I’m not going to enjoy waving goodbye to the Pardubice Prince, but as a member of the Oiler fanbase since 1972 it’s a movie that has played Edmonton before. The question then becomes: who’s next?
The most famous trade in hockey history came in 1988, although "trade" is being generous. The truth of the matter is that the great Oiler team of the 80s began to break down via trade previous to the Gretzky deal: Paul Coffey was already in Pittsburgh when they flushed the Great One.
A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette account of the 99 deal gives you an idea about how Coffey felt at the time:
WHAT WOULD SLATS DO?
The thing about trading really good players is that there’s a skill to it. Glen Sather traded an entire wing of the Hall of Fame, but he also acquired some terrific talent. Now, I’m not saying he won all or most of those deals, but as a fan you could be pretty sure that if one of the Glory Team was heading of town the guy coming back could think and chew gum at the same time.
Last trade deadline, ST dealt off Dustin Penner for a prospect and a pick. I felt at the time (and still feel) the return was good (1st round pick turned into Klefbom and Teubert is halfway through his entry level deal and developing). I think the team mission statement has changed over the last 12 months, owing to the arena progress and the very poor regular season performance of the big team.
A year ago I wrote this about the Penner deal:
I do not feel a complete rebuild was required and would have preferred they keep Penner or deal him for more immediate help. The Oilers under owner Daryl Katz–and make no mistake this drawn out process is his vision–have decided that Edmonton fans will not see a contending team in Rexall Place. You can make up your own mind as to the reasons, but my belief is that the owner and hockey men are convinced this is the proper journey to winning the 6th Stanley.
With that as a caveat, I’m satisfied with the return. Understanding that the organization has decided to rebuild with Taylor Hall as the “franchise” then the organization must acquire both picks and prospects in that general age group. When Hall explodes as a player, the team can cash picks and prospects in an effort to add depth to the batting order, but it isn’t going to happen this or next season.
Things have changed. The Oilers have improved season over season but sending Hemsky away for a pick and a prospect doesn’t do much for 12-13 progress. Sure, they could add a first round pick in 2012 or 2013 that could be used to acquire a player in summer, but I think we can agree that adding picks for the sake of stocking the system has run its course.
The arena deal is progressing, Trading Ales Hemsky is a poor idea from my point of view because there’s no one to replace him on the roster and because the player has expressed a willingness to see the rebuild through. This isn’t some Johnny-come-lately looking for a free ride on the #1 overall train, the man has suffered through some of the most ghastly hockey we’ve seen in these parts. In fact, there were many nights when 83 was the only real reason to watch the town team.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
At some point you have to brave the crosstown traffic and make a trade that addresses immediate need. An organization flush with draft picks and holes in goal, defense and now wing badly needs a deal for now.
With that as the backdrop, and a final distant voice reminding us about the wisdom of trading the best player in the deal, Oiler fans brace themselves for Steve Tambellini’s vision to unfold. And if it doesn’t work out, well, it has to work out. The alternative is failing for a few more years until the #1’s start leaving town.
Perhaps there is still time to find some middle ground.