Text to be talk of town

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 6:53 AM ET

Five words can sometimes say so much.

And the five words Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz sent in a text message to the pre-game broadcast booth last night will be read in a lot of ways.

Five words, indeed, tripped the warning bells, sirens and flashing lights of a future as a dysfunctional organization under the new owner.

Katz sent a text message to the broadcast booth of the rights-holding radio station, 63 CHED, which were immediately put on the air and on the station's website announcing: "Katz says he's firmly in the corner of MacTavish."

The five words of the text message were then quoted: "MacT is not going anywhere."

Reporters went in search of a response from president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, and new GM Steve Tambellini who indicated earlier in the day that they would have no comment on the team or the future of Craig MacTavish until the end of the season.

Reporters were told during the game by an Oilers official they were discussing organizationally what to do about it before finally being informed during the third period that Lowe would make himself available for a very brief appearance in the interview room prior to MacTavish's normal post-game session.

Instead, MacTavish appeared first.

"I'm not going to even comment on it," he said. "I've had enough discussion on my future ... It's taken on a life of its own and I'm not going to do anything to contribute to my criticism any more. I just want to talk about the hockey team and I think that's fair."

Lowe came in the room and made a statement.

"First of all, I want to say Daryl is extremely passionate and emotional about the team and that's why I think the fans are really going to love the guy.

"He said he was extremely disappointed and somewhat frustrated by the fact we're in the middle of a playoff race and all the discussion and focus was on the future of our head coach and he just found that rather odd.

"The fact it was on our pre-game show that he was listening to discussion on the future of our head coach ... He just wanted to crush that for once and for all, it's as simple as that."

But will MacTavish be back?

"I think I answered that in the statement," said Lowe. "I'm explaining his position."

Sorry.

Nice try to spin it.

But the five-word text was so wrong on so many levels it's remarkable they could have come from somebody smart enough to become a billionaire.

There was some concern when Katz bought the team that he had the potential to be one of those "boy with a toy" type of owners.

And much was made of Katz growing up as a fan of the Oilers' glory gang which won five Stanley Cups here and his personal friendship with MacTavish and Lowe.

The issue here isn't really about whether MacTavish comes back as coach to finish out the final year of his contract, so much as the decision process.

Friendship and/or emotional decisions versus hockey decisions send the wrong message to everybody in Edmonton and within the Oilers organization itself.

Good organizations deal with things at the end of the season.

Obviously the owner has every right to be part of the process. But what does this say about the hockey people you hire?

In this case, especially, what does it say of Tambellini?

Does this not announce that he's been hired as a puppet?

One of the reasons Tambellini was hired was to spend most of the year looking at this team and deciding what changes had to be made for the future - an outside opinion to look at everything top to bottom and make major decisions for the future. Not knee-jerk decisions.

And what does this say to the fan base, the people who pay all that money to purchase the tickets to watch the team which lost their sixth game of the last seven going down the stretch to take one more step closer to mathematical elimination for a third year in a row?

There's also the issue of Katz being a non-communicating recluse owner who has refused all opportunities to communicate with the fans through the media all year. And then he sends out a five-word text message to the broadcast booth.

Maybe the worst part of this is how unfair it is to MacTavish himself.

A reasoned response through Lowe and/or Tambellini on why the Oilers had decided to retain the coach for another season, while it wouldn't be a popular move with a significant percentage of the paying public, would have been one thing.

But to have everybody in Edmonton, including the players, believing MacTavish might be staying because the owner is his buddy, is something else again.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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