Edmonton Oilers: Promoting Mediocrity and Failing Upwards, Part 1

Edmonton the past two seasons have not been good enough. Most fans would attribute that to GM Peter Chiarelli; however, the disease plaguing this team rots deeper than just the GM.

Yes for the better part of a decade the Edmonton Oilers organization has been nothing short of a tremendous failure. I am not talking about the on ice product, no, Edmonton’s biggest and most egregious failure lies at the front office.

Here’s a fun fact. of the past 4 general managers the Oilers have hired (including Chiarelli) three are still with the organization. Do you know of any other professional sports organization that does that? Let alone another NHL club? Kevin Lowe, Craig Mactavish, and Scott Howson have failed upwards for so long its shocking one of them doesn’t own the team.

So, in this 4 part series, I’m going to look at what these three have accomplished to illustrate the mediocrity.

Worst Moves Made?

The first person I want to talk about is Howson. He, while largely under the radar has had his hands in many bad decisions. Most notably he was instrumental in the trade for Nikita Nikitin’s negotiating rights and his 2 year 4.5 million per contract.

Certainly early in free agency you have to (overpay),” said Oilers senior vice-president of hockey operations Scott Howson, who knows Nikitin’s upside better than anyone from his days as GM of the Blue Jackets. “You can’t be cautious, you can’t be careful. If you’re going to get the player, you’re going to have to be more than competitive in the market.” – Robert Tychkowski

How deluded do you have to be as a professional scout/GM to willingly admit that you overpaid for a player? and this quote was dated BEFORE he had played a single shift with the Edmonton Oilers.

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He also played a big hand in both of the acquisitions of Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne. Neither of these players had any long-lasting positive impacts on the team. Pouliot couldn’t stay healthy and had a disastrous 16/17 campaign that resulted in his buyout from the team. Fayne finally became a free agent last summer, after only spending 2 of the 4 years on his deal on the Edmonton Oilers roster. Fayne failed so spectacularly that Edmonton’s AHL team couldn’t use him. He ended up being loaned to Columbus’s farm team to play out his contract. Since 17/18 Fayne hasn’t played any professional hockey, and his career is most likely done. Both are massive failures being given 4+ year contracts at a combined 7.625 million dollar cap hit.

Edmonton Oilers Career Path

He was hired by Edmonton in 1994 to be GM of the Oilers AHL affiliate the Cape Breton Oilers. He stayed on as AHL GM until Glen Sather left the Oilers in 2000 to join the New York Rangers and Lowe was promoted to GM. Howson himself was promoted to assistant GM and had that job till 2007. He finally got his big break and became GM of the Columbus blue Jackets which lasted until 2013.

He had two notable moves as GM of the Blue Jackets. The trades of Jeff Carter, to and from the Jackets, and the trade of Rick Nash for Brandon Dubinsky. Those failures along with his poor drafting record (both Nikita Filitov and Nikolai Zherdev were his doing) resulted in his termination. You would think after that he would be forced to take some time away from hockey, not so however, as he was almost immediately re-hired by the Oilers organization.

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February of 2013 he was fired as GM of the Blue Jackets. Then, in March of 2013, he was hired as a professional scout by the Edmonton Oilers. Finally, in April of 2013, he was promoted to Senior Vice-President of Hockey operations. In the span of three months he went from fired as a GM to promoted above the level of GM. How in GORDS name does that happen. That’s like getting a job as a cashier, getting fired for poor performance or disorderly conduct, then getting hired at a different branch as a department manager.


What’s His Current Role?

Right now Scott Howson is the Vice-President of Player Personnel. Meaning he is in charge of all player development, working in North America with Oilers prospects. He is in charge of making sure that any prospect Edmonton has playing in North America is succeeding, as well as being a pro scout at the AHL/NHL level.

Here’s Howson explaining his role and how the OEG works with him and Mactavish, Lowe, etc. (Start it at 2:50 to get to the good stuff):

I’ve never heard a company’s upper brass described to me as “fluid” before and it strikes me as odd. He’s also very good at answering the question of “How does the dynamic work between Peter Chiarelli, yourself, Craig Mactavish, and Kevin Lowe” without actually answering the question. Stating only that “you can never have enough experience on the manager side of things.” Weird, then why don’t other team’s keep their past GM’s?

Wrap Up

The ineptitude of Oilers management runs deep, real deep and there’s still 4-5 people I want to talk about. I have never seen a professional sports team, let alone a business run in such an unprofessional manner.

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