Tag Archives: Edmonton Oilers

Oilers’ Move Talk Shows So-Called Canadian ‘Fans’ Slippery Nature

By Jason Menard

It’s amazing how those so-called Canadian hockey ‘fans’ – the very same ones who are generally so vociferous about returning hockey to abandoned Canadian NHL markets – have little to say now that one of their own franchises is allegedly in danger.

It’s only fitting that on a night when the Edmonton Oilers are in la belle province to pay a visit to the Montreal Canadiens, a story has emerged that key senior administration members of the Albertan NHL franchise have met with Quebec City officials to discuss relocation.

Interesting. That regular group of carrion who usually love nothing more than to circle the not-quite-dead corpses of NHL franchises got quiet all of the sudden. I guess it’s OK to wish ill on franchises as long as their south of the border. Continue reading

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Alberta’s Tale of Two Cities

By Jason Menard

Forgive a little literary indulgence here.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

As you know, that’s the opening of A Tale of Two Cities. And while the two cities to which the title refers are London and Paris, these lines also provides an apt description of the situations currently existing in Calgary and Edmonton.

The aforementioned epoch of belief is evidenced by the fact that yesterday star players like Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr have re-upped for five years apiece at less-than-market value. Why? They and their families believe in their franchise, believe in the city, and believe that the grass isn’t always greener.

And by taking less than what they would have received on the open market, they also allow Flames’ fans the opportunity to believe that their club can acquire and retain the pieces it needs to challenge for the Stanley Cup – this year and into the future.

The epoch of incredulity is taking place further north along Provincial Highway 2, where Edmonton Oilers’ fans are rivaling Buffalo Sabres’ supporters when it comes to frustration and sadness.

The Oilers keep taking hits – and yet it could be argued that they had the brighter future just over one year ago! The advent of the new CBA enabled them to bring IN a marquee free agent in Chris Pronger, they were able to trade for a number-one netminder in Dwayne Roloson, and they had talented youth who were ready for prime time. Two years ago, the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup final and all looked promising.

Oh what a difference a year makes. Pronger, under a veil of secrecy and misdirection, bolted the City of Champions to help hoist Lord Stanley’s Grail in Anaheim, Roloson proved to be mortal, and the promising youth showed that they were about as ready for prime time as the current dismal Saturday Night Live lineup. To add salt to the wounds, the club’s heart and soul was deemed too costly and peddled off to Long Island – only to have General Manager Kevin Lowe admit now that the move, in hindsight, was a mistake.

Free agency was supposed to provide a breath of fresh air, but fans’ hopes have been choked by Michael Nylander’s alleged reneging on a verbal deal and other free agents treating the idea of coming to Edmonton like they were being exiled to Siberia.

So while Edmonton suffers through its winter of despair, Calgarians continue to enjoy their spring – and summer – of hope. And it’s a wonderful thing to see for all fans of hockey.

After all, it’s so refreshing to see two players who are not just at the top of their game, but arguably amongst the upper echelon of their profession, choosing to leave money on the table for the sake of family harmony. It’s a wonderful thing to know that there are still people out there who put a premium on quality of life instead of just quantity. And hopefully their relative lack of selfishness will inspire others to make similar quote-unquote sacrifices for the greater good of the team.

Note, I qualified that last statement with the term relative and adding imaginary finger-quotes because the level of sacrifice is all relative. Personally, I think I could live quite nicely on seven million per season, as Iginla is, instead of the eight million per season he would have earned on the open market. But a million bucks per season isn’t anything to shake a stick at – yet still he shook his head no.

After all, would any of us begrudge a player from getting all they can? A hockey career, on average, is very short, so how could anyone fault a player from taking all that’s offered them? Would you turn down that money if someone offered you that in your chosen profession? No.

There’s still time left to change the text, but it looks as if it’s going to be a season of Light in Calgary, and a season of Darkness in Edmonton. One can only hope for Oilers’ fans that this Tale of Two Cities ends with a happy ending.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Brighter Future, Not a Sign of the Apocalypse

By Jason Menard

Can we all take our foot off the gas and slow down the ol’ hyperbole machine? Tuesday’s trade deadline deal that saw Ryan Smyth depart the Edmonton Oilers was, plain and simple, a sound business decision.

Of course, rabid Oilers fans and apoplectic pundits are preferring to spin this as a sign of the apocalypse, or at best a condemnation of a flawed CBA that’s failing to deliver on its promises. After all, wasn’t the lockout and the salary cap designed to ensure that teams like Edmonton can remain competitive and keep their marquee players.

Yes, to an extent. It’s designed to put a framework in place that prevents certain teams from overspending – essentially hurting the other clubs through their own largesse. But the trade of Ryan Smyth for a couple of former first-round picks and an upcoming first-round selection wasn’t a fire sale. It was a sound business decision to get some value out of a commodity that was probably going to leave at the end of the season.

So tell me Oilers fans. Do you want to get some value for Smyth, or would you rather see him suit up for a few more games and leave your team with nothing in return.

Sure, Smyth could have re-signed with the Oilers, but several published accounts were suggesting that he was looking for a deal in the $5.5 million per season range. Those are pretty lofty numbers for a 31-year-old who isn’t exactly a superstar. And then when you factor in that Smyth, allegedly, was looking for a five-year deal, then the trade is a no brainer.

While you may be able to justify Smyth’s heart-and-soul contribution for the next couple of years at that inflated price – and you may be able to do it, I can’t – no one in their right mind would suggest that a 36-year-old Smyth would be worth that type of cap charge. So if the Oilers aren’t able to commit to that amount now, why would they want to lock up that amount of money in a player whose returns are almost certain to diminish.

Yes, there’s more to this than just the on-ice performance. Smyth has been the face of the organization for years. But he’s also been an important regular contributor to Team Canada’s World Championship squad. And you know how you get to be on that team so often? By losing. A lot.

Those clubs are made up of players from teams who either didn’t make the playoffs or got bounced out early. The Oilers, save for last year’s outstanding run, haven’t exactly torn up the league with Smyth on the roster. This year, again, they’re looking to be on the outside of the playoff race. So why not get some assets in return for him before he walks.

Fiscal responsibility is supposed to rule the day in the new NHL. And while every team in the league would love to have the grit, effort, and scoring touch that Smyth brings, how many of them are ready to pony up that kind of cash and time commitment? I suppose we’ll find out after the season when he tests free agency.

That’s where the market will be defined. Of course, now working for a maverick like Charles Wang — who signed his goaltender Rick DiPietro to an outrageously long contract despite the fact he’s never proven to be an elite netminder – may work in Smyth’s favour. If anyone’s ready to overpay for talent, it could be Wang. But, if saner minds prevail, Smyth’s value will fall more around the $3.5-4 million per year mark in a three-year deal. If that’s the case, who’s to say the Oilers wouldn’t find themselves back in the bidding?

All we know is that the Oilers balked at the $5 million-plus price tag – and rightfully so. Sure, the club appears to have taken some hits with the loss of Chris Pronger earlier this season and now Ryan Smyth. But don’t go blaming the league or the CBA. This is merely a case of a club thinking with its head and not its heart.

Now, more than ever, the league is based on allocating revenue and resources to those who are performing in the here and now. If your salary structure is out of whack, then you have to get whacked – and that’s what GM Kevin Lowe did.

After all, those same fans who are wringing their hands in grief today would probably be wringing their hands in frustration at paying through the nose for a 35-year-old forward who’s a shell of his former self, yet still has a couple more years at $5.5 million per.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved