FOK: He who signs the cheques makes the rules

Robin Brownlee
August 28 2009 11:17AM

mike-and-hilary

As much of a surprise as all this talk about the Edmonton Oilers having an interest in Mike Comrie should be, it isn't if you allow for the likelihood that owner Daryl Katz has been influencing decisions on the hockey operations side of the business since he took ownership of the team.

That the Oilers are even remotely considering signing Comrie, a UFA, just six seasons after a bitter split with the team and a falling out with then-GM Kevin Lowe, tells me Katz has his fingerprints all over this one.

Katz and Bill Comrie, Mike's dad, are friends. There's a relationship and a loyalty at play here, and every intuitive bone in my body leads me to believe that relationship trumps anything that has happened in the past and is what's driving the possibility Comrie could return. Katz signs the cheques. Katz makes the rules. Katz wants Comrie.

It doesn't take a vast intellect to conclude Katz's desire to at least take a look at Comrie has been made clear to Lowe, now the president of hockey operations, and GM Steve Tambellini. I'm guessing neither one of them has said, "Forget it, boss. Leave the hockey decisions to us."

If you look at some of the decisions made since Katz took ownership of the team, it's reasonable to conclude there's every possibility the FOK Era -- Friends Of Katz -- might set a new standard for favours and nepotism by a franchise that has a history of both.

Not that that's necessarily, ahem, a bad thing...

Who calls the shots?

This interest in a do-over with Comrie as the hometown-boy-made-good, despite what happened in 2003 and despite the obvious fact the last thing the Oilers need right now is another small forward on the roster, doesn't add up — I listed them here at ON Aug 19 — if you take Katz out of the mix.

The way things went down with Comrie and agent Ritch Winter back then, notably Lowe's 11th hour request for $2.5 million that queered a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, Mike couldn't get out of town fast enough. And Oilers fans, almost in unison, said "Good riddance. Get lost. Bugger off."

Now, I don't know if Comrie has as much interest in the Oilers as they have in him because I haven't asked him and Winter isn't saying, offering only a "No comment" when I spoke with him briefly on Thursday.

Maybe they're just playing footsy with Katz and the idea until a better offer comes along. Then again, maybe Comrie, because of the relationship between his family and Katz, really is willing to wipe the slate clean and play here. I'd be lying if I told you I knew.

The way I see it

From where I sit, there's already been a handful of hockey operations decisions orchestrated or influenced by Katz.

-- I think the decision to take Lowe out of the spotlight and the daily firing line, while keeping him on the company payroll by making him president of operations, was done, at least in part, as a favour to a friend.

-- I think that Kelly Buchberger, who has a summer home not far from Katz on a lake outside Edmonton, was promoted to Craig MacTavish's coaching staff, and later survived the purge of MacTavish, Charlie Huddy and Billy Moores, as a favour to a friend.

Of course, the fact MacTavish and the Oilers parted ways might seem to fly in the face of that logic, seeing as MacT and Katz are tight, but I don't think MacTavish would've been shown the door had he voiced any real desire to stay on. Even at the time of the announcement MacTavish was finished here, there was the perception this was a resignation framed as a firing.

-- Then, there was the Oilers offering Georges Laraque a four-year contract worth $6 million last summer. This, just a few seasons removed from having MacTavish essentially run Laraque out of town. Laraque and Katz, who works out at a gym partially owned by Big Georges, are friends.

Now, Comrie.

From a PR point of view, there could be some mileage in welcoming Comrie back. A do-over might soften the memory of the hard-line Lowe took with Comrie the first time around. See, Mike's back. Edmonton is player-friendly.

How it plays out

Given the stated need by Tambellini at the end of last season to make the roster grittier and tougher to play against, I can't see, from a hockey-ops point of view, how he or Lowe could possibly be on board with a move to add Comrie to the mix. I'd love to jab both of them in the butt with a syringe of truth serum right now.

How does adding Comrie, even at a reasonable salary of, say, $1.5 million, and putting aside his diminishing points totals in recent seasons, address the needs of a roster that includes Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson and Patrick O'Sullivan and has missed the playoffs in three straight seasons?

It doesn't. But FOK trumps that. If the boss is the one who is pulling the strings, if the guy who signs the cheques is driving the bus, then this isn't a hockey decision, it's just another favour to a friend.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#151 swany
August 28 2009, 04:42PM
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HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla wrote:

@ swany: Which makes me wonder… Why the %$&# did they sign Kovalev????

Because they have a deal for Heatley that drops there cap hit buy 1 mil and puts them at the cap but NOT over Cogs, Pens, Smid 6.5 mil. Ottawa is just sitting there until Heatley comes down to Earth and sees that there are no other options then Ottawa pulls the trigger on the Edmonton deal Heatley has no choice but to except the trade, Spezza has come out and said he doesn't want him back, so has Neil.

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#152 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
August 28 2009, 04:50PM
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Deep Oil wrote:

@ HollaHollaHo’sFoADolla: Sorry not bitching, but it seems that the oiler faithful here think that this team is actually competitive and have not made the post season for the last 3 years…… it is fun watching players avoid Edmonton and no one is coming out and saying why, it only took 7 years to figure it out why the cookie jar was being raided by former oilers hirings by the GM. Drink the oiler kool aid, be an obdient customer and don’t bring in any derogatory signs as free speech ends when you buy a ticket, the sign police will evict you - see troubleshooter global - LOWE MUST GO - circa Feb when Smyth was traded. Keep buying the PPV as well, every nickel counts.

He's back!! *hides under coffee table*

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#153 oilitsinyoutogive
August 28 2009, 04:50PM
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@ Deep Oil: my oiler kool aids been in the fridge getting cold for months.... OOOHHH YEAAAA

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#154 Deep Oil
August 28 2009, 04:50PM
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Ender is incorrect - Swany is on the mark This comes from nhl.com

http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=26366 RENEGOTIATION OF CONTRACTS

Will Clubs be able to renegotiate contracts with players?

No. Player contracts will not be renegotiated (upward or downward) during their term. Extensions may be negotiated but only in the final year of the contract and only if such extension is for an amount that can be accommodated in a Club's upper limit for the current year or as computed for future years.

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#155 Ender the Dragon
August 28 2009, 05:00PM
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Deep Oil wrote:

Sorry not bitching, but it seems that the oiler faithful here think that this team is actually competitive and have not made the post season for the last 3 years…… it is fun watching players avoid Edmonton and no one is coming out and saying why, it only took 7 years to figure it out why the cookie jar was being raided by former oilers hirings by the GM. Drink the oiler kool aid, be an obdient customer and don’t bring in any derogatory signs as free speech ends when you buy a ticket, the sign police will evict you - see troubleshooter global - LOWE MUST GO - circa Feb when Smyth was traded. Keep buying the PPV as well, every nickel counts.

When DeepOil first came back earlier this week, I was cautiously optimistic; despite the inane drivel I had come to expect from him, his first few comments were both insightful and researched.

And now, the real DeepOil is back. [sigh]

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#156 Ender the Dragon
August 28 2009, 05:10PM
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swany wrote:

Ottawa is just sitting there until Heatley comes down to Earth and sees that there are no other options then Ottawa pulls the trigger on the Edmonton deal Heatley has no choice but to except the trade

mmmmmmmmmm . . . I'll give you points that San Jose is looking more difficult, but I don't buy this for a second. Do you think for a second that Heater gives two squirts about what Ottawa's coaching staff or players think? Heater will go back to Ottawa just like he said he would so as not to jeoprodize his $7.5M and tough-titty to anyone who doesn't like it as far as he's concerned. He'll be more uncomfortable this season than if he'd kept his mouth shut, but he'll prefer that to Edmonton.

As far as Ottawa goes, they'll be quietly delighted that he's coming back and they'll hope he's learned something from all of this and play nicey-nice. Why would they want to shed a 72-point guy, especially for bad contracts coming back the other way?

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#157 Milli
August 28 2009, 05:12PM
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I hate when owners get involved like this. But hey, if I had the dollaros to buy the mighty OIL, I'd become the Jerry Jones of the NHL. Scary stuff all around. I don't think it's the worst thing they could do, and hey, maybe he lights it up!!!!!

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#158 Ender the Dragon
August 28 2009, 05:19PM
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Here's an interesting statistic I just stumbled across; while researching Heater I noticed that he played all 82 games last season and that was good to tie him for second-place in the league. 'Second?' I thought, 'How does that work?' Turns out that Jordan Leopold, because of the way the schedule fell last year around his Cal-Col trade, ended up with 83 games under his belt. Now that's durability; every game on the schedule and more besides.

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#159 DeepOil
August 28 2009, 05:54PM
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Milli wrote:

I hate when owners get involved like this. But hey, if I had the dollaros to buy the mighty OIL, I’d become the Jerry Jones of the NHL. Scary stuff all around. I don’t think it’s the worst thing they could do, and hey, maybe he lights it up!!!!!

Easiest way to remove Batman from telling Tambo what to do....... disable his text function on his iphone, Bettman has disallowed any owner from using a blackberry for some reason.

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#160 DeepOil
August 28 2009, 05:55PM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

Ender..... accept / not except.

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#161 Batman34
August 28 2009, 06:00PM
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@ DeepOil: yawn ,please leave DK alone ,he is a first time owner he will make mistakes let this but hopefully he will learn form it.

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#162 RBK
August 28 2009, 06:00PM
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@ DeepOil:

Would you seriously limit your insanity to one or two comments per article? I seriously doubt anyone missed all these ramblings when you were banned - why go right down that same path again?

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#163 Dallas
August 28 2009, 06:03PM
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Have heard reports that heaters camp is talking to the orgs interested in him himself AND that he is really rethinking about going back to the sens. As per senschirp

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#164 Ender the Dragon
August 28 2009, 06:16PM
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DeepOil wrote:

@ Ender the Dragon: Ender….. accept / not except.

That was Swany's quote, not mine. If you're going to nitpick, make sure you have your own facts straight.

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#165 DangerMan
August 28 2009, 08:09PM
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Good article RB. This smacks of desperation as well as spin-doctoring. Katz needs to be careful on what he's trying to do here. Is the Oilers a place where all of his buddies hang out or is this team actually trying to build a winner?

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#166 Milli
August 28 2009, 08:10PM
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@ Dallas: Did you read the article from Cory Clousten? The one where he says that he's not sure if he will rip the "A" from Heatley shirt???? Are you kidding me?

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#167 Racki
August 28 2009, 08:14PM
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Comrie rumor heating up again, as per Tencer's twitter:

“Oilers management has consulted at least one member of the veteran leadership group regarding Mike Comrie. It’s appears to be serious. Also, I’m told that Comrie is fully on board with a return to Edmonton.” Like it or not, this thing has legs.

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#168 Mr. Entertainment
August 28 2009, 08:21PM
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If Comrie comes back to the Oilers, who do you see leaving?

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#169 Librarian Mike
August 28 2009, 08:30PM
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Mr. Entertainment wrote:

If Comrie comes back to the Oilers, who do you see leaving?

Hilary Duff.

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#170 DangerMan
August 28 2009, 08:31PM
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@ Mr. Entertainment: Nilsson was a foregone conclusion even if Comrie wasn't coming back. The player that might have his growth stunted if Comrie is an Oiler, is Brule.

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#171 Shifty203
August 28 2009, 08:33PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Mr. Entertainment wrote: If Comrie comes back to the Oilers, who do you see leaving? Hilary Duff.

Lol!!!!

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#172 Racki
August 28 2009, 08:43PM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

Mr. Entertainment wrote: If Comrie comes back to the Oilers, who do you see leaving? Hilary Duff.

And me. lol

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#173 The Menace
August 28 2009, 08:43PM
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Milli wrote:

@ Dallas: Did you read the article from Cory Clousten? The one where he says that he’s not sure if he will rip the “A” from Heatley shirt???? Are you kidding me?

He should rip him a new "A", as far as I'm concerned.

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#174 Mr. Entertainment
August 28 2009, 08:43PM
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Librarian Mike

You are one funny man and sadly very very true. There are a lot of really attractive girls in Edmonton, and attractive apes in the city zoo

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#175 Mr. Entertainment
August 28 2009, 08:46PM
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but on a serious note though do you think Comrie will succeed with the Oilers though

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#176 Dallas
August 28 2009, 08:47PM
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@ Librarian Mike: I second that dude. That was good.

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#177 Pedro
August 28 2009, 09:01PM
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Mr. Entertainment wrote:

but on a serious note though do you think Comrie will succeed with the Oilers though

I believe he can and will. I see this as a move to give Horcoff less mins on a nightly bases, because we all saw horcoff looked tierd in the second half from playing in every situation. He played so much because we had no other choice. Well now we have another option...and he's holding the behind of Hilary Duff at the moment...

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#178 Robin Brownlee
August 28 2009, 09:14PM
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Racki wrote:

Comrie rumor heating up again, as per Tencer’s twitter: “Oilers management has consulted at least one member of the veteran leadership group regarding Mike Comrie. It’s appears to be serious. Also, I’m told that Comrie is fully on board with a return to Edmonton.” Like it or not, this thing has legs.

"At least one" actually means two from what I've been led to understand and you can bet Shawn Horcoff was one of them. Shawn and Mike have been close since their rookie days. They used to room and pal together on the road and I'd be very surprised if Horcoff wasn't one of the Oilers pitching this move to management. My guess is Ethan Moreau is the other.

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#179 Jay Gray
August 28 2009, 09:16PM
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So anyways, what number would MC wear if he came back. Gagner has 89 now...I know this has probably been discussed already, but I didn't feel like reading an assload of posts.

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#180 vern
August 28 2009, 09:18PM
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Could anyone else see the oilers signing Comrie. Then doing a trade involving one of the small forwards. Like say Sourey and Nillson to SJ for Boyle and Shelly. Or something along those lines.

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#181 Robin Brownlee
August 28 2009, 09:19PM
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Jay Gray wrote:

So anyways, what number would MC wear if he came back. Gagner has 89 now…I know this has probably been discussed already, but I didn’t feel like reading an assload of posts.

Whatever number Katz says he can wear.

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#182 Librarian Mike
August 28 2009, 09:23PM
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There's no question that Comrie can get 20-30 goals and 50-60 points. The fact is that Comrie's only 2 options right now are:

1. Play for the Oilers 2. Sell sofas

The only reason he is apparently interested in the Oilers because NOBODY else wants him. It would just be nice for a change to sign somebody and not feel dirty about it after. Then again, it can't be easy for him to come back either.

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#183 Dallas
August 28 2009, 09:30PM
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The team just said on the radio that oilnation started this rumor yesterday. True. But that they said it was a done deal. False.

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#184 Dallas
August 28 2009, 09:40PM
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Does anyone know how to refresh the page with an iPhone?

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#185 M.V.P
August 28 2009, 09:55PM
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i think comrie can play on the third line center n put cogs on the second line on the wing

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#186 M.V.P
August 28 2009, 10:18PM
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but i think tambo is going to make a huge trade within 2 months to get that top 6 forward cuz they haven't had player who score 40 or more since peter kilma in 92.The closest player to do that smyth in 97 n to do that is to go give 3 or 4 players for kolvocuk from alanta n sign him long term,do whatever it takes n there's ur 50 goal scorer

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#187 yo
August 28 2009, 10:37PM
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Oh...so that's why this organization has navigated it's way to a standstill and into a blind canyon of mediocrity. No steps forward 22 steps sideways and 4 steps back. Thanks for your input Daryl.

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#188 Fiveandagame
August 28 2009, 11:05PM
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vern wrote:

Could anyone else see the oilers signing Comrie. Then doing a trade involving one of the small forwards. Like say Sourey and Nillson to SJ for Boyle and Shelly. Or something along those lines.

Dude what do you smoke that you think this is a good move?

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#189 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 11:24PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Very funny ,I bet you he picks it.I think he will go with 39 which was his number in junior.

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#190 vern
August 28 2009, 11:25PM
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@ Fiveandagame: I never said it was a good move. I could just see something like that happening. Personaly I think trading Sourey or signing comrie to be bad moves.

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#191 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 11:26PM
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@ yo: Huh ,Daryl has only been a owner for a year.Team mediocrity is not his fault.

Agin ,let judge him when he owns the team for five years.

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#192 KenL
August 28 2009, 11:41PM
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I hope clearer heads prevail and someone on the Oilers management team has the Manhattens to tell Katz to butt out of hockey ops. Cal Nichols' work with the "save the muni" project is done. Surely he can speak up and remind Katz the former ownership group never interfered with Lowe during his watch and they got to game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Katz's favors often have unintended negative consequences. His firing of Morley Scott and insertion of his buddy Bob Stauffer, has led to the decline of Edmonton's alternative sports station - Team 1260.

While this is Stauffer's dream job, his talents are wasted being another Oiler shill. His greatest and best talent is being the unfiltered voice of the local sports scene. Katz's talents would be best served getting the new arena off the drawing board and letting his hockey people do their jobs.

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#193 Mr.K
August 29 2009, 12:13AM
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KenL wrote:

I hope clearer heads prevail and someone on the Oilers management team has the Manhattens to tell Katz to butt out of hockey ops. Cal Nichols’ work with the “save the muni” project is done. Surely he can speak up and remind Katz the former ownership group never interfered with Lowe during his watch and they got to game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Katz’s favors often have unintended negative consequences. His firing of Morley Scott and insertion of his buddy Bob Stauffer, has led to the decline of Edmonton’s alternative sports station - Team 1260. While this is Stauffer’s dream job, his talents are wasted being another Oiler shill. His greatest and best talent is being the unfiltered voice of the local sports scene. Katz’s talents would be best served getting the new arena off the drawing board and letting his hockey people do their jobs.

I disagree with you with the morely scott situation ,Scott I believe wanted out because he was getting tired of being a second hand man to Philips.Bob was actually supirsed to get the call to be the color commentator for ched.

I still think alot of people are making a big deal out of him doing a few medealing in management.It is his team he does have a few say in how it is runned.

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#194 Dallas
August 29 2009, 01:06AM
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Nice work stauffer cause of you JW is only doing a quarter of the articles he was doing. COME BACK JW!!!!

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#195 Antony Ta
August 29 2009, 01:17AM
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Mr.K wrote:

It is his team he does have a few say in how it is runned.

Certainly. As long as he doesn't appoint Jeff DesLauriers as the next GM of the Edmonton Oilers, yeah, I'm cool with that.

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#196 Enter Name Here
August 29 2009, 01:18AM
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Sorry but I have to agree with KenL as Stauffer being given Morley Scotts position and the supposed heir apparent to Rod was the biggest hand job going. This is exactly what most, including Bob himself, bemoaned about friends of management being given positions that were undeserving. We are talking about eventually replacing a HOF voice with Bob's.... please, are you kidding me. We deserve much better as fans, including the broadcast voice, and there is no reason why, like the team itself, there shouldn't be a proper talent search through the ECHL, CHL, and AHL to find the next broadcast voice of the OIL. I'm not excluding any local talent, including Bob, but for god's sake, let them earn the position.

We all want Edmonton to be perceived as major league, and than we pull this sort of crap... The few times I heard Bob call an Oilers game, I swear, I had to wipe down the radio after every goal...

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#197 Racki
August 29 2009, 01:33AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

“At least one” actually means two from what I’ve been led to understand and you can bet Shawn Horcoff was one of them. Shawn and Mike have been close since their rookie days. They used to room and pal together on the road and I’d be very surprised if Horcoff wasn’t one of the Oilers pitching this move to management. My guess is Ethan Moreau is the other.

Yah, no question Horcoff would be one of them. Moreau also makes a lot of sense too just based on the fact that this is his team, from the players' perspective.

I'm still wondering where people see Comrie on this team though. I would be ecstatic about all of this if Comrie were about 30 lbs heavier (and preferably a couple inches taller), or at least played like it. So much for Tambellini and Quinn talking about this team getting needing to get bigger.

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#198 humantorch
August 29 2009, 04:11AM
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KenL wrote:

Surely he can speak up and remind Katz the former ownership group never interfered with Lowe during his watch and they got to game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Really? You don't think there was ANY pressure from the ownership group to land a big-ticket UFA (Souray) and burn draft picks on an RFA offer sheet (Penner) when the smart move would have been to rebuild and stockpile picks?

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#199 Lofty
August 29 2009, 06:15AM
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KenL wrote:

I hope clearer heads prevail and someone on the Oilers management team has the Manhattens to tell Katz to butt out of hockey ops.

You call it Manhattens hun? I would call that career suicide. Katz wont yell and scream at an employee but instead will calmly hand over a pink slip with smile.

Owners do this all the time: Raiders, Yankees, Suns... sometimes it works sometimes it doesnt we will have to see how this goes

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#200 Robin Brownlee
August 29 2009, 07:24AM
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Enter Name Here wrote:

Sorry but I have to agree with KenL as Stauffer being given Morley Scotts position and the supposed heir apparent to Rod was the biggest hand job going. This is exactly what most, including Bob himself, bemoaned about friends of management being given positions that were undeserving. We are talking about eventually replacing a HOF voice with Bob’s…. please, are you kidding me. We deserve much better as fans, including the broadcast voice, and there is no reason why, like the team itself, there shouldn’t be a proper talent search through the ECHL, CHL, and AHL to find the next broadcast voice of the OIL. I’m not excluding any local talent, including Bob, but for god’s sake, let them earn the position. We all want Edmonton to be perceived as major league, and than we pull this sort of crap… The few times I heard Bob call an Oilers game, I swear, I had to wipe down the radio after every goal…

Got an axe to grind with Bob? Stauffer was hired as Rod's analyst with no guarantee he will assume the play-by-play role. He was hired for the position because he is excellent at breaking down what's happening instead of just regurgitating what was just said by the play-by-play man. Bob's more than paid his dues to get to where he is, but I'm guessing -- judging by your cheapshot final comment -- you're not interested in hearing about that.

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