Big Sexy’s big interview

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers

Take a deep breath Oilersnation… relax, inhale and look at how the Sheldon Souray trade request will impact the team. Souray told Mark Spector he wants out, and you shouldn’t be shocked by Souray’s request.

But why he wants out is the bigger issue.

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Here’s what he said to Spector.

"I don’t talk to anyone (in management) and I don’t expect to when I check out of here. I don’t really need to talk to them. There isn’t anything to say.

"Management has soured on me, and I’ve soured on them," he continued. "The fans are great, they’ve accepted me here, I see the jerseys in the stands. I couldn’t have pictured a more opposite vision of what my experience here would be like. What the organization here would be like, overall."

"I feel now that, when I signed here, I probably was as blinded by their great past as (the Oilers) are," Souray said. "People will question me, that they overpaid me … that it was a bad decision to sign me. But I can tell you this: I turned down more money in other places."

"I got challenged by management on the very first day of my first training camp. The very first day," he said. "They said, ‘When are you going to play?’ I said, ‘I have a six month (shoulder) injury and I’m at five months.’ But I played.

"The Oilers always prided themselves in being a family. Whatever happened to that? I haven’t talked to (Tambellini) since mid-January."

Here we are a day after the season ended and the drama of the off-season will only intensify with Souray’s comments.

Steve Tambellini is not the best communicator to guys on his own management team, so I’m not stunned he hasn’t spoken with Souray, however, I doubt one phone call to see how he was doing was going to change Souray’s mind.

Souray was bang on when he said it was a mutual “souring” between him and management. Tambellini would have traded him at the deadline if he didn’t break his hand in a fight with Jarome Iginla.

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Souray didn’t see eye-to-eye with Craig MacTavish or Kevin Lowe, but neither of those guys are in the same position when Souray signed.

I appreciate when a player speaks his mind, and Souray was never afraid to answer any question, but what is gained by demanding a trade today?

Souray has a no-movement clause until June 30th, so he controls where he gets dealt despite his public demand. Even once July 1st hits he and his agent still have some say, because they will undoubtedly tell teams where he wants to play. No team will trade for a $5.4 cap-hit player who doesn’t want to be in their organization.

So what was Souray’s motivation?

He wants the world to know he wasn’t treated fairly? That Tambellini didn’t check up on him? Or that the Oilers management team isn’t as professional as the New Jersey Devils or Montreal Canadiens?

The Devils traded him at the deadline in 2000 to Montreal, the year they won their 2nd Stanley Cup. The Habs didn’t re-sign after he scored 26 goals. Why?

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I don’t see Souray’s demand as another low point for the organization, because they can’t get lower than 30th. Souray is not Chris Pronger. The Rake led the Oilers to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, while the Oilers haven’t made the dance once in Souray’s three seasons.

It is clear that Souray was frustrated and annoyed with Tambellini and the Oilers and the last three years have been tough, but it hasn’t been any harder on him than other players and the fans that have loyally doled out thousands of dollars only to watch a below-average product for three years.

While Souray has a right to be annoyed he should look in the mirror and realize that he isn’t completely innocent either.

He was part of a leadership group that missed the playoffs three years running. He was in the room where harmony was questioned. He accuses Tambellini of not being “family oriented” yet the area he could control, the dressing room, was far from harmonious.

Both sides are to blame in this divorce, and I think both sides will be better off without one another moving forward. Now it is up to Tambellini to try and salvage something out of Souray’s tenure in Edmonton.

The most important off-season in Oiler history starts today, and it just got a bit more interesting with Souray’s comments.

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  • BarryS

    And whose word do we have besides Souray's he was pressured to play hurt? One of the conditions of playing in Edmonton is the fans seem to expect players to play every game, hurt or not and then whine about their play when they don't play well.

    Sourey is a big boy, if he can't stand up to
    management, if he actually would have had to, with a guaranteed contract in hand, then he shouldn't whine about it. Personally I would rather hurt players not play than hurt the team by playing, but there are two parts to a player playing after inury, the medical staff and the player. If the medical staff okays it, it is still up to the player. Now if the medical staff in incompetant, then that's another matter but Souray didn't call them out.

  • Rob...

    Hey Jason, any chance you can get someone from the WCB on your show? Regardless the level of sport, there's always a desire/pressure to play injured to help your team. Throw a paycheque into the mix, like the professional teams do, and it seems a little confusing as to what management should be allowing, nevermind demanding, from their players.

    • You can't be serious. The WCB in Alberta doesn't give people who are hurt any breaks plus I doubt that a NHL player would be happy with the 65K cap on earnings.

      Comparing a guy who loses his hearing or loses a limb working in the real world to a hockey player who is complaining about being rushed back to work is a little out of context. ~I believe the guy who held the WCB hostage for a day was happy with how he was treated?

  • I'm sure someone's already pointed this out, but it makes me wonder how much Horcoff has been pushed to play with an injured shoulder. In fact, I wonder how many other players may have been pushed. The Oilers have over 400 man games lost to injury, a peak in a number that has been increasing over the last four seasons.

    I thought a long time ago Horcoff should be taken off the shelf until his shoulder is 100%. It makes no sense to have the guy you count on for faceoffs to have a shoulder injury.

  • Moop

    You can point the fingers at the spoiled rich players all you want but this organization will keep getting it's balls kicked until they make changes with the management. At the end of the day to much negative and damaging comments have been publicly aired. The culture of this organization will only change when Lowe, Tambellini, Bucky, Pendergrast, etc… have no ties to the team.

  • Chris.

    I think a lot of people (including Gregor) are missing the point.

    It doesn't matter if Souray has been childish, or difficult, or is a high maintenance type player… Shouldn't it be a mandate for management to create the best possible atmosphere within the entire organization? It's not like the Oilers will never encounter another high maintenance type player…. IMO, The sheer number of player management relationships that have gone sour over the years is quite alarming.

    P.S. If true, it's absolutely ridiculous that a player injured on the ice, could lay on a hospital bed with an IV, for weeks, without recieving any kind of visit or phone call from the boss. Shame on you Tambellini!

      • Chris.

        Hey, everyone, before we continue our frenzy of casting aspersions on management as to whether or not they sent flowers to Souray while he was in hospital or didn't bother texting/phoning/writing him during his myriad injuries, would it not be prudent to wait and hear what the Oilers management response is?

        I mean, they haven't commented yet, but they will. And maybe, just maybe, they'll call BS on a lot of what Souray has claimed.

        Just throwin' it out there.

        It seems like a lot of us are willing to accept Souray's account of things, carte-blanche.

        Not sayin' he's wrong or out-of-line for bringing it up but I'd like to reserve judgement until the other side has had a chance to rebut. Maybe they won't, but maybe they will.

        • Taking this indecent alone, I would tend to have your opinion. But how many times does this (poop) have to happen before we look at the common thread- management. I can no longer accept that the Oilers keep having bad luck in acquiring problem athletes.

          • Again, fair enough. Everyone's welcome to draw whatever conclusions they wish vis-a-vis Souray. That's the fun part about blogs and fan sites.

            As for me, I've decided that I'm not necessarily going to allow Souray's assertions to colour my opinion of Oilers management past and present (remember, the chronology on this covers the tenure of two GMs), at least until I've heard management's side of things.

            That said, I can't help but wonder if Souray realizes how absurd this looks from a distance.

            Think about it: He's complaining that management coerced him into playing through an injury three years ago AND he's chosen do complain at the end of a season in which the Oilers set a team record (I assume) for man-games lost to injury (500-plus). In other words, a ton of guys have sat out this year with various ailments and, presumably, none have felt obligated to come back before they were healthy enough to do.

            And, again, if I was in the media right now, I'd be putting one very blunt question to Souray: Why didn't you file a grievance with the NHLPA if you felt you were being rushed back from an injury? You've had nearly three years to do so. Why not last summer or the summer before that?

          • And, again, if I was in the media right now, I'd be putting one very blunt question to Souray: Why didn't you file a grievance with the NHLPA if you felt you were being rushed back from an injury? You've had nearly three years to do so. Why not last summer or the summer before that?

            X 1000

            If had said/done something at the time then I might buy it.

          • By no means do I absolve Souray of any blame this case. But I am exhausted with spending energy screaming at ex-oilers and defending this organization. One or two of these situations is one thing, but for it to continue to happen time and time again with different players tells me something.

          • OilFan

            Good point. Can't really argue because I'm not anywhere near the Oilers' front office or their dressing rooms.

            But I'm just not sure if I'm prepared to lump in Souray's state of "disgruntlement" (disgruntledness? disgruntitude?) in with Pronger's demands four years ago and Comrie's demands, uh, seven years ago. That's a pretty large span of time between incidents to connect any dots that would incriminate Oiler management, past and present.

            Pronger left because his wife hated Edmonton. I can't even remember why Comrie left, but Comrie pretty much admitted when he came back last fall that his falling out with Lowe was as much his fault's as Lowe's.

            Other than that, there was the Nylander thing, the Heatley mini-fiasco and I think that's about it.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    what a joke this guy is. No class at all I hope we dump him in tampa. People who are down on tamby are like every yank you figured obama would snap his fingers and fix the states.complains that he was pushed to play with an injury and then needlessly fights what a class act should have moved him for ribero when we had the chance

  • Chris.

    There are 800+ NHL players and not all of them are without ego…. Do we really want an entire team of beaten down dogs who will immediately fall into line with every single crack of the whip? This isn't the 60s. Players control their desitnation by the time they reach their prime playing years… if Tambellini and Lowe cannot foster or maintain positive relationships with their own players (even the difficult ones) then it is time for Katz to clean house.

    • Chris.

      Did they not hire a lady to do just that, I thought that after Prongs left because of "family" issues that the Oil hired a lady to keep in touch with all the players and there families.

  • Chris.

    I guess 44 is a cursed number in Oil Country. First the human rake and now Souray. You could put Rob Schremp in there too since he wore it when he first started with us.

  • Souray is a guy that will not be missed – except for his shot more than anything. He hasn't been a big-dominant player since he arrived. Granted, he has had his games, but on the whole he will not be missed. If the Oil can grab a depth forward of size (Handzus from LA) or a pest (Jussi Jokinen from Car) and a 2nd or 3rd draft pick…go for it. Frees up more salary.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Not saying Souray's blameless here, but it's really troubling to see (yet again) how deep the issues with this organization seem to run. What's most disappointing, is how Katz seems to be so apathetic about the situation. There's no way he would ever let the Rexall brand name suffer so consistently, and to the degree, that the Oilers have over the last few years. This isn't any one problem, it's an organizational epidemic, and he better get into the operating room with a scalpel. Stat!

  • Deep Oil

    How often did Tambellini talk to Khabibulin while he was in rehab, I mean rehabbing his
    back. Another pre trial conference TODAY for the tender that has an EXTREME DUI, but failed to communicate to management. It appears that
    nobody talks to nobody in the heartland of hockey.

    Now it is more clear why Oiler management was reluctant to bring up Eberle into this toxic

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I can see why Souray is looking out for himself. He is 34 and is injury prone, one would think he realizes he doesn't have much time left in the NHL and wants to win. The guy has spent most of his career on weak teams and has had enough.

    As for the Katz thing very interesting. I was talking to someone high up at Northlands over the weekend and they hinted at a few things, one of them being Katz possibly having funding problems.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    You know it probably would've been in Souray's best interest to keep things quiet and say I want to be dealt by July 1st or I am going public. Now if he really wants to be moved we can only move him to non-playoff teams.

  • Deep Oil

    Maybe I have to change my stance on this one, just talked to someone that said the Oil NEW he was hurt and couldn't play but he did anyways, Montreal told the Oil that he needed 6 months off but he started anyways now was this his decision or was he pushed to play.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      If you're going to write a word in all caps maybe spell it right. KNEW.

      Anyways I thought the team knew about his problem. I just wonder if the team asking him if he was ready after 5 months made Souray believe they were rushing him? I mean most guys that are out for 6 months are never out exactly 6 months, so is it really that bad if they were questioning him?

      I guess it really depends on what was exactly said.

  • Deep Oil

    @ Ogden Brother

    Your quote….
    As for the Katz thing very interesting. I was talking to someone high up at Northlands over the weekend and they hinted at a few things, one of them being Katz possibly having funding problems

    With losing $100 million in profit in Ontario,
    if other provinces follow suit, this is probably a $300 – $400 million profit hit, for
    his backers of Rexall Drugs.

    With a mortgage on his house, a mortgage on the team from CIT GROUP, maybe he can use his settlement from his brother inlaw over NORTH AMERICAN ROAD, to fund the arena development.

    Alleged billionaire.

  • Salsa Shark

    On the argument regarding the man-games lost. Doesn't that indicate that we are not rushing people back? I mean, if this total is with an incredible amount of pressure to come back and play injured, how much worse of a team would we have been without it? I don't think this is the case.

    Souray says he was heavily pressured to play but then not contacted during this injury? And he quotes them as saying "When are you going to play?". Thats badgering? Or is that checking up on a player? The very thing he was complaining they weren't doing lately. Seems odd.

    Then he throws this hand grenade of a report at management. Sure, this could get Tamb fired. But there's collateral damage to everyone on that team. The people he was supposed to look out for as a leader. But now he has a cry-day and decides he's going to sour the image of the team further. Saying 'sorry, its not the players or city, its the management' doesn't stop this report from having a negative effect come Free Agency. When we spend another summer like the last two trying to get players (though hopefully not another Hossa/Heatley) we'll have Sheldon Souray to thank for increased difficulty as we try to convince people Edmonton isn't sh*t, just our management is. I'm sure Gagner and the other kids are very thankful.

    And the worst part. Saying he was blinded by the history of the Oilers when he signed? Like he's some star-struck pre-teen? So he really should have seen through the cleverly cast guise management had constructed to sign him? F*ck him. He knew what he was getting into. If he didn't he should leave the decision making process up to his agent from now on. It would prevent him from signing with another team where he's adored by the fanbase, puts up allstar offensive numbers when healthy, and championed as the new captain. If you can't play for the management, play for the fans. If you can't do either, you're a dick.

  • Why don't we see if we can swing another deal down south while there are still Sutters manning the ship?

    A high profile defenseman like Souray with a questionable contract and a couple years left? I bet the Sutter Bros. are salivating just thinking about it. They'll find a way to fit another d-man under the cap!

  • Salsa Shark

    Wah wah, cry me a river Souray. Maybe you just don't want to leave? After all the first time we were going to trade you, you busted your hand on Iginla's head. Now that we're probably going to trade you again, you give us this foolish tirade. The Oilers would be better off to sit your glass butt down (preferably somwhere it can't break) for the entire season, if not both seasons remaining on his contract. Management needs to show this clown that he can't boss them around. I'd be shocked if any GM was dumb enough to take him now. After all, why risk being called out publically? If he did it once he'll do it again. Thanks for the one good year, Sheldon. Doesn't make up for the 2-4 useless ones.

  • Harlie

    what's with Stauffer and his 30,000 feet in the air analogy? He trotted that stupid saying out about 10 times in a 5 minute segment on HNIC on Sirius radio on Tuesday of last week and today he's trotting it out again on his show. Brutal!

  • wyseguy

    It took a bit to digest this morning, but now I think this whole season and the Souray stuff is the best thing that could have happened to our Oilers.

    We've spent years fighting for 8th thinking we were again on the cusp of greatness and a big FA signing would put us over the top. When it was pretty obvious to everyone else that we weren't. Yet, we weren't bad enough to stock up with a Kane, Stamkos or Duchesne.

    Souray calling out the management is a good thing too. Even if it's a bunch of crap, any good organization should at least hear the feedback out and reflect on themselves honestly.

    More with Souray, we all agree that we need to unload him to speed up the rebuild, likely Khabibulin too, but I have no idea how they'll make either happen. When Pronger left, I was mad. With today's Souray comments, I couldn't care less, I wanted him gone anyways. If the message came from Gagner or maybe Gilbert, I'd be more worried that even our bright eyed youngsters are jaded, then we'd really be in trouble. But Souray, I just don't care. A guy I don't want forces our management to ask themselves some tough questions, it's all good.

    Sometimes you can only learn from your mistakes once they become abundantly evident. When you're going through each year just below average, you can make some excuses. When you come in last, it gives you a pretty clear message that change has to happen. That and we'll have a pretty damn good prospect to start over with makes this all worthwhile and gives me some hope.

    Yes it sucks, but I think all this had to happen for positive change.

  • wyseguy

    Time for some to take the callouses off their eyes . Their are many a program and corporate culture that works with agencies set up provincially and federally to undermine the very workers they are supposed to be protecting . They (business ) are often given incentives to get the injured staff off the "books" and back into the workforce and many of those programs and intimidating practices are not in the best interests of the employee . I'm sure some of you know first hand some of the these tactics, as you have been on the wrong end of them . How many of you have had your claims turned down while trying to fight these while still trying to get better ? It's often common practice to intimidate workers back to work prematurely coupled with denying their claims . Why ? They have incentive to do it , and very few will have the courage and strength to take them on which makes the financial bottom brighter for agencies and employers . I find it hard to believe that maybe that type of sentiment and culture does not exist in Oilers culture if Souray comments have any validy ! It does weed out the fakers and agency abusers to a small extent , but it's hell for those majority of people that require that assistance ,and should not be denied .

    • I think professional sports and pretty much any other kind of "worker" protection are apples and oranges. If the player ends up on LTIR then the costs of the player are usually covered by the insurance policies that the team picks up on most large contract players.

      In many cases, it is actually better financially for a team to have its star player shelved for the year and collect insurance. That is especially true when the other revenues that the team is bringing in are pretty much maxed out already.

      It might not be the case if you are dealing with one of the sun-belt team where they need to stars to play to protect the already suspect gate revenue that the teams have coming in.

      Also let's consider the fact that all of these guys have not just the NHLPA but also their agents to help look after their interests. Is there inequality of bargaining power? Perhaps a little bit but let's not compare these guys to the electrician who is a member of IBEW local 454.

    • Itsbitsman

      Why do you find it hard to believe that this sentiment exists in the Oilers organization?

      Injured players are assessed and then their timelines for return are adjusted. If it was initially thought that Souray would be out for six months but the rehab was working well it is very possible that the timeline for his return would be adjusted and his return would be sooner than expected.

      Injury timelines are rarely the length of time given at the initial assessment.

      • OilFan

        Seen first hand the extreme difficulties unions are having fighting the inequities of some of these . This battle has been raging for many a year now , and unions are having a tough time combating it or gaining any ground . What makes matters worse is the employees courage not to fight for their rights . Players union abilities is questionable as well . It's really frustrating when a player has no faith in management and their own union to protect them – they just succumb and take the brunt of it . It's one of those grey areas ( not the black and white picture most try to fit it into ) that needs clarity and cleaning up that does not protect the injured very well from both sides (union and management ).

  • Chris.

    I remember the summer right before the Comrie fiasco. Comrie had had a broken thumb or something, and a tough playoff performance against Dallas… Some of the sentiment around E-town was that the rich kid, cry-baby, didn't wanna play with a boo-boo on his finger. I vageuly remeber reading in a paper that it would be difficult for a player like Comrie to look Kevin Lowe in the eye, and use his injury as an excuse, when Lowe was the type of player who laced 'em up on a broken ankle. I also remember the high praise given to Smith by MacT for having the pain threshold of "a cadaver".

    I have a gut feeling that some of the old time machismo culture has been held over from the Boy's On The Bus era. Souray's allegations that he was under some pressure to play when he wasn't yet ready… just ring true.

    • OilFan

      Ok go ahead a beleive Souray. Can't you see he is making excuses why he wants out instead of just coming out and being honest ? I though before it was his kids now this. Seems fishy

  • OilFan

    To no one in particular: Just remember the two most important numbers with this. 500 and 3.

    500 man-games lost due to injury this season.

    Nearly 3 years from the time he was "forced" to play and the time he opted to speak out about it.

    Both of those numbers aren't working in Souray's favour right now.

    Of course, the Oilers also have to deal with the wicked numbers in Souray's contract. It'll make him a little difficult to deal, but not necessarily so if the Oilers are willing to take back some salary (and they probably would in this case).

    One more thing: Don't let this stuff bother you too much. This is pretty much how it happened when guys like Coffey and Messier and Anderson left town. A lot of people forget that Messier was under contract when he sat out camp in the fall of 1991 and demanded a trade because he didn't like the way the organization was heading.

    Back then, Mess was dead-on-balls right – the Oilers were headed for a fall and they didn't have very much in the way of prospects around.

    Nineteen years later, the situation is a little different. Souray isn't Messier and I'd suggest there's a lot more in the system. Plus, the Oilers have bottomed out.

    Anyway, chin up, people. This is how she goes sometimes.

  • OilFan

    Andrie Markov the number one reason Souray is making anywhere close to 5 million a year, same goes to Mark Striet and Mike Komisarek. Over rated and not needed on this team

  • Eddie Shore

    Let me see if I have this right..

    Tambellini signed Souray to his ridiculous contract and then forced him to play injured at the very start of said ridiculous contract. ~Ya, ok.