Have Edmonton Oilers Fans Become Enablers?

Jonathan Williams@@jonathanbwCorrespondent IApril 4, 2009

Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio said something to the effect a few days ago:

If you support a team, buy their tickets, watch their games and buy their stuff when they are ineptly run, you are a bad fan and a dupe.

When I heard this it seemed to be a suspect thing said to enrage and engage fans. However, after considering this for a while, I think one would say that Oilers fans have become enabling bad management.

Oilers fans in general have wanted their team to return to the glory years when Stanley Cups dripped like rain.

Generally, when you have a team that was once successful, you long for that era.  It is natural to judge the present team by those achievements.

However, Oilers fans have, generally, been fairly happy just to get to the playoffs most years. There was a number of fans who believed that still having the team was good enough. 

Because of this fans have typically side with management over the past few years. We defend there decisions because they are our team.

But since the lockout ended most fans have been enablers. Through an overwhelming blind loyalty, brought on because of the near loss of the team.

The dictionary defines an enabler as: One who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior

Think of the number of sell outs these last three years. Think of how many fans follow and purchase items from the team. Oilers merchandise is a hot commodity in all of Alberta not just Edmonton.

It is bad management that has led the Oilers where they are and the best thing fans can do is stop enabling it. Fans have an urge is to cheer on their Oilers through thick and thin.

There is nothing wrong with that.

But year after year of knee-jerk reactions and excuses do not make a good team. A well managed team does not need to forget about Curtis Glencross when trying to sign Marian Hossa, because they would have taken care of him before July 1st.

Recently questions are being asked of the coach and management in general. These questions have led some to argue it is time to part ways.

This questioning has not sat well with the Owner Daryl Katz who in a text message before Thursday's game to the radio broadcast team. In the message he said, "(MacTavish) is not going anywhere."

President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe later that night explained that Katz was frustrated that the radio show and media in general were talking of firing MacTavish before the team was mathematically eliminated from the playoff race.

No one questions the loyalty of the various members of the management team and ownership to the Edmonton Oilers franchise.  But that is not good enough. 

The Oilers sense of entitlement in the city goes as far as trying to say that the fans were almost to blame for the predicament that the team was in. Almost as if the fans were the cause of the teams abysmal record at home.

As so often gets pointed out, in Edmonton, the players change but the leadership remains the same.

In some cities teams are given a pass every year.

The Dallas Cowboys will still have fans filling the place no matter how strange they get.  The Toronto Maple Leafs in the eighties were terrible more often then not and they sold out every night. 

This loyalty while admirable in some respects it does allow those teams to remain bad.

In the world of the salary cap good management wins championships while bad ones cannot spend their way out of trouble.

To date, the Oilers are the latter not the former.

I do not believe that fans should expect perfection and championships every year. I do believe that the team has a commitment to the fans.

To date the last time the Oilers won a division was in 1987. The last time they hosted a playoff series was 1988.

Losing teams use excuses for why they are losers. They accept the fact that they are never going to get better and it pervades the team. Many of these teams after a few years of losing become unable to change the culture.

I think the Oilers at this moment have a culture of losing. The players and management say the same things year after year. The fact they can spend to the cap allows them to believe their own hype in September.

Knee jerk moves in the off seasons since 2005 have left the team a weird mix of younger players facing older established players with no middle ground.

The team cannot decide whether it should be full of veterans or rebuilding with young talent. 

The time has come to bring in a whole new look to the team.  New management, new coaches, new scouts. And hope a new direction can stop the slide.

Fans must vote with their feet if they want this to sink in with the team.  Another lost season will leave the team in dire straights.

As Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Right now Oilers management and fans are doing exactly that.


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