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The Way I See It

Whether you’re talking hockey, business or anything else in life, I’ve always put a lot more faith in people who tend to under-promise and over-deliver than those with a track record of doing the opposite. I suppose you can put that approach in the “talk is cheap” category.

In that regard, the Edmonton Oilers have been doing it so wrong for so long in so many areas, it’s no wonder their fan base, one that has been unquestionably loyal, is eroding as year upon year of failure pile up. Nothing will ever change that as much as winning will. Again, talk is cheap, but until they get to that point, being straight with the people who pay the tab is a start.

The media availability CEO Bob Nicholson had last Monday seemed like as good a place as any to start. Nicholson addressed that directly in one of his answers, saying that the team was going to be more transparent, more upfront about things. Instead of starting down that welcome road later in the week addressing the status of the knee injury to Connor McDavid, only the best player on the planet, the Oilers went the other way and issued one of the lamest, say-nothing updates ever delivered.

It was, to say the least, a disappointing juxtaposition — even allowing for the fact no team shares every detail about hockey ops or injuries to players. That doesn’t happen. In this case, though, with the Oilers out of the playoffs, the Oilers could have and should have played it straight. The season is over. It’s not like they’d be supplying a potential post-season opponent with any intel — a tear of the posterior-cruciate ligament — about their franchise player. It was an opportunity lost to deliver on what Nicholson has talked about earlier in the week.

TALK IS CHEAP

“We have to give the fans a plan and we have to make sure the fans understand the plan,” he said. “It starts right away, as soon as the general manager is in place. We have to make sure that we’re getting that out in front of everyone. The one thing I can tell you is we’re going to be a much more open organization in terms of communication in all different ways. We’ve got to clarify what that is but we want the fans to feel more part of day-to-day operations of OEG in all areas, and that includes hockey.”

That was followed on Friday by a news release:

CONNOR MCDAVID INJURY UPDATE

(Edmonton, AB) – Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid was injured during a game on April 6th in Calgary.

The Edmonton Oilers medical staff, in collaboration with top orthopedic specialists, have determined a rehabilitation protocol for Connor which will begin immediately. 

It wasn’t until reporters started digging around that we found out about the tear to the PCL. Again, with the season over, there was no chance of providing any useable information to other teams by providing a meaningful update about the injury. There was a chance, however, to provide fans the transparency Nicholson was promising just days earlier. No cigar. They blew it.

I don’t think that’s nit-picking, but even if it is, the Oilers have brought a higher level of scrutiny on themselves. Nicholson is asking fans to believe that he is willing to move heaven and earth to find a replacement for fired GM Peter Chiarelli. He’s asking fans to believe interim GM Keith Gretzky is in the running for the job, but, in the name of doing away with less-than-best-practices employed by the team in the past, is nothing more than a candidate. He’s asking fans to believe a full assessment of hockey ops will be done once a new GM is in place.

Maybe all of that’s true. Maybe you believe him. I have my doubts. The way I see it, when you aren’t willing to deliver the truth about the small stuff — even if it’s just about omitting information, like the PCL tear in McDavid’s knee — you can’t be trusted to play it straight with the big stuff. Talk is always cheap, and it’s especially de-valued around here. We were told that’s going to change. Let’s see it.

WHILE I’M AT IT

As of writing this (9:45 a.m.), Tiger Woods is in contention at The Masters. While I have no delusions Woods will ever return to the dominant form we saw from him a dozen years ago, it’s obvious he’s overcome his physical (back) and personal issues to the point where he’s capable of contending most Sundays.

Having Woods, the driving force behind increased sponsorship and bigger purse during his prime years, on the leaderboard surrounded by the latest wave of great, young players is good for the game. I don’t know if he’ll win today, but having Woods in the hunt at the first major of the golf season is a jolt for the sport.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Crusty Grit

    lol. posts are filtered, even after the “machine learning checked it”

    Mgt shouldn’t be throwing around the “advanced analytics at all”. I laughed out loud listening to our management team throwing around buzz words trying to confuse the real problem. The art of building a real team is understanding the true dynamic of team and how to cultivate it. Math will get you so far and Hockey is not baseball, let’s face it Money ball is better served in baseball due to many “isolated variables” in the sport. Ie: Batter vs Pitcher. My career has led me down the path of advanced analytics and machine learning in distribution industry… Works much better in a closed environment. Human will, desire an autonomous decision making send most models into a tailspin. To the new GM: “Find people who really hate to lose and will die for their teammates” end stop.

    I grew up going to game in the 80’s and 90’s with my Father and experienced everything the Oilers have to offer. I spent my tax returns while in university to buy playoff tickets to watch epic Dallas Stars battles. I’ve moved all over N.America and stayed loyal to the Oilers. This year I’m contemplating adding a 1A for teams I cheer for.

    Most Oil fans are hardworking Albertan’s and deserve a high achieving team. Our province demands excellence, why should teams not be held just as accountable?

    What we have now is flat out embarrassing.

    Getting the blessing to travel to some great cities for business puts the Oilers into perspecitve. Watched an NYR game at MSG earlier this year… People just cheered

  • Go oilers go

    The oil need to build depth…what if they were to trade Draisaitl and Benning to a rebuilding team like Detroit for Larkin, AA and their first…then draft turcotte and Zegras? Would that be a deal that works for both teams?

  • Aquavid

    Just get into the playoffs and anything can happen. What an unpredictable first round so far with both the Lightning and Penguins on the precipice of elimination. Wow!

    • Gravis82

      This is what their plan was in 2015. Didn’t work

      Oilers need 60-70 more goals to be competitive

      We are a long way from being able to upset a team like that

  • This article is part of the reason this fan base is so toxic. Media regurgitating negative constantly fans are having to post on old news. How about tracking down the Daryl Katz and see if he even knows that the management of our beloved Oilers is a mess. Haven’t see this man say a word in a long time.

    Meanwhile, as a fan base we have some positive energy happening in the farm. I know it’s tough to get positive but the I follow the Condors on Twitter and the threads are one or two entries. With the cap problem we are in, we need a few these players to make a step up in their careers. Hopefully they go on a long playoff run and bring some jump to camp. I think players from within have more of love of the team and must see the opportunity.

    • polarcap

      All roads lead back to BN. PC decision was only a symptom. People are looking about people. The OBC, PC, etc. The problem is process and structure. Good process brings the best out of people with competing views. Good structure empowers people to advance their alternative positions. BN in hockey Canada specialized in one-off competitions. With the best players in the world it wasn’t hard to succeed. At a club level to be sustainable you need a long view and good data. BN can put the blame on PC as the problem, but BN was intimated by PC Harvard MBA. Even PC could have been successful if the organization was designed to allow empower staff across the organization. BN backed PC plan in 2018, he did a ground up review of the organization in 2017 and felt everything was ok. BN has to go.