Friday, July 27, 2007

Brian Burke's Relationship with Kevin Lowe to Change

Brian Burke's conference call with the media wrapped up this afternoon with Burke pulling no punches in his description of Kevin Lowe. Some highlights:

On the offer from Lowe:

I thought that was gutless. I have no problem with offer sheets. They're part of the CBA. But in my opinion, Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it's an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job

On whether he and Lowe speak often,

We used to, quite a bit.

On whether that will continue,

I have no idea

It honestly seems to me Burke is more steamed about the way Lowe went about this, or just the fact that Lowe did go about this, than he is about losing a hockey player, which as an Oiler fan is very bad news. Honestly, if any GM has the motivation to keep Kevin Lowe around it should be Burkie. I mean, that ring Kevin gave to him in the spring should be worth at least one tongue bite.

I guess they're just like every married couple though. Once Burke got that ring I guess it doesn't matter anymore. Can't take it away.

link to the transcript

Kukla's Korner reaction

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kevin Lowe No Longer Wants to Be an NHL GM

Kevin Lowe signed Dustin Penner to a $21.5/5 offer sheet this afternoon, and it's a bad move for a number of reasons, most of which Lowetide has already summed up.

Goodbye Drew Doughty. Goodbye John Tavares. Goodbye Steven Stamkos. Hello years of futility.

While I thought the Vanek offer wasn't a prudent move, I could at least accept the numbers and player quality involved. Vanek has shown the potential to be another Ales Hemsky type player (or better) and having a couple of guys like that on the team would have been ok, even given the draft pick cost. The price was high, but I think it was a very fair offer and by the time Vanek hits free agency he'll be hearing numbers higher than that. At worst the Vanek move was reckless, but at best it was slick.

The Penner offer has none of the shrewdness of the Vanek offer. You could argue Vanek's numbers were inflated, but drop them all even 30% and they were still pretty respectable. Penner doesn't come close to the Vanek's production numbers, he's much older, and his competition was approximately equal (as arguably were his linemates).

Darcy Regier had the motivation and cap space to bail Lowe out of his idiocy.

Brian Burke has absolutely no reason to sign Penner for that much money, and I doubt he has the room anyway. Besides, if anyone loves draft picks it's Burke; I guarantee right now he's licking his chops thanking Lowe for giving him far more back than Penner would have received in any sort of trade deal.

This total string of idiocy has lead me to one conclusion. Kevin Lowe no longer wants to be an NHL general manager.

Other reactions:

Battle of California
"Joffry Lupul II"

Covered in Oil
"At $4.3 million a year, it's a reasonable offer on a burgeoning talent..."

Five Hole Fanatics
"Were I Brian Burke, I'd take the draft picks and run."

Legal Problems

In Major League Baseball the all time home run record is about to be evened and bested by a man that everyone knows obviously cheated. The commisioner refuses to attend (or acknowledge) the record setting game.

In the National Basketball Association a referee has been booked on charges of betting on games. Commisioner David Stern calls it the worst situation he had experienced during his tenure as commissioner.

In the National Football League, star quarterback Mike Vick has been indicted on charges relating to his dog fighting operation, which included acts of cruelty including electrocuting dogs that weren't acting aggressive enough. He has been told not to show up at training camp.

In the National Hockey League, Eric and Jordan Staal were kicked out of a resort for being too rowdy at Eric's bachelor party, then arrested for carrying the party onto the highway late at night. Jordan was charged with drinking while under 21.

Thank god for the NHL.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Review - Searching For Bobby Orr

I should probably preface this review by admitting that Bobby Orr has always been my favorite player who I never saw play. At times I've been disappointed I wasn't around to see Mike Bossy, or Bobby Clarke, and I think it would have been something to see a guy like Maurice Richard or Joe Taylor playing, but I don't think any of them really touched the game the same way Orr did. Knowing that he threw away the end of his career playing on one leg for Team Canada in '76 always made me admire the guy even more.

Stephen Brunt's Searching For Bobby Orr is an unauthorized biography which automatically tells you two things; firstly the book isn't going to have any direct interviews with Orr, all quotes will be taken from newspapers or other secondary sources. Secondly, you know Orr doesn't necessarily approve of the book.

The fact that the story isn't told from Orr's point of view, the tales recollected aren't necessarily those he finds most important, is a bit disappointing from my perspective. I think Phil Esposito's memoir is simply a stellar undertaking in that sense, he lays everything on the line, and like his larger than life personality, is not afraid to say what's on his mind - consequences be damned.

That said, Bobby Orr never has, and never will be, an Esposito personality type. He's always been known for being reserved (at least publicly), and one particularly interesting insight in this book is how carefully Orr guarded his public image from his private life. Because of this personality trait, a Bobby Orr authorized biography would most likely be much less in depth and informative, even if it was in Orr's voice.

The book covers Orr's life from his childhood in Parry Sound ON to his Stanley Cups in Boston to his final confrontation with Al Eagleson. It is about hockey to be sure, but there is a lot more there; Brunt is more than willing to give the reader Orr's context in a wider world including the social trends, hockey tactics, and finally (and oftentimes most importantly in the book) hockey politics. This book isn't just about how Bobby Orr played the game of hockey, its how he changed hockey, both on and off the ice.

Although a bit slow at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the book both as insight into Orr's life and also how the inner workings of the game have changed over the past 50 years. The names, faces and life works of the game's all time greats (Sam Pollock, Scotty Bowman, Don Awrey, Phil Esposito, Wren Blair, Carl Brewer, the list goes on) and their relationship to Orr are discussed in detail as well.

You can pre order the paperback edition of Searching For Bobby Orr here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Souray Signs with Edmonton

Some quick thoughts:

  • Paul Kariya likes playing in places like Anaheim, Nashville, St. Louis, away from fans that will hold him accountable. Obviously Souray does not share this sentiment, moving from Montreal to Edmonton.

  • Being an Alberta boy probably played heavily into his signing. Maybe the Oilers should target key Alberta born players if they're really having trouble drawing stars...start with that Ryan Smyth guy-I heard he's good.

  • I really enjoy and agree with Lowetide's description of Souray as a 'Chaos' defender. Many times Souray will be just as likely to cost you a goal as score one or prevent one. That said, Souray can be a force at times.

  • I was initially against getting a guy like Souray (a Chaos defender), but the Oilers need bodies and some good PR. In that sense this is probably a good move.

  • There's been a lot of speculation about the Oilers starting defensive groupings. I think we can now see the team starting to take shape:
Souray - Staios
Pitkanen - Tarnstrom
Smid - Greene
  • Pitkanen could be put with Souray, creating a Staios-Tarnstrom tandem, but I like the idea of sheltering Pitkanen from too many minutes/responsibility early, and I like Steady Stevey Staios playing with Sheldon 'Chaos' Souray.

  • Will the Oilers be able to still find room for that desperately needed forward?

  • What did Souray cost?

  • Has Lowe done enough to stay the execution?

It's Just Bad Timing That's All

I never really did much of an analysis of Mike Keenan when he was hired, I think that his history is pretty well publicized and probably speaks for itself. This season will probably be a absolute disaster or a total success; the odds of it falling between those two extremes is, in my opinion, relatively low. I wasn't particularly pleased with Keenan's hiring, and my attitude has changed very little since then. Really, my grudging acceptance of Keenan was based on two factors: Playfair is gone, and there were very few options available in replacing Playfair. It disappointed me that the Flames missed the Andy Murray boat, but that was the past.

There was one other man who I've hoped would be the Flames head coach, but it appeared there were too many obstacles. Brent Sutter was head coach for two very successful Team Canada U-20 incarnations, and even one successful World Junior year usually translates to a head coaching job. Two was unprecedented.

Brent's position with the Red Deer Rebels appeared to be the main obstacle for his inclusion into the NHL head coach rankings. He plays multiple roles for the franchise, including owner, general manager, and head coach. His named had popped up multiple times in the shortlist for NYI coaches (with Ted Nolan eventually taking the reigns). I always felt though that if Sutter did jump to the NHL it would be to a position with his brother Darryl's team.

He would be able to stay close to his ranch, he would be once again coaching Dion Phanuef, he and his brother could act as a true partnered braintrust for the organization. Nowhere would Brent have more control over player movement or be as close to management.

However, it now appears, according to Darren Dreger and Bob Mckenzie, that Brent will leave his GM and coach position with the rebels to join Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey (the man who very unfairly fired Claude Julien near the end of the season, it really pains me that a great coach would still want to work with him).

Of all the lousy luck.

Firstly, if Brent was willing to take a position within the NHL, why NOT the Flames? Was the organization unwilling to meet some sort of demands he had? Did Darryl not know? Was he promised more control in NJ? All of these propositions seem equally unlikely.

The only real explanation I can speculate on is that Darryl knew Brent could be had for the right price, but sincerely felt Keenan was the better coaching option.

If there is one comment you can make about Darryl, it could never be that he tends to play it safe.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Covering Your Ass - By Kevin Lowe

I just received this in my email box:

Oilers Statement regarding Michael Nylander

The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club is compelled to clarify the unfortunate and unprecedented circumstances surrounding the Edmonton Oilers and Michael Nylander.

On Sunday, July 1, 2007, Kevin Lowe, Oilers General Manager, and Mr. Mike Gillis, Certified Agent for Michael Nylander, negotiated and agreed to a multi-year NHL Standard Players Contract, starting in 2007/08. Mr. Gillis confirmed same to the Oilers in writing.

The Oilers then proceeded with preparations to announce Mr. Nylander’s contract agreement on July 2, and concurrently continued with the process of negotiating with other free agents based upon Mr. Nylander being an important roster ingredient for the future.

However, while the Oilers were expecting the returned, signed agreements from Mr. Nylander and Mr. Gillis, the Oilers discovered through public announcements made mid-afternoon on July 2, that Mr. Nylander had subsequently entered into a long-term contract with the Capitals.

The Oilers can find no precedent for such conduct in our history. The Oilers are examining and pursuing every course of action available in the best interest of the team and our fans.

For legal reasons, the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club will not be discussing the details any further at this time.

Wow. Only the Oilers, only the Oilers.

If Kevin Lowe was smart he'd realize that he'd have looked like a bigger fool giving Smyth's money to Nylander. Who the hell is running the asylum anyway?

Two Sides of Darryl

With yesterdays signing of free agent Owen Nolan, I couldn't help but think there are two sides to Darryl Sutter.

On the one hand, it's almost as if Darryl has some hypnotic power with his voice. I can only imagine him whispering in Iginla's ear, '$7 million dollars for 5 years is a good move for you.' He's managed to convince several guys to repeatedly take well under what they could've got on the free market. Iginla, Regehr, Kipprusoff. If this rumoured Regehr deal turns out to be true, Regehr will be making less money than Roman Hamrlik. Unbelievable.

On the other hand, Darryl has this penchant for going out and getting old end of the career type guys. Amonte. McCarty. Nolan.

If we could just somehow contain the latter Sutter the Flames would be unstoppable.

In regards to Owen Nolan, he might be a step up from Amonte. He might not be though. We'll see how his arthritis goes.

Monday, July 02, 2007


If there ever was a blueprint for dismantling a great team in a short time without any real (or at least obvious) rebuilding plans, Kevin Lowe has wrote it.

Trading your all star/franchise defenceman for very little return is the first step. Upon hearing of the necessity of moving Pronger (which I grant was a necessity) I felt that a negative could be turned into a positive. The (at the time) gargantuan Pronger contract could be liberated and in return the Oilers could get a couple top end prospects and a high end young player (who was cheap), and finally, could leverage that extra room into a long term contract for the heart and soul of the franchise, Ryan Smyth.

While the Pronger loss would sting, the Oilers would retain their core group: Smyth, Horcoff, Stoll, Hemsky, Pisani, Smith, Staios, Roloson (and to a lesser extent, Torres). Without blowing anyone away, it would be a consistent hard working group not yet hitting their prime. Add in a couple young prospects in the return and you've got a pretty decent group.

The Oilers managed to not get a useable young hockey player in the Pronger return. While I see a lot of potential in Smid, he was not the 'useable young hockey player' in the deal, he was the high end prospect. Lupul was supposed to be the useable guy; in his one season with the Oilers he had the 2nd worst plus minus in the league. Honestly, the less said about Lupul the better.

Step number two in this blueprint is to totally blow the negotiations with the key piece of your core. Not a soul in the world would argue Ryan Smyth was the engine that drove this team for years (although some have argued there are nicer engines out there). Kevin Lowe managed to overpay a bunch of cogs in the machine and avoid the engine in the year before the engine hit free agency. 'We'll negotiate in the summer' Lowe told Smyth, predicting Smyth would not continue to build on his consistently strong career. After Lowe signed Staios early into the season, Ryan Smyth declared he would not take a home town discount this time (a lie.) Lowe began to panic at Smyth's increasingly impressive goal total (one night he racked up 3 in a shorter time span than any Oiler in history, gaining his rightful place among Oiler greats) and implied they should negotiate in-season. The Smyth camp accommodated this suggestion but the two sides weren't moving a lot from their initial positions. Having already abandoned his plan of resigning Smyth in the off season, Kevin Lowe decided to go a step further and insist that if Ryan wasn't signed before the off season, he would have to be traded. Although practically a smart plan, it wasn't necessarily a necessity. The Oilers would undoubtedly have the high ground in an FA chance, and besides, they still had until July 1 before he hit free agency. Both sides were motivated to keep Ryan in Edmonton.

Kevin Lowe made the call and traded Smyth for some mid level prospects.

Now I don't believe in all the talk about Edmonton not being a desired location to play, but sending the heart and soul (and one of the most popular players in the league) of your team off with a bad taste in his mouth probably didn't ease over any image problems Edmonton has with NHLers.

Anyway, the final step involves the lack of ability to improve the team in any meaningful way. I'll be the first to admit that trading Smith (nooooooooooooo!) and Lupul (good riddance) for Pitkanen and Sanderson is probably a good move simply because Pitkanen is the best player in the deal; however, does it feel to anyone like a token move, meant only as a way to make it look like Lowe is doing something...anything.

If you look at balance sheet, Edmonton traded Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith for Smid, Pitkanen, Sanderson, Nilsson, O'Marra, Nash, Plante and a couple 2008 picks.

Have I got that right?

There has better be one hell of a rabbit coming out of that 2008 draft hat, or this is one of the worst series of deals in hockey history.

Not to mention all the talk after the Smyth trade about 'needing a better top guy than Ryan Smyth.' That talk is all well and good, but let's examine the reality. The Oilers had the ability yesterday to pick from a variety of top level guys that are arguably better than Ryan Smyth. Who did they end up with?

Michael Nylander.

Now I have no particular issues with Michael Nylander, I've met him, he was a really nice guy, he can clearly put up the points. But is he a better top guy than Ryan Smyth?

If you're going into the trenches day in and day out, who would you rather have on your side?

It wouldn't surprise me either if Nylander was signed to a contract close in numbers to the contract Ryan Smyth offered up Edmonton way back in February. Maybe not in length, but in dollars/year.

Not to mention the Oilers are already stocked on centers. Perhaps this signals another future move, sending Moreau or Horcoff or Stoll out for a winger.

The engine's already gone, why bother keeping the cogs?

And that is a quick overview of how you quickly dismantle a great team without any rebuilding plan.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


T-10 hours or so until the stupidity starts. There's a lot of scribes out there who are saying the smart money is spent next summer, and I tend to agree with them. That said, the Flames need to win now, and the Oilers need to at the very least keep their heads above water (or turn a potential disaster season into simply a debacle season).

I probably won't update this much on July 1st, have a couple things to do, but if there's anything truly significant...well, I won't be out of the game for long.


TSN is reporting (that THN is reporting) Jarome has signed a 4 year extension at $7 million/year which in my opinion is a total steal. Now does that mean he has 4 more years on his current contract or 4 years on top of his original final year meaning he has 5 more years with the Flames?

more as it happens