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.