Kevin Lowe is retiring from his role as vice chair and Alternate Governor of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club. It’s a significant moment in Oilers history, as Lowe has been a member of the Oilers as a player or a member of management for all but a few years of the club’s NHL existence.
Lowe’s time as a player was one that saw some of the brightest moments for the franchise. The Oilers were a dominant force of the 1980s, and Lowe was an integral part of those clubs. After a couple of years behind the bench in the 1990s, Lowe would later see success in the early-to-mid 2000s as GM. After an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, the club would experience significant difficulty returning to relevance among the NHL’s elite. Though the Oilers would struggle mightily in the late 2000s and through the first half of the 2010s, Lowe will leave a lasting legacy as an integral player and as a shrewd dealmaker in the pre-salary cap era.
Kevin Lowe was the club’s first selection in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, and was a fixture on the Dynasty Oilers throughout the 1980s. Lowe would win five Cups with the Oilers, and another one with the New York Rangers in 1994. He’d return to Edmonton for a couple of seasons after spending four years in New York before calling it quits as a player for good at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season. No one has played in more games as an Oiler than Kevin Lowe (1,037). His number 4 was retired last season.
Almost immediately after retiring, Lowe became an assistant coach in Edmonton for the 1998-99 season. He’d become head coach in 1999-2000, taking the Oilers to the first round of the Western Conference Quarterfinals before bowing out to Dallas in five games. His time behind the bench would be short, as he’d become Oilers GM in June of 2000.
The Oiler clubs of the early 2000s were some of the most fun clubs to watch post-1990. The Oilers were often able to outmatch clubs that had two and three times their payroll during a time where the salary cap hadn’t yet been adopted. Though they didn’t win any rounds, Edmonton made the playoffs in 2001 and 2003 while Lowe was GM.
It was 2005 when Lowe’s time as GM shined the brightest. Chris Pronger was brought in from St. Louis for a trio of players, most notably Eric Brewer. A deadline deal that saw Dwayne Roloson brought in for a first round pick was enough to help send the Oilers on an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Mike Peca was brought in from the Islanders for Mike York. The Oilers wouldn’t come close to that success with Lowe as GM, but what a moment it was.
The Oilers would struggle mightily after the magical 05-06 run, and it would lead to Lowe’s position getting shuffled around the organization. He sent an offer sheet to Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek in 2007, which was matched by the Sabres. Shortly after, he would land Dustin Penner from Anaheim via the same method. After the 2006-07 season, he’d become VP of Hockey Ops for a couple years, followed by a stint as POHO during the Steve Tambellini era. He’d continue his run as POHO until Peter Chiarelli would take the position what seemed like minutes after the Oilers won the Connor McDavid lottery in April of 2015. Lowe would remain with the club until today, when he resigned his position within OEG.
It’s tough to separate Kevin Lowe from the Oilers, because he’s been with the club for almost 100% of their NHL existance. He was an excellent player who had his ups and downs as the club’s GM. He had an absolute pearl of a moment as GM in 2005-06. As crucial a moment that moment was for the Oilers and their fans, the next decade was inescapably difficult to experience.
It’s worth noting that Dynasty Oilers rarely leave the organization unless they’re in a coaching capacity. Paul Coffey has been involved with the club off-and-on. MacT feels like he never left, and he was coaching in the KHL for a half a second. For Kevin Lowe to leave on his own - this one feels as little different. I don’t know if this leads to other higher-ups leaving, or if this is just Kevin Lowe’s time.
Congratulations on your retirement, Kevin Lowe.