PATIENCE, MY ASS . . .

PatienceMyAss

Every time Edmonton Oilers’ GM Craig MacTavish opens his mouth to preach patience to a fan base that’s already been squeezed of every drop it has to give, I think of the “Patience, my ass, I’m gonna kill something” T-shirt I had as a teenager.

I thought it was funny back then. Fans of the Oilers these days, not so much, and with good reason. Even before the Oilers wrapped up yet another abysmal season with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday to finish 28th with a 24-44-14 record and 62 points, MacTavish took time during a first-intermission interview to voice his optimism and touch on patience again.

I suspect we’ll hear much the same message this week. The only way that won’t happen is if it’s Bob Nicholson or owner Daryl Katz who step to the podium instead of MacTavish to apply the toe tag. Given what we know about how the Oilers conduct their business, what, really, are the chances of seeing significant changes, like what happened in Toronto today?

Despite well-worn sound bites about “being patient” and “bold moves” and the team being “visually better” and being “pissed off,” the crux of MacTavish’s messaging during his two-year tenure has been patience. News flash: fans, having just seen the Oilers set a franchise-low for wins in a full season with 24, are fresh out of patience. They want, and deserve, progress.

The failure to show any – this is the third time the Oilers have managed just 62 points in the nine years since reaching the 2006 Stanley Cup final – might not fully be MacTavish’s fault, but it’s damn sure his problem. I doubt that will prompt him to deviate from the script.

TIME FOR A NEW SCRIPT

Garbage

What will we hear from MacTavish this week? I’d be willing to bet it’ll be more of what we heard last December, just a week before MacTavish fired Dallas Eakins – with some foreshadowing of what’s to come in the opening sentence to that address. To review:

“This availability is not going to satisfy anybody, and that’s not the intention of it,” MacTavish said Dec. 5. “There’s no satisfaction in the situation we find ourselves in currently. That situation, visually to me, we’re a better hockey team.

“When I sit in the press box and watch our team play, visually, we’re a better a better hockey team and I think our most ardent detractors would have to admit that we are a better hockey team visually, but there isn’t any tangible evidence of any of that improvement.

“That’s what so difficult for everybody to swallow, particularly the fans, the faithful fans that flock to Rexall night in and night out to see some material evidence of improvement. There just hasn’t been that level of improvement.”

The last line of what MacTavish said then should be full-stop and nothing less in dictating what should happen in the coming weeks, given the results and the “forensic analysis” fans were promised. I don’t have any faith at all that will be the case. Do you?

I tweeted the following sentiment last night after the loss to the Canucks and I’ll repeat it again: most teams would clean house after nine straight years of missing the playoffs. The Oilers are satisfied to simply move the dirt around and call it progress. 

HERE WE ARE

We’ve dissected, and will continue to do so, all the shortcomings with the way this team has been drafted, developed and coached. We know what the deficiencies in the roster are. We know, after watching the Oilers finish 35 points behind the eighth-place Calgary Flames, how far there is to go, how much work remains to do. It will take years, not weeks or months.

We – as in every writer on this website and all but the most over-the-top optimists in the fan base – also know that real and meaningful change has to begin right at the top with the people who manage the team and trickle down to those who scout the talent and those who develop and coach it. That will involve Katz firing his friends.

Until Katz (or Nicholson with the hammer the boss provides) is willing to do that – taking centre stage in place of MacTavish this week would be a start – the outcome fans have endured the past nine seasons will not significantly change. Firing a scout or two, setting up some hockey ops underling as the fall guy and more rhetoric about optimism and patience won’t be enough.

Sadly, history suggests the Friends of Katz group will stay largely intact and a mind-boggling determination to stick with the status quo at the top is what we’ll get. The Oilers will sell hope and preach patience. Sorry. No sale here. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Ever the Optimist

    the only way we will see progressive change is Katz and everyone else swept out of the office. It starts at top and Katz has no idea on hiring the right people to make this a championship calibre team. He is earning the reputation of being one of the worst owners in professional sports, the Harold Ballard of hockey…in that he cares only about the money he makes and not the product he is putting on and off the ice. Staples’ article about Oilers record since 2009 speaks volumes…we have the worst record overall. It’s nauseating to think we have to put up with this BS year after year…am curious to know if Nicholson has the balls to be critical with this so-called audit…and if he does, whether Katz has any cajones or interest to do something about it. Probably not, because he can’t fire his friends. Come back EIG group, at least Cal Nichols and Co. truly cared about winning.

  • Milhouse Van Ched

    Robin; Listened to an audio clip of Nick Kypreos on the cleaning house in Toronto today. He said today is the new wave NHL which sees the presidents of the league’s teams running the show, and quoted Doug MacLean as calling today’s NHL GM’s, “the fake general managers”.

    Seems to be the case in some markets, but here in Oil Country, the Oilers have painted the picture that Kevin Lowe is not directly involved with the day to day decisions of the hockey club. Hmmm, then why give him the title “President Hockey Operations”? Is MacT a “fake GM’ as MacLean calls today’s GM’s? Is Lowe running the show, or is it a tag-team?

    The only credit you can give Daryl Katz in terms of the Oilers is that he is very loyal to his network of friens – Lowe, MacT and the others.

    Clearly, by being a self made billionaire he has a good business mind and has had to be ruthless at times, but not in the running of his hockey team. As long as fans keep selling out Rexall, fans keep buying Oilers paraphernalia and following the team like they do, there is no urgency in management ever having to be accountable. Its the players and coaches who are resposnsible for this mess!

  • Marc-BigNasty

    In my opinion the franchise is treading water until it can coincide the new building with a playoff spot. I mean, that’s the perfect story line from every business perspective – never mind sports ethics or fan reward. The franchise knows that all will be forgiven, when it does deliver in a shiny new arena that guarantees maximum exposure for the city, the company and the sport.

  • Marc-BigNasty

    it should be hilarious to watch this organization stick with the management team that just had its worse season ever, after 9 seasons out of the playoffs. The gall of this organization is over the top.

  • Marc-BigNasty

    The end of the year press conference isn’t just important to hear what the Oilers player personnel have to say but it’s also a test for the media. The time more now then ever is to step up and give them the hard questions they deserve. I thought the media was suppose to be the voice of the fans? Well it sure doesn’t seem like there representing us very well. Is it time for new media of our generation to step in, who don’t have a long past with Oiler employees?

  • Harry2

    Bang on RB

    Ive said this so many times it makes my head hurt but here it goes again.

    How the hell can anyone pay money to buy anything Oilers at this point!!!!!??

    It just infuriates me to no end knowing that people still financially support this team.

    • hagar

      There is a mass exodus of season ticket holders not renewing for next season.

      I have a feeling we will get to see how far Katz is willing to let things slide pretty soon here.

          • hagar

            On the other hand, a relative is on the waiting list for the new building. He was away on vacation when e-mailed to confirm his spot on the list and didn’t reply in time. He had to plead to get back on the list. Makes me think the list is still significant.

          • Serious Gord

            Anecdotal talk isn’t strong enough evidence for something like this. If there is a waiting List then from a ticket revenue perspective seasons ticket holders not renewing will have no impact. And thus Katz will not be affected.

          • hagar

            Do you think the oilers would tell us if they lost a sizable percentage of their season ticket holders?

            It’s one thing to have people on the waiting list saving a spot for the future rink, paying 50 bucks a year. It’s another when they get the call that they have a spot open for them, and need a check for 8 grand.

            I wish I could see the numbers for next season, I can’t imagine I am the only person that knows people giving up their tickets for next season.

            There are people left and right on this site saying they aren’t renewing for next season. Maybe they are bluffing, I don’t know.

    • Cain

      I have lived in Calgary since 1988 and have always had either an Oiler plate or sticker to proclaim my team. My new truck has neither. Every birthday and Christmas I ask for Oiler wear, hats and misc. This year. NOTHING. This past season I bought a 4 pack. The next season I plan on buying ZERO tickets. When I get dressed in the morning I may come across a long buried Oiler shirt. Or tucked back in the top of the closet is my Oiler hats.I wear no hats, no shirts. Why? Because it is embarrassing. Imagine that when you walk around Calgary with anything Oiler you are struck casts of pity. My Calgary friends dont give me the typical sports banter. They give me apologies and sorrowful looks. That Katz can continue with this management group demonstrates his disdain he has for fans. Do management group have any gauge of how angry the fan base is? WHAT. DISASTER!

  • Oilfaninvan

    I will NEVER forget how my heart sank when the Oilers were almost forced to relocate in the mid-nineties. Having gone through that, it seems strange to criticize an Oiler fan for their blind-faith and continued financial support of their team.

  • oilabroad

    When MacT was hired he talked about patience being out the window, it was time for bold, and moving up the standings, not collecting more draft choices…. here we are 2 years later, and are worse than we were when we started. I am not a MacT hater, but I see no reason to keep him for a single day longer. He has turned over 75% of the roster, so this is his team now and its the worst one in Oilers franchise history.

    There is no defending this man or his record, its time for Katz to do something BOLD!

  • camdog

    If Shultz was released today he would find another NHL job as a d-man at reduced minutes, Ference could also find a job as a number 6-7 d-man, Scrivens and Fasth would be able to find a job as a backup. If Neslon was let go I think he would find a job as an assistant if he wanted it.

    Now if Mact was fired as GM, I don’t think he gets another GM job in the NHL. Just think about that for a minute.

  • M22

    Robin,

    As I was listening to the radio yesterday, I heard the host (team 1260, just before 7:00 pm I think?) mention that an NHL scout had told him off the record that the Oilers pay their scouting staff lower than almost every team in the NHL. Have you heard this? Do you have any insight to this claim?

    This should be brought into the conversation, IF there is any legitimacy to this. If not, I’m happy to leave it alone.

  • Robin,there is not much I want to add to this sorry season [s] that you havnt said here.

    Appreciate your candid comments,during the year and this speaks to many mnay Oiler fans , who have similar opinions and feelings about how this organization has been run into the ground over the past 8 years.

    It would make me happy, but I am not holding my breath to see Nicholson or Katz at the podium instead of Lowe or Mac T.

    The Toronto fans and media have spoke louder.

  • hagar

    I guess if I know 8 people with seasons tickets, and non of them are going to renew them this year, that isn’t very scientific. I am also basing it off all the people on this forum saying they are not renewing as well.

  • Andy7190

    How come Toronto misses the playoffs in their worst season in 70 years and fires the management? Boston could do that too, on Monday. San Jose could be doing it also.

    Vancouver did it last year, and Calgary has done it twice since 2009, the last time they made the playoffs. Vancouver and Calgary are back now.

    But not the Oilers, where 1980s Stanley Cup rings are more valuable than water in a desert, it seems. I don’t understand Katz.

    Lowe, MacTavish, Howson, all the scouts and other player personnel types should be kicked to the curb.

    Hire a new executive and build a new management group devoid of Boys on the Bus cronyism.

    The Fans have suffered enough.

  • SRELIOFAN

    I have followed the Oilers since 1972 when the Alberta Oilers started in the WHA. Match ups with the Chicago Cougars, Las Angeles Sharks, Minnesota Fighting Saints and Winnipeg Jets amongst others. The WHA Oil never enjoyed much on ice success until the team was sold from the Allard/Feldmen/Hunter group to the Pocklington/Skalbania duo in ~ 1977. During the 72 – 77 period the team was managed and often coached by wild Bill Hunter. I don’t know if the NHL would have come to Edmonton if it wasn’t for Hunter in the 70s, but Wild Bill was a disaster as a manager of a professional hockey team trying to compete with the NHL. Bill was great at running senior and junior teams in western leagues where he could do just about everything himself from scouting, recruiting, coaching and managing. But Bill never seemed able to delegate to others and seemed only able to sign ex Oil Kings or Oil Kings rivals. Despite having amongst the most stable ownership in the league the Oilers were never better than mediocre. When the team owner ship changed so did the management and was winning Stanley Cups in a few years.

    I see a lot of parallels with the current situation. I see Kevin Lowe like a modern day Bill Hunter, a guy was out of his league. Hunter had an ownership stake in the WHA Oilers so he wasn’t going anywhere until the ownership changed. It seems the Oil are stuck in a similar place, ownership seems incapable is making the management changes needed. Until this changes, there will not be any significant on-ice improvements.

    • paul wodehouse

      …does that mean Eakins FINALLY gets the Leaf coaching job that he always thought he deserved? Does the new GM kick Kessels ass to the curb where it should be or at least back to a U.S. based team ?

  • i don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but…how does a season ticket holder write that checque to Katz knowing he doesn’t give a sh*t about the unbelievably loyal fans of the Oilers? I’d like to hear from a real sesson ticket holder not some poser. I would feel like an absolute
    sucker sending that money to someone like Katz who doesn’t even live in Alberta. As far as I am concerned he can shove every piece of his shiny new building up his…well, you know the rest. Not one freaking cent is going to come from my pocket apart from my satellite package which Katz should pay me to watch.

  • tealyn

    just for some self inflicted pain, i went to flamesnation…. they have articles about playoff beards and their rookie analysis and their playoff schedule 🙁

  • ubermiguel

    Katz needs to be at the presser front and centre taking the heat he deserves. No more hiding behind his lieutenants, the general needs to answer for his failures. Of course he won’t be there, but he needs to be.

  • hagar

    Well said Robin,thank goodness for Oilersnation and a few other reporters that are not employed by the Oilers organization, those reporters must think we are idiots with the things are getting better crap. I cannot believe how this organization finds new ways to fail, from a owner who obviously does not have his friends running his pharmacy business but feels it is Ok to have his hockey club run by them, to a president who should have resigned years ago but is to stubborn to accept how he has failed the organization. To a inexperienced General Manager who makes mistake after mistake.
    Mac T says there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if there is, I suspect it is another train to run us over again.

    Tier one fan

  • Ever the Optimist

    First of all ty Robin for the year’s worth of articles. I would now like to rant about ownership and management but that would be pointless. Ownership will not be changing any time soon and management won’t change until the team loses money.

    On a more positive note my best hope lies with embarrassment being the motivator for oilers top to bottom. All i ask is of the 4 needed players (2c,1g,2 d) that 2 are brought in this year and we take 3 swings at finding our future top pair dmen. If i see anything close to that i will be happier then anytime since Pronger left town.

    But I think the oilers are a good many more than 2 years from making any real noise and that only RNH will be here when we do start to make the playoffs with any consistency.