Can Katz make the difficult decision?

ThreeAmigos

The Oilers organization needs an overhaul. The results this season and over the past seven years reflect a team that has lost its way off and on the ice. Nine years without a playoff appearance, with the last seven seasons being incredibly painful. 

The Oilers are 177-255-62 since the beginning of the 2008-2009 season. They have had six consecutive top-ten picks in the at span: 10th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 7th, 3rd and are on their way to another 1st or 2nd pick.

Many things need to change, but where should Daryl Katz begin?

I want to make it clear I don’t believe firing people is easy and should be discussed flippantly. These are people with families and I recognize how much it can impact their life.

The Oilers track record, however, suggests that while they might not like firing people, they have no problem doing it, especially if it is a head coach or assistant coaches.

It is time Katz look seriously at changing his management group.

This is a results driven business and no one has had worse results than his current management team over the past few seasons.

Kevin Lowe became President of Hockey Operations on July 31st, 2008. He hired Steve Tambellini as general manager and he wasn’t going to be as active in the day-to-day business of the team. We can all speculate to what level of feedback he had on the team, so instead of rehashing that for the millionth time, let’s look strictly at the facts and track record.

Lowe was the general manager for seven seasons: from 2000/2001 to 2007/2008. During his time as GM the Oilers went 263-217-94. They made the playoffs three times and went to the Stanley Cup final in 2006. Lowe had much more success as the GM, when he was calling the shots, compared to being the POHO.

Lowe has hired two general managers during his tenure as POHO.

Steve Tambellini missed the playoffs in all of his five seasons. Tambellini hired three head coaches during his tenure.

Craig MacTavish will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season, and since taking over the GM role in Edmonton his team has a record of 36-66-16. He has fired two head coaches in 20 months, and his second “hire”, Todd Nelson, is on an interim basis, but Nelson has yet to actually coach a game on his own. 

The two men Lowe hired have not produced. Regardless of how much input he has, or doesn’t, during his tenure as POHO the Oilers have missed the playoffs for a soon-to-be seven straight seasons.

The formula with Lowe as POHO is not working.

Lowe has done a lot for the Oilers organization, and that should never be forgotten. I find it ridiculous when people try to downplay his ability as a player, because they are angry from his work in management. The two are not connected. Even if Lowe and the Oilers want to believe they are, they simply are not.

Lowe was a very good player, and if it wasn’t for the asinine rule that only players in the Hall of Fame have their numbers retired by the Oilers, his #4 should be in the rafters.

At the very least, the Oilers could adopt the philosophy of the Toronto Maple Leafs and have two separate categories. Retired numbers, and honoured numbers. The retired ones are out of circulation, while honoured numbers are still in use. I’d have no problem if the Oilers honoured Lowe and Ryan Smyth for their contributions to the organization. Neither will be a Hall of Fame player, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do a lot for the team as players.

Katz has to look at his organization and realize that the plan is not working. As difficult as it will be for him, he needs to let go of the past and focus on the future. This team needs to start improving. Regardless of how much insight Lowe has on the team or not, the men he has hired haven’t got the job done.

He is accountable for that.

MACTAVISH

He has only been on the job for 20 months, and often a GM needs more time than that to change the face of his team. However, since taking over MacTavish has made significant change, but none of it has resulted in progress; in fact the team is actually worse statistically.

He has fired two coaches. He has hired two coaches. His hiring/promotion of Nelson has been very odd. He put Nelson in an incredibly awkward situation. He promoted him from the AHL, but he has yet to hand him the coaching reigns. It is a brutal position for Nelson, and one where he has virtually no way of looking good.

Either hire him to be the coach, or don’t.

The handling of Nelson is a reflection of how the overall organization is being run right now; they don’t have a plan for success.

Lowe and MacTavish along with the rest of the management and scouting staff have built a team that can’t win.

The players need to shoulder some blame as well, there is no debating that, but even if they were playing their best this team is still not good enough to be a playoff contender.

They lack size, weight and grit in their top-nine. They lack much the same in their top-four defencemen. You can’t win purely on skill, and the Oilers haven’t built a team that is willing to work hard in the hard areas on the ice.

They handed too much responsibility to young players before they were able to accept it.

Since taking over MacTavish has weakened the centre position. Horcoff and Gagner were better than Draisiatl and Arcobello. They weren’t great, but they were better.

MacTavish has changed out every player on the team except for six; Hall, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov, Schultz and Petry. That means he has changed 17 players out of the 23-man roster, but the team has not improved.

Will the next 17 changes produce better results?

Is Katz willing to take that risk?

I don’t see how he can. He needs to make some changes to his management team, and it can’t solely be amateur and pro scouts.

DECISION TIME

Decisions

The toughest decision facing Katz right now is arguably when is the right time to make changes to his management team. If he does it now, the list of potential candidates is much shorter than it would be when the season is over.

If he fires his amateur scouts, then who will oversee the 2015 draft? Will other NHL teams let their amateur scouts leave prior to the draft so they can run the Oilers? Some might, but many teams won’t.

There is no arguing this will be a difficult decision for Katz.

He is a huge fan of Lowe and MacTavish, and when you create a personal connection it makes it more than just a working relationship. I understand that, but I also recognize that this team has not shown signs of improving for almost a decade.

At some point Katz will need to a business decision. Lowe and MacTavish have been a part of many past successes of the Oilers, and that should always be remembered, however, their success rate in management over the past seven seasons has been well below average.

The roster has been overhauled numerous times during the that time, and again during MacTavish’s 20-month tenure, and so has the coaching staff. Those moves have not yielded positive results.

It is time Katz looks higher up the chain of command, and I believe you will see some change within the management structure and personnel between now and the 2015 draft.

PARTING SHOT…

  • The Oilers have claimed 24 year old winger Matt Fraser off of waivers. The Bruins waived him after acquiring him in the Tyler Seguin deal in the summer of 2013. Fraser has an excellent shot and quick release. He is an average skater and not overly gritty. He will go to the net, however, according to Joe Haggerty, Bruins beat writer.

    Fraser might pan out, but he is another winger with offensive potential who isn’t very gritty. He likely will get a look on the PP. They desperately need someone who is willing to shoot the puck. Which top-nine winger will they demote to the 4th line to get him icetime? Likely Tyler Pitlick. The Oilers have put Steve Pinizzotto on waivers to make room for Fraser.

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  • WTF2

    Kim Jong-Lowe is most responsible for the painful past 9 years. He must be like a zombie walking the halls of old Rexall Place. He is well past his best before date and has no real friends left in the hockey world. In one word he is a loser.

    If Lowe had a pair he would do the honourable thing and extricate himself from the team for good. To say his best bud Katz wonn’t accept a resignation is simply an excuse. He will be judged by his actions alone, no one wants to hear him speak again.

  • Milhouse Van Ched

    Wow, what a bunch of trolls posting disgusting comments. Give your heads a shake!

    As for all the comments on MacT’s degree. Seriously??

    There are numerous GMs in sports, including the NHL, that do not have degrees. A degree does not make for a better sports GM. I do not believe that NHL GMs Ken Holland (Detroit), Dale Tallon (Florida), Mark Bergevin (Montreal), Doug Wilson (San Jose) or Glen Sather have university degrees. Notwithstanding, all are great GMs. You want a GM that knows the game, has good relations with other hockey people at various levels and can spot talent (both on and off ice). As for the education level, that would concern the business side of the game. If a GM is lacking that area, this is when you have people that serve as assistants who handle the business side of the game – player contracts, etc – whom likely have degrees in business and finance.

    Good on MacT to attain a degree from Queens when he was out of the game for a period. That helps him on the business side of hockey, notwithstanding the fact that there are others who handle that aspect. MacT’s role is more on-ice, which as we all know, is in a tail spin. But I agree with him when he says you can’t associate him with the management decisions that occurred from 2000 to 2009, when he was the coach, or from 2009 to 2012 when he was away from the Oilers and the NHL. He came back with the team in June 2012 and was appointed GM in April 2013. He needs more time as GM.

    Kevin Lowe is the person that has been wearing a management hat with this team since 2000, and that’s where the accountability has to lie. That should be the first step to take in the new program, Oilers Rebuild 2.0.

    For all you posters who are experts in the education field. I guess you didn’t take English judging by your grammar and spelling?

  • Gilmore Tuttle

    Just have to say awesome day for Arcobello! Merry xmas bro! Leave this S%#T show behind you and never speak of this team and those dark dark years ever again! Happy times in greener pastures for you pal!

    Congrats Arco! As for Roy, sorry pal. Welcome to H3LL!!!!!!

    • M22

      This may not be such a happy day for Arco as you might think. His best chance at regular NHL minutes just evaporated, not to mention NHL money.

      If it were me, I’d much rather spend my time traveling with the NHL’s version of the Ringling Brothers Circus, at ten times(?) the salary than I’d make toiling for quality outfits in the A.

      I hope I’m wrong, because I like Arcobello. I hope he sticks with the parent club, but I can’t see it being any more than spot-duty call-ups for him.

  • Johnnydapunk

    It may have been mentioned already but the rule that The rule regarding only Hall of Fame players having their number retired by the Oilers must be a new one as Al Hamilton’s number 3 is retired by the Oil and he isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

    He has the unique honour of being the only Oiler to have his number retired and not be part of the 80s dynasty.

    Anyone know when the Oilers changed the rule ?

  • CMG30

    I like the context of this article but found the content to repeat a few times making this article as long as one of MacT’s press conferences. Shorter is better. Point is that behind the bench and up stairs needs to be rebuilt. We’ve essentially got a rebuild going on a crumbling foundation. Management is the foundation and its cracked and falling apart.

  • CMG30

    I argee It is a time for a change, Perception on how the oilers have been run falls on Lowe’s poor choices, to many close ties in keys positions. clearly the macT hiring was a poor choice, no experience at the role to many big promises not kept. It still surprises me how many big time media types want to give macT a pass. To many fond memories of his playing and coaching days or to close of personal relationship?Oiler fans deserve better both from the team and from local media to do there jobs, no other canadian city would have put up with the garbage that has happened here for this long. Oilers need an overhaul top to bottom, right now there seems to be a concern with just the scouting department, I would say they need to also look at player development as there is a growing pattern of ex-oiler young stars resurrecting there careers on other teams. Simply put for us oiler fans the reality is that we are at least 3-4 years away from making the playoffs unless a blockbuster trade nets true number 1 dman and a decent goalie.

  • Andy7190

    He was convicted, and he served his penalty, according to the law.

    You want to argue that, you go to the jurisdiction it took place in and argue the penalty was too lenient.

    Don’t confuse that issue with the issue of his employment with the Oilers.