LAST THING I NEEDED (FIRST THING THIS MORNING)

Old timey Oiler fans will tell you the Justin Schultz win in free agency is merely payback for a mountain of heartache. And Nashville? Folks, we know how you feel. Seriously.  

It was 1991 summer. The Oilers five Stanley’s were a fresh memory, the club had enjoyed a strong playoff in defense of their 5th championship. A classic opening series against the Godless Flames went the way it should have, with Esa Tikkanen ripping the heart out of Calgary.

They rolled over LAK in 6–four of them in OT–before losing to a long forgotten but worthy Minnesota North Star club. At that point in time–despite having dealt 99 three years earlier–the typical Oiler fan felt the good times would go on forever–or at least a long time.

Free Agency worked a little differently in those days. There were 214 free agents that summer, divided into three groups. Group 1 free agents were players under 24 years old with less than 5 seasons pro. At that time, an NHL team could force a trade simply by signing a group 1–and what was worse if the two teams couldn’t agree on a trade an arbitrator would decide based on each side’s arguments. It was a bad deal all around, as these extremely valuable young players were treated as less valuable because of their short resume.

Which brings us to Adam Graves, Glen Sather and Neil Smith.

ADAM

Adam Graves was a fine young hockey player for the Edmonton Oilers in 1991. the club had won a Stanley with Graves as a part of it (1990 was much different than the powerhouse Stanley’s, and Graves was a key member of the Kid Line that spring). Neil Smith was putting together the "Oilers East" team that would eventually win the 1994 Stanley Cup for Manhattan and had targeted Mark Messier as his number one priority that summer.

However, he wanted Graves too and signed him as a Group 1 free agent late summer:

Sather argued that he was going to build his team around Graves–who would score 52 regular season goals for the Rangers in 93-94 and then 10 more during their SC run–and Neil Smith argued Graves had scored 7 goals in the regular season and had the same basic value as Troy Mallette, a young winger of lesser quality.

Slats asked for two players, Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk. He would get them, but not for Adam Graves. The arbitrator found in favor of the Rangers and the Oilers were singing sad songs for a long, long time. 

THE BLEEDING CONTINUES

As summer faded to fall and Oiler fans were left to find out about Troy Mallette on the internet from the Hockey News, bad moved in with worse. On September 20 we found out that Grant Fuhr and Glenn Anderson were Leafs and then later in the fall the big anvil  fell.

On October 4, 1991 Edmonton traded Mark Messier and future considerations (Jeff Beukeboom) to the Rangers for Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice, Louie DeBrusk and future considerations (David Shaw). 

There’s not a country song in existence that can express the pain of losing Mark Messier for mere mortals that day. It represented the end of the Glory Years in a way that dealing Coffey, 99 and others didn’t because all of the impact players were gone once 11 flew to NYC.

The Oilers Stanley teams bled out that day and the dozen or so players coming back in the Messier-Anderson-Fuhr-Graves deals remain a blur to this day. Good men all, but placed in an impossible situation. The Stanley’s remained, but the springs of glory would be few and far between (2006) after the fall of 1991.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

All of the guitars in Nashville only play sad songs these days, as the Predators and their fans suffer through dark days. Back in 1991, the Oilers were in trouble after the events of  August-October. The problems got worse as the selloff continued as the months wore on. Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, it was a nightmare to live and believe me it isn’t easy to look back on an era where some of the truly great players in NHL history were leaving town by the dozen.

So for fans of the Nashville Predators, we can certainly feel your pain. However, your GM David Poile will no doubt recommend to ownership that matching the contract is the only real option. It makes no economic sense, but not matching would represent hockey death and a complete rebuild. Allowing Weber to walk in exchange for 4 numbers one’s makes the Rinne contract ridiculous and the thought of playoff contention laughable.

Better to match, have Weber play one season and then trade his contract for immediate and sustainable assets one year from now.

NATION RADIO 

NATION RADIO hits the air at noon today on Team 1260. A jam packed lineup includes:

  • Tom Lynn, Agent and Advisor for NHL and Amateur Hockey Players based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Tom has quickly become Nation Radio’s "go-to" guy for draft, free agency and CBA talk. We’ll do that and more on today’s show.
  • Harrison Mooney from Pass it to Bulis. We’ll talk Canucks, free agency, Luongo and Nash among other things.
  • John Matisz and Brendan Gaunce. We’ll talk about a book on Gaunce (by Matisz) that follows the young junior player through his draft year. THIS is going to be a fascinating read.
  • Lisa McRitchie from Kukla’s Korner. Lisa is a bright light in the Oilogosphere with unique commentary and always has an interesting take. We’ll talk draft and the Oilers in free agency.
  • Ryan Pike from Flames Nation. We’ll have a lash at the CBA talks, Shea Weber’s future and try to figure out if Jay Feaster is all about the past, present or future.

Emails welcome nationradio@theteam1260.com and you can put comments and questions in the thread below or I’m @lowetide_ and @ItsNationRadio on twitter. 

  • Lowetide

    S. Crowe: It’s funny, I had three versions that were under consideration. The one I used, the one you’ve suggested and a wonderful one with the Everly Brothers and Chet Atkins.

    they’re all terrific, and I don’t think most people would even guess who wrote it. Sounds like a lost Everly track from about 1963.

    While I’m at it, I badly wanted to include a second Gary Nunn song (the theme from ‘Austin City Limits’) but couldn’t because of a wildy inappropriate female at about 4:26.

  • Boourns99

         
    “Yes, honey…Just squeeze your rage up into a bitter little ball and release it at an appropriate time, like that day I hit the referee with the whiskey bottle.”

    Thanks for bringing this up LT… It was years before I could talk about this, and you’ve gone and brought those feelings back up.

    Ah, 1991, the year I (almost) lost faith. It was a hard time to be an Oiler fan, and affected the team for years. It still hurts a little.

    Funny how that era was precipitated by an inability for pocklington and northlands to come to a lease agreement – and while there aren’t a ton of parallels, there is something to be said for the psyche of Edmonton and the association with the oilers franchise. Perhaps we should remind the arena naysayers of how it felt to be an edmontonian in those days (not good). This current roster has the opportunity to do something special, and we can enable and enhance the Edmonton pride, and show the world we are a world class city.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Fun fact: Centerman Adam Graves played his 22 and 23 year-old seasons with the Oilers, where he averaged 8 goals and 23 points a season.

    Wish the Nation was around back then so we fans could offer how he was a first rounder who was a “bust”. Dark days indeed …

    Edit: oops only 21 teams then. 1st pick in 2nd round – sorry, my bad

  • The Soup Fascist

    no deal in a trade for weber is possible after the offer sheet is done. A decision by Preds first, then Only option would be Philly trading back for picks if they lose them and in the same moment lose some salary off their payroll.

    • Lowetide

      That’s precisely my point – if PHI really wants him bad enough, they’ll take their picks back in return for players. This gave them exclusivity for 7 days to talk trade with the Preds without worrying about other teams coming in & offering more.

        • Metal&Oil

          Yeah. I can’t see Preds ownership paying $27M to Weber for One year of service ether.

          IMO they will trade the picks back to Philly for some roster players. Philly would probably prefer to clear some cap room anyways and even though the Preds won’t be able to squeeze both Schenn and Couturier from the Flyers they should be able to get one of them, some other roster player and 1 or 2 of the picks.

        • Lowetide

          The alternative is hockey death. They can still cobble together a team that can push for the playoffs with Weber in this year’s lineup and then get several players of worth next season.

          It’s a bitter pill either way.

          • Wax Man Riley

            I don’t agree. Or, at least, I don’t think it’s certain hockey death.

            It depends how much value they think they could get for Weber in a year. It depends what their finances allow. It depends how much they think it would actually hurt ticket sales – over the next yeara or two, sure, but it’s unlikely to affect ticket sales by as much as they have to pay Weber, IMO (and I know I’m saying that with no market research, I could be mistaken).

            What could they get for Rinne in a trade? Would MON give them a 1st to take on Gomez? Would NYR give them a 1st to take on Redden? If they go total rebuild, how bad would they get? Bad enough to pick top 3 in 12/13?

            Lots of questions, lots to think about before they have to match.

          • bazmagoo

            “Hey Paul, David here… so we’ve decided we’re going to match & trade Shea to Pittsburgh next July… Oh what’s that? You’ll take these picks back for something that helps us now? Hm… ok, let’s talk.”

          • justDOit

            Yes!

            “Ok Paul, I’m listening… yeahuh… no… Schenn.. yes, and his brother too… well ok… oh look, I’ve got a call coming in from Slats… Paul – Paul – I gotta put you on hold, I have to conference Shero in with Slats… just a sec…”

  • The Soup Fascist

    For those of sitting in an increasingly empty Northlands Colisseum these were dark days. I clearly remember attending George Burnett Oilers games with less than 7500 in the stands.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Forgot about those dark days. How much could the Oilers use “an Adam Graves” right now? I thought he was bigger than the 185 listed. I remembered him as a much bigger player. Maybe that is just how he played.

  • Lowetide

    I still think NSH should see just how bad PHI wants Weber & try and work out a deal to get some actual bodies. The Schenn bros, Voracek, Read, Coburn…? Gotta be a deal in there somewhere. If I’m PHI, I’d have no prob surrendering a couple of those guys to ensure getting Weber.