43 DAYS: A MATTER OF PERCEPTION

Robin Brownlee
January 16 2012 10:00PM

All the suggestions around here that Tom Renney isn't the right coach for the Edmonton Oilers and that GM Steve Tambellini has bungled the rebuild and should be out the door ass-first sooner than later is great for debate.

Likewise, all the discussion about who is and isn't in the plans for the Oilers and who fans would either like to see, or expect to see, sent packing by the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 27, which is 43 days from now.

While that's a lot of fun, it also goes to show how quickly perceptions can and do change over a relatively short period of time. That's especially true in Oil Country, where the bandwagon can be rolling like a runaway train on a winning stretch of road with fans feeling like there's no end in sight, only to end up upside down and on fire in the ditch around the next corner.

Might many of you still think Tambellini is a boob in need of a pink slip 43 days from now? Sure. Might you still shudder at Renney's use of personnel then? Maybe. Should the Oilers, 17-23-4 for 38 points and hopelessly out of playoff contention as of today, be willing to trade anybody not named Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle by Feb. 27? Done.

Then again, 43 days is a long time. If you go back that far, to Dec. 5, Oilers fans were in a distinctly different mood than they are today. How have your perceptions about this team, and what it needs in terms of personnel moves and changes in the front office or behind the bench, changed since then?

BACK IN TIME

-- On Dec. 5, the Oilers were 13-11-3 for 29 points, which had them sitting in 10th place. San Jose held down eighth place with 29 points and Phoenix was ninth, also with 29. Did you think Tambellini a bungler then?

-- Back then, the Oilers were five points ahead of the Calgary Flames, who were 11-13-2 for 24 points. Was Renney overmatched as a tactician? Today, the Flames are nine points ahead of the Oilers with a 21-20-5 record.

-- On Dec. 5, the Minnesota Wild sat atop the Western Conference with 37 points from a record of 17-7-3. Wasn't Mike Yeo a candidate for the Jack Adams Award? Today, Minnesota sits eighth at 22-16-7 for 51 points.

-- In the 43 days since Dec. 5, when the Oilers sat within a whisker of a playoff spot, they've gone 4-12-1. It's a skid that's been greased by the losses to injury of Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney. At what point did you decide Ales Hemsky had to go? Or do you still beg to differ with those who feel that way?

Sure, some of you wanted Tambellini gone 43 days ago regardless of the standings at the time. He still hadn't put this team together right, it just wasn't as obvious. And, yes, some of you were screaming about Renney's lines and who he used in certain situations even when this team was in the hunt, just not as loudly as now. Granted and granted.

Suffice to say, it'll be interesting to see what the pulse is here an hour before and an hour after the trade deadline comes and goes 43 days from now. A lot can change between now and then. Just saying . . .

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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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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#101 Mitch
January 17 2012, 05:40PM
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GoTeamOil wrote:

Terry Jones wrote an interesting article a few weeks ago regarding the overall return from the Pronger trade. After most of the picks involved have been selected and subsequent trades of players involved, to directly quote Jonesy from his article: "Kevin Lowe traded Chris Pronger for Jordon Eberle, Ladislav Smid, Colten Teubert, Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, Cameron Abney and a player to be determined. Helluva deal." I'd have to agree with Jonesey and most certainly vehemently dispute your point that "Lowe got the worst return possible on Pronger."

So your telling people need to be judged by 7 or 8 trades down the line from 1 player... I can only think that you feel trading Gretzky was a "great" deal as well? How about The Ryan Smyth deal?

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#103 Kevin
January 17 2012, 07:07PM
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Mitch wrote:

So your telling people need to be judged by 7 or 8 trades down the line from 1 player... I can only think that you feel trading Gretzky was a "great" deal as well? How about The Ryan Smyth deal?

Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm think Klowe nixed a deal that would have had Corey Perry wearing Oil colors. Oh and lest we forget, could have been drafted- but no Pouliet Tambo backed out of a deal that would have sent Sourary to the Flyers for Scottie Hartnell. Where would we be for the potential future signing of Hall, Ebs and RHN with a 9 year $81 million contract to Hossa ? If it weren't for Nylanders wife- we would have had another outrageous contract. How about chasing Heatly and letting Glencross go to the flames. I'm sorry but this current Oiler management duo has got to go ! Perception or Reality, Horcoff is a first line Center and $24million dollar contract. Please , Please, let there be change.

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#105 GoTeamOil
January 17 2012, 08:09PM
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@Mitch

It was public knowledge that Pronger asked to be traded. Not exactly an ideal situation for Lowe and far from dealing from a position of strength. I'm not certain how many "superstars" were available at that point in time but my guess is DET wasn't lining up to swap Lidstrom for Prongs nor was Carolina ready to swap Staal for him. Put in a call to Dean Lombardi and ask him how much fun it was trying to get equal value for Ryan Smyth after his trade request became public. Why would a team overpay for a player when they know he's going to be moved? Of coure, in Edmonton, it surely wouldn't have mattered what Lowe did. If he had made him sit, fans surely wouldn't been ALL OVER HIM for not taking full advantage of a valuable asset. I can only think you're likely of the mind that a trade for a superstar player (never mind an average-player trade) is a piece of cake to complete and that 29 teams were calling Lowe to offer up their very best assets for Prongs.

Point is this: history tells us, on most occassions, the team that lands the best player in any trade ultimately wins the trade in the long run. The way Pronger was playing, there was little chance of landing a player of equal stature in return. At the end of the day, Lowe received a player who has turned into a top 4 defenseman for the team in Smid, a player who is tied for 8th in league scoring right now in Lupul (maybe they saw something there after all??) and a potential franchise player in Eberle (who was the direct result of a pick received in the deal). Take away the "7 or 8 trades later" aspect and you're still landing what's amounted to multiple solid asset. I'm not saying it's impossible to land a return superstar for another in a trade but history says it's difficult and uncommon. Hossa for Heatley is the last one I recall off the top of my head. I thought Lowe did better for Prongs than O'Connell did for Thornton myself. But I have no doubt if you were in Kevin's shoes that Lidstrom would've been the return player cause trading Pronger should've been easy as pie. Do you care to offer up any better "realistic" trade scenarios at the time that might've made sense for both teams?

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#106 Mitch
January 17 2012, 08:50PM
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GoTeamOil wrote:

It was public knowledge that Pronger asked to be traded. Not exactly an ideal situation for Lowe and far from dealing from a position of strength. I'm not certain how many "superstars" were available at that point in time but my guess is DET wasn't lining up to swap Lidstrom for Prongs nor was Carolina ready to swap Staal for him. Put in a call to Dean Lombardi and ask him how much fun it was trying to get equal value for Ryan Smyth after his trade request became public. Why would a team overpay for a player when they know he's going to be moved? Of coure, in Edmonton, it surely wouldn't have mattered what Lowe did. If he had made him sit, fans surely wouldn't been ALL OVER HIM for not taking full advantage of a valuable asset. I can only think you're likely of the mind that a trade for a superstar player (never mind an average-player trade) is a piece of cake to complete and that 29 teams were calling Lowe to offer up their very best assets for Prongs.

Point is this: history tells us, on most occassions, the team that lands the best player in any trade ultimately wins the trade in the long run. The way Pronger was playing, there was little chance of landing a player of equal stature in return. At the end of the day, Lowe received a player who has turned into a top 4 defenseman for the team in Smid, a player who is tied for 8th in league scoring right now in Lupul (maybe they saw something there after all??) and a potential franchise player in Eberle (who was the direct result of a pick received in the deal). Take away the "7 or 8 trades later" aspect and you're still landing what's amounted to multiple solid asset. I'm not saying it's impossible to land a return superstar for another in a trade but history says it's difficult and uncommon. Hossa for Heatley is the last one I recall off the top of my head. I thought Lowe did better for Prongs than O'Connell did for Thornton myself. But I have no doubt if you were in Kevin's shoes that Lidstrom would've been the return player cause trading Pronger should've been easy as pie. Do you care to offer up any better "realistic" trade scenarios at the time that might've made sense for both teams?

I think Lowe panicked, I feel that the ducks could have given up much more value off the roster. Pronger was a pro and I think he would have played till a better deal could be worked out, we had the best player in hockey at 32 yr old and gave him away and tried patching the roster up. Don't stick up for failure. Getzlaf and there 1st or hang up phone.

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#107 sledhed
January 17 2012, 08:53PM
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@admiralmark

right on, that is exactly how i feel! the small glimpse this year of what our team can do when they are healthy was a lotta fun to watch. i am ready for 2 more years of small improvements to end up challenging for a division title.

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#110 GoTeamOil
January 17 2012, 11:00PM
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@Mitch

I obviously wasn't privy to inside knowledge at the time but, from what I remember, it was more likely that he would've sat out waiting for a trade rather than play. Further to that, I'm sure they wanted to avoid a whole "Pronger circus" during the season at all cots. Not much point in keeping a discontent player on the team - little own in the dressing room.

I certainly concede Lowe maybe could've done better in the Pronger deal. Obviouly didn't work out as planned (ideally, Lupul was a point/game player here and not in T.O.) but my original point was that I think Lowe did better than getting the "absolute worst possible return" as you feel he did given how all the pieces have played out. Hell, I would've been happy with Eberle alone for Pronger if it had come to that. I jut think, given the situation of the public request for trade, there was no way any GM would've been able to obtain full value in the form of a "current" superstar and, all thing considered, it could've been much worse.

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#113 UnHappy25YearOilerFan
January 23 2012, 11:35AM
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The changes needed to the Oilers organization are far deeper than a quick trade or two. We are stating to develop a long term culture where we rationalize, make excuses, and dream. In my opinion more fundamental and deep organizational changes are required.

When did it become so acceptable to fail, and why do so many continue to rationalize under-performance. Our player spend is in the top half of the league. Winnipeg and Ottawa both spend almost 10 million less than the Oilers. Winners in this league never accept not making the playoffs. Losers make excuses and rationalize even when the playoffs are a distant dream. We are rapidly approaching the third season as the worst team in the NHL. How many teams have managed to accomplish this feat historically?

In business terms we are completely under performing the market in all respects but one. The FANS. As Canadians we continue to support this team, fill the building, buy the expensive beer, etc. all the while making excuses for under-performance at every level but one (our support) - which given our love of this game in Edmonton they will likely continue to take for granted.

It is becoming increasing clear the Oilers have numerous issues. I suspect there are too many 'buddies' inside the organization unwilling to make the hard decisions that might feel like firing a beer buddy. Tough. This is a performance based business. If the Oilers were playing in most of the US markets, based on our current performance, we would be in deep trouble. The building would be empty. The sponsors would be gone. The loses would be growing. Lucky the Oilers are in Edmonton.

We are a Canadian team with loyal fans and a great history. It is time for D Katz to show us why he bought this team and define a new culture where winning is expected. Where under-performance is not acceptable. Where the fans are not taken for granted. And yes, he might need to fire some friends. Get on with it. The worst team in the NHL for 2 going on 3 seasons! Never as an Oiler should this be acceptable. Never.

The good news is that we have managed to collect some exciting new players through the draft as a result of our abysmal performance in the past. Guys like Hall, Eberle, RNH are all winners - but they will not stay here long term if we continue to lose. They have won their entire careers. Individually these players are winners. Ask yourself if these 3 will be Oilers down the road if we continue to under-perform as an organization. Not a chance. They will eventually go find a winning team.

After 25 years as a loyal FAN I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly as an Oiler. However, my biggest disappointment is the current level of rationalization, excuses, etc. which continue to come from the organization. Which leader (coach, GM, president) has had the courage to face the media and truly take responsibility for this mess. Admit we are under-performing as an organization.

I hope they STOP taking us for granted. PLEASE. If nothing else someone needs to step up and take ownership for the mess. We have not be injured for the past 3 years and on 'paper' we are certainly not the 'worst' in the NHL. We need to stop with the excuses and never ending rationalizations. We need to make the deep fundamental changes. PLEASE D. Katz. Finally make your mark on this team. Clean house.

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