Do Not Listen To Your Fans

This may happen again.
(Not anytime soon mind you)

The Edmonton Oilers will have a new AHL affiliate team, The Oklahoma City Barons, for the 2010-2011 season. The team was unveiled Wednesday by GM Kevin Lowe, who was also sporting a new outlook about the development of the franchise, “We’ve got to get back to what we did for a lot of years. We’ve got to get back to our basic principles of drafting and development, get out of the free agent business.”

About time! It’s a shame to think that it took four years of missing the playoffs after an improbable run to the finals in 2006 to figure that out. Made bittersweet by finishing so poorly last season the Oil were awarded the top pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, after their huge free agent acquisition came down with an injury and exposed one of numerous holes on the roster.

Lowe is a few seasons late, but I don’t blame him for taking the long route. I blame the city of Edmonton and the moniker that proud residents shout from the rooftops as they hurl molotovs at buildings on Whyte Ave whenever they win “City of Champions”. In ’06 Edmonton was given a taste of something they hadn’t experienced since the 90’s, success. Appropriately the fans demanded nothing less than another spectacular run to the finals and the brass did their best to appease them, including several key free agent signings and a series of record setting offersheets.

Unknowingly proving a very important point about professional sports.

Do not listen to your fans. Fans are fickle, shortsighted and bipolar creatures, I live in Vancouver where this theory is proved in abundance and have lived in Toronto where it’s a way of life. Some fans believe the only way to achieve success in the NHL is to purchase your way to The Cup. We call them Rangers fans and for anyone keeping score, they don’t have the best track record. Fans want you to win every year and have a tough time telling the difference between a 50 win and 40 win season. When a franchise is rebuilding fans tend to only see in the present, not realizing that winning 30-odd games for two or three seasons may enable a team to consistently win 50+ games a season for a decade. When franchise players are performing well, they’re the best in the world. If that player has a bad game, the whole team is crap and a bunch of “I told you so’s” get thrown around.

Everyone is allowed to be a cynic, but don’t listen to them! The person toting that “The end is neigh” sign downtown will be right eventually, but it doesn’t make them a prophet.

There are smart people in charge of this team. This season was a bit of a wake up call and now they need to stop for a moment and analyze the situation they spent themselves into. Start by rebuilding your farm team by stocking it full of decent prospects, the rest will fall in line naturally.

It might not be this year or the next, but Edmonton has the potential to achieve long term respectability, they just need to use their heads. Who knows, they may even be able to recapture a bit of the old glory days of the 80’s. It’s not that far fetched if the people involved don’t let the fans rush them.



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