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.
Avatar
#1 Greg MC
August 28 2009, 11:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I would hope that Katz, Lowe, and Tambellini have ongoing discussions about the state of the team and what the desires/needs are for personnel, and that Lowe and Tambi are forthright in their opinions with the boss about what is required. You know, like a plan?

Avatar
#2 Jonathan Willis
August 28 2009, 11:29AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Great article, Robin. Equal parts informative and deeply frightening.

Avatar
#3 Steve
August 28 2009, 11:29AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

This summer gets weirder and weirder...more coaches and more small forwards, exactly what we need

Avatar
#4 dyckster
August 28 2009, 11:31AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

FOK thinking is a scary thought, maybe with moves (insert "speculated") like this one we may see the "no one wants to play in Edmonton" stuff subside. BUT, if we ever get into a position where we have to replace Lowe, Tambo or any other exec...I shiver at the thought. Would any potential GM worth a nickel want to work for a guy like DK?

*Tears up Resume/Job Application for future Oilers GM job posting* That'll show 'em!

Avatar
#5 Monday Guy
August 28 2009, 11:31AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Harsh, but very true RB.

Unless there's a 'hole' opening up somewhere that's been held under wraps, the whole situation is Senceless

Avatar
#6 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 11:33AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Your last paragraph make it sound like it is a bad thing.

Avatar
#7 10 Cent Horcoff
August 28 2009, 11:35AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

If we brought back Comrie, I'd have to question the sanity of the Oilers management.

Avatar
#8 dyckster
August 28 2009, 11:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mr.K wrote:

Your last paragraph make it sound like it is a bad thing.

It is.

Avatar
#9 danjo1
August 28 2009, 11:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Great article, Robin. Equal parts informative and deeply frightening.

uh... yeah...

all together now: "here we go again!"

Avatar
#10 Kieso
August 28 2009, 11:38AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Wow, Wanye must have have returned some non-persible items back to SOF to pay Robin for another article.

Robin, do you think this would have any impact on players coming back to Edmonton or thinking about Edmonton as a destination (not that the team has any cap space anyway)?

Personally, from what I have heard, some of the players did not get along with the coach or management about starting back three years ago. Not that I am deeply conected but the source was fairly reliable. I have this feeling that if Comrie is signed the organization must be ok with sending a contract or two to the AHL. But Comrie does not add anthing to the team except maybe good PR for the NHLPA.

Avatar
#11 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 11:39AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ dyckster: No ,it is not this is Katz's team ,he can get somewhat involved in the team day to day basis.

Avatar
#12 Pouzar
August 28 2009, 11:39AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

History is not kind to teams with meddling owners. Al Davis is a good example. Do you believe that the decision to sign Khabi to the contract he got was a Katz decision? After the events of the night before, I sometimes wonder that the Khabi signing that took place only a couple of hours into free agency on July 1 was perhaps a way by Oilers management to lure Heatley to decide to come here. Perhaps by showing him that we had the 'big name franchise goalie' to become a contender the management thought he would change his mind. The fact that he was only receiving mostly 1 year offers by other teams but we gave him 4 years right away seemed strange. The lack of a big name goalie seemed to influence Hossa in not signing here last year. I know we needed a goalie of course, but do you think there is something to that theory or am I just too far up on the grass knoll lol?

Avatar
#13 douggy
August 28 2009, 11:40AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

i for one would find it very hard to cheer for the oil. not to mention id still boo comrie everytime he touched the puck. if you're gonna bring in a smaller offensive guy, bring back sykora. he scores goals and like it here! FOK this comrie nonsense. haha.

Avatar
#14 David S
August 28 2009, 11:40AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

"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."

Yeah. I hate to say it, but this isn't much different from any other privately owned business out there. But you can bet that if this is indeed a favour, some considerable payback is part of the package.

Katz is a consumate game player, the kind of guy that doesn't do anything without a reason. Bill Comrie is connected up the yinyang in this town. He could bash open some doors as far as the new arena is concerned, which in my opinion is Katz' end-game.

Avatar
#15 Robin Brownlee
August 28 2009, 11:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Kieso wrote:

Wow, Wanye must have have returned some non-persible items back to SOF to pay Robin for another article. Robin, do you think this would have any impact on players coming back to Edmonton or thinking about Edmonton as a destination (not that the team has any cap space anyway)?

Wanye gave 35 litres of blood at the downtown Red Cross last night to make this happen.

It wouldn't have a negative impact. Putting past disputes aside and welcoming back a player like Comrie could certainly be spun as showing this is an organization that's looking ahead instead of wallowing in the past.

Avatar
#16 Archaeologuy
August 28 2009, 11:44AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

~What's the worst that could happen when owners make on-ice decisions?~

This will be a frightening end to a frustrating summer

Avatar
#17 MattL
August 28 2009, 11:44AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Does this mean it's Sept. now? Are you writing from a time machine, RB?

Anyone who didn't think the single-owner formula would bring back a measure of favouritism was deluding themselves. Aside from Bucky staying on over Chuddy, I haven't minded any of the Katz era decision-making. If we find out he is using his influence over Tambo in player personnel decisions, that would be a serious red flag. But since it hasn't happened yet, and we don't know what's going on inside OilHQ, I don't think it's time to worry yet.

Avatar
#18 danjo1
August 28 2009, 11:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I really hope this franchise doesn't become like the Islanders.

Avatar
#19 Racki
August 28 2009, 11:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think we're FOKed if we pick up Comrie again. I don't see how he really helps this team, other than perhaps a slight image boost. And really, it does nothing about the image of the fans, who I think could be just as much to blame for players (allegedly) not wanting to come here. Montreal brought back public enemy #1 (Patrice Brisebois) a couple of years ago, and I don't think anyone in the hockey world was fooled into thinking their fans no longer eat their own.

Anyways, it irks me a bit that the organization can find $1.3M to pay a guy like Comrie who I wouldn't consider as an upgrade on any single player in our top six (Penner, O'Sullivan, Hemsky, Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano, in my opinion and in no specific order) nor useful in our bottom six, however they can't find (roughly) that same cash to sign Blair Betts, who would solidify our PK, give us another shutdown forward, and be a decent faceoff man.

Honestly, when we were going after Hossa and Jagr, I first wondered how much influence Katz had on this team. I would tend to believe that he does try and push for certain players. Comrie in Edmonton doesn't really make sense, to me. He just doesn't fit in.

Avatar
#20 Brian P
August 28 2009, 11:45AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

All I can think about with all this Comrie talk is how that Anaheim deal that Lowe scuttled at the last minute was for Corey Perry and a first, whereas the deal he accepted with Philadelphia was Woywitka and a first.

Sigh...

Avatar
#21 Clarkenstein
August 28 2009, 11:46AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Just another example of how (almost) nothing has made sense over the past 10 years. Don't you think there is a reason 29 other teams haven't signed Comrie on August 28. Tambo said this team would be "tougher to play against". I thought he was going for more size not more "ankle biters"!!

Avatar
#22 danjo1
August 28 2009, 11:46AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote:

Kieso wrote: Wanye gave 35 litres of blood at the downtown Red Cross last night to make this happen.

Was it pre-bagged?

Avatar
#23 dyckster
August 28 2009, 11:46AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mr.K wrote:

No ,it is not this is Katz’s team ,he can get somewhat involved in the team day to day basis.

IMO, yes it is, I firmly believe (unless Katz has a professional hockey background I'm not aware of), on ice decisions should be left 100% to the experts (those who have played the game). Hockey is not a sport you can manage without some knowledge of it's intricacies. Should he have input with respect to the GENERAL (salaries, contracts, minor team affiliations) direction of the team...absolutely. But decisons regarding players, coaches, trainers, stick boys, zamboni drivers et al, should be left to those in the hockey know.

Avatar
#24 Oiler icon
August 28 2009, 11:47AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

To bad players like Crosby or Ovechkin weren't FOK :-(

Avatar
#25 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 11:48AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Pouzar: You know that ,not every one is AL Davis .There is alot of owners who are in the teams every day business.I bet you the owner of the Detroit Red wings does make some management decisions as well.

We usually hear the bad one alot more.This is a business like any other business.

Get the fact like the other poster said Katz might do thing so his father Bill can fork in some money for the new Arena.

The Bulin Wall ,yah maybe but what can we do ,we needed a good goalie.

Avatar
#26 Kieso
August 28 2009, 11:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote: It wouldn’t have a negative impact. Putting past disputes aside and welcoming back a player like Comrie could certainly be spun as showing this is an organization that’s looking ahead instead of wallowing in the past.

Well I am not sure what is better wallowing in the past or wallowing in 10th place.

Avatar
#27 Word
August 28 2009, 11:49AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Brian P:

Woywitka was a great pickup. What's a woywitka?

Avatar
#28 Ogden Brother
August 28 2009, 11:50AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Haha - This should get the Oil faithful going wild (especially if the trend continues). Remember how pumped everyone was about Katz a few short months ago? Watch the tied quickly turn if the nepotism (or at least the perception of it) continues.

Also, I'd bet heavily that ownership has been guiding (some) hockey decisions well before Katz came around (the Comrie situation included) - yet all the heat seems to fall one place.

Avatar
#29 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 11:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ dyckster: He does still have the right to do it.This is his business all owners want to win.They do pay for the checks at the end of the day.

I do not believe he makes all the decision on the team but few.

Avatar
#30 Word
August 28 2009, 11:55AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

We don't know if Comrie's signing. If he is signed, we don't know if it's Katz's influence that got him signed. We don't know if this is perhaps a crafty and devious plan and there is something else in the works.

The only thing I DO know is that it's a sunny Friday afternoon, the forecast is "drunk", and I'm going to covering my eyes and ears, while yelling, "LALALALALALALA" thusly sheltering myself from all negative news until at least Monday.

Avatar
#31 Ender the Dragon
August 28 2009, 11:55AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote:

Wanye gave 35 litres of blood at the downtown Red Cross last night to make this happen.

danjo1 wrote:

Was it pre-bagged?

Good question; RB didn't specify it was Wanye's blood. What else has Wanye been collecting these days in the River Valley?

Avatar
#32 dyckster
August 28 2009, 11:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mr.K wrote:

He does still have the right to do it.

By rights, I guess he does, but if he desires some improved on ice success he should keep his nose out of it.

Perhaps he could develop a drug that can increase the height of the Oiler on ice midgets? A full body Viagra if you will.

In other words, stick to what you know.

Avatar
#33 I'm a Scientist!
August 28 2009, 12:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

First Nylander comes out to say that Edmonton is a place he would like to play... now Comrie might be considering signing here... Is Pronger next on the train to return to Edmonton? With this renewed interest in the oilers, maybe Heatley will jump on the bandwagon and sign here anyway? Maybe.

Avatar
#34 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 12:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ dyckster: I disagree but let's just leave it has that.

I still believe that this is a rumor.

Avatar
#35 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
August 28 2009, 12:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Great article, Robin. Equal parts informative and deeply frightening.

Amen.

Next up:

-Changing the jerseys to black & silver -Sign the guy with the strongest arm

Avatar
#36 Hockey Gods
August 28 2009, 12:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote:

Wanye gave 35 litres of blood at the downtown Red Cross last night to make this happen.

Whoa,you get paid in blood? Cool.

As for Comrie, I wanted size and grit to start the offseason, but since nothing has happened I just want some sort of change. I say take a flyer on him, a 1 year cheap deal works for me.

Avatar
#37 Pouzar
August 28 2009, 12:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mr.K wrote:

@ Pouzar: You know that ,not every one is AL Davis .There is alot of owners who are in the teams every day business.I bet you the owner of the Detroit Red wings does make some management decisions as well. We usually hear the bad one alot more.This is a business like any other business. Get the fact like the other poster said Katz might do thing so his father Bill can fork in some money for the new Arena. The Bulin Wall ,yah maybe but what can we do ,we needed a good goalie.

Fair point, Davis is the extreme no doubt. But if signing Comrie is more about politics than anything else, if Comrie is unhappy with his icetime or something with the team, does he complain to the coaches or does he go to dad and Daryl lol?

Avatar
#38 bragsy
August 28 2009, 12:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Would it really be such a bad thing to bring him back? Would he qualify as a second line player? i would much rather have too many second line players, than in years past when we had too many third and forth line pluggers.

Avatar
#39 dyckster
August 28 2009, 12:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Mr.K wrote:

I still believe that this is a rumor.

What! Wanye Gretz is a lot of things (nymphomaniac, unemployed, future TSN Hockey Analyst, cross dresser, Mike Comrie wannabe....) but a rumor monger he is not! :)

Avatar
#40 freeze
August 28 2009, 12:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

*sits and waits for batman67 to tell Brownlee to "shut up"*

Avatar
#41 Robin Brownlee
August 28 2009, 12:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

freeze wrote:

*sits and waits for batman67 to tell Brownlee to “shut up”*

Silence has been bought before. It'll be bought again.

Avatar
#42 Mr.K
August 28 2009, 12:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ Pouzar: I bet he goes to the coaches,he might have matured in a couple of years.

Agin you need to remember all Owners do have say in what goes on with their teams in a daily basis.You just do not hear it as often as you do here.

Avatar
#43 Prop Jay
August 28 2009, 12:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Errhoff has been traded from SJS to Van for almost nothing. Seems like only time before healtley is a shark

Avatar
#44 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
August 28 2009, 12:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robin Brownlee wrote:

freeze wrote: *sits and waits for batman67 to tell Brownlee to “shut up”* Silence has been bought before. It’ll be bought again.

I got $3.62 left in my paypal account that says Brownlee keeps going. :D

Avatar
#45 Gerald R. Ford
August 28 2009, 12:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

There's no question, this raises a lot of red flags. As did the bizarre and infamous text message. There's also no question that DK is wrapping himself up in the warm, comfy fabric of the past, much in the same way that George Costanza loved to be ensconced in velvet. That said (while completely acknowledging the logic of Robin's points), I think this deal has the *potential* to be more positive for the organization as a whole, even if it isn't, necessarily, the most obvious way to improve the on-ice product. It really depends on how much the little guy has left in his tank, and what dead weight gets jettisoned to fit him in the lineup.

Of course, if it DOES work, then it could establish a pattern of potentially even more reckless acts of interference from Katz, so...

I dunno... I'm definitely torn between reason and sentiment here, and I think reason's just gone outside to have a smoke.

The one thing that I really hate about this is, again, that it's been leaked out before it's finalized one way or the other. If he doesn't sign, I don't think any of us need an infinite supply of "COMRIE REJECTS OIL TWICE!" articles. Because, whether or not that's how it goes down, that's what we'll hear, ad nauseum.

Avatar
#46 Batman 67
August 28 2009, 12:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ freeze: Sorry bud ,it is just you are making a big deal out of a small little rumor.

Avatar
#47 HollaHollaHo'sFoADolla
August 28 2009, 12:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Prop Jay wrote:

Errhoff has been traded from SJS to Van for almost nothing. Seems like only time before healtley is a shark

cant find that anywhere.. link?

Avatar
#48 freeze
August 28 2009, 12:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

hxxp://sharks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=490634

Avatar
#49 freeze
August 28 2009, 12:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Batman 67 wrote:

@ freeze: Sorry bud ,it is just you are making a big deal out of a small little rumor.

who is? if it is no big deal, why are you telling people to shut up? there are better ways to calm people down. this is an interesting development and there nothing else going on to talk about.

Avatar
#50 ronaldo
August 28 2009, 12:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I would like to believe, because of the vodka's and koolaid I've been pounding back, that if this rumour comes true, it is a precurser to more awesome trades to come that all fit in an awesome master plan concocted by our brilliant management team. *pours another vodka/ koolaid*

Comments are closed for this article.