So, as I generally do when I miss a game, I watched the highlights this morning and read through the game-day threads here at OilersNation and over at Lowetide. Anyways, with the exception of Sheldon Souray’s fight, which was just about the greatest thing ever, it looks like I picked a great game to miss. So I’m not going to write about it this morning. Except to say that for everybody pining for Brule, I understand your love but given his penchant for taking asinine penalties I wouldn’t play him all that much either (I have a similar theory on Moreau, by the way).
Instead, I thought I’d comment on a link that somebody was nice enough to point out in Lowetide’s game-day thread. That link takes you to an open letter to Springfield fans from team President/GM/part-owner Bruce Landon. It’s a must-read. For example, there’s this paragraph:
Hershey has significant revenues. They are able to offer their parent club additional dollars over and above their affiliation payment to sign certain veteran players they target in the off-season. Chicago and Winnipeg can do the same. Teams like Springfield, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany etc, do not have that luxury and basically are at the mercy of our NHL team to provide us with the best team they can, within the confines of the budget they have to work with. You have teams in our League who are owned by an NHL team and therefore have an interest in every fan that goes through the turnstile. It makes sense for these NHL teams to do the very best they can, to make sure their AHL owned team has success and therefore can draw well.
The bolding in the above quote was done by me, but doesn’t it sound like Landon is implying that the Oilers don’t really care about the fans in Springfield? When the Oilers were looking for an AHL team, the brass were very specific about finding a team with local owners; that really makes sense if they didn’t expect their minor-league team to turn a profit.
Here are a couple of other excerpts:
As an independent ownership group, we have very little input into our on ice product that eventually affects our bottom line. We also have to understand that our choices are limited, as to who is available as an NHL partner if Edmonton and Springfield were to end their agreement.
Someone on MassLive made the comment, that if we don’t have the resources to sign players and make the team competitive, than we should sell to someone who can. All I can say to that is, if you know of someone who is interested please have them give me a call. Perhaps the best case scenario for hockey in Springfield would be to find an NHL team that is willing to own and operate the franchise.
Landon’s been pretty classy in his public statements as rumours swirl that the Oilers do not intend to renew their affiliation with Springfield. He’s basically said that the Oilers have been up-front with him, and they have the right to look at other options. Still, he’s obviously frustrated with the player choices that the Oilers have made, and with the continued losses, both on-ice and financial.
I do know this: for Landon to publicly speculate on a different NHL partner, he must be near the end of his patience.
Finally, for the one person who said I should demand that Edmonton makes changes, I assure you that Edmonton is well aware of our on ice problems over the past several weeks. I speak to Kevin Prendergast from Edmonton almost on a daily basis. They are disappointed about the position of the team. Kevin has spoken to every team in the NHL about a possible trade. Offers have been made. As they say, it takes two to tango. So far nothing has happened, but that does not mean they are not trying.
I work closely with Kevin in providing him with possible names of players who may be available, either for a PTO (pro try-out agreement) or an AHL contract. I do this through-out the summer when free agency begins and all season long. Kevin runs the names through his scouting department and then a decision is made as to whether or not the player is deemed worthy of an offer. However, all final decisions on players are made in Edmonton.
Kevin Prendergast, although not officially the GM of the Falcons, is the man primarily responsible for roster makeup on the AHL team. Landon says that Prendergast is trying, but trades are difficult to make; that seems nonsensical to me. That excuse has been floated again and again in Edmonton, while we’ve watched other teams pull off mid-season trades for whatever they needed. With Sanford and Luongo both injured, Canucks GM Mike Gillis burned a 7th round pick to get Jason Labarbera. When the goalies returned, he waived Sanford. It isn’t exactly maximizing his assets, but there’s a pretty simple equation that Gillis seems to get:
7th-round pick < competent goaltending over three or four games
There isn’t always a perfect deal to be made, and sometimes teams need to make trades strictly with the short-term in mind. Competent goaltending over three or four games can be the difference between playoffs/no playoffs, or between a first round date with the Sharks or the Flames.
But, you ask, why should Oilers fans worry about Springfield? Maybe it’s just me, but I firmly believe that a developmental system should have a winning track record. Prospects should be developed in a culture that doesn’t tolerate losing, and they should experience the feeling of being the team other teams are gunning for. They should need to go through a tough playoff series at the minor-league level.
Maybe Prendergast got the message from Landon. This morning, the Falcons signed Shane Willis to a professional tryout. Willis (no relation) was once a promising NHL’er, scoring 20 goals and 44 points in 2000-01. That year, Carolina played New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs, and two games in, Willis met Scott Stevens. He’s had injury troubles off and on for most of his career, managing just one game last season because of a neck injury. He is, however, a former Falcons captain and if he can stay healthy he should add some needed offensive punch, as Oilers prospects Rob Schremp, Vyacheslav Trukhno and Bryan Lerg have been inconsistent, while other top AHL players (Reddox, Brule, Potulny) have been recalled to the NHL.
The bottom line is that the Falcons have a ton of ground to make up, and with the management and coaching staff continually making questionable decisions, it’s unlikely that they’ll do it. The Oilers have not done a good job this season in providing a stable farm team, and while Falcons fans have to suffer through that now, I’d imagine the ramifications will be felt down the road as prospects fail to take the next step.