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The Peter Principle and The Oilers

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The Peter Principle is the principle that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence".

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins selected first overall
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins selected first overall
Bruce Bennett

The Peter Principle summed up by Laurence Peter himself.

In any hierarchical organization, individuals tend to rise to their level of incompetence. It's simple. An employee who excels at his or her job is likely to be rewarded with a promotion. Success in this new position could bring another promotion, and so on.

Eventually, however, the employee gets promoted to a position whose demands exceed his abilities, and he ends up marooned there with no prospect of further advancement and little chance of demotion. At best, he becomes mostly harmless; at worst, he impedes progress.

Does this sound familiar? It should because the Oilers organization runs rampant with this issue and it's not just in management that the Peter Principle is occurring. It starts at ownership and works it way through the organization right down to the ice and line management.


I know that Daryl Katz isn't an employee and the Peter Principle doesn't really apply to him but none the less he is part of the problem. Nobody is disputing that Daryl Katz is a smart businessman if he wasn't he wouldn't be worth the billions of dollars he has made in his lifetime. As an owner of a NHL franchise he is in way over his head. Whether he truly thinks his crack team of management is doing a good job or he is just turning a blind eye to his "friends" shows that he has risen to a level of incompetence.


Kevin Lowe

As GM Kevin Lowe actually had a decent track record not the best in the league but did make moves that made the Oilers better. From the day he moved into the role of President of Hockey Operations the team has gone no where. He has hired two GMs that haven't been unable to perform in their roles. Kevin Lowe has impeded the Oilers progress.

Steve Tambellini

Although he is no longer part of the organization he is a great example of someone who was promoted way beyond their level of incompetence. As an AGM with Vancouver he was passed over for promotion to GM in favour of Mike Gillis. That should've been a major red flag to the Oilers but they decided to pursue Tambellini none the less. The rest is agonizing history.

Craig MacTavish

One partial season isn't enough to make a final decision on Craig MacTavish. He's had a lot of clean up to do after Tambellini's scorched Earth approach to personnel management and is still getting his feet wet. With that being said from what we've seen so far we can make some assumptions about his management style.

Craig MacTavish the coach was probably one of Edmonton's best. He was strategic, tactful and well spoken. Even when he was given horrible players he was still able to make the team competitive.

Craig MacTavish the GM on the other hand is a bit of a different story. He has said a lot of the right things as GM. He has shielded players from the media, gave fans a voice back (at least when he was first appointed) and has even talked about the importance analytics. The problem with MacTavish is that his actions have spoken louder than his words. With many of the signings and acquisitions he's made this year have flown in the face of analytics and have made the Oilers worse.

Finally his biggest failure as a NHL GM was the hiring of the bright new shiny object in Dallas Eakins. In an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle MacTavish went hard after the "best" coach in the AHL hoping that he was the piece the Oilers needed to become competitive.

The Coaching Staff

Dallas Eakins

As I mentioned above Eakins was successful with a very good AHL team. Over his tenure as the head coach of the Toronto Marlies he took the team from last in the league to Calder Cup Champions Finalists (Updated thanks to godot10). The problem is, like AHL players coming up to the NHL, a lot of their AHL successes don't translate to the NHL level.

The Marlies were a very good team by the time they won made the AHL championship finals. One can even make the argument that Eakins was the benefactor of poor coaching/management decisions by their NHL affiliate. The Leafs sent legitimate NHLers down to the AHL because they didn't fit the mould the Leafs wanted.

Sure Dallas Eakins may have had success in the past but his struggles at the NHL level are almost the perfect example of The Peter Principle.

The Other Coaches

Associate and assistant coaches are a little tougher to evaluate. The special teams coaches have done a poor job, the goalie coach keeps going through goalies to work with, not sure if the video coach actually watches game video and the defensive coach, lets just say we probably have the wrong guy.

Someone like Kelly Buchberger has been in the organization for the entire rebuild and probably adds no value. Steve Smith has been around since Tom Renney was head coach and hasn't brought much value either. Along with "sign my son" Keith Acton all three of these guys have been promoted beyond their capabilities.

The Players

By this point you are probably starting to see a trend. The Oilers have some issues of promoting people into roles that they shouldn't be in. On the player side this came to light at the start of the season when the Oilers announced 6 alternate captains. The list included Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Nick Schultz, Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Smyth. At least two of these guys wouldn't even be considerations on any other NHL team but with an incompetent coaching staff and management team nobody could make a decision.

Things went from bad to worse after Sam Gagner took a stick to the mouth. Before the incident the Oilers number one "enforcer" was Mike Brown after the incident the Oilers claimed Steve MacIntyre and Luke Gazdic. Luckily Mike Brown was traded to the San Jose Sharks and Steve MacIntyre was demoted to the AHL but Gazdic remained with the team. Gazdic is a borderline AHL player, if he couldn't throw punches he'd probably be selling used cars today, but thanks to those "Magic Mitts" of his we get to watch him play a version of hockey that has been reserved for the mentally insane AKA the Edmonton MSM.

One can go down the Oilers roster and see players being played in position well above what they are capable of. From the top four defensemen to bottom six forwards players are in role they shouldn't be but because the entire organization promotes people into roles beyond their competence levels no one seems to bat an eyelash about it.

So Burn it Down?

As Alan pointed out a few days back this team has issues and they start at the top of the organization. Burning things down will only get this team so far. Maybe demoting some people back to the levels they excelled at would make more sense.

I would love to see what Craig MacTavish could do as a coach with this group. He would probably be the best coach this team has seen in the past 5 seasons. I would also keep Dallas Eakins around as the associate coach and give him the time to develop into a NHL coach.

If they need to be let go then so be it. Ultimately the perpetual promotion to incompetence needs to stop because it's not helping the team obtain any of it's goals.