Friday, September 12, 2008

Kevin Lowe Interview - September 12 2008

A nice interview on the Oilers site, this time with Kevin Lowe. Now this was one interesting bunch of statements from the President of Hockey Operations. There is a lot here and tons more that I'm missing but getting a good chunk of things written out should help to sort out some of the thoughts.

Who's in control here:

On Prendergast:
"[His role] won't be any different than last year. The American Hockey League team is a primary focus, but he's capable of doing everything.... He's making trade suggestions all the time."

On Olczyk:
"From a legal standpoint, negotiation of contracts, cap analysis, all those things as well as scouting.... his connection to USA hockey."

On Tambellini:
"Our thoughts and views on the game and players were similar [when we worked together on building the Olympic team]."
"[He'll] assume many of my duties if not all of them."

On Lowe:
"[My role will be] overseeing. I've ben too focused on the day-to-day stuff and in some respects I found that it suppressed my creativity, whatever that means, but I'm seeing the forest for the trees or through the trees I guess."

Lowe also mentioned that he expects things to be handeled in a "very democratic fashion" similar to the time of Lowe/Howson. Overall, I think his comments clarify a lot of the questions people had about roles. Kevin Prendergast is in charge of the minors. Olczyk will be the point person for contracts and scouting overage college players. Given the Oilers recent spurt of overage college signings since Olczyk was hired I feel comfortable making this assertion. Tambellini really is taking over the Oilers player management. Lowe described his role as "overseer." His description of his own role suggests to me that he doesn't know what in the blue hell he is supposed to be doing. The italics are not my emphasis; it's pretty well how he said it. Given his inability to coherently express his trees/forest metaphor, it sounded like a phrase he heard someone else use and he's attempting to parrot. All of the language he uses about his own role, with the exception of the italics, just doesn't sound like Kevin Lowe. "My creativity is being suppressed" is not a Kevin Lowe complaint. The rest of his response involved wanting more time to think about things other than hockey and spend time with his family. That seems to me to be way more genuine. The above is someone else talking through Kevin Lowe's lips.

On Memory:
Kevin Lowe's historical memory is quite good. He described this team as reminding him of the Oilers teams while he was playing in New York. He mentioned seven names: Mironov, Grier, Weight, Arnott, Czerkawski, Satan and Marchant. Six of the seven played on the Oilers in 95-96 - Lowe's last year in New York - but all seven were on the team the following year, once Lowe had joined the Oilers. I think he's probably remembering the 96-97 squad and thinking it was pretty good, knowing that most of those guys were on the team before he was and generalizing about how good the team must have looked in the early-mid nineties before his arrival. He also said the Oilers won 15 of their last 20 games, which is only off by one. He said that the Oilers have 2.5 to 3.0 million in cap space which looks to be bang on. I know that he probably didn't look these up before he came, so I'd say his memory here did really well (at least compared to Hillary Clinton and the sound of gun fire... the mind plays it's tricks)

On the sophmore slump:
"Sam and Andrew are young guys so they would be the most likely candidates."

Kevin Lowe briefly dismisses the possibility of a sophmore slump for Gilbert, Nilsson and Grebeshkov based on age and experience. First off, the complete omissions are interesting. Maybe Brodziak and Pouliot aren't guaranteed spots on the team. Maybe they're deemed safe bets not to underperform because expectations are low. Maybe Lowe just doesn't consider them rookies. Pouliot gets mentioned in a positive light later in the interview, but in the forty minute interview there isn't one mention of Kyle Brodziak that I noticed. As for the slumps themselves, it would seem to me that a 13.3 shooting percentage from a defenceman is probably a lot more likely to result in counting numbers down from a year ago than the mere fact that Gagner and Cogliano are young. But who knows.

On Visnovski:
"power-play specialist."

This pleases me. He's obviously not expecting more than what Visnovski is capable of, and he will probably be pleasantly surprised at the amount of even strength offence Visnovski will provide.

On Forwards in Camp:
"If these guys (Schremp, Pouliot and Brule are those that he mentioned) play really well we might have to move a veteran hockey player and we're not opposed to doing that at all."
"We're not closed-minded to anyone upstaging a veteran player."
"We're not actively looking for anybody right now."

This is just funny. No veteran third line center is on the way. If anything, a veteran player is leaving town. In fairness he also talked about bringing in another guy to camp to fill a positional role. He seemed to indicate that it isn't going to be a center but it is someone specific and given who's left I'd guess that the player in question is Glenn Anderson trying to hilariously stick it to the Hall of Fame committee with a comeback attempt. Back on track, who's the veteran player we have that might be leaving town? Veteran players not on the top two lines? Pisani and Moreau. That's it. Or at least I assume one would need at least 250 NHL games to qualify as a veteran.

Poor Ethan:
"We're all pulling for him. Everyone is hoping that Ethan can stay injury free [until we trade that man's ass when Schremp beats him out in camp.]

On Horcoff's Shoulder Injury:
"You can't predict those kinds of things." "Freak injury."

Horcoff said in his interview on the fourth that "it was a problem that was nagging at me for a few years... I had little troubles with it for a couple of years... by the time I had surgery it came out about four times." It's difficult to harmonize these accounts. It definitely doesn't sound like a freak injury. I'd guess that Lowe just wants to make injuries seem as unpredictable as possible. The more unpredictable events like this are, the harder they are to plan for and the easier it is to gloss over them rather than think of them as a management mistakes.

On Enforcers:
"[If someone takes a run at Hemsky] he'll get suspended."
"We would have to send a guy out after one of their top players if [someone goes after one of our top players] just as payback."

The gist was that we don't really need one, and winning teams don't all have them. Seems fair enough, but I thought the above quotes were fun placed side by side. To paraphrase, "The league will suspend someone that does something stupid, but just in case we're going to run one of their guys anyway." The sense of justice in hockey is very strange indeed. Also, it's shocking to hear this coming out of the mouth of a top executive for one of the teams. If Lowe makes this comment after a game where Hemsky gets run it's very probably bad news for his wallet, but he should be able to get away with it to a local radio guy in training camp.

On The Goaltending Situation:
"That game in San Jose was ridiculous. That's one of the greatest goaltending performances of all time."

That quote is about Dwayne Roloson, but you already knew that. In fairness, he's using hyperbole and he probably felt stupid after saying it and Roloson really did have an outstanding game. It still makes me chuckle though.

More relevantly:
"If we did have three goaltenders at the start of the year it would be a really short term thing. We would like to make our decisions prior to that.... We feel he's earned a spot or earned an opportunity to win a spot."

He did give a glowing report of Garon, but wouldn't it be interesting if everyone's favorite goalie from last year was being traded. I don't think he is and I don't think that Lowe is insinuating that but Lowe but they're clearer moving to two goalies and if Deslauriers shows something in camp it's quite possible that one of the other two is gone.

Anyway. The interview was pretty long and I ignored some things (no really, I did) but overall, I enjoyed the interview and I'm thankful to Kevin Lowe for his willingness to do it (even if it wasn't with me... the nerve).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shawn Horcoff Interview - September 4 2008

Shawn Horcoff is a smart player. When he gives an interview it's interesting to hear his perspective on the team. Horcoff recently did an interview on the Oilers website where he talked about the importance of having young players or depth in being able to win:

"I think that in today's world - and I think Detroit exemplifies it better than anyone - you need your young guys to step up and play well, and they need to contribute. I think there's probably fifteen to twenty teams in the league that have the veteran leadership to be able to win the Stanley Cup, but you have to be able to roll four lines. It's so hard to go four rounds and win. You can't just do it playing a select few guys. We have three or four guys under 21 who can be impact players now."

I would love to ask some follow-up questions about what he means here. Impact players under twenty-one? Certainly Gagner, but who else is he talking about. It's not a big point by any means but it seems that Horcoff is conflating some of the youth on the team with Gagner himself, unless he thinks (and maybe he does) that Cogliano, Brule and Schremp are going to be positive impact players now. Even then, they're 21. It just shows how good Gagner is. I would say that it isn't a stretch here to think that Horcoff is talking mostly about the Kid Line and that for him Kid Line = Sam Gagner.

Fifteen to twenty teams that have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup? This sounds like a cover for Edmonton more than anything. He's pulling a number out of seemingly nowhere to say that in his mind there is a chance that this year he could win the Stanley Cup. That, or maybe he just knows that there's a lot of luck in this game.

Horcoff obviously knows that there are some players who are better (and more important) than others, and he's been playing hockey at a high level for long a time. No literal rolling four lines. It's clearly a figure of speech to simplify the game for the listener, so how close is it to what he believes. I'm not sure, but I think I would take this more as a statement of "we need everyone pulling in the same direction." It's not really what he said, but what he said seems impossible for him to believe and I'd certainly like to think that he really is simplifying for people instead of lying to them. If it is a metaphor, it's one that's biased towards the impact of forwards on the game. It may be worth watching to see if his metaphors have a tendency to veer in that direction and that's he's expressing an opinion with them, namely, that forwards drive results.