Mark Spector’s Latest Article – And Why You Need To Take It With A Grain of Salt

Jonathan Willis
April 03 2009 06:03PM

CANADA/

If what we were looking for was proof that the Edmonton media have teeth, the surest evidence to date was provided in Mark Spector’s column at Sportsnet today.

Unfortunately, the column also seems to confirm that Spector has a personal axe to grind with the team, or more specifically with Daryl Katz. It’s good to remember that it was Spector who quoted an anonymous veteran earlier in the year as saying “first a trade, then maybe the coach” as the solution to the team’s problems; it was also Spector who got Sheldon Souray on record criticizng his coach’s optimistic prediction of a run at the division title this season. Both were good stories, but he went beyond good journalism with his comments today.

Newer, richer and younger, Katz was like a Peter Pocklington with real money.

At least Spector makes no initial pretense that he likes Katz; an immediate comparison to a man more reviled in Edmonton than Chris Pronger is a great way to start. Plus, the man Katz is being compared to is currently bankrupt and is being charged with fraud.

Well, the first full season under Katz is in the books in Oilerville, and some disturbing signs are beginning to emerge. Missing the playoffs is the least of the problems in Edmonton, as signs of a dysfunctional Oakland Raiders-like organization creep to the fore.

Since their last playoff appearance (2002), the Oakland Raiders have gone through 5 different head coaches and put up a combined 24-72 record. By comparison, the Oilers would need to win only 21 games a season for six straight years to match their streak of futility. The majority owner is Al Davis, one of the most controversial owners in any sport; he’s filed multiple lawsuits against the NFL, battled with his fired coaches over the remainder of their contracts (almost to a man they’ve gone on to success elsewhere). 44 years ago Davis was a coach, and by all accounts he pulls the strings from above on his current coaches.

I go into detail here to show how off Spector’s comparison is; there’s a difference between meddling in a team and insisting on total control and to date there’s been nowhere near enough evidence to suggest that Daryl Katz is anywhere near Davis’ level of lunacy.

Moves like signing second-line centres to $7-million deals and backing coaches with cryptic text messages, all from a Howard Hughes-like owner who likes to manage his asset, but leaves others to speak to the fans who sell out his building every night.

As though the Pocklington comparison weren’t enough, Spector moves on to Howard Hughes. The same Howard Hughes who struck and killed a pedestrian with his car, the same Hughes who was a massive financial backer of Donald Nixon – which when discovered led to a political scandal. The financial ties between Hughes and the Nixon family have long been speculated as one of the driving forces behind Watergate.

That probably isn’t what Spector’s getting at though – he’s undoubtedly making reference to Hughes famous reclusiveness later in life, which led to incidents like the one in 1947 where he spent four months exclusively in a film studio, living off of chocolate bars and milk and relieving himself into the empty containers. At this point I think it’s safe to say that these aren’t objective comparisons – Spector has an axe to grind. But let’s skip ahead a little bit in the article.

If a four-year contract extension that averages $6.5 million for Shawn Horcoff — that’s right, Shawn Horcoff — sounds like something cooked up between a player and an owner who also spend time together away from the rink, that’s mighty logical.

It appears that one of my favourite pet peeves about Oilers’ message boards – screwing up contract details – isn’t limited to faceless folks on the internet. You see, Shawn Horcoff never signed a four-year extension averaging 6.5 million a season. He signed a six-year extension averaging 5.5 million a season. And when a respected journalist goes out on a bit of a limb and says that a contract was negotiated not between a player and his G.M., but between a player and the team owner, he damn well better get the details right. Because when he doesn’t it casts doubt on all of his information.

Spector does other things in his column too; he mentions rumours that Katz is far too close with a select group of players, and says that the dressing room is “infested with guys who have lost respect for the coach’s authority.” He calls Horcoff’s and Penner’s deals “two of the ten worst contracts in the NHL” – and while I’m not going to argue that either is an example of good management, that’s hyperbole at it’s finest (off the top of my head the deals given to Brian Rolston, Rick DiPietro, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden, Daniel Briere, Ed Jovanovski, Jason Blake and Michael Nylander are ten worse than either Penner’s or Horcoff’s deals).

He may well be right on the factual parts of his article. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I can take him at face value – between the gratuitous shots at Daryl Katz and the obvious factual errors, I just don’t trust everything that Spector’s written today.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Owen
April 03 2009, 06:50PM
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If you want to stick your head in the sand and ignore what Spector's saying because he messed up on a cap hit, so be it.

He's the only one who hasn't been playing ball all along. This stuff (vet speaks out, fanboy turned owner getting way too close to certain players) shouldn't get swept under the rug.

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#2 kingsblade
April 03 2009, 06:16PM
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Spector is, was, and always will be a giant tool who has never proven to me that he comes close to deserving his job.

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#3 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
April 03 2009, 06:22PM
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Someone should email this article to him.

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#4 Rob
April 03 2009, 06:26PM
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I can't dispute your criticisms of your esteemed colleague (??) However this city is plugged like a sewer with suck-up and totally compromised so-called journalists who are not capable, nor do they have the balls to ask the hard question when appropriate.

We have been fed a steady diet of regurgitated pap direct from the Oil publicity machine for alot of years. Even KLowe on the Oiler homepage used words describing the need to 'cut off' (not an exact quote) discussion on MacT's future. Where the hell does he think he's living...Oileristan or would that be Katzistan? The balls on the man to tell us what we can think or say. That's arrogance X 100!!!

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#5 Sandra
April 03 2009, 06:34PM
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Didn't Lowe offer Nylander more money and Mrs. Pronger refused?

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#6 Jonathan Willis
April 03 2009, 06:36PM
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Rob wrote:

I can’t dispute your criticisms of your esteemed colleague (??) However this city is plugged like a sewer with suck-up and totally compromised so-called journalists who are not capable, nor do they have the balls to ask the hard question when appropriate.

Not my colleague; I'm a rank amateur ;)

Still, both Rishaug and Barnes asked the tough question last night, and both Barnes and Jones had articles up taking potshots at the organization today.

I don't view the local media as especially toothless, and I doubt the Oilers do either right now. Barnes is a fine example of an independent-minded writer, but there are others.

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#7 Jonathan Willis
April 03 2009, 06:36PM
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Sandra wrote:

Didn’t Lowe offer Nylander more money and Mrs. Pronger refused?

I was hoping someone would pick up on that :)

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#8 jk
April 03 2009, 06:53PM
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... maybe Brownlee should have got his job...

i think we all recognize that Mark Spector is no Cam Cole.

the article is filled with needless hyperbole ... much like most of the material that passes for sports journalism on Sportsnet.

fantastically though...

the salient points are correct.

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#9 AlBundy
April 03 2009, 06:59PM
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Spector is a nothing. I wouldn't even waste time on anything he has to say.

R.B. and J.G. are much more valuable.

Come on someone, answer my question, who are the players who are dividing the room? Let's get after it.

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#10 kingsblade
April 03 2009, 07:00PM
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@ Rob: How is asking Katz to "clarify" a contract the doesn't exist asking tough questions?

The guy did nothing but go to nhlnumbers.com and saw a contract that seemingly ended in 12/13 and averaged 6.5 because THAT'S AS FAR AS THE WEBSITE GOES. That is what passes for journalism now? Nice fact checking by the man who wants to try and criticize a guy like Katz.

...or am I wrong and it's actually true that nobody has a contract that runs past 12/13 in the entire league.

There is nothing more irritating than a writer who wants to be considered a journalist while pursuing his little personal vendetta.

Lowe gave a plausible explanation for the text message and a plausible explanation for the fact that Lowe was the one speaking to it afterward. To use the situation as an excuse to compare Katz to Pocklington and Hughes is irresponsible at best.

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#11 David S
April 03 2009, 07:01PM
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More to the point, who takes Spector seriously any more anyways?

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#12 kingsblade
April 03 2009, 07:06PM
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What I really hate is how Sportsnet "selects" responses to post in the comment section. I almost hate that more than his article. After all, I say let him write his crap all day long if we can call him on it in the comments, but instead we get edited out and only supportive comments or weakly oppositional ever get posted.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
April 03 2009, 07:08PM
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Owen wrote:

If you want to stick your head in the sand and ignore what Spector’s saying because he messed up on a cap hit, so be it.

Oh, I'm not ignoring what Spector's saying - I'm just noting that he certainly doesn't seem objective.

We all have our agendas, and it's good to know what a writer's pushing when he's out on a limb by himself on certain facts, because his agenda almost certainly colours his reporting.

Fortunately, Spector's left us no doubt as to his agenda, so we can take it into consideration when reading his work.

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#14 Six
April 03 2009, 07:11PM
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He's a horrible writer, he says that is clear that Katz is getting too close to players and MacT's family; the only thing that is clear is his little vendetta with the Oilers. Read his March 31st article on what Souray said and listen to the audio of the interview, he took what fitted his current Oilers hissy fit and thats all. Souray wasn't insinuating anything he mostly was getting at the fact that it saying you're challenging for the division is better than saying your hoping the get third. What an asshole, I really really want to know how the hell to get a job at Sportsnet so I can make a living spewing the crap at the top of my head on fans of a passionate hockey city.

Does anyone know what the hell his problem is? Would Katz not give him and interview or something and now he's crying like a PETA member after Vick gets out?

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#15 albundy
April 03 2009, 07:11PM
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Do you think Sourey and Hemsky were at odds with Moreau and Staios. It seems kinda funny both 44 and 83 and a tough second half yet 18 1nd 24 seemed to get way more ice?

18 complains about the powerplay but he and 24 are on the PK which isn't ranked very well, right?

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#16 Sandra
April 03 2009, 07:12PM
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AlBundy wrote:

Spector is a nothing. I wouldn’t even waste time on anything he has to say. R.B. and J.G. are much more valuable. Come on someone, answer my question, who are the players who are dividing the room? Let’s get after it.

My guess is Horcoff, Capatin Moueau, and Pisani are the cancers in the room, they go back to the prelock out and with out MacT they would not be in the NHL today

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#17 albundy
April 03 2009, 07:15PM
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Stauffer has had one way too many fatire today I'LL BET. Drowing his sorrows

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#18 Sandra
April 03 2009, 07:16PM
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Staois is a true Leader with limited abilities , I still like him as a player, our future asst coach, he is good with kids if you remeber the run last year he did take charge in the dressing room when Shaun harold Druken Horcoff had surgery

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#19 albundy
April 03 2009, 07:19PM
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Good point on 24 but you think Horcoff is the ring leader of team zobra

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#20 Sandra
April 03 2009, 07:21PM
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SO who will be on team Canada, will MacT be the coach?

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#21 albundy
April 03 2009, 07:23PM
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I feel for Tambo, good hockey guy but in the middle of a cow pie

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#22 Sandra
April 03 2009, 07:36PM
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You know with the kind of offseason changes we are going to have, we may have a worse team next year, This year we will finish with less points than last year. If Lowe is still at the Helm, as he is and was all season, we all seen that Tambo is a puppet. We are in for a shock Oilernation. We are going to trade the wrong people. I would trade/ release the following players.

1) Horcoff, here is a player where we could have had Spezza for him because Murry was ready to be raped but Tambo never got the OK. Long term we are going to pay a 3rd line center 7.0M next year.

2) Pisani, he is the Kris Kontos of the Oilers, Lowe again jumped the gun.

3) Moreau, What usefullness is he?

4) Coglino. here we can get something back, plus he won't be anything better than a 3rd line center behind Gaga and Sully,

5) Gilbert, This guy is all nerves in a game on the line and his mistakes always end up in the net and a loss.

Sadly no one will take the top 3 , because of contracts and skill.

4 and 5 can bring in some good assets to help "CONTEND" for a playoff "SPOT"

so I guess we will be stuck until Horcoff's contract is in the last 2 years but then again no one will want him then too. I really hate Horcoff for his abuse and blame of the fans in Oiler country for the Oilers misfortunes at home.

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#23 Jonathan Willis
April 03 2009, 07:39PM
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Sandra wrote:

I really hate Horcoff for his abuse and blame of the fans in Oiler country for the Oilers misfortunes at home.

Link?

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#24 Jas in Red Deer
April 03 2009, 07:40PM
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@ kingsblade: They are the rightsholder. As we saw with their "overbearing" protection of CHED during the Gola parody, they are just guarding their jewels.~ Heaven forbid someone should speak with ill intentions.~

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#25 Sandra
April 03 2009, 07:40PM
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albundy wrote:

Do you think Sourey and Hemsky were at odds with Moreau and Staios. It seems kinda funny both 44 and 83 and a tough second half yet 18 1nd 24 seemed to get way more ice? 18 complains about the powerplay but he and 24 are on the PK which isn’t ranked very well, right?

It was Hemsky who started Dead man Coaching with his rants, but I blame Horcoff for both the PP( can't shoot) and PK for he won't block a shot. Maybe Hemsky's shot was at Horcoff about being played with a checker, thats all Horcoff is anyways. Still he has the last laugh, all the way to the bank

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#26 Sandra
April 03 2009, 07:42PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Sandra wrote: I really hate Horcoff for his abuse and blame of the fans in Oiler country for the Oilers misfortunes at home. Link?

It was back before the plea to the fans, when they were talking about the booing, I will try find it and link it

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#27 albundy
April 03 2009, 07:43PM
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If Oilers just release Horcoff are they still on the hook for his salary on the salary cap

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#28 albundy
April 03 2009, 07:45PM
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Yup, I remember reading this on one of the blogs, I just can't remember which one. Was it J.G. or Wanye? @ Jonathan Willis:

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#29 Chris
April 03 2009, 07:59PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Didn't Nylander take less money with Washington than he was offered by Lowe under the EIG?

Irony can be pretty ironic.

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#30 albundy
April 03 2009, 08:05PM
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Nope, I'm wrong, Horc was on the radio one night on 1260 The Team

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#31 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:08PM
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Tencer is backtracking

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#32 Chris
April 03 2009, 08:08PM
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@ Sandra:

You beat me to the punch. I read the article and was drooling so profusely for the kill punch I didn't read all the posts carefully enough at 120 mph...

MY BAD!

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#33 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:09PM
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albundy wrote:

Nope, I’m wrong, Horc was on the radio one night on 1260 The Team

Yes but there was print about it to. Your "Fred" is on to backtracking

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#34 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:12PM
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ask him if he had another "text" from Daryl

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#35 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:12PM
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This is better than a hockey game

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#36 Chris
April 03 2009, 08:13PM
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@ albundy:

You can stick him (Horcoff) in the minors. You will never see a cap hit if he clears waivers and you never recall him. Horc, however, is like old faithful... But he only blows every other year!

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#37 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:15PM
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he is doing PR for Katz on Tambo

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#38 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:17PM
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Chris wrote:

@ albundy: You can stick him (Horcoff) in the minors. You will never see a cap hit if he clears waivers and you never recall him. Horc, however, is like old faithful… But he only blows every other year!

if he clears waivers the first time, which he will because of the cap hit, they can recall hem back and fourth I think.

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#39 Chris
April 03 2009, 08:22PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Hi Willis. Haven't posted in a while. Too much to digest. I recanted my hatred of all things MacT, fessed up to my Sullie-On-Line-One mistake, and have gotten very drunk. I miss the glory days. It makes me sad that there is a whole generation of fans who know nothing but this. Do you have Katz's cell number?

I'd like to send him a TEXT of my own...

not that he knows any better than the rest of us how to fix things.

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#40 Sandra
April 03 2009, 08:23PM
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Tencer is blaming "FRED"

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#41 Chris
April 03 2009, 08:25PM
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@ Sandra:

No. I'm not a cap, or collective bargaining agreement lawyer, but I believe another team could claim him on re-entry waivers and leave us on the hook for half his salary and the corresponding cap hit.... Ouch! A move down would be permanent... Of course this will never happen; Like it or not we need Horc. I just wish an Oiler other than Hemsky would give US a home town discount!

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#42 Jay
April 03 2009, 08:28PM
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Sandra wrote:

My guess is Horcoff, Capatin Moueau, and Pisani are the cancers in the room, they go back to the prelock out and with out MacT they would not be in the NHL today

@ Sandra: Lets not get crazy. Horcoff would make it on 30 out of 30 of the teams in the league. You can take that to the bank. The man is a solid 2 way player and he is the least of our problems. Not his fault we can't find someone to go ahead of him at centre on the depth chart.

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#43 Chris
April 03 2009, 08:34PM
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@ Jay:

I aggree. Horcoff is a quality player: Lowe is just overpaying him next season... It's like Lowe had no idea the cap would go down... Kinda like he had no idea the cap would go up when he refused to extend Smyth...

Actually....It seems like Lowe has no idea period!

*Takes another deep pull on a glass more full of more Gibsons than ice or Coke combined... watching old Oiler playoff video's and crying...*

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#44 Chris
April 03 2009, 08:47PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

OOOOOOOWWWHH. Willis. Your favorite: Strudwick nominated for Masterton! Comment?

*crickets*

(Roli would be my nominee!)

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#45 albundy
April 03 2009, 09:48PM
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I'm missing everything tonight, no radio and play by play by Dan and Fred. Sh@t They are probably reading from a script that was text to them by ????

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#46 Librarian Mike
April 03 2009, 09:53PM
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Just curious, but why do people refer to Bob Stauffer as Fred? I'm confused.

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#47 Victoria
April 03 2009, 09:58PM
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Sandra wrote:

It was back before the plea to the fans, when they were talking about the booing, I will try find it and link it

I don't remember Horcoff ever blaming fans for the teams performance at home. Seems like it would've been a pretty huge issue if he said something like that.

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#48 Spliff
April 03 2009, 10:02PM
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I think Lowe lost his confindence when Prongers wife realized Edmonton was too provincial and wanted out. He got schooled by Burke on the Pronger deal and nothing has gone right for him since. Why he overpaid so many players but was not willing to give GlenX a raise I will never understand. Maybe GlenX laughed at his hairpiece, who knows? I find it hard to believe that Lowe does not know when the cap is going up or down and plan accordingly. Could he not see that we needed a PK guy and a tough Defenceman? We all see it. This team and situation is so messed up I want to cheer for another team. But who? The Ookpiks?

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#49 albundy
April 03 2009, 10:03PM
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well my friend, take a look at the old Flintstone shows and compare Bob's frame to that of Fred's. Question, do their wives look the same?@ Librarian Mike:

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#50 albundy
April 03 2009, 10:05PM
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It's nice to see the fans truly realize the issue here is with Lowe. He has done a real bad job and does not deserve to stay in the organization. @ Spliff:

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