Heeeeeeee’s Back. While a part of me is glad the Oilers finally made some change and relieved Steve Tambellini of his duties, a larger part of me is baffled by the hiring of Craig MacTavish as his replacement. Wasn’t it five years ago today that the Oilers braintrust had decided MacT was no longer required as a component of this once-proud franchise? Hearing Kevin Lowe announce MacT’s return along with the phrase “We needed a change in leadership” had to have been one of the most ironic things I have heard in a while considering who was delivering the words. But hey I guess, “Once an Oiler, Always an Oiler”.
Its the Oiler Way.
I’ll give MacT this much, he is extremely intelligent and well-spoken, he is a Queen’s MBA grad after all and I can attest to that. But where the crux of this issue falls is the sheer arrogrance and irresponsibility of the organization (see. Kevin Lowe) in conducting a broad and extensive, external, search for a replacement. The current leadership recognized a major problem needed to be addressed, and rather than going out on a search for a competent executive, they bring in a so-called “buddy”. Hearing the media and fan reaction to the hiring was priceless considering it has been years since I remember such direct questions being posed to the management. I almost feel bad for MacT as he already has fans clamoring for his head and he hasn’t officially been on the job for 24 hours. Geoff Molson bucked the trend this summer went he went outside the Montreal Canadiens organization and hired a GM to run the franchise with his own people, regardless of connection to the team. Look at the team now. It was the least Lowe and Katz owed to the fans to reward them for sticking with them through this pathetic run of hockey the past few seasons. In no way does the notion of a rebuild that the management has fed the gullible fanbase excuse the irresponsible management that has been on display.
So where does the problem ultimately lie. Well that is two-fold. First off, Kevin Lowe. He has been the consistent figure in the Oilers mediocrity over the past 13 years. That’s 3 playoff appearance in those years for those of you counting. Somehow, that has earned him the honour of lifetime residency in the Oilers front-office. It is painfully clear and evident to observers that his arrogant, hot-headed approach that was fully on display in today’s presser are dragging down this team in the eyes of the paid-customers he alluded to. Apathy is starting to set in, and this may be the boiling point for fans to actually say enough is enough. This leads me to the once-annointed saviour of the franchise Daryl Katz, who has hardly been worthy of such a moniker. His hands-off approach to the team has led many to question his intentions and desire for success in this team rather than operate it as the country club with his playing partners leading the charge. The Oilers of today have become much more similar to MLSE under the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan ownership once was: a business. Let us not begin with how Katz milked the city into paying for a facility only the elite will actually use. As a succesful businessman, he surely has the capability to understand the utter failure that the Oilers have been since he took over; yet as a successful businessman, he has failed to address the problem. And the scariest part, with the Oilers faithful seemingly unable to stand up and demand change in a meaningful way (i.e., with their wallets) this trend will have no expiry date.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the idea of the rebuild is garbage and an excuse for inept management. For every Penguins and Blackhawks success story is a Nordiques and Thrashers failure. What fans must realize is that by the time this team expects to compete, those so-called elite players may be nearing the end of their contracts with the team and be ready to depart as free agents. So what, we suffered through 10 years of failure to the shot at 3-5 years of sucess, maybe? Seems like a cycle where the costs far exceed the benefits. And those Penguins and Blackhawks teams that won had their elite players on their rookie wage scales, where the teams could afford to surround them with a deserving supporting case. Going forward, is it realistic to pay 4-5 players $6 million each and expect greatness? Difficult with the cap figure falling.
For Hockeyland Canada,