Pointing out cretinous stuff in the media was kind of fun in the aftermath of the Smyth trade and, while the last four years have gone a long way to stomp the care about this team out of me, I can still take joy in hammering at the reasoning that graces the pages of the local fishwraps. First up: Terry Jones.
I follow ol’ TJ on Twitter – he’s great, particularly in comparison to Jim Matheson, who is a trainwreck – but Jones’ take on this deal is crazy. He probably gives the game away with a tweet: “OK. Got trade column wrestled. Obviously, having written ‘Trade Penner. Keep Hemsky’ column, I was in favor of it” but it’s been a while since I’ve jumped all over a local journalist, so what the hell – I’ll examine his pretend rationale.
And the Oilers have, remarkably, managed to get back what they gave up for Penner in the first place.
That’s the thing to keep in mind here.
Penner cost the Oilers a first, second and a third round draft choice as a restricted free agent signing.
The Oilers sent him back to California for two firsts and a third (2012) that could turn into a second-round pick if — cringe — Penner, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup.
I’ve written at some length about how Lowe is basically a creature of his own past. He vacillates between extreme courses of action based, apparently, solely on how things went last time. The Comrie situation didn’t work out? Trade Pronger now, return be damned. Leaving Ryan Smyth to the last minute didn’t increase his leverage? Pay Shawn Horcoff coming off a shooting percentage driven season so that he doesn’t get leverage!
In this case, making a deal with the Ducks that returned a draft pick if they won the Conference in the Pronger trade means that we get another crafty looking conditional pick here. Only, really, the chance of the Kings winning the Cup is pretty remote. Betfair puts that at about a 4% chance of happening. And, if the Kings win the Cup, that first round pick is thirtieth overall. As an insurance policy, or a piece of hedging, it kind of stinks.
That’s not the real problem here though. The real problem is this pernicious idea that the Oilers have somehow managed to get back what they gave up for Penner. It’s garbage. First of all, Jones acts as if a “first round draft pick” is a “first round draft pick.” It’s not. The Oilers gave up the 12th, 42nd and 72nd pick to get Penner. Of note as well is that their choice could well have been in the lottery without Penner – the Oilers missed the lottery by nine points, after playing and winning an astronomical number of OT/SO games. They weren’t as good as their record and the loss of goals from Penner could easily have seen them plummet. Do you trade, say, the 5th, 35th and 65th picks for these?
Jones is missing something else too: I don’t see the last four years I’ve spent following this team coming back in the package and I’m not even an Oilers season ticket holder, in which case I’d be wondering where my $16K was too. I’m four years closer to the grave and the rebuild stretches as far as the eye can see. His “count the picks” analysis doesn’t allow for that. If you were to chart the value that comes from draft picks, the curve on those 2008 picks would be starting to ramp upwards around now. If Tambellini was getting back what the Oilers gave up, he’d be getting something along the lines of Luke Schenn plus two other twenty year old prospects back. Instead, he gets one question mark and picks that are expected to be less for the future.
Lowetide’s as respected an analyst of the Oilers as anyone else in the mainstream media, so his analysis is worth paying some attention to as well. He set it up as what he thought they needed to get, and then his thoughts:
If the Oilers are convinced Penner won’t sign for a good number, this might be the time to deal him. Penner is having a good season, he’s healthy and it isn’t beyond reasonable for another team to believe he can help them go deep this spring. Return: A very good young player in his entry level contract or an outstanding prospect, plus a pick.
I think the Oilers covered that return.
Again, all due respect to LT, but five defencemen picked after Teubert in the first round have already played 56 or more NHL games. I’m not going to pretend to have an opinion about someone I haven’t seen but there are warning signs with Teubert already. An outstanding prospect? I don’t know that you can reasonably say that today, considering where he’s fallen relative to his draft class. It is, of course, way too early to write him off but I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim to know much about him beyond bland quotes. We know that he hasn’t lit the AHL on fire and that he’s fallen behind people picked after him. That’s it. For this you basically kick the competitiveness ball another year or two down the field?
In following the meltdown of the American economy, I’ve understood how much some of the people want blood, even at the expense of their own best interests. There are people advocating the collapse of banks and letting the cards fall where they might, even when that would visit all sorts of hardship on the American people. It just pisses them off that the rational move involves letting many of the bastards who are responsible for the crisis off the hook. I get that urge, although I try to be a pretty coldly rational guy, and I have a hard time understanding why you’d want to punish people if it hurt your interests. If it doesn’t hurt your interests though? How can you not want them put to the sword or, at least, kept far from the levers of power?
The Penner move was ill-conceived from the moment it was made – as I said at the time:
The fact of the matter is, the moves that Lowe needs to make to fix this team aren’t there right now and probably, with the exception of the Lupul trade, haven’t been there since the beginning of the summer. It’s circumstance, it sucks that but that’s it. If you aren’t willing to spend five years in the tank, building an elite club requires a long series of making smart bets and having some of them hit bigger than you’ve got any right to expect them too. Lowe’s moves this summer have, with the exception of Vanek, been devoid of that possibility. The Oilers might be better next year with Penner than without, but limiting the exposure to a finish in the real depths of the league has come at the cost of future possibilities to finish higher.
Lowetide mentioned in his comments that he didn’t like the Penner move when it was made either and it’s true:
he’s going to cost the Oilers their first round pick in a deep, deep draft. A pick that could be a lottery selection. Are you going to be happy if the Oilers lose an impact player rolling out past 2020 for this guy? I know the answer will come back “these picks are a crapshoot” and I call Bull Durham. The Oilers are (from my pov) a team with an excellent shot at a top 10 pick WITH Penner, and that pick goes to Anaheim should Burke pass on the opportunity to match. That pick in this draft should mean an outstanding prospect, easily the best in the Oilers organization.
The Edmonton Oilers have some nice things, but they aren’t going to win the division and they aren’t going to make the playoffs. And THEN we’ll get to watch as Brian Burke drafts a fine young piece for his Anaheim Ducks who will play long past Dustin Penner.
As bad as it felt to lose the SCF, or endure Pronger being dealt, or even to watch Ryan Smyth crying at the airport, this takes the cake. Kevin Lowe has mortgaged the future in his search for mediocrity.
If you like average, you’ll love the Oilers.
Average is, to borrow a phrase, a distant bell at the moment. Why would you want the same regime making decisions?
I am by no means sold that this is the right trade for the Oilers right now, although I can at least see the rationale behind it. It requires a frank acknowledgment that signing Penner in the first place was an asinine strategy that a millionaire hockey executive should not have concocted and that this is nothing more than an attempt to undo some of the damage. The continued employment of that executive should be indefensible.
What galls me is that the brain trust responsible for executing the previous ill conceived plan not only gets to try again despite being demonstrably inept, they’ve got the deans of the local media lining up to offer shaky justifications and rationalizations that fall apart with the slightest of thought. The most notable blogger in town, who predicted exactly how it would play out, still defends the regime, on the basis of a description of Colten Teubert that is probably fairly described as “charitable.” I mean, so what if Stu McGregor likes him? He’s a guy who got a few draft picks right, it looks like – lets not set him up in a villa in Mexico yet and just wait for his pronouncements as to who will be an NHLer and who won’t, other evidence be damned. I’m genuinely baffled that people can defend them, given that there’s no consequences attached to replacing them with someone, anyone, who isn’t responsible for what went on before. The banks aren’t going to fail if Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe don’t have jobs tomorrow. But they’ll be gone.
Joseph de Maistre said that every country has the government it deserves. Edmonton, with the rink full every night to watch a terrible team and a media that exists to rationalize and justify the decisions of people like Lowe and Tambellini by way of terrible logic and faulty reasoning, has the hockey team that it deserves. It might get lucky and have a decent team in a few years time if a bunch of these young players turn out but that won’t be the team that it deserves – it will be the team that the NHL’s cartel policies gift them with. Don’t get too used to it – they’ll screw it up again. And Edmonton will deserve it.