Monday, April 15, 2013

Through The Looking Glass



 Two months ago I saw the Hip at the ACC. It was the fifth time I've seen them, first time in a decade. It was a great show. They always put on a great show.

 At one point they kicked off some obscure gem and the crowd burst into song, Downie grinned and he wandered about the stage, letting us take it away, after every line he'd raise the mic and say 'Yes, yes, that's it' 'You're right, yes that's it' 'Very good, very good' and so on.

 So it was today as the news came out that Tambo had been fired and replaced by MacTavish until ... until ...

'Yes, yes, that's it' 'You're right, yes that's it' 'Very good, very good, Holy shit its a big fucking bear!!!!!'

 To throw in a quote from another of his famous in concert solioquoys.

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Any dummy could have seen today coming and I say that because I'm one dummy that did. At the beginning of the season I said that with a bit of luck the Oilers could make the playoffs. I also said that if they didn't make the playoffs that it would probably be a win for Oiler fans because it would mean that Tambellini would get the gaspipe. It wouldn't be Kreuger, not when he was the fourth coach in five years. The players have all been turned over. The scouts, the minor league organization, the equipment guys and trainers.

 It would have to be Tambo.

 He deserved it. He carried on Lowe's work in sending out good players for bad players or less. The players he acquired through trade or in signings demonstrated his inability to evaluate talent. He traded picks for waiver wire fodder and time and again his own signings passed through waivers themselves, to be paid NHL salaries to play in the minors. And last summer, with a possible playoff spot a handful of moves away, he stood pat, other than adding two more rookies to the mix, talented rookies to be sure but not the guys to turn a perennial also ran into a playoff team. Instead he gambled that two of Justin Schultz, Nick Schultz and Ryan Whitney would be able to provide top four minutes.

 None were able to do this.

 And still the team muddled through.

 And then when Horcoff, Belanger and Lander all went down, all while Nugent Hopkins struggled, he failed to add a centre. Typical Tambo and with everything that passed this season that was the stretch that doomed their shot at the playoffs and lost him his job. Rather than finding a veteran fill in Tambo forced Kreuger to ice lineups that included Ryan Smyth and Vandevelde as two of the four centres.

 And so seven years without playoffs. And he's a goner.

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 As for his replacement, well a month ago this is what I wrote.

 Tyler Dellow put together a pretty interesting article last night (timing!!) where he argued, pretty convincingly, that Tambo probably had more of a hand in what has passed these last few years than we thought.

 Was Tambo in charge or was it Lowe? Well if it was Lowe then not much is going to change and as I have said hey it is the Chicago model and there's Bob Pulford and we're all going to die without seeing another playoff spot, never mind a Cup.

 If it was Tambo then things can certainly be no worse. Am I on board with MacT? Yes I am. He's an ex player and an ex Oiler, yes, but, like Howson, he's actually an educated man and yes that matters. What he said at the press conference made perfect sense, mostly because a lot of it is what I have been saying for years ;) but seriously. Get good players. Acquire depth. Gritty players without skill are useless (no more facepunchers).

 In other words build a deep quality club, like the 2006 club. Like every club that has won the Stanley Cup since 2006.

 The 'I'm impatient' side of it made me a bit nervous but that may just be part of being an Oiler fan. We've been getting burned since June 17th 2006. Nothing has gone right. So while I trust MacT as a guy who coached good teams and bad teams in the NHL and thus recognizes that a guy like, say, Jack Johnson, may be famous but really isn't very good, there is a part of me that expects we will see him coming to Edmonton this summer while Paajarvi and Klefbom (or as Spector calls them 'tradebait') head the other way.

 But mostly I trust him to do the right thing. The hard part is over after all. The elite talent is in Edmonton. Fill in around it and you've got at least a playoff team.

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 So Tambo and MacT we could predict pretty easily. What we could not predict was how the press conference played out. There was an inkling of what was coming when shortly after it was leaked that Tambo was gone and that MacT was coming in Mark Spector and Robert Tychkowski both tweeted that the Oilers hadn't gone far enough. Tychkowski:

Firing Tambellini is fair. Ignoring Kevin Lowe's culpability in this mess is laughable

 OK fair enough, there are certain Oiler media members who talk tough on the tweeter but, as we know, the Edmonton media has been beyond soft on the Oilers for years. Its one of the reasons we are where we are.

 And then, well, then, it was wonderful theatre. MacTavish was great, especially after years of Tambo mumbling and stumbling, He was excited, almost too excited, he misspoke a couple of times, but as I noted above, he said all of the things I wanted to hear.

 The entertainment was elsewhere though. It started when Lowe made a fairly lame joke and those assembled didn't react. 'That was a joke' said Lowe and they laughed and I said 'there go the monkeys' and then the floor was opened for questions and the first one came and oh boy.

 It was my favourite whipping boy Mark Spector and then later on it was MacKinnon and they got to the point and good. Lowe was responsible for this mess and yet still he was here. MacT and Howson had been around when it all started going off the rails and now they were in charge? And Lowe was still here? Basically, what the fuck?

Lowe, after years of not being questioned, was not expecting it and he lost his temper and it made for a terrific scene. His comments about two different strata of fans and about his Stanley Cup rings were awful and embarassing and its clear from the press conference and the response of the majority of fans that whatever cachet Lowe had before is long gone. Some have said that today proved that Lowe is bulletproof but I really believe that today is the beginning of the end for him. He is in the crosshairs now and if MacTavish fails then Lowe will fall on his sword rather than put up with the abuse that will come his way. Don't think so? The media is after him and the view outside of Edmonton is that the Oilers are a joke. If this doesn't get turned around its over for Lowe.

 So either the club turns a corner or longterm the one guy who has been around for the whole disaster will be gone. Win-win.

 But damn I hope MacT succeeds.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Listening to the press conference was pretty brutal. No doubt. The half-assed "what I meant to say" video was a complete joke, that only confirmed what we already knew - they want fan's money. Don't care about anything else.

I was falling asleep last night thinking about this as they were losing to the hawks, and couldn't help but think that this team isn't run to win. However, after the press conference, and the ridiculous run of losses over 5 seasons, I can't help but realize it's really entertaining. Sure the hockey's been bad most of the time, but following the team is actually really entertaining.

So, what I'm wondering is if the Oilers under Katz have bought into running the team as sports entertainment, instead of as a sports club who's mandate is to win. Could this club be the WWE of the NHL?

I mean, even if they admitted it (which they never would) would that change what a gong show the org is? Or how a part of me loves watching K-Lowe make an ass of himself?

I can't help but hope that Craig puts the wheels back on this thing, but as a fan - does it really matter if he does?