This past week was a critical one in the history of the Edmonton Oilers.
For it, we have to go back to the year 2000. On May 19th, Glen Sather left the organization relishing his role of general manager.
It marked a major shift as for the first time in 24 years he was no longer apart of the organization. He joined Edmonton in the WHA days as a player-coach and later became head coach as the team joined the NHL.
Kevin Lowe, meanwhile, was the franchise’s first-ever NHL draft pick selected in the first round of the 1979 NHL draft. He played for the Oilers until he was traded to the New York Rangers in 1992, but return to finish his career between 1996 and 1998 when he then joined the Oilers as an assistant coach. He spent 1999 as head coach and on June 9th, 2000, he was promoted to general manager to take over for the aforementioned Sather. With the anniversary of his hiring as GM, I thought we should take a little look back at moves as GM.
I’m a personal believer that his time in Edmonton was much better than others give him credit for. Between 2000 and 2008 in Lowe’s time as GM, the Oilers had the 13th most wins in the NHL. Edmonton did only have three playoff appearances, however. In 2000-01 and 2002-03, the Oilers made the playoffs but lost in the first round to the Dallas Stars in six games in both series.
Lowe was the architect behind the Oilers fairytale run in the 2006 playoffs and the work started not long after he was hired. His second trade as the Oilers GM was flipping Roman Hamrlik to the New York Islanders in exchange for Eric Brewer, Josh Green and a 2000 2nd round pick used to select Brad Winchester.
Brewer, of course, was a key piece of the Oilers acquisition of Chris Pronger years later. In 2003, he acquired Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres for Janne Niinimaa and second and fourth-round picks in 2003.
And on August 2nd 2005, he made his biggest trade as GM by acquiring Pronger for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka. Pronger was a monster and an absolute vacuum for the Oilers in those playoffs and they likely wouldn’t have had the run they did if he wasn’t on the back end. The work was from over. A day later he brought in Michael Peca for Mike York.
Come January 2006, he made trades to acquire Dick Tarnstrom and Jaroslav Spacek, then key deadline deals to acquire Dwayne Roloson and Sergei Samsonov.
And as well as Lowe did to bring in so many of them, the Oilers were unable to keep the team together. Tarnstrom, Spacek, Samsonov and Peca all left in free agency. Pronger requested a trade, and Lowe did make the most of it bringing in Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, two first-round picks and a second. Jordan Eberle was picked with one of those selections.
And things started to unravel more for the Oilers. Ryan Smyth was traded by Lowe at the 2007 trade deadline. A free agent at the end of the year, contract talks between Lowe and Smyth’s agent, Don Meehan, broke down minutes before the trade deadline and Smyth was dealt to the New York Islanders.
Lowe was never shy of trying to make big moves. He made a huge offer sheet to Thomas Vanek that was matched by the Buffalo Sabres in 2007, one that thankfully was matched by the Sabres, then later another offer sheet to Dustin Penner. Then Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke didn’t match the offer and the infamous barn fight nearly happened.
Lowe eventually was promoted to president of hockey operations on July 31, 2008, and named Steve Tambellini as his successor.
All in all, I still look back at Lowe’s time as a GM as an overall success. Edmonton only had one season with a sub .537 points percentage. Beyond one deep run, I think he did an overall good job of keeping the Oilers a good team.
The Oilers had moderate success in the draft under Lowe, who was dealt a tough hand after poor drafting from Sather in the 90’s. Among his picks were Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Jarrett Stoll and Matt Greene in 2002.
In 2003, he took players who spent time in Edmonton’s bottom-six in Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Jean-Francois Jacques, Zack Stortini and Kyle Brodziak.
In 2004 he drafted Devan Dubnyk, and in 2005 Andrew Cogliano. Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham were drafted in 2006, and in 2007 Edmonton drafted Sam Gagner. His last draft in 2008, the Oilers took Jordan Eberle in the first round.
I think people are overly critical of Lowe (likely for stuff that happened after his time as GM *cough* two types of fans) and there are aspects that I agree with. He did a poor job of retaining talent and lost some key players that heavily impacted the Oilers ability to get another strong playoff run post-2006, but did build an amazing roster in 2006 and had a solid track record in the draft.
What do you make of Lowe’s eight years as general manager?
On Twitter: @zjlaing