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.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Looks like we might have a shot at Seth Jones this year or one of the 3 centers MacKinnon, Barkov or Monahan. Lets take one of these guys, dump Smyth, Petrell, Belanger, Eager, Whitney, Potter, Jones,Peckham and trade Hemsky. Go after some moderately priced character free agents like Jagr, Morrow, and Clowe ect. Rock and Roll. Don’t do anything stupid like trade this years 1st pick.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Once the trigger is pulled who knows what happens.

    But in that chaos I imagine a lot of potential GMs would love to come in and tinker with a team that has its jacks and kings in place.

    Jim Nill… why not?

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Oh agreed.

        Only Howson or MacT would take that internal shuffling job. Or Lowe himself.

        I can’t imagine a list of candidates that would come to EDM to serve alongside Lowe, Howson, MacT and Olczyk.

        If the plan is fire Tambi, expect internal rotation. I’d be surprised if they even bothered looking elsewhere.

        If the plan is, fire everyone, or fire Lowe and give the new president/gm the option to keep or fire everyone, that is going to be an attractive option to ambitious people.

  • Milli

    If Tambi does not get fired after another DISASTER we call an NHL season, I will become a basketball fan. This guy is a disgrace. The effort of this team is disgraceful.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Why would the Oilers use a compliance buyout on either Belanger or Eager? Eager’s salary is only $1.1 million for the next two seasons, so he could easily be buried in the minors and have only a smidgen of the remainder count against the cap (about $200K each year for two years), or you could buy him out straight up and have only a $366,666 cap hit for the next four years, right?

    Belanger should have some value either via trade or waivers one would think. Buying them out wastes two compliance buyouts that they might want or need to use next summer, depending on how the cap situation ends up, and/or if they do something stupid like sign Whitney to a 3 year extension.

    I am pretty sick of Lowe, Tambellini, et al, and the fact they brought MacTavish and Howson back (regardless of how you feel about their respective talents and contributions) just reeks of “good ol’ boy” cronyism.

    The next step should be to bring in Fenton or Burke and go for it. Make some big trades, sign a free agent or two (hell, keep a compliance buyout just in case a “swing for the fences” overpayment signing doesn’t work out), and see what hits the market after the small slew of buy-outs that you know is coming hit the market.

  • JW: Using both compliance buyouts this summer would be foolish. They need to keep one for summer 2014 in case Horcoff craters or they have cap issues. Burying Eager in the minors only costs them $200K against the cap. That is definitely NOT worth using up a compliance buy out.

    Using one on Belanger would seem to be a prudent move, however. On that I can agree.

  • I am a first time poster but the things that I have been reading is prompting me to do something about it!

    Week after week I read posts about how disgruntled people are and spewing advice about what to do with OUR Oilers. I have been an oiler fan for over 30 years and have watched the franchise dating back to it’s inception. Safe to say those days will never be back so I think the organization needs to realize this by hiring legit “hockey minds” to run the franchise instead of old alumni! Let go of the past if you are to progress as a person and as an organization! I mean the only person that I would ever hire from that dynasty group is Mark Messier…because he has shown clear direction,leadership, and passion even as a player…and I know he would not accept this pathetic effort of a team we now call the Oilers. Heck, he may even go into the dressing room between periods to bench these kids (and vets) or make them sit in the press box with an “undisclosed” injury just to send the message.

    What I’m ultimately here to say is STOP demanding change from management because it’s not going to happen by you writing on a blog or bi%&hing about things. We complain day after day and week after week yet sell out every home game, I get it, we are passionate about our team. But from a management perspective, there is no urgency to assemble a team that competes if we keep sending the message that we will continue to support them no matter what!! If you want to send a different message, fans need to become a community and boycott the remaining home games…THAT would send a strong message to Katz and ownership/management. That would tell them that the fans are the reason why they are here! Instead of going through a strike, demanding one of the higher ticket prices in the league, and padding their own pockets while doing so.

    Change comes from us…we hold the power people!!! Now, realize that and effect change instead of simply complaining about it!!! Many of you who post here are quite educated as your prose writing pieces and spelling would indicate, so think of a way we can bring the hockey community together and do something worth doing…in unison!!! Playing the victim and complaining just ain’t cutting it anymore…because we’ve been doing it for at least 6 years!!

    • I totally agree with u. The relationship between Katz and Lowe is very tight. To wake Katz up u take money out of his pocket. However I love this banter back and forth with other Oiler fans. So don’t tell me what to do. Hey Oh

      • wiseguy

        Unfortunately we’ve paid a lot of money to just throw out tickets. It’s very tough to tell 16000 people, some who only go to a couple games a year or have never been to a game, to forfeit them. A better way to get Katz’s attention is to use the privilege provided to us by paying for these tickets, to embarrass the team the same way they’ve embarrassed their fanbase and city. If we boo heartily from player introductions to the end of the game, stay silent when they score, on nationally televised games every night, we will start to see results. I’ve been fan and season ticket holder for a long time, and resorting to booing my own team is a last and desperate measure. However it is worth trying as the next step will be apathy.

  • Every non-playoff team has a shot at number one. Let’s hope Tambi’s draft luck results in Seth Jones.

    I would consider using the buyout privilege to open room under the 50 contract limit. Remove Belanger and Eager so that you can shop for replacements this summer. Some want to buyout Horc because that would clear more space, but Horc brings value that the Oil cannot replace in their current roster.

  • John Chambers

    I bet Hall, Nuge, Ebs, and Schultz are delivering a sub-par performance because even they want to see some front office changes.

    That or they got really liquored up on Friday night.

  • vetinari

    The best thing for this team right now would be for Hall to lead the kids (himself, Eberle, RNH, J. Schultz and Yakupov) into Katz’s office in Vancouver and demand that unless Tambellini and/or Lowe are replaced by the end of April, they can find all of them new homes next season on teams who want actually want to win. THAT would finally get Katz’s attention and then maybe something would change…

    • That’s the problem with Oilers fans. They run players out of town. That’s why no one and that includes coaches and GM will come to Edmonton. They know they’ll be run out of town especially how fan are mistreating Lowe.

      • DSF

        Are you obstinate of impaired?

        Tambellini “came to town”.

        Kreuger “came to town”.

        Renney “came to town”.

        Steve Smith “came to town”.

        The problem is Lowe, always has been.

  • wiseguy

    The Oilers never intended to win this year. All they did was trade for fistric and smithson. Added two rookies to the line up, N64 and schultz the younger. These are not moves that bring your team from 29th to 16th. You do not g ain 20 plus pts in the standings with a shuffle of the bottom of the line up. Yes the kids get better with age, (gagner and Hall) but the opposite is true of the Vets, Smyth and Whitney. The eb and flow even themselves out. Its frustrating as a fan but I think this tank is planned.

    • wiseguy

      I can all but guarantee you this tank is not planned. But it sure says alot about management when fans think that. I’m just happy were not building these guys a rink. This pathetic joke of an organization doesn’t deserve a new arena. They don’t even deserve to play in the one they’ve been playing in.

  • Shane Leavitt

    Great, vitally necessary column as usual Jonathan.

    You’re very measured (smart move) in what you say about criticizing EDM MGMT, but you’ve long been consistent in doing so (thank god). Your last 3 paragraphs here though seem to me to have a little more edge to them than normal. Fantastic. Unlike nearly all of your MSM brethren, you take this topic seriously.

    • Supernova

      If I am not mistaken Jon isn’t MSM, sure he blogs for many, but he isn’t credentialed or at least doesn’t attend the press box.

      Could be due to where he lives ( Fort St. John I believe)

      Jon is a blogger with many sites but that is different in my opinion from MSM.

      How do you feel about this Jon? Do you consider yourself MSM, if so is that a good thing or a bad thing? Are you credentialed to attend Oilers games in the press box if you choose to?

  • wiseguy

    I vote Magie the Monkey for President ! he know more about hockey than these two clowns running the gong show here.
    I just wish there is more that us the fans can do to get some action. There is never any chance that the fan stays from the rink to send a message but that would be one one way.

    FANS call for action ! Just STAY HOME for the remaining home games !

  • horndog77

    I like to know what upcoming player in the draft would be a good fit for Edmonton going forward? Maybe it would be a good choice to use it as a trade offer for a stud defenseman.

    • DSF

      I think a center with size is top draft priority unless you can get Seth Jones. Depending on how bad the finish is the top centers are MacKinnon, Barkov and Monahan. Anyone one of those should be a great addition.

      I thought about that too. Trading this years 1st rnd pick, but with a probable low finish this year I wouldn’t do it. Unless you can package it for Jones.

      Next years first should be used in a package to acquire that stud D-man. In theory, the team should make the playoffs and therefore wouldn’t risk losing a lottery pick.

      I agree, dude, a stud D-man should be the major addition of the off-season. It’s hard watching the boys stuck in their own end running around like it’s a game of dodgeball.