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


  • Oilerz4life

    Of course its pure Public Relations, probably written by somebody in management and run across Katz’s desk to sign. Why would Katz be watching what’s going on in Edmonton from his penthouse perch in Vancouver? And for sure, its likely the consequence of a number of things surfacing at the moment.

    The results of the season ticket holder’s survey has likely opened a few eyes in the front office – enough people have given their indication they are not renewing to worry a few bean counters. Not to mention the cancellation of a few key advertising contracts – most well-managed companies don’t like their name associated with the spit-show laughing stock that the Edmonton Oilers has become around the country.

    Having won just 2 of their last 11 games, and judging from the schedule, unlikely to win more that 2 or 3 of their next 9 before the Olympic break, the crescendo of anger from the fanbase is likely to become deafening.

    I’m sure management is hoping this will calm things down for 2 weeks, and the fans will turn their attention to the Olympics. And if Canada wins a gold, just wait for the blizzard of propaganda that will spew from Oiler HQ – I can see it now – “Kevin Lowe, the architect of Canada’s Gold Medal, knows a thing or 2 about winning, if that’s ever a concern.”

  • fasteddy

    GO SEE ” WOLF ON WALL STREET” AND YOU”LL SEE ALMOST IDENTICAL TYPE SALESPITCHES .Feels like your watching the Oilers management from an inside position . Four years to recognize the rebuild before having to call it that for the next four years . Is there anything you people won’t swallow hook , line and sinker . Go see the show , it is very well done and you’ll see why Katz is perhaps a rich fellow .

  • Kr55

    Management likes to make it sound as if something big is coming and we just need to wait, is Porger coming out of retirement or is Sid the kid coming to play for Oilers, I think not…..so all it sounds like to me is S%^* shovelling.

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

    An interesting thing to think about is what (besides calling out KLowe cause that’s not going to happen) should Katz have said in that letter?….realistically…..

  • Show me da Money

    There could not be a safer way to get your message to the public than to write a letter.

    Katz won’t even chance it to have the great Oilers apologist Stauffer.

    Didn’t he realize that there is a difference being a private business person and owning a sports franchise. Kind of like all the media whores on TMZ who love the publicity but cry when their “privacy” is invaded.

    This letter wasn’t an apology to ticket holders. It was a poor public relations exercise just like how Katz handled the downtown arena.

  • PlayDirty

    Never have so many spoiled brats whined and cried because their team is not very good. Almost sounds as if they all feel entitled to have a good team. Newsflash. You are not entitled.

    Grow up. Sometimes life is hard and you don’t get what you want.

  • PlayDirty

    Who should replace Kevin Lowe at POHO ……

    Bob Nicholson is the best available option to be POHO for the next 10 years.

    Is a CEO right now, and understand how to run an organization.

    +20 years in senior roles running a hockey operation.

    Knows everyone in hockey.

    Worldly and would have senior connections around the world.

    Would have zero connections to the current group, so he could start fresh.

    Great track record, of winning..

    • PlayDirty

      Nicholson would be a reasonable choice. Although I could see a lot of people finding him a little too connected to Lowe thru Team Canada over the years and now that Katz is rubbing some shoulders with that group. How long do you think it would take for people to start crying nepotism over that one?

      . Good think in’.

  • Oilers need to stay the course, but this organization is so painfully prone to lying that I am pretty sure on march 5th I’ll be reading about a trade involving Ebs only to remember Katz saying he was going to stay the course. You sir, are a liar and a cheat.

  • 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.

  • Serious Gord

    I wonder how many players would still be with the organization after 8 year of this type of performance? The good old boys club continues to support poor performance and it is from the top down!

  • Serious Gord

    It sure is obvious the everyday Oil fan and to those of us who listen to the sport talks shows on both stations and for the awesome folks who continuously post their thoughts on this site, we have all had enough of the BS. The responses definitely indicates that Fans are not buying into this letter campaign to keep the little people at bay.

    I have been a fan since their inception and in reality, I’m still am. I am just a burnt fan who has taken all that he wants to take from this organization. Stop with the horse $hit already. We all deserve better than that, no matter what Tier fan you have been classified as.

    Damn frustrating! I am like every other starved Oil fan, I need something positive to cheer on this once proud organization. The letter was just one more slap in the face. I hate being patronized. Lowest (no pun intended) form of skirting around the real issue. The owner, management, all coaches and scouting personnel and players are responsible for this tragic mess we are in.

  • 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.

  • Zarny

    This letter will have no effect.

    The mouth-breathers will never believe it’s anything but armageddon. They’re too busy screaming “we’re all gonna die” to get any perspective. They will continue to hear what they want to hear.

    The rest, while frustrated and disappointed, haven’t lost touch with reality.

  • A-Mc

    Wow. This letter is everything that is wrong with the Oilers. Mac T, I hope you know your days are counted, as clearly by the letter today, Katz is simply being paid for stacking paper clips and getting coffee for everyone in the mornings. Since Katz made it clear it’s the GM who’s accountable, Mac T has exactly until December this year before he’s fired, as they will not be any better than this year, and no qualified GM will want to come here and deal with KBlow at the helm.

    I wonder how the call from KBlow to Katz went. KBlow ” katzy can you do me a favor and tell the fans it’s not my fault, they want me fired and you know no one else will hire 🙁 ”

    Katz” I got it Lowey, I’ll tell them you aren’t involved in the decisions and that if anyone needs to go it’s the GM. You have to make sure to get me another signed jersey by Gretzky though. My son has this girl he likes ”

    KBlow ” anything, just make them stop. I don’t want to work at McDonalds”

  • Serious Gord

    A first rate column by mr staples on the letter here:

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/01/20/edmonton-oilers-owner-daryl-katz-backs-up-kevin-lowe-in-letter/

    As concise a rebuttal as I could imagine. Let’s hope the oilers organization reads it:

    A couple snips – but do be sure to read the whole thing:

    “Since Kevin Lowe became the Oilers head coach in 1999-2000, only one NHL team has had a longer losing streak, the Florida Panthers, with 10 below league average seasons in a row from 2000 to 2011. But while Florida axed its top hockey man six times during that streak, Lowe has risen from coach to general manager to president of hockey operations.”

    “The Oilers results under Katz and Lowe aren’t open to debate. As I’ve said in the past, it’s time for Lowe to take a step back, perhaps to a senior adviser role such as former Bruins GM Harry Sinden did in Boston in 2000.”

    The losing record is real, it’s staggering, and it’s not going to change without the right people in place.

    “Accountability can’t just happen on the ice. It’s got to happen throughout the Oilers organization, including the coaching staff, the development staff, the scouting staff and in management offices. If there are weak links, better candidates need to be found and hired.”

    “Katz’s letter doesn’t make it clear that this issue has been recognized or that it’s going to be addressed. That’s what I would have liked to have seen from the owner.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Rick Stroppel

    HONEST QUESTION, HOPING FOR AN HONEST ANSWER

    Johnathan, after reading the posts here, do you still think that Katz’ letter has “gone at least some distance toward cooling anger”? Or do you think that the majority of posters are just lunatic malcontents?

    I believe the Oilers fan base is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is some of the most passionate fans in professional sport. The curse is some of the most intelligent fans in professional sport. They will not accept any mor

      • Serious Gord

        That letter WAS an apology. This one isn’t.

        And that letter was apologizing for something Katz did.

        This letter is essentially saying Katz is going to do nothing.

        And that is essentially saying he plans on continuing to do what the fanbase has been wanting changed – keeping Lowe as POHO – maintaining the status quo.

        IOW nothing has changed and thus the fans attitude also remains unchanged – and perhaps they are even more agitated than before because of Katz’ retrenchment.