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.

  • Jofa

    “I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go.” … Really MacT???

    For a guy who started out with some very honest responses and assessments of his team, this statement, and frankly the whole interview, seems so naive and out of touch with the reality of the team’s position in this league. Behind closed doors, it feels like the Oiler brain trust, such that it is, still feel like the potential of this roster is the envy of the league.

    While other GMs may want access to the sort of assets the Oilers have at their disposal, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a GM who would suggest the Oilers have built an enviable roster given the time and picks they’ve had.

    I still feel like this ship could still be turned around with a few major trades, preferably without Lowe in the picture and getting Eakins some fresh assistant coaches who have been untouched with the past 8 yrs of losing. Wishful thinking at this point, I imagine. All we can do is hope MacT finds some good returns for the players he does move this trade deadline and beyond, and that the Smid trade isn’t an indication of what we can expect from him.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Love how he lied about the timing of the Acton signings.

    MacT answers were such as load of crap I would bet Staples bad to get the janitor in to clean up the interview room. Probably needed a big bucket.

  • BloodyEyes13

    Kevin Lowe is loyal to the Oilers brand/franchise. We need more people like Kevin Lowe in the Oiler’s organization. No doubt, he’s putting 110% effort in to turning this team around. I have faith that he’ll get the job done.

    People make such a big deal about the “Old Boys Club”, but when the winning begins (and believe me, we’re not far off), people will jump back on the bandwagon.

    Just have a little more patience, Oiler fans. GO OILERS GO!!!

    • Chainsawz

      If you think I’m off the Oilers bandwagon because I think Lowe isn’t good for this franchise, you’re wrong.

      There’s no doubt in Lowes effort. But he has a bad track record that suggests that he could give 200% and still fall short.

    • “Kevin Lowe is loyal to the Oilers brand/franchise.”

      You couldn’t be more right. Nobody cares more about the Edmonton Oilers than Lowe does. Nobody takes losing harder than Lowe does. I have no doubt these past several seasons have been more difficult for him than anybody else.

      That doesn’t change the results.

      • TayLordBalls

        Just because he’s loyal, doesn’t mean he knows what he’s doing. Proof is in the stats.

        He’s loyal, b/c no other team will hire him. He’d be grazing grass when he’s turfed.

        The rebuild has to start top down, not bottom up.

  • Bucknuck

    In my mind, if MacT is as smart as he seems, and he is the one making the personnel decisions, then Firing Lowe doesn’t make a bit of difference. All it would be is a sacrifice to appease angry fans.

    People always want to blame someone, and Lowe is the logical choice, since he has been the one in charge. I am just not convinced it really matters, so I wouldn’t put much energy into it.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Thanks for the eulogy on the KDN Brownlee.

    Local dailies are important for many, many reasons.

    And, while the newspaper business needs to adapt or die like everything else, these papers tend to be an extraordinarily valuable check on power in local communities. That function needs to be maintained in some fashion.

  • pkam

    Mr. Brownlee, you must have a personal vendetta against K. Lowe, you continually attack him.

    Let’s examine the record, were the Oilers capable of being a championship team before the salary cap was in place. I don’t think so, but they were a competitive team. When the cap came into place we got Pronger and Pecca, were those bad trades? At the trade deadline we were able to get Roloson, Spacek, Samsonov, and particularly with having Pronger we almost won the cup. Was K Lowe a bad GM at that time.
    Could you Mr. Brownlee have foreseen that Pronger would leave along with Pecca, Spacek and Samsonov?
    Combine that with Horcoff having a great season and Pisani playing well as well as Moreau, we know we have to overpay UFA’s and while in retrospect the deals weren’t good, would you have let them walk, what would the fan base have said at that time.

    Around 2008 Tambellini was hired and it wasn’t until the following year, I think that the rebuild was suggested as the way to go. Did you think Tambellini was a bad hire at the time, it is certainly easy to say so in retrospect.

    We have no idea at this point if MacT is the right choice but I think he deserves the chance, if he fails then rightly so the blame can be attached to K. Lowe for not getting the right General Managers, until then this continuing nonsense of hammering K Lowe, will do nothing to change the status quo unless you believe that MacT should go now.

    Mr. Brownlee, give it a rest

    • pkam

      … now we know what Kevin’s log-in name is here!!

      Mr. Faulkner you forgot to mention that you…i mean mr lowe has 6 rings and knows a bit about winning if there is ever a question.

    • Chainsawz

      Mr. Faulkner you sound like a Lowe apologist

      Lowe is the very reason the oilers are what they are here’s just a few examples:

      – Mike comrie trade for Corey Freaking Perry, which got nixed at last minute because lowe asked comrie for 2.5 mill in return

      – pursuing Danny Heatly and consequently missing out on signing Glencross

      – Drafting Marc Pouliot instead of Zach Parise

      – Getting nothing for Sheldon Souray

      – Letting Brodziak go for nothing

      – etc.etc

    • #ThereGoesTheOilers

      From the autumn of 2006 up to yesterday, the Oilers have recorded 229 wins and 358 losses under Kevin Lowe’s watch.

      They win once every three games. Firing Kevin Lowe won’t fix this.

      However, it’s hardly ‘attacking’ to point out that Lowe still retains his job despite this record. By what justification would you argue he should keep it?

    • MacTavish, in my mind, certainly does deserve more time to get the job done.

      It doesn’t naturally follow that, Lowe, the one constant at the top of hockey ops since 2000, should get the same benefit of the doubt.

      If this team finishes 24-30 again, I’m not of the mind MacTavish should be fired. Change the man at the top, Lowe, and I’m of the opinion the status quo will change.

      You have a different opinion, and that’s fine, but don’t tell me to give it a rest because I don’t see things your way.

      • Maverick007

        so if you are not firing MacT, how does changing the man at the top change things, unless you are of the opinion that MacT is a puppet. If you are frustrated with what is going on, so am I, but I fail to see how it changes anything by getting rid of Lowe

        • Oiler63

          I’m not the least bit frustrated because I do what I do whether the Oilers win or lose, but I certainly understand why many fans are.

          Leadership starts at the top. After 13 years overseeing the franchise as either GM or POHO, Lowe’s record speaks for itself. The culture here now is the culture he has cultivated.

          MacTavish is in his first year on the job as GM. There’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water, at least not at this point. We’ve seen a carousel of GMs, assistant GMs and coaches these past eight years. There has been only one constant.

          While a new POHO might want to make changes, starting with the GM, as Burke did down the road, there’s every chance MacTavish would be philosophically aligned with the new boss.

          One other possibility we don’t talk about much — who says the Oilers must have a POHO? Yes, it’s the trend, but who says MacTavish, aided by his assistant GMs, couldn’t run this show at least as well as it has been run lately?

      • pkam

        If you think MacT deserves more time to get the job done, then it is not the right time to fire K Lowe.

        If we fire Lowe now, what is the likelihood that the new POHO will keep MacT for at least another year, unless he is not given the option. If he is not given the option to hire his GM for at least the end of next season, why do we replace Lowe with another POHO now?

  • Dave "Killer" Carlson

    Ya, I read the article in the Journal. My take? Ass-kisser, politically replied statements.
    “I think we’re currently right on track to where we want to go.” – HA HA HA.

    How else is he supposed to publicly respond? Who’s side is MacT supposed to publicly defend?

    Smooch-Smooch, lick-lick. Brown-noser.

  • Dave "Killer" Carlson

    Totally agree with the statement that we, as fans, need to quit financially supporting the team if we want to see change. I’ve personally quit buying anything NHL related as a result of the idiotic lockout last season, with the exception of NHL Centre Ice so I can watch the Oilers. But I’ve even stopped doing that unless I have absolutely nothing else to do. Instead I’ve been watching other hockey – Sharks, Preds, Hawks, etc. I still follow Oilersnation devoutly but am not making special time to watch the Oilers till there is a consistent effort.

    • pkam

      So if the team starts to play better, does it matter to you if K Lowe is fired or not?

      And will you start to support the Oilers if K Lowe is fired but they continue to suck?

      • Dave "Killer" Carlson

        I realize this article is a few days old now and people may not read this but figured it was worth replying to.

        I couldn’t care less who was in charge. All I care about is watching hockey where the players give an honest effort every game, all game. I’ve supported the Oilers through all the futility of the last 7 seasons, even beyond that. What did it in for me this year was earlier in the season, after back to back home shutouts to the Wings and Leafs (I believe), someone posted a comment on O.N. that the players were partying it up at The Rack after stinking out Rexall. I play in a competitive rec league and after one game that I played particularly poorly in, I couldn’t bring myself to have a beer after the game – I didn’t earn that reward. So tell me how can I support a bunch of millionaire hockey players who are more concerned about partying than competing?

        I’ll continue to support the team as soon as they put in an honest effort – win or lose, regardless of who runs the show. Until then, I’ll get my the results from Oilersnation.

        Wanye, you’re doing a bang-up job. Keep it up.

    • Dave "Killer" Carlson

      Agreed.

      Loyalty is an admirable trait, especially in a competitive business like the NHL. It cannot, however, trump results over the long term or you get what we’re seeing here.

  • Bucknuck

    I’ve seen terrible bosses whose staff hate them stick around for years after they should have been fired. Conversely, I’ve seen bosses who were greatly admired by their staff get the can for inexplicable reasons.

    The point is that MacT is an employee of Lowe, and as such has no real power over whether Lowe goes or stays. So it’s really just words on the wind either way. It just doesn’t matter what MacT says about his boss.

  • Word to the Bird

    skidding Lowe wouldn’t change much other than display for all to see that times are changing, and perhaps instill some confidence in the organization for UFAs.

    but, tell me this, what harm would skidding him do? none.

    does Lowe deserve to still be here when this train wreck eventually rights itself (in about 3 years)? no.

    his poor decisions have this rebuild at least 2 years behind schedule and less of a guarantee that it will work out.

  • I like MacT and believe he will make things right however, if he is that
    devoted to Lowe , don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

    Messier is patiently waiting, another friend but one with more balls
    and if his fire is still there which i think it is, he is he greatest leader
    perhaps in pro-sports history period. He will cut the ties work wise
    and fix this mess [ No pun intended].

    All hail Messier.

  • Word to the Bird

    Lowe will be gone eventually. Considering less people show up to the games every year, Katz will start to sweat a little and finally realize that Lowe is just awful.