A Letter to Daryl Katz

Dear Mr. Katz,

I’m writing you today because you are open to new ideas, you have vision and wherewithal and you own the Edmonton Oilers. I am not an expert in any field, do not have any special credentials to recommend me and most certainly do not travel in the same circles as you.

What I do have is several thousand man hours of mulling over your hockey team. Even before you owned it, I’d obsess over this line or that pairing and especially fretted away 1992 and 1993 worrying over the Copper and Blue. When you arrived on the scene, I was pretty damn happy. It seemed as though my generation of Oiler fan had taken over the steering wheel and good times were close at hand. Sadly, it has not come to pass in a timely fashion.

I would like to suggest to you that most of what is happening under your administration has been positive. The procurement department is drafting quality talent, the coaching was good and may now be better, the things that may have derailed prospects have been addressed and the organization is in a good place in terms of assets.

I believe the reasons the Oilers are “on the outside looking in” every season are threefold:

  1. Poor cap management. Mr Lowe is a legend in this town and I for one will cheer him and his efforts on the ice and in the community forever. I well remember being at Christmas bureau breakfasts when a groggy #4 would stroll in despite the fact he’d been in an NHL war the night before. Kevin Lowe is a class act all the way. However, we do find ourselves in a position where the team is close to the cap, has contracts that won’t budge for years and you don’t seem to be in a hurry to buy them out. I’d like to suggest that you offer Ethan Moreau a job this summer that involves coaching, and that you seriously consider asking the management group (Mr. Tambellini, Mr. Lowe, Mr. Prendergast) to trade a few veterans at the deadline.
  2. Wait and see. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but it seems to me that all of the other NHL teams begin each season with a “set” or “balanced” lineup. They are convinced that every game is a playoff game, beginning opening night. These teams start each game with the best possible lineup and very little leeway for “development” at the NHL level. Every season since 2006 has featured a distinct lack of balance on the Oilers roster to start the season. This year, the team is quite poor in experience and ability at both center and left wing. Points lost in November are just as dear in March and April. I know injuries have also contributed, but no team in the Northwest division spends as much time with “learn on the job” types as the Oilers. Mr. Katz, if this one thing was corrected it is my opinion the club would be more competitive every night and in fact Oiler fans could look forward to the playoffs every spring.
  3. Duplicate skills. I’m not certain that any coach could develop as many undersized forwards who are unready as the current Edmonton Oilers have at the NHL level. By my count all of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule and Robert Nilsson are trying to establish themselves at the NHL level. Also on the roster are NHLers Patrick O’Sullivan and Mike Comrie, whose skills are duplicated by each other and the other young players. Has this ever worked, Mr. Katz? Has a team ever been able to develop this many small players with the same general skill set at the same time? It would seem to me that you’d know a thing or two about planning and implementing (I have no doubt the arena project is going to be breathtaking) so it is with some wonder that I observe this on your watch.

I would like to suggest some reading. Red Wings executive Jim Devellano wrote a book called “The Road to Hockeytown” awhile ago and in it he spends several chapters explaining the painful growth process of that franchise under the ownership of Mike Ilitch. I enjoyed reading it and expect there might be a few lessons for you in there. I mean no disrespect, this is information that can only come from well-meaning ownership determined to win. I think you’ll agree that being open to new ideas and being able to learn from the mistakes of others are both extremely valuable things.

I want to wish you all the best and will of course be watching your progress closely. Please feel free to drop a line once in awhile and would love the opportunity to interview you on these subjects for this blog.

All the best, and God bless.

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49 Responses to "A Letter to Daryl Katz"

  1. mc79hockey says:

    You're six months away from writing one of those Terry Jones pieces about how Katz won't talk to you. ;)

    Can't disagree with any of this, although you're far more charitable than I would be. The management here is sub-par. All three of your points are polite ways of saying that. Until they fix that, they're going to need to get lucky to do anything.

  2. uni says:

    This year, the team is quite poor in experience and ability at both center and left win and points lost in November are just as dear in March and April.

    Might want to change win to wing.

    Very nice letter. Not very heavy on the stats and comparisons, but that would be something for an addendum or a some sort of appendix I'd suppose.

  3. Smytty777 says:

    As always, well stated LT. I'm sure Katz is trying to hypnotize Peca into believing that the Oilers are a contender at this very moment.

  4. FlamingPavelBure says:

    ''They are convinced every game is a playoff game''

    Not it's spreading cheese all over the place.

    Theyr are almost 0 teams who can brag about having a balanced roster without having ginourmous cap issues.

    It's the idea behind the cap, and it's called parity.

  5. Black Dog says:

    fpb – that's bullshit pal. Do teams have four strong lines anymore? Not usually although Detroit has been pretty solid the last few years.

    And no organization has the depth that the good ones used to.

    But if parity is the reason that the Oilers have been crappy for four years running now then why aren't all of the other teams in the league working on four years out of the playoffs?

    Poor management. Don't be an apologist unless you enjoy cheering for teams that lose every year.

    Do you? I don't.

  6. Black Dog says:

    Sorry, great stuff LT.

  7. FlamingPavelBure says:

    Black Dog: Yeah but it's not like the Oilers are alone in that category.

    I'm watching the Habs tonight.

  8. pboy says:

    Of course, just because other teams might have these same issues, that doesn't mean the Oiler's management should not look at fixing the problems within their own team.

  9. Hockey Noob says:

    Great post LT! Even with factoring in injuries/illness, I get the sense from watching every game this season, that the Oilers need to be firing on all cylinders, avoid any significant mistakes, and get a few bounces just to win a game.

    For a salary-cap team that hasn't seen the playoffs in the past three years, that shouldn't be the case.

  10. Conan says:

    Mr. Lowetide, you are my hero.

    I've often wondered what would happen if the GM just read your blog and followed your suggestions.

    This team would be better.

    Also, I wonder what the odds are that Mr. Katz reads this blog? The probability is far from zero percent.

  11. hunter1909 says:

    I'd bet all of the Oilers who are literate read this blog every fucking day.

    That also means some of them don't read it.

  12. OF17 says:

    FPB:

    There are plenty of teams that have balanced rosters under the salary cap, and amazingly they all seem to be above the Oilers in the standings. These are teams with good offensive talent, defensive awareness, grit, goaltending, and experience. Obviously the degree to which each team exemplifies these qualities differs, but all good teams have a mix of these (and other) elements.

    Look at the league rankings, and you'll notice that teams at the top generally have a good mix. Teams at the bottom generally don't. We certainly don't have balance and sit at 23rd. Everyone below us has at least one game in hand, too.

  13. Woodguy says:

    I'm really glad you mentioned the good works that Mr. Lowe has done in this community.

    I would not be surprised to find out that the number of hours he has spent volunteering in the community is more than everyone who posts on your blog combined.

    The passion many of us have for the game and this team can often turn to vitriol when frustration gets the best of us.

    Thank you for reminding us that the objects of our scorn aren't objects, but people.

    That being said, if this team misses the playoffs for the 4th year in a row its not a just a sign of mis-management, its 30 foot flashing neon on top of Rexall.

  14. bookie says:

    Enjoyable way to frame a post LT!

    I've often wondered what would happen if the GM just read your blog and followed your suggestions.

    I suspect that the GM is aware of LT's arguments in general, but has ideas of his own and also the challenges of executing things in the real world (as opposed to the much easier blogosphere).

  15. mc79hockey says:

    I would not be surprised to find out that the number of hours he has spent volunteering in the community is more than everyone who posts on your blog combined.

    With all due respect, good for him, but if we're trying to hire the biggest contributor to the community to run the hockey team, go get a priest or something. If we're trying to hire someone competent, hire someone other than Kevin Lowe.

  16. Unleaded says:

    With all due respect, good for him, but if we're trying to hire the biggest contributor to the community to run the hockey team, go get a priest or something. If we're trying to hire someone competent, hire someone other than Kevin Lowe.

    +1

    Also, thank you very much for the letter LT. If I had more motivation, and liked trees less, I would start a mailing campaign, and this would be the letter.

  17. Woodguy says:

    MC-you missed the rest of my post.

  18. FlamingPavelBure says:

    ''Look at the league rankings, and you'll notice that teams at the top generally have a good mix.''

    Well thank you Captain Obvious.

    As a sidenote, Sharks seem pretty empty aside from the top 2 lines (No Malhotra doesn't count) , but they plugged the holes with AHL'ers instead of going after ''Real NHL'ers'' and they seem to be doing just dandy.

  19. Gerta Rauss says:

    The Iraqi information minister blocks this before Katz gets a look at it…the IT dept at the Oilers is adding Lowetide to Websense as we speak…

    now for the entertainment portion of the program:
    Quinn off day

  20. PDO says:

    Rumours afoot that Chicago is about to sign Toews/Kane for 5 years a piece and 6 -> 6.5 per, along with Keith for 13 years and a lesser cap hit (rumoured 5ish).

    Is Cogliano for Sharp a possible basis for a deal?

    Definite downgrade for Chicago, but huge savings against the cap as well while still getting top value on the dollar.

    Sharp would be a nice addition here since he's an actual, you know, top 6 player of which we have 3 and an O'Sullivan of right now.

    This assumes that the Oilers are actually willing to waive Nilsson (I mean, he might be WELLWOOD one day, how can we risk losing that while he's eating up over $2,000,000 against the cap?) and Pisani is LTIR'd for the seasons remainder of course.

  21. bookie says:

    Well thank you Captain Obvious.

    In case some of you were not aware, FPB did not really mean this as a thank you, but rather as sarcasm targeting OF17 as a means to belittle the value of his comment.

    Regards,
    Lieutenant Obvious

  22. PunjabiOil says:

    Lost in the MPS watch is that Lander has 7 points in 20 games.

    Progression.

  23. geowal says:

    As a sidenote, Sharks seem pretty empty aside from the top 2 lines (No Malhotra doesn't count)

    Why doesn't a decent defensive center who can win draws with over 650 games played and 200 points not count?
    I don't think he'd hurt our team any, why wouldn't the sharks want him on the fourth line?

  24. Lowetide says:

    PJ Oil: Plus Lander has done most of that scoring recently.

  25. Black Dog says:

    Is that Judy Lander?

    I loved her work as Stacks on BJ and the Bear.

  26. Smarmy Boss says:

    Called Katz. He don't read your posts.

  27. geowal says:

    now for the entertainment portion of the program:

    Quote of the day, re: Gagner injury.

    "Well he's still gimping around, so we'll have to see"

  28. FlamingPavelBure says:

    ''Why doesn't a decent defensive center who can win draws with over 650 games played and 200 points not count?''

    6 points in 22 games Rating of 1.09 (Relative to team)

    2nd Softest competition among the forwards.

    6th Qual Team among forwards.

    He's not facing tough opposition, or playing with plugs, and he's not putting up such great numbers.

  29. Traktor says:

    Peter Mueller has 1 goal and 3 assists in 17 games this year.

    Send Phoenix Sam Gagner and thank me later.

  30. Bruce says:

    LT: I like your style. To the point, but with compassion. That in itself is a nice balance.

  31. PDO says:

    Traktor:

    Mueller is a great target, minus the fact he likes to play the point on the PP.

    Past that, I'd rather move Cogliano for him.

    Much rather.

  32. Matt N says:

    "Lowe isn't going anywhere!"

  33. Satisfied_to_Ignore says:

    why does everyone want to move cogs? I'd rather move sully. Cogs is a more offensive marchant who will be a superb shutdown center as the years go by due to his speed. Sully is snake bitten, more expensive and has no where near the same upside in my mind.

    Trade sully and trade/Demote/Give away Nilsson and that is 4.925 million in cap space. A lot can be done with that. Like say picking up sharp and a reasonable reasoner facsimile.

  34. knighttown says:

    I generally watch the games and catch up on Lowetide later so I rarely post in the GDT's. Just a few random comments from some recent in-game observations:

    -Cogliano is not being used properly. Like Gagner early on, he seems driven since his demotion to the checking line (3rd/4th…tomato/tomahto). However, unlike 89, 13 hasn't received the positive feedback I think he deserves. Ahead of him on the PP depth chart now are 83,89,27,10,19,91 and when 89 went down, 67 got the spot. I'd bet 16 gets the bump next. Oh, and on that note, there is no excuse for stapling 13's but to the bench during 4-on-4 OT, especially in favor of 16. I like Potulny, but frankly he can't keep up in that format but I'm pretty sure he got two OT shifts last night.

    -Staios. To preface, I'm a little worried about supporting such a maligned player after seeing how Bruce throwing his recent support behind Dirk Dumshit worked out, but what the hey. Steady Steve is a new man. His battle level has always been high but recently he's fighting these battles more intelligently. He's staying on his feet more, throwing some serious hits and bringing offense by holding the blue line and getting shots through and on target. His first pass and mobility will never again be NHL average but this guy as a number 6, even at his rate of pay, helps this team. Now let's fix 7-10. I think it's coaching. Quinn made some comments about guys rimming it around the glass and I think there has been some serious teaching going on.

    -As sublime as 71 has been, I'd say Souray's game against Columbus was the best game we've gotten from a defenseman this year. His ability to play defense with 20 feet of his net is fantastic. I loved his 5 foot passes to start the breakout and that man hits people to hurt them.

    Oh yeah, plus he's got a decent shot.

    -Even in a league full of spectacular skaters, Liam Reddox might be in the top 10%. Maybe you knew this but I did not. He's not elite in a straight line but his agility, acceleration and turn radius are pretty special. I remember one play where Huselius (or maybe Voracek) picked up a loose puck heading toward the wall, faked going toward the end redline but instead turned left and went toward the blueline. Most guys would have erred on the side of protecting their net and turned right but Reddox swiveled instantly and followed the guy up the wall and forced him right out of the zone. That play reminded me of every action movie that ever involved fighter jets. The first guy heads right for the mountain and then at the last second pulls up in the hopes of losing the trailing fighter (or heat seeking missle!). 85 would still be at 6 o'clock while Dirk Dumshit would be a montage of jet fuel and soap opera eyebrows. That stupid fucker has the turn radius of the Voyageur of the Seas. And I think he might be retarded. Bruce your description of the spin-o-turnover with 3 minutes was awesome.

    -I'm hearing how great 67-85-16 are and I don't disagree however, elite 4th lines produce something in the way of offense. 2 power plays earned (that lead to goals) cannot be overlooked but someone is going to have to put up boxcars if the Falcons line is going to stay together. Let's just agree that it's a promising start but this is not yet Brodziak-Glencross-Stortini.

    -Two of the most recent goals against on "The Wall" were identical. Bogosian and Stralman both scored on one-timers from the blue line and I didn't particularly care for either one. The guy has been great but have we found his Kryptonite?

    -I've been saying it for two years about Ladi Smid. Corsi and GFOn/GAOn will never be fair to a zero offense guy on a bad team but this guy is one of the most elite under-25, shutdown defenseman in the NHL. I don't know them all and I like that Grossman in Dallas a lot but this guy is completely untouchable because of:
    -age
    -uniqueness of skill set
    -fucking amazing contract

  35. The other John says:

    If you have a heart problem, go see a doctor. If you have a flooded basement, call a plumber. If you want to SUCCESSFULLY run a hockey team …….. hire a philanthropist?????????WTF

    Sharp would give us a very good 2nd second line center but does that type of trade with other roster tweaking get us to the top 6 in the Western Conference for a legit playoff run? or are we simply struggling to make 8th place and/or draft 16th yet again

  36. Ribs says:

    Nice post, LT. Great comments, knighttown.

    What is this Katz guy up to these days, anyhoo? We haven't heard or seen much from him in awhile.

  37. PunjabiOil says:

    If by a while, you mean July 2008 when he purchased the team.

    Aside from the fact his representatives have been speaking on his behalf for the arena movement, and the Stauffer text blunder, he really stays away from the spotlight.

  38. rickibear says:

    Lost in the MPS watch is that Lander has 7 points in 20 games.

    Progression.

    He had 2 points for most of the year. He has 5 points in the last???????? could not find game logs for him. He is transitioning to a more prominant role.

  39. Ribs says:

    …he really stays away from the spotlight.

    Do you think a point will come when he does speak out? It'd be nice to hear some opinions from him so that we can confirm that we are indeed following him into oblivion.

    Is the silence normal?

  40. bookie says:

    Is the silence normal?

    A lot of wealthy people value their privacy and there is a somewhat unspoken agreement that if you make it known that you are not interested in Camera time, people will leave you alone. If you step in front of the camera a bit, you become fair game.

    AND he may not feel comfortable in the press (in front of camera, etc…). He knows how quickly this city can turn on you if you make a mistep. Safer to hide.

  41. jon k says:

    Reports from Swedish fans of Timra suggest that Lander has been the much better overall player this season compared to MPS. If he scores 20 points this season I think that's an excellent sign for his development.

    Good letter LT. I think the first point really hits home this season. We've essentially been a cap team since the 06 run and we haven't been anywhere close to deserving a playoff berth in that time period.

    An unbalanced, weak team that spends the same as the league's heavy hitters is as damning a sign as one can find. The blame needs to fall somewhere and hopefully the team's current management realizes this so that changes can be planned sooner rather than later.

  42. hunter1909 says:

    The sentimentality that people hold for the Oilers is precisely how those clowns stick around forever.

    Lowe's value to the community? Please. Any ambitious bastard is going to to play this local hero card, simply to look good for the locals come election time, or in this case, Lowe's pope like ability to survive in his various guises of incompetance.

    Then we come to Moreau's worthless and sentimentalist award handed to "the captain" at the end of last season. I don't even remember what that one is called, but it's nothing more than even more window dressing.

    Finally there's Fernando Pisani. Again, there are plenty of braver and more deserving people who get this ascerbic posters sympathy, like any sick child on the face of the earth, or even any drunken bum reduced to living on the streets. Pisani is a rich man, by virtue of his ability to play a game, and good luck to him and everything, but please get the f**k off my hockey team because you never were that great to start with, and now you're doing nothing but sucking money off of it's budget.

    Re Katz: I'm not a fan of his so know nothing much about his career, but one thing I do understand about lousy businesses is that they often need a hatchet man to go through them and fire half of the office sometimes, for the company to survive. This is what's needed for the Oilers – not sentimentalist malarkey dressed up as "care".

  43. Bruce says:

    Knighttown: Outstanding commentary. I agree with every point except the one where you agreed with me. Oh, and it Dink Dumshit, not Dirk. That one courtesy of our occasionally-but-delightfully-acerbic host, Lowetide, in describing a(nother) Moreau spinaround and fire blindly towards the net from an impossible angle. I think the line was "Dink Dumshit invented that play back in the 30s."

    To me Moreau's inability to play the cycle game is incapacitating that line. Stortini understands it well and Cogs is starting to grind the far wall with enthusiasm and purpose, but Ethan Moreau's idea of "possession" is he doesn't want to be caught with it. :D So let's try to surprise the goalie with a quick shot to the goalmouth … some nights I swear it's the only play he knows.

    So they wind up playing chase and like most fourth lines, they have a helluva time regaining possession and getting it out of their end. Their Corsi +/- and scoring chances +/- have been a sack of shit for quite a while, and Wally Bulin has been a brick or they'd be taking a beating on the traditional plus/minus scale. Miraculously all three are above the water line (Cogs +2, Zorg +1) or right on it (Moreau, even). This despite the fact 13 and 18 are tied for the most shots allowed per 60, a horrid 38.4, while being on for something under 22 shots per 60 at the good end. Shots maybe overrated, but 38-22 speaks to domination/being dominated. Stortini's record is about 5 shots better in the defensive zone but his differential is still no hell at -13 shots per 60. All three have fabulous PDOs. For now.

    Funny thing is I'm not unhappy with the play of 13 or 46, but the line has no real chemistry. Maybe I'm being overly critical, but to my eye it's the veteran who isn't really fitting in.

    To address just one other of your comments, KT, you're right about Souray hitting to hurt, he just wallpapered at least two guys last night. He hammered that Blunden at one point, and then stepped up and caught Vermette with a full body wallop just outside the Oiler blueline. No boards, no noise (except me involunatrily going "huh!"), but it was a wicked dart. Man, have we been missing that. Ladi does his share but the rest of the D with the possible exception of Peckham scare absolutely nobody in the physical sense. But that was a thing of beauty. So was the centring pass he picked off where he simply played Nash completely out of options. His quick stick dispossessed a couple of BJs on the cycle and disrupted the PP. He had 8 attempted shots, 4 hits, a steal, a blocked shot, a couple of assists. Oh yeah, 34 shifts, 26:56. And you know what? At evens the Oilers were outshot 10-0 with Souray on the ice. By eye he had a wonderful game; by Corsi, not so much. So tell me, which do you believe? (I put a lot of it on match-ups myself.)

  44. oilerdago says:

    Another great post LT. Get's my day started on the right foot.

  45. Racki says:

    This post is a polite version of the thoughts inside my head right now. ;)

    Agree fully that both cap management and "wait and see" attitude have hindered this team quite a bit.

    I can understand *some* of the bad cap decisions, but there are a couple of obvious huge mistakes. I'll just say that no one on the team should be making more than Hemsky, and also Khabibulin's contract disgusts me. Not the dollar figure, but the fact that he could retire any day now and the Oil are on the hook.

  46. Dennis says:

    KT: I hadn't read through all of this but I just made the exact same point about those PPG that Khabby's been allowing; I also threw in the one Kotalik scored close to 2 weeks ago.

    Regarding this post, I was hoping there would be talks of flux capacitators and the ousting of Lowe but when I didn't see that, I was no longer interested:)

  47. Bruce says:

    I wonder about Khabibulin's vision, or at least his ability to see through traffic. You are right Dennis that goal by Kotalik was a mirror image of the other two, big righthand one-timer from the left point beating 'Bulin to the short (stick) side post. Throw in the two knuckleballs that Brendan Witt ferfuxsakes sifted by him from backabeyond, and it's a disturbing trend.

    Right in tight to the net I think Khabibulin is exceptionally good. But the outside shots are hurting him.

  48. Dennis says:

    Yeah, the Montador goal wasn't any great shakes either.

    I would say it's lack of concentration.

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