Sunday, 8 April 2007

Incompetence: Thy Name is Lowe

From this Edmonton Journal article I shall pull my quotes.

"It was always our intention to make some deals, at some point," said Lowe, whose team, without Pronger, Peca and deadline pickups Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom and Sergei Samsonov, was unmistakeably diminished on defence, but strengthened in goal with the addition of Dwayne Roloson.

In this post here I address the nature of risk management in decision making. More specifically I take a look at the defensive situation of the Oilers.

Problem is that they didn't even have to replace Pronger with another Pronger - they just needed a veteran guy who could safely play 16+ minutes a game babysitting the bottom pairing; thus breaking up any pairings of Smid/Greene or MAB/Smid or MAB/Greene et al. and allowing Smith to concentrate on stopping the top-lines. A lot of players fit into that category.

Anything more than that was bonus.

Risk management is NOT a new concept in management. For none of Lowe, Howson, Laforge, et al to understand the practice of it in their profession (namely that of building a successful hockey team) is borderline unforgivable. It is tantamount to letting the Keystone Cops police New York. Incompetence personified.

Lowe: "It happened that the year before that we were able to do something. This year, it became more apparent that the cap really tightens things up. Until you start eating away at some of the contracts over the course of the year, teams just can't make moves."

Really? According to that quote he couldn't make trades because teams were too close to the Cap... ummmm... didn't the Oilers START the year with roughly $ 4 million in Cap space? The facts support a direct contradiction of his quote. For him to say he couldn't make a trade because Cap space is too tight is a fallacy - he had LOTS of Cap Space to work with. Worse yet - he had the one thing he himself says a lot of other teams needed - Cap space.

Dec 16, 2006 Zhitnik is traded to the Flyers. The season started October 4. This means that the season was 74 days old. Per earlier posts of mine (here and here) we know that:

-- with $ 4.0 million Lowe could purchase $ 6.62 million in salary
-- Zhitnik's $ 3.5 million would have cost $ 2.12 million in Cap room
-- at Day 146 (~ deadline) Lowe would still have $ 8.57 million in Cap room

Ergo - Lowe is either a really poor liar or completely unable to comprehend Cap math. For a GM of a hockey club NOT to understand Cap math I would suggest to you the GM is incompetent.

"At the deadline, if I have $1 million in cap room, I can take on a $4-million player," Lowe said. Lowe, who strives to stay about 10 per cent below the cap, had ample cap room to deal.

Oh. So he DOES know Cap math. Just doesn't know how to work it apparently? Also, I address the 10% issue in that same post I mentioned earlier. Saving 10% is poor Cap management through and through.

So why no deadline airlift? Three issues, primarily: the team's failing fortunes on the ice; a slowly growing list of injuries to key players like centre Jarret Stoll (concussion) and defenceman Steve Staios (knee), and a depleted stockpile of what GMs call assets -- prospects and draft choices to use as trade bait.

"We traded three players for Pronger, three assets (two players and a draft pick) for Samsonov, a first-round draft choice for Roloson, (a prospect) for Spacek and (two players) for Tarnstrom," Lowe said, doing an inventory of the 2005-06 moves. "We weren't in a position, when we got to the deadline, where we could decide to, say, move out all these assets to take on a rental player and make a run for it.

"We weren't nearly in the same position as we were last year -- in our minds, anyway." More pointedly, as the Feb. 27 deadline neared...

The deadline? the DEADLINE??? As noted before - the time to deal with the issue was pre-season start. Even if not then at least one team was able to trade Cap space for a player less than HALFWAY through the season.

Let's recap - Zhitnik was traded 74 days in. The Oilers record at that point in time was 17 wins and 15 losses. Not exactly tearing it up but nowhere near being goners. The EXACT right time to make a trade to shore up any deficiences.

If your team has a known and quantifiable weakness (too inexperienced and not enough depth) do you really wait until it is in full-blown crisis mode to make a deal? Obvious answer is 'No'.

I also like the 'depleted stockpile' pile. The Oilers, even before the trade of Smyth, have/had loads of B+ level prospects and any time a team is willing to take a guy like Freddy Meyer Jr. just to unload salary the Oilers are in that game.

To say that the team didn't have assets to trade is laughable - they have so many they were finally forced to get their own AHL team just to give them a place to play.

Finally, Stoll didn't go down until Jan 19 - past the halfway mark of the season. Most of their injury troubles happened in the latter half of the year. There was lots of time to strengthen the team prior to calamity.

"Honestly, what concerned me the most was the length of it," Nichols said. "Ryan is a 31-year-old guy that has got a history of injuries." "I think he's averaged a month a year in his career out with injuries. I remember one year he had a half-a-year. It's the way he plays the game. He exposes himself to injury. So the number ($5.4 million per season) wasn't as troubling to me as the length of it."

Interesting way to look at stats. Let's look at that. In the last 11 years Smyth has never played less than 61 games. Of those 10 years:

-- in 4 of those years he played a full 82 games
-- in 4 of those years he played 71, 75, 71 and 71 games
-- in 3 of those years he played 65, 61 and 66 games

That is an average of 73.5 games played a season. A month a year? Loosely... yes. Hardly a player who is on the verge of falling apart however. Important to note as well - none of his injuries were chronic - we aren't talking Lindros here. LOTS of elite level players miss 6 - 10 games a year. It comes with the ice time and effort level imo.

More importantly, Smyth's game isn't based on speed, ability to shoot or puckhandling skill, he plays a game based on simple puck possession hockey and so his game is actually LESS prone to impairment by serious injury than many players out there today.

The trade route may be more viable, the same option that delivered Pronger from St. Louis and Peca from the Islanders two summers ago.

Really. Pronger and Peca were both first year, new CBA, Cap pick-ups. Next year's Cap is going to hit $ 48+ million a team. Won't be a lot of offloading of players like Pronger and Peca taking place next year. Be a lot of Samsonov's out there however.

To be fair that quote is from the article and is not attributable to Lowe or team management. Anyone who thinks that trades like those are out there just waiting for Lowe to pluck them from his cookie jar is kidding themself.

"So, come July 1 (the onset of free agency), we'll be in a position where we'll be able to be out there trying to attract some free agents," Lowe said. "I'm going to be very guarded and careful to say the fix is going to be done that way."

Before or after your owner said that a player should get divorced in order to fulfill their contract? (I took some licence with that one... but not much)

Also, many a team is going to have a LOT more money for Free Agents than the Oilers. Colorado, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have oodles of Cap space and players WANT to play there. LA, Phoenix, Columbus and the New Yorks have the same room Edmonton does and, in some cases, better teams. Nashville is poised to make a big run and will have the dollars to ice an even better team.

The last off-season Lowe missed the mark completely. My confidence is not overflowing.


I don't know what else to say. The biggest indicator of Lowe's incompetence is simply this: his inability to just come out and say he screwed up. Instead he is shifting the blame, putting up flimsy arguements to justify his actions and making promises he probably can't keep.

He made some incredibly stupid mistakes this past year - the three Journal articles being yet one more - it is time he manned up.


Have a great evening everyone.

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