If love is blind, as the saying goes, loyalty, as admirable as it can be, isn’t far behind. Fans of the Edmonton Oilers can read an unflinching display of the latter from Oiler GM Craig MacTavish as it pertains to his team and friend Kevin Lowe in a terrific series by David Staples at the Edmonton Journal.
Lowe, as I pointed out in an item January 8, has been the focus of growing dissension within a passionate fan base with the Oilers on the way to missing the playoffs for an eighth straight season. While MacTavish is in his first year on the job as GM, Lowe has been at the top of Edmonton’s hockey-ops department since 2000 as GM or president of hockey operations.
That focus isn’t likely to change – nor should it – after an unexpected 4-3 overtime win over the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins at Rexall Place Friday. Framed in that, one snippet from the series – you can find it here – drives home how loyal MacTavish is to Lowe.
Staples writes: "With the Oilers losing so much in Lowe’s recent tenure, I suggest it is likely time to change the leadership of the organization, just as almost all NHL teams do when the losses start to mount."
MacTavish’s response: "Well, I would say it would be a big mistake for us,” MacTavish says. "I appreciate Kevin Lowe’s leadership. I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go. Like, I really feel like we’ve got limitless upside with this group."
TIES THAT BIND
I’m not stunned MacTavish would offer such a response. I’d be stunned, having some insight to their friendship and respect for each other dating back to their time as teammates in Edmonton and New York, if MacT said anything else. They have each other’s back. Always have. Always will.
That, of course, doesn’t change the fact that, in a results based business, Lowe has survived a staggering amount of failure since he took over as GM in 2000 and then moved to POHO under new owner Daryl Katz. The record is there for all to see. Like I said January 8, "Draw your own conclusions." Just don’t expect MacTavish to admit or suggest he’s come to the conclusion all these seasons of failure since 2000 during Lowe’s tenure mean it’s time for him to go. Those words won’t pass by his lips.
Fans can insist that Lowe must go. They can display placards at games, as they have, saying he must be fired. Unless they stop buying tickets, parking and merchandise to show their displeasure – the building was packed for the Penguins – it doesn’t matter. Members of the media can sack Lowe in the prints, TV and radio. It doesn’t matter.
In the end, a public declaration about an outcome that seems long overdue to those not bound by loyalty or self-preservation will have to come from Katz, who is Lowe’s friend, or Lowe himself. With a waiting list for season tickets and Rexall Place at or near capacity at the start of every season, what are the odds of that?
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
Newspapers are collapsing under their own weight because of reduced advertising revenue, consumer demand for immediate information online and failure to grasp and/or monetize online platforms for distributing the news that’s fit to print, but it’s still an unhappy day to see a newspaper like the Kamloops Daily News go down, as it did last night.
The knucklehead in the photo above is me, around 1985, in a staged shot for a story about some lame new type of exercise equipment. I spent four years at the KDN, which published for more than 80 years, before moving on to the Edmonton Journal.
Back then, smaller dailies like the KDN were jumping off points for those hoping to move on to bigger newspapers. You worked your ass off doing everything and if you could hack it and were lucky, you were on your way.
I worked with many terrific and talented people back then. Ben Kuzma, my sports editor, has being covering the Vancouver Canucks for the Province for years. Iain MacIntyre, the other writer in the department, is a columnist, and a fine one, for the Vancouver Sun now.
Lots of talented people there now, too, like Gregg Drinnan, who wrote the best damn junior hockey blog in the business, at least until the paper put its last issue to bed Friday night. Sad to see it go.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.