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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  • 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.

  • DSF

    One thing that really bothers me is there is no one in management talking to the fans, we heard from Steve Tambellini at the trade deadline and a little bit at the beginning of the season but that is it, I would say they are getting as reclusive as their owner. At least when the EIG owned the team Lowe was on the airways quite a bit. Stauffer get your employers on your show.
    Every year when I am wondering if I should renew my tickets if this is going to be the year, why am I so stupid, they haven’t added any size,toughness or a decent veteran d-man that they know they need to get better .If we really want changes we need to not renew our seats and take our names off the waiting list as well.That is exactly what I am going to do if they don’t make the changes needed this summer.

  • MarcusBillius

    Jasmine, got a crush on Lowe?

    When your team goes SEVEN SEASONS without a sniff of success, and nothing appears to be on the horizon to turn that around (even after drafting 1st overall three years in a row and adding talent like Eberle and Justin Schultz), then it’s time for a management house-cleaning.

    The same-old status quo is not working, and there is no clear indication whatsoever that it will get better. The only solace Oiler fans can take is that they are further along in their fiftieth rebuild than Calgary is, and we just got whooped by the Flames’ AHL affiliate on National TV by three goals.

  • Maggie the Monkey

    The prospects cupboards look a little bare, save maybe Klefbom so the Oilers really only have either picks or junk to peddle. That would have landed us what exactly? We are still a ways away from being wheeler dealers.

    • DSF

      I don’t want a GM that wheels and deals, I want one that looks at his roster and sees at least three guys that he has no intention of bringing back and gets value back for them, a prospect, draft picks, new water bottles, do something! Trading one or two of Peckham, Whitney, Jones, Fistric wouldn’t have hurt the team. Picking up Smithson for a fourth when better were available for nothing weeks earlier when we actually needed a centerman should have been the final act of this management regime.

  • Supernova

    Which of the free agent signings from 2011 would signal they wanted to win. Barker bought out by his previous team. Potter a man who Renney was familiar with, who could not crack the NHL line up of anyother organization he was with. Petrell a 27 year old rookie. Oh you must mean belanger the man who was made expendable in Anaheim when we traded them there current 3rd line centre for 50 cents on the dollar. Yeah cause 33 year old centres just keep getting better. Ben Eager should have been a solid signing, but injury, unlike age, is not a linear or predictable fall off in performance.

    No sir, I think we are still in a deliberate tank job, or at the very least it was never planned for the Oilers to make the playoffs.

  • DieHard

    I have no problems with the picks management made. They were each bpa. That’s how you draft. HOWEVER there incompetence comes with not dealing from a position of strength. That’s why some people feel seguin landeskog and gally/Murray should’ve been the pick. Had they done that’s the we wouldn’t need to make a deal to solidify the top 6 with balance. I think hall nuge ebs and yak should stay. Hemsky, paajarvi (I like him but his value is going up) and gags. Get players less skill more size and grit who can chip in 15 goals.

    Lowe needs to go. Now.

  • DieHard

    I have no problems with the picks management made. They were each bpa. That’s how you draft. HOWEVER there incompetence comes with not dealing from a position of strength. That’s why some people feel seguin landeskog and gally/Murray should’ve been the pick. Had they done that’s the we wouldn’t need to make a deal to solidify the top 6 with balance. I think hall nuge ebs and yak should stay. Hemsky, paajarvi (I like him but his value is going up) and gags. Get players less skill more size and grit who can chip in 15 goals.

    Lowe needs to go. Now.

      • Reg Dunlop

        You want a second line made up of 3 Ryan Jones’? You can have that, I’ll take skill. “Size and grit” the thought that this makes a hockey player tough bugs the sh!t out of me. I want skill that is hard to play against, loved seeing Yak take the body last night, I am tired of our players swiping sticks in the puck carriers general direction and then turning off and skating by them. Take the body, finish a check, rub them into the boards get engaged physically, get some actual NHL players between the ages of 24-29 and I believe this will change, we have kids playing against men, and the men we have can barely play.

        • DieHard

          I didn’t say a second line made of three Ryan jones. I said leave hall yak ebs and nuge. That’s two spots to split between the top 6. Two bigger players that are harder to play against.

  • Reg Dunlop

    What should the Oilers have done July 1st of last year? Exactly what they did, next to nothing. There was a limited supply of UFAs and that drove the price up. This, just before the new CBA came up for renewal.

    What should the Oilers have done at the trade deadline? Difficult to say. they were a playoff bubble team at the time, not quite ready to mortgage a little of the future I should think.

    July 4 or whatever of this year will be the time for them to make some moves.

  • The Soup Fascist

    you may be right that they would have done no better than lowe, however none of those clowns had three first overall picks in a row. we have and we don’t have a big number one center or a number one defenceman to sow for it, and chances are the draft is the only way to get them. what we got for three number one picks, i’m not sure will cut it.

  • The Worrier

    We need Four Season players ! You Know -the self motivated type that show up for work fall , winter , spring and a couple of weeks in summer . Looks like Katz will stick with same management group as long as turnstiles dole out sell outs .

    How good is our youth compared to others ? Not as good as we expected or as advertised . If it were otherwise , the standings and stats would back it up .

    Gutting the team actually took about three years before we hit bottom , even though we had first picks at same time . This is probably first year from completed gutting , only to find out more is required . The youth can only carry us so far in one direction while veterans all seem to be going in another direction .