Daryl Katz Reaches Out To Oilers Fans

Jonathan Willis
January 20 2014 01:19PM

 

The Edmonton Oilers' famously reclusive owner didn't make an appearance on Monday, but he did something else, addressing an increasingly hostile fanbase through a letter on the team's official website.

The full text of the letter can be found there, but a few key points stand out.

Kevin Lowe. Katz does two things with his letter with regard to the Oilers' president. The first thing he does is defend him, citing the way Hockey Canada values Lowe's knowledge and emphasizing his importance to the organization. The second thing he does is make it clear that Craig MacTavish is the man building the Oilers today. It's an interesting juxtaposition. A little over a week ago I suggested that the team's best option if they continue to find Lowe's perspective valuable might be to give him a demotion in title; this letter falls short of that but strongly suggests that Lowe isn't the guy pulling the levers these days. 

Emphasizing the rebuild. There was a lot of fan support in the early stages of the Oilers' decision to build via top picks at the draft, and it's still a policy that many will support in general. Katz's letter puts the spotlight squarely on that strategy and in doing so urges fans to be understanding of the transition. While the owner acknowledges that Edmonton's playoff drought will hit eight years this spring, he frames the issue in a more positive light, one that can be compared to the droughts suffered in Pittsburgh and Chicago before those teams emerged as contenders. 

Accentuating change. The Oilers have been extremely busy, in particular since the ascension of Craig MacTavish to the general managership. Not all of the changes have been good, but given how much losing Edmonton has suffered through there's a definite constituency for any kind of change. Emphasizing the Oilers' activity on the trade front, through free agency, and in the front office tells fans that the team is trying to make positive strides, doubtless with the aim of encouraging patience in the fanbase.  

Appealing to fans. The Oilers as an organization - and Lowe in particular - have suffered a lot of self-inflicted wounds over the last year. Naturally, the entire letter is structured in an effort to quell discontent, but there are some specific measures made to heal some specific breaks. The letter itself is addressed "To Oilers Fans Everywhere" which seems like a not-so-subtle repudiation of Lowe's unfortunate comments which divided the fanbase into more- and less-valued components. It also does the most important thing when facing frustrated fans: acknowledging their complaints. The letter commends fans for being "incredibly patient and supportive" and stresses that the team both values and hears them. Toward the end, it emphasizes pride in the Oilers' colours. In other words, it's saying: we know you're frustrated, but we're making progress and let's all rally around the flag. It's a good argument, since even the fans most bitter with the current management group have a deep emotional attachment to the team

Will It Work?

The letter is almost certainly going to do a few things.

For one, it's going to go at least some distance toward cooling anger. Yes, these arguments have all been made before, and no a letter won't generate the wins the team so desperately needs, but it does something else. One of the reasons we've seen such vicious reaction from segments of the fanbase is because fans feel powerless; with this letter Katz acknowledges that fans matter. Even for those who don't buy the arguments, that will ease some frustration.

It isn't going to be a cure-all, and it isn't going to solve the real problem: losing. What it might do is buy a little bit of time and take some of the edge off, but the fans have suffered through so much (and will continue to suffer) that at best it's a stall. 

One way it may backfire is with the local media. Anybody who has spent any time reading the local beat reporters on Twitter or in the papers knows that a) they really don't like that Katz doesn't talk to them and b) they hate it when they aren't used in a gatekeeping role. A direct letter to fans that bypasses the professional media and a continued lack of interviews with Katz is only going to encourage them to dismiss the letter. 

One final note: some media outlets are branding this as an apology. It isn't. It's an acknowledgement of fan frustration, but at every level it defends the current management and direction of the orgnaization.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#201 Rick Stroppel
January 20 2014, 08:33PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
+1
24
props

ULTIMATELY, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

Some people seem to be very wrapped up in who makes the key player personnel decisions.

Maybe it's like this: Katz 10 per cent, Lowe 20, MacTavish 60, Howson 10.

Or maybe it's like this: Katz 0, Lowe 50, MacTavish 50, Howson 0.

Or maybe it's this: Katz 0, Lowe 70, MacTavish 30, Howson 0.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? The RESULTS speak for themselves. The only logical thing for Katz to do is fire them all or keep them all. I do not think his letter "throws MacTavish under the bus" at all. He intends to keep them all.

PS: This reference to Lowe's involvement in Team Canada is a real joke. It is a little club and no-one ever gets fired. Twelve years ago Lowe got Brewer on team Canada despite the fact he really didn't belong. This year Lowe couldn't get the highest scoring Canadian left winger in the NHL (Hall) on the team. Everybody else in the league has figured out what a dunce Lowe is.

Avatar
#202 RexHolez
January 20 2014, 08:33PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
+1
14
props
Serious Gord wrote:

A first rate column by mr staples on the letter here:

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/01/20/edmonton-oilers-owner-daryl-katz-backs-up-kevin-lowe-in-letter/

As concise a rebuttal as I could imagine. Let's hope the oilers organization reads it:

A couple snips - but do be sure to read the whole thing:

"Since Kevin Lowe became the Oilers head coach in 1999-2000, only one NHL team has had a longer losing streak, the Florida Panthers, with 10 below league average seasons in a row from 2000 to 2011. But while Florida axed its top hockey man six times during that streak, Lowe has risen from coach to general manager to president of hockey operations."

"The Oilers results under Katz and Lowe aren’t open to debate. As I’ve said in the past, it’s time for Lowe to take a step back, perhaps to a senior adviser role such as former Bruins GM Harry Sinden did in Boston in 2000."

The losing record is real, it’s staggering, and it’s not going to change without the right people in place.

"Accountability can’t just happen on the ice. It’s got to happen throughout the Oilers organization, including the coaching staff, the development staff, the scouting staff and in management offices. If there are weak links, better candidates need to be found and hired."

"Katz’s letter doesn’t make it clear that this issue has been recognized or that it’s going to be addressed. That’s what I would have liked to have seen from the owner."

This needs to be an "open letter" response to that little gem we were treated to today

Avatar
#203 Kevin
January 20 2014, 08:44PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
+1
32
props

Hey Katz, I hear they're building a rink in Seattle- Take your gong show and 6 rings and get out of dodge and don't let the door hit you on the way out. Are you really listening to what you are saying about Lowe and Team Canada ? Maggie the monkey could pick that team. That said have you looked at Team Canada's record of late ? Six rings was waiting for a cap world where he thought he could thrive and build a contender, well a decade has past and he has done the exact opposite. The salary cap evened the playing field and we have thrown $$ around like we fans have it growing on our back yard trees. Enough mis management already. We are sick and tired of being the laughing stock of the league.

Avatar
#204 Serious Gord
January 20 2014, 08:45PM
Trash it!
7
trashes
+1
6
props
A-Mc wrote:

Actually that's not accurate. I believe it's written that katz can't move the team with out first putting it up for sale to local buyers. With the Oilers making money, someone would buy the team.

Compound that with the relocation fees and the hassle of setting up in a new city and it's almost impossible to move the team. The new arena will also go a long way to solidifying that: the nhl wants proper venues.

If that's the case - offering to local ownership - it probably is a term of sale from the Eig to Katz - not a requirement of the nhl.

Relocation fees are very negotiable. And if there were another franchise prospect or a high likelihood of one to fill the vacuum in Edmonton the nhl would make it less IMO. And under the current conditions a new team filling the void certainly isn't far fetched.

Seattle is on the brink of building a new arena to attract an nba and NHL franchise - moving the oil there and letting say - the lightning move to EDM wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to the league.

Thus if mr Katz tires of the EDM fanbase and owning a team in a city that is not close to where he apparently spends most of his time he can move it.

Good riddance if he does...

Avatar
#205 Serious Gord
January 20 2014, 08:52PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
14
props
Rick Stroppel wrote:

ULTIMATELY, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

Some people seem to be very wrapped up in who makes the key player personnel decisions.

Maybe it's like this: Katz 10 per cent, Lowe 20, MacTavish 60, Howson 10.

Or maybe it's like this: Katz 0, Lowe 50, MacTavish 50, Howson 0.

Or maybe it's this: Katz 0, Lowe 70, MacTavish 30, Howson 0.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? The RESULTS speak for themselves. The only logical thing for Katz to do is fire them all or keep them all. I do not think his letter "throws MacTavish under the bus" at all. He intends to keep them all.

PS: This reference to Lowe's involvement in Team Canada is a real joke. It is a little club and no-one ever gets fired. Twelve years ago Lowe got Brewer on team Canada despite the fact he really didn't belong. This year Lowe couldn't get the highest scoring Canadian left winger in the NHL (Hall) on the team. Everybody else in the league has figured out what a dunce Lowe is.

He absolutely intends to keep them all. He singles out MacT because he is the most recent hire and thus the toughest to fire without claims that he hasn't been given enough time.

Redirection - pure and simple.

Avatar
#206 Rick Stroppel
January 20 2014, 08:56PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
18
props

HONEST QUESTION, HOPING FOR AN HONEST ANSWER

Johnathan, after reading the posts here, do you still think that Katz' letter has "gone at least some distance toward cooling anger"? Or do you think that the majority of posters are just lunatic malcontents?

I believe the Oilers fan base is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is some of the most passionate fans in professional sport. The curse is some of the most intelligent fans in professional sport. They will not accept any mor

Avatar
#207 Serious Gord
January 20 2014, 08:56PM
Trash it!
3
trashes
+1
2
props
Poolanov wrote:

Quick question "GORD"..... Do you put quotation marks on your own statements???

Nope. - not on purpose at least - sometimes - very very rarely my quotation marks are incorrectly placed.

Avatar
#208 A-Mc
January 20 2014, 08:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
7
props
Serious Gord wrote:

If that's the case - offering to local ownership - it probably is a term of sale from the Eig to Katz - not a requirement of the nhl.

Relocation fees are very negotiable. And if there were another franchise prospect or a high likelihood of one to fill the vacuum in Edmonton the nhl would make it less IMO. And under the current conditions a new team filling the void certainly isn't far fetched.

Seattle is on the brink of building a new arena to attract an nba and NHL franchise - moving the oil there and letting say - the lightning move to EDM wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to the league.

Thus if mr Katz tires of the EDM fanbase and owning a team in a city that is not close to where he apparently spends most of his time he can move it.

Good riddance if he does...

Gregor did a whole break down of all the stops required to overcome to move the team. He did it when katz did that stunt where he visited Seattle to discuss arena talk.

Basically there was very little chance of the Oilers moving.

Avatar
#209 jim
January 20 2014, 09:04PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
8
props
Hangin@Bangin wrote:

Hey Jonny how do I read into this line anymore than you agreeing that this helps Katz and the Travelling Willknots, and I quote:

"For one, it's going to go at least some distance toward cooling anger."

Sounds like your take, and if you truly agree with that statement then yes I am going to have to criticize your for being an idiot. This will only fuel pissed off fans because this sounds like a cop out not unlike Eakins going to the media crying that some 8 year old kid told him the ugly truth. "You Suck". If it's true that your not supported by the Oilers in anyway then stop being a shill, man up and call it as it is.

not that willis needs me to defend him......but, buddy lay off the personal attacks.....you sound like a wing-nut......

you can disagree with stuff but be decent

Avatar
#211 Serious Gord
January 20 2014, 09:41PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
15
props
Jonathan Willis wrote:

I had expected that Oilers fans would treat this letter in much the same way they treated Katz's apology letter for the Seattle fiasco.

Not so much, as it turns out.

That letter WAS an apology. This one isn't.

And that letter was apologizing for something Katz did.

This letter is essentially saying Katz is going to do nothing.

And that is essentially saying he plans on continuing to do what the fanbase has been wanting changed - keeping Lowe as POHO - maintaining the status quo.

IOW nothing has changed and thus the fans attitude also remains unchanged - and perhaps they are even more agitated than before because of Katz' retrenchment.

Avatar
#212 The Last Big Bear
January 20 2014, 10:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
11
props

So, that letter... not so successful then, huh?

Avatar
#213 oasis
January 20 2014, 10:54PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
6
props
Dave wrote:

They should have gotten Neil Young to write the letter and said if we fired Kevin Lowe, the Oilers would look like the holocaust and beaten everyone else to the punch in their opposite view point. That would have been genius.

Neil doesn't have to write any letters. Back I. 1994 he wrote a song dedicated to the Oilers.

It's called "Piece of Crap" and can be found on the Sleeps with Angels album.

Avatar
#214 @kahmad92
January 20 2014, 11:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
10
props

I don't even wanna open the story written about this on TSN, because I don't want to see the comments

Avatar
#215 Walter Sobchak
January 21 2014, 02:58AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
+1
1
props
Zarny wrote:

This letter will have no effect.

The mouth-breathers will never believe it's anything but armageddon. They're too busy screaming "we're all gonna die" to get any perspective. They will continue to hear what they want to hear.

The rest, while frustrated and disappointed, haven't lost touch with reality.

Here, read this.

If after reading this & you still feel the same then that's fine, everyone is entitled to there opinion.

However , I don't see the point if you telling everybody else there opinion is drivel?

http://www.coppernblue.com/2014/1/20/5328540/daryl-katz-writes-letter-to-fans-this-should-be-fascinating

Avatar
#216 outdoorzguy
January 21 2014, 08:16AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Well, I feel much better now.

Avatar
#217 Chainsawz
January 21 2014, 08:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
A-Mc wrote:

Gregor did a whole break down of all the stops required to overcome to move the team. He did it when katz did that stunt where he visited Seattle to discuss arena talk.

Basically there was very little chance of the Oilers moving.

I was looking for this or anything really proving the Oilers are/were in no danger of relocating.

If you or anyone has a link, I'd appreciate it.

Avatar
#218 Mike Wazowski
January 21 2014, 08:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@Serious Gord

Nice twist on words. It's not a democratic process... MacT is GM and has final say.

Avatar
#219 Mike Wazowski
January 21 2014, 08:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@Spydyr

Classy as always Spyder

Comments are closed for this article.