Dear Mr. Katz,
As a lifelong fan of the Edmonton Oilers I feel as though someone needs to write to you about your hockey team. Since their inception, I've watched the successes and failures of the Oilers and I've been a fan, through thick and thin. In recent months, my status as a fan has changed. To be abundantly clear, I bear no ill-will towards the players on your team. It is the management of the resources within the organization that I question.
I'm pretty sure all Oiler fans are keenly aware of where your President of Hockey Operations stands on the topic of fans, so in the interest of full disclosure, I am in Mr. Lowe's second group of fans. He also said, "the people that go to the games and support, we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message." I can't say for sure (because I'm not in that group) but I'm fairly sure that those people are pretty tired of hearing the same "message" with no results.
While geography prevents me from being in the first group of fans, it is not my only impediment. I have become disillusioned by the smug arrogance that seems to pervade much of the Oilers organization. Mr. Lowe's off-season comments about "know[ing] a little bit about winning, if that's ever a concern" encapsulates the sentiment to which I refer. Especially so, because there has been very little of the "winning" he spoke of.
I truly have no idea about your level of knowledge of the game of hockey or the depth of your relationships within the hockey industry, but I will assume that you have attempted to compensate for any shortcomings you might have in those areas by relying primarily on Mr. Lowe and others to whom he has delegated various subordinate roles.
Under the tenure of Mr. Lowe (as President of Hockey Operations), the Oilers have:
- Never made the playoffs
- Never finished above 19th place
- Have not had a positive goal differential
- Had 5 different head coaches in 6 seasons
- Had a record below league average in every season (although the PK and PP did improve under Krueger)
- Been unable to attract high calibre free agents in the prime of their careers
In addition, Mr. Lowe has:
- Had a very public feud with another league GM which required the intervention of the league president
- Made comments, noted above, that alienated a number of fans of the team
I'm certainly no expert, but as I understand it, the goal of ownership of an NHL franchise is to make money. As such, fans are the lifeblood of your organization's success. If fans lose interest, you lose advertisers, sales of merchandise, concessions, etc.
Whomever you have doing promotions and media relations for the Oilers (Patrick Laforge?) is doing a great job (Oil Change, outdoor game at Hawrelak Park, etc.), but that can't carry a team that doesn't manage itself soundly from a hockey perspective. The sell-out streak will end for a team that appears to have no prospect for success and an arrogant attitude about it.
If your Pharmacy chain was consistently losing money, wouldn't you reconsider who you had in your C-level positions?
I assume that as the owner of the team, you care about it as much as Mr. Lowe obviously does. I'm sure he's done his best to get the best possible result, but based on the team's record, it hasn't been enough. At this point, there simply isn't enough evidence to merit continued employment for Mr. Lowe.
I'm not alone in my sentiment that any if further changes should occur within the Oilers organization, none is more paramount than the replacement (or departure) of Kevin Lowe. Replacing him with anyone other than an experienced, well-connected NHL insider that has never been an Oiler, is pure folly.
We thank Mr. Lowe for his invaluable contributions to our NHL franchise over the years. He will always be in our hearts as a core member of the Edmonton Oilers. We wish him well in his retirement. Once an Oiler, always an Oiler.
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