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Hardly by popular demand, & with the knowledge that I’ve had a few Advils based on a dental surgery Monday straight out of the 19th Century, here’s a quick summation of what’s real/imagined/possible/impossible regarding the Edmonton Oilers and their management situation:
1. It goes without saying there are a LOAD of people a lot more dialled in than I am to the inner workings of the Edmonton Oilers. So in conversations on twitter (@bradyfan590), yesterday with a couple bloggers whose work I respect (and yet still they belittle and drag me down to their private hells frequently, thanks fellers), the topic of the Edmonton Oilers came up.
Now, I suggested based on information from a couple sources, and ones I trust impeccably, that there’s some, umm, “mild” frustration developing from Oilers owner Daryl Katz regarding two back-to-back 30th place finishes, & seemingly, despite a team I think will surprise many and push for a playoff spot, and obviously their GM Steve Tambellini, would likely take the brunt of that frustration if it grows, and certainly if this team is anywhere close to 30th out of 30 come next April.
The Oilers have to become more “results-oriented” and quickly. Daryl Katz entrusts Kevin Lowe with an awful lot of duties, and he should. Lowe is an easy person to like, and a difficult person not to respect. The biggest priority he has right now is a new arena deal, but let’s face it, he still has a major say in hockey operations. Saying that, much of the reason, he was excited to step more “upstairs” as any loving parent would is to be closer to his children and be in his own bed a lot more often than he happened as Oilers General Manager, & obviously being involved in numerous Olympic & World Championships campaigns.
As for the “major say” in hockey operations, it goes without saying that since Game 7 against the Hurricanes in June 2006, not much has gone right for the Oilers, and at the same time, plenty of speculation exists as to whether Tambellini, Lowe, Katz, or a combination of them are to blame for the disastrous venture into the world of Sheldon Souray, the signing of Nikolai Khabibulin, or the poor fit from the beginning, and the notably hamhanded dismissal of an iconic hockey coach in Pat Quinn. Oilers fans and followers can take the baton from here, and list of items like Shawn Horcoff’s contract, the Pitkanen trade, & and also the stunted growth of the Gagners and Coglianos into elite forwards since being in Edmonton.
Now, that’s a lot of background, and again, I’m NO newsbreaker, and a quick scan of my twitter timeline will denote I was engaging in what I’d describe as “speculative conversations”. I simply won’t do that on twitter without substantive backing and I didn’t even see this as significant enough to:
a) Tweet on my own about it
b) Write a blog about it
c) Mention it on my radio show in Toronto this morning
d) Mention it on my radio show in Toronto TOMORROW morning
I have no “hard news” here. I never claimed to, but I do understand that things can take on a life of their own, and though some in the Edmonton media world are taking my comments and theory more seriously than others, that’s all fine and good. I do the very same thing. I know who I trust and don’t in the hockey world. So do you. It’s all good.
But I’d like to clarify and provide depth for a fanbase I respect and who has maturely asked me questions about this on twitter and via email today. Here’s what I can tell you, and yes, this falls probably closer to “solid speculation” than it does to “baseless innuendo”.
1. Lowe right now has NO interest in returning to GM. He’s got the best of both worlds. He can be at home more, still have a say in hockey decisions, and he can do the valuable legwork needed to move the arena project along, which as Gary Bettman cryptically noted in Alberta last February, is quite essential.
2. That certainly could change. Situations evolve, right? But as my timeline would prove, I’ve never implied or suggested Lowe wants back right now, but I’d bet he will be an NHL General Manager again someday. I’m far from alone in thinking that.
3. Tambellini is not on any kind of clock for job survival, but, again, more dismal results can change that. If that does happen, and Katz loses all faith in Tambellini, he’d like to pursue Lowe to get more hands-on. This is human nature, people. Katz and Lowe are close, and Katz recognizes Kevin’s place in Oilers history, and hockey history for that matter. He’s not going to place him in an untenable scenario, but he also is going to lean on Kevin strongly, many speculate, to return if Tambellini is not seen as being able to carry on his duties in what’s been a rough tenure so far.
4. This kind of thing happens in almost EVERY NHL city, or at least every NHL city where there’s decent coverage for the team. No, I doubt Nashville scribes speculate much on David Poile’s successor, but this is what we do here — and I can only speak for myself, I don’t do it with an agenda, with malice, or in this case, with a dog in the fight. Not in the least. I don’t start rumours. I react to information I’m given & I follow up that information by comparing it to that of others I trust.
To a much smaller extent, speculation exists here in Toronto, about whether Brian Burke would someday become President of the Maple Leafs, and Dave Nonis moves up to again become an NHL General Manager, here in Toronto. Who knows if it will happen? I don’t. Couldn’t even take a wild guess. But if someone tells me it’s more or less likely and I trust that source, I will consider going with it.
5. This kind of thing happened FREQUENTLY in Detroit once Steve Yzerman joined the Red Wings management team. Would Yzerman ascend to GM? Would Yzerman leave? Would Holland leave? Would there be tension? Where does Jim Nill fit in? What does Mike Ilitch think? It was pre-twitter and the speculation was very fair and on my end, never without substance.
6. Kevin Lowe denied today that anything is pending and denied that he has any interest in being Oilers GM again. I agree on both counts. Nothing is, and he doesn’t. That doesn’t mean the crux of what I suggested won’t happen — Katz will ask if he deems Tambellini can’t continue.
7. As for my record, again, this is NOT my thing. Breaking stories, that is. I’d never claim to be something I’m not, and I work with colleagues far more dialled in than myself, FAR more. But I mentioned on-air and on twitter last fall that Richard Peddie was resigning. He denied it that day…and then he did weeks later.
I noted in late-April that an Atlanta Thrashers player told me via text message that it was strongly suggested by his agent that he’d be moving along with the rest of the team. The NHL, the Thrashers management, and many media sources close to the NHL denied it…and then they moved weeks later.
I’m going to miss the mark occasionally, but more on opinion than speculation. There’s absolutely nothing pending, and do I consider this far less of a “story” than others do, I guess….but like I said, no one’s done wrong by me out of Edmonton today, and it’s a “wait and see” approach. Seems fair on all sides.