LOYALTY

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.

  • paul wodehouse

    Robin: is Messier on the Oiler payroll? T or F

    if so, what is his title?

    p.s. RIP KDN …death of a great little rag, buddy of mine worked there after you, albeit for just a cup a coffee but he loved the place!

  • pkam

    Robin,

    I respectfully disagree with the widely held belief that as long as the building is sold out nothing will change. The Boston Red Sox are a great example. They are a storied organization that responds to failure with organizational change without seeing a dip in attendance at Fenway. Likewise, the Toronto Maple Leafs ownership didn’t wait for a drop in ticket sales to fire Brian Burke.

    It goes without saying that you have more inside info than any of us pleebs in The Nation, but I’m guessing that Katz is nearing the end of his rope with Lowe and company.

    I was fully on board with the rebuild and I was patient, but drafting 1st overall 3 years straight and THEN potentially posting the worst season in franchise history is beyond unacceptable. I’ve got a sense that Katz understands that. Right now I’m a pissed off fan, but if Lowe isn’t dismissed in the offseason, I’ll be heading towards indifference.

    • pkam

      The Pens drafted Whitney 5th overall in 2002, MAF 1st overall in 2003, Malkin 2nd overall in 2004, Crosby 1st overall in 2005. Guess what, they finished 29th in 2006 and drafted Jordan Staal. Is that acceptable?

      They made to the cup final in 2008 and made it again and won the cup in 2009. Guess what, nobody even talks about it anymore now. I wonder how many fans remember it or are even aware of it.

      • Maverick007

        Tim – What’s important to look at is the Pens turned it around, and won a cup. Now they are in the top 10. Compare that to the Oilers.

        2006-2007, Pens made the playoffs, while Oil sat 25th, after the run to the cup. Bottom 10 members of that 2006-2007 year include the Blues, Bruins, Blackhawks, and the Kings.

        Fast forward to this season, and the only remaining members are the Oilers, Blue Jackets and Panthers.

        Some bottom 10 teams from 2006-2007 teams turned it around, some stay in the top 10. All b/c of decisions made in the leather chairs upstairs.

        Oilers, Blue Jackets, and Panthers have consistently been in the 20-30 standing range.
        Why?
        Poor management decisions, that are taken out on the players. It’s not the players faults – they are the end result of upper management.

      • Bryzarro World

        Look who their poho is. Look at his history you fool.

        Also check out how many GMs they’ve had over that time. Do they recycle friends? Do they require you to have played the game?

      • PutzStew

        true, but were they miles away from looking complete with enormous and numerous holes in the lineup? did they look like an average AHL team most nights? Were they inlove with players that brought very little to the table? Were they run by a bunch of clowns? the problem we have right now is that the end of this period of suck in now where in sight

    • Mason Storm

      Let’s hope the Oilers get to a Red Sox like team quicker than the Red Sox. I don’t think I can last another 70 years waiting for them to figure it out.

      • Mason Storm

        Geeez you obviously don’t know much about the Red Sox or anything about their recent history. Get busy and do your homework,also don’t stay up late and be late for school again.

        • Mason Storm

          All the homework I need for this is, the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth, the best hitter in the game and didn’t win a World Series for 80+ years. Comparatively, the Oilers traded Pronger, the best defenseman in the game and haven’t won in 8 years.

      • Serious Gord

        The template is the cubs not the Red Sox. The sox were very competitive for many years during the drought.

        The cubs very rarely were and they continue to be trekking in the gobi. They likely will go past 125 years without a World Series title. They haven’t won a pennant in 69 years…

        Think about that oilers fans – imagine even your great grand kids never seeing a Stanley cup win for the oilers (this year will make 24 years… And Katz is 53. He could live another 32 years easily – that makes 56 – and then his son takes over?)

    • Serious Gord

      I agree and I would cite what I think is an even better example.

      Ron Wilson was literally booed out of a job. The fans chants of Fire Wilson were thunderous and went on for several minutes in the last game Wilson coached. Burke said he had to let him for mercy’a sake if nothing else.

      If the fire Lowe placards grow in number and mounds of jerseys pile up on the ice and fire Lowe chants rain down, Katz WILL remove him – or more likely Lowe will resign. Humiliation can be a great motivator.

  • pkam

    Talk of firing Lowe is a waste of the internet. And with all the cat youtube clips thats saying a lot.

    I loathe the guy just as much as the rest (I respect his Oiler passion, but loathe the results and arrogance). BUT ranting and raving about him being fired is pointless.

    Might as well write articles and comment about the weather in Edmonton turning tropical. Because its equally as likely. If that’s the only way you’ll be happy the better approach would be to just pick a new team to cheer for.

    This team will improve by default due to the ridiculous amounts of skill it has piled up. Lowe may never be able to build a winner, but this team will be at least good soon. Then Lowe will be locked in his job until he decides to retire.

    Accept it.

    • Mason Storm

      Who is ranting and raving?

      If you’ve been following along then you know I’ve written that because of his relationship with the owner, Lowe might keep his job for life even if the Oilers stay lousy. I long ago accepted that possibility.

      So your answer to what fans are enduring here is, what, just shut up about it, then?

  • Mason Storm

    If we were guaranteed to get an expansion team if Oilers where to be relocated just to get rid of the old boys club, I would be in favor and that’s sad. It’s really sad to because an expansion team couldn’t be any worse.

  • pkam

    The last year for Lowe has not been good from a customer relations perspective.

    I know a thing or two about winning…2 teir fans…ect.

    Now MacT yelling at a fan…What is the saying from your MBA the customer is always right?

  • Mason Storm

    Honestly when I first saw the picture I thought it was Freddy Mercury and you were doing a tribute to Queen or something…….no offence Robin.

    Nice shorts.

    • Mason Storm

      Mercury was a fine-looking man.

      Nothing screams “stooge” like one of those sit-high baseball caps of the era — editor’s idea, not mine.

      The ladies in the gym liked the shorts, just as you do.

          • Serious Gord

            I would imagine it would pull on the heart strings a bit, the internet is great for a lot of things but it has killed the small papers all over.
            I am glad too see that at least Mac T and Kevin Lowe have been doing a few interviews as of late and not only on Ched.
            I think they are at least starting to recognize the frustration was about to boil over and it was time to come out from under cover, personally I think the jersey toss had a lot to do with it.
            Here’s hoping in a couple of years we can look back and say we were wrong and they were right, the did know a few things about winning and that was the way to build a team.
            Robin keep up the great honest articles.

  • Mason Storm

    fief·dom (ffdm)

    1. The estate or domain of a feudal lord.
    2. Something over which one dominant person or group exercises control:

    ” Craig will talk to me and get my feelings on it ”

    ” And there is an owner that has to make a call on terms on whether you are going to spend the money for a free agent or trade an asset ”

    ” We’ve always taken an approach from the day that I took over as general manager”

    ” but I think that if there is any concern”

    ” It’s not a purely democratic process ”

    ” It’s not fiefdom ”

    http://oilersnation.com/2014/1/10/gdb-470-the-lowe-down-on-crosby

  • Hate to say it but this season was needed for Oiler fans. We all bought into the Pre-season hype and neglected a Rookie GM andRookie Head Coach. More often than not when those two positions are replaced, it takes time for the franchise to turn it around. Struggling should have been expected.

    Now it absolutely Kills me to say this next but replacing Tambo with Mac T was the smartest thing K Lowe has done as management. Only B/C it’s self serving. It bought him (Lowe) 3-5 more years as POHO, B/C if Lowe was fired the new POHO would more than likely replace Mac T and the new GM would more than likely replace Eakins. I’ve heard enough jokes about Edmonton’s revolving Head Coach door. 4 in the last 5 years?! Ridiculous, I think Edmonton still has Renny on the payroll!!!!!

    So in my humble opinion, we are stuck with Lowe and Co. until about year 3 of the New Arena or the 2019-2020 season. That is, If the losing continues until then.

    • Serious Gord

      Speak for your self. I didn’t buy into the preseason hype. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone.

      Your reason on for keeping Lowe is not unlike that of an abused dog – still loyal even after serial beatings and maltreatment…

      Eight years has been about four or five too long…

  • Oiler63

    Haven’t everybody figured it out yet? ‘Management’ and ‘The Players’ are a match made in heaven, they deserved each other!
    No need to get excited about a lousy win or losing 10 in a row, it’s expect the unexpected! That one day they’ll wake up and play some real hockey, one that involves everyone to fore check and back checking, decent goaltending….. sounds like a pipe dream to me, who knows!?

  • Bryzarro World

    “I read all four parts to the interview so I think I know a little something about winning” (Sorry I just couldn’t resist).

    What anyone who has been around semi or pro hockey players knows is that are a close lipped, quiet speaking, cliche driven, circle the wagons kinda group. The message about team is hammered home every intermission, every practice, every training camp…it is relentless, almost like brainwashing some might say. You don’t turn your back on your ‘team’

    Any player who expresses their opinion which does not tow the party line is summarily crucified by the team, and the media who buy into this lynch mob mentality as I think they feel like they are cool because they hang out with professional athletes, oh, and it sells print. Notice how the MSM talks about players, cliches, losses, ‘strategies’, haven’t seen any articles entitled “Fire Lowe” or “Katz, open your eyes, you dolt”

    As far as MacT’s comments, I call bs! I can’t turn back the time it took me to read his drivel, and I don’t buy any of it. I had more respect for him before I read his comments.

  • Newj

    @ Robin:

    As Dylan sings “The Times They Are A-Changin”, so do the home town newspapers. I remember Gregg Drinnan from my Regina days. He cut his teeth on the Pats and did a fantastic job. I am sure he will land on his feet somewhere. I occasionally read his blog on the Kamloops Blazers as I followed my son’s friend who was playing on that team.

    A bit of melancholy crept in after reading your news on the end of the KDN.

    Keep up the excellent journalism Robin!

  • I like Craig fine, but this whole idea that we turn a blind eye to his severe incompetance I find amusing. Craig can talk. He’s a compelling speaker, says alot of the right things but he was an internal hire by Lowe. Could not get a job in NHL from any other organization.

    Craig’s driven but he never earn his stripes in another organization. He made nonsensical moves so far as a GM. Dumping a decent coach for a bad one. Signing Jones for too much, and Greby for anyones guess. He made one fine move in getting Peron, thats all he can hang his hat on. We are paying for the rest of his blunders.

    Lowe at one time I recall said the right things too. Craig was good player and person, an average coach and so far a bad GM. Lowe and him need to go.

    • Serious Gord

      Agree with most of your post,
      I think Gordon and Ference are good signings and if Belov could play the rest of the year like last night he will be as well, Bryzgalov, he had to do something even though he is not looking great either.
      As far as Eakins goes I would sure have liked to have seen him pick his own assistants and I will wait until the end of the season to grade him,I thought Ralph was a really nice man and should have been an assistant under Renny for one more year and that move was premature.
      I posted it once before but the only ex Oiler head coach to get another head coaching job in the NHL that wasn’t hired by Slats was John Muckler,Edmonton has been a grave yard for HC’s.

  • PutzStew

    Robin I would have agreed with you up until about 2 weeks ago.

    Now all I have to say is….Keep Lowe,

    Keep MacT,

    Show more of the Katz Kid.

    Play more of the Fart catchers trying not to criticizes the team.

    Hire Messier too. Make him responsible for player development. I hear the you guys hated him in his last few years. He’ll be great for the part in Edmonton.

    In an industry and especially a team that has made no effort to hide the fact that this is a business first, and that there personal financial gain is more important then anything else…..Well at least this is entertainment that is worth watching.

    I don’t care who wins. Don’t care who is on the ice. Won’t give them any of my money.

    I will be happy to be entertained by them and and what a better way to be entertained then a good old yard sale.

    Lousy Excuses. Throwing guys under the bus. Guys not having a clue. You seriously can’t write better scripts then this. The Oilers are Saturday Night live (The good one with Myers, Sandler and co), Epic Fails on YouTube and Gypsy Wifes all rolled in to one. And the best part is it keeps getting better.

    Anyone else remember MacT saying Horcoff should have been on the 2010 team. Classic.

    So screw the Oilers, Screw the NHL. If I want Hockey I’ll go out and play it or watch the kids play. Just keep up the gong show because that is probably more entertaining then if this fiasco didn’t happen.

    Have a good night all and remember….it suppose to be just a game so who really cares. Sit back and enjoy the show.

    • Poolanov

      It used to be a game *
      Now it’s a business. **

      * maybe I was just more naive as a younger man

      ** as an Oiler fan born 1980 I have almost as many memories of trades for money, salary cap knowledge, and lockouts … as I do actual hockey moments.

      • PutzStew

        You know your comment about it being a game really made me think. With the the exception of the period where the EIG owned this team, it has always been a business in Edmonton.

        I guess the winning in the 80’s just helped mask it, so for people like myself, it was a lot easier to be naive, then it is now.

  • Citizen David

    Things that I’ve “learned” from bitter jaded Oiler fans: 1.) Kevin Lowe is responsible for the fortunes of the team even after moving on to President of Hockey operations.

    Things I’ve learned from time of being an Oilers fan: 1.)Building a good team isn’t as simple as drafting high for several years. 2.) Lowe isn’t going anywhere.

    Question: When the Oilers start winning again and are a contender will any of the credit be given to Lowe?

    Answer: Nope, because Oiler fans.

  • Serious Gord

    Fans are so fickle . Oilers win a game against Pitt because Pitt did not take them seriously and fell asleep during the game. Pittsburgh played their B game.

  • Bryzarro World

    I do not think MacTavish more time. He’s a product of another one of Kevin Lowe’s bone headed moves. Everyone knows the only reason he was hired was because he is friends with Lowe and Katz. Another ol’ boy. A do-me-this-one-favour-for-ol-time-sake kind of hiring.

    The Oilers need to truly flush out their management system. They need a president of hockey operations (with credentials and experience outside of the Oilers) to access the team, thereafter hiring a new GM, coaches, etc. as he sees fit.

    But I agree with Robin Brownlee that considering the close-knit buddy-network of the Oilers, only a significant drop in revenue would truly rattle Katz’s confidence in Lowe.

  • PutzStew

    In that pic you look like a reject from the Village People.

    I don’t care about MacTavish’s loyalty to Lowe. IMO they behave like rats on a gut wagon. Where the hell is their loyalty to the fans?

    They behave like they don’t give a sh*t about the fans. Except of course the thickness of their wallets. After MacT absolutely loses it in public yelling at a fan tells me there are cracks forming. Don’t people get it yet?

    This whole thing is about money…your money being placed in their hands. We should have been able to see that right from Katz’ purchase of the team to ham-handed public apologies to the whole arena mess. Everyone on the Oiler side is behaving in a very predictable way.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    Lowe isn’t getting pink slipped. If anything, he’ll get promoted. Perhaps the new title of Supreme Leader of Hockey Winning / President Of Excellent

  • Dave "Killer" Carlson

    It wasn’t hard to see Lowe’s ineptness as a manager. I remember knocking it around some years back on Cult of Hockey. It was always interesting because Lowe did know what it took to win. I remember him playing a hard playoff series with broken ribs. Yet the teams he built were almost exactly the opposite – smaller, faster, perimeter players with no heart to engage or understanding of how a team works together.

    It was apparent that Lowe was so blinded by Gretzky’s brilliance that he formed the belief that you only need elite level talent to win. “Talent” in his mind was stick handling and skating. He was a focused man and also an arrogant one, and that was all he considered. As a result we have the present day Oilers.

    Lowe should be fired, but it probably doesn’t matter. I think the torch has already been passed to Mac. From everything we’ve seen, Mac has a different view of what it takes (even though he will publicly support Lowe). He’s smarter, and has a clearer picture of building a team.

    The achilles heel with him though, is his ability to control his frustration. We’ve seen this many times as player and coach. While I even kind of like him not suffering fools gladly, he is in a job where he’s going to experience frustration like he’s never seen. Can he withstand this without an erruption? Don’t know. Place your bets and watch the show.

    In the meantime we still are where we are; praying that Nuge et all really are getting better, and hoping for trades that work.

    • Bi-Curious Gord

      In the meantime we still are where we are; praying that Nuge et all really are getting better, and hoping for trades that work.

      You forgot to add:

      Pray that the Eakins understands and learns from his mistakes and that the team as a whole plays within a system.

    • the teams he built were almost exactly the opposite – smaller, faster, perimeter players with no heart to engage or understanding of how a team works together.

      This is an absurd statement. You’re essentially ignoring half his tenure. How you could look at the fantastic roster he sent into the 2006 playoffs and say something like this is beyond me.

    • Jtfan

      For those of us who lived through the 80’s city of champs we regret that our kids did not experince this feeling of pride in the city. I was happy to experience 2006 to give my son a taste of that winning atmosphere. Unfortunately #firelowe is the only tool i have to be part of a city groundswell against this crazy regime. Lowe ha been the common factor in oilers having worst winning % in the league. Maybe this is alright for florida but this is edmonton where we love and breathe hockey! Bring back the pride! #firelowe

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Im going to wait and see what MacT does at the deadline, at the draft and off season before I start wanting heads to roll.

    Dithers left this team in a mess when he left, the only thing he did was call Hall, RNH, and Yakupov’s names at the draft. Mac needs more than one year to change this team around.

    Yes Klowe has been here for ages and yes the only thing constant while hes been here has been sitting at the bottom, but really, this team hasn’t really done much since the great purge after the 5th cup. Even if Lowe did resign his POHO position, whats going to change over night? NOTHING! It would still take just as long to right the team towards consistant winning seasons as it would if Lowe stayed on, so as fans weather we stop going to games(still seceretly cheering them on) or not we have to deal with the hand that’s dealt.

    And besides the only thing that will help this team get the top UFA’s is winning year in year out, it’ll come.

    See y’all back on the band wagon when this team does start winning again.

    Cheers ON

  • Oilers4ever

    Loyalty be damned. Its all about winning. Clearly with katz he likes being loser so long as he’s making money. Every other nhl owner would have turfed lowe long ago. The oilers are just a play thing to katz. So long as he’s making money Stanley Cups are just a bonus in his eyes. Sad But True.

  • Bryzarro World

    Things are as bad as they can be. The team has been at the bottom of the league for close to a decade. The only tangible progress made in this rebuild are the 1st overall picks. Why would anyone defend KLowe is beyond me

  • Oilers4ever

    The ship must be turned in the right direction very soon . What player in their right mind would want to come to team that loses consistently. We have Hall and Nuge who will be consistent top ten players.The time is now ,we cannot afford much more losing or else this team will be in the rathole for years to come. No more excuses time to make it happen

  • outdoorzguy

    McTavish says I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go.” I’m reassured much more now knowing that management approves of this train wreck spiralling off the High Level Bridge sinking to the bottom of the North Saskatchewan River. So reassuring. This entire organization is a joke.