If you're an Oilers fan of whatever tier you'll remember Daryl Katz's open letter to a fanbase upset with seven years as perpetual punchlines along the lines of "stop bitching, peasants, we got this rebuild shit down" (q.v. both Derek Zona and gcw_rocks). Katz was responding to criticism of the Oilers' ashen-faced supremo Kevin Lowe and the suggestion from some fans that, horror of horrors, the general manager and later president of the most incompetent organization since the fall of the French Third Republic might need to take some responsibility. Some say Lowe cannot be the problem, but he is also the only constant in our unending nightmare which single-handedly keeps Edmonton's high-end scotch retailers in business. Fortunately, in a welcome change, Kevin Lowe seemed to realize this, and had the stomach to take his medicine.
Unfortunately, Daryl Katz didn't.
On Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada, Elliotte Friedman dropped the following news bomb (the good stuff starts at 18:36):
It was a wild week in Edmonton, obviously, and I tried to reach out to Kevin Lowe today but the Oilers said that he had declined several media requests during the week so he wasn't going to take this one. But Ron, what I believe has happened this week is that with all of the craziness going around the team Kevin Lowe offered to either take a sabbatical or step away from the Oilers if they felt that that would calm things down in the market and in the city. And I understand that offer was rejected by the owner Daryl Katz.
Now. I am not so much a member of the Fire Kevin Lowe party as the Fire Kevin Lowe From a Cannon party. Rather than taking a sign to the Oilers office, clenching the team's sphincter so hard its staff called the police (not a joke), I'd protest with amplified obscenities at 1 AM outside Katz's home, which ought to be easy for me since he lives in Vancouver.
But Lowe has done good things in his off-ice career and offering to fall on his sword is one of them, even though his army has already been beaten, his lands conquered, his cattle stampeded, and his subjects ground up to make soap while Lowe stood in his ivory tower rubbing his fast-receding hairline and murmuring "do you know who'd sort this mess out? Matt Hendricks." Doing the honourable thing, however belatedly, is better than not doing the honourable thing at all, and if Friedman's report is accurate and Lowe's offer was in earnest then at least Lowe's much-respected character is still holding up.
And Katz turned him down.
You're damned right that deserves its own paragraph.
You know how we middle-class sports fanatics say "when I make my billion dollars off profanity-laced blog posts and deliberately offensive jokes on Twitter I'm going to buy the Oilers and run them my way?" Daryl Katz is, like, the worst-case scenario of that dream come to life. Oh, he spends to the cap. That's something compared to the bad old days when Glen Sather drove his pickup to the parking lot of the Home Depot looking for anyone who could play on the third pairing for $5.50 an hour. But he also exploits Edmonton's star-crossed love for its Oilers to mug the city for hundreds of millions in arena subsidy while hero-worshipping the dynasty Oil so passionately that even now, with everything the Oilers ever represented blown to pieces under the guns of unaddressed and incomprehensible organizational incompetence, Katz refuses to even consider the possibility that a guy with SIX RINGS™ might not be able to run a team aspiring to win anything more than the draft lottery.
At one time Ron MacLean's reply seemed to speak for the number 8 bus: "MacTavish and Lowe, how do you go wrong with the leadership of those two guys?" But you know, after seven years those of us who watch, or perhaps try not to watch, the Oilers have looked at the standings and finally mused "hmm, apparently we are going wrong." (You might want to exclude MacTavish, who coached the Ryan Smyth Death March and cost the Oilers a Stanley Cup by rotating between Jussi Markkanen and human shambles Ty Conklin as backup goalie for reasons best summarized as "derp". Don't do that.)
Kevin Lowe may be the best motivator of men in the known world. If he captained my trench and was firing me up before the attack I'm sure I'd leap over the top at zero hour, heart pumping with passion thanks to Lowe's sterling leadership qualities, full of hope and fire, and then I'd be cut down by the first machine gun burst because unfortunately Lowe also drew up the battle plan, and he's decided to get rid of all the veteran soldiers so we can rebuild through the draft. Again. No matter how nice you are to the media, no matter how much players love you and how able you are to fire up the rank and file, if your team strategy is as eye-burstingly incompetent as Lowe's has proven to be then you're not fit for a position above "club ambassador".
The fact that Oilers fans are so pissed off after only half a decade as the worst organization in professional sports is heartening, of course. Four years ago the team was quite as bad but it was inconceivable the masses would have a conversation like this, with billboards and signs and the conception that Lowe actually could finally fuck off. Yet if Katz actually, honestly turned Lowe down because he actually, honestly thinks that, even after all this time, he's just the man turn the Oilers into a playoff team after only ten or so years because he was a pretty good defensemen back before half the current fans were sentient... well, we are all damned.