The Mule with a Spinning Wheel

The city is all abuzz this week after Daryl Katz came to city council with cap in hand, to discuss his vision for a downtown arena and entertainment district. Due to recent cutbacks in the newsroom here at SLOW FRESH OIL, we were unable to attend in person, but I believe I've been able to piece together an accurate account of things based on live-tweets from the meeting and my past knowledge of Morgan Freeman's work.

The usually illusive team owner kicked off the presentation with a brief introduction.

"The name's Daryl. Daryl Katz. And I come before you good people today with an idea. Probably the greatest...Awww, it's not for you. It's more of a Hamilton idea."

At this point, I believe Mayor Mandel interjected:

"Now wait just a minute. We're twice as smart as the people of Hamilton. Just tell us your idea and we'll vote for it."

"Alright," Katz replied. "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll show you my idea. I give you the Edmonton Arena District!"

Audible gasps were heard from the crowd.

"They've built stadiums in Houston, Seattle, and Montreal. And by gum, it put them on the map! Well sir, there's nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, world class Arena district! What'd I say?"

"Arena District!" exclaimed Katz Group spokesman Bob Black, standing up from the crowd.

"What's it called?"

"Arena District."

"That's right. Arena District."

At this point, they shifted to the Q & A portion of the meeting. Katz fielded questions regarding noise ordinance and safety concerns.

"What about us brain dead slobs?" asked one attendee. "You'll be given goalie's jobs."

In closing, Katz swore that it was Edmonton's only choice, and encouraged the gallery to throw up their hands and rejoice.

If there was one person in attendance who was not swayed by the proposal, it was Councilor Iveson, who was clearly concerned that diverting funds to the arena project would lead to other infrastructure priorities, such as road repair, going unfunded. But this was definitely the minority opinion, as one of Iveson's colleagues was quoted saying "Sorry Don, the mob has spoken."

It certainly sounds like Daryl Katz made an impact with his appearance, but I happen to be of the opinion that a publicly funded arena is a folly the people of Edmonton just should not embark upon. If we want to revitalize the downtown, we are far better investing in other projects, like this proposed 50 foot magnifying glass I keep hearing about.


Frontier Justice

This is Peter Fidler. At 32 feet high, he is one of the two most famous tall men from Elk Point, Alberta. In my ongoing attempt to catch up on news I missed last week, let's dig deeper into the stories of both Mr. Fidler and Mr. Souray.

The real Peter Fidler worked as a fur trader and explorer for the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Just like Sheldon, by the time Peter was in his late 20s, he was already considered an all-star in his chosen profession. From the presumably reliable peterfidler.com:

"Enthused over the new maps Peter had provided, HBC officials in London ordered that he continue his map-making and be sent on new expeditions.  From the summer of 1795 he spent the next seven years engaged in trading while surveying the northwest...It was also during this period that FIDLER, with the help of Akoi Makai, a Siksika Indian of note, created his famous map of southern Alberta, the Rocky Mountains, and the Missouri River drainage system."
In 1802, Fidler agreed to try to help make a go of things in the fiercely competitive northwest, 205 years before Sheldon Souray would agree to taking on a similar task for the Edmonton Oilers:
"On Sep 18, 1802 the FIDLER party arrived at Lake Athabasca. Then, with his eight remaining men Peter built Nottingham House at Fort Chipewyan, less than a mile from the NWC Post. Now all three of the companies had houses at Fort Chip."
Although both men tried their best, over the next couple of years things only got worse:
"In November of 1804 the XY Company joined forces with NWC...Now indeed things were looking bleak for the HBC. All of the parties involved had suffered poor returns as a result of the competition. Before he departed for Cumberland that spring, FIDLER was warned in no uncertain terms that he should not return."
At this point in the story, the strategy for both Souray and Fidler was one of diplomacy. Fidler came back the following year to try to make a truce with the rival trading companies. Number 44, on the other hand, quietly requested a trade last summer, apparently. I'm sure he thought that there would be plenty of GMs who would love to have him at his current price, and that if Steve Tambellini was properly motivated, he could have Souray soaking up the California sun in no time at all. But time ticked by and it didn't happen.

I'm sure Souray's frustration was quietly building all year. In addition to being unhappy with his location, things were going worse than ever for the hockey team. And then an altercation with a star from another team put him out of commission all together. I think Fidler could probably sympathise:
"BLACK was hired by the NWC in 1803 and was sent to the Peace River country to intimidate and harass rival traders. In 1805 BLACK was sent to Fort Chip, and Peter FIDLER and his men became his primary target. On the day he arrived, BLACK and his men began by pulling up his garden and attempting to set fire to his house. Vastly outnumbered, FIDLER had little choice but to endure, and to 'turn the other cheek'. In fact his instructions from headquarters were to do just that. Peter made an attempt to negotiate a truce with MacKENZIE but it soon became obvious there would be no truce. There was little else FIDLER and SWAIN could do but capitulate. Nottingham House was abandoned in the spring of 1806."
Things don't get much better for either man from here on out. Souray brooded in the hospital for a couple months and then decided he was going to try to hurt the team by slamming management. It might all have been true, but it was immature and poorly thought out, and shockingly, it didn't help him get traded.

Now that he's cleared waivers, you would have to think that Souray has hit a new professional low. I hope he's been spending the last few days taking a long hard look at himself in the mirror (as usual, I'm sure). And if I were him, I think I might be considering looking for a new agent, too.

Meanwhile, back in the 19th century, Fidler wasn't doing so hot himself. He crossed paths with Samuel Black again in 1810, and I don't think "new professional low" was too far off the mark for him either:
"BLACK and OGDEN conducted a systematic campaign of intimidation, the former swaggering about with gun and pistols...They shot at the (HBC) company's weather-vane, fired at FIDLER's flag, cut down his stockades, carried away his firewood, stole his fishing lines and cut his nets, so as to try to freeze and starve him out.  Finally they forbade FIDLER's men to leave their house...On June 4, 1811, soon after FIDLER and his party embarked for Churchill, the Norwesters climbed over the stockade and set his buildings afire...In the fall of 1811 Peter sailed for England for a year's furlough."
It is very possible that Sheldon's complaints about the team were valid, and at the time, the Oilers popularity seemed to be at an all-time low. What could possibly go wrong? I'm not sure how a man over-values his professional worth so badly, but now he's stuck between a rock and a hard place. He has no trade value, and I think the damage he did with his bosses may be too deep to repair in time for the season to start.

Peter Fidler eventually settled down as the postmaster in Brandon,  MB and had himself 14 children. I don't know what comes next for Sheldon Souray, but I hear they've got some nice girls in Oklahoma.


Captain's Log

I've been away at the cabin for the past week, where my internet access is limited to spotty cell reception on my smartphone, so my Oilers news has mostly come in the form of occasional Twitter access and reading blogs well after the fact without the pictures loading properly (thank god I'm back in civilization so I can finally see what Cornelius Madigan looks like). There are a few thoughts rattling around my head about the goings on of the past week, so I will probably throw up a few posts over the next little while covering off some of the old news I missed. First up: Ethan Moreau.

 I don't have much to say about Ethan getting waived and then picked up by his old friend Scotty. It was definitely time for both sides to move on. Moreau was great in the community, and served the Oilers well for most of his reign as the team's 15th captain. But in the past couple years injuries hurt his game on the ice, and the organizational culture decayed around him. I'm not sure that that was his fault, but he definitely carries some of the responsibility. Hopefully Rifles can bounce back in Ohio.

What I'm more interested in, though, is who gets to call themselves the Oilers 16th captain. It's a big decision, and one that will leave a significant impact on the rebuild. Who, if anyone, on the current roster is worthy of joining the storied ranks of Hamilton, Sather, Gretzky, Messier, and *cough* Corson *cough*?

 If I were Tom Renney, I think that I would break camp without giving anyone the "C." The plan is to change the team's culture, and part of that will need to be a new leadership dynamic in the dressing room. It will take some time for that dynamic to shake out, and there's no point in rushing the process. Make Whitney a third Alternate and go from there. Maybe he steps up and proves he's ready to lead. Maybe in a year you consider giving the team to Hemsky as a way of getting him to sign an extension and motivating him to take that next step in his game. Or give it to Horcoff to make him feel better about the offense-killing shutdown role he is going to have to continue carrying. Or if one of the kids really steps up this year, maybe you go with  them as captain next summer. I'm just brainstorming here, but the point is there is no need to rush into anything.