January 31 2010 02:12PM
Thank goodness Sheldon Souray busted a bone in his hand in his third-period fight with Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla in Cowtown Saturday. That saves Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini from unwisely rushing into any trades without proper time to assess his team's needs.
Sarcasm aside, and with Tambellini locked into paralysis by analysis with the Oilers now embedded as laughing stocks after 13 straight losses, the injury to Souray has taken the remote possibility of trading him before the March 3 deadline off the table.
While Oilers fans were cursing bad luck after a 6-1 butt-kicking that capped a season sweep by the Flames, taking Souray out of the pre-deadline trade mix isn't necessarily a bad thing -- even framed by the frustration of seeing Tambellini dither to the point of distraction until now.
I'm assuming, of course, the Tambellini we saw sitting in the pressbox at The Saddledome on Saturday night didn't stiff two weeks ago and wasn't being propped up in the cheap seats for appearance sake in a hockey version of A Weekend at Bernie's.
Really, how would we know?
On the slab
First, there's no guarantee Tambellini was going to be able to move Souray, who has two years of a $5.4-million cap hit remaining after this season, by the trade deadline. Of course, there's no guarantee Tambellini is going to move anybody, ever, but I digress.
In theory at least, Tambellini will have more options when it comes to moving Souray after July 1, when his no-movement clause expires. Instead of having a list of 10 teams Souray has agreed to, he'll have 11, or maybe 12. At least geography and veto power by Souray won't be a factor.
While that takes some of the more immediate possibilities -- Dallas and Los Angeles -- out of the mix between now and the deadline, there's nothing that says those two teams might not come calling in the summer if they don't get the pieces they want for the stretch drive. Maybe New Jersey jumps in, too.
Second, it's not like having Souray on the shelf is going to prevent the Oilers from making a trade critical to bolstering their own playoff run -- I know, thank-you Captain Obvious.
With the Oilers a lock to finish dead-last in the NHL by a good margin and set a franchise records for futility in the process, they didn't really need to move Souray by the deadline to assure a Lottery Pick. That said, the injury provides a little insurance that Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin is in the cards, just as trading him would have.
Tambellini, again assuming he's not gargling with embalming fluid, can and should now concentrate on jettisoning more affordable spare parts -- Ethan Moreau, Patrick O'Sullivan, Fernando Pisani and Steve Staios -- between now and the deadline.
The way I see it
-- Say what you want about Toronto GM Brian Burke, at least he isn't sitting around fiddling and blowing formaldehyde bubbles while The Big Smoke burns, as Tambellini seems to be doing here.
Aside from bending over Darryl Sutter and the Flames by getting the best player in the today's blockbuster trade with Calgary, Dion Phaneuf, when his value has been diminished by a poor season, Burke unloaded Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to Anaheim for J.S. Giguere in a second deal.
Given that Anaheim has been short up front with injuries to Teemu Selanne and Joffrey Lupul, I wonder if Tambellini, at any time, put in a call to the Ducks to see if they'd be interested in, say, O'Sullivan or Robert Nilsson? If Tambellini and Bob Murray were talking about Moreau anyway, as rumour has it, why not run it up the flag pole?
I'm not saying Murray would have done a deal because the new contract he signed Jonas Hiller to made it clear Giguere was on the way out, but you don't know if you don't ask.
-- As hesitant as I've been to criticize Pat Quinn, I don't for a second understand why Zack Stortini and Mike Comrie were in the press box against the Flames while O'Sullivan and Nilsson were in the line-up.
What the Oilers don't need is Shawn Horcoff, who is playing with a bad shoulder, fighting while Stortini sits as a healthy scratch during a game in which the Flames physically ran Edmonton's show. Even with Quinn opting for O'Sullivan and Nilsson, he could have at least yanked J.F. Jacques in favour of Stortini. How bad was Jacques last night?
First Steve MacIntyre was declared expendable. Now, Stortini sits as teams push around a legion of runts incapable of pushing back. Is Quinn making a mistake by under-valuing toughness?
-- With Ladislav Smid, Staios and now Souray out, expect the Oilers to recall Alex Plante from Springfield.
Why? I don't know, seeing as Plante, selected by the Oilers 15th overall in the 2007 Entry Draft, hasn't shown he can play at the AHL level yet, but these are desperate times, after all.
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.