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


  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • “Katz suggests ” stay the coarse”! Is he blind, this Titanic is heading straight for an iceberg, and he wants to stay the coarse.Then again he’s not on the ship, he’s hiding in Vanacouver as well as a PR written letter to save his ticket campaign.

  • Sal-Sational

    I dont think some of the people on here get it. This organization has a really BAD reputation with the players/managers around the league. No matter how much they pay or try they’re not going to Land a Stud D-man or a Goalie. No one wants to play for the “Old Boys Club”. and by the time our D-men in our system get developed, our Forwards (Hall ,RNH, Eberle, Parron, Yakapov) contracts will expire. This team needs a Major Culture change and the only way thats going to happen is if Katz Cleans house.Which Unfortunatley is NOT going to happen.

  • 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.

  • The Last Big Bear

    “How can you show up to work and muster the courage to even look in the eyes of the lobby secretary, the custodial staff, the interns, the VPs, SPs, management, assistant coaches, head coachs, and GM?”

    @ Soccer Steve, I know how Lowe shows up at work without feeling embarrassed, etc.

    When I was on a job with him years ago I found him to be the most conceited, arrogant and full of himself person that I had ever met. That’s how.

    That came across in spades when he immortalized the six rings phrase.

    The guy truly believes all the BS that he spews.

    -30-

  • 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

  • outdoorzguy

    I have been going to most Oiler games since the 1978-79 season, mostly as a season ticket holder, and I have never been angrier or more frustrated than I am right now, like almost everybody else on this site. I sent a very blunt response to the questionaire, as did all the other season ticket holders I know. As JW says, the team has been run incompetently for years and upper management, which includes Katz, has to take responsibility for that. This letter helps, but does not go far enough. I do not think it would be unreasonable to expect no ticket increase for next season, although I doubt that will happen.

    I don’t like Katz one bit, but I am positive he cares about winning and I give him credit for spending freely to try and turn things around. What is unacceptable to me is his failure to fire Kevin Lowe, when Lowe has to be held responsible for the failures. Tambellini deserved to be fired but Lowe hired him and kept him on long after it was obvious he had to go, for example. He also brought in Pat Quinn, who was a total disaster and allowed the firings of Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger, neither of whom deserved to be fired.

    I am an Oiler Lifer, so I won’t be giving up my tickets, which wouldn’t help anyway. I don’t want MacT to panic, but he has to take some serious steps to make next year a very noticeable step up, or he will find the discontent next year to be genuinely massive.

  • I have been going to most Oiler games since the 1978-79 season, mostly as a season ticket holder, and I have never been angrier or more frustrated than I am right now, like almost everybody else on this site. I sent a very blunt response to the questionaire, as did all the other season ticket holders I know. As JW says, the team has been run incompetently for years and upper management, which includes Katz, has to take responsibility for that. This letter helps, but does not go far enough. I do not think it would be unreasonable to expect no ticket increase for next season, although I doubt that will happen.

    I don’t like Katz one bit, but I am positive he cares about winning and I give him credit for spending freely to try and turn things around. What is unacceptable to me is his failure to fire Kevin Lowe, when Lowe has to be held responsible for the failures. Tambellini deserved to be fired but Lowe hired him and kept him on long after it was obvious he had to go, for example. He also brought in Pat Quinn, who was a total disaster and allowed the firings of Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger, neither of whom deserved to be fired.

    I am an Oiler Lifer, so I won’t be giving up my tickets, which wouldn’t help anyway. I don’t want MacT to panic, but he has to take some serious steps to make next year a very noticeable step up, or he will find the discontent next year to be genuinely massive.

  • Rick Stroppel

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • Serious Gord

    I pulled these snippets off of wiki:

    In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving.[1] As an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) worlds.

    In leadership roles,[2] accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.

    “A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct”.[5] Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices; in other words, an absence of accounting means an absence of accountability.”

    And here is what was in the letter:

    “…I hear a lot from fans about accountability, so let’s be clear. We are all accountable. …”

    Those are weasel words.

    By saying everyone is accountable is a way of doing what should be done to complete the accountability circle – the firing of one or more employees. IOW No one is accountable if no one is going to be punished.

    And because no one is being punished the fans rightly will continue to demand someone be held to account. Thus this letter fails in its objectives.

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

      What I took from the letter was that Katz was saying you don’t fire owners….and you don’t fire POHO’s for what happens on the ice. He’s really telling you that Tambellini was fired recently and MacT has just started. And that, over time, if things don’t work out on the ice, MacT will pay the price and that that is about all the accountability you can ever expect to see for on ice performance.

      Not saying I like it but that’s what I get from that part of the letter.

      Strangely enough that’s the way things worked in the companies I worked for over the years too.

      Owners and Board Members simply never get fired. It’s the reason you want to make partner at a law firm or get tenure at a university.

  • Rick Stroppel

    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.

    • Serious Gord

      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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • A-Mc

    It would had been nice if the word “sorry” was in the letter. The lack of apology for years of crappy ownership, retaining buddies instead of hiring real hockey minds – the letter comes off as shallow damage control.

    I’m not saying Katz needed to throw anyone under the bus, just man up and apologize. Glen Grunwald, former GM of the Toronto Raptors actually went out to centre court and apologized in person to the fans. A shame no one in Oilers management can do that.

  • Chainsawz

    I cannot fathom how the person to whom an entire paragraph, in a letter to all Oiler fans everywhere, is dedicated to protecting/backing/excusing said person by the owner of Edmonton Oilers does not immediately resign.

    How can you show up to work and muster the courage to even look in the eyes of the lobby secretary, the custodial staff, the interns, the VPs, SPs, management, assistant coaches, head coachs, and GM?

    And what ‘personal attacks’ does he mean? We’re just telling it like it is.

  • The Last Big Bear

    How have Hockey Canada done in events where Rubber Boots has been involved? I love how Hockey Canada spends our fees. see summer evaluation camp in Calgary to play ball hockey

  • Rob...

    Too many attacks on people that don’t deserve it. Some of you are the equivalent of the guy who gets yelled at by his boss so goes home and kicks his dog.

    Hey Willis, stole this from the interweb to lighten the mood here: A physicist, an engineer, and a statistician go hunting. They see a deer in the distance and the physicist takes the first shot, missing low because in his calculations he assumed he was shooting in a vacuum. The engineer shoots next, raising her rifle too much to account for air resistance, and misses high. The statistician yells, “we got it!”.

  • Tikkanese

    Nowhere in the letter does Katz admit to mistakes being made by the organization. This would have went a long way with the fans in my opinion. If it wasn’t clear to everyone in the past, it should be now…he does not give one iota about the fans and to me, this letter is an insult. Not only does he still need to fire Lowe, he needs to fire his PR guy.