There’s a sizeable and growing segment of Edmonton Oiler fans who believe their team’s plummet to rock bottom these past eight seasons begins at the top. I have a difficult time disagreeing with them.
Frustrated fans most often point the finger of accusation and contempt for years of ineptitude at president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, who was kicked upstairs into that position in 2008 by owner Daryl Katz after acting as GM for eight years, starting in 2000.
Those who believe that Lowe, at or parallel to the top of the decision-making pecking order as GM or POHO these last 14 years, should pay with his job for yet another season of dismal disappointment seem to have found a like-minded ally in National Post columnist Bruce Arthur.
When the subject of the Oilers, waxed 8-1 by the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place Saturday, came up on TSN’s The Reporters Sunday, Arthur, a regular panelist, offered comment on Edmonton’s rebuild, the exchange between Taylor Hall and coach Dallas Eakins and another sweater-tossing episode.
Arthur also made a comment that, unless I’ve got it all wrong, seemed to be directed at Lowe. It’s a comment, I suspect, that had Lowe’s critics nodding in agreement.
WHAT THEY SAID
Host Dave Hodge started proceedings, then tossed it over to Arthur. Here’s a partial transcript, which also ran in editions of the Edmonton Journal today, of what they said.
Dave Hodge: “Calgary-Edmonton. I throw the names out, you can throw a jersey, you can throw a water bottle, you can tell me how it gets worse for Edmonton than losing at home 8-1 to Calgary.”
Bruce Arthur: “Eight years of rebuilding. How many times during that span have the Edmonton Oilers fan base said, ‘Is this as bad as it can get? Is this rock bottom? Is this … really, can it get any worse than this?’ Last night they’re playing a Calgary team that is not as talented as the Edmonton Oilers. And they get drilled.
“And you get the jersey thrown on the ice by another disaffected fan. By the way, if you’re an Edmonton Oiler and you’re offended by a fan throwing the jersey back, I don’t think you should be as offended as the fan who bought the jersey and paid full price for it.
“Dallas Eakins didn’t look like he lost it on the bench with Taylor Hall when the water bottle sprayed him, but that looks small. The Oilers at this point … people use them as an argument against tanking. What they should be is an argument against relentless ineptitude from management, and at what point do people above the general manager’s level begin to pay for it?”
“Relentless ineptitude from management.” “People above the general manager’s level” – that would be Lowe and only Lowe, at least in terms of hockey-ops. Biting stuff from Arthur, to be sure. Did you read or hear the comments? Did you nod in agreement? Have you asked the same question?
The last time I tossed the spotlight in Lowe’s direction – a couple of times within a week, if I recall correctly – most people gave an unreserved “hell yeah,” although one person accused me of having a vendetta against Lowe (I don’t) and said I should leave him alone (I won’t).
Firing Lowe tomorrow wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference in how good the Oilers are here and now. It wouldn’t make the players play better or play harder or play smarter. It wouldn’t make the power play better. It won’t change the standings.
Firing Lowe tomorrow won’t undo the lousy signings and free agent acquisitions made by departed GM Steve Tambellini. It won’t immediately effect some of the questionable tactical decisions made by Eakins. It won’t make the defensive group in place now good enough or deep enough.
All the above said, continuing to hire and fire GMs, coaches and assistant coaches and to bring in and ship out players and turn over the entire roster, as has happened in recent seasons, without addressing the one constant since 2000 – Lowe – before firing up the hockey-ops carousel again is insanity.
How can Katz not make that change this off-season? How can he not offer the people who buy the tickets to watch his team something resembling a clean slate at the top after eight straight years out of the playoffs? Why should fans, having seen what we’ve seen, demand anything less?
WHILE I’M AT IT
. . . I tweeted last night that I didn’t mind seeing some frustration and emotion on the bench between Eakins and Hall, considering how badly the Oilers were playing. The problem is nobody wearing Edmonton silks did much to direct any of the same toward the guys in Calgary silks.
. . . Ben Scrivens hoisting the jersey back at the fan who tossed it on the ice didn’t bother me, but I thought his words after the game were over-the-top. Seemed like the time-tested us-against-the-world ploy, to me. The way the latest editions of the team have soiled the Oil Drop with hideous efforts like Saturday, Scrivens and his teammates might want to consider how much respect they’ve shown the uniform they wear.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.