The Trouble with Rookies

I believe the trouble with the Edmonton Oilers has to do with a rookie. No, not Jeff Deslauriers or recent rookies Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner or even Liam Reddox.

It’s easy to forget that Daryl Katz is new to the job of being an NHL owner. I’m not going to be critical of him, hell the guy writes the cheques and hasn’t threatened us with the hammer that is Oklahoma City one time.

Katz is a fan, and it’s my belief this may be getting in the way of the hockey men and getting business done. The recent Dany Heatley chase is the latest example, but we saw it a year ago with Marian Hossa too.

We’ve seen this many times in sports, a successful business man takes over his favorite toy (in this case, the Oilers) and wants to play a little. Hell, I would. I’d have Marc-freaking Pouliot centering the PP unit and playing the soft parade with Hemsky and Penner. Poor Horcoff would be on the checking line with Pisani and my list of men headed out of town would include Ladislav Smid, Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini.

In this way, I think we can understand the zeal of Katz and appreciate the effort. More distressing, Kevin Lowe appears to be marching in lock-step with the owner in terms of mission statement (‘get a star!’) and poor old Steve Tambellini is left being the grownup in the room.

I do think Daryl Katz could learn from previous NHL owners though, and Mike Ilitch of the Detroit Red Wings is a perfect comp. Ilitch was both a blessing (early on, Ilitch was told that college men like Adam Oates could be acquired with just cash. He asked how many were available, was told 10 that specific summer, and told Devallano to sign all 10) and a challenge (Bryan Murray found out Ilitch was planning to hire Mike Keenan to coach the team while Bryan Murray was coaching the team).

What does that mean for us? Well, it means a lot of days like Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, when being an Oiler fan means being the center of attention in a bad way. The only way this is going to get better is if Katz learns on the job, and he’s probably a quick study.

Here’s hoping, and it wouldn’t hurt if Steve Tambellini lent him a copy of Jim Devallano’s book HOCKEYTOWN. Many of the events we’ll see over the next few years were done by Mike Ilitch many years ago. It’s like a map.

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