Ask Adam: Oilers, overpaid players, referees…and a Gretzky-Orr rivalry?

In the new THN mailbag, Columnist Adam Proteau answers questions on an Oilers roster shakeup, the idea of overpaid players, and more.

There are two main components to any mailbag, and this opening sentence isn’t one of them. There are my answers and your questions, not necessarily in that order. Hmmnnn…maybe I’ll do a Carnac the Magnificent version of the mailbag one day.

Until then, here are this week’s inquiries and my responses.

Adam, it would appear the Oilers are done blaming coaches for their woes, at least for now, so is it possible Kevin Lowe’s number finally comes up?
Mike Anderson, Markdale, Ont.


One word question: Oilers?
Craig Hess, Edmonton

Mike and Craig,

I included both these questions because the general tone I’m getting from Oilers fans on social media sped past frustrated frustration weeks ago and is now careening toward outright desperation. And I completely understand why. When your team is in a three-way tie with the abysmal Sabres and abominable Panthers for the fewest wins (four) in the NHL; when your team’s goals for/against differential (minus-30) is the league’s worst; and when your team’s playoff chances are all but dead by mid-November., tThe silver lining in the grey clouds aren’t easily found.

But clearly, something will have to give if the Oilers don’t pull out of their tailspin soon. Head Coach Dallas Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish aren’t going anywhere – and although the dismissal of Lowe (who is still tight with owner Daryl Katz) might satisfy some fans, it won’t change the on-ice product right away.

That’s why I think a trade is the most likely possibility. MacTavish has to make some move beyond signing Ilya Bryzgalov. It probably won’t be a deal involving any of their young stars, but a renewed push to get Ales Hemsky out of town – and the Oilers might have to eat some of his salary to do so – or a deal involving Sam Gagner would be a good start. You’re not going to get something for nothing.


With the salary cap now it seems NHL teams are spending more money on players now than they did before. Why are players being over paid by so much?
Terrence Hill, Havertown, Pa.


With due respect, I don’t believe that’s true. The salary cap is rising for the same reason player salaries are rising: the league’s revenues are increasing. Every time an NHL team raises ticket prices, every time the league negotiates a new TV rights holder deal, and every time a new revenue stream is identified and utilized, the league’s coffers grow in leaps and bounds. Why shouldn’t the players – 50/50 partners with team owners – share in that?

But even if you believe the league raises ticket prices in response to rising player salaries – and I absolutely don’t – the players aren’t signing themselves to these big-money deals. It’s the owners and GMs who set the market. Players are only responding to it.

Adam, why does The Hockey News not do any articles on referees and linesmen? I think it would give fans a different perspective on the game.
Walter Little, Revelstoke, B.C.


You’re not looking hard enough, because we publish stories on officials all the time. Web Editor Rory Boylen has a particular interest in the role of referees and linesmen and has produced numerous articles on the profession. Enjoy.

OK Adam, I’ve obviously stumped you with some of my other questions, such as why Russian players have their names in English on their jerseys, even for international tournaments in Russia. But can you tell me why there are virtually no photos of Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky together? Google it and there’s one of them on a hockey bench, in what looks like a fundraiser with something called the Manitoba Jets in around 1978, and a couple of them playing softball in the early 80’s. Do they not like each other? Is it part of a “Best Ever” rivalry? Surely they’ve been in the same room at a HHOF event in the last 30 years. There’s tons of photos of Gordie, Orr, the Rocket and Hull together at various times through the years.
Jonathan Wilson, Thunder Bay, Ont.


I’ve never heard it suggested any kind of rivalry or bad blood exists between Orr and Gretzky. You have to remember, these two players aren’t from the same era. As well, Orr resides in Boston and Gretzky spends most days in California. And neither player grew up in an era where their every move was captured on film. So it’s not as if there were many opportunities for them to be together.

Trust me, if there were a rivalry between the two greatest players to have stepped on a sheet of ice, media slugs like me would’ve heard about it and exploited it long before now.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.