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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#1 Smokin' Ray
September 09 2009, 08:42PM
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Great scoop Brownlee. I'm guessing he wears #39?

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#2 Word
September 09 2009, 08:44PM
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Well, if nothing else, we sportsfans love a storyline.

Besides, I think both Comrie, Lowe and (many of) the fans could use this chance to make good with a little after-school-special forgiveness, and sing a song or two in Whoville.

Wait... good karma can help get you into the playoffs right? No!?!?

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#3 Prop Jay
September 09 2009, 08:44PM
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I think its great

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#4 Vince
September 09 2009, 08:45PM
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Good for Mike....best of luck.

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#5 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 08:45PM
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@Wanye Gretz You sir.... well..... I just am in awe of your awesomeness. You called it old friend. Tell me anything and I will NEVER doubt you again. Well played.

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#6 jeanshorts
September 09 2009, 08:47PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Tell me anything and I will NEVER doubt you again.

That's a dangerous pandora's box you're opening up there. Be careful what you wish for....

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#7 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2009, 08:47PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

Great scoop Brownlee. I’m guessing he wears #39?

There is no scoop -- yet. But I'm reading between the lines of a conversation that told me pretty much all I need to know. Wish I would've had that talk before I blew off the possibility three weeks ago, but I'd rather get the story now and be right late instead of not at all.

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#8 hemi
September 09 2009, 08:47PM
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Another small forward but one that can in fact, put the puck in the net. History is history, we will all get over it.

At this point, I see this as a good signing. With MC coming in, who's going out?

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#9 Word
September 09 2009, 08:48PM
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Oilfan67 wrote:

1st!!!!!

I can't even tell if you greasy blog-rapists are kidding or actually go around prowling from site to site looking to stamp your virtual bedpost with another "1st!"

If you actually came to this site with any regularity you'd know by now that the "1st!"'s are treated with the same dignity of your mother when a john steps over her naked body to go have sex with a particularly charming looking mattress.

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#10 jeanshorts
September 09 2009, 08:49PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

I’m guessing he wears #39?

He should wear 86. And then we can finally ice the 83, 89, 86 line! Dreams do come true!

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#11 Smokin' Ray
September 09 2009, 08:49PM
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Deep down inside... we'd take CFP back too.

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#12 oilitsinyoutogive
September 09 2009, 08:50PM
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could be a very good move for both parties as long as every thing works out, and some fans are not to brutal.

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#13 BK
September 09 2009, 08:50PM
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This is why I come to this site. Great inside scoop RB!

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#14 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 08:51PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

but I’d rather get the story now and be right late instead of not at all.

Ok, so uh.... would you say 95% sure? I mean, is there any chance this doesn't happen? haha I've been one of the supporters of this one since our old pal Wanye threw it out on twitter. Even if I didn't believe him.

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#15 HamSlcie
September 09 2009, 08:51PM
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If the signing is true then a deal involving a short forward and a top 3 d-man is sure to follow...

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#16 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 08:52PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

Smokin’ Ray wrote: I’m guessing he wears #39? He should wear 86. And then we can finally ice the 83, 89, 86 line! Dreams do come true!

It should be 80. Not many wear that number and it's his birth year. He's going to rock 39 for sure though.

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#17 lowetide
September 09 2009, 08:53PM
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The Edmonton Sun will have this by Sunday. Monday at the latest.

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#18 BK
September 09 2009, 08:53PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

Deep down inside… we’d take CFP back too.

"I hate that PR7CK! BUT..Do you think he'd come back!!!!"

:-)

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#19 Clarkenstein
September 09 2009, 08:53PM
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Everytime this story gets repeated I can't help but think that knowing what we know now I have to really believe the majority of the blame for this clusterf**k has to lay at the feet of Kevin Lowe. Six years ago we believed that he could do the job. Six years later time after time he has proved to be incompetent. Oh sure, you can point to a deal or a decision here and there that turned out favourably but overall this hockey club has gone absolutely nowhere relatively speaking. I'm not saying Comrie and in particular Winter don't share some of the blame. In fact, if I had to put numbers to it I would say Lowe 70%, Winter 20% and Comrie and his old man 10%. I have no scientific data obviously to back that up but just a hunch knowing now what we didn't know then. I'm not so sure this signing would help the hockey club but Tambo has been backed into a corner trying to clean up some of the mess left by the septic tank that is the man he replaced.

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#20 freeze
September 09 2009, 08:54PM
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This team makes me shake my head. There must be another move coming because he does not plug any of the holes on this team.

Oilfan67 wrote:

1st!!!!!

eff off!

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#21 Reggie
September 09 2009, 08:56PM
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Just note Mr. Katz, here is my first warning from a season ticket holder. Sign Comrie, combine it with another playoff miss and you will have two more seats to sell in the summer/fall of 2010. I just have to say ... why ? why ? why ?

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#22 Word
September 09 2009, 08:57PM
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Wow. 21 comments within 20 minutes of posting.

Charge your advertisers more.

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#23 BUCK75
September 09 2009, 08:57PM
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I'm speechless...just when you thought you have seen & heard everything.

*looks out the window & sees a flying pig*

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#24 MC - Hammer
September 09 2009, 08:57PM
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More and more I am becoming disenchanted with Katz as an owner. You don't think this doesn't have his fingerprints all over it?

"Why don't I do dad Bill a favor and get his son a job with the Oil?"

Perfect, less room on an already cap tight team. Another lilliputian player? A middlin' player to keep another prospect on the farm?

Pocklington is starting to look like a bloody genius compared to Katz.

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#25 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 08:57PM
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@ Bingofuel I thought we were going to remove the "1st!!!!!" BS posts. Either that or post the guys email address so I can be the 1st!!!!! to blow his inbox all to hell.

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#26 David Staples
September 09 2009, 08:57PM
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You rock, Mr. Brownlee. Great scoop.

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#27 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 09:01PM
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MC - Hammer wrote:

Pocklington is starting to look like a bloody genius compared to Katz

You sir, are an idiot.

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#28 the warrior
September 09 2009, 09:01PM
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<Warrior clled this 2 months ago

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#29 Word
September 09 2009, 09:03PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

MC – Hammer wrote: Pocklington is starting to look like a bloody genius compared to Katz You sir, are an idiot.

No way. Puck has to be a genius, he's in the process of scamming free room and board off the U.S. government for a few years.

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#30 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2009, 09:03PM
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David Staples wrote:

You rock, Mr. Brownlee. Great scoop.

Again, guys, this ISN'T a done deal, just a deal that every bit of my experience, in the aftermath of my talk with Mike, leads me to believe is going to be done this week. Both sides are poised to make this happen, but it hasn't happened yet.

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#31 RossCreek
September 09 2009, 09:03PM
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Sad to see this as I had hoped the Flames would show interest.

Comrie-Horcoff-Hemsky Penner-Gagner-O'Sullivan Nilsson-Cogliano-Pisani Moreau-Brule-Stortini

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#32 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 09:04PM
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Reggie wrote:

ust note Mr. Katz, here is my first warning from a season ticket holder. Sign Comrie, combine it with another playoff miss and you will have two more seats to sell in the summer/fall of 2010. I just have to say … why ? why ? why ?

Hi Reggie, my name is Travis Dakin, I'm one of the hundreds of people on the season ticket wait list. Here's the thing, guys like me are waiting all the time for people like you to cry like a little baby and give up your season tickets because the organization wronged you. I guess what I am saying is..... PLEASE DO NOT RENEW YOUR TICKETS. Fairweather fans like yourself shouldn't have tickets. haha

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#33 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 09:04PM
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Word wrote:

No way. Puck has to be a genius, he’s in the process of scamming free room and board off the U.S. government for a few years.

HAHAHA well played.

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#34 RossCreek
September 09 2009, 09:05PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: the warrior wrote:

<Warrior clled this 2 months ago

~I see your source has revealed himself~

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#35 Jamie
September 09 2009, 09:05PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

Deep down inside… we’d take CFP back too.

Yeah. It's kind of like the girlfriend who broke your heart. You want to hate her but if she gave you another chance you'd be in there like a shot.

As long as she was still hot.

Anyway, if Lowe can get over it, I can get over it. Assuming Comrie's still going to come with a cheap price tag, whatever, what do we have to lose.

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#36 Souby
September 09 2009, 09:06PM
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I think that even though there were past issues, this will work. Comrie is more mature as a player and Lowe is more mature as an Exec. If this does happen, it will be a good signing for the Oil. While it may not be an official scoop yet, great job as always RB.

P.S. When can we expect the debut of the Robin Brownlee show on the Team 1260?

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#37 Reggie
September 09 2009, 09:07PM
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@ Travis Dakin: I'm not a fair weather fan. I'm as die hard as they come. As a matter of fact, my number has come up that will allow me to increase my seats as I am a member of the registry. This smacks of Katz, doing Comrie a favour. We have no cap space for him, have no need for another small forward and don't believe playing Comrie ahead of the kids is any smarter than playing Role 50 games in a row (or whatever the number was last year) ... let's make moves to improve our hockey team ... please ...

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#38 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2009, 09:07PM
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RossCreek wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: the warrior wrote: <Warrior clled this 2 months ago ~I see your source has revealed himself~

I yell at the Warrior. I don't listen to him.lowetide wrote:

The Edmonton Sun will have this by Sunday. Monday at the latest.

I'm saying Saturday . . .

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#39 BK
September 09 2009, 09:07PM
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Reggie wrote:

Just note Mr. Katz, here is my first warning from a season ticket holder. Sign Comrie, combine it with another playoff miss and you will have two more seats to sell in the summer/fall of 2010.

Hey Daryl, If they're better seats, I call first dibs!

(I didn't know he read the Nation!)

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#40 ronaldo
September 09 2009, 09:08PM
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Thanks for the insight Robin and well done Wayne. Feel free to back yourself on the back, sir. Comrie back as an Oiler- weird. Now all we have to figure out is what to do with 2 lines worth of players who can't ride the big rollercoaster.

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#41 jeanshorts
September 09 2009, 09:12PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Hi Reggie, my name is Travis Dakin, I’m one of the hundreds of people on the season ticket wait list. Here’s the thing, guys like me are waiting all the time for people like you to cry like a little baby and give up your season tickets because the organization wronged you. I guess what I am saying is….. PLEASE DO NOT RENEW YOUR TICKETS. Fairweather fans like yourself shouldn’t have tickets. haha

Which is exactly why I don't think it would be a such a monumental disaster as people are expecting if the Oilers do in fact have 3 or 4 rebuild years a la the Penguins, Blackhawks, etc. I'm pretty sure the Oilers have only won one game out of about 20 games I've seen live. And yet, anytime I'm home during hockey season the first thing I do is sniff out tickets to whatever games I can. They've been a mediocre to crappy team for the last 3 years, yet the building still sells out pretty much every game and there is 100's of people on the waiting list for season tickets. If they make it 4 years out of the playoffs in a row it's probably time to take another approach, rather than signing any player available, regardless of their mediocrity. End off topic tangent.

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#42 Travis Dakin
September 09 2009, 09:14PM
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Reggie wrote:

@ Travis Dakin: I’m not a fair weather fan. I’m as die hard as they come. As a matter of fact, my number has come up that will allow me to increase my seats as I am a member of the registry. This smacks of Katz, doing Comrie a favour. We have no cap space for him, have no need for another small forward and don’t believe playing Comrie ahead of the kids is any smarter than playing Role 50 games in a row (or whatever the number was last year) … let’s make moves to improve our hockey team … please …

Ok well this is Katz's team and HE does have the cap space and Comrie will be an instant upgrade over a say.... Toby Reddox or an indifferent Bobby Nilsson. If you honestly believe that Tambellini hasn't made any moves this year because he didn't want to then you have no clue. Comrie has scored more goals in a season than any other player on this team twice. Once in the dead puck era and he is only now in his prime. He comes cheap and lets you get rid of one of the other underachievers for more assets. And yes, if you would give up your tickets because they signed a player then you are a fair weather fan.

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#43 esa tikkanen
September 09 2009, 09:15PM
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i think on the list of reasons Katz wants this to happen is that it will help wipe the blemish that Comrie leaving Edmonton in the first place put in the mind of free agents and others who have not wanted to come here. Hopefully this is the first step towards being able to land other free agents, them knowing that this is a good place to play hockey and with the Comrie saga behind us it is only CFP's wife who really hurt the city's image amongst the players. freaking beach.

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#44 esa tikkanen
September 09 2009, 09:16PM
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Cogliano to the Rangers for Dubinsky and Nilsson to the Islanders for a 4 th rounder would make this a pretty good team..and Cogs and Nilson could still be room mates..

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#45 SLURVE
September 09 2009, 09:16PM
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Wth? I really do not think this is a wise move for the Oilers. We are knee deep in small offensive forwards, why are we even going down this road? It's just going in reverse looking for more bad memories... Lets move on and take a chance on our skilled small forwards already and let them developed. Why do we need to entertain this predictable media circus upcoming? If Comrie and Tambo's relationship fails, wow ...more distraction for Quinn and the boys. Give it up.

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#46 Prop Jay
September 09 2009, 09:25PM
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Good news

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#47 SLURVE
September 09 2009, 09:27PM
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Perhaps Bill and Daryl are friends and this move by the Oilers will ensure a business relationship in the future auch as the building of a new hockey arena and the development of a surrounding business centre...

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#48 gdog
September 09 2009, 09:27PM
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Smokin' Ray wrote:

Deep down inside… we’d take CFP back too.

Is there any doubt... we'd take him back in a New York second.

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#49 The Towel Boy
September 09 2009, 09:29PM
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Wait...this is nuts...Who saw this coming!?!

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#50 TIM S
September 09 2009, 09:29PM
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Robin is there any sense of another move coming if this goes down?? Maybe if Atl misses out on Comrie they take another small Oiler for a pick.

I would be pumped for him to come back. He was always a great player to watch and in my eyes he has always been a gamer. While small atleast there is a bit of grit there.

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