misinformed this GM is of what is required to build a winning team. You need to be constantly be acquiring player of substance, draft choices, or trading for talent. All we have got from this clown is inconsequential NHL players.

    Let’s start at the TOP ………enough of Lowe and Tamby!

  • Slapshot

    Katz does not care!!! as long as the $$$$$ keeps coming in.Lowe should do the honorable thing and resign,Tambellini is to indecisive,he should have never been giving the job in the first place,Unless there are major management changes, the Oilers will be a continuous lottery team!!! and how much longer will our precious 1st round picks want to stick around with this group?

  • Jeropotato

    Brian burke would be pure comedy, but I just don’t see it with Kevin Lowe as President. If Lowe is let go also and Burke becomes an Oiler executive, that would declare a clear winner in their feud,lol.

    Pierre McGuire is kinduv a jerk off, but he is a knowledgable hockey mind. But no.Too important a stage to chance it on a rookie GM.

    Scott Howson,under appreciated work in Columbus, but if we’re gotta clean house, no point in leaving remnants like him behind.
    Ditto for Mac T, though I suspect he would be the front runner.

    At the end of the day, how many proven winners are left?

    One attribute I would like to see,over and above job capabilities, is a likeable personality.I’ll settle for entertaining.Tambo is simply not likeable.

    Brian Burke is probably the best choice at this point.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    I really like this article JW. I truly wish the Oilers would hire you, Staples and Bruce to give your insight using hockey analytics as to wish players should be kept or traded. It is becoming so obvious how valuable of a stat corsi is it is unbelievable to me the Oilers wouldn’t use it as the way to pick, pay and get rid of players.

    In moneyball they talked all about on base percentage. It seems to me that corsi with some sort of adjustments for zone start and quality of co mpetition will be that stat going forward in hockey. Too bad the three guys making over $1 million per year each can’t figure that out.