Bygones: Comrie comes home

Robin Brownlee
September 09 2009 08:34PM

comrie-and-duff

To say I never saw a return to the Edmonton Oilers by Mike Comrie coming is to understate in the extreme -- one need only read what I wrote Aug. 19 to see how out to lunch I was on the possibility.

Remember? It was such a ridiculous notion, and for so many reasons, that I wasn't even going to ask MC about it. It made no sense. Too many bad feelings his first time around, when he could have and should have been the hometown hero but turned his back on the Oilers.

And then there was the fit, or lack of same, given the make-up of the roster as it sits going into training camp. And blah, blah, blah . . . At least one of the local dailies agreed, quoting a team source giving a Comrie encore the thumbs down.

Well, as it stands right now, after a 15-minute, face-to-face conversation I had with Comrie this afternoon, I've got to tell you we'd all better get used to the idea of seeing MC in Oilers silks again.

While I'm told there's no deal done as of now and that there's at least one other option for Comrie -- I believe it's the Atlanta Thrashers -- I'd be willing to wager MC will be an Oiler by noon Friday.

In what stands as a classic case of letting bygones be bygones, Comrie and the Oilers have settled their differences to the point where I believe the ink is a formality and the unlikeliest of do-overs will begin when Comrie reports for training camp physicals Saturday.

I think I've got it right this time.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

If you remember the split between Comrie and the Oilers in 2003, a nasty bit of business that included searing ill-will between Comrie, agent Ritch Winter and then-GM Kevin Lowe, then your reaction to the possibility was likely much the same as mine was Aug. 19.

Like, WTF? How is this even possible? What part of the first time didn't everybody understand? What's changed since then? Why would Comrie even entertain returning to a city that's a hockey fishbowl, a city full of avid fans still pissed that he took a stack of bonus money and blew town by forcing a trade to Philadelphia?

In light of the conversation I had with Comrie, plus others in the last week with various people, I'd like to think I've got some insight as to what's at play here and what's changed since I was so wrong three weeks ago. So, let's take a swing at figuring out how and why things have turned 180 degrees since MC waved goodbye six years ago.

BURYING THE HATCHET

First and foremost, the two prime players, Comrie and Lowe, have done some maturing in the six years that have passed.

My sense is that having stepped back from things by moving from GM to president of hockey operations, and with the passage of time, Lowe has grown enough to let go of the bitterness that was obvious in 2003.

Lowe's as passionate a man as you'll ever meet, and he took it as a slight to himself and the organization when Comrie started making noise about being unhappy in Edmonton. The reasons why didn't matter. Lowe played hard-ass, hard-ball back then -- a no-holds barred game that included the request Comrie buy his way out of Edmonton with $2.5 million that would get him a ticket to Anaheim. That game is over now. It's taken six years, but the grudge, and it was a dandy, is gone.

I think it's safe to say Comrie, who was 22 when the split took place, sees things much differently now as well.

Paint Comrie as a spoiled athlete with a sense of entitlement if you will, but I believe his inability to cope with the pressure of playing in his hometown had as much to do with the simple fact he needed time and space to grow up as anything else. Who doesn't? The difference is most of us don’t have to do it in the spotlight he was so uncomfortable in.

As is the case with Lowe, the past six years have provided Comrie some perspective. He's days away from his 29th birthday now. That's not a free pass. At least I think not.

While Comrie angered fans by never stating specific reasons why he wanted out in 2003, he's been quite forthright recently as the days have ticked by and camp has approached. He could've and should've handled some things differently. He's plead guilty to that.

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

-- As unpopular as Comrie is with some fans, he was well-liked in the dressing room. Everybody remaining from when he last played here -- Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and Fernando Pisani -- has voiced support privately, and to team management, about a possible return. If Hemsky and Horcoff et al, say they want Comrie back, it's probably prudent that management listen.

-- Owner Daryl Katz wants this to happen.

And, before you trot out the "meddling owner" routine, it's not altogether unusual for owners to make their wishes known. Many around the NHL do, it's simply matter of degree -- from subtle to all-out arm-twisting.

-- Katz and Mike's dad, Bill, are good friends and I suspect that's at play here, as well. I think it's a shame -- not to be confused with a hockey decision -- Bill Comrie, who has given millions of dollars to charitable causes in this city and been a model citizen, felt compelled to leave town over the level of hostility he felt during the split in 2003.

This is a better city with Bill Comrie in it.

SECOND CHANCES

I don't know if Comrie's best years are ahead of him or behind him, but I do know the Oilers aren't exactly burdened with players who have scored 30 goals in the NHL.

Small players? Yes. Thirty-goal guys? No. I'm still having trouble getting my head around how Pat Quinn is going to fit all these little guys into a line-up that was supposed to get grittier and tougher.

Maybe Comrie on left wing with Horcoff and Hemsky is a start. Maybe Robert Nilsson gets moved. The fit, as I wrote Aug. 19, is something I still don't necessarily see even if Comrie can bounce back from a bad hip.

My guess, even knowing what we know, is that all Comrie has to do to make good on a second chance is, well, be the Mike Comrie on the ice fans here used to cheer for. It'll be a rough ride at first, and that's to be expected, but if he performs, if he delivers the goods, maybe there's a chance for him to have this town by the tail again.

If Comrie and Lowe can set aside their differences, get around what was and focus on what might be, maybe fans should do likewise and give it a chance.

Pulling it off would be one helluva story, no?

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#201 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:13PM
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@ Petr's Jofa: I don't know if we care about profits or not. To some degree we must.

I wish we would've done the rebuild properly it's too late to do what we should've done after the cup run.

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#202 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 12:18PM
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jeff wrote:

@ Petr’s Jofa: I don’t know if we care about profits or not. To some degree we must. I wish we would’ve done the rebuild properly it’s too late to do what we should’ve done after the cup run.

Why is it too late to start building properly? We have many great assets. What's 1 or 2 more painful years?

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#203 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:18PM
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@ Petr's Jofa: That's all we had last year up front. 07-08 we had 3 with 23G the best 06-07 we had 2 with Smyth's 31 the best

We need more. And we need guys that can put 30-40 in the net. We aren't going anywhere having 1 or 2 guys scoring 20 and 22 goals.

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#204 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:22PM
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@ Petr's Jofa: If we would've done it when we should've we wouldn't have Souray. In another 2 years is he and Lubo going to be a force?

We needed those few years of good draft picks and that is out of the question now.

I don't see Horcoff being the guy we need either if we were to rebuild and no one will take him.

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#205 Butch
September 10 2009, 12:28PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Butch wrote: Sign MC & I hope he gets back #89 It’s already been decided here on TheNation that it’ll be: #39 Mike Comrie

Man they can't let him wear Weight's #. I love Gagner, but #89 was his # 1st and I honestly think if MC does sign it won't be for the short term. He has something to prove now and that's a good thing

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#206 Butch
September 10 2009, 12:30PM
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@ RossCreek: I could see MC wearing #98 if he doesn't get 89 back. Which is cool because that's my #..lol

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#207 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 12:39PM
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@ jeff:

So if this team's youth underachieves again, trade Souray and Vishnosky while they will get you a good return and jump start a proper re-build

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#208 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 12:43PM
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@ Butch:

Weight's number? C'mon 39 belonged to Daryl Reaugh way before Doug Weight.

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#209 Butch
September 10 2009, 12:44PM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

@ Butch: Weight’s number? C’mon 39 belonged to Daryl Reaugh way before Doug Weight.

Hahaha..true

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#210 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:46PM
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@ Petr's Jofa: NTC/NMC could prevent that although I think Souray's might be done after this year.

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#211 Butch
September 10 2009, 12:48PM
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jeff wrote:

@ Petr’s Jofa: NTC/NMC could prevent that although I think Souray’s might be done after this year.

God let's hope not! I Love Souray!

Hey, are most of you in & around E-Town?

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#212 jeff
September 10 2009, 12:48PM
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@ Butch: In E-Town

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#213 Petr's Jofa
September 10 2009, 12:52PM
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@ Butch:

In St John's, Newfoundland

Souray's NTC has an expiry date and Visnosky's was signed when he was in LA so who knows if he would be willing to waive it to get out of Edmonton.

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#214 RossCreek
September 10 2009, 01:02PM
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LUNCH TIME!!

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#215 Deep Oil
September 10 2009, 01:13PM
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Mike wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: Deep Oil and I want to take you and your short arms to lunch next week. Whats your schedule like? Or will you be too busy playing sidekick with Stauffer (I hope so). But seriously. Deep Oil and I are buds. He speaks highly of you and we should go some time for lunch. Tell him that Mike wants some sports talk at the Moose Factory next week. Deep Oil can buy.

RB charges $50 per hour for interview and comfort talk time, cheaper than some 1 - 900 numbers for sports betting I am told.

Note to the Oiler Lunch faithful, that this is not Astral (TEAM 1260) nor Stauffer's time, but Rexall owns the timeslot..... a step to a working relationship like the Team in Montreal where they hold the rights.

If Oilers Lunch wanted to go to the next level, Katz and Watt should post Stauffer's blog simultaneously on Oilers Nation and oilers.nhl.com, thus expanding the brand into the new frontier. But in reality, Stauffer has a lot on his plate, and probably is overburdened with now day, night work combined with travel.

Brownlee, Spector, Stauffer - together for a roundtable brought to by Rexall Drugs, Medicine Shop and whatever band is booked at Telus Field and Rexall Entertainment.

Safe to say that Stauffer's show has more legs than the sponsorship of the Oiler Indy car.

OUT

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#216 Antony Ta
September 10 2009, 01:15PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

Everywhere else hes Hillary Duffs boyfriend before a hockey player. Not in Edmonton, we care more about production then that other stuff, a different spotlight – one Mike hasnt had since he left Edmonton, Arguably Philly but only played 20 games there.

Spotlight is spotlight anywhere you go.

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#217 Deep Oil
September 10 2009, 01:23PM
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Expect the unexpected.... it would be nice for Stauffer to have both Lowe and Comrie in studio together and sing kumbya over this reported reconcilation.

Hmmm..... Cogs and Gagner have taken a pass on the autograph show at the Mayfield and Northlands this year.... Allan Watt must of had a talk with these two while retired players get paid in a brown envelope. Espo and Howe first show, Coffey, Sittler and Jenkins second show.

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#218 patty
September 10 2009, 01:32PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

patty wrote: I agree with misfit, Hilary Duff is in fact not attractive at all. I am not in favor of the signing but from purely hockey stand point, but to make the above statement is just stupid. Hilary is hot, good on MC, I for one wouldn’t turn her down and if you would you need your man card revoked.

I'll try not to be too dickish in my reply; She's not physically attractive, but I'm sure she's a nice person. Scarlett Johansson is hot. Megan Fox is slutty hot. Hilary Duff is not hot.

COMRIE OFFICIALLY SIGNED!

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#219 Kieso
September 10 2009, 01:33PM
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Well Comrie is an Oiler now...

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#220 vern
September 10 2009, 01:33PM
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It's official comrie signed.

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#221 RossCreek
September 10 2009, 01:33PM
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Well its official. Corey Graham just chimed in on Oilers Lunch - Mike Comrie is an Oiler

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#222 bingofuel
September 10 2009, 01:35PM
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Looks like it's official: http://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=498132&cmpid=oilers-twt-nhl_oilers

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#223 swany
September 10 2009, 01:36PM
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RB where's the Heatley to Oilers article now, it seems like what ever you say comes true so get after it. Way to many forwards something else must be on the go What's the good word RB.

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#224 17
September 10 2009, 01:41PM
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Major props to Wanye and the ON team. Welcome back Comrie I guess.

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#225 Hockey Gods
September 10 2009, 01:44PM
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Tencer's twitter "When does the other shoe drop" What is implying, can we expect another move in the near future?

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#226 kingsblade
September 10 2009, 01:45PM
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I'm going to use the opportunity to repeat a suggestion I made in an earlier thread.

O'Sullivan - Horcoff - Pisani

This would be the all purpose tough minute line. This line should be rock solid all around and should be able to break even against the toughest competition. I see this as a line to be used in any and all situations sine all of them can check and still pot a few goals. (I believe O'Sullivan fits this role based on his reputation as a penalty killer and his shot totals)

Then I would run 2 scoring lines against weaker minutes whenever possible:

Penner - Gagner - Hemsky Cogliano - Comrie - Nilsson

The Comrie line would play the easiest minutes available and should be able to put up some points.

That would leave various combinations for the fourth line from the following players:

Moreau - Pouliot - Brule - Jacques - Stortini

The beauty of this is that some of the guys on the fourth line could handle minutes on the third line in case of injury, and Horcoff and O'Sullivan could effectively play scoring minutes if necessary.

I believe it gives us a fairly versatile lineup with a very solid all around line with some potentially effective scoring lines if the Hocoff line is able to eat up a lot of the tough minutes.

Certainly a lot of people will say that the Horcoff line is way to expensive for a third line, but I do not really consider them a third line since it would feature the most complete players on the team who could handle all situations. They would probably be our best and most effective line too.

Comments? Suggestions?

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#227 Hockey Gods
September 10 2009, 01:45PM
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PS

Over the interweb's high fives to Brownlee and Wanye for breaking this news first.

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#228 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 01:49PM
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[sigh]

Good-bye, Betts. Good-bye, Malhotra. Good-bye, Steckel. (You were always just a dream anyway, right? Right?)

And we have . . . Comrie.

[sigh]

You listen up and you listen good, Mikey. No Duff for you until you achieve 60% on the dot for an entire game. You're cut off, and I'm not talkin' about Homer's favorite beer. Your draw % stinks, and so will your love life until you fix things. Get on it, dude.

(Pssst; Katz. Some guys think you read this. If you do, you might want to pay whoever you need to pay to get Hillary on-side with this plan, eh? Thanks, Big-Guy.)

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#229 Shifty203
September 10 2009, 01:57PM
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$10 says this was signed last week, and the announcement was held of to help kick of Stauffers show. Has Katz branding all over it, save the oilers news for the oilers radio show. Even the inteview with rich winter sounds rehearsed, it doesn't sound spontanious at all.

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#230 Heazues
September 10 2009, 01:58PM
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can someone please explain how this is a good move for the team? im not one of those fans that simply "hate" the guy, and dont want him here for that reason. but i dont see how he is an upgrade at all.

the last time he scored 30 goals was when he was here....

he is no bigger than anyone else on this team.

ill give him credit that he plays with more of an edge than the other small forwards on this team, but is it really enough to be considered a worthy upgrade?

the only way i can like this deal is if they are still moving a smaller forward in another deal.

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#231 scorecoff hemmercules
September 10 2009, 01:59PM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

It's one season man, Hillary will be a non factor IMO. It's not like he signed a 6 year deal for millions a year and we have to worry if he'll back out. He's playing for a good contract next year so I think he'll do alright. Yes, Malhotra or Steckel would be better for us at the moment but it wasn't in the cards I guess. I just want to watch some hockey!

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#232 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 02:00PM
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kingsblade wrote:

O’Sullivan – Horcoff – Pisani This would be the all purpose tough minute line. This line . . . should be able to break even against the toughest competition. . . Then I would run 2 scoring lines against weaker minutes whenever possible: Penner – Gagner – Hemsky Cogliano – Comrie – Nilsson The Comrie line would play the easiest minutes available . . . Horcoff and O’Sullivan could effectively play scoring minutes if necessary. Comments? Suggestions?

You are talking about line-matching to the extreme. Some coaches really like this style. Everything I've read from Quinn suggests he is not one of those guys. I'm not saying your suggestion is bad. I'm just saying I don't think Quinn is going to be looking for the "softest" minutes to feed to Comrie. I've got a feeling that Quinn's going to adopt more of a sink-or-swim mentality for his lines, more like "I'm putting you on the ice because I feel it's a good time. I don't care who they've got out there; you better not screw this up or I'll staple your ass to the bench until sometime in November."

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#233 kingsblade
September 10 2009, 02:04PM
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@ Ender the Dragon: It isn't so much about giving the Comrie line softer minutes. It has everything to do with giving the Horcoff line tough minutes. There is plenty of reason to believe Quinn would give tougher minutes to a better all around line. The soft minutes to the second scoring line is merely a by-product of giving the Horcoff line the toughs.

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#234 kingsblade
September 10 2009, 02:04PM
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That is hardly "extreme" line matching.

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#235 dyckster
September 10 2009, 02:10PM
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This may have been discussed before, but does anyone think Quinn/Renney had any input with respect to this signing?

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#236 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 02:11PM
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@ kingsblade: If you're talking about rolling 2 scoring lines, a checking line, and a goon/energy line, that's pretty much every team in the NHL. Why all the detail on what kind of minutes? Why not just write:

Penner – Gagner – Hemsky Cogliano – Comrie – Nilsson O’Sullivan – Horcoff – Pisani Moreau – Pouliot – Brule – Jacques – Stortini

Done.

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#237 Jeff
September 10 2009, 02:12PM
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This signing doesn;t make much sense. Are we a better team?? Maybe. Should we have signed a Betts or Malhotra instead?? For sure. But I guess their Dads weren't friends with Katz.

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#238 Matthew Hanson
September 10 2009, 02:13PM
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Wow We are going to win the cup now for sure, I have that feeling in my body

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

COMRIE! COMRIE! COMRIE!

oh wait on second thought

(from Star Trek 2)

KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!

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#239 Robin Brownlee
September 10 2009, 02:14PM
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Shifty203 wrote:

$10 says this was signed last week, and the announcement was held of to help kick of Stauffers show. Has Katz branding all over it, save the oilers news for the oilers radio show. Even the inteview with rich winter sounds rehearsed, it doesn’t sound spontanious at all.

The deal wasn't done last week, although both sides have spent the last several days closing in on things. I was told the trick was making the numbers work so, as Stauffer said today, I'm thinking the number is one year at $1.3 million.

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#240 Matthew Hanson
September 10 2009, 02:14PM
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seriously though this Comrie deal sucks

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#241 Matthew Hanson
September 10 2009, 02:17PM
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@ Matthew Hanson: @ Matthew Hanson: The reason why is that we already have too many small of players on our team, and how does this honestly help our PK.(which a lot of people are talking about anyways) Plus what happens if Mike Comrie actually does suck this season, from Heatley to Comrie, that is just sad my friends.

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#242 The Menace
September 10 2009, 02:18PM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: I'm with you. Mike's going to play his a$$ off this year to earn a contract for next year. He doesn't want to go through another off season with no one knocking on his door. I like this signing, I just wonder where everyone's going to go.

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#243 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 02:19PM
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dyckster wrote:

This may have been discussed before, but does anyone think Quinn/Renney had any input with respect to this signing?

The only hope I still cling to is that they didn't (Tambo either) and they're mad as hell. That's the only thing I have left . . .

Oh, who am I kidding. This is one small step sideways for man, one giant leap sideways for Oilerkind. We ain't worse; we just ain't better, either.

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#244 ronaldo
September 10 2009, 02:21PM
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Matthew Hanson wrote:

@ Matthew Hanson: @ Matthew Hanson:

How many of you are there????

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#245 kingsblade
September 10 2009, 02:22PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

@ kingsblade: If you’re talking about rolling 2 scoring lines, a checking line, and a goon/energy line, that’s pretty much every team in the NHL. Why all the detail on what kind of minutes? Why not just write: Penner – Gagner – Hemsky Cogliano – Comrie – Nilsson O’Sullivan – Horcoff – Pisani Moreau – Pouliot – Brule – Jacques – Stortini Done.

If you actually read the post you might have caught the part where I suggest that the Horcoff line is NOT a checking line.

If the most constructive comment you have stems from ignoring an important part of my post and making an inapplicable asinine comment then please don't bother.

Done.

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#246 Tull
September 10 2009, 02:22PM
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Brownstreak,

As much as I love giving you the gears - and I do love it - I have to give credit where it is due.

You called it early, you kept with the story, and you broke it. You might not care about earning respect, but you got it from me now.

I just don't understand what this move accomplishes. It doesn't allow the younger guys to develop, it doesn't push you over the top to a playoff team, and it doesn't address Tambellini's claim to get tougher and grittier. I don't see the logic.

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#247 The Menace
September 10 2009, 02:24PM
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ronaldo wrote:

Matthew Hanson wrote: @ Matthew Hanson: @ Matthew Hanson: How many of you are there????

I think he's the little one that plays the drums on Mmmbop.

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#248 Robin Brownlee
September 10 2009, 02:26PM
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@ Tull: Don't call me Brownstreak.

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#249 Tull
September 10 2009, 02:29PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ Tull: Don’t call me Brownstreak.

Old habits die hard.

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#250 Ender the Dragon
September 10 2009, 02:43PM
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@ kingsblade: I'm not trying to be an asshat; I just don't understand what you're proposing. You say you'd run the Horcoff line 'in any and all situations' but then go on to say that you'd run your two scoring lines 'against weaker minutes whenever possible', with Comrie's line playing 'the easiest minutes available'. When I suggested that sounded like you'd be looking at who was out there, determining the strength of the opposition, and then putting out the appropriate line (ie. line-matching), you said that it wasn't.

Again, I'm not interested in picking a fight or sparring; you asked for comments and feedback. I just need to understand how you propose Quinn distribute 60 minutes between these four lines.

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