News today (it’s in the Journal, I’d post a link but it is 20 miles long) that Katz has “clinched the Oiler deal.” Also contained in the article are long rambling sentences about him keeping the team in Edmonton which has never really been an issue but seemed to be a media slant on the story.
How in God’s name you can frame that issue (“local rich guy wants to BUY THE OILERS and move them far away!”) and sell papers is beyond me but there’s plenty of information available in the Journal today on the subject of the EIG negotiating and making certain Katz didn’t relocate.
I could see it if there was an angle AT ALL! Maybe he’s connected to business interests in Houston or Seattle or Kansas City or Las Vegas (or as a hat tip to our friend in photo, Atlantic City).
There are more interesting angles. For instance:
- What areas will he improve? It sounds like getting a new building and a world class practice facility are early priorities and that should actually help in improving the reputation of the Oilers among NHL players and people.
- What about Kevin Lowe? Will he stay? I imagine Lowe gets a one year window here (08-09) to show something and there’s always a chance they bump him upstairs and make MacT the General Manager. With MacT already having a larger input into the roster makeup this would seem to be the next logical step. It has been my belief that Lowe will eventually be bumped up the chain and become the face of the team on a community level.
- What might he do to improve the team immediately? He could buy out Souray’s contract but doubt that he would unless he fires Kevin Lowe the same day. The Roloson contract is also a possibility for buyout. Katz and his dollars may make the Oilers a more likely destination for players who fall outside the usual draft window (Fabian Brunnstrom is a current example).
- What about long term improvement? The procurement department is already going through some changes (Prendergast’s role has changed so the guys who are compiling this year’s draft list have a different dynamic) and this may be an area Katz can leave his footprint almost immediately. IF he decides that a new amateur scouting staff is in order, that he’d like to be a player in that extremely lucrative college free agent market (two recent acquisitions, Penner and Glencross, went this route) or that he can have an impact in making Edmonton a more attractive place for free agents to land then these are areas we may see some positive change.
- Could he turn this team around quickly? Oh yeah, I think so. The Oilers aren’t that bad a hockey club, they just have some gaps, some injury trouble and are putting a lot of young people in a position to fail. A nucleus of Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Pitkanen, Gilbert and a few others added to the nice young talent means this team could turn it around with a few wise contracts. The Souray deal certainly means there can be zero tolerance for overspending elsewhere.
- When will we notice changes? I have no idea how the NHL processes ownership changes and the trade deadline is coming soon, but certainly by the draft and July 1 free agency Katz should have had his say about direction.
- What would an encouraging period leading up to the draft look like? Signing Pitkanen and Gilbert long term to good money contracts is a nice start. An active deadline that sees the Oilers clear some salary (they badly need to) is a priority. If Kevin Lowe can find a taker for Dwayne Roloson or Jarret Stoll then he might be able to keep Steve Staios, but I suspect #24 is on his way to San Jose for a pick in the top 40. He’ll need to give the new direction some breathing room in terms of salary cap. I should also mention here my greatest fear for this team is that they trade Pitkanen because they cannot slide him into the Souray blueline so we should be prepared for it.
- Is there any hope for the 08-09 season? Yes. I think the ownership change comes at a great time. Bill James once wrote (in an article about how the Seattle Mariners waste young talent) that during his time in the army a new commander would come in and paint the mess hall and alter the daily routine slightly. Morale improved. Two years later, new commander comes in. What does he do? Paints the mess hall, alters the daily routine slightly. Morale improves. A fresh start is a fresh start even if it is only changing the deck chairs around.
Generally speaking I’m as encouraged about this new owner as you can be without knowing what he’ll do chapter and verse. He is young, can relate to million dollar hockey players and their needs (real or imagined) much better than the EIG. We’ll know how good a deal this is when the players begin to speak (it’s already started a little, Moreau said some nice things the other day) but as we sit here Sunday morning idling in the driveway I think this baby is going to kick some ass out on the highway.
Here’s hoping they take it to the limit.