MacKinnon: Lowe ebb for Oilers, but give it time


Kevin Lowe talks to media about the sale of the Edmonton Oilers to Daryl Katz.

Kevin Lowe talks to media about the sale of the Edmonton Oilers to Daryl Katz.

Photograph by: Brian Gavriloff

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EDMONTON - There is real wit, some of it delightful, embedded in Twitter, a truly democratic forum, when it’s on its best behaviour.

Take the dude who runs that phoney Craig MacTavish account (@FakeOilersGM), who tweeted this after the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Oilers 2-1 at Rexall Place on Tuesday night:

“You may think that Zack Kassian got the best of us, but rest assured that there’s a very angry letter from Daryl Katz on the way to him.”


A sardonic jab at the Oilers that blends disappointment over the Canucks’ forward facing zero retribution for his reckless pre-season stick to the face of Sam Gagner with a reference to the Oilers owner’s open letter to the fans, asking for more patience as the endless rebuild sputters along, the team stumbling to an eighth-straight non-playoff season.

Katz’s open letter vibrated with tone deafness, but that’s been part of the package all along. It’s not likely to change.

On the ice, the Oilers do not play a “big-boy game,” in the parlance of our times. Or, at least, in the parlance of head coach Gregg Popovich of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

The Oilers don’t give their opponents much adversity and they have the 15-31-6 won-lost record to prove it.

That’s not likely to change dramatically, either, until the Oilers more muscular prospects, like defencemen Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom and winger Mitch Moroz and others earn regular spots. And until some members of the current roster incorporate into their game the defensive responsibility necessary for consistent NHL success.

For a cluster of well-known reasons, the fan base’s silo of patience has been exhausted. Fans being human, many have identified Oilers president Kevin Lowe as the most appropriate target of their ire.

He’s handy, and many believe it’s his turn. But Katz, his owner and friend, is fiercely loyal to Lowe, which speaks well of him, actually. He wants Lowe onside for the long-term. Lowe’s employment status, in other words, is almost certainly not going to change.

So, disgruntled fans like Bill Day, who the other day hauled a portable billboard on a trailer to the Oilers offices with the message ‘Lowe Must Go’ displayed in neon pink, green and yellow letters, merely become a silly nuisance.

Maybe more creativity is needed from the fan base to send their own messages of dissatisfaction to ownership and Oilers management.

In my lifetime, fans have been expressing their ire for GMs, coaches and executives since New York football Giants’ fans were singing ‘Goodbye, Allie’ (to the tune of Good-night, ladies) back in 1969, serenading head coach Allie Sherman to the unemployment line.

Not too long after that, fans of the bumbling New Orleans Saints put paper bags over their heads, a witty, original statement at the time. They took to calling their team the ‘Aints.

I’ve got to think that finding the humour, however dark and bitter, in the efforts of a chronically losing team sure beats defaulting to rage and recrimination.

Shoving somebody, anybody, under the bus, is stunningly ineffective when the billionaire owner, ruthless businessman though he may be, also is an overgrown kid playing with his toy, living the dream of his youth with his buddies, even as he rakes in the profits.

Besides, who else is there to throw under the bus?

Whipping boys like Shawn Horcoff, Sheldon Souray, Ethan Moreau, Dustin Penner are long gone. So is former GM Steve Tambellini, along with former head coaches Pat Quinn, Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger. Not that any Oilers coach in recent memory, including Eakins, has been the issue.

MacTavish, unjustly made the fans’ punching bag late in his head coach tenure, only started his mandate as GM last April, a tenure so far noteworthy, along with a cluster of solid roster moves, for his hiring of head coach Dallas Eakins, signing him to a four-year contract.

It is safe to say the GM and his head coach are not enjoying the proverbial honeymoon period, exactly. But there’s no sense railing at them until they’ve had a chance to install their vision. It does take some time.

The Oilers, who stay close to their customers by way of regular surveys, focus groups and the like, know their fans have no appetite for summarily trading any of the team’s talented youngsters, like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz.

Lowe, MacTavish and Eakins, all of them deeply confident men, firmly believe a turnaround is coming, as the next waves of prospects arrive to complete the roster. Some in the fan base may share that belief.

You can exclude me from those who take it on faith the breakthrough is coming, inevitably. There is no guarantee of that. Too many key pieces are missing from the puzzle.

But exclude me, also, from the crowd that wants somebody fired, as if another body on the pile would be an effective way to fix all that’s wrong with the Oilers.

As Oilers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov might say, ‘Why you heff to be mad?’ Get even by finding witty, barbed, mocking, satirical ways to deliver your message of dissatisfaction.

Failing that, stop buying the product. Actions speak louder than words and few actions are as eloquent as spending your entertainment dollar elsewhere.

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Kevin Lowe talks to media about the sale of the Edmonton Oilers to Daryl Katz.

Kevin Lowe talks to media about the sale of the Edmonton Oilers to Daryl Katz.

Photograph by: Brian Gavriloff

Kevin Lowe talks to media about the sale of the Edmonton Oilers to Daryl Katz.
Edmonton Oilers’ Kevin Lowe speaks to the media about the NHL team’s past season and the next in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 8, 2008.
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