Sunday, March 11, 2007

The EIG is the Machine and I am The Rage

I need you, my witness,
To dress this up so bloodless
To numb me, and purge me now
Of thoughts of blaming you
--RATM, Testify
Totalitarian regimes have often used existential threats to consolidate power and to eradicate dissent. The eccentric Kim Jong-Il, for instance, uses the threat of supposedly imminent war with the United States as a tool to force upon his people a perpetual military culture. To continue the Orwell theme on this board, 1984's Big Brother used the threat posed by Eastasia and Eurasia to compel the people of Oceania to support his regime. Now, Cal Nichols is certainly no Kim Jong-Il or Big Brother. However, the story of the Edmonton Investor's Group illustrates the fact that existential threats can cause individuals to blindly follow questionable leaders.
The 2005-2006 Edmonton Oiler team was the best hockey club Edmonton has seen in 15 years. The current team, however, is on pace to have the worst season in 10 years. The fall has been quick and devastating, and is a direct result of a series of poor decision-making by Kevin Lowe and the EIG. The trade of Chris Pronger for cheap youngsters instead of veteran talent, the refusal to sign a Markov or an Eaton in the off-season, and the trade of Ryan Smyth are the three decisions that have undermined the current and future success of the Edmonton Oilers. There is one factor that has motivated each of these moves: money. Despite massive profits from the 2006 playoff run, and some of the highest gate receipts in the league, the EIG have refused to spend enough money to ensure success, and even refused to keep the Oiler's talismanic left winger, Ryan Smyth. Despite this failure to commit enough funds to the team, the EIG still retains heroic status, and has been completely above criticism from the fans or the media. To make sense of this, one must understand the dramatic events that led to the EIG taking control of the team during an era of existential threat.
Who controls the past now, controls the future
Who controls the present now, controls the past
In 1995, Quebec city lost its team to Colorado. A similar fate struck Winnipeg in 1996, as the Jets moved to Arizona. The fan bases of the remaining small market Canadian franchises, in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, were in a constant state of fear. These fears were realized in Edmonton in 1997, as Peter Pocklington was forced to put the Oilers on the market because of massive personal debts. A bid for the team by Les Alexander resulted in a March 13, 1998 deadline for a local ownership group to put down a 5 million dollar deposit to buy the team. With only days to spare, Cal Nichols finally assembled enough owners to commit to buying the team. The EIG were heralded as heroes who, through great personal sacrifice, kept the Edmonton Oilers alive in Edmonton.
Since that time, the EIG have continually released pleas of poverty via the Edmonton media. The old CBA supposedly prevented a successful franchise in Edmonton, and Cal Nichols claimed that without a salary cap, the EIG would be forced to sell the team. This, despite the fact that The Oilers turned a profit in 2003-2004 even without playoff revenue. Indeed, a close examination of the Oiler's finances suggests that the personal sacrifice of the EIG has been greatly exaggerated. The team is now worth $146 million, more than double what the EIG paid for it. The team's debt is one of lowest in the league, and the profits are high as well. In hindsight, buying the team has been a very good investment for the EIG. However, the group still maintains its immunity from criticism. This man even wants to build a new arena just because the EIG is such a swell organization.
Oiler fans need to stop the hero worship now. The team has undergone a rapid descent, and those responsible must be held accountable. The only alternative is a team that is perpetually underfunded, and is perpetually mediocre. To those who think playoff success is possible without a serious change in direction, Jim Mora has a message for you: THE RANT


Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

If Forbes are to be believed, Old Bill Wirtz has done pretty well for himself, no?

Not quite as well as Minnesota though. If you google for Cal Nichols' commentary on a new building for Edmonton, which city does that first quote come from? Hmmm. WTF is Cal doing there anyways? ... besides admiring the building.

3/11/2007 9:23 pm  
Blogger joninabox said...

A fall as great as best team in 15 years to worst 10 is due to a culmination of factors.

1. Kevin Lowe did not risk enough, early enough to get us the defensive help we needed. This includes targetting early sellers like Phoenix.

2. The EIG did not buck up and give Lowe the money he needed to snag an UFA in the offseason, even if it meant paying Mitchell 3.75 million per season. This and the first factor likely led to the conclusion that the Oilers should do nothing and wait for next year.

3. The Oilers have been stricken with some of the most ridiculous luck with injuries this year. Things like Hejda's dislocated shoulder indicate it's not just our players getting run, but also plain bad luck. Possibly related to players trying to do too much.

There are possibly even other issues that played a large part, but in my opinion blaming this season on any single factor is short-sighted.

3/11/2007 11:43 pm  
Blogger The Rage said...


Injuries have certainly been a big factor. It seems as if the Oilers not only have more injuries this year, but the injuries have affected their best players. Lupul and Smid, for example, have not faced the same injury problems as Stoll and Tjarnqvist.

Another factor is MacT not playing Hejda in the first half of the season. Hejda is probably our third best defenceman, and he was treated like a press box guy. Lesson learned here: play your best players from the start, and then give your youngsters some opportunity if, and only if, you build up a bit of a buffer between your team and 9th spot. The nature of the new "low UFA age" NHL is that you have to develop your youngsters quicker, but there needs to be some rational design behind that goal.

In any case, injuries are out of one's control, but the budget is completely in the EIG's control. There is no reason to spend less than Calgary. We'll see what happens next year, but I'm going to be writing Jim Matheson and the rest a lot more letters if the payroll isn't atleast 44 million next season. I suggest you and everyone else do the same, if you want the media to finally hold the EIG accountable.

3/12/2007 3:47 pm  
Blogger godot10 said...

If the Oilers are in development mode, why should they spend $44 million next year.

Pronger screwed up the short term for the Oilers. Smyth piled on by asking for too much money for too long a duration.

New England Patriot ownership and management, Kraft, Pioli, and Belichek are not likeable or cuddly, and are coldblooded and ruthless.

Kevin Lowe is an above average GM who in a couple of years will have been seen to have managed the transition to the cap era better than most other GM's.

The Oilers have no fatally bad contracts, and a pletora of young talent, and a perfectly positioned to capitalize on the more realistic salaries that will be more the norm in a year or two.

Smyth's contract had the potential to be fatally bad. Sentiment is a horrible way to build a hockey club.

3/12/2007 4:29 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

Hey Rage..have you heard of the concepts of hyperbole, exageration and undermining your own arguments by overstating the case. Its one thing to suggest the EIG are disingiuese regarding their bottom line and fiscal position. You can probably credibly call them cheap.

However, you appear ridiculous invoking references to Kim Jong Il and Orwell. You're basically invoking a variation of Godwin's Law - the first person who makes a comparison to Hitler has already lost the argument.

3/12/2007 9:53 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Did you not get this far in your reading?:

"Now, Cal Nichols is certainly no Kim Jong-Il or Big Brother. However, the story of the Edmonton Investor's Group illustrates the fact that existential threats can cause individuals to blindly follow questionable leaders."

Personally I think that the second paragraph nails it really well.

You have invoked 'Vic's law': The first person to misrepresent facts by selectively addressing sentences of another's argument out of context ... they are a hapless tit.

Have a nice day. :)

3/12/2007 10:30 pm  
Blogger Julian said...

I'm willing to give the EIG another season or possibly two to determine what sort of spending levels they're at. It's quite possible that they gave up on this season back in December (or even after the CFP trade) or so and decided it wasn't worth blowing more money, and they might as well save their dollars for spending even more money later on.

I don't think that's true at all, after the Smyth trade I mean, but I'm willing to wait a little longer till I start telling the EIG to fuck right off.

3/13/2007 12:53 am  
Blogger Chris said...

Vic you miss the point. If you compare someone to a dictatorship and then say while they're not exactly the same, you've still made the comparison. Its over the top and silly.

3/13/2007 1:56 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

I don't know who started this but the whole "Lowe has a visionary" think has got to fucking stop.


I think Lowe certainly took the hardline on 94 and we can't really say why he did that. But Nolan's admission on about how the Isles had a general prospects package that they were peddling to everyone and that's what Lowe wound up taking for Smyth paints him as being prone to reactionary moves and that's NOT how a visionary moves now is it?

And if Lowe was close to all knowing or seeing and knew how to defuse a situation or make the best of it then I'd imagine he would've told Pronger to go fuck himself last summer and either come back and play or sit down until a real deal is made.

Lowe fucked the 94 thing from the time he lowballed him and then decided not to trade him last summer but the current Oilers core was fucked from the time he gave in to Pronger and dealt him for magic beans that were 20 year old anc were minus players playing against nobodies.

That can't be argued.

3/13/2007 12:15 pm  
Blogger The Rage said...


I think I explained why I chose the examples I did. My point was that (real or not) existential threats can cause people to lose their critical thinking ability. I could have used a example like warrant-less wire-taps, but that is a controversial issue, and I didn't want to invite irrelevant political discussion on to a hockey blog. Regardless, you're being hypocritical when you accuse me of using absurd hyperbole. A fictional character and an isolated third world dictator are not in any way the same thing as the genocidal Nazi killing machine.

3/13/2007 7:14 pm  

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