How these few "good" men keep dysfunction alive and well in a wild and crazy post-lockout NHL. Kevin Lowe, Bob Gainey, Mike Keenan, John Feguson Jr., Darcy Regier...our rock n' roll stars of NHL Dysfunction!
Author's note: The following is either satire, hockey prognostication, an angry rant or just errant observations...anything factual or actually insightful is unintended
Part I: Welcome to the Jungle
- Kevin Lowe & Mike Keenan
- Tries to buy success
There were rumblings about an RFA offer sheet from before the end of the season. That this would be the summer where there would be less outrage and more expectation. Darcy Regier certainly had a clue. He kept offers to Briere and Drury under a certain level all to parry one of the most obvious, misguided, overrated and just plain silly powerplays in a long while...
Kevin Lowe and Edmonton have had information leaks for a long, long time. Whether it be rumor, innuendo, trade rumblings, or simply him complaining...it has found its way into the rumormill time and time again. How many knew the real reason for Pronger's leaving? That kind of inability to keep a tight lid simply is a problem yet solved in 'The Festival City' which again and again is beginning to resemble a hockey circus.
Lowe's play to try to wrest Vanek yesterday from Buffalo was so telegraphed, that nobody was really shocked when it happened, but more concerned of the onus of what Pandora's Box opening really meant in an NHL that has been almost more topsy-turvy post-lockout than pre-lockout. Lowe tried to BUY success. Not his own homegrown talent, but someone else's, exploiting an area that makes other GM's squirm and some very concerned.
Kevin Lowe has sat frustrated for a few seasons now. Between pre-CBA moving of high-priced players simply because they couldn't afford it, and then the constant pressure of putting a winning product on the ice, post-lockout, he has gone from one side to another. He has been under constant pressure to bring back Edmonton to the days of glory. Yet, this time, the team has been unable to draft that Gretzky-like cog, and even if they did, would he even remained?
Lowe had dealt fan-favorite Ryan Smyth out-of-town for just a few dollars difference, yet somehow a cataclysmic divide in some stretch in his mind as he then moved the shocked and teary player to an eager, idealistic, hopeful sucker named the New York Islanders. As a result, the rest of his team fractured, instead of just struggling, and what was left was a GM with lots of big talk on big trades, looking to shake things up, and has turned into something like a crazed haunted war vet only looking for a battle somewhere.
So, he offers Vanek a ridiculous offer sheet paying him 50 million for 7 years. Vanek, who just completed his 2nd year in the NHL, almost doubling his first year numbers. By making this move, Lowe launches an all out assault on reason, player earnings, and completely shoots himself in the foot. After all, by setting precedences for 2nd year stars, he will be also pressed against cost rising for his own team that he is so crazily desperate to make succeed...bringing in prospect after prospect. This team that has, for some strange reason, been in shambles since their stellar run to the cup finals only the season before last. But, somehow, to make that rebound from last years fall from grace, is a man Mad Mike'ing even Mad Mike in all sorts of aggressive moves to grab existing RFAs still unsigned.
The philosophy so grandly capitulated by those who "ooooh" and "ahhhh" is that Lowe used this move to merely warn others of their intending moves. Well, that, besides the audacity to test the confines of what is proving to be a very weak and loopy CBA, really smacks of utter desperation. Lowe wasn't able to move up where he liked in the draft, nor been satisfied from finally prying Jani Pitkanen from Philly. He has been stewing, waiting to ex cerise something that Bobby Clarke should be demanding royalties over when he pressed for Ryan Kesler just last season.
'Slow and Low(e), that is the tempo' says the Beastie Boys in their legendary album, Licensed to Ill. And ill he is making some teams...as he then now looks for another RFA...yet, by his play on Vanek, he has wakened other GMs to do the same. After all, he's not the only team under the cap. And, with all his moves, he also lets himself be a target in the next few years, for others GMs to poach his own team. Cronyville is tight and angry, and comeuppance in some form will be coming down the line. All Lowe did is give Vanek's agent a huge boon, percentage, and a new way to push GMs to overpay in a market that is already inflated. Agents must be wringing their hands with glee over Lowe's antics.
There is but one reason, besides the one Lowe vocalized to make the move he did yesterday. And that is something that we might not see the result of in the next season or two. By pushing up RFA contracts, which is the very readily created result by his move on Vanek and his future moves on others, he will make more UFAs available and less distance in the divide between the bull market of UFAs and the RFA market which has been much more under control...till now. And, moreover, teams might be more willing to move RFAs, something Lowe would stand to gain some boon from since EDM has difficulty attracting UFAs. Especially if others follow his lead, an RFA situation could become just as volatile as a UFA for teams who spend, spend, spend, and then leave themselves open for potshots from Lowe and others. By doing this, he has set a limit on UFA spending and made RFA a new market...but can this CBA and "new" NHL handle that?
So is this man testing the CBA rules? Or just a frazzled shaken man looking to do anything, even if he causes a ruckus in everyone's pay structures...including eventually...his own? My opinion is more of the latter...but in contemplation, if it plays out as I just described, he might be less vilified down the line. But if it fails...it will make the following prediction come to truth:
Lowe will not be GM for more than two seasons further at most in Edmonton. If his attempt fails, and the market just burps, and he stands once again with nothing in his hands but fractures and cracks, despite even if he lands a Zach Parise, it will all rubber band back to him tenfold. Then karma will be truly a bitch. In the end, all what Lowe might have done is try to give teams that moved and lost prospects or drafted poorly an edge not based on skill, but simply taking advantage of lack of CBA architecture in a key area. And it then hurts teams who have drafted and developed their talent better, like Buffalo.
You can shake your tree, but never shake the forest when there are predators around. And you need to make sure your own is a great oak. Edmonton's tree is in question.
- Dirty politicking comes to the cleanest city in Canada
Speaking of bitch. Mike Keenan gave his spin session in a THN interview just the other day. In it, he dodges and weaves the rightful criticism of his failures, blaming the many GMs changes and coach changes. Never does he accept that most of those changes are from either his back room, back stab wrangling, or because of his over-the-top mind games that in the last several years have only had a smaller and smaller shelf life.
Yes, we know Florida sucked before you came in, and it certainly sucked more when you were there...especially for the fans and players. Moreover...you will never live down driving away Roberto Luongo. Keenan's ham-handing Luongo as coach and then as GM completely destroyed Luongo's previous longterm Florida notions. Here was a stellar young goalie who just built a huge house for him and his family in West Palm Beach. Yet, he wanted out desperately, tired of the crazy mind and grueling yoke of a GM who fittingly, finally lost a powerplay to his former buddy Jacques Martin. How delicious that must have been to watch.
Now he's in Calgary, wiping the slate clean with his own hair grease, denial and ego. And I hear words from many of how he will behave because he "really respects Sutter". Bullcrap. Keenan will either drive Calgary to a cup finals with his antics, or drive everyone to drink in a huge bust. Whichever the case, I'd be shocked if he lasts past this season. Wins or not, Mike Keenan is a headache. And nothing has seemed to change in his manner or style, just the words out of his mouth spinning to and fro.
Tomorrow...more dysfunction with Bob Gainey, Darcy Regier, and John Ferguson Jr.