Deep thoughts XII: Cogs dishes and Gator bids farewell

Looking as comfortable as a guy about to hit the doctor’s office for a vasectomy, Andrew Cogliano spun it the only way he could when he faced the media today to talk about how his name came up in the Dany Heatley trade this summer.

Cogliano, headed to the Ottawa Senators with Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid before Heatley queered the deal by refusing to lift his no movement clause, admits to being shocked at having his name leaked, but says he’s moving forward rather than looking back.

What else is he supposed to say?

“When your name comes up, it’s pretty shocking early,” said Cogliano, addressing reporters after a morning skate at Kinsmen Arenas. “You don’t even know what to think.

“As I went on through the weeks, and started thinking a little more, I just kind of put it behind me and focused on hockey.”

It’s obviously a jolt for a young player like Cogliano to know that GM Steve Tambellini had him ticketed out of town, even if that’s clearly part of the business of hockey. Mouthing the words is easy. Meaning them is, it goes without saying, more difficult.

But, after a summer of discontent, Cogliano has spoken with Tambellini and says he’ll be ready to go when camps opens.

“For myself, it’s pretty disappointing,” he said. “I like being here. I like being an Edmonton Oiler. I want to be an Oiler. I like coming back here and I want to play here.

“But I know it’s business. I know this is a business move. When you’re in trade talks for a 50-goal scorer, it’s a part of things.”

If anything, the events of this summer might be motivation for Cogliano, who is in the final year of his entry level deal. I’m guessing he’s going to have a big season — assuming coaches Pat Quinn and Tom Renney find a place for him to play in the top six.

“In a way, it’s flattering,” Cogliano said of being offered up in the Heatley package. “In a way, you look and you say you’ve got some worth in the market.

“For myself, this is a big year for me and a big year for the team. I’ve got the same relationships with the guys on the team. It’s something that didn’t go through.

“I know I’m still a big part of the team. I know I’m a player who has to play well for the team to do well. It’s a big year for all of us and I’ve got to come and think about hockey first.”

Hats off to Gator

Jason Smith is the kind of player I always wanted to be growing up, but I wasn’t dedicated enough, tough enough or smart enough to recognize my limitations and build on my strengths the way he was.

That’s why Smith spent the last 17 seasons playing in the NHL and I’ve spent many more than that writing about the game from the safety of the press box, where all us smart guys who couldn’t hack it or didn’t even try have it all figured out.

As you know by now, Smith announced his retirement in Ottawa this morning, marking the end of a distinguished career built on raw guts, true grit and an unmatched desire to compete.

“He had a great career and he left a lot of his body and his heart in Edmonton,” said captain Ethan Moreau. “It was a phenomenal career and he definitely touched a lot of guys he played with.

“He was a warrior in every sense of the word. I think sometimes that word gets overused, but some of the things I saw him play with . . . a lot of it cut his career short. He played the game one way.”

To say the former Oilers captain was a throwback is to understate,  just as it is to say he’ll be missed in this corner of the hockey world. Smith, tough as nails and mean as hell, could play on my team any time. And he’d damn sure wear the “C,” too.

There are lots of things I’ll miss about Smith.

Back in my days on the beat, when players actually sat around in the dressing room instead of being herded in and out for interviews, I’d cozy up to him every morning, put away my notepad and talk hockey. He’d say, “What do you have for me, Robin?” Smith was way more comfortable just talking than doing interviews, especially if the interview meant he’d have to talk about himself.

I’ll miss interrupting him on the golf course in the summers while sniffing around for the terms of his latest contract. I’ll miss watching that Corvette of his zip by me on Highway 2 on the way back from the airport at two in the morning, leaving that 300C of mine in the dust.

Most of all, I’ll miss watching Smith — broken bones, dislocated shoulders and determined opponents be damned — willing himself to be better than talent dictated he should be. Too many players have that backwards these days.

They don’t make ’em like Gator anymore.

Brass tacks

Mike Comrie still isn’t commenting about his discussions with the Oilers about a return to Edmonton, but I’m telling you that talks are not only ongoing, but getting down to brass tacks.

Comrie didn’t speak on the record after skating at Kinsmen Arenas this morning, but we did have a chat and I’ll reiterate once again that there is interest on both sides in exploring a deal.

Reading between the lines, I’ve got a feeling the person who really needs to be sold that the deal is worth doing in terms of cap space and the roster is Tambellini. I’m guessing that once they sit down together — indications are the sides might meet today — is this deal will either be sealed or will be put to rest in short order.

At random

— With a 40-Something owner like Daryl Katz running the show, there’s an emphasis on youth and appearance with the Oilers, just as there was when Glen Sather wanted everybody looking sharp in a tailored suit.

Sather would even chide the beat writers if they showed up at formal events like morning practice wearing jeans or T-shirts. “Working in the garden?” he’d ask.

Katz, a workout freak with acres of Sam suits Sather could appreciate, expects his employees to be crisply turned out. That might explain Patrick LaForge at this week’s arena update.

LaForge was sporting designer glasses and a nifty goatee. His chin-whiskers were a 30-ish chestnut brown. Last time I saw the 50-Something LaForge with face lettuce, it was grey.

— Interesting poll over at HF Boards asking people there who their favourite Oiler blogger is.

I finished a distant second to Lowetide in the first round of the poll and I’m in the mix with Jonathan Willis and Pat McLean’s always excellent Black Dog Hates Skunks in the second round to determine the official runner-up.

I’ve got to say I’m extremely disappointed with the results and lack of votes I’ve received given how much time and effort I spend trying to get over with the HF Boards gang. That’s gratitude for you.

— I don’t know if Smith is contemplating staying in the game by taking a look at the coaching business, but somebody with the Oilers should be picking up the phone to find out.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • Uncle Geoff

    Robin, there is some danger in the oilers showing interest in getting Smith into a coaching or office job. While I agree he has the attributes the Oilers should be looking for in that capacity, there is a risk that it will appear as "the-oilers-hiring-one-of-their-own-in-the-old-boys-club". And I think there is some value in the Oilers avoiding that perception.

    All of which is too bad for Jason Smith.