EDMONTON - It seems Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz is throwing in the towel, on this season at least.
In a letter to Oilers fans posted on the NHL team's website, Katz says it's very likely the club will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for an eighth straight season. Katz's statement comes with Edmonton still having more than 30 regular-season games yet to play.
However, Edmonton (15-30-6) certainly faces an uphill battle in its quest to return to playoff contention. The Oilers are last in the Western Conference standings, 23 points behind Minnesota (27-19-5) and Vancouver (25-16-9), who are both tied for seventh.
"I know this will almost certainly be the eighth consecutive year since we made the playoffs," Katz wrote. " I hate that fact as much as anyone, but the reality is that this is only year four of the rebuild that started when we drafted Taylor Hall.
"The good news, if you can call it that, is that other teams that committed to fundamental rebuilds went through the same kind of droughts over the same kind of time frames, or longer. That doesn't make it fun for anyone; it just means we have to stay the course."
The Oilers' struggles have prompted suggestions the team needs to make a big trade but Katz said the franchise isn't interested in mortgaging its future with a reactionary move.
"But I can also tell you that we are not going to sacrifice the future by doing something short-term," he said. "Those days are over and they're not coming back.
"If we're going to rebuild, we want to do it right and we only want to do it once."
Katz also defended Kevin Lowe, the former Oilers' standout defenceman who has steadily risen through the ranks of the organization despite the team not making the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2005-'06. In the space of the last 15 years, Lowe has moved from assistant coach to head coach to general manager and is now the club's president of hockey operations.
"Kevin is a big part of our organization, and it's not just the Oilers that value his knowledge and perspective," Katz said. "He is consistently chosen, year after year, to play a leadership role with Hockey Canada.
"But when it comes down to it, this is Craig MacTavish's team. He is the GM. He makes the calls, and he is accountable for building a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup — year in and year out for years to come. That's our vision. We are committed to it — and we're confident that we are on the right track."
And Katz asked Oilers fans to remain patient with the hockey club.
"Our fans have been incredibly patient and supportive," he said. "At the same time, we know there's a lot of frustration and we are asking you to hang in there while we fight through this and put the next few pieces of the team in place.
"I'll tell you this, despite everything, we all wear our Oilers colours with the same pride now as we ever have, and as we will when we're back on top. We hope you'll do the same. "