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


  • **

    So he basically said it’s all on course, if anything goes wrong is Mac T’s fault, we should keep giving him our money because he says so, and Kevin Lowe is a great Hockey mind, he will fire everyone else before firing Lowe.

    So nothing changes. I’m out of this sinking boat.

  • Mason Storm

    Well no matter what Katz says hes in a no win situation here.

    The good thing is that he is feeling the pressure from the fan base to even make this letter. I kinda look at it as a vote of confidence for everyone. Them votes of confidence never end good for anyone 🙂

  • smiliegirl15

    Honestly I think if I wanted my message to get out to the masses, I’d probably bypass the media too. The media is for entertainment, not for information. If I wanted exactly what I said out there, the way I intended it, I’d want to go this route too. Media people, whether they admit it or not, all have biases and I wouldn’t want my words twisted to suit anyone’s story or idea of what they thought I meant. The letter wasn’t to the media, it was to the fans.

  • Kr55

    Basically:

    1) Lowe is awesome.

    2) Fans are not smart, and we’re not going to be impatient like all of you are.

    3) Teams go through 8 years of no playoffs all the time, you fans are not really going through anything unique, relax.

    4) We know exactly what we’re doing and if you just wait a bit longer this team will turn into a cup contender.

    Bull, bull and more bull.

        • Show me da Money

          Give ur head a shake. The league will never let this franchise leave edmonton cuz Katz makes money every year. Katz made 18 million dollar profit the year his crew went to Seattle. It’s was never in jeopardy.

          • Kr55

            Didn’t stop him from threatening the city with a move. Played a big part in his eventual arena deal.

            You should be asking Katz to give his head a shake, but he will just laugh because he got exactly what he wanted

          • Rick Stroppel

            I will never be able to buy season tickets or even go to games cuz I can’t afford it. However the arena deal makes sense cuz it will bring in billion of dollars to the Edmonton economy over the arenas life time. Plus as edmontonians, we watch city council throw away millions of dollars all the time. Ie 89 millions dollars for the stair case at the art gallery. Will the art gallery bring in billions of dollars in the next 30 years. I doubt it. What’s the freaking difference. This crap happens all the time. If Katz was losing money, do u think Lowe would have a job. Nope. Katz is a businessman and all about money. I don’t like Katz or what he stands for. Six rings deserves to be fired cuz his ego and decisions has put this franchise in this situation. He was GM til 2008 and then hired tambo who screwed this team up.

          • Serious Gord

            The nhl won’t – and can’t – stop him. The courts have well etablished that. Think Baltimore colts etc. as long as there is no reasonable case for territory infringement (ie the nhl can try to prevent any move to the gta)

          • A-Mc

            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.

          • Serious Gord

            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…

          • A-Mc

            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.

  • Sean17

    I like it when folks don’t know the difference between coarse and course.

    Coarse: of ordinary or inferior quality or value.
    Course: the act or action of moving in a path from point to point

    Although with the Oilers, both may apply in terms of “Staying the coarse/ course”

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

    This is by no means a defence of KLowe.

    I’ve yet to see an argument for his firing other than, Oilers have sucked for as long as he’s been around and not playing, ergo he’s the problem and must be fired. After 8 years of bottom feeding, it’s an argument with growing traction.

    Riddle me this though: who would replace Lowe as PHO and what would we expect to be different? New GM, scouting and coaches? New trainers? If you make a wholesale overhaul to the hockey ops side of this team, how many seasons will it take to make an impact?

    • Serious Gord

      Who would replace KLowe or our inbred GM, coaching staff and scouts??? ANSWER= ANYONE. How could anybody do ANY WORSE than last place year after year???

    • Show me da Money

      Yes, who would the Oilers get to fill the critical and established position of POHO? God knows the franchise would cease operating without the guidance of this vital office.

      • PlayDirty

        OK then smart guy…. Would you leave MacT in charge of the Oil and Barons and scouting and the ECHL team? Who would you get to replace “everyone” you want fired? People are struggling to answer that one… It’s been asked a few times.

        • Zarny

          The Barons and Bakersfield both have general managers who in turn have their own staff. If they can’t run the hockey operations what are they being paid for? I can’t understand the rest of what you are trying to say.

  • Puck JammeR!

    Wow, not even so much as a “SORRY” to the fans who spent large amounts of time and money on another Oiler derailed season. This strikes me as very ARROGANT, and just another tactical ploy to PACIFY the angry disappointed fans! I must say, KLOWE MUST GO!!!!

  • A-Mc

    Speaking realistically, if the oilers want any hope in heck at making the playoffs, they need to take advantage of the vancouver situation in the next few years.

    There is going to be a window where vancouvers decline will keep them a bubble team while they slowly restock the cupboards with new talent. This is when they’ll be the weakest and that’s when the Oilers need to press for that spot.

    LA/SJ/ANH aren’t going anywhere. If anything those teams are getting stronger.. If the Oilers want even a sniff of playoffs before they are able to even THINK of dethroning a real team like the big 3 above, They need to do it soon.

    If vancouver is given 4,5,6 years.. They’ll have restocked and will be right back in the hunt. The Oilers can’t afford to let this rebuild go that long.

  • Dallylamma

    My interpretation of the letter: “I know you’re tired of this organization, but we’ve got a new delivery of hope coming in June. It’ll be awesome.”

  • Oiler63

    I guess Kevin Lowe draft the letter. Katz just signed his name without even reading it.

    Way to go Lowe. Why don’t you just say it’s all you the Oilers won those cups and Canada won the gold medals.

    You have destroyed all your legacy and creditabilty with the city. Just move on already!

  • The Last Big Bear

    This letter is a big bowl of crap!!!

    First off-Kevin Lowe helps out with Team Canada, WOW, he is quite the hockey mind. It must be hard to pick a team when there are only a few skilled players in the country… BS. Canada could probably have two team medal in most international tournaments.

    Second off-when you own a monopoly like Katz has with the Oilers, you can feed this crap whenever you want and whether people believe it or not, you’ll still fill the seats. If Katz’s pharmacies ran like his hockey team, you better believe there would be change and it would have happened long ago.

    Third off-please, can someone explain to me how Bucky and Smith have been able to weather the tornado of firing coaches through the last few years. If this does not show the ridiculous loyalty Katz has to the OLD BOYS, I don’t know what does.

    Fourth off-think about this, what if the young core we over-value here in Edmonton never grow into winners. Then what? It’s hard to imagine because of the depth of despair this team is currently in. Could it get worse?

  • fasteddy

    I can’t believe that people think firing Kevin Lowe or MacT will improve the fortunes of the team on the ice……coaching I can give credence to, but player personnel-wise where have we made tremendous errors? Sure there have been some draft day misses, but that is par for the course for every single pro sports franchise. They elected to go with a strategy of acquiring high end talent via the draft-and given our propensity for being able to do it via free agency in the past, id say it is a strategy that is not misguided. In a salary cap world, with virtually every impact player having some form of no-trade clause, is there really any better way to build an exciting team with some high end talent that can compete?

    • Serious Gord

      What oilers managers have you Been observing for the last eight years?

      The list of errors is almost limitless.

      Horcoff contract
      Every contract under tambo
      Hiring Quinn
      Hiring the current assistants
      Hiring Craig Simpson as an assistant

      – enough I can’t go on with this list – it truly is amazing how bad they have been…

      • fasteddy

        I was referring to player personnel blunders…..and as bad as the Horcoff contract turned out to be, no one was screaming about it at the time. In fact I believe the case could be made that not having Horcoff this year has shown he was pretty valuable even without putting up decent scoring numbers. He played all the tough minutes, that’s not the sign of a useless player.

  • Spydyr

    I can tell you this…………….

    After Kassian mocked Gagner in our last matchup the Oilers better have a response of some sort planned.

    This team is a joke. But if they don’t come out and deal with Kassian then they are not worth another penny of my money. I will be done with the team for the rest of the year. I will give my seasons tickets to charity and at the end of the year I will decide if I want to be associated with this bunch of losers for another season

    It’s your move Oilers.

    P.S. Eff you Katz

  • Oilerz4life

    Thought maybe with the growing hostility of Oiler fans toward Lowe that his time was growing short and he would be let go. Doesn’t look like that is going to happen. Only in Edmonton is the incompetence allowed to just go on and on.

    • Serious Gord

      I see it differently. Very often the public defense of management by ownership is shortly followed by termination of that manager. If the oil continue to do poorly and if the response to this letter by season ticket holders and advertisers is nil or more likely even more rage/bile towards Lowe (and Katz for not firing him) the. Katz may indeed take the next step and remove Klowe as POHO.

      The pressure needs to continue. A public protest(s) at the next home game loss would help.

  • Spydyr

    Open letter to Mr.Katz:

    When are you going to build the new 150 million arena for the U of A you promised?

    Or was that the same load of crap this letter is?

  • redhot1

    What Oiler fan accepts this apology? Like, seriously. If you know one, serious (knowledgeable), Oiler fan who appreciates what Katz is saying, trash this comment. Because anyone who knows anything about professional hockey nowadays, realizes this is a fluff piece, with no substance behind it.

    • Kr55

      Is it an apology? Seems more like a “we hear what you’re saying and we don’t like losing either, but no solutions any of you think will fix the issues will work, you just need to wait” message.

      Just more of the “we’re smarter than you” message and that Lowe and MacT have been using (even though it doesn’t matter that they’re smarter than us, it matters that they are behind the curve compared to almost the entire rest of the NHL). And more of the asking for us to be patient and wait for Lowe’s genius plan to finally work.

  • S cottV

    Coming out with this letter will only bring hostility against Katz and his right hand man Chemical Ali or Kevin Lowe. Its more propaganda BS. the fans do not buy it anymore. Wake up Katz and smell the beans. The entire hockey world is laughing at the gaffes of this organization and some creepy crush going on with Lowe. On top of that he puts all the attention on Mac T as long as Lowe is safe. Stop supporting this team in any financial way. This letter has made the fan base more angry because accountability will not be held. I hope Cal Nichols writes a letter to Katz and tells him how to run a professional sports team. The organization was respected across the boards by players and staff. Now its a bunch of “OG’s” talking sh#%. What a pathetic effin letter!

    • Lowe But Now High Expectations

      Actually, it reminds me more of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi propaganda minister (Baghdad Bob) who kept telling reporters the war was being won decisively. This is the biggest pile of crap I’ve seen since I visited my cousin’s cattle farm.

  • Sorensenator

    As long as the Oilers are losing, short-sighted fans will continue to find someone to blame. The fact of the matter is.. the team isn’t very good – they have too many of the same type of player and the defense is the worst in the league. The Oilers moved in the right direction by drafting Darnell Nurse and picking up Ference and Perron. On paper they should have been a better team but for whatever reason they are far worse. Eakins has not done the best job in my opinion but firing Lowe won’t turn this team around anytime soon. Mac T has a lot more work left to do this year and let me tell you… he ain’t done. Two top four defenseman and another depth center position will do wonders for this team.

    Hemsky, Gagner, Yakupov, Petry, and Jones plus possibly our 1st overall pick may get us what we need. Eberle is a possibility but only if we can acquire a top two D man.

  • Rick Stroppel

    POOR LITTLE RICH BOY WANTS TO BE LOVED

    These people are going nowhere because they all love each other, because they are all basically the same person: Katz, MacTavish, Lowe, Eakins. They are conceited, arrogant, and not nearly as good at what they do as they think.

    Katz in particular strikes me as a person who does not have a genuine friend in the world, just a collection of parasites who suck up to him because he is rich.

    This “letter” was obviously written by very expensive PR flacks (who Katz should fire).

    So let’s all stop wasting our time suggesting that Katz fire this person or that. Can you take another 4-5 years of losing (ie no playoffs) while these clowns try to figure out what 26 other franchises figured out a long time ago? Speaking for myself, honestly, I do not know.

  • Serious Gord

    It seems clear now that the only thing fans can do is walk away. Clearly Katz doesn’t give a crap about the fanbase. Pay your annual season ticket invoice and shut up. I think sadly you either pay through the nose for an embarrassing product or walk away. Empty seats may wake Katz up. On the other hand he may be just that obtuse.

    I see this insulting and patronizing gesture as something that may really piss people off even worse than before he sent that little love-note.

    • The Soup Fascist

      “Hoozonphirst, Did you just call Warden Katz “obtuse”?

      Son, you’re forgetting yourself.

      And don’t ever mention money to him again! A month in the hole!”

      …. with apologies to The Shawshank Redemption

  • ubermiguel

    This letter should have been written AFTER six rings stepped up and apologized for the length of time this rebuild to see taking.

    I’m as frustrated as the next guy, but really… what can we expect to change with the on ice product? There are no top defencemen available who EVER consider coming to Edmonton. There is nothing to do but accept this brutal team for what it is. I want Lowe gone as much as the next guy, but another poho could come in amd decide he doesn’t like the direction and we’d likely have to start all over. There are no trades available that will immediately put this team into playoff contention.

    That is all

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

    An Open Letter to Daryl Katz:

    NHL Points Standings – 05/06 Season to Xmas 2013
    1 – Detroit – 871
    2 – San Jose – 854
    3 – Vancouver – 825
    4 – Pittsburgh – 806
    5 – Anaheim – 794
    6 – New Jersey – 784
    7 – Nashville – 775
    8 – Chicago – 773
    9 – Boston – 770
    10 – NYR – 769
    11 – Dallas – 761
    12 – Washington – 761
    13 – Buffalo – 760
    14 – Montreal – 752
    15 – Ottawa – 748
    16 – Calgary – 741
    17 – Minnesota – 726
    18 – Philly – 725
    19 – Carolina – 720
    20 – Los Angeles – 714
    21 – Phoenix – 709
    22 – St. Louis – 708
    23 – Colorado – 693
    24 – Toronto – 682
    25 – Tampa Bay – 678
    26 – WPG/ATL – 674
    27 – Florida – 661
    28 – Columbus – 635
    29 – NYI – 625
    30 – Edmonton – 609

    Kevin Lowe has been at the helm for every one of these years in EDM, and they’re on pace for the basement again. How does he still have a job?

  • It sounds like barring any offer that they can’t refuse, they are for the most part going to wait for the young d-men.

    To really get what they need they’d have to overpay and that might jeopardize the ultimate goal of being a perennial contender.

    The reality of it sucks, but they might be right.

  • S cottV

    Don’t think anyone really expected that Lowe would be fired during the current season, so not much really has changed, other than I think Katz’s letter shows weakness for the Lowe situation – not strength.

    A lot will depend on how the team performs from now until the end of the season.

    If it continues to be real ugly, which it probably will – I really think that Katz will make Lowe a retirement offer that he cannot refuse.

    Risky move on Katz’s part with the letter. Dont think that he has the charisma or is well regarded enough in the community to really sway public opinion.

    So – this may backfire and put himself in a position of having to force his will vs the wishes of the masses, over Lowe and other issues. An owner can do what he wants but there is a price to pay, when there is too much of a gap between his actions and the will of the fans.

  • bazmagoo

    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.