Souray: a marriage of convenience?

CALGARY, AB, CANADA - AUGUST 4: Steve Staios of the Calgary Flames puts on his jersey at the NHL Heritage Classic Press Conference at McMahon Stadium on August 4, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)

My wife told me she plans to get a clown to show up at my son Sam’s 4th birthday party next weekend and I immediately envisioned a player from the Calgary Flames showing up at my house in that hideous throwback jersey they just unveiled for the Heritage Classic.

As ugly as those threads are — and with the obligatory Ronald McDonald shot fired at the City of Cows, where they’ll be announcing plans for fright wigs, red-striped socks and floppy skates to complete the look next week — the Flames have nothing on the Edmonton Oilers when it comes to ugly and their stalemate with Sheldon Souray.

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SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 7: Sheldon Souray #44 of the Edmonton Oilers skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers on December 7, 2009 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Oilers defeated the Panthers 3-2 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Souray, as everybody knows by now, has been profoundly unhappy with his lot in life with the Oilers for a long time, and that’s something he left little doubt about at the end of last season.

Given Souray’s criticism of the team in general, which is absolute gold for reporters but blasphemy to the ears of Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and those who believe no amount of bungling by the Oilers justifies a public airing like Souray delivered, it’s safe to say the relationship is done.

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My question — and it’s one that’s been posed by others here — is this: for the good of Souray and the Oilers, and in the name of expediting the process of getting No. 44 gone, does it make sense for both sides to try to patch things up until the phone rings?

Can Souray and the Oilers fake it to move things along?


Jonathan Willis, for one, raised the question not long ago and I had my say in the comments then — I don’t think it’s a great idea to have a player as unhappy as Souray clearly is sitting in a dressing room full of young prospects as the Oilers set out on a rebuild.

That’s my gut reaction, and it’s something that seldom steers me wrong. That said, and given that the Oilers haven’t been able to give Souray away despite trying every which way you can name, does it make any real sense to simply bury him in the minors to keep him away from all those tender ears and impressionable minds?

Does it make sense to send Souray a message and try to teach him a lesson? I don’t think the money the Oilers are paying Souray spends any different if he’s drawing it in the minors amid admiring glances from young ladies in Oklahoma City or "getting it" here in Edmonton, but is there a need for a symbolic slap on the wrist? You tell me.

On the flipside, what’s the real downside of having Souray report to training camp, even if he and the Oilers must hold their noses, with the intention of at least starting the season here? Is there one?

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Until the Oilers can unload him, owner Daryl Katz is on the hook for $4.5 million for each of the next two seasons whether Souray plays a minute in Edmonton or not.

And, while it might suck to be staying in AHL hotels and enduring AHL travel instead of going first-class in the NHL, Souray isn’t going to turn his back on that stack of cake and refuse to report.

So, again, is it in the best interests of both parties to patch things up, at least to the point where they can co-exist and tolerate each other until Souray again has enough value to garner a bucket of pucks, anything? Would the Oilers accept a mea culpa from Souray? Should they?

Or, is it better in the long run for Katz to pay the price of a steep AHL ticket and get Souray the hell out and away from the kids during what’s obviously a critical period of transition for the team?

Like a marriage gone bad, there are going to be trade-offs no matter which way the Oilers and Souray go. And, as has been made abundantly clear, this is a union forever broken.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • “Does it make sense to send Souray a message and try to teach him a lesson? I don’t think the money the Oilers are paying Souray spends any different if he’s drawing it in the minors amid admiring glances from young ladies in Oklahoma City or “getting it” here in Edmonton, but is there a need for a symbolic slap on the wrist? You tell me.”

    I imagine that Souray is “getting it” from more places than any of us can imagine.

  • james_dean

    i wonder if in the new CBA if there will be a section reguarding “conduct detremental to the team” and if teams can suspend players as the T.O. saga in philly

  • Ender

    One point I think has been missed: Is it any better to have a very belligerent Souray amongst even more impressionable young minds in OKC? I think not. Trade him, or tolerate him until his value rises at the NHL level. Two years in OKC is two years too many.

  • Slapshot

    Now that you have all laid the blame on Souray , how about the people that led to Souray wanting out ? He, like Moreau and many others, are the victims here . They did not want out by choice originally . Management lack of forsight and damage , etc. control certainly played a major part in players wanting to leave here . I don’t see any reason to try and lay all the blame on the players for managements lack of asset control .

    Management let the team down, and the players . Let them take their fair share/accountability of the blame here . The onus is on management to make first strides towards accommodation here .

    • Jerk Store

      This is so true to ad. The oilers management squawndard Rob Shremp and used him up till he was almost worth nothing. They also have made some rediculous moves with Khabibulin and Horcoff. Thes guys are over payed washed up players with no real upside as assets to other teams.

      I hope that the Oilers can accomplish more by looking at their new team and giving the core guys a better chance at excelling.

      If the moving of Pat Quin was a good marketing move we’ll find out by about the 20th game of the season with that move.

      We have to give Sheldon the benfit of the doubt because he never targetted any of his team mates just his boss. It took him a long time to get to that point to express his frustration publicaly.

  • Slapshot

    The fact that he cleared waivers and nobody wants him, will show Souray that he better shut up and come in and play,He over estimated his value,the Oilers will be doing him a favor by keeping him in the show,and he should show some class by being a pro and showing some leadership,If that does not work, banish him in the minors.

  • Another point that is being overlooked…

    Souray CANNOT be sent to the ECHL without HIS permission. Only players who are on ECL SPC’s can be sent to the ECHL without their written permission.

    So let’s take this “send SS to Stockton so he is closer to his kids” mantra out of the scenario before anyone goes down that path again.


  • Hey,

    Honestly it sounds like the players of old are griping because the lack of pampering. Spoiled freaken brats.

    PRONGER, PECA, and now SOURAY….

    Spoiled A Holes…

    Those OLD School traditions died years ago.

    Time to get with it. According to Gary Bettman “This is the NEW NHL”….

  • Jerk Store

    What color is the sky in your world? When was it ever a good idea for Souray to torpedo the organization (and ironically himself) instead of waiting for a trade? He and / or his agent handled this in a moronic manner. The fact he sewered himself and unearthed what his true value (or lack thereof) in the league can be filed under “Just Desserts”
    While Moreau was at one time a blood and guts guy he has been pouting for a couple of years – since his brother was skidded as fitness consultant?? Self-sacrifice and heart were replaced by selfish penalties and the inability to bond with the young guys in the room.
    There are plenty examples of how management dropped the ball. However to call either of these guys a victim is asinine.

  • I haven’t the time to read all the comments so I apologise if this is old news but the problem with the ticket to the minors theory is that there are plenty of important young kids in OK city as well. Is it any better to be a bad influence on them than the ones that are here and closely watched?

    That being said I can see Souray being a pro and playing hard if he is still here.


  • Hi Robin,

    A little OT, but as you seem to be someone “in the know,” has there been any talk of the Oil ditching their road whites? I know they had an agreement with Reebok to wear them for X years, has that expired now? I’d love to see them move permanently to their throw-backs they wore quite frequently last year, road whites included.

  • “If I could go back and do it again, I would have sat Chris Pronger”.

    – Kevin Lowe fom the TSN documentary Oil Change

    It’s obvious that Souray was part of the mysterious “locker room problems” that plagued us last year. I think it’s in our best interest publicly and rookie – wise to let Souray work out on his own this year, and catch up on his soaps.
    I deeply respected the Senators when they sat Yashin. They still traded him and got Chara and a pick that became Spezza.

    We have $11Mill in cap space with Souray’s pay on the books. Sitting Souray won’t cripple us.

    I realize Souray is no Yashin, but I think there’s alot of honor in sitting a problem player. Last time we gave in to 44’s demands we didn’t get much.

  • If Souray was trying to be the whistle blower for an organization that he cheered for as a boy, do people mostly think he should be shot for his attempts? Is there legislation in Canada which protects that sort of thing?

    Maybe he was trying to do something to help shake it up, to ease the coming changes somehow; remember these dudes rarely graduate from high school let alone have working knowledge of savvy socio-political methodology. Oilers have demonstrated a pretty locked down ship, maybe he was really trying to do something legit.

    Is it possible his intentions were reasonable despite being imperfect in method? Can we herald a guy brave enough to take on this OBC? Should we ever side with the corporation when it comes to whistle blowing anyway?

    As for me, I will cheer if he comes back.

  • The way I understand it, after the end of the PREVIOUS season, Souray met privately with management and requested a trade.

    This came after a very good season and his value was at its highest.

    The guy snapped after a crappy season and after spending a year trying to leave the organization he shot his mouth off. If all he cared about was the money he could just show up at the rink every day and collect his cheques.

    The Oilers had a long time to do something about the situation, and have to share some of the blame.

    One of the reasons Souray was brought here was to try to encourage other high profile UFA’s to come to Edmonton and that experiment failed miserably.

    There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground with Edmonton fans. The switch gets toggled from love to hate pretty quickly. Management is not always 100% correct in every siuation, and the players are not always 100% wrong.

    The Oilers have two choices, buy out Souray or let him come back and play.

    They are well under the cap and have an owner that can afford the buyout. If they consider him poison to the room then remove him.

    I feel Souray can still come back. He didn’t dump on the fans, or fellow players, he dumped on Management.

    Press conference, apology, move on with the future.

    Sticking him in the minors does nothing other than being vindictive. It certainly won’t be a shining beacon of an example to try to attract more players to our town.

  • Jerk Store

    While the last few comments are rationale and well-thought out, I have to disagree. I believe you are naïve to think that Sourays reasoning for his rant … Sorry … “Mission statement” were altruistic. His goal was not to speak up to turnaround a team he loved as a boy. That is a Hallmark special not reality. His motive was to look after his own interests and it backfired mightily. If you want to idolize the guy fine. But to me he is either a moron for saying what he did / when he did or he took some bad advice. I will not defend some of the signings that K lowe / tambellini made. But to say that Souray was motivated by anything but his own agenda – you are sadly misguided.

    • I absolutely agree here. When a player like him comes out in the press and throws stones like that, every other team takes notice of the fact that he publicly turned on the team that pays him arguably more than his half – seasons are worth.

      IMHO some things come with your big NHL cheque: the expectation that you tow the company line is one of those.
      This means that you air your grievances privately, even if you did so in the past, you continue to do so. This – Souray is finding out – will also protect your perceived value.

      Anyone suggesting that Souray threw himself and his value under the bus “for the good of the team” probably thinks wrestling is real.

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      I’m not sure you know his motivations and goals, but maybe you do. I’m only saying that its possible that he did what he did for the benefit of others, and if his motivations were in line with the whistle blowers of the world, then good for Sheldon. Wish everyone had 10% of the spine to do stuff like that.

      Further, it will be a long day before any amount of money convinces me to side with the man and corporate profit driven ideology.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I think you have a nice long talk with Sheldon Souray first and let him come back IF he can be professional and have the right attitude about it. You know, the talk he never had with them when he was a ‘member’ of the team.

    He should respect the fact that, even if he can’t stand the organization and they likely feel the same, that they are willing to allow him to play up in the NHL if he can be professional about it. That definitely would show professionalism on the Oilers’ part in all of this. Wasn’t that was one of his complaints? Now, if he doesn’t show that at any time during training camp or during the season then we would send him down, and continue to do so until he is either far enough away (ECHL, if necessary), or positive enough, to not be a bad influence on the kids in our system. I think that would be a win/win for everone at this point…or as close as we could come to now.

    Let’s face it, life is seldom as cut and dried or as rosy as we would like it to be, so why not make the best of the situation. Even though I’m not worried about it at all but I think it would show well for agents and the P.A. for budding UFAs, better than the ‘let’s show everyone who crosses our path what we will do to them’ model of management.

  • Jerk Store

    MMD (great name by the way),
    At one time I agreed with your “can’t we just get along” approach and I will go one further and say that it is likely a more prudent position than mine. However let me offer you this story.
    I am a consultant who signed a five year contract that pays me in the top 5% of my peers and more than 99.9% of the population of the country. The company I signed with, ABC Widget Sales, paid me well because I had one year with another company where I just killed it. My sales were awesome. I had a great 1st year with ABC but since then I have had some health problems and have only been to work about 1/2 the time and my sales have dropped by 60% – through no fault of my own. Luckily my contract provided me with a full paycheque even when I was sick. As I was home recovering, I noticed I did not like the way my boss did business and he hired some real dogs. So with two years left on my contract I decided to let him have it. I took out an ad in Widget Sales Monthly and let everyone in the industry know how stupid he was, because he is a Galactic Moron. So I am feeling better now and I think I am going to find a better company to work for. Going to the mailbox everyday waiting for offers, certainly head hunters are bound to call. But even if something does not come up I will go back to the ABC head office – or maybe the warehouse in New Sarepta. Doesn’t really matter as long as the cheque clears. Have a great day!

    • Cowbell_Feva

      I’m not really buying the fact that a salesman with ABC Widget is making more cash than 99.9% of the population. No slight to you Jerk Store, but there are people in ABC Widget making way more than you so…

      You know what they say about the guy who brags about how big his man hood is!

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      That is an interesting take, as well. Thanks for that and I can see where you’re coming from, as it’s a win-win for Souray. Even though I’m not against his speaking out about the problems with management I am strictly look at this from the point of view of what would be best for the Oilers.

      I still believe that IF he can be professional about it, and positive in the dressing room that it would be better with him here.

      If that can’t be the case anymore, so be it and there is no way we would keep him up with our NHL team. Then we would have to look at the other alternatives, and none of them are good (for either party). At that point what do you do with him; I don’t know…but one of those hard choices must be made. All considered though, I hope we don’t have to make that decision (which would be forced by Souray’s attitude in my scenario because the Oilers would be willing to have him return to the team). It would not be a good career move for Sheldon Souray if he wouldn’t try to make that work, just as I don’t believe it would help our Oilers if they just refused to allow him to return no matter what his attitude was now.

  • Jerk Store

    I agree – only Souray won’t win either (other than collecting a cheque). If they cannot rid themselves of his contract – either through a waiver pickup or taking a bad contract back, it will continue to be a bad situation for both parties. That is why Souray yapping was so dumb. I never understand how these guys think beaking expedites their wishes. My position has always been that Oil management has made lots of errors but it should not be Souray who deems himself the conscience of the collective good and blow the Oilers up while collecting a cheque from them. We can agree to disagree whether he can/will remain part of the organization, but you are right if Souray’s contract cannot be dispensed with – the next best option: they can find some common ground. It will be best for both. I just have Zero hope of a happy ending.

  • Jerk Store

    BTW. Ironically, even though they overpaid, I thought Souray was just what the Oilers needed when they signed him. A physical presence on the blueline with a bomb. Guess that is why I am not a GM.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    If a Souray apology presser is announced you can bet it will have been preceded by news of him firing his agent.

    His agent was the one who must have put it in his head that he had value. Otherwise why the heck would he have done that? He basically publicly demanded a trade. So to publicly demand a trade and then to be put on waivers and not even claimed has to be a tough pill to swallow. On top of that he looks pretty bad (that’s not what she said, she being my wife) overall.

  • Jerk Store

    No. I do not know Mr Souray from a hole in the ground so I can not claim to be intimate with his thougt process. However, I base my position on trying to understand the facts and outcomes of actions. If I may, your position is based strictly on ideology. And this is fine as you openly confirm that to be the case. Admittedly I approach things from the right and you from the left. It would be a boring world if we were all the same. Plus the 70s were a much simpler time. Peace, brother.

  • Jerk Store

    Sorry, one other thought I would leave. Mr Souray has made tens of millions of dollars playing hockey and additional $ marketing his image. One could argue he is a corporation and by extension “the man”.

    • Jerk Store

      I’ve had employees freak out before and its always easier and cheaper to bring them back than train new. Hope Oilers have the sense to admit they were off on some level, show him how they’ve attempted to accommodate his issues, then accept his apology, let it go and move on. The corporation can use the persona and the team can use the policy enforcement.

      Sheldon hasn’t necessarily chosen corporate ends over the players themselves, his rant wasn’t about corporations, it was about how people are doing things that violate his sense of fair play. Maybe now its going to stop (many people have left since then) or there is nothing he can do about it and he may just simply choose to put his head down and play through the motions because of his obligation to a corporation. nfg.

      I want to see the Sheldon Souray who is playing for the team instead of for corporate obligations.

      RB – Maybe you could add something on your sense of the altruism of Souray’s comments instead. You think he did what he did for the benefit of the players or a $2 attempt to force a trade?

  • Jerk Store

    It sends altogether the wrong message to players and agents around the league to conduct public floggings just to satisfy some perverse sense of justice by certain knuckle-dragging fans.

    The Oilers conduct vis-a-vis league wide p.r. is likely one of the lowest of the 30 team club of tender egos around the NHL. I would respectfully suggest to Tambo they take the high road at all times and try and restore a rather greasy reputation with players and agents in particular.