Things are going pretty bad for the Oilers right now, sure they’re not that far out of the playoffs, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that any talk about championships is completely out of the question.
Due to the abysmal nature of the team on the ice, I’ve decided to take a look at some of my favorite Oilers moments. Now, unlike most of you reading this, I’m fairly new to Oilers fandom. I only started following the team when I moved to Sherwood Park from Kelowna back in 2012. I’d paid attention through national coverage before, but until then, I was just a casual observer. As a result, my favorite Oilers moments aren’t the winning years of the 80s, in fact, I wasn’t even born until a few months after the most recent cup win.
So to start this possible ongoing series, I’m going to breakdown something that I consider the best Oilers related video out there. Not drafting McDavid, not the San Jose series winner, it’s Craig MacTavish being introduced as the General Manager in April 2013.
The backstory is that Former GM Steve Tambellini was let go, Craig MacTavish was promoted from a similar role as Vice President of Hockey Operations — the same job he currently holds — and Edmonton Journal’s John MacKinnon asks about why the current management has been left in charge.
Craig MacTavish answers. He starts by talking about winning five Stanley Cups and how it’s difficult to get back to success after something like that. You can see that he’s struggling to stay on this line of thought, he mentions that it’s semi-joking, but it’s clear this was the script in the pre-press meeting, and he’s going to try it out.
After he realized that the 25-years-ago problems excuse sounds just as ridiculous out loud as it did in his head, he flips the script — He admits that there’s been failure, that yesterday isn’t an excuse, and tries to separate himself from that.
This is actually decent PR if he didn’t start with the past-success. He wasn’t there the whole time, he did have different roles on-and-off with the Oilers, but in management, this is really his first shot at running the thing. If he can get through this press-conference by just showing people that he’s new, that he accepts that what’s gone on recently is a problem, and that he has a different view than the past, he might win over a few very optimistic fans. Let’s see if he can do it.
He’s still doing pretty good, he’s announced that he’s taken on this role to help the outlook. He even points out that he hasn’t done a bad job in previous roles on this team. You might disagree, but it’s a fair claim. He definitely was far from the worst coach in recent history. He’s doing quite well to come across as credible. He ends by saying he’s going to help turn this team around. I interpret that as another way of accepting that what’s gone on has been a disaster. The media seemed happy with that view. Sure would be a shame if someone could undo an answer like that...
As a reporter tries to ask a second question, the visibly annoyed President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe is having none of it. He just wants to add a quick thing to MacTavish’s answer.
He starts by talking about these two different groups of fans, completely unprovoked.
There are season ticket holders who go to the games — these are the ones important to him, they’re paying customers. And we have — watch his head turn and the look on his face as he’s trying to come up with the appropriate way to describe this next group — people who just sit around at home watching hockey. This second group is there, but really not that important compared to that first group.
The funny part about this is how much of an economic illiterate he comes off as. Those fans sitting at home are a lot more valuable than simply season ticket holders. Remember back in 2017 when everyone had those expensive car flags, jerseys were sold out across the city, and just about anything with an Oilers logo was being scooped up for maximum profits? First off, unlike arena seats, there really isn’t a limit to how much merchandise you can sell if the demand is there. There’s also no geographic limitation. And second, unlike arena seats and TV rights, this is not considered hockey related revenue. The Oilers don’t have to split that money with the players, or with other NHL teams. Oh well, I’m sure he’s thriving in his current role in the growth an development of OEG.
I also wonder how long he’d been planning to say this. The way he struggled to describe that second group sure looked as though it was spur-the-moment, but bringing it up out of the blue like that makes me wonder if he was just waiting for a way to sneak that in there.
He then moves on to a new topic. Unlike Craig MacTavish agreeing that what’s taken place in recent years isn’t good enough, Kevin Lowe decides to go in a different direction. His message is pretty clear, everything is fine, they’ve been doing a good job this whole time, and you’re stupid for thinking otherwise.
He says that it’s fair to say that half of the General Managers in the league would be willing to trade their roster for ours. Now, I’m not sure about half, but I do think there probably were a couple GMs who felt they could build around that core better than the Oilers were doing and turn it into a winning roster. I’m not exactly sure how that’s helping Kevin Lowe’s case, but I don’t think he’s shockingly off-base. I also think it’s fair to say that one of those GMs willing to trade a superior roster for a 24th place one is currently employed as the Oilers GM.
Back on topic though. He’s going to scoff at this notion that there is a group that messed things up around here. You’re talking about a group of guys who went to the Stanley Cup final a few years ago! One Period away from winning the Stanley Cup! If you call what happened seven years ago a failure, you have no idea what failure looks like!
When it’s pointed out that that was quite a while ago, he goes back to blaming the past. See, he was chasing the Stanley Cup for a few years after the 2006 playoff run. They didn’t exactly make the playoffs any of those years, but he’s assuring us that he was trying, and it wasn’t for a selfish reason like trying to keep his job either. It was for you fans!
Then he realized that it was a bad plan to try to make the playoffs, and changed course in 2010 when the Oilers fell to last place in the league. This is where losing was now the new plan. It’s kind of like the old plan, but intentional. This is also a good time to point out that the only time the Oilers were ever intentionally bad was in 2011. The rest were incidental.
Anyway, he’s decided to dismiss half of that time-frame, and assert that they’re only in year three of a rebuild. And the he condescendingly asks the reporter if he’s impatient. He’s really trying to tear this guy down for asking such a ludicrous question.
I like how the reporter here actually needs to specify that he’s a messenger, and that these aren’t question he’s personally asking. This is how media is supposed to work, they represent their audience with their access by asking questions that really should have answers. That hasn’t taken place in years in Edmonton, maybe because of this, but it was greatly appreciated way back when.
And now, Kevin Lowe gets the the real heart of the issue. Stanley Cup rings. There is only one other guy in the game (Scotty Bowman) who is currently in an NHL role, to have won more Stanley Cups. Most fans were quite quick to point out the absurdity that those cups he earned as a player on a dynasty are a better gauge of his ability to run a sports franchise than his more recent results of actually running that franchise, but Kevin is setting them straight here.
“I think I know a little bit about winning, if there’s ever a concern!”
Well, I’m glad he cleared that up five and a half years ago. I’d really hate to be sitting here wondering if this organization knows what it takes to win. I look at the records of the past 12 years, and it sure doesn’t look like they know how to win, but Kevin straightened me up just by waving around his cup rings. Problem solved.
So we started with: blaming the past, admitting that there was failure, having a new face and idea. And ended with: there is no problem, there was never a problem, the new guy is actually the old guy, and I won a bunch of cups as a player.
Since the Oilers have won the cup, a 27-year highway has been started and completed, the internet and cellphones are a huge part of our daily lives, and going on a plane has gone from being a pleasure for all involved, to a giant pain in the ass.
I don’t know when the Oilers will be good again, but I think they should try to do that before the Yellowhead expansion is complete. They couldn’t beat the Henday.