Whoo, it's a fun time to be an Oilers fan, huh?
First off, a quick year in review: losing Game 7; then Chris Pronger; then the rest of our D to free agency; a disappointing regular season; no moves by Kevin Lowe; EIG already groaning about a rising salary cap and greasing tax money for a new arena; no moves by Lowe; no playoffs, Vancouver, Calgary and Anaheim looking great... and then, the ultimate cockpunch of all, losing Ryan Smyth in a hasty eleventh-hour trade for a bunch of longshot prospects.
While poor Andy over at BoA was battling hundreds of internet trolls, I was off eating sushi, secure in my little delusional bubble that Ryan Smyth would at least get signed for $5.5 - $6 million.
Instead, it's a deadline deal of deadline deals, for a first round pick in a weak draft, Ryan O'Marra (15th overall) and for cronyism's sake, Robert Nilsson, son of Oilers scout and former player Kent Nilsson (in a manner not unlike that delightful Lupul deal last spring!). Ah, but screw whatever the Islanders threw our way. We'll talk about that later: from what I immediately understand, it's not enough.
What few fans outside of Edmonton know is that Kevin Lowe is a stridently principled negotiator, clearly a man of his word when he lays down an ultimatum.
With Mike Comrie, Oilers fans were behind Lowe 100 per cent. With Chris Pronger, Oilers fans were too confused by his sulky half-explanations and too annoyed by his pre-draft timing for a public trade demand to really blame Lowe. I too, support the way Lowe handled those situations, especially Comrie, and nothing remains unaffected.
However, today's deal is clearly a case of throwing the 30-goal scoring golden baby out with the bath water. I wouldn't call Lowe cheap (how else can you explain the loyalty contracts to Staios or Pisani?) but we're talking a difference of a million dollars: a couple of Toby Petersons, really.
This is Ryan Smyth. The man, who, for the record [tears of pure oil welling up in my eye], I've always felt was a much more important player to the Oilers than Mark Messier.
He was our last shot at a real Stevie Y type: a true blue Oiler with a special failure of imagination to think of playing anywhere else. At one time, I thought things like institutional memory were important, that we weren't just cheering for laundry, the idea that teams could have distinct identities that could span decades.
But alas, the salary cap era has only made players even more expendable. I'm under no illusion that hockey isn't a business, but it's an increasingly cap-fixated, mercenary one, which totally sucks, especially today.
If I close my eyes, I can see Ryan Smyth's ferrety face; his slinky, durable body slipping past a check on the boards; and of course, that small pile of blood and teeth left on the ice during the 2006 playoffs.
Bon Voyage, Ryan, (and say hi to Marc-Andre Bergeron for me once you get to Long Island).