Frustration within the passionate and loyal fan base of the Edmonton Oilers is growing by the day and by the loss with the Oilers destined to miss the playoffs for an eighth straight season. Rightfully so.
Much of that frustration — again, rightfully so — is being directed at Kevin Lowe, the team’s former GM who is now owner Daryl Katz’s president of hockey operations. There was a sign of that, literally, at Rexall Place during Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. A fan sitting front row displayed a cardboard sign that read: "Fire Kevin Lowe."
The frustration directed toward Lowe is, in large part, because of the perception that, while he’s been bumped out of the hot seat and into the background publicly in his position by Katz, he’s still had his fingerprints all over player personnel decisions – trades and free agent signings — made by former GM Steve Tambellini and now Craig MacTavish.
Actually, perception is the wrong word. Lowe confirmed his participation in the decision-making process Tuesday during a wide-ranging interview on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260. While Lowe didn’t get specific about how much influence he has, it’s obvious he’s hands-on – we’re not talking about the façade of the "senior advisor" position Pat Quinn was dumped in.
Lowe has been, as has been noted before, the one constant in Edmonton’s front office through these eight years of ineptitude and losing dating back to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, and beyond.
WHAT HE SAID
Gregor asked Lowe what role he played as POHO in the decision-making process with Tambellini and now MacTavish.
"I would say that uh, that uh . . . really, it’s a tough, tough question," Lowe said. "Craig is the general manager, as was Steve Tambellini. They go about their business and shop around the NHL with the scouting staff and collectively throughout the organization try to come up with ways to make the hockey club better, whether it’s signing a player or trading a player or what have you.
"At the end of the way, when those recommendations or when those ideas come up, Craig will talk to me and get my feelings on it and you know . . . we talk enough over the course of the season that I generally know where he’s going on things and, you know, there’s an owner that has to make a call in terms of whether you’re going to spend the money for a free agent or trade an asset that’s been part of the organization for a while, so there’s a collective decision being made.
"I mean, if there’s any concern that our people can’t make decisions without me endorsing them, then that’s not accurate. We’ve always had a, taken the approach from the day that I took over as general manager that we’re collectively going to make decisions – not that it’s a purely democratic process, but it’s wise of you to involve as many people in your organization when you are making decisions.
"It’s not a fiefdom where one person says, ‘No, this is what we’re going to do.’ It’s a collective group decision on any strategy that the hockey team is going to make. It’s not easy. We’ve been in this rebuild and it’s incredibly frustrating for everyone. The fans should know that, for the people that are running the show they are probably, I don’t even know if you can compare it, but in terms of frustration, it’s incredibly frustrating, but we’re in it. We are where we are.
"The only thing we can do is continue to work hard and believe that, in time, if we’ve done the drafting we hope we’ve done and we are patient with the young players that they’re going to become the players we expect them to be and it’ll result in a, you know, positive and exciting hockey team."
(Photo via @quickone1 on Twitter)
STARTS AT THE TOP
Lowe was at the top of Edmonton’s management food chain as GM for eight seasons – he had nobody to answer to in hockey operations decisions, except ownership, until he was moved to POHO in July 2008. Essentially, anybody Lowe huddled with when making decisions as the GM was an underling – an assistant GM, members of his scouting staff or coaches. It stands to reason Lowe’s opinion carried more weight than anybody else’s did.
Was that the case during Tambellini’s troubled and indecisive tenure in Lowe’s former position? I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it. Is that the case now with MacTavish? No way. Still, you’d have to be a fool to think Lowe doesn’t carry considerable swing in every hockey decision made now.
Simply put, Lowe had more say than anybody else in the organization in building the Oilers from 2000 to 2008 as GM. At the very least, he has had considerable influence in hockey decisions made since then. That’s a span of command and influence approaching 14 seasons.
Draw your own conclusions.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.