There's been plenty of debate in the past week over which Canadian team -- the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs -- has embarrassed its fans the most this season with abysmal play and management. But hark! Did someone say embarrassing Canadian teams? Because, hey now, let's not just overlook the Edmonton Oilers.
Here's a foul-up that should help their case: On Friday, the Oilers recalled Magnus Paajarvi from their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma. Then, an hour after he arrived in town, they realized they weren't allowed to call him up and had to send him back.
The issue: Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are only allowed four AHL transactions after the trade deadline. The Oilers burned one in a "paper recall," technically shuttling Paajarvi to the Oklahoma City Barons and back in order to ensure that he was on the clear day roster for the Barons' playoff push. He never actually went anywhere, but according to the paperwork, he did.
Then they burned two more calling up Linus Omark and Teemu Hartikainen.
With one left, they called up Chris Vande Velde under emergency circumstances when injuries to Shawn Horcoff and Lennart Petrell left them with fewer than 12 healthy forwards. That preserved the final transaction, but when Horcoff and Petrell got better and Vande Velde went to the press box as a healthy scratch, he also went from emergency recall to the final regular recall, a fact that the Oilers only realized once Paajarvi, now ineligible to join the team, had already landed in Edmonton.
So. This isn't going to help those concerns that Oilers management doesn't really know what it's doing. You'd think that it'd have a pretty firm grasp of the rules under which it operates.
But rather than take the hit, Kevin Lowe blamed the rule, which, to be honest, does seem a little silly. From the Edmonton Sun:
"It's ludicrous," said Kevin Lowe, president of hockey operations.
"The intent of the rule is to protect the AHL a bit from teams sending down six or eight players at the end of the season.
"All the general managers feel the same way — it's a rule that needs to be changed.["]
So, what, this was done as an act of protest? I'm not entirely sure that feeling a rule is stupid is a good excuse for letting it bite you like this. I believe that we're well past the era where claiming "maverick" status is a good cover for what appears to be clear incompetence. That trend peaked in 2008.
It's hard to overstate how stupid this defence is. It's tantamount to saying "Well, we were totally aware of the rules, we just thought that they were stupid and therefore inapplicable." This is the dumbest defence possible. "We had no idea that there were any rules whatsoever and it never occurred to us to ask" would be a better defence. I don't understand how the Oilers could possibly have thought that this recall was permissible, based on what Lowe's said.
John MacKinnon at the Edmonton Journal basically handwaves all of this away: "…the Paajarvi 'easy-come-easy-go' fiasco is mighty small beer in the overall scheme of things. It's embarrassing, but everybody lived, for example."
He has a point: if you have "death" as your standard of failure, then yes, it's like the 32nd successful season in a row for the Oilers. Sure, it's six years without a playoff appearance and they're within spitting distance of clinching the title of "Worst team since the lockout" but NOBODY HAS DIED. For those of us who aim slightly higher, who think "not making the playoffs for six years" should be a measuring stick rather than "nobody died." this is another sign: the people in the front office have no idea what they're doing.
While this may be only a minor snafu, it speaks to a larger issue. Earlier in the season, Linus Omark flirted with returning to Sweden after feeling that he wasn't valued as a prospect. Undoubtedly, the Oilers don't want that disgruntlement to spread among their prospects, and according to the Edmonton Sun, one of the reasons for Paajarvi's call-up was to reassure him that he was still very much a part of the team's plan.
The hope was to reward his patience with some NHL games and a brief salary bump before sending him back to rejoin the Barons for their playoff run. Instead, they just wound up testing that patience by wasting his time and making him feel foolish.
On the bright side for Paajarvi, if he got even one complimentary pack of those honey-roasted peanuts they serve on flights, it was totally worth it.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney