Friday, July 18, 2008
Matt Fenwick posted something last season, I believe it was, about players who have a chance to play their entire careers with one team. Nowadays there are very few veterans who may do this although one wonders if the numbers may go up with the huge lifetime contracts being handed out lately.
Compare this to as recently as the early 70s. I took a look at the 1971 Chicago Blackhawks as an example when Matt wrote his post and the vast majority of players were career Blackhawks. Even some of the few exceptions were players who played for one team and then came and played a decade or more with the Hawks to finish their careers. Pit Martin and Jimmy Pappin come to mind as examples.
With thirty teams, big money and free agency times have changed. Even the big money teams of the nineties had very few players who stayed put. Colorado has Sakic. Dallas looks to keep Modano. Even the Wings, an outfit known for continuity, only have Yzerman, the tragic Konstantinov and likely Lidstrom as examples of guys from this era.
And then you have teams like the Oilers who have nobody. Ever. The closest would be Randy Gregg and Kelly Buchberger who both played nearly their entire careers with the Oilers. All of the players from the great dynastic teams moved on. (As an aside how many Cups would that team have won if it had existed in an oldtime feudal system like the old Six Team league? Are they the greatest team ever? Have to be top three with the 70s Habs and 50s Habs I would think and an easy argument could be made for #1. Not that I am biased .... ;) )
Many of the players from the 90s are not lamented but any time a bright light shone through Oiler fans knew it was only a matter of time. Joseph. Guerin. Weight. Even lesser lights like Marchant and Grier. All gone.
With the lockout and the transformation of the Oilers into a have team, even before Katz arrived, things began to change. Longtime veterans Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau will finish their careers as Oilers unless they get moved out in the next couple of years. Money was not an issue when it came to keeping them. Fernando Pisani fits as well if he accepts less money on his next contract and he may be the first career Oiler, which would be fitting considering how much he epitomizes the lean years, as well as his story - low draft pick and local boy makes good, his heroics in 2006, his recovery from a terrible illness in order to continue his career.
That's why the fallout from the Smyth trade was so vicious. Hockey arguments aside, Smyth was the guy who was supposed to be the Oiler's first star player who was going to remain an Oiler. His trade hit fans hard - the lockout was supposed to end the exodus of players!
And this is why the happiness for the Horcoff extension as approached orgasmic heights. The guy is a terrific player and its a great contract, I think, but the most important thing is that finally one of our own is not going anywhere.
Hey, he may still get moved down the road. Who knows? Ask Lubo how much a longterm commitment from a team can mean.
But if Shawn Horcoff does what he does then he will at the very least play the vast majority of his career as an Oiler and could possible go wire to wire in Edmonton colours. The first Oiler's star to do so.
That is why this signing means so much. That is why the outpouring of emotion. It has been a long time coming.
Posted by Black Dog at 12:10 PM