SHELDON SOURAY: BYGONES

Robin Brownlee
March 01 2012 08:50PM

Fans will boo Sheldon Souray when he steps on to the ice with the Dallas Stars Friday in his first appearance back at Rexall Place since his messy split with the Edmonton Oilers.

It's a tradition at the old rink, after all. Wayne Gretzky got it. So did Paul Coffey and Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr and other players who had a far more significant place in franchise history and in the hearts of fans than did Souray, who spent three mostly miserable seasons in Edmonton.

The difference, of course, is all those players, and many others, left town after winning Stanley Cups here during the dynasty days and parades on Jasper Ave. in the 1980s because owner Peter Pocklington couldn't afford to keep them with his financial house of slowly cards crumbling.

Souray, on the other hand, was paid to blow town. First, he was banished to the AHL with Hershey on loan. Then, he was bought out of the final year of the bloated contract he signed as a free agent with the Oilers in the summer of 2007 after enjoying a career season with the Montreal Canadiens.

All that came after Souray publicly questioned how quickly he'd been brought back from shoulder surgery by the Oilers to start the first year of his contract here. It came after Souray asked for a trade privately and later went public with the request. It came after GM Steve Tambellini told Souray he wasn't welcome at training camp and then stuck him in Hershey. After all of that, the buy-out. Get lost. Beat it. Big deposit. No return.

BLACK AND WHITE

It seemed black-and-white to me – to a lot of those of us on the outside of the situation -- back then. Handsomely paid by the Oilers without delivering the kind of performance expected – one very good season and two disrupted by injuries – Souray went public with his discontent.

Souray had shown up the organization. He knew what the outcome would be. In essence, he'd turned his back on a city far more publicly than Chris Pronger had by asking out behind closed doors. Souray couldn't possibly be asked back to poison the dressing room. Tambellini had to stand his ground.

Did it make sense to have Souray play out his contract sitting beside Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle or Sam Gagner talking about what a bungling, inept outfit the Oilers, an organization paying him millions of dollars, was? I didn't think so, and I wrote that more than once at the time. I still feel that way, at least in principle. Which is something less than wholeheartedly.

At the time, I had a lot more faith in Tambellini's ability to assess and keep his finger on the pulse of a team than I do now and to read the dressing room and the different personalities within it. Likewise, it follows, I'm not so sure about Tambellini's ability to assemble the right mix of players in that dressing room. A couple of years down the road since the Souray mess hit the fan and the fans, it's not so black and white.

HERE AND NOW

Souray, 35, who inked a one-year contract worth $1.65 million with the Stars last summer, has, by every account I've heard and read, been a total pro in Big D and a good teammate in Texas. Souray's popularity with teammates here was never a question. He was well-liked in the dressing room, if not in the front office.

With the Oilers having made a couple of stops in Dallas this season, Souray has resisted the urge to take potshots at the Oilers or at Tambellini, despite being offered plenty of opportunity by media types looking for another story and another headline. He has moved on.

Oiler fans, whether they sided with Souray or team management back then, will have to do likewise. And they will, as they always do. After, of course, they jeer and boo the first time his name is announced and when he handles the puck – especially if he happens to put it into Edmonton's net.

What if Souray unloads one of those Studley Wonderbomb slappers of his from the point and finds twine? Might Souray get a mixed reaction from the house at Rexall Place? A smattering of cheers from those unhappy with how Tambellini handled the whole mess to go with the obligatory jeers reserved for returning Oilers great, not-so-great and in-between? Might some of that derision be directed upstairs at Tambellini's perch?

That might be appropriate. It's not so black and white to me now.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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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#51 Matt Henderson
March 02 2012, 03:45PM
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mayorpoop wrote:

not outlandish, you are correct. too much? yep.

His body of evidence suggests he's worth 5 million. There are players who are lesser than him who make in the 4 million range. He doesnt have a NTC or a NMC. And his contract is only for 2 years.

If this was his career high in terms of production, or even his career average, I'd be singing a different tune. Except it isnt. He's been near a PPG since the lockout until this year coming off of shoulder surgery.

5 mill is just fine.

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#52 Quicksilver ballet
March 02 2012, 03:53PM
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Another significant injury to Hemmers shoulders would make moving that contract rather difficult. That's an iffy deal he signed, obviously he's confident he'll give the Oilers their moneys worth. There could be trouble on the horizon (cap wise) if Ales' wildest dreams come true over the next two seasons.

Sponsored in part by the Society for the Obvious Redundant Facts Bureau.

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#53 Mitch
March 02 2012, 04:58PM
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@Brownlee I don't have any issue with what Souray said, he told the truth. I don't have a problem with what ST did by sending Souray away, it was the correct thing to do.

Leasons were learned, both organization and player have moved on. I find it completely stupid when fans boo every player to come back and play as a visitor.

I wish Sheldon luck, by all accounts he was a good teammate and well respected. I can only hope management has learned to communicate better with players and understand every player is differnt.

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#54 jake
March 02 2012, 05:05PM
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It's too bad for Souray he injured himself a few weeks before the trade deadlne fighting Iginla that year. Who knows, he might have been dealt to one of the teams of his choosing instead of Hershey.

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#55 Smokey
March 02 2012, 05:51PM
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Mitch wrote:

@Brownlee I don't have any issue with what Souray said, he told the truth. I don't have a problem with what ST did by sending Souray away, it was the correct thing to do.

Leasons were learned, both organization and player have moved on. I find it completely stupid when fans boo every player to come back and play as a visitor.

I wish Sheldon luck, by all accounts he was a good teammate and well respected. I can only hope management has learned to communicate better with players and understand every player is differnt.

I completely disagree. Both sides could of come to an understanding, and fixed it. In the end, the Tambo looked bush league sending Souray to Hershey, and more foolish buying him out. Souray was legit top 4 guy, if not top two. The team wasted an asset, and in the process made the Oilers reputation far worse then what it was.

With Tambo here, why would a player want to sign in Edmonton... I agree Souray should of kept things in house. I don`t buy the cancer arguement as too why he was demoted and embarrassed by the Oilers, the cancer in the Oilers organization is the management.

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#56 etownman
March 02 2012, 06:25PM
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I didn't like Souray before he got here so why should I like him now! Slow, plodding defenceman with a big shot that he never got off! Oh and was always hurt!

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#57 PaperDesigner
March 02 2012, 11:05PM
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Clyde Frog wrote:

Because JF Jaques was a coke machine that could skate...

Petrell, Hordichuk, Lander, Eager all play a fundamentally different game and don't require PP time to build successful seasons. Most of them can play PK and be responsible first, while also adding a physical/intimidation aspect to their game.

Omark cannot replace what any of those aformentioned players do, he would play a completely different game.

If you bring Omark up its not to be an effective shutdown 3rd or 4th line role player, sure he can add a scoring threat on 4th line minutes... But without PP time and a physical edge he is going to get eaten up and stats will suffer when he makes beautiful saucer passes onto Hordichuk's stick.

So the question isn't about taking people out of the bottom 6, but who do you drop from the top? Also why mess with out League leading powerplay?

Petrell, Hordichuk, Lander and Eager are all, right now, inferior players 5x5. Lander may be a better player than Omark someday, but that day is not today. Other than Petrell, none of those players have a significant role on the PK, and even with Petrell, he's not the key player.

The main role of any player is to get the puck going in the right direction. Omark does this. Just because we're used to 3rd or 4th line players handling the puck like it's a grenade does not mean that is their "role", it just means teams generally do not have the depth/cap space to have guys who can score on the lower lines.

This whole distinction of whether a player "fits in" in a top six or bottom six role is silly. If you have good players, play them. Better to have good players on the ice than inferior ones that fit in some overly limiting idea of what "role" a player should have.

As for "messing" with the powerplay, I would give Omark opportunity because league leading or not, I still think he is one of the six best forwards that this team has to play on the PP. But even if I didn't, Omark would be worth having on the roster simply for his even strength play.

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#58 PutzStew
March 02 2012, 11:11PM
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Don't understand why this is being brought up now. Won't be long before we start hearing the same stuff from the likes of Hall, Eberle, Gagner, RNH, etc. doesn't matter who's on the ice. The Oilers aren't going anywhere with this brain trust.

Still wondering why everyone is wasting time complaining about players and coaches. Can't get anywhere when the captain of the ship thinks he playing marbles instead of sailing.

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#59 Chris
March 03 2012, 02:02PM
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@Smokey

Souray 10 & Tambellini no score. Only one reason to accept the booing, It puts Souray in good company. Edmonton fans showed that they deserve a small minded,ego focused, manager like Tambellini. I have less faith in Oiler's future now then ever.

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#60 Shar
March 12 2012, 10:17AM
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Management is the bestest problem. Breaking records going from a Stanley Cup finalist to going six seasons without making the playoffs is not something to be proud of. At first people blamed the players, next the coach, but think Edmonton replaced the coach a few times now and we have had firt NHL draft picks twice now and still the problem remains. What is the constant? Management.

I give Souray credit for standing up and calling a spade and a spade. If that was how your boss treated you if you were on leave from your job - you would have felt just as he did. I agree he should have keep it out of the media, but so should have Tambellini.

I expected the Oilers fans to boo Souray for the first couple of shifts, but really to continue booing into the second period??? Classless and so not neccessary. His family is in Edmonton - give him and them a break. He was a great celebrity while he played here giving back to the community all of the time in any and every way that he could. Fine example that has not been duplicated since he left.

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