The Integrity of the Game Revisited

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Below is a post I wrote on December 15th and I think it bears revisiting today.

Old friend Lowetide has published a post that calls on the Oilers to actively embrace tanking the rest of the season…following up on trading David Perron for magic beans by dealing away Jeff Petry, Boyd Gordon and any other player that might help the Oilers win enough to move out of the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.

Now, some of his followers believe Lowetide is not serious about his exhortations but he followed up his post with this comment:

LOWETIDEsays:

This isn’t exactly an unusual stance, folks. If I were king, Jeff Petry would have been signed long term in the last Tambellini window, but for whatever reason he is not (it appears) coming back. All I’m suggesting is trading him now as opposed to later.

Re: Gordon, Oilers are giving up ONE year of a player for the short term. I trust MacT to find a checking center, he did for a decade as a coach and it took him 10 minutes to secure Gordon.

I understand the math, for me it’s worth the risk. Really there isn’t anything I’m suggesting here that MacT didnt ponder before PErrron deal

The issue I have with all of this is that it comes very close to fraud.

The Oilers sell tickets based on the underlying premise that they are trying to win hockey games every night. To do anything else is dishonest and unethical.

The Oilers also have a commitment to the rest of the league to ice a competitive lineup in the spirit of sportsmanship and intentionally losing is no less a transgression than match fixing in soccer since it has all sorts of implications in the fortunes of other teams that are genuinely trying to be successful because intentional Oiler losses have a ripple effect on the prospects of other teams either making the playoffs or not and, of course, there are millions of dollars at stake in those results.

As I outlined in the December 15th post below, i would hope that, if the league offices determine that the Oilers are deliberately losing to gain advantage in the draft, then there should be severe sanctions from the league up to and including stripping the Oilers of their 1st round pick or at least forcing them to pick 30th as the league did to New Jersey when they violated the “spirit” of the CBA by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to that massive back diving contract.

The integrity of the game is what is at stake here folks and, other than making the owners a lot of money, shouldn’t that be Gary Bettman’s primary responsibility.

We’ll see how this plays out.


 

It has become patently obvious the Edmonton Oilers have gone into full “tank” mode in order to get another 1st overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

They are not icing the best lineup they can and GM Criag (it’s not my fault) MacTavish has passed on some waiver wire pickups and trades (see Jeremy Morin to Columbus for a spare D) that would have incrementally improved the team without giving up anything of value to do so.

I’m not going to re-tell the whole sorry tale of the bungled start to the season, nor what led the team to raise the white flag in November, but what we need to think about is the Edmonton Oiler’s responsibility to its customers and, even more importantly, to the league to ice a competitive team and to try to win every game.`

I see things posted on fan forums like “It’s Katz’s team and he doesn’t owe anybody anything”. Well that is just bullshit. Fans are customers and any business that deliberately refuses to ensure the product it’s selling is of the quality claimed at best deserves to lose its customers and at worst is coming very close to becoming criminal.

Blogging icon Tom Benjamin dropped by Lowetide this morning and framed the issue this way:

It isn’t just Oiler fans. You have to not care about the league, the fans of the league or the integrity of the game. There is an obligation to put on a show, to compete, to try. Call it the ethic of sport. Fans in other cities are happy to take the wins, but they are not happy paying to see the Washington Generals and they will be very unhappy to see the Oilers get yet another elite talent as a reward for deliberately punting away yet another season. It’s bullshit.

“Time to take a knee” says Pierre LeBrun. The Oilers should tank, should quit trying to win. It is sensible to do that to get another elite player. I’ve watched the Kevin Lowe clown show for long enough that I can believe it is mostly incompetence, but I don’t think that’s the general perception. The tank is on and everyone knows the tank is on. The Oilers are not trying to get better. They are trying to finish last.

What does that say about the Oilers? What does it say about the league?

It’s time to include all 30 teams in a true draft lottery one where everybody has exactly the same chance to draft the best players.

Not a word out of place there but it raises the question if the league will step in and do anything about it?

There is some precedent here.

Gary Bettman did make a move on teams that were violating the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement by signing players to back diving long term contracts although they were not specifically prohibited in the CBA and, in some cases, penalized teams retroactively for doing so.

To my eye, those contracts were far less a black stain on the league than any team that doesn’t do its best to compete every night and should warrant far more severe sanctions that were imposed at that time.

I’m not sure what the appetite is in the NHL head office to step in here or what remedies they might impose, but I’m sure the owners and General Managers of other teams can see what’s going on and I’d wager they’ll start making their displeasure known to Bettman.

This is no different in my opinion that players or teams deliberately losing to benefit bettors since the financial reward of selecting a generational talent like Connor McDavid would be massive in the years to come.

I believe it’s time for the NHL step in here and let the Oilers know, in no uncertain terms that they are NOT eligible to receive the #1 overall pick and instead will be picking 30th no matter how the rest of the season plays out.

The NHL did that before when they told the New Jersey Devils they were going to be penalized for the Ilya Kovalchuk contract (although it was amended when Kovalchuk returned to Russia)  and I think it’s time to do it again.

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4 thoughts on “The Integrity of the Game Revisited

  1. Comments I am reading from Oiler fans and bloggers are openly advocating tanking. I find this truly disgusting. Gregor, Brownlee, and now Lowetide have all recently called for the Oilers to intentionally weaken their line up in order to assure them the least chance to win for the remainder of this season.

    Lose their way back to success. Yep, that’s worked out great so far hasn’t it? Losers don’t learn from their mistakes, which is partly why they are losers.

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  2. Let’s not forget there’s a pretty damn good coach who’s trying to make a name for himself & the Oilers could be pissing his career away as well.

    Just heard the news. I hope all is well in your area.

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