I scanned some headlines and saw some of the photo ops taken from yesterdays "big" introduction of Ken Holland as the new General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers, but that’s about it. I noticed in one of the photos that Daryl Katz looked different. He was very tanned, but his face looked puffed out and his hair had gotten even more of control. I couldn’t see his face that well but my two thoughts were (1) member of the Rolling Stones, (2) villain from the DC Universe.
I was shocked this morning to read news that it is due to a life-threatening illness that he has been battling for at least two years (ie: since that great 100 point, 2nd round playoff season that seems so long ago). As I let that news settle in all I can think of now is that it explains a lot.
It explains a lot about how absent Katz has been in the past two years. I assumed, like many, that he was hiding from the negativity around the team but he’s been dealing with a literal life and death situation, not a silly game. And he’s been dealing with an illness that has drastically changed his appearance, which for a billionaire who seems to care about his appearance would make it hard to make public appearances.
It explains a lot about why the OBC have been untouchable. They’ve been part of Daryl Katz’s support network through this. From a hockey side they have been failing him, for sure, but when one is staring death in the eye they see things differently.
It explains a lot about what is apparently "in the water" in Edmonton. When the King’s health and life are in jeopardy, it casts a pall across the realm. Say what you will about Katz but you have to appreciate that he’s a hockey fan too, and it’s probably a good thing he respects his players abilities like a fan as opposed to being their heartless "boss". His health has no doubt been a distraction, to some extent, in the room. The upheaval and uncertainty that was likely going on off the ice could explain why there seemed to be a lack of accountability at times.
It explains a lot about Peter Chiarelli’s leadership abilities, or the lack thereof. From the highs of April, 2016 to the lows of the ensuing 18 months, it’s clear Chiarelli was not equipped to manage the politics, stress and uncertainty going on behind the scenes at OEG. He wasn’t strong enough to manage the OBC, and protect any noise and uncertainty around the King’s health from distracting the hockey operations department.
I recall Lowetide going on an excellent rant about Katz’s absence around the time Chiarelli was fired. He was right, ownership was absent and needed to step up in that tumultuous time. Many people wrote, as I did on here, about how the "culture" problem the Oilers had starts with ownership and senior management. Knowing what we know now, it explains so much.
I think it’s time for Oiler fans to take a step back and disconnect from Oiler fandom a bit over the summer. Just breathe, and be thankful for your health. This is just a game, and while it’s clear there have been mistakes and bad management over the past couple of years there is now an explanation for part of it.
On the flip side, there’s a debate about whether OEG should have shared this information earlier and I think yes, they should have. I understand that one’s health is a private matter, and I understand that business leaders don’t like to show weakness, but Katz’s business is sports entertainment and that means your relationship with fans (ie: customers) is your lifeblood. OEG, like any corporation, pays a lot of salaries to PR professionals who have been struggling and failing to manage that customer relationship during a time of distress, when simply being open and transparent about Katz’s health would have (should have) bought them some leniency. Having it out in the open probably would have made it a rallying point for the team. Covering things up creates a negative culture.
I hope for his speedy recovery. In the meantime hopefully Holland can take some positive steps in settling the likely chaos that has been going on behind the scenes. Hire good people, hire smart people, and clean up some obvious roster holes so the rest of us don’t have as much to complain about. A positive attitude going into next season will do wonders for this team – just ask the Carolina Hurricanes.