Oilers Culture Problem Starts With Katz


Another night, another ugly home loss for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oil, who started off so well at home this season, now have the most regulation losses on home ice in the NHL. In year four of Connor McDavid, it is simply an unacceptable reality.

Of course, the Oilers losing another game really isn’t much of a surprise. The team is now six points out of a playoff spot and officially on life support. They were just blown out by the San Jose Sharks for the third time in as many tires, and essentially quit before the final buzzer on Saturday night. This is a bad roster that, quite frankly, has absolutely no ability to stick with it when times get tough.

Edmonton’s problems are roster related. They are arguably the slowest team in the NHL and have a severe lack of skill. The Oil have three proven top-six forwards in McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Other than that? It’s an ugly collection of bad contracts, washed up veterans, and NHL/AHL tweeners.

The narrative after Edmonton’s latest loss? Well it isn’t about the roster. No, it is all about Ken Hitchcock absolutely laying into his team, saying how “At this time of year the coaches can’t want it more than the players.” He’s right, but now the media attention has once again turned to Edmonton’s rotten culture.

Like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle dealt with years ago, the wrong people are being blasted for Edmonton’s horrid culture of losing and abusing one of the most loyal fanbases in sports.

Over the years, we’ve watched every Oilers coach reach this point. Hitchcock got there last night. It’s bigger than him, the culture problem in Edmonton. Bigger than any of them ever think it is. – Mark Spector

 You’re Looking In The Wrong Place:

Spector is right, by the way. The culture problem in Edmonton is very real, and it goes far beyond Hitchcock. Don’t get fooled though, this isn’t a player problem. Remember when the culture narrative started back around 2013? Do you know how many players are left from that 2013-14 team? Technically, just two.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom are the only guys that remain, and Klefbom only played in 17 games with the club that season. Essentially, since the culture became the problem, every single player has been changed out. Every single coach has also been changed out, multiple times, and even the General Manager has changed.

Unless RNH is some sort of super evil villain destined to ruin the Edmonton Oilers for as long as he plays for the club, it can’t be the players, right? After all, Hall and Eberle were traded to help change the culture, and Milan Lucic was handed a massive contract that has turned into a boat anchor to fix the culture.

If I recall correctly, everyone who is bashing the culture now was very much in favor of each of those moves. I don’t mean to pick on Spec, I’m just using his words because it is the best example of this. No one in the media cartel questioned the Lucic signing or the Hall trade, in fact they were seen as very much necessary to fix what ails the Oilers.

The only problem? Edmonton is in EXACTLY the same position they were in back in 2013-14. Outside of the playoffs and circling the drain as they waste yet another season.

Maybe, just maybe, the culture problem isn’t with the players. Maybe, just maybe, Edmonton’s hockey operations department hasn’t put a good NHL roster together in over a decade sans for one season which was guided by elite goaltending. Maybe, just maybe, the culture issue goes beyond the woefully inept rosters put on the ice year after year.

It’s You Daryl, Not Us:

Daryl Katz is in for a rude awakening and quite frankly it is well deserved. The careless leader of the Edmonton Oilers is going to lose some serious money this off-season. Suite renewals are not going to be as expected, and I’d wager a decent amount of the season ticket base will have had enough. We’ll never see the numbers, but I’m curious as to the renewal rate and what it will look like. My guess is that it will not paint a pretty picture for Daryl.

He’s earned that loss, by the way. See, it certainly seems like from here that Katz doesn’t really care about the product on the ice. He’s got his new arena, he’s making tons of money off of fans, and he’s hanging out with the 1980’s Oilers, his hockey idols. Why the hell would he care about what is going on on the ice? After all, he’s rich and making even more money off of a fanbase dying for a little sustained success.

That right there is where the culture problem begins. Katz has not treated the Oilers like a business, he’s treated them like a hobby that really isn’t a priority for him. It appears, from here, that wins and loss don’t matter so long as the final line sees him line his pockets a little more. In a hockey-mad city like Edmonton, you can bet he’ll be making money each and every season regardless of if his team sucks like it has for the last 13 seasons now.

It starts with Katz and his careless attitude towards the club, but it does not stop there. The arrogance of Edmonton’s front office has been a major issue for a long time. Peter Chiarelli was stubborn and refused to back off of his way, but it goes way deeper than him.

Bob Nicholson, currently running Hockey Operations while the club looks for a new GM, is completely unproven. Sure, he ran Hockey Canada, but what does that really say? Congrats, you were able to pick a fantasy team from the best pool of managers, coaches and players in the world. Bravo, you succeeded at the easiest job in hockey. He, like Chiarelli, is extremely stubborn in his ways and seems extremely reluctant to move away from the other ‘Old Boys Club’, the Hockey Canada cult.

Craig MacTavish, who was the biggest pusher for a Taylor Hall trade, and Scott Howson are still very much involved in Hockey Operations with the Oilers. MacT and Howson have basically been around since the early 2000’s with a brief hiatus for both for a few years around the start of the decade. Both have that stubborn “our way or the highway” approach that dates back to Kevin Lowe running the show for the better part of a decade.

The rotten culture with the Oilers? It isn’t the players, rather it is the owner and his minions in the front office who want to recreate the 1980’s and give all of their buddies jobs, while blaming all of their failures on kids brought to town and put in positions to fail from day one.

Until that changes, the Edmonton Oilers will continue to be the Springfield Tire Fire: Now burning for 4,620 days.

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