Who’s In Control Here?

This is Al Haig. Despite a long and distinguished career in public service he is remembered for a brief moment in time when he said “I’m in control here” when he in fact was not in control anywhere. No biggie, unless the president has just been shot.

On that historic day, Haig sounded like a character from Gotham City instead of a very powerful man with a very powerful, serious job. Richard Dreyfuss played him in the movie and that’s probably about right, although they are not political brothers-in-arms.

Kevin Lowe is the top hockey man in the Edmonton Oilers organization at this time. He acquired the GM job in summer 2000 and has been in control since that day. Should the Oilers make a trade during training camp or into the season, the final decision will fall to Kevin Lowe.

Steve Tambellini will do the ground work on trades, present the idea to Lowe (and Prendergast) with Lowe’s signature being the final seal. How long will this go on?

I honestly can’t see this working for long, as Lowe’s time will probably be spent (more and more) away from the rink and away from all the hockey games, scouting reports, etc. The farther he gets from day to day contact with other general managers the less his influence in the hockey side of the operations.

I can’t see it any other way. It isn’t good or bad, but I think it’s pretty important to make that statement now. Lowe can’t add more work in another area (after saying he needed help) and remain as in touch as is required for the GM job. He may tackle the arena project, he may streamline the management system, he may decide to add scouts in the mid-west to cover the increasingly powerful USHL and the now vital college free agent signing season.

While he’s doing that, rookies are going to emerge and veterans are going to lose a step and Kevin Lowe is going to be out of touch before you know it. Don’t take my word for it, the news was there for all to see in the August 1 Edmonton Journal. Patrick Laforge: “Kevin’s been the executive vice-president, hockey operations, for the eight years I’ve been here, so he’s had all these responsibilities. In this case, we’ll be co-equals, so that’s really the only thing that has changed. The issue, in a number of ways, is that he hasn’t had the time to do the things he’s capable of doing in a broader sense.”

What is he going to give up in order to do these things in a “broader sense?” Give control to his generals.

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35 Responses to "Who’s In Control Here?"

  1. therealdeal says:

    What exactly is Lowe’s function now?

  2. Ducey says:

    “and Kevin Lowe is going to be out of touch before you know it.”

    I am not so sure about that. Does not arguing with Rich Winter for an hour on and off about what number his free agent wants make him out of touch? He can check in with the GM and find out in 5 minutes. The same goes with trade proposals from other GM’s.

    I think he can now have a little more perspective on things. Maybe he doesn’t do a Souray contract out of desperation. Maybe he shows a little more patience at the draft. Maybe he has more time to sit down with scouts and talk prospects, trade targets etc.

    I always get the sense Lowe treats some aspects of the GM job with the same emotion he did when he played. Sometimes he gets a little too emotional and seems like he would like to do nothing more that give someone a two hander. He seems to go bonkers at the draft and trade deadline trying to make a million deals and tends to make his deals ahead of everyone else.

    I think that a little detachment is likely to help Lowe make better decisions and be a little more “in touch” with the big picture.

  3. Lowetide says:

    We’re about to find out. He has a GM in place to do the groundwork on deals, he has a capologist in place to run the numbers and Prendergast to hang around the procurement department.

    So he can dabble in all three and then go down the hall and play with the big new model of the Katz arena.

  4. godot10 says:

    Worrying about a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Detroit has Holland and Nill with Devallano and Bowman (till recently) and Yzerman adding input.

    Lowe was getting stressed out. More people providing input was necessary. The organization will be stronger if it isn’t relying on one guy (Lowe) trying to do too much.

    The Oilers are moving from the “Sather-is-God” model to a more collegial team-oriented model. Management depth is important.

  5. Lowetide says:

    godot10 said: Worrying about a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Hence the “it isn’t good or bad” portion of the post.

  6. Hoos says:

    I’m with godot10 on this one. I see this move as the only way to add a targeted executive to the ranks of the Edmonton Oilers. We know Tambo’s ordeal; he was passed over (again) in Vancouver for someone who’s proving to be seriously under qualified for the job. The only way for Tambo to get out of Vancouver was a time sensitive promotion, and that’s what the Oilers gave him.

    I don’t know if K-Lowe will lose touch with the other GMs, but what I do think is that there will be another mind at the table to evaluate ideas from. That makes: K-Lowe, Pendergast, Tambo, and Mac T. Soon you might be able to add Craig Simpson to that list.

    The bottom line for me is that Tambo was the guy they wanted and this was the only way to get him. Will he be a “traditional” GM? In today’s NHL, maybe only John Ferguson Jr. was the last one. And that worked out pretty well.

  7. Dennis says:

    When people keep citing that Det model — because the winner’s ways are always in vogue just as everyone should’ve played tough heading into ’08 because that’s how the Ducks won in ’07;) — let’s remember that two of the four guys helping out Holland are old guys who were once GM’s themselves and now they are there to lend wisdom and differing opinions but I’d doubt that Bowman and Devellano did much more than that.

    In fact, I don’t think Holland would have much professional pride if he allowed them to do more than that. To keep going through the list, Jim Nill seems to be a special case in that he’s either afraid to sit in another org’s big chair or he’s one of the few in life who actually values existing and dependable comfort over the promise of extra money and what does everyone think Yzerman’s honestly added to the Wings success in the last two postseasons?

    Do you think he was the guy who realized Brad Stuart’s much better as a good player on a great team rather than a good good player on bad teams?

    And the list goes on.

    So, I won’t further cite that det model as anything that needs to be or can be duplicated because it’s unique and exists and only existed because you had two oldsters who were willing to throw in five cents every now and then and you had a capable vet assistant GM who won’t take work elsewhere.

    As for Lowe and his temper and emotion, Lowe has what people call “crazy eyes” and I’m sure it’s served him well in his playing days but as an executive not so much. He’s a guy that if he were boiling something on the stove he’d either eat it before it cooled off and thus burn the roof of his mouth or he’d sling the boiler and it’s contents across the room because he’d run out of patience with it;)

    He gets caught up in things like revenge when trying to make deals like the Comrie trade and there are other times when he feels such loyality to players that he’ll put them where they want to go; first Weight and then Pronger.

    There’s a sullen guy over at LT’s new home that doesn’t like to read things like that but it makes them nonetheless true. And, as much as I like Erik Cole, he’s got one year left on his contract and the Oilers dealt off their most consistent EV dman for him. That’s not to say that wasn’t a recommendation from MacT and Co to get rid of Joni but Cole’s a rental right now and we’d be better off at evens back on D with Joni than we are without him. So, maybe this is another move that shows Lowe’s lack of patience.

    So, what does all this mean for Tambo? Did he have assurances that Lowe’s really ready to take a hands-off approach on ice and just try and milk the city and taxpayers for Katz’s new toy? Then again, perhaps Tambo realizes there wasn’t any hope of getting the big job in Van so he’d go to Edm and take over the “GM” job in hopes he could move somewhere else eventually to be another team’s GM even if his GM job in Edm was pretty much a sham in the first place.

  8. Addicted-to-oil says:

    I think another important element is that with Tambo doing the groundwork for trades and signings, it’ll give GM’s, agents, and players a fresh face to deal with in the Oilers office. K-lowe’s been around 7 years, and we all the know the free agent problems the team has faced. At some point I’m sure the agents see K-lowe calling and immediately have a certain reaction – whether good or bad. I think having Tambo on the front lines will give the team a new fresh look to the rest of the league, which can be a good thing as we try to build around our young guys and take that next jump by securing solid FA’s.

  9. Scott says:

    I think it’s pretty important for us to recognise that we really don’t know what these two guys are doing. What exactly is the “groundwork” on trades? Is it determining availability of players on other teams? Is it determining the value of players on your own team? Is it doing the actual negotiating of the trades? Is Olcyk or Tambellini going to be doing most of the contract negotiating? There’s a lot about the roles in the organization that isn’t clear because I’m sure there’s a lot of cross-over. But Tambellini and Lowe are the two that are the most unclear to me.

    Prengergast – Procurement?
    Olcyk – Cap and Contracts
    Tambellini – Trades and FA?
    Lowe – Oversight of all three?
    Katz – Oversight of all three?

    Is this about right?

  10. till_horcoff_is_coach says:

    My opinion is completely in-line with LT.

    I believe that in the beginning Lowe will oversee the men beneath him, and as mentioned, he will also have his own focus. Lowe will realize that they are more in-touch than he is with their respective areas. Then, if he believes that he has hired capable men, as time goes on it becomes difficult to second-guess many of their decisions.

    I think this is a good thing. GM’s can lose sight (as dennis just mentioned), and if no-one else is genuinely over-seeing them then it becomes a PR game of deciding when the GM is to blame. Also, I think Lowe has more intelligence than ego and will recognize and embrace this shift over time as Tambo performs. He appeared to have transitioned to trusting Olcyk pretty strong this past year in negotiations.

    That said, I still think Lowe will be as important as ever. He will still steer the direction of the team while tweaking all manners throughout the org to all work together. It sounds like less of a role, but I think it does involve more long-term vision, deeper insight into day-to-day processes, and the ability to question all aspects of the org, not just the players.

  11. Sean says:

    I dont see how Lowe loses touch either. Decision making has got to be a small percentage of the GM job. Gathering information to me takes up most of the time. Finding out:

    – who is available
    – what assets are other teams interested in
    – who is going to become UFA who is going to resign
    – determining the cap number next year
    – talking to scouts and farm team coaches ect

    This is now Tambelli’s job and IMO decisions will still be done by comittee. If anything Lowe has more time to watch games and make decisions – whether its Oilers, Bruins vs Thrashers, an AHL game, NCAA game, KHL game or OHL game. There is more and more information out there and more people are required to make sense of it.

  12. till_horcoff_is_coach says:

    By committee works fine in theory. In practice Tambellini may want to move player X where Lowe may like him – I’m betting these types of decisions don’t come down to a vote. Someone gets the final say. Sure, everyone gets input, but in time (1 or 2 years I’m guessing) Tambellini gets the final say.

  13. Scott says:

    Hey LT:

    Is tambelli your cute, new nickname for our GM, or is there a typo in your tag?

    And I think Lowe becoming “out of touch” would only happen if this arena actually ramps up and he’s needed there for a large portion of his day.

  14. Paper Designer says:

    I don’t see this as a realistic look at Lowe himself. He may see himself being detached, but do you honestly expect his team to go through a losing streak before Lowe starts to get involved? It’s outside of Lowe’s nature to shrug his shoulders, and let the team alone. I don’t think the man could get uninvolved short of an outright firing.

    This is a man who has been doing the work of a GM and an Assistant GM since Howson left to Columbus. Is he out of touch because he’s acquired a new right-hand man?

  15. Paper Designer says:

    Also, I don’t see Lowe stopping himself from watching hockey games. He’s the ultimate competitor; I seriously doubt he won’t want to see how his team is doing from moment to moment.

  16. Doogie2K says:

    And, as much as I like Erik Cole, he’s got one year left on his contract and the Oilers dealt off their most consistent EV dman for him. That’s not to say that wasn’t a recommendation from MacT and Co to get rid of Joni but Cole’s a rental right now and we’d be better off at evens back on D with Joni than we are without him.

    I dunno, I think this operates under the assumption that Joni would’ve signed under any circumstances, which I really don’t think was happening. From everything I’ve read, Joni hated being coached and MacT hated that Joni was uncoachable. Not much to be done with that, really. Plus, his injury history of late has me leery.

    Then, if he believes that he has hired capable men, as time goes on it becomes difficult to second-guess many of their decisions.

    Exactly. He’ll offer his opinion when it’s sought, but I think he’ll largely be a rubber stamp as time goes on, really only stepping in if things go horrifically pear-shaped and/or someone moves on of their own volition. I dunno if he “loses touch,” so much as changes focus. Don’t forget, he’s also got business to oversee with the Oil Kings, the Falcons, and the Thunder. And like Sean says, it could give Lowe more time to watch hockey outside the Rexall luxury box, which is never a bad thing.

  17. Addicted-to-oil says:

    And, as much as I like Erik Cole, he’s got one year left on his contract and the Oilers dealt off their most consistent EV dman for him. That’s not to say that wasn’t a recommendation from MacT and Co to get rid of Joni but Cole’s a rental right now and we’d be better off at evens back on D with Joni than we are without him.

    But how usefull was Joni overall? Why do people keep pointing to the fact he was ‘decent’ even strength? He was terrible on he powerplay, and could have been better on the PK. Overall he had 1.13 giveaways per game and only .32 takeaways per game. Those were almost worst on the entire team. Not overlly consistent.

  18. Vic Ferrari says:

    I love dogs Lowetide. I have a border collie cross from the Humane Society named Lazza, and he’s very old now. It’s going to break my heart when he goes.

    He’s the Gretzky of dogs, even at his advanced age, no other dog at the off leash park can touch him at any dog sport. Not ever. Whatever he was crossed with was big and fast, he’s an uber-collie. Plus he’s figured out that dogs just quit when they know they can’t win, so he slows the game down to the level of opposition, so he just barely wins at everything. I had a friend with two basset hounds, and it was strange stuff to watch them together.

    He’s a pain in the ass also, boundless energy is not always a good thing. And his overwhelming urge to herd anything and everything should really have gotten him killed by now. Still, I love him to bits.

    Another thing I love about him is that he never craps within 300 metres of the house, he runs off into the woods for his morning constitutional (I’m a country bumpkin, btw).

    I had another dog, Bobo, also a great dog. Different though. He would feel the bite of a cold winter wind and crap in the snow right at the bottom of the porch stairs. Funny how perspective changes things, a lot of Edmontonians think that warm winter days are rare, for years I thought they were all too common. I was just praying for a few more days without a thaw, so that the dog crap volcanoes just outside my door wouldn’t expose themselves with terrible visual and aromatic impact.

    So anyways, a couple of years ago Lazza would be gone for 30 or 40 minutes, sometimes more, in the morning instead of 5 minutes. I’d wake up, let him out, shower, shave, eat, watch a bit of CNN, and Lazza would sometimes still be gone. What the hell?

    I’m a reasonable person, and he’s an aging dog, I thought it must be constipation. I changed dog foods over and over, I put olive oil on his food, I started giving him vegetables, I searched online, I talked to the vet … nothing made a difference. And I felt bad for the guy, out there trying to pinch a loaf on a bitterly cold winter day.

    This went on and on. And I found out over a year later that he was running through the trees to a neighbour. Apparently she was doing doing physio in the mornings, recovering from a serious car accident. And she was finding it difficult emotionally, Lazza showed up, she let him in. She thinks he is the most sentient creature in the world, he kept her going apparently. I’m glad he made her feel better.

    Still, it turns out he was eating dog treats, hanging on her couch and watching morning telly the whole time that I was worried about the bugger.

    My point, for anyone still reading, is that if you don’t know what is really going on behind the scenes, then you’re guessing. In a lot of cases a reasonable person is going to guess right. But sometimes we just know so little beyond the simple facts within sight of us, that theorizing only reveals the bias of the commenter.

    FWIW, my money would be on your POV, Lowetide. But we know two things; we don’t know much, and Lowe is still loved by Oiler fans.

  19. Jonathan says:

    When people keep citing that Det model — because the winner’s ways are always in vogue just as everyone should’ve played tough heading into ’08 because that’s how the Ducks won in ’07;) — let’s remember that two of the four guys helping out Holland are old guys who were once GM’s themselves and now they are there to lend wisdom and differing opinions but I’d doubt that Bowman and Devellano did much more than that.

    It’s also fun, and lots less flattering, to remember that the Detroit model and the Islanders model look a great deal alike from a distance.

    Like say, the distance we have from the organizations. As always, it isn’t about having 5 guys, it’s about having 5 guys who know the difference between their arse and their elbow.

    There’s a sullen guy over at LT’s new home that doesn’t like to read things like that but it makes them nonetheless true.

    You’re talking Brownlee, right?

  20. Dennis says:

    Yes, I’m talking about Brownlee:)

  21. Lowetide says:

    Vic: I wish I’d written that.

  22. Black Dog says:

    Vic is a magic man with the stories.

  23. Schitzo says:

    Classic, vic.

  24. Bruce says:

    Vic: So would Bobo be named after a certain Mr. Mironov? Certain traits in common if shitting at the foot of the stairs is any indicator.

    I’m thinking Lazza sounds like a good nickname for Smid, don’t you?

    Great story. I love dogs.

  25. NotLeeFogolin says:

    If Lowe does what every person who’s at the top of the chain in his or her field does, he’ll probably go to a lot of meetings, have a lot of discussions and deliver a lot of prepared speeches about things that other people are doing.

  26. Bank Shot says:

    “The issue, in a number of ways, is that he hasn’t had the time to do the things he’s capable of doing in a broader sense.”

    What exactly is Lowe capable of? We know he’s not a great player relations guy. He’s not really a guy that goes about methodically filling holes in the roster either. His teams usually have big obvious holes, that he doesn’t even attempt to address before going into the season.

    Maybe he has a keen eye for talent, although it’s pretty hard to say which member of the team recommended which player in which trade.

    Or perhaps he’s most capable of appeasing the fans because of his role in the dynasty.

    I’d like to think he’s a keen eye for talent, and this move will give him more time to assess players and less time to appease the Pronger’s of the team, and run down Ryan Smyth on Hockey Night in Canada.

    The idea that Lowe was most capable of being loved by the fans is too Charles Wang to think about. The EIG couldn’t have been that insane could they?

  27. Master Lok says:

    LT,
    I think I disagree with your argument. I think with the hiring of Tambellini to take on some of the GM duties, Lowe will have MORE time to deal with Oiler hockey issues not less.

  28. Vic Ferrari says:

    Bobo died a little while ago, Bruce. And he was worth ten of you.

    You are an asshole, Bruce McCurdy.

  29. Bruce says:

    Sorry to hear that Vic. Now that you mention it I recall posting my condolences to you at the time he passed, asshole that I am.

    I do love dogs, I lost mine in May to canine bloat, it was horrible.

    But I don’t think I deserve the above comment, all I did was make a little joke based directly on something you wrote immediately above. If it’s such a touchy subject, why did you bring it up?

    I am sorry about your dog, but it’s not my fault.

  30. Bruce says:

    Found it. I broke my self-imposed exile from IOF to post this:

    Bruce said…
    Condolences, Vic, on the loss of your family member. Sounds like Bobo had a good life in a good home. “Best friends” is a two-way street.
    2/21/2008 9:50 PM

    Vic Ferrari said…
    Thanks to everyone for the nice words.
    I’m sure that Bobo would have liked all of you guys.
    2/25/2008 9:53 PM

    … or not.

  31. Lowetide says:

    Well there it is in black and white. You people know each other?

  32. Bruce says:

    I hope not. I’m pretty sure from past comments that “Vic Ferrari” is a psuedonym. I made the mistake of using my real name when I first signed on, never guessing that my surname would be brought up at all, let alone in close conjunction with words like “asshole”. Just what I want scientific associates who might google my name to bring up first. And while they’re in here, Welcome to the Oilogosphere.

  33. Lowetide says:

    Bruce: Is it on my site? I’ll delete it if it’ll help.

  34. Bruce says:

    Yeah it’s about five or six comments directly above. I would prefer to leave the comment stand on its own, tho’ if you delete my surname I won’t object.

    Thanks, LT.

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