Count that mad money

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

Kevin Lowe has some "mad money.''

But as mad as he is right now and as infuriated as Edmonton Oiler fans may be, Lowe isn't ready to kick his dog and go out and spend it yet.

"Last August we knew we'd want to add something,'' said the GM of the money he left himself under the Oilers' budget with the new collective bargaining agreement and the new NHL salary cap.

"We knew we'd be able to add something during the season. We didn't know if it would be defence or to add goal scoring.''

The idea, he admits, was to wait a while longer, let the hockey team settle to get a complete and accurate reading, and make the right decisions.

"You don't want to make moves based on a game like we just watched,'' he said of the 7-1 debacle against the Colorado Avalanche.

"We will make changes,'' said Lowe.

"But we won't make them based on a game like that. That team wasn't our true team. You want to see the true team and find out what it really needs.

"You don't want to make a four-for-four deal because of a losing streak and what happened Friday night and make a bad deal. You don't want to mortgage the next couple of years to fix something right now.''

TEMPER TANTRUMS

The last thing he wants to do is blow his mad money on a temper tantrum.

Lowe is going to give this team Tuesday's game in Colorado to see how they handle coming off the embarrassment, but is ready to do a shake-up move or two if he doesn't see what he wants to see.

Lowe returned my call and asked my first question for me when I picked up the phone before I even asked it.

"What am I, the manager, going to do?''

His team on a six-game losing streak. They just soiled the sheets at home. They're heading on the road for 10 of the next 11. The goaltenders are in the toilet. The power play is now ranked No. 21 in the league and penalty killing is No. 23.

And the savvy fans from the Heartland of Hockey don't want to hear "steady as she goes'' when it's going this bad.

They might settle with a human sacrifice, but the human would probably have to be Craig Simpson.

"I don't like fans to see what they saw Friday night.

''The team came totally unglued,'' said Lowe. "I think the players know that at some point here we'd have to do something to stop the bleeding.''

It's not like there aren't moves to be made.

I mean, every novice and atom coach in town knows they need a goaltender and a goal scorer and have for two years.

"Some experts questioned our goaltending. Nobody expected what we saw last night,'' Lowe said of Jussi Markkanen joining Ty Conklin with a league-leading "sieve'' percentage.

"What was questioned was if we had a guy to take us deeper into the playoffs.''

Lowe, I know, is talking to a lot of teams right now. I think he knows that he's gambled and lost on the two goaltenders turning into a credible tandem coming back from Markkanen's year in Russia and Conklin's great games at the World Hockey Championships. Stay tuned.

For the rest of it, most fans would have rather seen coach Craig MacTavish keep the kids they saw at training camp than come back trying to teach old dogs new tricks in the new NHL.

Now there's at least the beginning of a fear here that Chris Pronger and Mike Peca are old dogs, too.

IF THEY'D KEPT SCHREMP ...

You can't help but wonder if the power play would be so brutal if they'd kept Robbie Schremp to play the half boards for the first 10 games before they had to send him back to junior - if indeed he would have been sent back to junior.

It's hard to believe he could look any worse than most of these guys have looked lately.

Now they can only bring Schremp up in an emergency situation.

And no, the NHL doesn't think a six-game losing streak is an emergency situation.

As for bringing up the likes of Yan Stastny, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Dan Syvret, Lowe hinted he might if the team doesn't turn this around - now.

But he doesn't want to.

"I want them to get better by playing before they get the call,'' he said.

"But if we don't do well Tuesday, there's a shorter leash in bringing the young guys up.''

Lowe may have to spend his mad money sooner than later or the fans will be screaming for a coach and general manager instead of for a goalie and a centre.


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