Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

The day after Ryan Smyth was traded, I posted this minority opinion. I wasn't happy and in conversations on threads and in private, I admitted that my enthusiasm was lukewarm at best, usually finishing up by saying that if Smyth signed for the Oilers for the same amount in the summer I would probably be a very happy man.
Trying to have it both ways. :)
The crux of my argument was that in a league where there was a finite amount of money to spend on players, giving big money and term to guys over thirty not named Pronger, Lidstrom or Sakic didn't make good sense. If a guy is older I want him to be the guy who carries the day. The goalie like Hasek circa 1998 who when his team scores a goal you begin to worry. The defenceman who removes all fear of being scored upon when he is on the ice. The forward who strikes fear into your heart every time he steps onto the ice. You know the guys.
As much as I love Ryan Smyth and appreciate everything he brings to the rink, he is not one of those guys. Terrific player but not in that league.
Give the money in longterm deals to kids like, yes, Thomas Vanek, who in his second year in the NHL, scored 43 goals and was a plus 47. Soft opposition? Yep. Play him with Ales Hemsky and watch him score 50 plus each year for seven years. Yes please.
Or sign guys like Hemsky and hopefully, providing they step it up, Pitkanen and Stoll, to nice longterm deals that get you through their first years of UFA.
Allocate your resources wisely.
Of course Lowe now admits his mistake in not signing Smyth. And with this Souray signing, let me say Mea Dopa.
Souray, who is a star, but not really a very good defenceman, certainly not an elite player, and far less of a player then Smyth, gets Smyth's money.
He's Bryan McCabe, essentially. He's famous. And he's not that good.
Hey, I hope I'm wrong. I really do. The guy is big and strong and tough and he's going to help the PP. He can handle himself in one on one battles, he is apparently "terrific in the room" and he's a guy you don't want to fight. Ever. And it is a necessary shot in the arm for an organization that was struggling with the perception that nobody wanted to play for it.
He's just not a great defenceman.
And he has a five year contract.
I read that we can't have it both ways - we can't bitch about EIG not spending the money and then bitch when they do.
Well, yes, yes we can. When you trade away the face of the franchise because he's not an elite player or you don't want to spend the money or you don't like his hair or whatever reason the Oilers are spinning today, then you had better well spend the money wisely. Or if you cannot spend it the way that you want then spend it on short term deals. Blow your wad on Danny Markov and Mike Johnson on one year deals. The team will be better, likely better then with Sheldon Souray, and next year you can try again.
I'm a dummy. There Andy. I said it.


Kyle said...

One of the first things I thought of when I heard the signing.

mike w said...

Yep, we basically traded a powerplay specialist who is also very good at even strentgh, playing tough minutes, for a guy that is also a powerplay specialist and not a whole lot else.

Lowe will never live this down.

Black Dog said...

kyle - the first thing you thought when they signed Souray was that I was a dummy? Thanks a million pal.

mike - yep. I would have rather they have done nothing or at least signed a couple of guys to goofy one year deals. To go on and on about not signing Smyth because it didn't make sense in a cap era and then turn around and sign a guy who is the same age, with a terrible history of injuries and who is less of a player to the same whack of cash and term is really disheartening. At least to me it is.

Lowetide said...

They made out like bandits on the Smyth trade. They just did. Not trying to stir the pot but once they decided he wasn't coming back (probably summer '06) getting the 15th overall pick, Nilsson and O'Marra for performance Feb.2-April 2. is a crazy payoff.

Just is.

Black Dog said...

You know what is scary LT is comparing that payoff with what they got for Pronger.

We won't know for years how it all hashes out but two months of Smyth netted them a payoff that is at least in the ballpark of what four years of CP signed at a nice rate got them.

How weird is that?

uni said...

Ditto on the "What would a Chris Pronger signed for 4 years under market value get you" question.

Ditto as well on the return for Smyth...I couldn't believe Lowe got 3 15th overall picks for a deadline rental that wasn't named Peter Forsberg.

Wouldn't it be a kick if Nilsson, O'Marra, and Plante turn out to be players? Nilsson as a top line playmaker, O'Marra as a top line power forward, and Plante as a top 2 defender...gods I can see it now

Lowetide said...

The Pronger deal will be his nadir no doubt (although if he loses Taveras for a Zach Parise offer sheet I give up, this team isn't worth following).

Lupul's 28 goals and Smid's potential along with the pucks look like 10 cents on the dollar no doubt about it. Plus he didn't use the money on a veteran D last summer.

Black Dog said...

The veteran D - I wonder if there are nights where he lays there thinking if only ...

Things probably would have turned out a whole lot better.

We'll get a sense on that return come the fall I think. Its Nilsson's shot. Let's hope he makes things happen.

Kyle said...

kyle - the first thing you thought when they signed Souray was that I was a dummy? Thanks a million pal.

I meant the rest of the post, ass.

Andy Grabia said...

Not trying to stir the pot but once they decided he wasn't coming back

WTF? This is total revisionist history, LT. They decided they didn't want him back, not the other way around. Don't make it sound like he didn't want to stay here. They refused to deal with him in the off-season after the SCF like he wanted, at a price under the $5 million mark. Then they fucked away half the season before figuring out they should deal with him and his agent. Then, officially, they wouldn't move past $5.4 up to a very cheap $5.5 to sign him (unofficially the word is that Smyth came back on the trade deadline day and said he'd take $5.4, but they said the deal was off the table). Then they dumped on him as he went out the door, so that they could save their asses from a PR perspective. I believe "not elite" and "too old for that kind of deal" were a couple of the excuses. Then they lost almost every single one of their remaining games, wrapping up one of the worst years in team history.

Then this summer comes along, and they can't get anyone to sign here. Lowe offers the same money Smyth asked for to Michael Nylander, a career passer whose wife decided she'd rather live in a city run by the Marion Berry Urban Achievers. Smyth signs for a much larger amount than $5.5 with a team that has an intelligent GM. Lowe admits he made a mistake not signing Smyth, and that he doesn't understand the cap system. Tyler does a post showing damning evidence that Smyth is a pretty fucking good hockey player, in the same league as acknowledged superstar Jarome Iginla (signed for $7 million by our hated rivals the Calgary Flames, because they have a clue). And then Lowe spends the same money Smyth asked for near the trade deadline, and even more than what he originally asked for after the SCF, on a five year deal to a 31-year old defensively handicapped defenceman?

So, instead of having a damn good hockey player beloved by every single person in this city for under five million dollars a year for the next five years, you want us to be happy that we got three hopes and a pilon, none of whom will ever come close to reproducing Smyth's value both on and off the hockey rink? Made out like bandits, my ass. More like illustrated to the whole world why they have no business running a professional sports team.

Black Dog said...

I can't speak for LT, Andy, but my understanding of his statement is that the Oilers decided last summer that they weren't bringing Smyth back.

Which of course makes all of the "negotiations" and spin around his leaving all the more disgraceful.

If they had wanted him they would have signed him.

They didn't want him.

Andy Grabia said...

Well, LT said, "one they decided he wasn't coming back." That "he" makes it his decision, which it wasn't. And if they decided last summer that they didn't want to keep him, they are even bigger idiots than I imagined. If that was the case, they should have owned up to it and tried to get a bigger return.

Kyle said...

I honestly don't think there's any remaining rational argument to justify the Smyth trade as being beneficial to the franchise in any way shape or form.

Steve said...

Well, LT said, "one they decided he wasn't coming back." That "he" makes it his decision,

Um, no. The "they" makes it their decision, since "they" is the subject and "decided" is the verb. If Lowetide wanted to write a sentence in which "he" made the decision, it would be "he decided he wasn't coming back". This is basic sentence construction.

Lowetide said...

Andy: wtf?

Pat said...

Andy at 8:18 is bang on in my mind.

"you don't want to spend the money or you don't like his hair" - brilliant. But maybe close to something very real. I truly think that Lowe had a problem giving money like that to a guy that he (Lowe) himself played with. Hell, Lowe probably knew Smyth since he was a mini-mullety stick boy. Say what you will about being neutral in business affairs (I don't believe anybody really can be), but I can't help but think that Lowe would rather have given the money to a relative stranger (Nylander, Souray, etc.) than someone he was so familiar with. Sort of like Jesus - 'only in his home town is a prophet without honor'

Black Dog said...

pat - I think that's a great point - I have read that elsewhere once as well, iirc, and I think that there may be something to that

I seem to remember Lowe getting pretty pissy during the Comrie fiasco as well - Comrie said something about Lowe holding out or something himself and Lowe responded that he had won five Stanley Cups at that point.

Lowe played with some of the alltime greats - maybe familiarity bred some contempt in this situation and he couldn't see giving a guy big cash when, in his mind maybe, this guy would have been a second or third liner on those 80s teams? When Mark Messier is your second line centre that sets the bar pretty high.

Andy Grabia said...

This is basic sentence construction.

It should have read "once they decided they didn't want him back." A "they" and a "they", see? Do we have to get into the "journeyman" conversation again, James? :)

Andy: wtf?

I just disagree so much with you, LT. Not trying to be a dink. I think the return was terrible, and the entire situation mismanaged from the get-go. I feel the same way about people in Buffalo complaining about losing Briere. If they were smart enough to deal with him early, they wouldn't have been put in a place where they were going to lose him.

Lowetide said...

Andy: It isn't like you to jump on a person without verification. That's my point.

We can disagree on the Smyth payback and that's fine. We're gentlemen. But please understand when I read your piece it looked like you had misread it (as it turns out you misunderstood my intent).

To be clear:

1. The Oilers decided they weren't going to retain Ryan Smyth. After that the rest is easy.

2. I like the payback for 20 games. You don't. We'll see.

Pat said...

black dog-

your point about Lowe, Mess, etc. is exactly what I'm thinking. When you've played on teams like Lowe did in the 80s, it's got to be mind-boggling for him to see the kind of money that a guy like Smyth can legitimately ask for in today's market. I mentioned this elsewhere (in response to one of Tyler's blog entries, though I'm not saying it's an original thought), but in the later part of Lowe's own career(from around 89 to his retirement in 97 or whenever), his TOTAL salary was less than the 5-5.5 million that was bandied about as a yearly salary in the Smyth negotiations. I really think that sort of stuff plays an unspoken role for a guy like Lowe, particularly when he's dealing with a player he knew so well personally. I mean, Smyth was with the organization for what, 10-12 years? A long, long time.

And that leads to another part of it. Maybe this is getting too conspiratorial, but I wonder whether the idea of Smyth as a lifetime Oiler was almost offensive to Lowe, again in light of how the 80s greats ALL left the Oilers at one point or another. Smyth would/could have been the first to be a career Oiler. How could Lowe reconcile that idea with the fact that even hall of famers like Mess and Gretz didn't have that distinction?

It's an unfortunate human trait, but I think it's safe to say that we're often more accepting (or at least less jealous) of a stranger's success than we are a friend's.

Black Dog said...

I'd agree with the first part of that pat but I think the second part might be a little too much. Having said that I think the jist of what you are saying is absolutely correct. Lowe knew Smyth's game inside and out, pluses and minuses and I think the minuses weigh heavily when you're talking about a big contract.

The whole 80s thing and the money he made comparatively was surely a factor as was the fact that Smyth really did not have a signature game in the playoffs in 06. He scored some big goals and there was th egame where he got his teeth knocked out and came back and set up the winner (which of course is absolutely a signature game - thats what the guy is all about). To backtrack a bit - there were no end to end rushes when the team absolutely needed a goal. No huge games like Messier or Gretzky or Coffey or Anderson and so on and so on.

I think in Lowe's mind Smyth did not get it done that way, especially say in G4 or G7. Pisani did throughout the playoffs - G6 against the Wings and G5 against the Canes being perfect examples. I think if Smyth had had a playoff like Pisani Lowe would have signed him last June.

Pat said...

Black Dog:

Yeah, I didn't really think about that impact of the playoffs. You're probably right - if Smyth had a little more May/June 06 Pisani in him, he might have had his 5mill/5year contract last summer. That said, the fact that Lowe was so quick to deal with certain playoff performers so generously doesn't assist in bolstering my faith in him as a GM. But I digress. I think you're right - when Lowe speaks of Smyth as a "good player, not an elite player", his version of 'elite' may entail thinking of Gretz/Mess type of heroics, and nobody will dispute that Smyth didn't bring that to the table. But really, we all know it's not a proper measure in Smyth's case.

man, I really miss that simple, emotional, innocent, hard-working, doggedly determined, moderately talented, and mullety man-child.

Andy Grabia said...

Andy: It isn't like you to jump on a person without verification. That's my point.

Ya, I got caught up in my emotions, and was an a**hole. But I really was trying to attack the point, nt you. My apologies, sir.

As to Lowe, Pat and Pat are probably correct. Lowe has shown in the past that he doesn't like players asking for big bucks. When the Journal tried to nail him on it during the Todd Marchant thing--as Lowe the player didn't have a hard time leaving Edmonton for the Rangers--Lowe's response was, "well, he didn't win 5 Cups." I remember that story vividly, and it probably tells you alot about how he feels about players like Marchant, Comrie and even Smyth asking for quality dough. On the one hand, I respect that. On the other, the system is too far gone now to fight it. Plus, what Smytty asked for wasn't ridiculous. Even Lowe admits it now.

Lowetide said...

Andy: No worries. I think one could accuse the Oilers of humiliating Smyth a little bit, by that I mean if you make a list of the guys who needed to be signed (not just the ufa's, but the rfa's one year down the line) Smyth should have been at the front of the line (arguable after Roloson, but no matter) and they didn't even put him at the back of the line.

Staois got his money, Horcoff got his money, they'd awarded Ethan and Hemsky was given the dollars.

But not Ryan Smyth. And he reacted the way anyone would, with the "hometown discount" line.

Which he apparently accepted at the end, only to be told it was too late.

So, we're left with two possibilites: they honestly didn't think he was worth a long term deal, or it was personal.

Black Dog said...

I think the writing was on the wall after the SCF. I really do. Was it asiaoil who made the comment frequently that if Smyth had potted two or three in G7 he would have been happy to give him the world on a platter but he did not and as a result he was not for giving him the big money deal.

I agree with LT - Smyth should have been first in line (or maybe second) when it came to contracts.

I also think Lowe looked at the '06 playoffs and saw a guy who finished fifth in team scoring, one point ahead of Spacek, two ahead of Samsonov, and who had seven goals in 24 games and said - good but not worth the big money.

Fair - maybe not. Gretzky or Messier didn't have guys like Brad Winchester or Todd Harvey patrolling their wings either.

But I think that was likely the deciding factor in the end for Lowe.

Anonymous said...

From Lowetide:

Oilers Career Scoring Records
1. Wayne Gretzky (583)
2. Jari Kurri (474)
3. Glenn Anderson (417)
4. Mark Messier (392)
5. Ryan Smyth (265)
6. Paul Coffey (209)
7. Craig Simpson (185)
8. Esa Tikkanen (178)
9. Doug Weight (157)
10. Craig MacTavish (155)

Imagine how many more goals Smyth would have had if he was an "Elite" player, or how much more money Colorado could have signed him for instead of 7.5 Million dollars for next year.

Imagine which decade that the next Oiler will crack the top 5 in goals scored.

The 2007 version of the Oilers finish near the bottom, albeit with closer, lower scoring games. Rollie gets traded to the Avs for prospect(s) at the deadline giving them the cup, the same way we rewarded Pronger last year.

Black Dog said...

I'd say your prediction is pretty well spot on anon.