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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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


  • Alsker

    I understand rebuilds take time, but rock bottom isn’t supposed to come 4 years into a rebuild. Rock bottom shouldn’t come AFTER getting 3 first overall picks.

    It’s one thing for a team to suck, but this is an unprecedented level of failute.

  • Vaclav

    More silk mouthed rhetoric coming from the top.
    I say its BS… team is not improving.. its regressing.

    Well MacT., the big buy says your the boss.
    If you want some real credibility and have
    the big ones to make the call.. start with:

    As Trump would say ” Smith and Bucky, your FIRED”!

  • A-Mc

    I can understand the consistent message that we need to stay the course, regardless of how frustrated we all are. There are parts of this that confuse me though.

    Arguably over the last 4+ years if you look at our blue line it’s very obvious that it’s not even close to being competitive. So I’m a little confused when i read things like management feeling we were ready to take a turn for the better. Do they look at this team and see something the rest of us don’t? Is that message just FLUFF or are they truly so far out of touch that only by some great tragedy has our defense core managed to fail everyone in epic style? How does management look at the make up of this team and say with a straight face that they thought we would be on the upswing? They must be “just sayin’ that”

    Secondly, the message that we’re not going to mortgage our future for the sake of winning today comes with the assumption that they are referring to not moving one of the kids. While i agree that keeping the kids is likely the cheapest and best option for the future, just how do they suppose they are going to be building a blue line with nothing to use as trade chips? Going forward i dont think i can hear another “Lots of Promise” speech and ever come away feeling better about the team. How in god green earth do they plan to do ANYTHING about their holes when the only guys of value we have to trade laterally, are off the table?

    Lastly and sadly, following Point #2, i believe managements plan is to string us along shuffling deck chairs until our Young D men turn into real NHL players. Our “Savior” isn’t really much of anything other than waiting another 3+ years (at least) for the defensive prospects to turn into NHL rookies and then NHL Softmores. How can management ask this of their fanbase? The Edmonton fanbase has endured so much losing over the last 20 years…How can we be asked to endure even a second more of it?

    In MacT, I Trust. I believe he’s a smart chap and i do believe he knows a thing or two about.. players. I’m hoping that he has a few tricks up his sleeve that will leave This Oilers Fan with a big smile on his face.

    GO CANADA GO!

  • A-Mc

    The way I read this is that Katz is REALLY concerned about the LOWE MUST GO campaign.

    If anything this should be further proof that the small guys(us) are heard and do have a say.

    LOWE MUST GO

    • Serious Gord

      That’s one of the reasons for this letter. But there is another reason IMO:

      This is peak season for rebooking season tickets and mini-packs and maybe even more importantly advertising for next year (which explains why this is a public letter not a private one just to season’s ticket holders).

      This is the very rock bottom on-ice for this franchise. It is almost mandatory that someone – someone very high up – be held to account for this colossal failure. And the person is not hidden – it is patently clear that Kevin Lowe is the one that should be fired – the fans know it and the media know it and Katz knows it – that’s why he wrote the letter and used the patently lame cover of “it’s just four years” and “MacT has just been hired and he is running the show”.

      But Daryl Wrigley Katz is desperately trying to keep his close friend in place. And this letter may be the last gasp to do that.

      And rather than mollify the fans, this letter is going to only further agitate them.

      The inside sales guys are going to get gutted by their prospects/clients starting tomorrow.

      I am now far more optimistic that Lowe is gone by the end of the season….

  • Rob...

    “We Appreciate Your $upport. Plea$e stay the cour$e. Afterall, what do you have to lo$e? Your $acrifice has not gone unnoticed. As a matter of fact, my wife, and your Edmonton Oiler$ are out $pending your $acrifice, right now.”

  • Chainsawz

    So everyone is accountable but after 4 coaches and a GM, Lowe isn’t being held accountable because Hockey Canada loves him?

    That’s a neat brand of BS there, Daryl.

  • ubermiguel

    I said it when Katz bought the team and started the arena deal: he’s got to learn to embracee the PR component of ownership and engage with the fans more often. One letter every couple of years doesn’t cut it.

    Can everyone at least agree with him the rebuild is only 4 years old. Pronger absolutely destroyed the long-term plans of this team and it took them a couple of years to realize it.

    And Lowe is more of a passenger on the Hockey Canada bus, not the driver

  • bazmagoo

    Letter does nothing to alter the fact that the only way to affect change in the organization is to stop going to games, stop buying merchandise (except Lowe Must Go stuff), and if you want to go the extra mile, only watch the games via illegal internet streams so advertising revenue at Sportsnet/TSN goes down.

    Sounds like MacT is going to be on the hook for this season, wouldn’t be surprised to see him throw the coaching staff under the bus to save his bacon for one more season. Many GM’s have done the same.

  • ubermiguel

    JW: you write “we know you’re frustrated, but we are making progress” as to what you think Katz is trying to say. Are they making progres? Potentially having the worst season in team history is progress? Sorry, but i have to disagree.

    • I don’t think they’ve made progress this year either; personally I thought the last two seasons have both been deeply disappointing after strong steps in 2011-12.

      In this post, I’m just trying to figure out what Katz is saying and whether it will work; I personally disagree with him on quite a few points.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I could be wrong on my interpretation but it seems like he is saying that if this all goes tits up, it’s MacT that’s getting thrown under the bus and not his buddy Ol’ 6Rings.

  • ubermiguel

    So basically…

    Don’t hold your breath, folks. There will be no big, bold moves coming. We will not be making trades to improve. We will be banking everything on Hall, Ebs, RNH, Yak learning to play like champions without any real veteran guidance, and on our defensive prospects each turning out to be top-NHL-quality players within 2 years of hitting the league.

    Yeah. That should go well. Seeing as status quo has already proceeded so nicely, why on earth would you change anything? Either this is completely insincere PR platitudes, or he is delusional.

  • ubermiguel

    Katz’ letter confirms two things: 1) The organization’s problems start at the top and 2) nothing is going to change.

    Unbelievable. These guys are delusional. They still believe they are on the right track and the only thing needed is more patience.

    MacTavish’s interview with Staples has convinced me that nothing will change for the better under him. He tells us to be patient because help for next year is developing within the organization as we speak. Apparently in his world Curtis Hamilton and Kale Kessey are going to be difference makers next year. LOL.

    Fools and their money will soon be parted.

  • Vaclav

    Please grin and bare it is just not something I am interested in anymore. This is all well and good, but if he really wanted to appease fans and say stay the course with us, he’d lower ticket prices for games.

    Instead I am going to continue to encourage fans spend less cash on Oilers and start hitting Katz in his wallet. Only then will he wake up and realize the the fans are not going to keep buying his product.

    And not selling of the future? Sorry, but if this team is going to be competitive, Mac T will need to sell something.

    • pkam

      The Hawks drafted Keith in 2002, Seabrook in 2003, Barker in 2004, Kane in 2006, Toews in 2007. And they only made to the playoff once in 10 seasons (1997-98 to 2007-08).

      You know after they win the SC in 2010, their tickets are the 2nd most expensive.

      Katz knows that once the Oilers make the playoff in a couple of years, the fans will forget about all this pain, just like the Pens fans and Hawks fans.

      • S cottV

        I agree. And I think this was a good PR move on his part. Where I disagree is that those tickets were not the second most expensive during the crappy years. Oiler tickets are some of the most expensive in the league, and right now, and for the last many years, it has not been worth the price.

        What would make this a significant gesture instead of a pr move, would be to tell fans that the Oilers appreciate our patience and would still like our support, but are going to lower ticket prices until the team starts winning.

        That’s all.

        • pkam

          That is why you are not even a millionaire and Katz is a billionaire.

          The ticket price has nothing to do with the team performance. It is all market driven.

          According to your logic, the Leafs ticket should be the cheapest until last year.

          • pkam

            Ah but that’s what I’m saying. I think Oiler fans should stop buying tickets to games until the team starts winning. Or if Katz wants our loyalty and patience, then he should lower ticket prices.

            That’s the one thing this letter doesn’t really address. It acknowledges the frustration without giving anything more than a please keep buying our stuff until we’re good. I think that underestimates just how fed up with the team the fans really are, and encourage us all to send a stronger message by not going to games.

          • Rob...

            You have the right not to buy tickets and jerseys or watch the games on TV, but we’ve been through that as a community back in the final few years of Pocklington’s reign. People were not going to games and there was a general hate on for the owner. The CAD dollar was around 63 cents and the franchise was bleeding money. We almost lost our team and I’m thankful that we didn’t. So I’ll always support my team whether they’re good or bad because they’re a part of my life and a part of my town.

          • Mason Storm

            That’s fine. I think there is a difference between supporting your team and blindly paying for their mistakes. There comes a point where if an ownership wants the support of their fans, then it has to come at more than the cost of a letter.

            As for Katz moving the team, since the arena deal was done, the team cannot be moved for many years. If the fans decided to right now stop buying the merchandise and tickets to the game, the team would stay in Edmonton, and the management would get the message.

    • 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.

    • 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?

  • Serious Gord

    We keep hearing this word, Accountability. Accountability, Accountability over and over and over. I am sick of HEARING about accountability. SHOW US. Show us, who over the past 8 years has been held accountable for the utter failure that has been the Edmonton Oilers? WHO? Tom Renney? Steve Tambelinni? The equipment staff? As long as the person who resided over all of these people (and hired many of them) is still not accountable, what is any of this talk worth?

    Whether Lowe is calling the shots or not is moot, it does not matter. He is the top of the chain, he is the end-of-the-line, and he is immune from the so-called accountability. It does not matter if Lowe is directly responsible for anything on this team anymore, his exclusion from accountability obliterates the entire concept that this team holds anyone accountable. All his continued employment by this team is doing is breeding resentment; why should he not be held responsible when other have paid for lesser failures with their jobs. Who wants to work for someone like that?

  • ubermiguel

    Prior to Katz the Oilers (who were on community life support) could not spend to the cap, had no farm team where they could pipeline talent, could not afford or attract free agents and had an average hockey team since they last won the cup.
    The teams that end up winning get lucky to get great players and end up looking smart. The Oilers have been unlucky with injuries, goal tending and timing.
    The negative attitude of the fans makes it all worse. As fans we cannot cry over split milk. We suck but we now have a farm team, an owner who will spend to the cap and is a hockey fan, we have some very excellent young talent and there is more on the way. Maybe we are due for some luck too.

    • Rick Stroppel

      WELCOME TO EDMONTON, CITY OF EXCUSES

      1. Katz has been “spending to the cap” for five years, Oilers are easily the worst team in the league over that time.

      2. OKC Barons have been in place for four years, how many more years will the franchise use that as an excuse?

      3. Winning teams “get lucky”? No they do not, they hire good managers who make sound decisions over an extended period of time.

      4. Injuries. What KEY injuries have handicapped the Oilers, other than the routine injuries that every team suffers?

      5. Negative attitude of fans. It’s all OUR fault. I AM SO ASHAMED!

      6. “Excellent young talent”? Wrong. Oilers best players are soft, undersized cherry-pickers who are NOT valued highly by other teams.

      7. Goaltending. Oilers goaltending has been totally inadequate for about six years. Lowe and Mac Tavish have done nothing to fix it.

      I could go on.

  • Vaclav

    I’m not really in the camp of getting Lowe fired, seeing Tambellini dumped was fine for me. I think it’s clear with the management styles that the GMs have had free reign and with MacT completing over a third of the trades in the NHL this year he is trying. I think the dismissal of Bucky or Smith would be far more significant. What I would like Katz or Lowe to acknowledge is if this is indeed part of the plan (3 coaches, 2 GMs, etc.), if so fine if not take responsibility and apologize. I think that would go further than asking us to blindly follow.

    • bazmagoo

      My guess is the coaching staff will be let go at the end of the season, which I’m fine with as well. I think MacT has done a decent job as GM, his only glaring error (in my opinion) was hiring Eakins. Would be happy enough if all of the coaching staff were let go and replaced for next season.

  • Serious Gord

    A damn letter to get his way with everything and justification for hiring a bunch of morons in management. Yeah way to go Daryl. This letter will surely buy you more time to destroy this team. #Lowemustgo

  • A-Mc

    Does Katz mean the hockey Canada that hasn’t won too much lately? So lowe is not only responsible for the lousy hockey here, but nationally as well.

    Lowe must Go!

  • Vaclav

    Personally I dont care if media gets a whiff of the news before it goes public.

    But from a PR standpoint, he needs to do this face to face.

    Writing a letter is like breaking up with your girldfriend by email or twitter…..

    • Serious Gord

      Or like using Skype to fire your coach.
      The letter sounded like it was made up for a politician a lot of blahblahblah. Nice that MacT got thrown under the bus. Now was this for tier1 tier2 or tier 3 fans. This management team needs a serious intervention. As for you fans that want to throw your jerseys on the ice get a life, that is complete disrespect to Gretz Mess Dougie and Taylor. Paper bags would be funny