Oilers Owner Daryl Katz yesterday in a letter posted on the team's website "acknowledged fans' frustration" over the team's "dismal season, and said everyone in the organization -- himself included -- is accountable," according to Kevin Maimann of the EDMONTON SUN. Katz "asked fans to 'hang in there' while the team fights through tough times and said he appreciates that people have been 'incredibly patient and supportive.'" Katz also defended President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, who has "faced heavy criticism from longtime fans." Katz "seemed to place the brunt of responsibility for the team's performance on the shoulders" of GM Craig MacTavish, "while at the same time insinuating" MacTavish will maintain his role. The Oilers are "poised to miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year." Katz noted that other teams "have taken longer to rebuild, and the Oilers won't sacrifice future success by making 'short-term' moves." He wrote, "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" (EDMONTON SUN, 1/21).
HEY, J-J-JADED: In Edmonton, John MacKinnon writes the Oilers' "increasingly jaded fan base has tired of empty promises," and Katz's "'right track' looks like a rut, if not a trench to many of them." Katz' message "provides no comfort to fans whose patience has been abused for years." MacKinnon: "At worst, it dumps more salt on their emotional wounds" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/21). Also in Edmonton, David Staples wrote Katz' letter is "the same old, same old 'right track' stuff, even as the losing" of the Oilers is "starting to reach historic proportions" (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com, 1/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote of the team taking a step back, "When you've been waiting this long as a franchise to see things turned around, that's going to be frustrating," and it can be "harder to swallow the idea that Katz is spouting that the Oilers are on the right path." It "seems like the pieces are coming together but the results aren't showing that." The fans do not "have much option but they're just going to have to grin and bear it as the Oilers stick the course and go through the painful process of the ongoing rebuild" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/20).
The Bengals in '14 after a third straight playoff season will raise ticket prices by $2.30 per seat from prices that were the NFL’s ninth-lowest on average in '13. Price increases will be in effect on 55% of reserve seats, and the price will be flat from '13 to '14 on 45% of seats. Sideline seats in the lower bowl will go up from $85 to $90, and no locations will be increased more than $5 per seat (Bengals). Meanwhile, new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who previously had been Bengals defensive coordinator for six years, wrote an "open letter to Cincinnati, thanking the fans and saying goodbye before he departs" (CINCINNATI.com, 1/20).
FARMER'S MARKET? In Miami, Greg Cote writes Browns Assistant GM Ray Farmer is "rising to the surface above the rest" of the seven candidates Dolphins execs have interviewed for the team's vacant GM position. He is "considered a rising star among NFL talent evaluators" and "is young, at 39." Farmer is African-American, which "should not be the reason he is hired, but neither should it be ignored as a positive factor -- perhaps for this franchise more than for most." The Dolphins in their 48 years "have never" had a black GM and there has "not been a black head coach." The "lone black offensive or defensive coordinator across the decades has been Kippy Brown" in '98-99. Cote: "This isn't about tokenism. You hire Farmer first because he is most qualified -- period" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/21).
UH O'S: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote, "The Orioles' refusal to come even close to matching their payroll of last season -- especially with the influx of cash from a new national TV deal and Camden Yards attendance jumping to its highest point in eight seasons -- leaves them vulnerable to an even greater drop-off than last year." The Orioles' "cornucopia of itsy-bitsy maneuvers have only inched them in the right direction." Passan: "It's like rubbing Neosporin on a cut, only the Orioles don't have a cut -- theirs is a gash that needs stitches." After the successes of the past two seasons, the Orioles' "step backward is one completely of their own volition." However, they "could be up there with the Red Sox and Yankees and Rays." The Orioles in Buck Showalter have "arguably the best tactical manager in the game, payroll flexibility and a short window with the sort of core that necessitates action"(SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/19).
TV TROVES: In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty wrote MLB teams have "found a new way to guard the mansion gates," as they "pillage the pockets of networks seeking the local and regional television rights to their games." What used to be "a Yankees Issue has metastasized." Meanwhile, the Reds "can't command a competitive local TV pile," as the market "won't bear it." The only way the Reds can keep up is by "being smarter in scouting, drafting and developing, and even that is getting harder," which is why last summer "was such a crusher, and why this offseason has only added to [fans'] pain." Daugherty: "Reds ownership is not the federal government. It doesn't spend money it doesn't have, and can't project" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/20).