Glorious, Glorious Silence

Jonathan Willis
April 06 2012 12:40PM

The Oilers have been in a bit of CBA-related hot water lately. They’ve apparently decided that the best way to avoid it in the future is not to talk about it.

Yesterday, via Guy Flaming of the excellent Coming Down The Pipe blog (h/t Derek Zona):

I wasn't entirely sure the Oilers had to do anything this spring with [unsigned prospect Kristians] Pelss because he was drafted out of Latvia. I was uncertain if Latvia was like Sweden and Finland, countries with a transfer agreement that means NHL teams have two years to sign players drafted from there. That's not the case with Russia and I didn't know if Latvia shared that scenario… I tried to get clarification from the Oilers but was flatly denied. I was told that information like that was not something the NHL team would share with the media. I found that odd so placed a call to another contact employed by an NHL team and in less than 5 minutes I got the answers I needed.

Flaming suggests that perhaps the Oilers were hoping to avoid another CBA-related gaffe.

It’s something the Oilers have had problems with in the past when they’ve talked to Flaming. In late April of 2010, they told him that “[Teemu] Hartikainen is under contract in Finland and we can't sign him until he is relieved of his contractual obligations over there."

A bunch of commenters promptly told Flaming that there was a transfer agreement in place that allowed the Oilers to sign Hartikainen prior to the end of his contract.

Flaming went back to the Oilers. This time, the team responded with a different rationale, saying, "the Finnish Agreement calls for 2008 Drafted Players to be signed by their drafting club by June 15, 2010.”

This is where Derek Zona re-enters the fray. He’d been one of the commenters telling Flaming that a transfer agreement was in place and that the Oilers’ original information was wrong. Zona contacted six different sources, including a player agent, people in the AHL and NHL, and two people in Finland’s SM-Liiga. There was disagreement on whether June 1 or June 15 was the date, but there was complete agreement that the Oilers did not have to wait for Hartikainen’s contract to expire.

The next day, the Oilers contacted Flaming to explain that both of their earlier statements were wrong. "The correct date for Hartikainen is June 1st,” they told him. Flaming notes that the team contacted the league office for clarification on the rules.

In the end, it was a minor story that was ignored by most. The Oilers signed Hartikainen a week later. Had they waited until after June 1, or worse, until after his contract in Finland expired (one of Zona’s contacts stated that it ran through the 2010-11 season) then he would have re-entered the draft. Was the minor controversy what prompted them to look at things deeper? Maybe, though one hopes they were going to confirm dates anyway.

Either way, it appears the organization doesn’t want a repeat of the incident. So, rather than run the risk of showing publicly that they’re confused about something, they’ll say nothing to Flaming. It’s the safe course of action, at least as long as they make sure that they keep getting their prospects under contract in a timely fashion.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Talbot17
April 06 2012, 12:47PM
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FIST!

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#2 dawgtoy
April 06 2012, 12:48PM
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How frustrating that this team still can't figure out the CBA, and soon they will need to try and figure out a new one. *palm to the head

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#3 ubermiguel
April 06 2012, 12:58PM
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The problem with silence is that there will be no chance to be corrected by more knowledgeable sources, as in Hartikainen's case.

There's no salary cap on front office personnel, Katz really needs to look at getting the best hockey people he can find.

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#4 magisterrex
April 06 2012, 01:02PM
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It seems more likely that their silence is a result of Flaming's own actions. Flaming spent a lot of print and airtime on how terrible the Oilers management team was for dismissing Pendergast, who, coincidentally, was a major source of organization-related information for Flaming.

I'm not suggesting that the organization understands the CBA or related topics (their "expert", Ricky Olczyk, is extremely suspect and should probably be relieved of his duties), but there's probably more going on here than just a "silent running" strategy.

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#5 ItsTheBGB
April 06 2012, 01:41PM
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What does the management team do in a day? It's a serious question. How they don't know the things they don't is a head scratcher. Katz must know the difference between good management and poor management, when is he going to take care of it?

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#7 Lexi
April 06 2012, 02:01PM
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@ubermiguel

That's what drives me crazy about Katz. I've got to think you could build a first class front office for less than an additional $5million and I've got to think each additional home playoff game would be worth at least $2Million extra profit so it makes financial sense to "cadillac" up the front office. I'm assuming to have become a billionaire he has had to fire a few overmatched senior managers who he was friendly with in the past.

It seems to me this would be a great year to make a change as there has been a dearth of GM openings in the last few years so there is a backlog of GM talent (Botterill, Fenton etc.) the only other potential openings this year are not very desirable (Montreal, Columbus?, Calgary?, Anaheim?). So with the young assets the Oilers have, this would be by far the best job available. With the CBA expiring and very few premium FA this is a great year for someone to take over and just take stock in what we have, what we need and who needs to move. I feel Stu can handle the draft with getting the BPA and quite frankly a new guy might have a better chance getting Justin Schultz to sign here.

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#8 magisterrex
April 06 2012, 03:16PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It's worth noting that Prendergast was fired before Flaming talked to the Oilers about Hartikainen. Five days before the team started talking to Flaming on that topic, Flaming had wrote "Prendergast Fired... Oilers Reach New Low."

If those comments didn't stop them from talking about Hartikainen one week later, I doubt very much they've stopped the team from talking about Pelss two years later.

I don't disagree with the time frame, but I do note that when someone burns you more than once, you don't out of your way to help them again.

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#9 Dipstick
April 06 2012, 04:32PM
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I sure hope that they get their "stuff" in order before they try to make a play for Justin Schultz. I can't imagine that Katz would be too impressed if this sort of incompetence was evident in any of his other corporate interests.

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#10 michael
April 06 2012, 04:57PM
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Pelss is another small under sized forward with great speed and finishing skill. What do we want want with a guy like that? Coke machines are the soup du jour are they not? I'd say there would be a hue and cry from several of the Oilers bloggers lamenting another wasted contract on another "runt". The prevailing thought is that we need to mirror ourselves after the Boston Bruins or the Philidelphia Flyers. I for one believe that Pelss is likely not be an NHL player with the Oilers. He would be better served signing in Europe and play on the bigger ice. his speed and skill would be better uti;ized. With the Olympics in Sochii in 2014 Pelss would have a better opportunity playing at home where the National team scouts of Latvia would have a better look at him. signing in Edmonton would be a waste for this young man. There is no future for him. His NHL dream would be better served with a few years of seasoning in Europe.

The Oilers have had a miserable year in the hockey operations department. The public's perception is becoming more and more that the entire organization is like an episode of keystone cops. From the Arena debacle to the handling of MP incident it seems more and more that less is indeed more at this point for the entire Oilers organization. If the Oilers wish to save a little face this offseason they might want to shift the focus of the public to the Oil Kings and the Oil Barons. They should be offering upperdeck tickets for 5.00 and up. Fill the old Coliseum up and reward the fans of the Oilers for the patience we have shown this season . Perhaps have Gene Principe and the boys fly down to OKC and televise some of the Barons games or stream them online.

The Oilers have a ton or work to do this off season. ST gets a mulligan. So does renny and his staff. Continue to build and add young talent. Like Hatikainen. Like MP and Lander. Add a Murray and a Shultz. Upgrade the goaltending by either buying out Bulin or trading him. sign Petrell. Sign Smyth. and the RFA's except Barker. Perhaps see if you can unload eager and Belanger this summer. They don't fit with this group. Bring back the carnival of Champions at Clarke Park.

and lastly. Bring back baseball to Telus field. I need a few beer and sunshine night to forget my memories of another lost season.I'll have to do them in my backyard while watching the Blue Jays rather than in our wonderful rivervalley.

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#11 mlcselli
April 06 2012, 05:27PM
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Nobody can ever accuse the Oiler management of knowing the difference between their arses and their elbows. What a bunch of pitiful tools running this club.

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#12 knobby
April 06 2012, 07:01PM
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Evidently the Oil brain trust is a bust. They have no clue. Obviously clues are in short supply in the offices just off Kingsway.

My hopes for the Oil are bottomed out. Bring back Pocklington and Barry Fraser! Never thought I'd say that!

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#13 Gazmort
April 06 2012, 08:17PM
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Could we find similar mishaps with all 30 clubs? I bet we could. Some are of epic proportion (Chicago), while others are "whoopsies".

Anyone who tells me that they never, ever make a mistake in their job would be classified as a liar.

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#14 DSF
April 06 2012, 09:13PM
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Gazmort wrote:

Could we find similar mishaps with all 30 clubs? I bet we could. Some are of epic proportion (Chicago), while others are "whoopsies".

Anyone who tells me that they never, ever make a mistake in their job would be classified as a liar.

Bumbellini and Gillis have been on the job for EXACTLY the same amount of time.

See if you can unearth ONE cap fubar made by Gillis in that time frame.

Go!

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#15 Anon
April 07 2012, 11:20AM
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Couple other CBA mishaps mentioned in Metro the other day. http://metronews.ca/sports/58197/oilers-paajarvi-blunder-not-rare/

While not looking good for the oilers, hawks, or flyers shouldn't the NHL do a better job in clarifying these details to the teams. Does the NHLPA have these type of blunders?

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#16 Wäx Män Riley
April 07 2012, 01:48PM
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I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

Who is Rick Olczyk? Sure our Assistant GM, but has anyone actually seen the guy?

I only really saw him once during an episode of Oil Change. When they signed Belanger, he was talking to the agent in a very mousy voice:

"So, umm... do you think, maybe, umm... possibly he might think or be responsive to umm.. a maybe... um...3 year deal?" (not verbatim)

If I heard a negotiator talking like that, it opens up the doors for me to take him for everything he is worth. I used to drink the kool-aid, then I saw that and started to see where some of these bad contracts come from.

I have no faith while he is in charge.

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#17 Wäx Män Riley
April 07 2012, 01:52PM
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DSF wrote:

Bumbellini and Gillis have been on the job for EXACTLY the same amount of time.

See if you can unearth ONE cap fubar made by Gillis in that time frame.

Go!

I'm sure there are small gaffes made by EVERY GM and team, that are not as publicized as Bumbles' gaffes. I'm not defending him, see my above post as it applies to Bumbles as well.

I don't see him as being a strong negotiator, either. He looks easy to intimidate and slow to react.

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