FINALLY, PATIENCE MAKES SENSE

patience

The Edmonton Oilers have been making promises and preaching patience for so long, eye-rolling revulsion at the cheque-is-in-the-mail pitch coming out of hockey operations has almost become a gag reflex with fans. With good reason.

First and foremost, of course, the Oilers haven’t come close to delivering on the hope they’ve been selling during nine straight years out of the playoffs in what’s been a one-step-forward, two-steps-back span of ineptitude including a pair of back-to-back finishes in 30th place. Patience? Why?

Second, results aside, it’s been a tough sell because of the people delivering the message. Those calling the shots have either been friends of owner Daryl Katz, the FOK Gang, like recycled GM Kevin Lowe as POHO and retread coach Craig MacTavish as GM, or their hires — Steve Tambellini, the most reluctant guy in the room, and Dallas Eakins, the smartest guy in the room.

Any decisions, good or bad, Lowe and MacTavish made drew cynicism from fans because they seemed as interested in employing old pals and teammates as they did in making tough hockey ops decisions in terms or personnel and moving the never-ending rebuild along.

That changed, even though we didn’t believe it at the time, with the hiring of Bob Nicholson, who was going to do an audit from top to bottom and report his findings to Katz. Change would come. I rolled my eyes. Did you? Then, it actually happened. In came Peter Chiarelli as GM. In came Todd McLellan as head coach. Gone or demoted were several FOK.

That’s why, from where I sit, patience finally makes sense.

CONTINUITY CALLING

continuity

While Chiarelli sits near the top of hockey ops as GM and POHO, under only Nicholson, I want to start by talking about McLellan as his hire pertains to what comes next and why I’m comfortable, finally, believing that making sweeping changes in hockey ops should give way to patience, with the key words being continuity and consistency.

In what’s been a ridiculous coaching carousel behind the bench, McLellan becomes Edmonton’s seventh bench boss in eight seasons, following MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Eakins and Todd Nelson. We’ve sliced and diced the virtues and shortcomings of each of these men here ad nauseam, so no need to re-visit that.

Suffice to say, the revolving door approach produced nothing resembling sustained success. How can any group of players on a good team, let alone a bad one like the Oilers have been, excel and grow when the man delivering the message and drawing up the game plan changes every season?

Is McLellan, who missed the playoffs just once in seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, the answer? We don’t know, but what we do know is that McLellan isn’t a hire of Lowe or MacTavish and he brought in his own coaching staff – neither of which applied to his predecessors. Given that, and his resume, I’m willing to sit back and see. How about you?

THE NEW BOSS

Boss

The Oilers thought enough of Chiarelli that when the Boston Bruins cut him loose Nicholson snapped him up. Lowe, at long last, was bounced right out of hockey ops to the business side and MacTavish was demoted. Again, his resume in Boston aside, Chiarelli’s not a hire of Lowe or MacTavish and that’s a big plus, at least in the eyes of jaded fans.

After years of “Lowe is pulling the strings from behind the scenes” lament from fans – with good reason – only the most strident cynic would suggest that’s the case moving forward. Does anybody believe that Chiarelli will have to answer to the guys who made the mess in the first place? I don’t.

Chiarelli brought in McLellan and let him pick his coaches. He gutted the amateur and pro scouting staffs, which had become a hockey version of the Senate and was littered with former Oilers and old friends. We watched him work at the Entry Draft. He addressed areas of need with the acquisition of Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, Griffin Reinhart, and Eric Gryba.

There’s still work to do of course, and we’ve yet to see how the moves Chiarelli has made early in his tenure will pan out, but, as is the case with McLellan, I’m willing to sit back and watch with a reasonable level of confidence that the days of ridiculous big swings and misses are over. 

 THE BOTTOM LINE

bottom

While the Oilers remain far from a finished product, this is no longer a team that’s a laughable mess that’s being run by FOK and in need of sweeping changes in hockey ops and in player personnel. Tweaks? Yes. A smoldering dumpster fire? No, thankfully.

At long last, I believe that the hiring of Chiarelli and McLellan, not to mention the addition of that kid named Connor McDavid, signals that the days of empty promises are over, the cheque might actually be in the mail and the pay-off for fans of the Oilers is finally coming.

Patience makes sense.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • hagar

    Well… I should say that there was seemingly no intention to make the most of the team. It seems fairly obvious that the powers that be haven’t taken anything seriously. That being said, if that was the case, it was the owner not making management moves that were needed. The dummies in charge probably thought they were trying hard.

    Why are they still employed?

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Come on guys, no team in the leauge “intentionally loses”, except for buffalo last year I suppose, and buffalo got what they deserved at the draft lotto.

      The oil are just a bad team. With everyone a year older though I expect this will be a better year. Playoffs aren’t in the picture yet but I can’t see another 20 game losing streak like last year happen again. Man that was a pathetic stretch.

    • hagar

      but, ultimately, Katz made the right decisions in the end. While Lowe and Mact are not completely gone, they are, I believe, moved aside and out of harms way. Yes, it was a decision that came, probably, 2 years too late, but it did come.

      Other than being overly loyal to his friends (which many would say is an admirable quality in almost every other walk of life), I’m OK with almost every Katz has done. Sure, he played hardball with the City, but that’s how things are done when you’re dealing with 9 figure business ventures.

  • Wax Man Riley

    The Oilers should be better this season than last , but still questionable as to how much , and whether it is enough to start climbing in standings . With the new regimes some expected more than what has been done so far for the on ice product . Some probably worried we are still stuck with Nikitin and Ference ,etc., and saddened we lost out on trying for Hamilton . No big names and minor tweaking beyond McDavid seems prevalent . Now we see if coaching can make a difference and get them to gel into a decent team . We have had minor tweaking and major throughout last 9 seasons but all have flopped . Being patient and tolerant has done nothing for fans over such a long period of time other than keeping us a NHL team here which is admirable . Satisfaction comes with far better results than we have been short changed on . It is not unusual for fans to want more out of new regimes than what has been done so far .

    After 9 yeas of poor hockey results and frustration new optimism comes with new regime and McDavid . Can’t fault Katz , as owner , who wanted to have a very competitive team with people he has admired and hired to help find a winning formula here . He loves the city and the fans . He gave his friends every opportunity imagineable to form a winner here . They were unable to do so ,and fascilitated the new regime to help correct those poor results and pain . Fans seem so accustomed to dissing old regimes it is hard not to do so with new regime as well until better results are shown on ice performance . Fans have a right to be leery/skeptical after 9 years of underperformances by team .

  • Derzie

    The lottery win changed everything. It made actual hockey people interested in the Oilers. Enter Chiarelli and a new coach. The offense is skilled but still lacks compete and grit. Years of bad management will do that so patience is job 1. The D is not yet legit but Nurse is a killer so when he is ready, good things will happen. The fact that Lowe, Mac T and Howson are still around is a huge red flag. This is where patience will not be embraced. If things go sideways in the early stages, the old boys will rise like the mighty missisip to Katz rescue. This years ‘hope’ has more teeth than the last decade but there is a lot of river to cross.

  • Wax Man Riley

    It is nice to finally have a bright future, realistically. There will be progress made under the new regime. Very good hockey mindintellugent s with experience winning as management.
    I think it was right to keep Lowe and Mac T on. Both have been Oilers in many roles and in their hearts for years.
    I think that we will continue to see intelligent hockey decisions made and a winner built

  • Wax Man Riley

    It is nice to finally have a bright future, realistically. There will be progress made under the new regime. Very good hockey mindintellugent s with experience winning as management.
    I think it was right to keep Lowe and Mac T on. Both have been Oilers in many roles and in their hearts for years.
    I think that we will continue to see intelligent hockey decisions made and a winner built

  • Spiel

    Patience?
    The team beat the odds to win a lottery. Notice that shortly after the lottery win we saw sweeping changes in management?

    I’m thinking Connor’s agent threatened a Lindros situation unless the trash was taken out.