SUN Hockey Pool

NHL GMs live in glass houses

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Hell hath no fury like Edmonton Oilers fans scorned, at least when it comes to criticism of Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe that is.

The majority of callers and e-mailers to Total Sports and posters on various Oilers fans sites were livid with comments made by NHL agent Ritch Winter on a recent appearance on the Team 1260.

The genesis of this had to do with Lowe implying on Darren Dreger's TSN blog that new Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis is "unethical" and "untrustworthy" because of the Oilers' failed signing of Gillis's former client, Michael Nylander.

Winter drew a parallel to Lowe's own conduct during the Mike Comrie fiasco with the Anaheim Ducks and former GM Bryan Murray back in December of 2003.

According to Winter, Lowe agreed in principle to a trade (which would have netted Corey Perry and a first-round draft choice in return), allowed Murray to negotiate a deal with Comrie and then the Oilers GM proceeded to ask Winter for $2.5 million from Comrie to complete the deal.

Judging by some of the comments I received over the course of the last couple of days, many of you don't like seeing your GM held in less then a stellar light by anyone.

I can't imagine what it must have been like at the Hockey News after Lowe was ranked 29th out of 30 in that publication's rankings of the GM. (For the record, I thought Lowe being ranked that low was a joke.)

The handling of the Comrie situation is the biggest blemish on Lowe's GM career.

The "ask" for the $2.5M to consummate the deal was over the top. Some may have viewed it as aform of extortion. It certainly did not go over very well with some of the players and with many hockey people, especially outside of Edmonton.

There was a collateral effect of the Comrie fiasco as well. As one parent of a prominent NHL player said to me afterwards, "If the Oilers could do that to the Comrie family, imagine what they could do to us?"

Lowe, though, has taken unfair criticism for the Oilers RFA offer sheets for Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner. RFA offer sheets are fair game within the new CBA.

Brian Burke's comments out of Anaheim after the Dustin Penner RFA signing reeked of a GM who got caught with his pants down. Burke "jumped the shark" by signing a washed up Todd Bertuzzi, instead of focusing on getting a player under contract, Penner, who actually helped him win a Cup.

Lowe's tactful approach to not get into a pissing match with Burke was the right way to go.

It should have been the way to go when Gillis, a man who had the stones to stand up to hockey czar Alan Eagleson in court a number of years ago, was named GM of the Canucks.

Dredging up the past by using terms like "unethical" to describe Gillis on the botched Nylander signing was unnecessary.

Did the Oilers get screwed? Yes.

Was it Gillis's fault? No.

Nylander, or his wife, pulled the chute on the deal to Edmonton, and as it worked out, the Oilers likely benefited as a result anyway.

Ask yourself a question. Would Sam Gagner have been kept in Edmonton at the start of the season if the Oilers had Nylander, Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner at centre?

As for Gillis, there are other former NHL agents that have enjoyed success as GMs such as Pierre Lacroix, Burke and George McPhee, so it is not unrealistic to think that Gillis could succeed in such a position.

You also have to wonder whether or not Winter might one day get a chance to run an organization as well.


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