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Top 100 Oilers: Kevin Lowe (7)

With Kevin Lowe’s tenure with the Edmonton Oilers approaching 40 years since he became the first player the franchise ever drafted back in 1979, it follows his on-ice accomplishments fade a little bit with each passing year – even for those of us old enough to have watched Lowe play when the Oilers were parading up and down Jasper Avenue with the Stanley Cup.

Fans under the age of 30 likely think of Lowe primarily as a coach and manager – of some very forgettable teams, no less — because that’s what they remember. Rather than think of Lowe as one of the original Boys on the Bus, some consider him one of the charter members of the Old Boys Club, which was as derogatory a term as you could get during the dark days of this franchise. I’m of a vintage where I remember both, and when I separate one from the other, there’s not one shred of doubt in my mind Lowe is one of the greatest players ever to wear Edmonton silks.

Kevin Lowe

Defense
Born Apr 15 1959 — Lachute, PQ
Height 6.02 — Weight 200 [188 cm/91 kg]

Drafted by Edmonton Oilers

Round 1 #21 overall 1979 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

Awards

1979-80

20

EDM

64

2

19

21

1

70

86

2.3

1980-81

21

EDM

79

10

24

34

-10

94

115

8.7

1981-82

22

EDM

80

9

31

40

46

63

110

8.2

AS-7,Norris-10
1982-83

23

EDM

80

6

34

40

39

43

92

6.5

1983-84

24

EDM

80

4

42

46

37

59

81

4.9

AS-12
1984-85

25

EDM

80

4

21

25

9

104

83

4.8

AS-11,Norris-7
1985-86

26

EDM

74

2

16

18

24

90

57

3.5

AS-13
1986-87

27

EDM

77

8

29

37

41

94

99

8.1

AS-14
1987-88

28

EDM

70

9

15

24

18

89

82

11.0

AS-5,Norris-5
1988-89

29

EDM

76

7

18

25

26

98

85

8.2

AS-9,Norris-8
1989-90

30

EDM

78

7

26

33

18

140

74

9.5

AS-10,Clancy-1
1990-91

31

EDM

73

3

13

16

-9

113

51

5.9

AS-13
1991-92

32

EDM

55

2

8

10

-4

107

33

6.1

AS-16
1992-93

33

NYR

49

3

12

15

-2

58

52

5.8

1993-94

34

NYR

71

5

14

19

4

70

50

10.0

1994-95

35

NYR

44

1

7

8

-2

58

35

2.9

1995-96

36

NYR

53

1

5

6

20

76

30

3.3

1996-97

37

EDM

64

1

13

14

-1

50

46

2.2

1997-98

38

EDM

7

0

0

0

-3

22

5

0.0

15 yrs EDM

1037

74

309

383

232

1236

1099

6.7

4 yrs NYR

217

10

38

48

20

262

167

6.0

Career

1254

84

347

431

252

1498

1266

6.6

PLAYOFFS

Season

Age

Tm

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

S

S%

1979-80

20

EDM

3

0

1

1

0

0

3

0.0

1980-81

21

EDM

9

0

2

2

2

11

7

0.0

1981-82

22

EDM

5

0

3

3

1

0

9

0.0

1982-83

23

EDM

16

1

8

9

8

10

19

5.3

1983-84

24

EDM

19

3

7

10

13

16

19

15.8

1984-85

25

EDM

16

0

5

5

5

8

20

0.0

1985-86

26

EDM

10

1

3

4

6

15

16

6.3

1986-87

27

EDM

21

2

4

6

8

22

21

9.5

1987-88

28

EDM

19

0

2

2

2

26

9

0.0

1988-89

29

EDM

7

1

2

3

-1

4

11

9.1

1989-90

30

EDM

20

0

2

2

3

10

11

0.0

1990-91

31

EDM

14

1

1

2

-1

14

5

20.0

1991-92

32

EDM

11

0

3

3

-2

16

7

0.0

1993-94

34

NYR

22

1

0

1

6

20

15

6.7

1994-95

35

NYR

10

0

1

1

-5

12

7

0.0

1995-96

36

NYR

10

0

4

4

5

4

7

0.0

1996-97

37

EDM

1

0

0

0

-1

0

0

1997-98

38

EDM

1

0

0

0

0

4

0

Career

214

10

48

58

49

192

186

5.

AWARDS

1989-90 King Clancy Memorial Trophy

NOTABLE

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Never in my life have I met anybody more competitive or more passionate about winning than Lowe, who did nothing but win here as a player, sipping from five Stanley Cups. He’d hack and fight. He’d knock your teeth out, if that’s what it took. Opponents who had the balls to do the same to him had better pack a lunch. He’d come back at them, broken bones and all, harder than ever. Is that all you’ve got? They called Lowe “Vish,” as in vicious, and it fit. Lowe hoisted the 1988 Stanley Cup with broken ribs and a broken wrist. He celebrated by holding up four fingers, encased in a plaster cast, for that one.

Truth be told, Lowe was competitive to a fault, and it wasn’t false bravado – a look-at-how-badly-I-want-to-win display. There was a fire burning there that was, at times, frightening on and off the ice. I saw it. I felt it. In his years as coach, GM and POHO when the franchise was floundering – outside reaching the 2006 Cup final – I often wondered how Lowe slept at night. While some frustrated fans raged about Lowe driving the franchise into the ditch while kicking back comfortably with a salary for life under ownership of the EIG and then Daryl Katz, I feared for his health. Nobody hated losing more than Lowe did. Nobody.

That competitive streak served Lowe well from the moment he arrived in Edmonton as the Oilers’ first-ever draft pick, taken 21st overall from the Quebec Remparts. While he’d share an apartment with Wayne Gretzky in their early years here, Lowe was in many ways the polar opposite of his roomie and the rest of the talented, young group of players the Oilers would gather after they came over from the WHA. Lowe, not without offensive skills, prided himself on playing a solid defensive game first. He was mean as hell in front of his own net. He blocked shots. He fought for every inch of ice. Lowe exacted a price from opponents and willingly paid it as well.

THE STORY

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Lowe’s first tenure as a player with the Oilers ended after he held out for a new contract in the summer of 1992. GM Glen Sather traded him to the New York Rangers. Lowe won his sixth Cup with the Rangers in 1994 on a team that included former Oilers Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Adam Graves and Esa Tikkanen. Lowe returned to Edmonton for the 1996-97 season after being signed as a free agent. He’d play 64 games that season on a team that had long before been gutted of its greats by owner Peter Pocklington.

“He has a heart the size of Cleveland, the guts and effort it takes to win,” Doug Weight said of Lowe a few months after his return to Edmonton. “And he knows it when he talks to us. He’s got it all as a leader.” It was no surprise for those who knew Lowe that he circled back. “I always knew that if the opportunity was here I’d come back to Edmonton,” he said. “First and foremost, because it is home. It’s where my friends are. It’s where I had the best days of my life and, hopefully, the best days to come.”

That, as we know, wasn’t to be. Lowe’s years as a coach and manager after he was forced into retirement by, of all things, an ear condition that affected his balance, never replicated his days as a player here. Really, how could they? Lowe scored the first NHL goal in franchise history. He won five Stanley Cups. He succeeded Messier as team captain. He was an all-star seven times. Along the way, Lowe played more regular season (1,037) and playoff games (172) than any other Oiler.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • Serious Gord

    No one person more typifies the storyline of the oil than Lowe. And in doing so is a metaphor for why the organization was so badly managed and is at risk to continue being badly managed in the future.

    A very good player no doubt and worthy of a top ten placement.

    But his and to a lesser extent Mactavish’s legacy will be forever marred by their actions at the management level.

      • Serious Gord

        Baloney. As Pres of hockey opps he was very much involved/to blame for continuing the disaster that he began when he became GM in 2000.

        He was visibly active in hockey opps from 1998 to 2015 – 17 years. That’s just one year less than the length of his playing career. (How much influence he has had since is unknown to the public though both chia and Nicholson insist he is involved)

        • Dr

          Serious Gord, if you were an executive in the best hockey league in the world, would you accept a position if you didn’t have autonomy? A good leader and boss hires people he trusts, and gives them the autonomy to make decisions. Lowe trusted Tambellini and let him run the team. Would Tambellini have taken the job if he knew he was just a puppet? How would that relationship have worked if Lowe vetoed everything Tambellini wanted to do? Lowe’s mistakes were trusting Tambellini in the first place, and letting go too long. The list of Tambellini’s mistakes is much longer (see Barker, Eager, Hordichuk, Belanger, etc.).
          I put far more blame on Tambellini than Lowe. I also put a lot on MacT. He was only GM for 18 months, and his list of mistakes is staggering.

          • McDavid's Comet

            @Dr

            Although I agree with your comment, I would like to say that Lowe should have recognized Mr. Dithers was incapable of performing his job and done something about it a lot sooner.

          • Serious Gord

            One would hope to autonomy. And certainly in my own experience autonomy is almost without exception BEEN PROMISED. However many times that promise is broken. And certainly in chias case it is widely thought that he was not given autonomy on the Reinhart acquisition. I’m just going on what chia and Nicholson’s public statements are. I have no idea – nor do I suspect do you – what the reality behind closed doors is.

            What I do know is that Mact was at the draft table (I can’t recall if Lowe was) and that by doing so at the very least he was occupying a spot where someone not of the old boys could be.

          • Dr

            McDavid’s Comet: Yes, Lowe should’ve recognised sooner that Mr Dithers didn’t have the stomach for the job. Or the eye for talent.
            Serious Gord: Do you think that Chia was unaware of Griffin Reinhart before coming to Edmonton? He was a fifth overall pick. I’m sure the Bruins scouted him and Chia had heard of him. It wasn’t a totally blind trade. Maybe Bob Green and MacT had input, but I am sure Chia wanted Reinhart too.
            Off topic, if they hadn’t made Reinhart deal, they could’ve used that pick to draft Thomas Chabot, who looked great in the WJC.

        • gr8haluschak

          This is such a stupid comment, yes we know Kevin Lowe hit on your wife and you hate him and yes we get it you feel you know more than anyone else but you are a moron. Tell me how was it Lowe’s fault that he had an ownership group that had to focus on keeping the team hear and did not have the money to compete when there was no cap, let’s hear it. I know it was also Lowe’s fault that Weight was getting 9 million on the market too. I also love how you claim the disaster began in 2000, yeah I forgot how peachy the situation was from 93 to then with the massive sell off, the piss poor attendance, the threats of moving (I am actually surprised you did not to blame Lowe for all of that too). Finally I would love to know how he was “visibly” active in hockey ops when Sather was running the team.

          • Serious Gord

            Last first. He was assistant coach starting then. I would consider that visibly active in hockey ops. I didn’t say he was in charge of it.

            The trouble began before 2000 – the nepotism/old boys were messing things up before then but he did nothing to stop it instead he doubled down on it.

            As for your ad hominem attack on je it doesn’t help your argument – it degrades it. You can do better.

          • fasteddy

            I get a kick out of how short sighted people are….Lowe, to a lessor extent MacT, and those involved at the upper levels did the best thing they could possibly do; go young and get high picks. There is no such thing as high end talent outside the top of the draft. No one would sign in Edm, (Eric Belanger’s of the world aside), they did the wisest thing possible by getting high end talent for this team. Happens in every single case; the people in charge fall on their sword for the betterment of the franchise.

        • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          Personally, I’d put Huddy out on the ice in the last minute of play over Lowe. I think that Huddy had a lot to do with making Coffey Coffey. I can’t say that about Lowe with any better player on the Oilers, although I think Lowe earned a PhD in hockey from playing with Fogolin.

          Come to think of it, I might put Foggy higher than Lowe. He was a captain that taught the captains how to captain. Those two are just top of mind. Not sure about Smith and Beuke, but they were quite a pair as well, without the same silverware, but they never quit on the ice or off it.
          Up the ice, I think that Tik was outstanding talent-wise (better than Lowe), more versatile, and added more to the complexion of a line, not to mention play off performances (game 7 against Calgary). So that’s about 4 players who may be better and I haven’t even mentioned McT.

        • Ryan68

          Pronger, McDavid, Guerin, Smyth, Smith, Tikkanen, Moog, Ranford, Roloson, Weight. There’s 10 players who we’re better than Lowe. I could name more if you’d like. He was NOT a great player. And before you start with how long he played here, why is Pronger on the list at all then. Lowe was never vital to his team. He was a good stay at home defensemen, nothing more.i would give Lowe’s whole career here for 1 year of McDavid’s, and he rates higher? Give me a break.

          • gr8haluschak

            Well I see reading comprehension missed with you, the point of the list was ALL TIME GREATEST OILERS, not a 100 of the greatest players to play for the oilers, and none of those guys Oilers careers were better than Lowe’s and if you think so then it is clear you simply have no clue, one great season is not better than 5 cup winning seasons.

  • Coheed

    A very worthy top ten pick in my opinion. He has always carried the Oiler banner with pride, even during the darkest days of the franchise. Yes mistakes were made, but everyone makes them, and most don’t live under the glaring spotlight of Edmonton Oiler fandom. I cannot imagine how frustrating it would be for someone to be picketing outside your workplace and running a public campaign for you to get fired from your job. His comments were ill-conceived, but I won’t hold that against him. Very few have bled blue and orange like Lowe.

  • ponokanocker

    Loved him as a player. After that, well, you can see it as glass half full or glass half empty. The losing did get us McDavid, another generational talent, so there is that.

    • Two years into this and you still have no idea? Astounding. This isn’t a list of the best 100 players — as has been explained and written about a dozen times. For the love of god, man, at least try to pay attention — just once — before posting comments.

  • Big Cap

    Anyone who knocks Lowe for his time of an Executive clearly doesn’t understand the purpose or rankings of this list RB has put together. Kevin Lowe the player was a warrior, and one of the all time great Edmonton Oilers.

    Anyone who watched the Oilers in 80’s and early 90’s knows exactly why Lowe is ranked as high as he is.

    • Serious Gord

      I don’t know about any of the other commenters but I am not quibbling with where robin has him positioned. He’s in the top 15 for sure where exactly is highly debatable.

      His failings as an off-ice participant in the oil is not relevant to his rankings.

    • Leaking5w-30

      Many of us don’t remember him as a glory days oiler. Sounds like he could play! But what we remember is how he statered the dod as gm and got promoted in the middle of that mess.
      Top ten player… can’t comment. Just hate seeing his face because I believe much of the loosing lays at his feat.

  • OilCan2

    I met Kevin when he first moved to Edmonton. From our first conversation I was convinced he was totally committed to laying it all on the line out of respect for the fans. From there on he continued to prove just that.

  • Curry is Messy Eh?

    I lived in Toronto and became an Oiler fan because of Gretzky and because Harold Ballard was such an A Hole. As a young defenceman I wanted to be Kevin Lowe…he was tough, mean, LOVED being an Oiler and loved being one of the guys. Who didn’t want to be in the Oiler “Rat Pack”. These guys walked into other arenas and kicked the crap out you and scored 8 goals. Lowe was one of the kickers!! Kevin Lowe deserves top 7 and above Connor because he spilled a lot of blood, and demanded blood in payment to stand in front of the Oiler net. McDavid may and hopefully launches to second or third favorite one day….but Kevin Lowe was a beast that helped put the B in Battle of Alberta.

  • D

    He was amazing in the 1980s and brought so many memories. Well deserved ranking on this list. I would like to add one more note – for everyone who remembers the 1990s when the owner was continually threatening to move the team, Kevin Lowe returning to play in Edmonton was one of the first glimmers of hope that the franchise would survive in Edmonton. Kevin Lowe bleeds for the Oilers and the City of Edmonton, always has, always will.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The 1994 Rangers team “included former Oilers Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Craig MacTavish, Adam Graves and Esa Tikkanen.” . . . and some guy name Beukeboom. (Last time you left Adam Graves off the list of former Oilers who won in New York).