Kevin Lowe was one of the biggest movers in our ninth annual 100 People of Power and Influence issue, which is now out on newsstands. The Edmonton GM moved up from No. 33 the year before to No. 10 this year.
There was even some strong sentiment by one of our contributors to boost him all the way to the No. 1 spot. That view wasn’t shared by other members of our assembly panel, but the point was well made. We’ve seen evidence of Lowe’s influence virtually every week in the NHL.
Lowe, you’ll recall, went on a methodical spending spree last summer trying to secure talent for his rebuilding Oilers. Some unrestricted free agents rebuffed offers to play in Edmonton, leaving Lowe with little choice but to make substantial offers to restricted free agents.
Buffalo matched the outrageous offer Edmonton made to Thomas Vanek, but Anaheim decided to let Dustin Penner walk and accept the draft picks in compensation.
As a result, NHL GMs have been in a mad rush this season to lock up their soon-to-be RFAs, to avoid what Darcy Regier and Brian Burke had to deal with last summer.
The flaw in Lowe’s precedent is he can’t do it again this summer because he doesn’t have the draft picks to offer as compensation. But there might be some Lowe copycats following in his footsteps and that’s what has teams scared senseless about losing their young stars. That concern might be groundless, but GMs aren’t taking any chances.
A trickle effect of this has been the explosion of the mega-length contracts we’ve seen lately, including Alex Ovechkin’s 13-year deal with the Washington Capitals. Teams just can’t afford to lose their superstars. It’s demoralizing for the team and the fans. It’s bad business.
Moving Lowe into our top 10 doesn’t mean we endorse the logic behind his moves. He clearly overpaid for Penner, a winger best suited to the second line. And the draft picks he gave up will hurt the team’s long-term rebuilding efforts. Regardless, Lowe has been extremely influential.
The category of representation taking the biggest hit in our People of Power issue was media. The Hockey News made a concerted effort to reduce the number of media representatives from 13 last year (second-highest behind the players category) to seven this year.
The reasoning? There are a lot of journalists who are very good at what they do – some who we took off our list are exceptional – but we’re not convinced they truly have the power to alter the course of the way the game is played or governed. The seven media members we did include do have that influence to varying degrees.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.