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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

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Since the forgettable era that was the mid-1990’s, the Edmonton Oilers have been blessed with fans who have filled their buildings, bought their merchandise and supported the team win or lose – mostly lose these last 13 years – through some dark days. People in this town know the game and they are passionate about it.

The flipside of the fire-in-the-belly support is that when things go badly, as they have in all but one season since the Oilers made it to the 2006 Stanley Cup final, the level of angst and anger in the fan base is there for all to see. These days, right away on social media. I’m not talking about the small percentage of online losers who get off by watching the team fail, who find a way to open a bowel win or lose, because they don’t matter even a little bit.

I’m talking about fans who’ve backed this team for years during the post-Stanley Cup era just waiting for any reason to cheer and to celebrate with almost no return for their financial and emotional investment. They’re pissed, and they should be after watching the Oilers pull an el-foldo of epic proportions on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place Tuesday.

Needing every point they can get to make a push for the playoffs, the Oilers blew a third-period lead for the third straight game on the way to losing their sixth game in a row, this time by giving up five goals in the third period, including a team record four goals in 2:48. The anger is palpable – the jersey toss is back – and while the silver lining is the Oilers somehow remain just three points out of a playoff spot, there are a lot more questions than answers. We have seen this movie a time or two. Here we are.

NOW WHAT?

Dec 13, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his players during a time against the Winnipeg Jets in the third period Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

As somebody who has been around awhile, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest what we’re witnessing now is as bad as it’s been since the awful, overmatched budget teams of the mid-1990’s played in a half-empty rink as owner Peter Pocklington’s financial house of cards collapsed around him. Having been front row for that debacle, I’d say it’s worse now, actually.

This edition of the Oilers has the best player on the planet in Connor McDavid and boasts a magnificent second banana in Leon Draisaitl. Coaches like Teddy Green and Ron Low didn’t have a player that good to throw over the boards.

This team has spent to the salary cap, and above, thanks to fired GM Peter Chiarelli, who wasted money and bungled the job so badly it might take years to make right what is wrong with the roster that he’s put together. In the mid-1990’s Glen Sather had to assemble his rosters with bargain guys who’d play for a ham sandwich.

The Oilers fired Chiarelli. They sacked coach Todd McLellan, just as they showed Pat Quinn and Tom Renney and Ralph Krueger and Dallas Eakins the door, bringing in Ken Hitchcock, who is the third-winningest coach in NHL history. Is Hitch the problem now, or is it that the team doesn’t have anything resembling enough scoring up front, enough depth on defence or a goaltender that can be counted on to make a save when it matters? All the above?

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re spending above the cap and you can’t build a team around McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom that is capable of not only making the playoffs but being a legit Stanley Cup contender, you’re doing it wrong. That much we know. Oilers fans have not seen their team make the playoffs in consecutive years since 1999-2000 and 2000-01 after Cal Nichols and the EIG rode to the rescue and accomplished more with far less money and talent than there is here now.

I wonder, what does owner Daryl Katz think about all of this, given the history of failure during his tenure here? We don’t know because he hasn’t told us. What’s the plan? Is there one? With the Oilers still mathematically in a playoff race and the tickets sold, is Katz even contemplating the need for sweeping changes in hockey ops or is status quo good enough, even if a jersey or two hits the ice along the way?

I’d like to know, and I bet you would too.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • vetinari

    You want to make a statement to Katz and the national media? Pick an upcoming home game to be televised nationally and then NOT GO. Tell others to do the same. Eat the cost of the tickets but let them lose on the parking and concessions. And more importantly, let Rogers broadcast a game in Katz’s new palace with most of the stadium empty. Embarrass Katz and the senior management on national TV. That is how you get their attention…

    • HockeyRooster

      I like the idea of a beautiful but empty Rogers Place on HNIC. How do you convince individuals to do this? My family got tickets to the Sharks game for Christmas. My 8 and 10 year old wouldn’t understand a Katz boycott. They’ve been looking forward to this game since Christmas. And that’s the problem…there are likely thousands of people in the same situation as us. The game they have tickets to might be their only game of the year. Its possible they’ve saved their money for all year for a game (because it costs that much!!).

      I am so sick of watching a losing team. I’m sick of feeling like I care more than the team. As a fan, I (we) deserve better…no doubt about it. But I don’t see a boycott working.

      • vetinari

        And there’s the problem– I don’t want to break someone’s kids’ hearts to see their hero play and that is why you will never see a fully empty Rogers Place. The message may be “don’t go but if you must, wear all black”. It would still look muted on TV next to other empty seats. #hearusnow?

        • CMG30

          The building doesn’t have to be empty for a boycott to work. If families pick up dirt cheap tickets on stubhub then great. You can still refuse to buy merchandise and you can make a show of refusing to patronize Oilers advertisers. A half empty building and kids in deeply discounted seats is still a powerful message. Advertisers facing backlash on social media will do more than anything to make the business side of the Oilers freak out.

      • Harry2

        For those people who really want to go to the game on Feb23rd and want to proteat somehow dont take your seat until the 15:00 mark of the first

        Something along those lines

    • Goaltender Interference

      Just watching McDavid alone is worth the price of admission. I can’t fault anyone for going to the games.

      That being said, I gave up my seats last year, haven’t been to a game this season and haven’t spent a cent on Oilers Merch.

      I won’t ever blame other fans for going – but I sure got tired of giving my money to Katz only to get a square kick to the nuts in return.

    • Drill Bit #97

      Are fans phenomenal in this town? Absolutely! Demanding? Damn right!!! When they built a lead last night, when Talbot made a few big saves, the fans erupted and the building shook. For a fleeting few minutes it was joyous pandemonium. Then…………. inexplicably they just collapsed, looked shell shocked, totally lost. As RB says above, how can you have the skill and drive of a generational talent, the makings of a core and still be SO bad? Can’t clear the zone, make a tape to tape pass, can’t buy a save when needed. We were at the game last night……. $600 shot, plus freezing our butts off scurrying 3 blocks to the game! That’s our last game this season, won’t be going to the last 3 of the sets we have. Will offer them to the nighbour’s kids, but takers may be iffy……. Tickets next season? Not likely……. Does OEG care? Who knows……..

  • KootenayDan

    I won’t throw a sweater or denegrate the players in any way or manner, it is simply not their fault. Connor will not demand a trade or abandon his teammates he has too much class. He is not the only player who suffers from management decisions just ask Nuge. The real question is how does this get better. Katz would love the revenue from playoff hockey so I don’t think he is happy about the situation either. Where does the next gm even start I am at a loss myself and want to give up too but I can’t stop watching. Lots of anger from the fans but what are the solutions?

  • ed from edmonton

    Staples over at the COH has put out a column today that is worth a read. Basically saying that Katz should take the search for a new GM/POHO out of the normal chain of command and hire an outsider to make the selection (Staples considers somebody like Yzerman). Burke is also the type of guy who is needed to help with the selection(s). Staples points out that the latest of the Oil org chart shows MacT as SVPOHO and Sutter as VP Player Personnel. Staples assumes, and I agree, that these guys along with the Oilers version of Yoda also known as the Lord of the Six Rings will be part of the team heading up the search. This along with Nicholson’s statement that the new guy must fit with “Oiler culture” suggests more of the same if something doesn’t change.

    MacT as POHO is rewarding failure.

    • fasteddy

      I’ve always been a MacT apologist, but I can’t disagree with your suggestions. I never thought I’d catch myself saying this but I think Burke is exactly what this team needs. He can take the pressure off of coaches, players, owner, just by being what he is; a blowhard that loves the microphone. Get a numbers-type like Dubas under him and give it a go. Nothing can be worse than results of last 10+ years

    • Prairiechicken

      I just actually read the article too …
      Totally agree wrt having no faith that the current org chart can make the right call for hiring the new GM. None. At all.
      And love his idea about someone like Yzerman. Ya … sadly he won’t take this job, but pay him to consult and basically tell you who to hire. Way more faith in that than lefty Bobby make the call.

  • Wolgar

    Ok ,I’ll say it just give some decent goaltending,Talbot is done,and he has the nerve to stare down the bench and guess what,he starts tomorrow in minny,what a joke

  • Towers-of-dub

    The fact is the bottom half of this team has bailed on McD, Drai and Nuge. Half of the roster has just quit because they know there’s no future in edmonton for them, or they got their long term deals so there’s no reason to try anymore. There’s a lot of jealousy to the attention that McD and Drai get

    • fasteddy

      That’s so ridiculous it doesn’t even warrant a reply. The players are highly tuned, highly paid athletes. You think players at the edge of the roster consciously decide it’s in their best interests to not try?! Get real

      • Towers-of-dub

        no, i just think its a fractured dressing room with some players whose noses are out of joint because they know they’re bit part players on McDavid’s team. It’s obvious watching the team. They don’t care. it doesn’t matter that you’re infatuated with NHL players, it’s obvious watching the game that half the team doesn’t care. Matt Benning has yet to figure out how to play defense. He rarely knows where the puck is, where the players he should be checking is, or his position relative to either, or the net. 3 years he’s been in the league and his game hasn’t improved because he doesn’t care to improve it.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    We have the next Wayne Gretzky period. Plus 3-4 well above average NHL Quality players. After that it is seriously even borderline AHL Quality talent and some perhaps ECHL. Goaltending , I doubt right now in their state of mind either Talbot [ whom I still believe is a decent goalie ] he just needs out of this deep freeze , and Koskinen , I wont even comment on him. There is plain and simple not enough NHL Calibre talent from others , they may no tbe bad people or even player but you cant have 10-12 of them on the same team.

    Thanks Chia – you have ruined this franchise for 2-3 years. And the house plants that you answered to… well yes I have house plants that could make better hockey decisions. Go away Bobby, Kevin , Craig, Scott , all of you. please step into retirement and do the honorable thing for the city you say you love and call home. Just go away, I am tired of being the Cleveland Browns , and even they appear to have figured it out.

    PS – KATZ ! You are a moron. Maybe a rich one but a moron none the less. You are truly a pathetic owner and should be embarrassed. I hope somehow this gets back to you. for all that its worth.

    Go Oilers. you are still my team and love the players , we just have too many pawns and not enough Kings or Queens or Bishops etc.

  • Oiler Al

    If its in the water, its time to drain and flush that big tank.Hopefully, Burger Bob is the first guy down the drain.
    I would include Wayne in this big flush as well.Him and Lowe have the biggest influence on Ronnie Recluse in Malibu.

  • SlaveLake

    I am not defending Katz, but he must be dissapointed. A winning team would garner international interest in his brand as well as huge playoff revenues. I don’t understand though why he hasn’t hired a high level executive with no relation to hockey to evaluate this mess and provide recommendations. Like in the movie Office Space “Tell me about your typical day? And what you do for this company?”

  • CaptainCanada94

    If we are not sellers at the trade deadline, so help my sanity… The goal of trade deadline this year needs to be to attempt to offload as many poor contracts as possible. I dont care if you package lower tier prospects and 3rd or 4th round picks to dump some of these god awful contracts. Hell I’ll give teams a player like Bear or Yamomoto to take on the ugliest of contracts without retaining salary.

    If other GM’s or even half and incompetent as CHIA, we could make some headway.

    Hate to say that if none of the contracts are gone by next year, it will be much of the same.

  • SlaveLake

    The forensic audit. If it happened. Was done by “hockey people” with a huge bias to past success and not future success. If they could prove to me #1 that it was actually done and #2 that it was done by “non biased” people. I would be very surprised. Today I would literally bet my house in Vegas that the “Forensic Audit” was not done, or not done by an unbiased panel of people.

  • SlaveLake

    PS. I like the idea of emailing Bob. And thanks to that poster for the email. But he has a receptionist who filters all those emails out. If you send 1000 emails the best you can hope for is a Receptionist comment saying “fans are angry”.

  • Gravis82

    Not sure if nurse is as good as we are thinking he is. Not a great defender. Needs to be paired with a puck moving d man, who is excellent defensively, but for some reason does not get a lot of points so therefore is inexpensive.

  • The Rookie

    It could take a competent GM 3 years to undo Chiarelli’s last 6 months. Sit on that for a moment. So how long does it take to undo the last 10 years of ineptitude? Asking for a friend.

  • Kaplan

    What’s with trashing the mid-’90s teams? Dougie Weight, Cujo, Todd Marchant, Bill Guerin, even Jason Arnott all played with more grit and heart than this group has recently. Plus, playoff success in the pre-salary cap era? Come on.

  • cityofchampions

    It’s not really the players’ fault that they aren’t skilled enough, most are trying but aside from 5-6 bona fide NHLers there just isn’t enough skill on this team. Over half our current lineup would not be claimed for free on waivers at their current salary level, and yet somehow we are maxed out at the salary cap. If you want to make a statement of dissatisfaction, rather than throwing jerseys on the ice target those at fault for constructing this lineup, which is Oilers’ ownership and management. Stop buying casual tickets and buying beer, concessions or Oiler swag….loss of revenue is the only way to grab the attention of the owner and force change. If there was no cap, Katz could buy his way to respectability, but with a hard cap it is the best-managed teams that succeed and that requires competent scouts, coaches, GMs and senior management. There is no room in a hard-cap league to gift ex-players jobs for life. We need a culture change and that requires getting rid of all the Old Oilers and their hangers-on, and bringing in professional hockey people to oversee all aspects of hockey operations including scouting, player development, cap management, and professional oversight. Rant over.

  • Gary Chalmers

    Is the jersey in the picture a McDavid?…If it is the person that threw that needs his head examined. We are so hard on players as a fan base and media, we have a guy who does volunteer work in the community, represents the team honorably, gives his all every shift, unless he is sick, and in most cases then too, and you throw his jersey on the ice. Have some respect for the player in the jersey, they hate losing, if you cant control your emotions then don’t go to games or watch on TV.

    • Odanada

      Maybe it wasn’t planned out in that respect. Any true Oilers fan does not question what McD brings to the table, but a true Oilers fan can get angry enough to pitch a jersey.
      It would have been perfect if the jersey name was “Nicholson”

      • Since 72

        Why can’t the guys running this web page put the team logos in the correct order???? Visiting teams on the left as per all hockey publications. Way less confusing!!! CMON!

  • munch34m

    It’s all about effort, or in this case lack thereof. Outside of three or four players there doesn’t seem to be a consistent output of effort. The fans see this and jersey tossing ensues. All the fans ever ask for of any of Edmonton’s teams is 100% effort, night in night out, shift after shift effort.

  • CMG30

    It’s just shier arrogance at this point. Nicholson stood up and flat out stated that they’re looking for another guy who fits the ‘Oilers culture’. WTF. Whatever culture is swirling around the head offices needs to be flushed. ‘It’s something in the water’… NO it’s a bunch of dinosaurs haunting the halls who have the owners ear and are ostensibly around to be a ‘brain trust’ but who don’t understand the game 1/10th as well as they think they do.

    At the end of the day, I feel bad for all the players and all the fans. The players don’t deserve jerseys being thrown on the the ice even if they do collapse. The fact is that this organization did not assemble a competitive team and they haven’t for years. Instead of recognizing their ineptitude in understanding how to assemble a team, they keep doubling down on lack of character of the players on the ice. Tmac was fired for many reasons but the main one was that they wanted someone to be harder on the players. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how hard you whip a plowhorse, it will never win the Kentucky derby.

    We are 4 years into the best player on the planet career, we have 2 other centers having career years. We are in a historically weak western conference and we’re still on the outside looking in. It’s up to us now to save this organization. In order to do that more than boycotting games must occur. DO NOT buy Oilers merchandise. Boycott the advertisers who give money or are in some way affiliated with the Oilers. And most of all make a show of it! Tweet when you don’t. Post a picture of yourselves not buying a jersey.

    Connor McDavid deserves better than this garbage organization. Whenever you post about boycotting something make sure you include some kind of caption to the effect that “No merch till Connor gets a team” or “Have Connors back: boycott everything Oilers”

  • Oilersrule

    The waters is well understood symbolically to have the meaning of communication or politics by biblical scholars and it is this meaning I believe Bob was referring to. It is well accepted that for example in revelations when the writer says the Beast rises from the waters, the writers meaning is something rising from the communication of man or the world of politics. If this is to be interpreted this way then I would have to say that what Bob says is somewhat true as there does seem to be a communication breakdown within the organization . Imo ,the way in which to solve this breakdown is hiring an independent consultant that does an internal audit on what is not working as well as an external report identifying key organizational traits that produces success in sports and business . Katz is the owner he then needs to provide this information to an independent arbitrator that will make the hardline decisions to hire a group of managers that have free reign to put in place a group of competent hockey ops that will function professionally and competitively. I do not think having ex Oiler greats within the organization being payed by Katz acting in roles seperate from hockey operations is that much of a problem, as long as their is a complete distinction between hockey ops and entertainment management .

  • DannyGallivan

    We have arguably the three best centers in the league, two of whom are in the top 10 in league scoring and we are not even close to making the playoffs. How does that even happen?

    All we had to do is surround them with reasonably capable wingers. Chaisson should never be moved. Caguila should have never been moved. Most of the rest (for sure keep Pool Party and Khaira) can be moved – as many as possible. We need to add 2 or 3 decent 15-20 goal scorers with speed who will become 20-25 goal scorers playing along our centers. Think about it. RNH playing against 3rd lines……

    The reality is we have to make cap room (Trade or don’t re-sign Talbot $4.2M, Reider $2M, Petrovic $1.95M, Gravel $700K are all free agents this year – Bye Bye now). Trade Kassian, Brodziak, Rattie Cave Manning, Benning – maybe we can get some late round draft picks to package up to get some modest goal scoring. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that anyone will want them. Many of the good quality players in the recent past – Hall, Eb, Maroon, Dubnyk, Schultz, Petrie etc. are all gone for deadwood.

  • DannyGallivan

    BTW: I put some, but not a lot of blame on the players with poor capability – Petrovic, Manning, Brodziak etc, nor the coaches – certainly not Hitch nor McLellan. The blame is squarely on management – past and present – who traded high value assets for the opposite OR rushed young players into the NHL because the cupboard is bare. We are, for all intents and purposes, in the early stages of rebuild with no cap space. Sorry, but that is the truth

  • Slipknot 8

    If Katz really cared Nicholson would be fired too.
    After 6 incredibly long seasons as a ticket holder I’m done….Finished and moving on….I don’t need to tell you how expensive it is to be a season seat holder only that I’m not getting my money’s worth and my dollars would be spent better traveling or upgrading my home.
    This team even with 97-29-93-25-77 and I’ll throw in Larsson as a great start, they are at least 3 years from competitive hockey. By that time, 93 will be gone, 25 might be gone (due to cap & he’s on a bridge)
    This WHOLE upper management from pro scouting to Nicholson needs to go….A forensic audit to ‘culture” to there’s something in the water tells you all you need to…he’s a business man not a hockey man.
    A sad point in all this is the Koskinen deal….If Chiarelli didn’t make that trade & “ the group” did then we know two things…There was an internal power struggle & the “ group” is just as bad if not worse…..singing a back up to a 4.5 million contract….Ask yourselves if A) Koskinen deserved that contract and B) Who on the Oilers thought any of the 30 teams were going to sign him for 4.0 million per year……..That person or persons should have been fired on the spot….
    As for the roster, the next GM must come in and take this heap of pure sh-T over and turn it over….
    How he does it has to go something like this……TELL Lucic to waive his no movement clause… TELL him if he doesn’t he won’t play a single game…..TELL the same thing to Russel & Sekera
    Move Koskinen – Talbot – Manning – Spooner….The next GM HAS to drop all that salary for the Oilers to have ANY chance at getting out of this….
    Positive note…..Boston managed to do it in two years from Chiarelli cap hell he left them in…
    Bad news….draft picks & players like Nurse or Klefbom possibly Larsson will have to go to get the talent to play up front with McDavid….
    Positive – players like Bear & Jones are progressing so maybe with the right GM the team might have a shot at a two year window….