Today, the EIG announced that they have signed GM Kevin Lowe to a four-year contract extension, a move that seems to have nothing to do with rewarding results and everything to do with optics. With Brian Burke making waves by trashing our main man in the press and public opinion turning as more and more fans realize there may not actually be a method to Lowe's madness, this extension appears to be little more than a desperate circling of the wagons by a franchise that needs to save some face both in the local and NHL communities.
"When the playoffs ended, in our humble estimation, he [Chris Pronger] could arguably be the best player in the National Hockey League," Lowe said."We aren't going to knee-jerk this," he said. "Perhaps the longer I wait, things might change." — USA Today, June 26, 2006
"We spent a lot of time at this. Our inability to attract guys. What is it? The city? Me? What's the statement?"
The way it's all worked out, with the $50.3 million salary cap, $43 million budget and not being able to land a free agent, Lowe probably should have given Ryan Smyth what he wanted at the trade deadline.
"If I had known ..." — Edmonton Sun, July 5, 2007
"What happened was, all of a sudden, we got a lot of defencemen. We traded for Grebeshkov. We signed (Dick) Tarnstrom. We traded for Pitkanen. We signed (Sheldon) Souray. Then, I'm thinking, 'Holy mackerel, we've got a lot of guys here,' " said Lowe. — Edmonton Journal, Oct. 4, 2007
Needless to say, I don't like it.
Yes, under Lowe, the club has made a huge leap forward in terms of scouting and the draft, and certainly the man has made some beauty trades. But Lowe has also iced a team with obvious, glaring holes in the roster for three straight seasons now, and, as the above quotes attest, seems to have serious issues when it comes to formulating a plan and sticking with it.
I mean, really: either the man is employing some seriously Columbo-esque misdirection here or he is exactly as bewildered as he sounds. I don't hate Sheldon Souray as much as some fans, but there was absolutely no reason for the Oilers to sign him — not for that price, not for that length — except to atone for the fact that Lowe had bombed out in free agency early on and to silence the escalating din surrounding Darryl Katz's attempts to buy the team. That's just the most recent of the Oilogosphere's many gripes. If you're reading this blog, I assume you know the rest.
I should clarify that, really, I'm not anti-Lowe. I don't think he should be fired. But why re-sign him now, at the beginning of the season, instead of waiting until April? With Smyth traded for Nilsson, the other Smith traded for Pitkanen and Penner and Souray brought on board for a king's ransom each, the last six months have seen Lowe make some of his most high-risk moves to date — why not wait until the end of the season so this year's results can be taken into account during his evaluation? It simply makes no sense.
Unless, of course, results really don't factor into your decision. Not even the EIG's Cal Nichols seemed able to offer a reasonable justification for the reup during the press conference today:
"This franchise is measured upon the quality of the key management people and the quality of our hockey players. Therefore this is a very important announcement for our franchise," Cal Nichols, Chairman of the Edmonton Investors Group said in a statement. "The Edmonton Investors Group also acknowledges his stature as a pillar in the community, which brings even more value to this team, this city, and the greater Edmonton community. Edmonton should feel fortunate to have him as our General Manager, and we are thrilled to be able to make this announcement today."Nothing about vision. Not a word about commitment to winning. Lowe is simply a good company man who makes the ownership money and reminds Oilers fans of glory days long past, so Edmonton should feel lucky to have him.
What has happened to this franchise?
Pleasure Motors Update:
In answer to Chris!'s question, well, this: