Daryl Katz Reaches Out To Oilers Fans

 

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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


    • Serious Gord

      It will do precisely the opposite. It is a case of “thou doest protesteth too much. “

      Kevin Lowe has asserted that he IS involved in the day to day. HE is accountable. Katz knows it and he’s trying to deflect from it.

      And fans can see through it.

      • Zarny

        No, actually you should brush up on your reading and/or listening comprehension.

        What Kevin Lowe said in his interview with Gregor is that MacT and his assistant GMs etc go about doing their jobs on a day to day basis.

        Lowe confirmed he is NOT involved at that level.

        Lowe did state that he does speak with his GM frequently throughout the year. That doesn’t mean day to day like you drivel. And it certainly isn’t surprising.

        I don’t care who you are or what you do…anyone who tells you they don’t speak with their manager frequently throughout the year is lying.

        Lowe also confirmed that when MacT is reviewing or evaluating moves or players he’ll get Lowe’s input or advice. Hardly unreasonable given Lowe’s knowledge and participation with Hockey Canada.

        Again though, getting Lowe’s opinion on a player or move is not something MacT would do on a day to day basis. Not even close. It’s actually pretty stupid for someone to suggest it.

        The unfortunate part of this season is that fans like you have completely wet yourself and lost all grip on reality.

        You p*rvert statements to fit your conspiracy theories and at this point mostly sound like the crazy tea baggers in the US driveling about Obama’s birth certificate.

        • Serious Gord

          “I mean, if there’s any concern that our people can’t make decisions without me endorsing them, then that’s not accurate. We’ve always had a, taken the approach from the day that I took over as general manager that we’re collectively going to make decisions – not that it’s a purely democratic process, but it’s wise of you to involve as many people in your organization when you are making
          decisions.”

          Translation – as you didn’t get it the first time: Lowe is involved in the decisions and he has the final word – “not a purely democratic process” (along with the owner).

          • Zarny

            You should quit digging because you’re an idiot.

            You started by driveling about Lowe making decisions on a day to day basis.

            The first line of your quote refutes that. People can make decisions without Lowe endorsing them. You know…on a day to day basis.

            And just for context this is the first thing Lowe said on the matter:

            “Craig is the general manager, as was Steve Tambellini. They go about their business and shop around the NHL with the scouting staff and collectively throughout the organization try to come up with ways to make the hockey club better, whether it’s signing a player or trading a player or what have you.”

            Translation – MacT and the scouting staff make the decisions on a day to day basis.

            Lowe continued with:

            “At the end of the way, when those recommendations or when those ideas come up, Craig will talk to me and get my feelings on it and you know . . . we talk enough over the course of the season that I generally know where he’s going on things and, you know, there’s an owner that has to make a call in terms of whether you’re going to spend the money for a free agent or trade an asset that’s been part of the organization for a while, so there’s a collective decision being made.”

            We talk enough over the course of the season…I generally know where he’s going on things.

            Yeah sounds like Lowe’s a real micromanager.

            Let me grab my shocked face that MacT would talk to and get the feelings of a guy Hockey Canada regularly involves in their management group.

            Lowe only sits in boardrooms with guys like Yzerman, Chiarelli, Holland, Babcock, Hitchcock and Ruff talking about the best players in the game.

            Lowe finished with:

            “It’s not a fiefdom where one person says, ‘No, this is what we’re going to do.’ It’s a collective group decision on any strategy that the hockey team is going to make.”

            Did you struggle with fiefdom?

            Of course it isn’t a democratic process. Do you actually believe the scouting staff should get the same vote as the GM and POHO?

            Lowe specifically stated that no one has “final say”.

            Convenient of you to leave out the quote that completely contradicts your drivel.

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        Wow, while I’ve never been a fan of your comments, but I generally don’t really care if people want to write things I disagree with. But can you at LEAST refrain from using mangled Shakespeare to try and make yourself sound smart?!?! It doesn’t work, and it reads awfully. “Doest”?! “Protestest”?! Are you kidding with that?

    • Chainsawz

      NO chance.

      Katz probably just got the results of the season ticket holder questionaire (those were out a week or two ago) and saw there was anger amongst his precious tier one fans.

      • pkam

        Well, what can I say if you fans determine to waste your energy.

        Just like Katz determines to continue with his plan.

        You guys think Katz is crazy. This is exactly how I think of the fans too.

        • Chainsawz

          Waste our energy?

          Haha, it’s not that we are wasting. It’s our money. And from the season ticket holder questionaire, I wouldn’t be surprised if Katz got the message that a lot of Tier One fans are sick of wasting their cash on a losing franchise. And that will change Katz’s plan of treating the Oilers like a VIP clubhouse.

          • pkam

            Katz is a billionaire. He has confidence he knows how to run a business than anyone else in Edmonton. Why would he listen to those who is less successful than him?

            Katz knows no matter what he did, it wouldn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the team starts to win.

            Even fans stop spending now, Katz has enough money to weather the storm for a year or 2.

            Once the team starts to win again, all the fans will be back lining up for the season tickets.

            Remember the lockout? How many old fans do they lose and how many new fans do they gain?

            Just ask yourself, if the Oilers becomes a cup contender in 3-4 years, will you refuse to be an Oilers fan because Lowe and MacT are still in the office?

    • Newj

      I’m thinking you said this with a bit of tongue in cheek?

      If not, not a chance…winning a few more hockey games might help. Even some resemblance of an improving hockey team/organization would go a long ways.

      But a letter from an aloof owner….wishful thinking.

      • Aitch

        This is the problem with this line of thinking; it’s so short-sighted. If a few wins is enough to save Lowe’s hide then you’ve really admitted he’s not really an issue to begin with.

  • TayLordBalls

    You guys have no patience.

    Edmonton, Daryl Katz, coaches, and players are winners and won’t settle for anything less than many cups.

    This is a dynasty in the making!

    What don’t you get?

  • Serious Gord

    @JonathanWillis

    Hey Jonny “The Apologist” Willis. Getting tickets to one Oilers vs. Blue Jackets game per season comp’d by Katz & the gang every year must be enough to keep your loyalties in check. What did you see in this letter that the average fan who thinks this team is in an out of control tailspin didn’t. How will this buy anyone anytime? To me all I see is K Blowe going into Katz’s office crying about the sale of bumper stickers outside rexall, crying about being publicly criticized and just overall reeks of pure pathetic FAIL. If K Blowe didn’t compose this letter himself and forward this onto Katz to release then Katz himself is a dittering fool and we should all be ready to shut it down for the rest of his god awful, unnacountable tenure. This to me say’s I approve of failure, so keep up the campaign’s slagging K Blowe and soon enough that creepy bug eyed freak Katz will move this debaucle to Seattle.

    • Let’s get a few things straight:

      • I’m analyzing what this letter is trying to do, and guessing as to the response. Nowhere in the piece above do I offer my personal response to the letter.
      • Not one line of the above text is an apology for the Oilers organization.
      • I have never received a penny from the Oilers organization and have no plans to ever be remunerated by the team for anything.

      Lots of what I write is fair game for criticism and I think I’m generally a pretty good sport about it. You want to explain why you feel I’m an idiot? Fine, that’s fair. You want to accuse me of siding with the team in exchange for financial considerations? I’m not going to put up with that.

      • Serious Gord

        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.

        • Go take a look at the poll on this site. See all the anger in the comments section? Now do you see how many people agree that Katz is right? Now, some of them have the caveat that he needs to fire Lowe, but the point stands: Oilers fans are fans of the team and to some degree a letter acknowledging concerns is going to cool anger.

          It doesn’t cool my anger, because I’m not angry at the team. They’ve been run incompetently for ages but there’s no sense in me being emotional about it if I want to analyze them objectively. The whole point of the piece above is to objectively analyze what the team is is trying to do and what the likely response is – not what the response should be, or how I’d respond, but how I expect fans in general to react.

          Now: you are welcome to say “your an idiot because…” (I advise ‘you’re an idiot’ because you look like a nitwit when you say ‘your an idiot’) but that’s not what you said. You suggested I’d been bought off by the team with free tickets. That’s across the line – I don’t mind my thinking and reasoning challenged but when you take shots at my fundamental honesty I start thinking about IP bans.

        • Serious Gord

          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