$50 Million Dollar Rebuild

The other day, Kevin Lowe was interviewed on the Oilers’ site by Morley Scott. Dennis suggested I give it a listen and this morning was my chance.

The most interesting question came from a fan, asking about MacT being fired (having lost the room). Landon’s question was answered by Lowe in typical fashion, expressing understanding about the frustration over the most recent loss (it was the dreadful CGY game), but standing by his coach.

Lowe said “there’s no question we’re back in a rebuilding situation”, which seems incredible based on how close this team is to the salary cap. The Oilers spending to the cap depends on the local ecomony, the EIG, and the fanbase. All three of those things have to be pumping in rhythm to get to the mammoth number we’re talking about here, and for most of us there is the realization that the close to $50M being spent now may not be repeated next year (or ever). To hear that the Oilers are rebuilding in a $50M season (capwise) is a tough pill. As frustrating as dealing Doug Weight was, THIS is worse. A $50M rebuild?

Among other things:

  • Lowe said they won’t be taking anyone off the waiver wire because they’re at the 50 man roster. “At the end of the year we have a number of guys on one-year contracts, and like every year there will be some changes. We need to get down to 47, 48 contracts so we do have the flexibility.” It sounds like EDM isn’t going to be watching the waiver wire this season. I don’t have to 50-man list handy, but dropping someone would seem to be a simple thing to do. It sends a message about the lack of urgency associated with this season. The Oilers organization is not terribly concerned with where they finish in the standings this season. Come out to the game, lay your money down. Have a beer, check out the local talent, drive safely. This is an organization extremely confident in their relationship, to the point where it can be reasonably argued they are pissing off a large portion of the fanbase with this kind of comment. I cannot argue it any other way.
  • Lowe said “finding some combination with the lines where the guys get some chemistry” is the key to improving the offense. “We’ve changed a lot of bodies on our team this year, half of the team is completely different.” Lowe went on to say half of the new guys have no experience. Spot on. This team lacks experience pretty much everywhere but G. The veteran talent base of this team deserves better, that a few more veterans on the roster would make winning more commonplace. It isn’t going to happen.
  • “Guys are going to have to score goals or we’re going to have to make changes.” 15 minutes into the interview Lowe states the obvious. I think the Oilers should have made at least two moves by now (veteran RW, Mike Johnson-type, and a steady Dman with maybe a little better qualifications than Rourke), but clearly goals for is an issue. However, based on the comments above, “we’re going to have to make changes” might mean driving a different route to work as opposed to anything substantial.
  • Lowe believes the team needs to shoot more, and talked at length about Ales Hemsky shooting more. He called out Torres, Stoll and Penner specifically as guys who need to score more goals.
  • Penner: “He’s a good fella, a good person and a good hockey talent.” Penner is a guy who we should think of in terms of being a contributing player one year from now. He seems to be suffering from the same transition difficulty that affected Joffrey Lupul, with the understanding his skill set is more complete and he has shown signs of being an extremely useful player.
  • Team toughness: “When we had BG around, Regehr was still hitting Ales Hemsky. No heavyweight should is going to deter Regehr from hitting Ales Hemsky the way he does. Our team toughness is all in the medical room right now.” The Oilers need a gnat, a guy who causes some commotion. They also need to run the other guy’s best players more. I remember reading a story years ago about a young Chicago player doing something filthy during a shift and getting crap from Bobby Hull when he got to the bench. Hull knew his next shift was going to be more troublesome. Did Alex Tanguay feel the same way after the Regehr hit on Hemsky? Don’t bother to answer, we already know.
  • Jacques & Pouliot: “I’d hoped that he was a little further along in his development, he is the type of guy who could step in and play with some team toughness. I would have hoped that Marc Pouliot was a little farther along, he helps with the team toughness.” I have literally no idea what he’s talking about. Lowe clearly sees the game better than I do, so Pouliot’s toughness must come from things not easily seen. Jacques is a guy I’m still rooting for as a fan, but does appear to be less than he appears.
  • Stortini: “I’d rather develop Stortini where he can play 12-14 minutes a night and be effective.” How many guys are they developing up front this season, anyway? Cogliano, Gagner, Stortini, Nilsson, who have I missed? Have the Oilers ever successfully developed 4 forwards who were basically rookies in one season? If they did, it was 79-82 and the guys coming in were a helluva lot better.
  • “I’m not happy with what I see in terms of our team. We’re trying to develop some goal scoring and some gritty guys and that team is a team that can win a championship.” You can see the thinking on Lowe’s part here, that I agree with wholeheartedly. Gagner, Cogliano, Hemsky, Torres, Horcoff, Penner, Stoll and some others is a nice little group of talent. However, it’ll be two years before these guys get back to the nice little 05-06 window of underpaid young veterans this team boasted not so long ago. Is that what he’s looking for?
  • Are we rebuilding? “Need to remind people we were at G7 of the SCF two years ago, and a lot of teams can’t boast that. I like to think we’re in between, I don’t think you need to be in a position where you have to rebuild totally. We added players this summer to make a statement that we’re not going to be a complete rebuilding. We have to take ourselves off the mode where we’re trying to win today, we’re not trying to win today.” By “win today” he means the Stanley of course. Lowe’s strategy appears to be based on some kind of “scorched earth” policy that came to him moments before or after the Pronger deal. Either that or he really did think that he could trade Pronger for kids, not sign Smyth, and attract impact UFA’s here with extra loot. That would be a “miscalculation” based on how things have rolled out since G7, SCF.
  • Will you make a trade before Christmas? “You always seem to get calls when you have guys struggling, they want to pick your pocket. We’re not going to sit back and not do anything, we have to be careful it’s right deal. Until we get all our guys back and let them play for awhile and see what our group can do, it’s really unfair to assess this team the way it sits right now.” There’s no urgency at all. Lowe is taking a risk in that the fans are going to get a little restless when Anaheim picks higher than they do, but he’s probably right in the fact that he can spin this to the masses. June 2008 talking points might be something like “well, you might have 20 guys on the internet typing madly from their basements while eating Cheesies that the world is ending because we’re drafting 12 slots below Anaheim, but my scouts say it’s a deep draft.” It’ll be effective.

I found the interview to be satisfying. Kevin Lowe gave honest answers and his point of view up to the moment. Fans have to decide if they buy in, and there’s little doubt most will without even really thinking about it.

When Glen Sather was going through the motions in the 90s, I always felt the big issues surrounding the team were things like “who’s at lunch with Bruce MacGregor and Slats” and “which member of the print media will be told why we’re going to miss the playoffs”. It’s a far more interesting team now than it was then.

But it isn’t an organization focused on winning. $50 million bucks from the pockets of the fanbase for “wait till next year.”

Shame on them.

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84 Responses to "$50 Million Dollar Rebuild"

  1. Pat H says:

    LT, this is a terrific entry that I’m sure will elicit a lot of discussion on various points. I’d just like to comment briefly on a few things you say.

    1. “I have literally no idea what he’s talking about. Lowe clearly sees the game better than I do, so Pouliot’s toughness must come from things not easily seen.”

    You’re either being coy here, or far too humble. I think Lowe is riffing here, and has no idea what he’s talking about.

    2. “Lowe is taking a risk in that the fans are going to get a little restless when Anaheim picks higher than they do, but he’s probably right in the fact that he can spin this to the masses.”

    Amen to that. If there’s one thing that this organization excels at, it’s spinning.

    3. I found the interview to be satisfying. Kevin Lowe gave honest answers and his point of view up to the moment.

    When I first read this, I thought to myself “what?! how can you say that?”. But having considered it more, I think I’d have to agree, at least in a certain sense. I do think that Lowe gave honest answers. At the same time, in line with 2, it’s clear that there’s spinning go on. Yet with Lowe, I think the spinning is bona fide. That said, it’s evident that Lowe’s frequently trying rationalize certain matters that – when you consider them realistically – defy rationalization. My point is this: Lowe et al. seem to be engaged lately in constant revisionist thinking. Trying to justify certain actions, trying to justify lack of action, trying to synthesize past philosophies with current realities, etc. I do think that Lowe’s trying to make honest sense of things, and I have no doubt he’s got the best interests of the team in mind. But it’s been painfully honest to me (and clearly a lot of us) that he’s just become brutally ineffective at his job.

  2. godot10 says:

    The Oilers are near the cap because all the veterans are signed.

    The loonie is over a buck, so the cap will be going up significantly next year again. In the current world, the Oilers are not a poor team. They could buy out players if they had to.

    The only really bad contract is Souray’s, And Hemsky’s contract is a really good contract.

    Sanderson, Reasoner, and Tarnstrom come off next year. Or one of Tarnstrom and Grebeshkov.

    Remember, Pisani and Moreau have yet to hit the ice. So the team on the ice really over $4 million dollars less that the headline number.

    And factoring in all the injuries, much less than that. The team on the ice has been a $35 million dollar team for half the games.

    Torres is certainly tradeable. Stoll is becoming cheaper to re-sign by the day.

    The Oilers don’t have particularly cap troubles.

  3. boopronger says:

    Its certainly been a frustrating couple of years. Being an Oilers homer i usually give Lowe the benefit of the doubt but this $50 million dollar rebuild is a tough pill to swallow.

    Can the EIG suddenly decide that they dont want that kind of payroll anymore (they’ve saved face with the fans about any new owners) and in a couple years have a payroll of 45million and not ready to budge?

  4. Lowetide says:

    pat:

    1. I think Lowe knows WAY more about hockey than me. I’m being sincere.

    3. Yeah, agreed. The most distressing interview he’s ever given imo was the summer one with the EJ when he sounded like a drowning man. This interview seems to acknowledge the missteps and he sounds like there’s a plan. I don’t like that the plan starts summer 2008, and am not certain he’ll be the GM then, but at least we’re not going to trade for Jagr tomorrow.

    godot10: The Penner contract is a bad one, as is (as you mentioned) the Souray deal. Penner needs to be way better to get that contract to even just for the dollars.

    The Horcoff and Hemsky contracts are terrific no doubt. I’d hope that Kevin Lowe would be looking to sign Pitkanen, Stoll and Gilbert longer term now too. Stoll specifically is a guy they might get at a very good price as we speak. At the very least he should be able to cover Marty’s role moving forward.

  5. Bank Shot says:

    Scoring has been a serious problem going on two years now, and I’m not too sure that the players are to blame.

    You can look around the league at teams like Phoenix (6 rookie forwards) and Chicago (4) and see that they are managing. Phoenix is one of the worst teams in terms of offense granted, but they aren’t downright putrid like the Oilers.

    If you compare the current team to the 05-06 Oilers you see a stark difference. The 05-06 Oilers attacked with wild abandon. They basically pushed for offence at all times. Only after they aquired Roloson, and he was giving them the same early results as Conkannen was, did they appear to start to switch tactics.

    Perhaps, I’m wrong, but I seem to recall the Oilers being outshot in the majority of their games during their playoff run as they played a much more passive game then they did during the season. It worked then because the Oilers were seemingly scoring on every freaking scoring chance.

    Since that run Mactavish has kept the Oilers playing that more passive style, but I think they lack the type and amount of finishers required to keep up with their rate of scoring in the playoffs which led them to success.

  6. jon says:

    I think portraying this as a 50 mill rebuild team is somewhat misleading. The salary of players who are actually on the roster and healthy is about 37 mill, which I believe is good for second last place in spending above Washington. At the moment the only team below us in the standings… Washington.

    If the team had been largely healthy so far this season, I think anyone could still make a very persuasive and cutting argument about why this team shouldn’t be a 50 mill non-playoff team and I doubt Lowe would have admitted as much as he did in the interview. However, with things as they are, it would appear fair game to ask why we should continue carrying players and salaries that aren’t going to be around when the team is peaking in a few seasons.

    Once the team gets healthy and still isn’t winning 0.550 (or maybe even 0.500), Lowe should immediately recognize as much and deal assets that are declining in value and usefulness (ie. Torres, Tarnstrom, possibly Stoll). Failure to do so would unfortunately do more to convince more fans and possibly ownership that he’s lost “it”.

  7. jon says:

    Really good post by the way LT, you can’t get this kind of detailed breakdown in the MSM unfortunately.

  8. Steve says:

    I agree with godot1 and jon.

    Besides the Souray contract – which was indefensible even for a team trying to win, let alone a rebuilding one – which of the Oilers’ contracts do you think don’t make sense for a re-building team? Arguably Penner’s, since it cost us all those picks in a year we’re going to suck. But signing a promising young guy long-term is at least reasonably consistent with a rebuild.

    Besides that, who do you jettison? Stoll and Torres aren’t really earning their money, but if you lose them you replace them either with rookies or with guys probably making about the same money. It would be nice not to have the third year of Roli’s contract to deal with, but hindsight’s 20/20 on that point.

    I still think that the 2009-2010 Oilers will make the playoffs. And once they make the playoffs, anything can happen.

  9. Dennis says:

    With all due respect, Lain, the fact that a fan as intelligent as yourself will accept such comments from Lowe, well it’s pretty much the reason why he makes them in the first place.

    The guy knows he’s untouchable. I mean, by now, if I were him, I’d come out and say something like, “By year four, you’ll see why we picked up Penner.” And then I’d bug the concourse at Rexall and sit back and fart myself silly with glee everytime I heard one of the fans parrot my latest nugget.

    BTW, that thing you wrote about looking at Penner in the ’09 season, were you being serious or were you mocking Lowe? I honestly couldn’t tell. It was either bang-on sarcasm or Lowe was speaking through you.

    At the end, you sort of give me a little reason to believe in you but throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking, here’s the reason why Lowe hasn’t been fired. He can even fool and/or placate the smart fans.

    Lowe is a disaster when it comes to FA signings and trades. And the whole thing with the 50 contracts, I mean, fuck, it’s not like we’ve got loads of talent amongst all those pacts.

    I mean, seriously, Lowe has one of the best jobs in pro sports. He’s working in the toy department and his boss never ever comes to check up on him.

  10. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: I’ve never really understood your need to call me a fool, but whatever floats your boat.

    I stand by what I’ve written, and remain blissfully unaware.

  11. Art Vandelay says:

    Oilers fans are being played for Blackhawks fans. EIG is rolling in dough. Lowe has a big contract extension. He is flipping you the bird.

  12. mc79hockey says:

    I’ve never really understood your need to call me a fool, but whatever floats your boat.

    An outside observer’s POV: I think it’s that he doesn’t think you’re a fool that puzzles him so much and he just refuses to give up on you.

  13. Lowetide says:

    Art: I fail to see anywhere in the post where I’m “being played.” I’ve stated opinion on each subject and welcome anyone to call me on a specific issue.

    However, internet “drive by’s” are a dime a dozen.

  14. Lowetide says:

    And we have crickets.

  15. Bruce says:

    “Our team toughness is all in the medical room right now.”

    … or in Denver, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Not sure what this statement says about Zach Stortini, not to mention guys like Staios, Stoll, and Torres.

    “Need to remind people we were at G7 of the SCF two years ago, and a lot of teams can’t boast that.”

    Yeah, yeah, so you keep telling us. If that were me spinning things, I’d be hesitant to bring up exactly how far the team has fallen in 18 months.

    Penner is a guy who we should think of in terms of being a contributing player one year from now. He seems to be suffering from the same transition difficulty that affected Joffrey Lupul, with the understanding his skill set is more complete and he has shown signs of being an extremely useful player.

    I’m with you on this one, LT, although the comparison to Soft Joff is a tad harsh. If Penner were still in Anaheim with numbers like this, they might be calling it the Sophomore Jinx. Or more likely, they wouldn’t be saying much of anything. Point being he is still a young and inexperienced player, but he does bring a large (245 pounds of “large”) skill set to the table. A little older, a lot higher-paid than most of our developing players, but still a second- (or third- if you stretch it) year NHLer. He’s going to get better, and he’s going to do that right here in Edmonton. Whereas this time last year I was already calling Joffrey Palindrome a giant bag of suck.

  16. Jonathan says:

    Oh, just one minor addition to this post: we’re also developing Kyle Brodziak. (I’ll pretend that the reason you didn’t mention him is because he already plays like a veteran ;) )

  17. doritogrande says:

    LT, here’s the list of 50 contracts.

    http://forum.nhltopshelf.com/index.php?showtopic=9436

    I’ll take Crott’s words on this one. He’s very well versed in the statistical side of hockey.

  18. Lowetide says:

    dorito: Can’t they just release Sestito? I can’t imagine his value is so high that a team would grab him for their 50/AHL team.

    Or are there other reasons?

  19. Tyler says:

    Sorry LT, I’m not one to drop in and do a drive-by, just doing some work in addition to whiling away my time on the ‘net.

    Keeping in mind that I’m not Dennis, here’s what seemed off to me about your post. You put out a lengthy list of entirely legitimate criticisms of Kevin Lowe and the Oilers. I think all of your criticisms were accurate. You then conclude by saying that a) you think he was honest and b) Lowe clearly sees the game better than you do, so Pouliot’s toughness must come from things not easily seen, which apparently was not a sarcastic statement.

    If you want to talk about the very narrow point that Lowe understands what happens on a hockey rink better than you or I, sure, there’s no disputing that. That doesn’t mean that if Lowe and Lowetide disagree, Lowe is always right though.

    More broadly, if you think he gave honest answers in the interview (I agree, FWIW – part of the reason I think it’d be sad if they fired him is because he seems like a good, honest guy) and you think so many of those answers are absurd (I’m inferring from reading what you wrote), I don’t know how you can be giving him the benefit of the doubt for his hockey knowledge. That puzzles me.

  20. Dennis says:

    Lain, I think you should know better than this. And by this, I mean you thinking I’m calling you a fool. I mean, it was only a week or two ago when I said I look forward to the weekends because that’s when you really crank out the content. I mean, seriously, does that sound like a guy who think’s your a fool?

    Maybe I was a bit muddled when I tried to make my point, and fuck knows that wouldn’t be the first time:), but I’m just saying, it shocks me that a guy as smart as you, a guy who’s been looking at numbers for decades, would let Lowe “off” with something like that Penner comment and then would write something in support of it that sounds like something Kevin would himself write.

    I’m just saying, this is why Lowe does what he does. He trades Pronger as quickly as he can, gets very little comparitive value in return, and looks out the window and where are the villagers with the pitchforks?

    They aren’t there.

    He draws an unnecessary line in the sand on Smyth, then trades him for a middling first round pick, a suspect in Nilsson, a question mark in O’Marra and then tries to spend Smyth’s money on Vanek, Nylander and finally on Penner. All the while throwing in picks to boot.

    Still, no one’s outside.

    Finally, he signs Souray to a redicolous contract, something that no one else even attempted, best we know, even though he had sexy counting stats.

    Yet again, his doorstep’s unoccupied as Joffrey Lupul’s cranium.

    That frustrates the fuck out of me.

    So, when we went back and forth the other day about if Lowe was going to make a move and if he could make a move, and I posted on Ty’s site about how he’s spent enough money that he can’t make a move, well I thought that this audio interview would be the one to drive you over the top. He admits they’re rebuilding on 50 mill, he talks about Pouliot in the vein of team toughness and he goes on to make excuses for Penner.

    I just think you’re one of those guys that thinks too much in terms of Lowe as a player when you consider his GM track record. I mean, seriously, Lain, the evidence is piling up. You have the Pronger and Smyth deals, the “we didn’t know the cap was going up to that extent” story which honestly looks to be almost plausible in light of the recent Stapels revelation that Lowe didn’t know he had to give up his OWN picks when he was making offersheets.

    Here’s a question. If the GM of the Flames had made all these moves, can you tell me you wouldn’t be sitting back laughing?

  21. Ribs says:

    I think something everyone needs to ask themselves is…What would you do if you were Kevin Lowe? Pretend it’s summer ’07 and you’ve just replaced Lowe as the Oilers GM.

    You go after the big free agents but can’t land them.

    You target second grade free agents. They want too much and you get Nylandered.

    You need defensemen, in a hurry. Philly won’t take anything less than Smith and Lupul for Pitkanen.

    Anyone else out there? Not really.
    Free agents are all but gone.

    Do you resort to signing guys like Hejda and Sykora even though you don’t see them in the picture long-term? Throw hype-meister Johnson on the roster with this bunch if you want.

    What now? You sign those guys, Pisani is out long term. You have almost the same team that finished with a thud the prior season.

    You have a boatload of money left over for the first time ever and you’re team is no good. What now?

    Souray is the only FA that bites. Sign him? What if you don’t?

    Still have a sackload of cash and the team still blows chunks.

    Rebuild? You have no idea how well along Cogliano and Gagner really are and Schremp and Mikhnov have been duds so far. Chorney is a ways off and Smid looks like your only blue chipper D-man and he’s not all that you had hoped and dreamed for.

    RFA seem to be you’re only chance to get anyone worth anything… Do you hand out offer sheets? No?

    Then what?

    Trade away the team for whatever you can find? Okay, Mr. Milbury. Thanks for playing.

    I can only imagine how frustrating Lowe’s job must be. I think he’s done an okay job with the cards he’s been dealt. He’s spent his cash on scratch and win tickets but what the heck else should he do?

  22. RiversQ says:

    I found the interview to be satisfying.

    Really?

    I thought it was the definition of unsatisfying. You’re satisfied with the 50 man roster comments?

    Lowe is saddled with the ramifications of many poor decisions and yet the one thing he can readily fix (a bounty of mediocre minor leaguers) is apparently off the table. If that’s not unsatisfying, I don’t know what is.

    Truth be told, it’s not the $50MM this year that hurts it’s the $10MM in cap space they’re blowing for the next four years that hurts. The Oilers may watch Horcoff walk in a couple of years because of that and it’ll be criminal.

    At this point, I think Lowe and MacT are either saints or have zero pride whatsoever:

    MacT has turned every cheek he owns several times and still lets his players get run without a response.

    Lowe is a nationwide laughingstock right now and he’s not willing to right the ship.

  23. doritogrande says:

    LT,

    Yeah…they could release Sestito. But Johansson and Goulet are making cases for themselves also. I can’t wait for them to rip some of these contracts up in the offseason, and not qualify a bunch. Syvret, Jacques, and possibly Thoresen as he’s been replaced by the bigger and apparently more offensive Kyle Brodziak.

  24. Tyler says:

    I think something everyone needs to ask themselves is…What would you do if you were Kevin Lowe? Pretend it’s summer ’07 and you’ve just replaced Lowe as the Oilers GM.

    The first thing I’d do is blame the guy who was there before me. Then I’d phone up my parents and tell ‘em that I learned something in all of those Poli Sci courses I took.

    The next thing I’d do: I wouldn’t spend the money fucking stupidly. And that’s what they did. I said it before, but something always happens. Hossa needs to be moved…something always happens. I tell the fans that a lot of things have happened to put us in the position that we’re in today – Pronger, the botched Smyth negotiations, the questionable returns. I tell them that Edmonton isn’t the easiest place in the world to attract UFA players to because until you’ve lived there, you don’t realize what a great place it is. I tell them that the one thing I absolutely won’t do is go out and spend a ton of money to look like I’m doing something even though it won’t make the team elite – that there are some lousy days ahead for the hockey team but that those are inevitable whether I spend money on second tier guys or not – we’re going to build a strong foundation and we’re going to build a franchise like Detroit that’s a perennial contender.

    Then I get to work preparing for the inevitable opportunities that will come. First thing is identifying guys who are likely to be attractive to playoff teams at the deadline and getting them signed to short term deals. I probably prune the contract list because I don’t want Tim F. Sestito preventing me from making a move.

    The naked truth is, there probably wasn’t any move to be made to save this club last summer. It was too far gone. The difficult thing to do was acknowledge that and act accordingly. They didn’t. FWIW, this isn’t a hindsight thing either – I said it all summer.

  25. RiversQ says:

    Good point about Syvret. Will that kid ever play for the Oilers? The team has Gilbert, Smid, and Roy as young dmen on the team right now. Apparently, Young and Rourke are ahead on the list too. Chorney and Petry are highly regarded in the system.

    Not only is Syvret overwhelmed by the numbers, the Oilers have several dmen with similar skill sets. Why keep these players around?

  26. Lowetide says:

    Tyler:

    Exceptional post, and now I understand. To be clear. The Pouliot “toughness” point was meant to be a real and legit question, I don’t see where anyone could possibly argue he’s a tough guy. In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen Pouliot mentioned in anything resembling physical play was in junior when his temper would get the better of him. I was puzzled by Lowe’s answer, still am.

    As for him being honest, we saw it exactly the same way. He’s telling it like it is.

    As for him seeing the game better than me, again agreement. There are things an NHL player is going to be able to see well that I cannot, but it doesn’t mean my reaction to Penner’s signing was wrong (it wasn’t).

    I completely disagree with Lowe’s offseason save for the Garon signing and the Pitkanen trade (although with Stauffer’s article today I’m less impressed. Trading Jason Smith for one year of Pitkanen makes no sense to me).

    Thanks for clearing it up, I didn’t have a fricking clue what Dennis was talking about.

    Honest.

  27. godot10 says:

    //I mean, seriously, Lowe has one of the best jobs in pro sports. He’s working in the toy department and his boss never ever comes to check up on him.//

    Because for the most part, Lowe has done a good job. 11th best overall record in the 30-team era. A Stanley Cup final. Keeping the team competitive and afloat before the new CBA. Drafting a whole lot better than the previous regime.

    That said, I wish Lowe would go for singles and doubles more than trying for splashy home runs.

    Lowe and MacT have done enough to earn the chance to retool the team.

  28. RiversQ says:

    Might as well add Grebeshkov, Pitkanen on the team and even Plante in the system as well.

    A 50 man roster is pretty generous IMO.

    Too bad Lowe’s cap flexibility kills his chances at making the quantity for Bigfoot deal.

    He has to clear out Roloson’s money, send Stoll packing and probably send Gagner down to add an impact player getting paid longterm. And he has to hope that there is actually quantity in the system that someone wants.

  29. Steve says:

    Do you resort to signing guys like Hejda and Sykora even though you don’t see them in the picture long-term?

    Whoa, whoa, whoa…who said Dan Hejda doesn’t fit long-term?

  30. RiversQ says:

    FWIW, this isn’t a hindsight thing either – I said it all summer.

    Lots of people did.

    It was pretty obvious this team needed a couple of Guerin’s and Markov’s on short term deals rather than Souray and Penner.

    If Lowe hasn’t been incompetent over the past two years then what has he been? Mediocre? Below average?

    I refuse to even attempt to defend his decisions anymore. He didn’t know you had to give up your own picks on an RFA offer sheet?

    If true, what a fucking idiot. That’s indefensible.

  31. Dennis says:

    Riv, how fucking dare you!! That guy won Six cups as a player.

  32. Steve says:

    Riv, how fucking dare you!! That guy won Six cups as a player.

    No kidding – it’s like he thinks that only off-ice success counts, or something.

  33. Lowetide says:

    I had to go get beer. :-)

    Dennis: Clearly I minsunderstood. Sorry about that.

    With regard to Penner, I thought it was a terrible signing, said so at the time (HATED the Vanek signing too btw). So my comments are in regard to Penner the player moving forward with the understanding it’s a terrible contract.

    I will say though that I like Dustin Penner as a player quite a bit. Not worth the money, but he’s an interesting player.

    I think my original post pretty much sums up the offseason, but to say it again: I liked the Garon signing, the Pitkanen trade and not much else.

    Hated the Souray deal, and the Penner deal. Pronger we’ve been over, Smyth decision imo goes back to the week or so after the Pronger deal.

    So from June 2006 through today, I’ve liked exactly two transactions and think that’s fair.

    As for letting Lowe off the hook, that’s where I think we disconnect on these issues. I’ve never felt it’s my job to pass judgement on him because the W-L column does it for him. He’s a man losing the battle and will be fired eventually.

    But I’m not going to cheer that day, and I won’t cry either. It is what it is, and like the rest of us he made his own bed.

    But to make a long post even longer, just to be clear:

    Kevin Lowe deserves to be let go from his position of Oilers’ GM based on the moves he has made since summer 2006.

    I honestly don’t think it’s open for debate, and in fact suspect it will happen after the season.

    He’s probably going to be a president of the Oilers, though, co-leading the team with Laforge.

    I don’t believe there’s much doubt about that, either.

    The new GM? MacTavish.

    The new coach? Buchberger.

    Pace yourself, Dennis. :-)

  34. Lowetide says:

    RQ: Yeah, I was satisifed with it. I actually thought it was a stand up interview. He said: We can’t make a move with waivers, we’re at the cap and when the summer comes we’ll lose enough contracts to sign Chorney.

    We’re dead. He said. That’s his vision, stay alive until summer.

    Except I don’t think he makes it.

  35. Lowetide says:

    Bruce: I think the Lupul comp IS fair, actually. Joffrey came unprepared, I think we can agree and so apparently did Penner.

    Listen, we’ve all had tough jobs in our lives, I once spent most of a summer picking rocks (and made sure I didn’t do it the next summer or any summer after that) but going into a new high paying job unready for the challenge is pretty damn stupid.

    I mean, really.

  36. Lowetide says:

    Ribs: I’ve thought a lot about that, and I think it would have been better to keep Jason Smith and sign secondary players from the Garon level.

    Had the Oilers signed Garon, a Don Awrey and a Mike Johnson the standings couldn’t possibly be worse but they could take on salary.

    MC has a post on his site today about Lowe not knowing the draft commitment for a RFA signing. You could add to that list “not managing the cap well enough to take on a worthwhile salary dump” to the things EDM didn’t do well over the last 18 months.

    Lowe isn’t alone in this, but Souray and Penner are here for a long time, not a good time.

    The best thing we could write about Kevin Lowe is that he honestly thought UFA’s would come here, that Niedermayer’s interest was thought to be duplicable.

    And it still isnt’ really any good.

  37. Ribs says:

    Had the Oilers signed Garon, a Don Awrey and a Mike Johnson the standings couldn’t possibly be worse but they could take on salary.

    That could be arguable. I don’t think an Awrey and Mike Johnson would have salvaged much of the 20 game slide last year.

    I guess it’s just hard to tell what kind of impact Lowes moves have made when 2 of the biggest chunks have only 15 combined played games to their credit.

    As far as taking on salary, I don’t think they’re too bad off right now. Prices are going up and the Oilers were just first in line it seems.

  38. Dennis says:

    Lain, honestly, I would be cool with a MacT/Buchy tandem. All the SF guys seem to love old 16 and I think that, at least at the start, players will go through the wall and play for him. That was what took Ron Low as far as he went.

    Or does anyone want to argue that?

    The trick will be if Buchy learns how to break on through to the other side once the intial loves wears off. And though I’m not sure MacT would ever want to be hands-off in terms of matchups, I guess there’s a lot being said for being able to be the guy who provides the materials as well. And as much as MacT says he had input on this summer’s acquisitions, I just don’t believe it. There aren’t any MacT types in the new signings. Unless you count Pitkenan becuase he wanted someone who could legitimately move the puck.

    You know, I didn’t always despise Lowe. I liked him the year he coached and I liked the Hamrlik and Guerin deals, ie that first one was Lowe’s move, right?? But the last couple of seasons, the guy’s a total idiot.

    You can move him upstairs and have him lie and manipulate people along with Laforge, and that would be fine with me.

    But pry his hands off the keys for fucksakes.

  39. Bank Shot says:

    Bruce: I think the Lupul comp IS fair, actually. Joffrey came unprepared, I think we can agree and so apparently did Penner.

    Maybe there is just something about the way that the Oilers play which just killed these guys’ offence.

    I mean 15-25 shots a game doesn’t help anyone shine.

    Petr Sykora’s season here was one of his worst ever in terms of PPG. Pitkanen who had 40 points last season has what? 2 in 9 games.

    Yet another reason for UFAs to avoid Edmonton. Their stats will get crushed.

  40. Bank Shot says:

    Bruce: I think the Lupul comp IS fair, actually. Joffrey came unprepared, I think we can agree and so apparently did Penner.

    Maybe there is just something about the way that the Oilers play which just killed these guys’ offence.

    I mean 15-25 shots a game doesn’t help anyone shine.

    Petr Sykora’s season here was one of his worst ever in terms of PPG. Pitkanen who had 40 points last season has what? 2 in 9 games.

    Yet another reason for UFAs to avoid Edmonton. Their stats will get crushed.

  41. Mustafa Hirji says:

    Sykora was actually pacing at close to PPG for 2/3 of last year, IIRC.

    As for the Penner contract, I think the signing was a bad deal (losing the draft picks), but long term, I’m not yet convinced it’s a bad contract. He’s terribly overpaid right now, but the way salary inflation is going in the NHL right now, if Penner manages to be a PPG player w. 30 goals or so the next three years, he’ll be at market value or maybe even a little better.

    The real albatross IMO is Souray. For a guy who gives us, at best, 20 PP goals, he’s not worth $5 million (Smyth would have give us that and more for another $400k). I’d be ok with paying Souray that for one season—not spending money is useless. But 5 years from now, he’ll be a real liability as he slows down (he’s real old already) while earning Hemsky-level money, and contributing little outside the PP.

    The Souray signing from day one disappointed me far more than the Penner signing.

  42. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: Buchberger MIGHT be the best coach of the bunch resume-wise, God knows he would have had time on the bench to see how things were supposed to work lol.

    I suspect Lowe’s problem was what MC implied in this thread: he tried to force the issue with UFA’s and his notion that smyth wasn’t “the man.”

    Which makes Horcoff the next guy to go unless Lowe goes first.

  43. Bruce says:

    The Souray signing from day one disappointed me far more than the Penner signing.

    Me too. The figures were pretty significant: 5 years, $27 MM (NOT $27.5 MM). Also Souray is 31 years old, just like Smyth, so all that BULLSHIT about how Smyth might wear down and not be worth the money in Year 4 or 5 applies equally to Souray (in fact given his well-established injury history it also applies to Year 1, 2, and 3). Are we supposed to believe somehow that Souray is an elite player where Smyth wasn’t?

    LT: we’re not on the same page w.r.t. Penner, but we’re in the same book. I too like his prospects as a player (ignoring the contract and the lottery pick, which should not be blamed on him personally). I’m sure he’ll get better, but I am far less dissatisfied with his play to this point that I was with J.Zoolander this time last year. To some extent it’s human nature, Dustin’s got the Stanley Cup hangover, had a short summer and hit the big time with a huge new contract. Lots of things to celebrate, not enough time to do it. Sure in a perfect world he would have gone to Chad Moreau’s boot camp the day after he signed, but guess what? He’s human. Sounds like he’s working hard on the new training regimen, and in the meantime the sophomore is fourth on the team in scoring, second in hits, and showed very well on Vic Ferrari’s metric he called the Fenwick numbers. He’s not a dominant player at this point, but I think we need to be a little patient with this guy. If that makes me Kevin Lowe’s parrot, my bad.

  44. Dennis says:

    Yeah, I suspect the cap will continue to go up as long as the our dollar’s solid so what we’re paying Penner in three years time won’t be the problem.

    No good way to spin Souray, though.

    Also, two things for Lain:

    1: Lowe also had some trouble with the Pronger “thing” too;) I’ll never let go of that one.

    2: If he lets Horc go, we’re honest to fuck fucked.

  45. PunjabiOil says:

    Riv, how fucking dare you!! That guy won Six cups as a player.

    That post made me laugh.

    Out loud.

  46. PunjabiOil says:

    You can move him upstairs and have him lie and manipulate people along with Laforge, and that would be fine with me.

    Lowe has always been a spin-doctor in the organization.

    I recall an instance during an interview segment, after the HC, “Good things happen to young players who play in the heartland of hockey.”

    Then, during the Flames SCF run, he angrily responded to the media, “Come back to me when they have their 5th SC ring.”

    If you want honesty – the guy is MacT. He’s a straight shooter. That being said, the day there is change in this organization – I want external recruitment. None of the MacT promotions, none of the Bucky Head Coach, etc. Straight clean slate, because frankly, the current reigme just hasn’t got results, and that included MacT.

    On a related note, Bank Shot is one of my favourite posters around here…the guy knows his stuff. I too, agree with the point RE: Scoring.

  47. Pat H says:

    LT: I realize you’re getting inundated with remarks here, but I wouldn’t mind hearing your response to a specific point that has come up.

    Dennis said earlier above:
    “I just think you’re one of those guys that thinks too much in terms of Lowe as a player when you consider his GM track record.”

    I think that this is an issue that is coming more to the forefront. Personally, I’ve thought about it quite a bit and have more or less come to the same conclusion as Dennis. The gist of it is this: While it’s fair to label Lowe as a terrific player, his status as a player doesn’t necessarily mean he possesses the requisite qualities to be an effective GM. But a lot of us have this faith in the OBC mythos – you know, Lowe had 5 cups as an Oiler player, how can he be anything less than effective as the GM?

    And this relates to the very first comment I made, about how I suggested you were being either coy or too humble about the Pouliot thing. Don’t get me wrong, LT – your measured and balanced approach to things is prudent, and I would suggest that it even enhances your credibility as a blogger. But I think your faith in Lowe here is misplaced. To be honest, I think that a guy like you, or other guys in the blogging world, ARE quite possibly smarter than Lowe. Mc79 had a thread today where this sort of thing popped up again (Staples mentioned that Lowe didn’t seem to be aware of the specifics of the draft picks involved in RFA offers, even though it’s clearly spelled out in the CBA).

    At bottom, it’s about Lowe’s perceived status, or the perceived authoritative status we fans grant him. Lowe, as a hero from the mythic glory days, enjoys a level of perceived authority that – to the best of my knowledge – no other GM in the league enjoys. We need to prod at whether or not this status is warranted. Given his recent track record, methinks it’s not.

  48. pboy says:

    That being said, the day there is change in this organization – I want external recruitment. None of the MacT promotions, none of the Bucky Head Coach, etc. Straight clean slate, because frankly, the current reigme just hasn’t got results, and that included MacT.

    Exactly. It pisses me off to no end that people keep talking about the Lowe/MacT/Bucky carousel. Are there no veteran hockey people outside of the Oiler’s organization who might do a better job building this team than MacT? Are there no coaches who already have NHL experience who won’t need a season or two to get the hang of coaching in the Big Leagues? Anyone who doesn’t think MacT wasn’t a terrible coach his first couple of seasons is kidding themselves. There are no assistant GM’s in the league that are ready to take the reins here? If you played for the Oil during the dynasty days, is it your god given right to be next in line for the GM or Head Coach job?

  49. Lowetide says:

    Pat H: I understand your point, but respectfully disagree. You can go back and read this blog from the summer and rarely find an encouraging word, but I think sometimes in the blog world if you don’t say it everyday then people believe you don’t mean it.

    I’m not the sort of person who feels a need to vent in that way. It doesn’t mean that I lack the courage of my convictions, but is possibly a sign that I’ve mellowed since the Messier trade.

    :-)

  50. RiversQ says:

    RE: Penner. I honestly don’t think he’ll earn the money. The reason is that he shows little sign of being a player that can be effective in all three zones.

    Basically he’s going to be a much more effective Laraque (with the gloves on) – he keeps the puck down low and cycles like a demon with the difference being he can pass and shoot the puck.

    I doubt he becomes a player that can backcheck, mark a player or even provide solid puck support in his own end. He doesn’t skate well enough to make a difference in the neutral zone either.

    Bankshot’s stuff about production going down with the Oilers is revisionist nonsense. Guerin’s first decent year was as an Oiler and he produced well here the whole time. Marchant had a pretty solid last year too. Hemsky and Horcoff each had a couple of big years in 05/06. Smyth scored 30+ goals has a MacT Oiler as well.

    There’s no substance to that theory.

  51. RiversQ says:

    I should add that I think Penner could be a pretty good player. He could be dominant in one zone, and as long as he plays with a couple of good Horcoff types that can play a total game, he should be a positive producer.

    Is a good complimentary player worth the money and the draft picks?

    I don’t think so.

  52. Lowetide says:

    RQ: Agree completely on Penner. I am pleasantly surprised though because he appears to be better than I thought he was going in.

  53. RiversQ says:

    pat h: I’m going to disagree to a large extent. I find I hold a higher opinion of NHL GMs than someone like mc79 for example.

    Let’s put it this way though:

    People in NHL front offices definitely know more about hockey than any of the bloggers do. Given the same amount of tape and/or tickets, they would definitely evaluate talent better too.

    However, Tyler has a solid point on two issues IMO:

    Do they know enough about their own CBA?

    (Lowe’s recent admission about draft picks for example. Also Burke’s a fucking lawyer and yet he doesn’t take Penner to arb and apparently didn’t know he could? That’s idiotic.)

    Are they able to adequately evaluate players they haven’t been able to watch closely?

    (This is the whole “saw him good” thing. Why did this team nab Lupul and currently employ Souray? It screams of selective scouting and paying far too much attention to the counting numbers.)

  54. Pat H says:

    riversq:

    Fair enough, I probably stated that too strongly. In any event, my point was that I honestly feel that there’s more than a few GM’s out there who are not as intelligent as we tend to think they are, and likewise, there are intelligent “fans” who have enough hockey+business sense to probably do a respectable enough job, if a gun were put to their head and they were put in such a position. But this is precisely the problem, and it’s an age old one: it’s not about what you actually know, and what you’re actually capable of. It’s who you are (your status), and what people think you’re capable of.

  55. Vic Ferrari says:

    That’s a good take on Penner Riv. I actually like him more than I thought I would. Part of that stems from the fact that this team really struggles to maintain pressure in the offensive zone, so Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky are really standing out in this regard.

    I think he’ll become better in his own end as well, though as you say he doesn’t have the speed to be closing down lanes in the neutral zone very well. And he won’t be the first guy back a lot. Still, good hands for such a big guy. He’ll get better. And guys who can keep the puck hemmed in the offensive end of the rink end up winning you more games than they lose you.

  56. speeds says:

    RiversQ:

    What do you make of Jan Hejda, in that case?

  57. Shawn says:

    I gotta say I don’t really understand the complaint about the money. Even young teams are going to cost money. And when they didn’t spend money there were complaints about that. Penner’s contract is more about what he’ll do 2 years from now than what he’s doing now. Same with Hemsky. Some with Pitkanen.

    I still don’t think the team is doing as poorly as they could be given how many key injuries they had to deal with and how much youth.

    Still, if it’s a rebuild (and it is) what’s the difference how much they’re spending?

    It’s not like they couldn’t spent that money on one or two guys who would turn this team into a contender.

    Plus as others have said with Pisani, Moreau and Souray not playing that’s almost 10 million bucks on IR.

  58. Shawn says:

    I read through this thing and people seem to act like Lowe doesn’t care that the team isn’t winning.

    Oh the Oilers are just flipping fans the bird and saying fuck you.

    Oh Lowe knows he’s safe so he doesn’t give a fuck.

    Do you honestly think that? Who the hell is in hockey for any reason but to win? It’s not like he couldn’t get another job with far less work and stress and still make big money.

    They spent to the cap so you can’t call them cheap. Arguments about the team rolling in cash don’t make sense because they’ve used every cent they could.

    It’s a FAILURE so far and you are absolutely allowed to criticize that and be upset by it. But he tone here like this is intentional or that they don’t give a shit… it just doesn’t make ANY sense guys.

  59. Lowetide says:

    Shawn: I think we all know Kevin Lowe cares, and he’s a decent sort of guy. But it’s also important to note how many “high risk” moves he’s made (Souray, Penner signing, Pronger deal, not signing Smyth) with the big money while the procurement department has actually been ripping up the joint.

    If we take bias out of it, Kevin Lowe’s job performance is lacking. I know he cares. Oilers GM’s traditionally age as well as American presidents do while in office.

  60. Pat H says:

    I agree completely, and I do think it’s been explicit in some of this discussion – only a buffoon would think that Lowe is deliberately trying to run this team into the ground, or that he doesn’t care about the welfare of his team. I think it’s more a case of Lowe being a guy with his heart in the right place, but an insufficient number of marbles present upstairs. btw, on Oiler’s live, did he not make a comment about getting the lineup back “up to snubbs”? “Snubbs”? I thought it was “up to snuff”?

  61. godot10 says:

    //However, Tyler has a solid point on two issues IMO:
    Do they know enough about their own CBA?//

    Even team in the NBA and NFL has a capologist on the payroll. A GM has to be able to recognize and appropriately value hockey talent, scouting talent, and coaching talent. He can hire a dumb lawyer to tell him about the details of the CBA.

  62. Dennis says:

    Shawn, two things here.

    1: The Oilers could’ve awarded the fans patience by spending money on say two year contracts apiece for Bill Guerin and Danny Markov. Then, it makes you arguably more competive then paying money to Penner and Souray, plus you get to keep your first round pick just in case you suck and/or have a tonne of injuries.

    2: I don’t think anyone thinks Lowe’s trying to drive the team into the ground and/or he just doesn’t care. But, the fact remains, he IS driving the team into the ground, at least when it comes to his trading and free agrent signing record.

    Speeds, good to see you again, I’m not speaking for Riv here but I can tell you what I liked about Hejda. The guy was tough and would hit people and block shots. He also had a nice knack for being able to win puck battles and seperate guys from the puck and then make a nice little short pass to start the breakout.

    He’s not a great skater and he can’t carry the puck but Hejda was good at doing the little things, and he’s still doing them for CBJ, and is exactly the kind of guy we need right now. Last year, we needed puckmovers and this year we need defenders.

    If I could have a coffee with Lowe, one of the first things I’m asking is, why didn’t you bring back Hejda?

  63. mc79hockey says:

    It’s not like he couldn’t get another job with far less work and stress and still make big money.

    I’ll bite. What could he do? No disrespect intended to Kevin Lowe but I don’t see what he could do outside of hockey that would entail big money and less work/stress. To be fair, that’s probably true of anyone in a specialized field – I don’t have people beating down my door to hire me in a different field at the same money, but I don’t see where Lowe has a lot of options.

    I’ve talked to someone who works for an NHL team about this and he told me that he’d discussed it with his team’s GM (a guy who knows nothing about sabermetrics or any of the new stuff). His GM made the point that a lot of GM’s are insecure because they know that there aren’t a lot of jobs where they could do as well financially as they do in hockey – as a result, they tend to want to make the safe moves and they want to be sure that they’re the smartest guy in the room. It seems reasonable to me.

    People in NHL front offices definitely know more about hockey than any of the bloggers do. Given the same amount of tape and/or tickets, they would definitely evaluate talent better too.

    Thing is, knowing the CBA and effectively gauging the market are arguably more important than the ability to evaluate a hockey player. I don’t disagree with your point Riv, I just think that with some of the awful hashes that we’ve seen hockey guys who presumably know talent make of teams, well I wonder. I also wonder when I see a guy like Jay Feaster, who’s probably in the top half of league GM’s, and never saw a hockey game until he was in his 20′s – IIRC, he can’t skate.

  64. dstaples says:

    Even after a win, there’s much unhappiness in Oilerland, as seen by your post today Lowetide. It seems to me you’re trying to be fair to Lowe, but some of the things he has said and has done are really bugging you.

    I’m not so sure about the whole concept of “rebuilding” anymore in the NHL. It seems to me we have a cap like the NFL cap, where if you make the right moves and choices, you have a real chance to win every year. The league, as a result of the CBA, is defined by uncertainty, instability, change. You can’t hold on to players in the long term very easily in the NHL, not even young players, as witnessed by the Penner signing.

    As far as I can tell, though, people are still figuring out the recipe for winning with this new CBA, including how teams with a ton of money can circumvent the thing.

    It’s an uneasy, confusing time, and your post reflects that, LT.

    I agree with the posters who have had some sympathy for Lowe, as opposed to more blanket attacks.
    For one thing, we don’t have all the information about decisions Lowe made, such as the Pronger trade, so blasting him on that is highly speculative. Do we really know what the other offers were out there? Are we sure waiting would have brought a better offer? And if we’re so sure, how can we be sure? What if waiting brought a worse offer, as Lowe believed it would, because some of the bidding teams would have dropped out because their cap space was gone? That seems like a reasonable concern on Lowe’s part. Plus he had already lived through the Comrie fiasco, and realized this kind of uncertainty can be a major distraction.

    In some of these moves, Lowe seems to be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    Of course, if he doesn’t like the heat, he can get out of the kitchen. And, with the new CBA, the NHL is going to be one messy kitchen for a long time.

  65. Dennis says:

    David, are you really ready to have this argument? Because I’m not ready to have it with you unless you’re really prepared to listen.

    But, even if we don’t get into it, before anything else happens, check out who Lowe turned down from Ana in the Comrie talks. Then, check to see why he turned it down. Finally, remember the line in the sand with Smyth.

    Lastly, start paying attention to people who don’t agree with everything that Lowe does.

  66. PunjabiOil says:

    Dennis, I think the rude tone is a bit uncalled for – even though I agree with most of what you have to say.

  67. mc79hockey says:

    For one thing, we don’t have all the information about decisions Lowe made, such as the Pronger trade, so blasting him on that is highly speculative.

    Have those questions been asked of him? If not, why? I’m asking genuinely here – I don’t think that anyone has asked him but at the same time, maybe I missed something.

    That said, I do think that we know a little more. For instance, we know that the best goalie of his generation was traded at aboutt the same time for an expensive, injured, baggage laden Todd Bertuzzi, an AHL goalie and a middling defenceman. We know that the man running that club at the time had a great fondness for Chris Pronger. We even know that inquiries were made of the Panthers but that Lowe was asking for kids – not Luongo. I think that there’s enough there to blame him for that trade.

    Do we really know what the other offers were out there?

    I’ll concede that we don’t. Everything we’ve heard suggests that they were looking for kids though – the rumoured SJ offer involved kids too. Why were the Oilers, with coffers bulging from their Cup run, looking for kids?

    Are we sure waiting would have brought a better offer? And if we’re so sure, how can we be sure?

    What if waiting brought a worse offer, as Lowe believed it would, because some of the bidding teams would have dropped out because their cap space was gone?

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out the logic of this. This kind of thinking only makes sense to me in the event that there’s a surplus of Chris Pronger types floating around. Given that there isn’t, every legitimate top pairing defenceman who left the market and ate up cap space would have meant that there was one fewer alternative available to Chris Pronger for those teams. Just as a matter of pure logic, I would have to think that the trade value of any NHL player is at it’s absolute nadir on the cusp of free agent season, when teams have lots of options that cost money as opposed to talent from the roster. Is there some economic theory here I’m unaware of that indicates my thinking on the matter is wrong? I’m genuinely curious, because otherwise this sounds insane.

    Of course, the Oil could have always offered to take on some “bad” money to make the deal happen too, if the right prospects were involved. Think Lou would have been interested if he could have dumped some of his cap problem on the Oilers.

    The thing is – and I’m interested to hear your rebuttal David – this just doesn’t seem like the cleverest front office in the world. Please, make the argument that Lowe and Co. are in the top 10 front offices in the league. In my mind, Lowe hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt in something like this because there’s precious little that you can point to where you can say that the Oilers found and exploited an edge. I think Lowe (or his internet defenders) need to back up this idea that the market would have tanked with more than just “Well that’s what he thought”. In my view, Lowe’s opinions outside of certain narrow areas don’t warrant such deference. His understanding of markets is one of them – see the Roloson contract, in a summer where there were more starting goalies than jobs. I wrote something about it back then that I’ll quote here (sorry LT):

    Recent events have done nothing to alter my position. I love Dwayne Roloson (aptly described as the Warren Zevon of goalies by Neate Sager) for what he did in the playoffs (although I�m no Roloson fetishist) but it blows my mind that Lowe ended up paying him $11MM/3. At least Lowe can point to Roloson’s playoff performance as justification – Gerber gets a similar deal from Ottawa despite having been bombed in the playoffs. We�ll see where Manny Legace ends up for and for how much but I�d say that it’s probably a coin toss as to which of the three provides the most value over the next three years and I’ll be surprised if Legace gets more than $2MM annually. Negotiation has long been a weakness for Lowe – I recall reading an absolutely epic thread on Eric Brewer’s salary arbitration one year where it was pretty conclusively shown that he had no case and Lowe somehow ended up settling on the courthouse steps. I thought that Staios got too much out of him when his deal was done as well. It’s just my opinion but I don’t think that Lowe particularly enjoys this aspect of the job – he’s generally measured in his comments to the media but I recall sniping after both Smyth and Smith got contracts in the past.

    Truthfully, I don’t know how Lowe ended up giving Roloson that kind of money. It’s not outrageous compared to other starting goalies but it is outrageous given that there are more goalies than jobs available at the moment. Agents have used scarcity very effectively in the past. I simply cannot understand why it is that GM’s are unable to use the scarcity of jobs to the same ends. It’s mindboggling.

    Legace ended up on a $1MM/1 year deal from St. Louis and posted a .907 save percentage in 45 games. Gerber posted a .906 save percentage in 29 games. Roloson posted a .909 save percentage in 68 games. Legace has since been resigned to a two year $4.3MM deal. He’s going to be half the cost of Roli over the life of Roli’s deal and, if present signs can be relied on, probably the better goalie over that time. Kevin Lowe (or Scott Howson, or whoever) had the market on his side and he blew it. That’s why I don’t take the musings of the Oilers hockey people on market all that seriously.

    That seems like a reasonable concern on Lowe’s part.

    Why does it seem reasonable? Couldn’t he have offered to take back some money if money was a problem?

    Plus he had already lived through the Comrie fiasco, and realized this kind of uncertainty can be a major distraction.

    This I can understand. That said, uncertainty trumps the certainty of a shitty return. I’d like to know if the Oilers explored the scorched earth approach with Pronger. It’s to the organization’s credit the way that they’ve treated Fernando Pisani – I certainly wouldn’t have said anything bad if they’d refused to pay him, given that that’s the deal in the Standard Player’s Contract. By the same token, if they’d suspended Pronger after he requested a trade and commenced an action against him for breach of contract, I wouldn’t have had a critical word to say. They had the hammer and for whatever reason, they didn’t use it. You have access to the Journal archives – go back and look at the Yashin stories. Compare how Ottawa dealt with him to how Edmonton dealt with Pronger. Look at the return.

    They screwed up. They’ve screwed up a lot of things. I continue to be surprised that smart people – and I don’t think you’re a dummy and I don’t think someone like LT is a dummy – can give the current group the benefit of the doubt.

  68. dstaples says:

    Tyler – that’s a good point about Lowe’s contention that his options with Pronger might get smaller as teams signed their top players and ate up all their cap space.

    You’re right — Even if a team had little more cap space, the Oil could have taken some excellent but high salary players in return, so a trading partner could fit under the cap even when they took on Pronger’s big pay packet.

    As for rating Lowe against other GMs, I’m not enough of an expert on other GMs to do that.

    Is Lowe doing a good job? I’m new to the Oilogosphere, new to giving Lowe’s moves extremely careful study, and have already learned that a few of my previous assumptions need to be rethought somewhat (such as my enthusiasm for the Souray signing).

    I can’t critique in a useful way all of Lowe’s moves since 2000, though I have done more thinking about recent moves, such as the Smyth trade and the Staios, Moreau, Pisani signings (I was blogging about hockey now and then on my pop culture blog last winter).

  69. mc79hockey says:

    I’m new to the Oilogosphere, new to giving Lowe’s moves extremely careful study, and have already learned that a few of my previous assumptions need to be rethought somewhat (such as my enthusiasm for the Souray signing).

    Fair enough – I can understand that. I hope that you can see how it just kills guys like me and Dennis (him in a more publicly visible fashion than me) that nobody covering the team seems to get this. I mean, we’re just guys who follow the Oilers in addition to having careers. The guys who follow them for a living…I understand why nobody digs into this sort of stuff, because it’s probably not the easiest way for a reporter to make a living but these are, in my view, absolutely valid questions that ought to be put to Lowe and Co. Understanding why they aren’t doesn’t make it any more excusable to me.

  70. Lowetide says:

    David Staples: I don’t really feel frustration towards Lowe. It’s more like confusion. I think we (you and I) are old enough to realize no one is going to die from this (this isn’t meant as a shot at Dennis, I punched a hole in the wall the day they dealt Messier) but it’s hard to tie all of the moves since the Pronger deal into a cohesive thread.

    I’ve looked at Lowe’s GM career pretty closely, and most of his pre-lockout deals were either neutral in terms of payoff or (more often) losses short term and paid off into the following seasons.

    Niinimaa trade was probably the best example.

    After the lockout, Lowe had a “Sam Pollock Summer” followed by a “Michael Corleone” trade deadline on the way to the Stanley run.

    Beginning summer 2006, with the twin decisions of dealing Pronger and not signing Smyth we have a “change in direction” based on building with youth and points to a rebuild.

    If you and I are having a beer, and you say “Lowetide, tell me what you think”, I’d say:

    1. Lowe really did think Pronger would change his mind.
    2. Lowe really did like Lupul that much.
    3. Lowe really did think Ryan Smyth should have been better in G7 SCF and decided to spend his money elsewhere.
    4. Lowe felt he could attract UFA’s more readily after the Scott Niedermayer negotiations the previous summer, but found few takers and ended up beginning the year with a team extremely thin on the blueline.
    5. Lowe felt by signing Hejda, Sykora and Tjarnqvist he could buy time and wait for the leaves to shake from the tree by Christmas 2006 but it never came.
    6. Lowe probably decided to make one last shot at signing Smyth, and did indeed try to get it done. I’m pretty much convinced though that he always had in the back of his mind to go another direction (as reflected by ALL of the signings summer 2006).
    7. Lowe had the NYI deal in his backpocketm for awhile.
    8. At some point in the Smyth negotiations, he and Cal probably had a wobbly pop and Lowe could have convinced the EIG to go the extra mile. I do NOT believe it was 100k that kept them apart.
    9. After dealing Smyth, I think Lowe probably decided his offseason would involve spending the “Smyth money” on one big forward and the “Pronger money” (still out there) on a big time defender.
    10. He tried. First Nylander and then (rumored) a trade for Redden did not come to pass. Redden has been mentioned every summer since the lockout ended btw.
    11. He signs Penner and he signs Souray AFTER Katz begins to rumble about making an offer for the team. The EIG imo MAY have decided to open up the pocketbook AFTER the Katz group went public.
    12. Lowe’s “hockey decisions”, which is to say trading for Pitkanen, signing Garon and signing Tarnstrom, are certainly logical.
    13. Ethan Moreau inexplicably gets in front of the least important shot in the history of time, Fernando Pisani’s medical situation becomes public and the Edmonton Oilers step into the elevator shaft.

    For me, being frustrated by Kevin Lowe is a bit useless. As a fan, I’d like to understand the thinking, just as I was curious when Whitey Herzog left the St. Louis Cardinals to scout their minor league system shortly after taking over the team in the early 1980′s.

    Why do intelligent men make these decisions? Why DID Herzog manage the first 73 games of the 1980 season and then allow Red Schoendienst to manage the last games?

    He was scouting the system and finding jackrabbits. And he won the World Series in 1982, and the pennant in 1985 and 1987 too.

    So, you CAN be unorthodox and be a winner. The problem for Kevin Lowe right now imo is that his team isn’t very good and no matter how strong your ties to ownership at some point wins count more than anything.

    My KIDS frustrate me! Lowe? It’s been a bit confusing since summer 2006.

    **NOTE: As always with these, I need to make note that in both the Pronger and Smyth trades I said at the time the payback was fine.

    Cue Dennis. :-)

  71. Dennis says:

    I dunno, Lain. It seems like I lack the proper perspective on all these matters. My job is to just shut up and be placated by what Lowe did as a player. I can be boisterous when they’re winning, of course, but if I complain too much when they’re losing, while making decisions that would choke a horse, then I should sit back and realize that no one’s doing to die.

    Plus, I mean, fuck, you look at the stats that Souray posted before he was signed, that was clearly a good move. You look at the offensive talented displayed by Smid before he was acquired. Clearly a good move. Consider that Smyth’s wanted 5.75 mill when the cap was going to be 25 million. Once again, we just couldn’t afford to pay Smyth.

    I dunno, I guess I’ve been wrong all along and I should’ve never have expressed myself in such a passionate matter. Besides, this team’s on a roll again this year so obviously all the moves are paying off.

    Fuck, maybe I should be just like the regular joe and just go back to to reading what the MSM media tells me.

    And then I’ll come back and join the circlejerk when everything’s going good.

  72. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: lol. I think what really bothers you is that the questions you want asked haven’t been, and won’t ever be asked by mass media.

    It’s always been thus. From the Glenn Anderson pool party through the Graves and Mellanby giveaways to Barry Fraser’s headquarters in Cancun.

    The difference between now and then is that the average Canadian male has a lot more leisure time, the internet connects us like never before, and we can marry those two things into a community of brothers and sisters.

    But there are limits, I think. At least there are for me, and you may call it cowardice and maybe you’re right.

    But like everyone who lives and breathes in Edmonton, I have a life and a wife and a family to provide for.

    And long before I say something in any public forum, out loud or on the street, it’s important to maintain perspective about what really matters.

    Jo-Anne, Michael and Chelsea. That’s what it’s all about.

  73. Dennis says:

    I’m not calling it cowerdice, at all. Not in the least. But what’s that old saying about as soon as you compare someone to Hitler, you’ve lost the argument? Something like that?

    Well, as soon as you tell someone that they care too much, then that’s a copout. It’s basically that person saying, “well I might be wrong but you care too much about it anyway.”

    Well, maybe so. But it’s not like my search for the truth, as it were:) has ever damaged anyone. I mean I know it’s hurt some feelings:) but real damage, I don’t think so.

    Plus, I don’t think what having a family has to do with seeing the writing on the wall when it comes to Lowe. You told Staples that Lowe’s not an idiot and he’ll figure it out. Well, there’s a helluva lot of information circuling around that suggests the guy IS an idiot. Or if not an idiot, a poor evaluator of talent.

    You know, I can be a hard guy to deal with, and I know that. But as soon as you begin or end a debate with something that basically reads, “you care too much about so-so”, well then what’s the point of debating at all?

    Show me the facts that Lowe’s made good moves overall and I’d be elated because I don’t want to believe a nimrod’s running everything outside of the drafting department.

  74. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: Jesus, we must be brothers. :-)

    I think maybe it was the baseball strike of 1994, or maybe the Messier trade but at some point in my life sports mattered a little less to me than it had before. My Dad died in there too, so maybe that was it, and when the kids came along well lordy that’ll change you in a heartbeat.

    I’m not saying you care too much, I’m saying it matters less to me than it did at one time. Will you feel the same way down the line? I can’t say.

    As for my comments to Staples re: Lowe, well I’m guilty as charged. I’m still thinking he’ll figure it out, that the summer of ’05 and the deadline deals can be repeated. And while we’re being completely honest, part of me still gives Lowe a ton of credit for the Stanley run and there’s that in there too.

    Suspect you know that.

    Have you ever been to Vegas? Sometimes you’re way up and KNOW you should walk away but you stay because 11:30 and you’re feeling good and the drinks are free and who the hell goes to bed at 11:30 in Vegas?

    Now at 3:30 you’re homeless. On your way to the elevators you see a Johnny Cash.

    I’m at the Johnny Cash with Kevin Lowe. Bad money following bad money. Maybe you’re at the elevator shaking your head, and good on you for not joining me. Maybe one day you’ll do the same when Ryan Smyth is the GM. :-)

    I did the same thing with Whitey Herzog btw. He was in Anaheim signing a broken down Bryan Harvey but I stuck with him expecting another WS win. I kept thinking “get Vince Coleman from the Mets and you’ll put together a pitching staff with binder twine and win the thing” but it didn’t happen for him and he made some strange damn moves.

    I suspect Lowe will be bumped upstairs sooner than later (certainly before 2012). Or he may resign and end up in Phoenix.

    Either way, he’s dug himself a hole and that’s for sure. And he doesn’t have the track record in management that Herzog had (Herzog was the guy behind the incredible Mets’ procurement department dating back to the 60s-Seaver, Ryan, McGraw, Matlack, Koosman man they had pitching).

  75. Dennis says:

    Anyway, Lain, we have these scraps every now and then:) But I don’t mean any harm by anything I said.

    If we’re at different levels of caring, so be it.

  76. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: It’s all cool. One day we’re going to meet and drink a lot and probably go to the parking lot where the women in our lives will beat the tar out of us.

    :-)

  77. Dennis says:

    You know the Expos turned down a deal for Nolan Ryan, right? I forget who it was for but I remember reading it in Turner’s “Expos Inside Out” book.

    Expos turned it down because of his arm trouble.

    BTW, I never knew there’s where Herzog got his start. It looks like the guy did it the right way and when he went down to check out the Cards system, he wasn’t exactly doing it blind.

    And, yeah, I sorta knew that what Lowe did before carried a lot of truck with you. I understand that to an extent, but I’ve been keeping my eye on Lowe since he made the Weight move and came away with Horachek out of what was an ample stable of Blues dmen at that time.

  78. Lowetide says:

    Oh hell Dennis you’re probably right on Lowe and at this point I’d say we’re about 6 months from past tense.

    Yeah, Herzog was a Mets talent developer and scout in the 60s. Quick story:

    It’s 1971, and Herzog gets a call from the Mets’ GM (I don’t remember his name). GM asks “what do you think of Jim Fregosi?” who was a SS iirc forn the Angels but he could play third and the Mets were always having trouble at third, so bad they once played Amos Otis there and he was a centerfielder if you ever saw one.

    Anyway, Whitey says “Hell, I like Fregosi” and who wouldn’t. He was a veteran who could hit, field and generally help you win.

    So, Herzog picks up the paper and finds out they’ve traded FOUR players for Fregosi, one of them his prize prospect Nolan Ryan and another guy (Lee Stanton) who Whitey was high on. Plus a pitcher (Rose?) and another guy, maybe a middle infielder.

    I’ll always remember the Herzog quote: “I said I liked him, but sure as hell didn’t like him THAT MUCH!”

    Baseball stories are the best.

  79. dstaples says:

    Thanks for your extended answer to my Lowe question, Allan.

    I think agreed with most of your points about what Lowe was thinking at various times, as he has made various moves. I, too, cut him some slack because of the Stanley Cup run (not because of his playing days), and his earlier Pronger and Peca moves.

    Lowe is driven to win, so I think he is always plotting to bold strike, the big move, and it’s possible this instinct drove the Souray and Nylander signings this summer (which I only understand as a reaction to the need to dispel the notion of Edmonton as a crappy destination for NHL players, but not as hockey moves), and the Penner signing (which I think was a high risk, high reward move, with a fairly good probability of turning out fine, though that’s not what is now happening, of course).

  80. Dennis says:

    Staples, just to let you know, Jason Smith Does exist:) ie I read your blog today where you said Lowe essentially traded Pronger for Pitkanen and Smid, with no mention of how Jason Smith had to be thrown in as well. So, I just gave you a little jab there:) but I’m not sure if you just forgot Smith was included in those dealings, or maybe you left him out because you didn’t think it was important. In any case, not sure what kind of an omission it was, but it was an omission nonetheless.

    Anyway, Lain, back to a point you made earlier, yes, I’m always hoping that the MSM asks some real questions. And I don’t think wondering what happened with Pronger and why the Smyth Money was used the way it way it was has anything to do with Glenn Anderson’s sexy parties;)

    That’s to say that one story is scandolous and the other one’s not.

    The other thing is, and this might shock you, but I don’t obsess over this team like I used to. Time was that I’d plan everything around Oilers games and wouldn’t miss one unless it was 100% necessary. I’m not like that anymore, and the wins don’t feel as good and the losses aren’t as hard to take, BUT, there are still things that rankle me. Things like people writing for papers in Edm pretending to be reporters, for one. And that’s not a slam at Staples, per se, that’s a slam at anyone who’ll go to great lenghts to defend a guy like Lowe, but won’t even travel the lenght of themselves to criticize him.

    For example, any defending whatsoever of the Souray trade is plain wrong. I thought we almost had Staples in our camp but then he broke out the old “Lowe had to overpay him to get him to come to Edm and prove something to FA’s.” I might even begin to consider the validity and value in an exercise like that except for the fact that Souray has a negative effect on your team. So, that’s the last kind of guy you should be overpaying.

    I dunno, one of these days I’ll let these fellows rest, I suppose:) But I don’t think it will be anytime soon, though Staples could get into my good books by using his own Phaneuf/Wings offersheet point to point out how that diminished the value of the picks that Burke threw in for the Pronger trade, ie lowering the value of the entire package.

  81. dstaples says:

    Dennis:

    Didn’t forget Jason Smith in Pronger trade, nor did I forget first round draft picks the Oilers got, mainly because they’re not the keky elements here, as they’re not worth much.

    Phily got Smith for ONE YEAR, after which he can return to Edmonton, if he wants to and the Oil want him back.

    The first round picks are likely to be very low first round picks, nothing to scoff at, but not crucial elements of the deal, as Smid, Pronger, Pitkanen/Lupul were.

    As for the mass media asking questions, well, they do ask tough questions of Lowe, but it’s not like we can subpoena the guy, have him sit and cross-examine him for hours and force him to give us answer on threat of imprisonment. It’s not like that.

    Reporters get some chances to ask tough questions of Lowe, but not so many as you might think, and it’s up to him whether he responds or not.

    As for chances to really explore, in depth, an issue, the way you guys want — the way reporters really, truly want — well, that kind of opportunity is even more rare.

    Not that some reporters don’t try . .. For instance, on our Pronger story that came out last April, I was determined to move the story forward, to get past rumours and Pronger’s denials about why he wanted out of town. I wanted people — on the record — saying what they knew. So in my one lengthy interview with Lowe, arranged after much negotiation with the Oilers, I asked Lowe at length and repeatedly about the real reason Pronger left, and he simply wouldn’t tell me.

    I tried to convince him to go on the record, used all my best arguments. He would not budge. From his point of view, he could not speak of Pronger’s reasons for leaving and maintain integrity — part of the confidentiality that binds Lowe from talking with any degree of frankness about a vast number of issues, such as who might have been available from other teams when Pronger was up for trade.

    Lowe can never talk about this stuff. It’s confidential, at least in the short term. So we will never really know.

    Thankfully, as I mentioned, Cal Nichols saw things differently, realized that the air needed to be cleared on the Pronger issue, and didn’t feel he was breaching any confidences by him speaking out, so he talked about what he knew about in regards to Pronger. Nichols didn’t know the whole story, but he knew a big part of it, and felt he could share it, and that it was the right thing to do.

    Frankly, I respect Lowe and his reasons for NOT sharing, and Nichols and his reasons for sharing.

    But these things are rarely so simple as the mass media not wanting to ask tough questions. These are complicated issues, crucial to the lives of the main players, and it’s little wonder they are careful about what they say and which questions they answer.

    Cheers,
    David.

  82. Dennis says:

    Well, it’s good to know that someone’s trying to dig up some truth.

    That being said, why hasn’t a columnist gone after Lowe on the Smyth or Pronger moves? That’s not a move that would require quotes.

  83. Lowetide says:

    David: I am reading you right? Lowe couldn’t say anything so Nichols did? I’m no expert on this sort of thing, but wouldn’t that have a far-reaching effect on the EIG’s (and the Oilers’) relationship with UFA’s?

    Maybe I’m reading too much into your comments, but if Lowe agreed to keep it confidential and Nichols said it, isn’t that something a potential UFA would consider?

  84. mc79hockey says:

    So in my one lengthy interview with Lowe, arranged after much negotiation with the Oilers,

    I’m a complete naif. What sorts of things would you have to negotiate?

    From his point of view, he could not speak of Pronger’s reasons for leaving and maintain integrity — part of the confidentiality that binds Lowe from talking with any degree of frankness about a vast number of issues, such as who might have been available from other teams when Pronger was up for trade.

    Lowe can never talk about this stuff. It’s confidential, at least in the short term. So we will never really know.

    I can appreciate this – he obviously needs to protect his ability to do his job. It’s funny though, up above in this thread and elsewhere, you’ve seemed to me to examine every single possible best case scenario. It seems to me that if Lowe feels the need to keep this stuff confidential – and I know how it is, I deal with confidential stuff – the price he and the Oilers have to bear is that the public pronouncements that they do make will be probed and logical thought will be applied and, if necessary, questions will be raised, even if they aren’t answered.

    In my mind, this is the same thing as when LaForge gets on about something money related – he doesn’t want to open the books (fair enough, I wouldn’t open the books) but if he’s not going to, his assertions shouldn’t be taken as gospel, particularly when they don’t pass the sniff test.

    I recognize I might be talking to the wrong guy here David because you’re not cranking out opinion based columns three times a week in the paper but the guys who do, a lot of them seem to have a default position of assuming whatever would reflect best on the Oilers in a given situation. Given the constraints you’re pointing too, I don’t know how the Oilers can reasonably expect that.

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