Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The End of the Line for Captain Canada

A collective kick in the groin.

I would imagine that's what everybody in Edmonton and Oiler fans everywhere feel like they got yesterday. Or maybe it was a knife in the back. I can't imagine anyone who cares about the Oilers feels like they got anything out of the Ryan Smyth trade, despite getting two prospects, a first round draft pick and a fair bit of salary cap room out of the deal. No, I would imagine that this one feels like a total loss. And you know what, it probably is.

In this new cap-era NHL nobody seems to think that you can pay a player based on what he means in a dressing room or to a city. Well ask the Oilers and the city of Edmonton what they think about that. Despite the fact that I don't think Ryan Smyth is a 5 million dollar a year player, I don't have any doubts that he was worth 5 million a year to Edmonton, not just to the team but to the people of that city. In a sport played for the fans and kept alive through fan support, especially in a small market like Edmonton, how can you not overpay by $500,000 or even a million dollars to keep a fan favorite like Ryan Smyth happy, and as a result keep your all-too-precious fan base happy?

There is no doubt in my mind that Oilers fans will never forgive Oilers GM Kevin Lowe for this. I think it is widely accepted that the team had both the money and the cap space to pay Smyth what he wanted. The fact of the matter seems to be that the two sides just placed a different value on what they thought Ryan Smyth brought to the table. In the end Lowe wouldn't budge and made a trade that even he admitted does not make the Oilers a better team right now. And even if this trade does work in Edmonton's favour down the road and these two prospects work out, I still don't think Oilers fans will forgive Kevin Lowe. Even if Ryan O'Marra captains the Edmonton Oilers to a Stanley Cup in five years, Kevin Lowe will still be the GM who traded Ryan Smith.

The timing of this trade could absolutely not have been any worse either. On the day the Oilers were honouring their last "Face of the Franchise" and favorite hometown son, Mark Messier, they had to trade their current "Face of the Franchise". And because of the trade and the overwhelmingly negative response, Kevin Lowe could not even go out onto the ice to honour his former teammate, alongside Messier's other former teammates, including Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr and Paul Coffey. It would have been nice if he had shown the courage to go out on the ice and stand behind his decision, but this undoubtedly would have taken away from what was supposed to be Mark Messier's night. So maybe that was for the best.

As for the game last night, Edmonton never had a chance. The combination of losing their heart and soul, coming home from a long road trip, and having to wait on the ice for a hour because of the Messier ceremony, meant the deck was stacked against them from the very start. They looked and played like a team that had the life sucked out of it, and in a way that is what happened. The next 20 games or so will show whether the team can bounce back somewhat and salvage some of their season.

But I can't see that happening.

The Oilers were probably not going to make the playoffs this year with Ryan Smyth and they're certainly not going to make them without him.

On a slightly unrelated note: How good did Edmonton look in the Old School jerseys last night? For someone who grew up watching the Oilers, those jerseys brought back a lot of memories. How is it even remotely possible for those throwbacks not be Edmonton's third jersey, or even their regular jersey for that matter? If they had instituted the throwback as their third jersey and gotten rid of that abomination they have now, I guarantee you they would have had enough money to sign Ryan Smyth from jersey sales alone. Edmonton has seriously dropped the ball here. They should have taken their cue from the Buffalo Sabres and gone retro. I mean how good do those throwback Sabre jerseys look. Classic.

As an Oiler fan I was talking to this morning pointed out, maybe the saddest thing about the Ryan Smyth situation is that the Oiler fans never got a chance to say goodbye to the player they loved so much. Before the Oilers recently left on their longest road trip of the season I don't think there was any belief that a deal with Ryan Smyth wouldn't get done.

But there was no deal and now he's gone, having not had the chance for a final farewell.

Of course people are saying, Kevin Lowe included, that there's a chance Ryan Smyth could sign back with Edmonton as a free agent in the summer. If I were an Oiler fan I wouldn't get my hopes up. With everything that's happened in the last couple days I'd be very surprised to see Ryan Smyth in an Oiler jersey again.

Sometimes you just can't go home again.


Anonymous said...

It will be the greatest wasted opportunity since Steven Segall died in the first 10 minutes of Executive Decision, if the Flames/Oilers HNC on Saturday isn't done in retro jerseys.

Re. Smyth, as a flames fan, hahaha. Or perhaps Kevin Lowe and Smyth are on the snyde, and have simply given up on this season - a number has been reached that smyth will sign in the summer, adn they just got a first round pick and some prospects at the price of not making a playoff run they weren't going to succeed at anyway...nah.

Great blog Luke,


Jeff said...

Good Blog Luke,

I enjoyed the last article, but I do think something more needs to be said. There comes a point in any persons life when they make so much money that an extra $100,000 per year or even a cool million makes no difference. I think it is safe to say that point is somewhere south of $5M per year, unless your Gretzky and your wife tends to gamble, another story completely. I personally believe that if Mr. Smyth really loved Edmonton so much he would of stayed.

On the other hand I do agree with what your saying and I think that Edmonton should of dolled out the additional cash.

Money grubbing whores or anal business people? Worth a thought.