It's not the discussion that's the problem. It's how and where it takes place.
It's not the fact that ownership is willing to listen to the fans (if not heed them) or try to re-assure them, it's the conversation at the top and among themselves that needs to be tempered, with more discussion than decision.
I don't need to rehash the facts from last offseason, the roster was seemingly put together through impulse and gut-feelings. Truthiness reigned supreme. On-paper triumphed over long-term planning.
This is where the Cowboy moniker was earned by OK Hockey. And it showed up on Monday night during the Q and A forum when Oren Koules declared to the world that Jay Feaster had never had the nerve to say he wouldn't trade Vincent Lecavalier:
"Feaster probably said that after he was fired. He didn't have the guts to say it before."
In this case, Koules wasn't just disrespect but flat out wrong. He knows the current, he has an inkling of the future, but to be aware and respectful of what came before is vital moving forward as well. And in this case, he didn't know in the slightest.
Someone should have let him know that Feaster had made that statement in 2002 and repeated it vigorously during his tenure as General Manager of the Lightning, but OK Hockey has moved out most long-tenured people with the team. Be they front office staff or arena operations. That's muted the conversation and made the powers-that-be less aware of the past with their own roster, let alone the club. Experts are in short supply at 401 Channelside Drive regarding operations at the NHL and arena level.
"Actions speak louder than words," of course. We've talked about ownership needing to make sound actions instead of all the talk through forums and question-and-answer sessions. But that doesn't mean stop talking. That doesn't mean stop yapping, as Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune implied for Lightning ownership. No, this means the discussion needs to move from the public forum to the private one...
...and it needs to be well rounded at that.
One part of the reason OK Hockey has struggled is that, seemingly, the discussion begins and ends inside of the bubble of three greenhorn hockey executives. Koules, Len Barrie and General Manager Brian Lawton are all former players, but inexperienced executives that aren't surrounded by tenured NHL exec. Besides their scouts, there isn't someone in the front office of note to say "But", "however", or "no". There isn't someone to interject thoughts regarding a player move, or a business move, aside from other members of the bubble such as Assistant GM and Norfolk General Manager Claude Loiselle (another former NHL player turned-first-time-exec).
The problem isn't talking, or discussion... The problem isn't having an unfiltered dialog between ownership and the fans... The problem is muting the conversation at the top when a decision is made. The problem is the impulse over the long-term effects of a move not being fully discussed... The problem is the dissenting opinions not being respected when a disagreement appears.
And in a year of OK Hockey decisions, the dissenting opinions that should have been respected may have saved the Lightning from a humiliating season.
There's a time to talk and there is a time to time to act... Where the discussion happens and what tone it takes is as important as the debate itself. Respect all the parties and players, as they all have something to contribute for the good of the team.