Is the Edmonton market’s focus on prospects contributing to Oilers losses?

Darnell Nurse

On Monday, the managing editor of SBNation’s Oilers website wrote a piece in which he explained that he would no longer be writing prospect profiles because doing so was perpetuating a “prospectophile” culture that excused the failings of the NHL team.

Is he right?

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The argument goes something like this: the Edmonton Oilers have sacrificed the present because of their all-consuming focus on the future. The club loses, but gets away with it because it has shiny prospects to distract the fans. The media covering the team shift to talking about prospects rather than blast the organization. The organization points to the prospects, and gets distracted from the things that matter in the here-and-now.

Derek Zona put it this way:

All of this serves as a giant distraction to the issues at hand, except rather than “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”, it’s “Pay no attention to the lack of player development, inability to acquire and keep NHL players, inability to successfully negotiate contracts, lack of defense, lack of centers and our mismanagement!” “Look over there at the shiny young players!” has become a way of life in Edmonton, so much so that there is a popular radio show and blog devoted solely on the next big thing.

I don’t see it as a theory that holds up to scrutiny.

The Silliness

Early_indoor_ice_rink

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Let’s start by acknowledging how ridiculous it is to draw a line between the kind of fan attention to a team that is right and proper and beneficial and the kind that is wrong and damaging. Hockey is a professional sport; grown men swatting at a rubber disc with sticks. Like all sports, it’s capable of capturing imagination and showing human characters and abilities that transcend its inherent silliness, but like all sports it’s still inherently silly.

So to say, ‘I’m so serious about my NHL team winning and losing that I won’t deign to indulge in the process of tracking which prospects make it and how they do it and where they are now and you shouldn’t either’ is to forget that it’s all goofy. There’s nothing inherently more virtuous in cheering for the success or failure of a team than in cheering for the success or failure of an individual.

Personally, I can’t separate the two. It’s enjoyable for me to track the career progression of some pint-sized forward with incredible skill or some big, plodding defenceman trying to eke enough out of his limited abilities to make the show. It’s enjoyable for me to watch teams good, bad and mediocre improve their lot or win it all. All those individual stories, from the lowliest prospect all the way up to the greatest superstar are intertwined.

Others may disagree; they may feel that keeping track of that goalie playing 20 games in the AHL is totally irrelevant but that following the wins and losses of an NHL club is paramount. That’s their right; one of the great things about sport is that people can appreciate it in different ways. But it’s an arbitrary distinction, and I struggle to understand why anyone would attempt to enforce their view on others.

The Substance

Sweet_success

Is Zona right, though? Is the willingness of Oilers fans to busy themselves with prospects a key reason why the team keeps struggling? I don’t see it; I think he’s confused cause and effect.

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There is a legitimate argument to be made that teams in real hockey markets don’t have the same incentives to win as teams in lesser ones. Those clubs can afford to be more patient with an underperforming coach or G.M. because their fans will tune out less readily and they can afford for more of them to become apathetic. For a team in a smaller market, any stretch of ineffectiveness could erode a fragile fanbase, so they have more incentive to act quickly to right the ship.

So far, so good. But here’s the thing: once one of those extremely popular teams starts struggling, its legion of fans don’t stop consuming hockey news. Prospects and the draft are the most relevant to a team with the assurance of a high pick, but if prospects didn’t exist fans would seek out something else – news on pending free agents, trade rumours, or even just more information on the team in the here-and-now (and as a guy who has written his share of pieces on the Oilers’ No. 5 defenceman in March of a ruined season, let me say that those pieces continue to bafflingly draw traffic). Do some people talk about the draft instead of moaning for the nth year in a row about the state of the team? Sure. Does it matter? I doubt it; teams respond to money well before they respond to moaning, and a guy not buying tickets because he’s watching Oklahoma City on the internet hurts more than a guy buying NHL tickets and booing loudly.

It’s also problematic to assert that people are willing to excuse n years of failure because someone like me writes about Ben Betker. Fans hope; if there aren’t prospects to hope in, people will hope that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins emerges or that Luke Gazdic steps up or that Andrew Ference rebounds. There’s always something to hope for if someone is willing to look hard enough for it. 

The nature of media has changed, and everything – not just hockey, not just sports – is covered in greater depth and with greater frequency than it was even 10 years ago. It’s tempting to conflate that increased coverage with the state of the Oilers, to claim that somehow the former impacted the latter. But this is correlation, not causation; the Oilers happened to go into a tailspin at the same time as the nature of hockey coverage changed dramatically. There’s no reason to believe those dramatic changes caused the Oilers’ failings any more than they caused the success of the Bruins or improved my performance at Diplomacy.

The team and media isn’t creating a market by talking about prospects. The market exists and it demands information about everything and if the team and the established media don’t provide it people will look elsewhere for it.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • BobbyCanuck

    Ed in Edmonton wrote…’The reluctance of the current management to even (apparently) discuss moving a young talent/prospect for immediate help suggest they have not moved past this phase’

    Notice how the collective collectively freaks out when trading one of our golden children is ever brought up.

    Do not understand why…

    RNH is one body check away from ending his career

    Eberle may never learn how to play defense

    Hall, lets just not talk about trading him

    Forget Yak, his tenure in Edmonton will be over sometime this season.

    Oilers Management has done a masterful job (with the help of Edmonton media)of selling the hope for the future…this hope is essential to the psychology of the human condition.

    I have never heard a parent tell a kid, ‘well son, you ain’t that bright, perhaps this job at MacDonalds is the pinnacle of your earning power’

    More often than not what the kid hears is ‘You can become anything you want, the world is your oyster’

    Where would we be without hope? A little gerbil spinning on the wheel, looking but never tasting that carrot of happiness our boss is saying means a raise, or a promotion, or more meaningful work, etc.

    I deal with it by starting to cheer for the other team around half way through the game. Because I can only handle watching the Oilers bumble around for about half an hour

    I am certain that Katz wants a winner, but he wants it on his terms, which is fine, it’s his team. He wants to win the Cup with his friends from the Glory Days, nothing wrong with that.

    I have to be certain about the above, because if that is not the case than Katz is truly going about it all wrong:

    Fact: Season tickets are always sold out, with a waiting line, Katz spends to the cap or at least is willing too.

    If Katz did not care, he would spend to the floor, and realize an additional $20-30M/yr in profit. Katz knows the fans would support the Oilers regardless of performance.If the fans stopped supporting, he will use the tried and true tactic of threatening to re-locate, and the building would yet again be sold out for the foreseeable future. If I was the owner this is exactly what I would do until there was a hit on my bottom line, then perhaps I would try to improve the team, or get the media to convince the fans to re-anti up because “THERE IS HOPE FOR THE FUTURE”. Whichever works on filling the area

    The media would keep pumping the future, because investigative journalism is not really a strong point concerning sports journalists (Except Willis, cause you know, he wrote this article).

    In this society all we have is one vote, and one wallet. If either is used unwisely, the results will not be to your liking.

  • Zarny

    I certainly agree Mr. Zona has confused cause with effect. The Oilers didn’t start losing because fans and media were focusing on prospects and the future. Fans and media focused on prospects and the future because the Oilers were losing. Truth be told, what fans and media focus on has little to no effect on a team’s performance.

    I think the real criticism is that Oiler management’s focus on prospects and the future, instead of the here and now, has contributed to the losses.

    People talk about 8 years out of the playoffs, but the Oilers were not abysmal from 2007-2009 finishing 25th, 19th and 21st. Now that certainly is not good, but it’s not the laughing stock of the league. And I think what is most important is they were consistently trying to get better. They were unsuccessful with UFA signings, the Vanek offer sheet and the Heatley trade, but the focus was on improving the team.

    That changed after the Oilers imploded to 30th place in 2010. They weren’t the first team to do so. Phi cratered from 9th to 30th in 2007. Col went from 10th to 28th in 2009 and from 12th to 29th in 2011. In 2012, Ana and Mtl both nose-dived from 9th and 14th to 25th and 28th respectively.

    The Oilers, however, reacted by doing something I’m not sure any team has ever done. They stopped trying to get better.

    The Oilers didn’t have to “rebuild” to draft Taylor Hall. He was the gift for an unplanned, horrific 2010 season. And it was reasonable to assume the Oilers would be in line for a few more high draft picks in years to come.

    However, instead of focusing on building a roster so that in 2-4 years the Oilers could be competitive with a few young prospects and a team that could support them Tambellini did the opposite. He took his foot off the gas and burned down the house. Oilers’ management became focused on a nondescript future date when Hall and some yet to be named draft picks would carry the team.

    The problem is no competitive team is led and carried exclusively by 18-22 y/o. There are certainly many young players on very good teams who make significant contributions; but they aren’t all the team has.

    When Pit won their Cup their young stars (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, Letang etc) were the ONLY players under 28 y/o. And they weren’t relied on to play the heavy minutes. Chi, Bos and LA were no different. Toews, Kane, Doughty, Seguin didn’t carry their teams. They played significant roles but all were heavily supported by very good players in their prime.

    The Oilers, to date, have left their young players exposed and unsupported. And the results are what should have been expected. MacT’s additions of Perron, Ference, Gordon, Scrivens, Fasth, Fayne, Nikitin and Pouliot are the moves Tambellini should have been making starting in 2010.

    Instead, Tambo stuck his thumb up a** and added nothing while daydreaming about the future. It was undeniably the wrong approach and the reason losses have piled up.

    • Basshole39

      A good synopsis of the situation.

      However implying that Tambo was the sole architect of the time of troubles is an oversimplification. I’m sure the entire management team was aligned with the “plan”, even the ones still remaining with the organization.

      During the 2010 melt down, Stauffer often alluded to the “cathartic” experience that the Oil organization went through. Apparently a decision to start from scratch and build exclusively with young prospects.

      The reluctance of the current management to even (apparently) discuss moving a young talent/prospect for immediate help suggest they have not moved past this phase.

      • Zarny

        Let’s not beat around the bush here; we’re talking about Kevin Lowe.

        My intention wasn’t to absolve Kevin Lowe or anyone else from “Oiler management” of blame.

        Here is the thing though…the day to day task of improving the Oilers’ roster is not Kevin Lowe’s job. It hasn’t been Lowe’s job for over 6 six years now. It’s no different with Brian Burke in Calgary or John Davidson in Columbus or any other POHO. The job of acquiring players for the roster belongs to the General Manager.

        Was Lowe involved in the decision making process? Of course. And I’m sure Lowe, Katz, Tambellini et al were aligned on “the plan” to build through the draft.

        However, considering how active and aggressive Lowe was as a GM and how active MacT has been since becoming GM the argument that Tambellini was carrying out Lowe’s marching orders to do nothing simply doesn’t hold water.

        Tambellini was just really sh*tty at his job. And what Lowe should primarily be held accountable for during that time period is not firing Tambo sooner imo.

        I would add that whatever “cathartic” experience the Oilers’ organization went through the decision to start from scratch and build exclusively with young prospects was flat out misguided and wrong. Not a single team out there was built entirely through the draft with young prospects.

        • Serious Gord

          the red wings and the oilers of the 80s core were all one point prospects and developed form withiin.

          Edmonton needs to draft ,sorry but ufa go where the pussy tells them to go.

          • Zarny

            First, this is 2014 not the ’80s.

            Second, the core is not the team. 4-5 players don’t win a Stanley Cup.

            The Red Wings did draft Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Federov and Lidstrom. They then perennially added players like Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek and Brian Rafalski to win Stanley Cups.

            The Oiler dynasties were lightening in a bottle in that their core was so good they only needed to add players like Ken Linseman, Mike Krushelnyski and Reijo Ruotsalainen to win Stanley Cups.

            LA drafted Kopitar, Brown, Doughty and Quick. They also traded for Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and last year’s Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams.

            Bos drafted Krejci, Lucic, Bergeron and Marchand. They traded for or signed Chara, Rask, Horton, Seidenberg and half their roster to win Stanley Cups.

            Chi drafted Toews, Kane, Bolland, Keith and Seabrook. They traded for or signed Hossa, Sharp, Campbell, Ladd, Oduya, Niemi, Sopul, Versteeg and others to win the Stanley Cup.

            Like I said, no team that wins the Stanley Cup was built entirely through the draft. They all acquired key players via UFA or trade.

          • Serious Gord

            Looking at the 84 oil as an example. The roster was made up of:

            8 amateur draftees (Messier, Anderson, Hunter, Kurri, Lowe, Coffey, Fuhr and Moog);

            2 expansion draftees (Fogolin and Lumley)

            1 WHA priority selection – Gretzky

            6 trades (McClelland, Linseman, Hughes, Lindstrom, Semenko, Kackson)

            and

            4 Free Agents (Pouzar, Conacher, Gregg and Huddy).

            The stars of the team were the draftees give or take what you consider Gretzky. But almost the entire supporting cast were acquired by trade of FA. Of course FAs in 1980s and today re quite a different thing.

    • Basshole39

      I agreed with you until about here;

      “The problem is no competitive team is led and carried exclusively by 18-22 y/o. There are certainly many young players on very good teams who make significant contributions; but they aren’t all the team has”

      “When Pit won their Cup their young stars (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury, Letang etc) were the ONLY players under 28 y/o. And they weren’t relied on to play the heavy minutes.”

      You listed their starting goalie, top 3 centers and one of there top defencemen. Sounds to me they were relied on pretty heavy. Malkin was the conn smythe winner as well, so in actual fact they were the reason they won.

      The only guy you listed I agree with is Seguin. There rest actually counter your point!

      • Zarny

        I disagree. By heavy minutes I’m referring to playing against the oppositions best players in all situations.

        When Pit won the Cup, Letang was not one of their top defensemen. Sergei Gonchar led the team in TOI. He played 3 min more than anyone. Rob Scuderi, Hall Gill and Brooks Orpik all played more minutes than Kris Letang and played against better competion. The 2 D who played against the opposition best players were Scuderi and Gill not Letang. For most of the season and the playoffs Letang was a 2nd or 3rd pairing D who also played on the PP.

        Crosby and Malkin were certainly significant contributors. As I said, many young players on very good teams make significant contributions.

        If you look at player usage however, Crosby’s offensive zone start % was 56.8 and his quality of competition was only 0.432. To put that in perspective, Crosby’s quality of competition was only slightly better than Yakupov’s 0.390 last year. He wasn’t playing against the opposition’s best players and he was getting a significant offensive zone push. That contrasts to last year where Crosby’s QoC was 1.054.

        Malkin’s offensive zone start % in 2009 was 63.7. He played against better competition that Crosby but almost always in an offensive situation.. To put that in perspective, Yakupov’s offensive zone start % last year was 63.9. Even while winning the Conn Smythe Malkin was sheltered from playing the tough minutes.

        Toews and Kane aren’t much different during Chi Cup win in 2010. Kane’s offensive zone start % was 67.4 and his QoC was only 0.662. He was more sheltered than Yakupov last year. Toews played against much better competition but started in the offensive zone 58.8% of the time. The 2 F who played against the best competition were David Bolland and Troy Brouwer.

        Like I said, many young players on very good teams make significant contributions, but they don’t carry the teams by themselves.

        • Basshole39

          The stats you listed are basically what any good coach does, set your best players up against weaker opposition to take advantage of the situation and win the game.

          I just want to be clear though. I don’t care what stats you have, when a guy wins the conn smythe trophy it means you were relied on and delivered when your team needed it.

          Oh and what about Staal who was younger than Crosby and Malkin. Is that the guy who played the toughest opposition?

          If you were to look at the stats for Detroits top players I would be more than willing to bet that their zone starts would also lean more to the offensive side.

          • Zarny

            So basically no matter what the stats say you’ll just go with your biased opinion. Gotcha.

            I just want to be clear though. I stated quite clearly that many young players on very good teams make significant contributions. I would call winning the Conn Smythe fairly significant.

            My point was simply that good teams like Pit, Chi, LA etc were not carried to Stanley Cups solely by their young players nor did those young players play the toughest minutes. Their rosters were/are littered with quality veterans in their prime; many of whom took on the more difficult match-ups against the opposition’s best players so that the young skilled players were set up for success.

            Edmonton has not done this. Hall and Nuge have led the Oilers in QoC the last 2 years in their 3-4th and 2-3rd seasons respectively. As I previously mentioned, at that age Crosby was playing against much easier competition.

            Oh and that Staal brother…no he didn’t play against the opponent’s toughest opposition either. He did get tougher zone starts and just like Crosby and Malkin made significant contributions to the Cup win. But Staal’s QoC was the same as Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy’s in 2009.

            Regarding Detroit’s top players..Datsyuk’s off zone start % last year was 56.4 but Zetterberg’s was only 48.9. The previous year they both got a significant off zone start push. In 2010-11 however, both had off zone start % well below 50%. So you would win or lose that bet depending on the year.

            Oh and no, the stats I listed are not what any good coach does. When Crosby was 21 he was matched up against weaker competition. Today, he plays against the best competition. Anze Kopitar? Plays against the best players in the game. When he was younger he played against much weaker competition. Ryan Getzlaf? Corey Perry? Yep…play against the best players in the game. Jonathan Toews? Played against very good competition during the 2010 Cup win but plays against even better competition now that he’s older.

          • Basshole39

            I am curious, are those zone start and competition stats for the playoffs, what site do you go to find them?(this is a serious question)

            I am gonna have to see it for myself.

  • Serious Gord

    The oilers a selling the future right now because the present is so wretched and the past was even worse. They got burned last year and the year prior building up expectations of a great bounce back season that turned out to be basically as bad as the one before it.

    I seem to recall the rookie Eakins saying that the core players were no longer young – that they were ready to play. I haven’t heard that kind of talk lately.

    The reportage in this market has largely followed suit. Sure the amount of coverage available has mushroomed in the last few years making it necessary for the discussions to broaden into untapped areas like prospects but I think that the oilers market is far and away the market leader in this regard.

    And I think this is both a conscious and unconscious act. Fans want to hear good news (the reception of my posts on this site a prime exhibit). The present situation is anything but. So the talk turns to the glorious future.

    Contrast that to the Montreal hockey market – edmontons only rival in hockey fan intensity. In that market which has entire radio stations call-ins (3 hours long if I recall) devoted to Habs talk 24/7 365 the fans and the reporters talk almost exclusively about the present. And any slump by the team or a player is pounced on and torn at like jackals. Polite oilers fans would be shocked to hear such attacks so used are they to the moderation and polite criticism that they hear and read in this market.

    Perhaps the difference is the size of the market – the Habs have had their team for over a century and are at no risk of losing it and, besides some noise from the former owner mr Gillette, have never been at risk in living memory. Thus it is safe to criticize and there is enough of a fan base that is prepared to criticize to support those in the media who do. Also montrealers are reputed to be fickle – only supporting winners. That certainly can’t be Said of oilers fans.

    Perhaps too it is the attitude of management. Klowe has lashed out at fans and media who criticize. And most of those fans and media cowered and took it. Meanwhile the HOFer bob gainey gets run out of Montreal on a rail for results that were much better than Klowes. (It’s not too difficult to imagine how Klowe would have been treated if he was the Habs GM when he made those comments).

    Lacking enough critical fans to support them in such a small media market as edmonton’s those who are paid to cover the team needing uncritical content and bereft of real good news on the ice turn to the prospects and there certainly seems to be ample evidence of that.

    • Dan 1919

      Well said, I often think one of the main reasons this fiasco continues year after year is because a large portion of the fans accept it.

      This debacle would never fly in a city like Montreal. In the last 15 years they’ve missed the playoffs 4 times, and never twice in a row. They’ve managed to do that all while the rest of the league often expected them to tank or miss the playoffs. They do this because they are well managed and are committed to winning.

      As long as the Oilers are committed to winning “eventually” and the fans buy it, they will never win.

      I’ve been a MacT fan so far, but for them to go into the season with this C group hoping for the best is just reckless. Hopefully he proves me wrong and they light it up, or maybe the market has dried up and he’ll look to make a deal early on in the season. If that’s not the case though and they’re just gambling on this group to cut it and if they fail, I will think it’s time for Katz to cut loose the entire Lowe administration and start with completely fresh management to try and salvage this rebuild before it’s too late.

  • camdog

    Two more years of no more playoffs and the Oilers will share the record for longest run out of the playoffs in NHL history. How long before the Edmonton media starts discussing the real issues is anybodies guess???

    • A-Mc

      At that point fans will attend games to cheer on the timbits hockey games during intermission, and use NHL playtime to go to the pisser and grab another beer.

      LOVES ME SOME TIMBITS HOCKEY!

  • Leef O'Golin

    I don’t see sweaters thrown on the ice in any other rink.

    We Oilers fans realize that poor drafting and a crappy development system caused our current problems. Of course we’re going to be fixated on the solution. If we pay no attention to the prospects how does that make the team better?

    • Serious Gord

      Were it 9000 sweaters i would agree. The fanbase in edm is much more tolerant of failure than many other markets. And were a team like the habs as bad for as long as the oil have been the fan reaction would have been far, far worse.

    • Fans don’t throw sweaters on the ice in other rinks because if the team has been as bad as the oilers have been, for as long, the fans simply stop going. There really are only 3 teams in the league that could continually sell out their arenas, regardless of how the team performs. Montreal, Toronto, and Edmonton. Realistically, though, i wouldn’t be surprised if Oilers sweaters are thrown on the ice in other rinks this season, considering how many Oilers fans go to games in Anaheim & Phoenix.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I think we really became an organization when we hired mac-t. for the last 6 or 7 years we’ve watched our gms trade any player of value for pretty much nothing. the rest of the time they were just sitting on their hands waiting for the kids to become good players. We really look like we’re headed in the right direction and we can say our team looks better than it has since 05-06. my optimism is only from watching mac-t work his magic and kats buying us an echl team. prospects are great but we have never developed them. i think we finally have a solid team in the ahl to develop our guys and the echl team will help too.

    i dont think fans focusing on prospects makes our team worse. these guys want to win. eventually we will see guys like getzlaf,perry,thornton,marleau,d/h sedin and even guys on the kings begin to go downhill. when they do, the oilers will be hitting their prime.

    as for calgary, i think theyre at the stage we were at where we thought gags,cogliano and nilson was a sick top line. monahan is their gagner. blind optimism.

    the future is bright for us and dark for most teams. prospects will help us make trades for rentals down the road and to fill in positions cheaply.

    • Serious Gord

      I really don’t get why so many oil fans think MacT was some kind of turning point – that he will be a good GM.

      Based on what?

      He has had zero experience at any level being GM.

      Nowhere in his adult career has he been a negotiator or contract designer.

      The only card I have ever heard played that many point to is that he has an MBA.

      But that is played by people who do not know the difference between an Executive MBA which is what MAct has and a REAL MBA that is far more intense and far harder to even be accepted into.

      He may indeed become an decent GM. The evidence so far is at the very best inconclusive. But to flatly say that “I think we really became an organization when we hired mac-t.” is completely without basis and thus merit.

      If anything the lack of a corporate search process and that he is solidly in the old boy camp and top ranking FOKK would indicate that ABSOLUTELY nothing has changed.

  • 916oiler

    Long time reader first time poster. I have been reading OilersNation, CoppernBlue, and a good chunk of the oilogosphere for almost 5 years (my wife teases me about reading my “celebrity gossip sites”) and I have never posted on them before. Jonathan I really appreciate the level of self awareness in your comment “
    I acknowledge the silliness of my obsession in reading articles about the trials of the 20th prospect in our system but like so many others I cannot pull myself away from my belovedly infuriating Oilers. It is part of my daily distraction. However, I cannot seem to understand the animosity displayed by ON towards CnB. This has been going on for a long time (well before Derek Zona was managing editor) since atleast when CnB was removed from the blogroll. Is it the competition of the site or is there a story I am unaware of? Yes, CnB has been extremely negative for the last few years but in their defence our team has been an incompetent joke with finishes of 30th, 30th, 29th, 22nd, and 28th. In each of those seasons the predictions at ON have run from barely making the playoffs to being just outside. CnB has consistently had the clarity to show call out how bad our team really is and this is why I keep reading it despite its intense negativity. I am disappointed that the first article on ON that comments on something from CnB is aimed at what is clearly a venting of frustration from Zona. We should all be venting our frustration! Our team sucks, the management has been nothing but incompetent (Sorry, but I don’t buy that a Tampa castoff, career journeyman, and a Columbus Castoff! will be a huge improvement), and we have been treated like garbage by the organization (proud tier two fan here).
    I love ON, Willis and Lowetide are two of my very favourite writers, Brownlee is perfect as the cranky experienced uncle, Strudwick brings an insider perspective I enjoy and Gregor is wonderfully balanced. However, it seems like there is an unspoken code at ON to not be too harsh or negative when being critical of the Oilers even when calling them out which has hurt its credibility when the team has been bad enough that the NHL has changed its draft rules in response! I especially found it funny this summer when much of ON celebrated the hiring of Tyler Dellow because he was similarly ostracized by this site for being to negative until lowetide came on staff.

    • Serious Gord

      Exactly. Blaming fans and media for the Oilers woes is wrong. I’m a season ticket holder and while I read about guys like Nurse etc, I don’t believe they will solve the issue.

      Gregor wrote an article a year or so ago outlining the % a draft pick has to make the NHL. After the 1st round it was about 12%. So I don’t believe that Lowetide, Willis, Flaming or others who write a lot about prospects are making me dream of the future and blindly support the Oilers.

      The Oilers stink because they draft wingers in the first round. I’ve seen Gregor, Rishaug, Spector and others rip them about this and other things, but once the drafting is done, there is nothing fans or media can do. The Oilers always believe they are right.

      I go to games because it is a fun night out, and I hope for the return of a competitive team, but don’t insult me by saying my reading of an article about Nurse or other kids is why I support them. Zona and his site has zero impact on pro sports or how I spend my money. I don’t know why Willis would even mention them, unless he’s trying to get them some attention.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        ^i think the scouting staff, led by Stu “the not so magnificent *astard” MacGregor is part of the problem when it comes to drafting players. while i think he has done a good job with the 1st round picks, where he and his staff have seemingly failed is from the 2nd round on, with a few exceptions like Marincin, a lot of their picks haven’t yet made any sort of impact and may never do so.

      • Rob...

        “The Oilers stink because they draft wingers in the first round.”

        If that was a problem it appears to have been fixed. I don’t think you can argue strongly that Hall was the wrong choice in 2010. That leaves you with Yakupov as the only winger chosen in the last 5 years where another option could have been considered.

        2014: Draisaitl (C)
        2013: Nurse (D)
        2012: Yakupov (WINGER)
        2011: Hopkins (C)
        2010: Taylor Hall (WINGER)

  • Zarny

    You gotta admit the best thing the oilers have going for them is how exceedingly terrible they are and have been. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in management. The fact that KLowe is still employed will never cease to amaze me.

    • Zarny

      If it wasn’t for KLowe at the GM helm for a while, the Oilers wouldn’t have been in a position to get those number 1 draft picks. He really made the Oilers what they are today! LOL

  • I’m with Zona in that the Oilers organization is obsessed with the future to the point that they’ve forgotten that you are supposed to actually compete in the here an now. Its been 5 years since this team actually tried to make the playoffs. And it sounds like Mact is ready to make it 6.

    Furthermore, the organization absolutely promotes their shiney toys to distract, that and hold 80s reunions.

    In short, its all management’s fault.

    • Serious Gord

      I think that the pressure on oil management to get results right now is (amazingly) lower than almost every other franchise in the league. That is a function of the attitude of the fans and media as well as the type of owner.

      Without the right now pressure, management (and fans and media and the owner) has turned a significant portion of its attention to the future. Compare that to a market like philadelphia – where the polar opposite situation exists.

      In short the primary blame does indeed rest on management, but that they aren’t being held accountable by fans, media and ownership is a big reason why they are engaging in such behavior

      • PlayDirty

        I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying here Gord. Using the Flyers’ example you’ve given is interesting because, I agree the two teams are polar opposites. Philly has been banking on the here and now since ’75 and they haven’t been any closer to winning the Cup than the Oilers in the past 20+ years. The Oilers ‘tried’ to win for several years until formally pressing the reset button in ’10 (or whenever you want to define it).

        Oilers management took a gamble and made a pitch to the fans that we’ve hung on to and, right or wrong, they’ve stuck to their plan.

        Realistically, who is more likely to win the Cup next? It won’t happen this year, but I’d argue the Oilers are more likely to bring the Cup to Edmonton within the next 10 years than Philly. 1 Cup victory may be worth years of ineptitude.

        • Nomad787

          One thing about the Flyers is they don’t talk about bold moves, they do bold moves.

          There seems to be one similarity about the organizations. Clarke is a fixture with the Flyers for as long as he wants and the team’s performance does not impact his job security. Much like K Lowe here. Unfortunate for both teams.

          • PlayDirty

            Pardon the delayed response…

            Bold moves? Sure. But did trading Carter, Richards etc. get them any closer to a Cup?

            Making moves simply for the sake of making moves gives people something to talk about but often little else.

            I’m not as adverse to the loyalty shown to these hall of famers as most people, although they may fit more appropriately as general advisors where the value they bring is in more of a PR function.

      • Serious Gord

        We, the fans, did give the organization the green lite to go full rebuild, so we are partly responsible. But, i think many (myself included) thought that meant 2 years, and that they would actually ‘build’ along the way, not just sit on your hads and draft your entire 23 man roster.

        The concept of a rebuild was fine. The way they initiated it couldn’t have been worse.

        And I do agree that the organization is comfortable because they know they will always make money, and if they are in the loop they will never be held accountable.

        Anyone who doubts this is deluding themselves.

  • Serious Gord

    This is still Tams team , and he is responsible for our core of youth . The only significant piece MacT. has bought on board to date is Perron . I repeat significant . Even MacT.’s drafts have yet to crack the lineup , and that may continue this year . MacT. has quite a way to go before he passes the good that Tams left our team with . At the rate of only one significant addition a year , our climb to playoffs could be a few years away yet . How many significant additions will this year provide , if any ? Changes have to be productive not status quo or reductions .

    • Serious Gord

      dubnyk wasn’t important?

      how about gagner?

      and no action on 1/2 c and 1/2 d?

      Take a look at the top two lines at forward and def and in net this season compared to when tambellini was around. There has been huge change already. this is mact’s/klowes team.

    • Zarny

      Yes in many ways this still is Tambo’s team.

      The gaping holes at C are because of Tambo.

      The lack of size in the top 6 F is because of Tambo.

      The lack of depth in G and the need to go get Scrivens and Fasth last year was because of Tambo.

      The abysmal blueline last year is because of Tambo.

      The dearth of NHL caliber players on the 4th line last year was because of Tambo.

      The reality is the ONLY thing Tambellini accomplished during his reign of error was drafting three #1 picks overall. And it’s arguable he got 1-2 of those 3 picks wrong.

      Everything and everyone else Tambellini brought in failed. He is possibly the worst GM in the history of the NHL…including Mike Milbury.

      • Zarny

        Gaping holes at center after Mact. rid us of Horcoff and Gagner (flip flop of MacT.’s if you remember ) for Landers and Arco . Hemsky for Purcell is another downgrade . Since when did Tams become the whipping boy for Grebs ,Ference Belov , Larsen and Fraser just to name a few ? Goaltending may not be any better with two backups to be honest . Your giving Tams a lot of credit for doing what MacT. done to this club . Was Hendriks , Pinzotto , Gazdik and Gordon all Mact. acquisitions and not Tams ? All I was saying is the good that is still on squad is basically what Tams has left us beyond Perron so far .

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    @Serious Gord….there’s no pressure on management from Katz and that’s the problem….no accountability. until there is, the old boys club will continue to suffer no consequences whatsoever for lack of success.

    • ubermiguel

      I’ve mentioned it before on ON but I really think Katz is a big part of the problem mainly for the reason you mentioned. Until he can get over the hero-worship and hold the old boys accountable nothing will change.

  • 2004Z06

    The fact that fans come out in droves every year to celebrate picking in the top 5 combined with a sellout every game and a season ticket holder waiting list speaks volumes about how focused this city is on shiny new prospects and the promise of a better future.

    I strongly believe that the fan base’s failure to impact the profitability of this team has directly resulted a lack of urgency to improve.

    Keep writing those cheques folks!

    • Basshole39

      And has also provided the option to be able to take in an NHL in this fine city still.

      Thats your answer stop going and all will improve!! Ask Atlanta Twice how that works, ask Minnisota once how that works! That is how you run the Oilers out of town never to return.

      GREAT ANSWER!

      Its ok though we can just change this to Oil Kings nation and all will be well!

      • 2004Z06

        This is Edmonton not Atlanta. This market is the 6th highest grossing market in the NHL. Anyone that thinks Bettman is allowing the Oilers to leave this market is a fool!

        The Oilers are not going anywhere if the fans boycott a few games or the season ticket holder base declines, but it does send a message to ownership that the sale of hope is no longer the business plan.

        If by some catastrophic event the Oilers were moved, an NHL team would be back here within months. It is that important to the league.

        Lay off the melodrama. It has been widely reported that the biggest fear of ownership is fan indifference.

        Let me ask you a question? If Sportsnet broadcast 1 home game wherein only 10,000 seats were filled, do you not think a clear message would be sent to Katz? My god man Toronto and Vancouver fans had 2 coaches and a GM axed in a matter of one week and they haven’t suffered one tenth of the frustration that we have over the last 8 years.

        And for the record, I support Mac T completely, but to say that the fans have nothing to do with this extended run of ineptitude is asinine.

        • Basshole39

          First you made it sound like we just stop going all together, and no I do not believe one or 2 games at 2/3 capacity will make any difference at all. We are talking about a billionaire with his toy.

          If they move it would be more along the lines of the Winnipeg hiatus not months, who’s being foodlish now.

          Am I the only one who remembers all the talk about how this team is going to be torn down and rebuilt through the draft?

          It takes years to do that. Chi 7 years, Pits 6 years. If you get impatient and give up now you end up like the Islanders or Florida just perpetually rebuilding.

          I for one have tempered expectations of how long this rebuild will actually take and am fully prepared knowing that it should put us in contention for a decade when we get there. Until we get there I am still going to go to games and cheer on my Oilers, I will boo on occassion, but I am not going to get bent out of shape because I have unrealistic expectations!

          • 2004Z06

            I fully supported and understood the concept of a rebuild. While it can be debated when the “official” rebuild started, what cannot be debated is the lack of progress under current ownership.

            I am not expecting a Stanley Cup, but I am expecting continuous improvement. This team has shown no progress and has in fact regressed in many areas.

            I would offer we may already be in the same conversation as the Islanders and Florida.

            I also disagree with your Winnipeg comparison. Winnipeg did not have a brand new state of the art arena being built, nor did they have a comparable fan base in numbers as the Oilers when they left.

            Appreciate your opinion though…even with the snide comments thrown in.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^i’d rather keep supporting a loser and sell the place out every year no matter how bad the team is, like Leaf fans do, then spend a winter in this city without the Oilers. i like and support the Oil Kings, but it’s just not the same as NHL hockey! we’ll get better eventually, i have faith in MacT (only).

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    SB Nation is one of my least favorite hockey sites and, although some of it is justified, i find that Zona is a chronic complainer, and that no matter what the Oiler try to do to improve, it’s never enough. for this reason, i have never commented there and i no longer read much from that site.

  • ubermiguel

    As a fan I’m constantly drawn to the future because the present sucks………..it’s not the other way around.

    When the Oilers were winning back in the Gretzky years, nobody talked about the prospects!

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Do any of their writers even live in Edmonton?? Yep I’m ok not reading filler material by people who are less plugged into the team then I am. JW however please keep it coming

  • Serious Gord

    My thoughts… in Edmonton, the Oilers are a hot topic, win or lose. Either way, watercooler discussion… “Did you see that game/hit/snipe/etc last night?!” Once that discussion wanes, the demand for access to the games will as well. The Oilers have a waiting list of people or companies hoping to buy season tickets. As long as there is hope for the future, people are reluctant to give up their season seats. Once that happens, and the waiting list is gone, that perceived shortage of supply in the supply/demand equation is eliminated. Naturally, our interest will falter. Classic situation of everybody wanting the same thing. If nobody else wants it, you don’t want it either. If the team isn’t successful now, then the “prospect” of success will ensure reluctance to give up. Bottom line, keep telling the fans how bright the future is and demand for seats to existing games will remain high. IF the cupboard was bare, how many Oiler season ticket holders would walk away?

  • The Soup Fascist

    Zona’s article is a bit patronizing. He seems to be portraying the Oilers “fan” – or by extension, any fan of a sports team – as an idiot, mezmerized by a shiny object while his wallet is being stolen. I don’t think on a general basis that is true.

    It is possible to rationally believe in keeping the future of the team intact while insisting that a competitive team is put on the ice presently. It is just as it is fair to say that the Oilers have NOT accomplished this goal in recent years.

    Just because I strongly believe the Oilers should not trade a Nail Yakupov or an RNH for a Joe Thornton type, does not mean I can’t be critical of some of the decisions the Oilers management have made and suggest that they need to find a reasonable facsimilie of an NHL 2C defore the season starts.

    Most of us are able to rationalize these issues, discuss the actions of management and realize that there is a balancing act between being competitive now as well as in the future.

  • ubermiguel

    Count me in as a guy that started following development leagues in part because the Oilers sucked. Five years ago I couldn’t tell you the difference between the AHL or WHL. Now I’m more excited I’m going to the Oil King’s home opener than any Oilers game this year.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      I’m with ya. I’ve gone many Oiler rookies vs Golden Bears games, but this time I will be going to see the bears moreso than to so the Oiler rookies.

      And I’m all over the Oilkings. they are now ‘my’ team, moreso than the Oilers and it will remain that will until the Oilers win me back.

      the Oilers are like the Bluejays and Raptors to me now. My team that I only moderataly follow. I just can’t take them seriously, because they are not a serious organization.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      it’s to the point for me that i just watch all the Oil’s games on TV and spend my hard earned cash on Oil Kings tix, and not just because they are winning….i was in the stands a lot when they weren’t too, but i find the kids give me great value for the money and really put out hard each game. can’t say i have always felt the same with the Oilers.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Zona’s “article” was pointless, as has anything he has posted in the last year over at Copper n’ Blue. I have no idea why he is still the managing editor. I clicked on his article by mistake not noticing Zona was the one who penned it. I go over to Copper n’ Blue for Scott Reynolds (although he rarely writes any more), I don’t mind Batty & Hull they although have become almost too negative & I go there because of the Top 25 Under 25.

    I enjoy the Top 25 Under 25, I think it’s one of the best series of articles out there. Good organizations and sports markets (football, baseball, hockey) focus on prospects and the draft. If the Oilers win the Stanley Cup, I will still follow the prospects just like I did back in the 80’s although information was harder to find.

    It’s too bad that we are actually talking about an irrelevant post by, in my opinion, an irrelevant contributor to the Oilogosphere.

  • ubermiguel

    As with any media, the focal point is ‘anything of interest’. At the moment, the only thing of interest with the Oilers are the prospects. In the 80’s, all you would read about was Gretzky and his incredible records, Fuhr and his ability to limit the goals against to 6 when needed, and how tough Semenko was. There was no need to discuss the pipeline. Hopefully, in 2-3 years we are talking about Hall’s amazing 98 point year, Nuge’s ninja ability to back check, Nurse’s mean streak, and Yak’s 43 goals. And as a footnote, the Oilers are drafting in 23 position…