Bang for the buck vs. getting screwed

There’s a big difference between getting bang for your buck and getting banged for your buck, as an embarrassingly unflattering comparison of the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers clearly shows.

While the expansion Predators under GM David Poile are again providing hockey fans in Music City with bargain basement entertainment that’s the epitome of bang for the buck, the Oilers aren’t getting nearly the same value for their payroll and fans are being short-changed.

The Predators come calling at Rexall Place tonight 20 points better than the Oilers in the standings at 27-16-3 for 57 points. That puts Nashville eighth in overall points. The Predators are doing it with a payroll of $44.34 million, according to NHLnumbers.com, which ranks 28th in the NHL.

The Oilers, meanwhile, sit 29th overall in NHL standings with a record of 16-23-5 for 37 points. Owner Daryl Katz is endorsing cheques worth $59.830 million this season. That’s the sixth highest payroll in the NHL.

So, given those numbers, whose fans are getting real bang for the buck and whose fans are getting screwed? That’s a rhetorical question, folks. Grab your ankles.

HEARTLAND OF HOCKEY?

The Oilers continue to play in front of capacity crowds at Rexall Place despite offering a sub-standard product, while the Preds are engaged in a seemingly never-ending challenge of attracting fans.

The difference in value and results for money spent would be less of an indictment of management with Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini running the show if this season was a one-off.

The problem, dating back to the EIG long before Katz brought his billions into the equation under a new CBA — the "level playing field" Oilers management promised time and again would make a difference — is it isn’t.

The Oilers have missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons, and are on the verge of missing for the fourth straight year despite bumping up against the salary cap. No bargains here.

The Predators, always nearer the cap floor than the ceiling and out-spent by the Oilers in every season since the lockout, have made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

2009-10
Nashville 27-16-3 57 pts 5th Conference
Edmonton 16-23-5 37 pts 15th Conference

2008-09
Nashville 40-34-8 88 pts 10th
Edmonton 38-35-9 85 pts 11th

2007-08
Nashville 41-32-9 91 pts 8th
Edmonton 41-45-6 88 pts 9th

2006-07
Nashville 51-23-8 110 pts 4th
Edmonton 32-43-7 71 pts 12th

2005-06
Nashville 49-25-8 106 pts 4th
Edmonton 41-28-13 95 pts 8th

STEP RIGHT UP

The Oilers, of course, made some noise when they went to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final in the only year they made the playoffs, while the Predators haven’t made much of a mark, going out in the first round four times. But as for value for that season-ticket package fans plunk down their money for year after year? Not close.

Look no further than the drafting records of the teams over the past decade and some frugal free agent signings by the Predators in that span as the big difference, but dissecting that is a whole other story or three.

"David Poile is a terrific operator," Oilers coach Pat Quinn said. "He has been for a long time.

"It is an expansion team and expansion teams are supposed to get the good picks or the potential for good picks. They’ve made them . . . That, eventually, is supposed to pay off and it has been paying off for them now."

The question, and it’s one bound to come home to roost on the doorstep of Lowe, Tambellini, president Patrick LaForge and Katz sooner or later despite the loyalty of Oilers fans, is this: how much longer will people put down their money?  It’s a fine line dividing fans from suckers.

AND…

— Radio man Bob Stauffer spent today floating the trial balloon of having tough guy Georges Laraque return to the Oilers, should he have his contract bought out by the Montreal Canadiens. Don’t discount either possibility.

Despite former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish having little or no use for Laraque, Katz wanted him back in Edmonton two summers ago before he accepted the deal from Montreal. The Oilers, in fact, offered Laraque an extra year at $1.5 million.

If the Habs did buy out Laraque, he could probably be had for something in the neighbourhood of $700,000.

— The Oilers, looking for goaltending help in Springfield, have made inquiries with the St. Louis Blues about goaltender Hannu Toivonen.
Toivonen, 25, is in the minors splitting time with Ben Bishop with the Peoria Rivermen. He’s 8-9-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and .909 saves percentage.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    The Oilers current roster is crap no questions asked, but lets call a spade a spade. The team on the ice is being paid roughly 50 million dollars, and that's not far off what you'd pay for a 29th place team in today's NHL.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Maybe it's time to stop paying injury prone player to play for us? Regardless of what some will say whether it be because they are injury prone or because of the way they play Souray, Hemsky, Pisani, Comrie, Moreau, Horcoff, and Bulin are injury prone players.

    • MrOiler

      This is a good point. The team playing right now is missing:

      Hemsky – $4.1
      Khabibulin – 3.75
      Comrie – $1.25

      That's ~$9 million off of the cap or as Ogden Brother stated, puts us at about $50 million (or 26th in the league in payroll).

      Injuries aren't an excuse, but let's be fair in our comparisons. If we're going to pile on, let's at least recognize the whole picture.

      This year you could make a case that injuries are "ripping off" the paying fan.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        I would take the "injuries aren't an excuse" one step further.

        Managment should be taking heat for signing old, injury prone players to long term contracts.

        Hemsky/Bulin/Penner/Vish/Souray/Horc

        are the clear cut 6 best players on the team. Bulin/Souray/Horcoff were all signed with questionable injury histories.

        Horcoff is playing Hurt, Souray missed 20 (or whatever..and isn't the same) Bulin got hurt.

        Don't lynch these guys for "overspending" Lynch them for overspending on guys with higher then average odds of spending significan time on the DL.

        • Chris.

          ~Maybe the team should stand pat. After all… at no point this season did we ever see the whole group together. If we could just give Souray more time to fully heal from his concussion; and Moreau to adjust to having limited vision in one eye; Hemsky, Pouliot, and Khabibulin will be back… Oh, and without the flu, and or mono, and or colitus: Comrie, Pisani and Brule should be better… And what about the youth? Don't forget that Gagner and Cogliano and Smid will only get better; plus Eberle is on the way! Let's evaluate things carefully. This is no time to panic. I think we should give this group at least fifty games next season to really show us what they can do.~

  • Milli

    well Robin, as far as spending my money to watch these bums…..here is my answer, sold last 3 sets of tix for this year, canceling center ice pakage for next season and not buying another mini pack. I will not spend my money to watch until the organization gets there sh!t together. With my savings, Vegas here we come!!!!!

    • When fans vote with their feet and their wallets, teams listen and that's what it's going to take.

      That's the point of the story — fans in Edmonton deserve better. They've lined up, spent their money and filled the building for years and received very little in return.
      When that stops, when the team is playing in front of empty seats — it happened in Chicago for years — the organization will have to bring people back by selling results instead of empty promises.

          • I hope not – Brownlee said IF his contract was bought out. I can't imagine why they would trade for him if they could get him for less money in the summer.

            Maybe a DMan & forward like POS or Cogs for 1 of the brothers or a minor league DMan like Shawn Belle who is from Edmonton?

          • Halak would send a clear message that these guys are still serious about play-offs, so I hope not.

            Halak wants out of MTL because he wants to start, we have Khabi so that might not work. Lots of $ for 2 goalies.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        "When fans vote with their feet and their wallets, teams listen and that's what it's going to take."

        I'm not sure that it would take a tonne to keep the fans interested and the seats full. I think most Oilers fans are avid and savvy enough to accept what is necessary when it's presented to them clearly enough. Of course that's assuming the suits don't compound problems by doing something really stupid like hike up ticket prices some more.

        If Tambellini actually crawls out from under his desk and can clearly indicate publically what direction the team is going in, even if his comments are brutally honest enough to the point where he says there will be a few lean years as a result, then most fans will probably accept that. As it sits right now you have an organization that is selling expectations that clearly weren't achievable and a GM that seemingly refuses to make himself available to re-assure the fan base that they have something figured out going forward…anything figured out. It's the worst of both worlds.

        The second thing is obviously finishing 29th or 30th. Hope is an easy sell, no matter how many times the carpet gets pulled out from under your feet. If at the end of the season the Oilers are drafting first or second then the stink of the season will waft away quickly enough and people will be looking forward again and excitement for the end of June will build.

        Now on the flip side, what happens if the Oilers show up for just enough games to finish, say 24th? That could be the perfect storm to push people over the edge and cause a pedestrian jamb on the high level bridge.

        In that case the fans will have suffered through a season of embarassment and no entertainment with zero to show for the suffering. If that scenario presents itself I would suggest we all get a big tub of popcorn because watching the fallout will be entertaining to say the least.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    What the heck does Laraque bring to this team that Macintyre didn't? The only thing I can think of his is radio shows on power 92.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Late last night I was informed by four sources from three countries (in a very short period of time between 2:00 and 2:30 am) that the Oilers and Canadiens had a deal in principle." Three of the sources felt it was done and would be announced "at any point now."

    So I took a look and this is what he has. What is with the three countries? Also we "had" a deal in place? I'm no writer, but my god.

  • I think what Eklund meant to say is "Habs/Oil Have Deal in Principe"

    Actually, if I'm not mistaken, he's mentioned Montreal and Grebeshkov in the past. Josh Gorges? Jaroslav Halak? Or do we get a new rumour every day for the next month with no action?

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I would love to see a long term goaltending solution here and have been on the Halak bandwagon for 2 years. Nothing against JDD/DD, but I see no reason to pass on Halak in order to continue to try them out.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      All the rumors that we have heard all year would point to the Tit brothers or Halak. Halak is really the only one I would want unless of course Montreal is willing to take on guys like O'Sullivan, Nilsson or Moreau.

  • Robin,

    Don't forget that unless the Vancouver Canucks lose the last game of the season in 2006, the Edmonton Oilers would have not made it to the playoffs at all since the lockout.

    Kevin Lowe promises big changes with a level playing field.

    He was right.

    Now the suck more than they used to, and Lowe can no longer hide his incompetence behind the unfair advantage of huge payrolls of his competitor so he hides behind Tambellini.

    Fire Kevin Lowe.

    Fire Tambellini

    Make sure Stu MacGregor goes nowhere. His drafting record, especially in the late rounds (i.e. Cornet and Roy in round 5) has been excellent. (not to mention Eberle at #22)

    Hire people who have actually been a part of an organization that has a track record of smart decisions.

    I'm sure there are lots of smart hockey people who would give their left arm to be able to spend to the cap.

    • MrOiler

      Great call on the pink slips, sadly no one in Oil land has the balls to make changes like that. You can throw KP and the Cap man in that mix as well. KLowe obvioisly is not good with math and he was'nt getting any smart advice when he did the Horcoff deal. I hear the X Blackhawke GM is kicking around….. Hmmm any idea what his track record is ???
      We have a team of guys learning on the job. Well that is fine if ticket prices were $10 a pop in a flurishing economy but the exact opposite is more like it. Fans should not tolerate this gong show. Would it make sense to start making moves now to start aquiring draft picks to give scouting more time to assess potential picks, rather than waiting to trade deadline and then scrambling to assess talent. This group just does not get it.

        • Point taken. My point is more in the lines of what built. A proper management structure would have assistants looking after getting the mail out in time. So Tallon gets axed for that and look where the Hawkes are. Why is our top brass not taking any fall for the mess they have created. I would take Tallons blunder any day over the Horcoff contract. This will haunt us for years. The $7 million dollar invisible man !! They better hope the cap at least stays the same because in a declining cap that contract gets even worse !

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      That's not true. The Oilers finished 8th by 3 points. Vancouver actually won their last game of the season. People like to say that the Oilers fell into the last playoff spot, but that's just silliness. It's an 82 game season, and if over 82 games, the Oilers gathered more points than the Canucks, then that's just. Criticize the organization for only making the playoffs once in however many years, but don't try to claim that their one playoff appearance was only due to Vancouver losing. It was due to 7 Western teams losing and 7 Western teams winning, which is exactly the criteria for an 8th place team, no luck involved.

      • Jon,

        You are correct. For some reason I remember a key Vancouver loss opened the door for the Oilers to make it. I'll have to do some poking around to find out why that was the thinking at the time.

        So,

        Since the lockout they made 8th by 3 points and missed the other 3 (soon to be 4 years)

        Hardly the result you'd expect when all Kevin Lowe could say pre-2006 was "Just wait under the playing field is leveled"

        Ok Kevin, we've waited long enough.

        The stench won't leave this organization until he does.

  • How come no one interviews Captain Moreau after games, he is the captain, lets have his twisted take on the game. Unless the reporters got texts to stay away from him. It gets sick when you have Tencer and Flintstone making excuses for the team over and over.

  • Chris.

    So I heard the Oilers got a $6000 discount after boozing in Calgary on New Years…I want a $6000 discount on my seasons tickets after having to endure a god-awful season.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    this captain is the worst captain in the history of the oilers .bad penalties he is slow not tough and just a bad all around bad player move him for a bag of pucks…

    • SquidRx

      If he is related to Dustin Penner he should really be able to cover a lot of the net.

      *hangs head in shame for resorting to these ridiculous and hurtful ways. Shakes fist at current Oiler woes for driving him to this worse than juvenile retort*