Another hilarious chapter in the Oilers’ ongoing struggle with the Collective Bargaining Agreement was written on Friday. The Oilers called up Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and then, after he flew from OKC to Edmonton, found out that they couldn’t call him up, as they’d already burned through their four post trade deadline recalls.
Derek Van Deist had an explanation for what happened on Twitter: “The NHL told them they could, then realized the Oilers couldn’t. VandeVelde was originally an emergency call-up and didn’t count.”
The Oilers had previously used one of their recalls ensuring that MPS was on the clear day roster in OKC. Linus Omark and Teemu Hartikainen were called up. That’s three. This brings us to last weekend. Shawn Horcoff’s back started acting up on him. Taylor Hall was already done for the year. Lennart Petrell had a groin problem. That left the Oilers with eleven healthy forwards. Let’s look at the rule, 13.12 in the CBA:
(l) During the period following 3:00 p. m. New York time of the fortieth (40th) day immediately preceding the final day of the Regular Season no Player may be Recalled from Loan to a club of any league affiliated with the NHL, except that:
(i) A Club may exercise four Recalls from a club or clubs of any league affiliated with the NHL, of Player(s) listed on its own Reserve List.
(ii) Players may be Recalled under Article 13.12(m).
(iii) Players may be Recalled upon completion of the regular season and playoff schedule of the club to which they were Loaned.
(m) Emergency Recall.
(i) A Player on Loan to a club of any league affiliated with the League may be Recalled from such Loan under emergency conditions at
any time for the duration of the emergency only following which he must be returned promptly to the club from which he was Recalled.
(ii) Emergency conditions shall be established when the playing strength of the Loaning Club, by reason of incapacitating injury or illness or by League suspension to its Players is reduced below the level of two (2) goalkeepers, six (6) defensemen and twelve (12) forwards. Proof of the existence of the emergency conditions including the incapacity shall be furnished to the Commissioner of the League upon request made by him.
OK, so this straightforward enough. As of last weekend, the Oilers had made three of their four recalls. Their forward strength drops below twelve forwards, so they call up Chris Vande Velde. All perfectly in order with the rule.
Where I would assume that this gets problematic is that, come Wednesday night, Horcoff and Petrell are good to go. Omark and Vande Velde are healthy scratches. At which point, the Oilers are in breach of 13.12(m)(i) because they haven’t returned Vande Velde promptly to OKC. How do you resolve this? It appears that the NHL took the utterly reasonable route of simply treating Vande Velde as the Oilers fourth recall in the post trade deadline period.
I’m told (although I didn’t hear it) that one of the Oilers’ radio employees was rather contemptuous of the NHL here, as they supposedly first told the Oilers that it was fine to bring up MPS and then, after he’d started travelling, told them that it wasn’t. With the greatest of respect, this seems nuts. The time for the Oilers to be asking this question was on Monday or Tuesday, before they let Vande Velde hang around. If they asked the NHL then, the NHL said Vande Velde could stay and then it changed its position, I have some sympathy. It was on the Oilers to make sure that they knew what the league’s understanding of “he must be returned promptly to the club from which he was Recalled” though and it sure looks like they failed to do so before committing to Vande Velde by failing to send him down.
The nice thing is that this means they might as well keep Vande Velde around for the rest of the year. He doesn’t make big money, MPS will over the course of his career, nothing matters this year, so fine – let a guy who won’t make big bucks in his career put $20,000 in his jeans. Of course, if you’re interested in seeing the Oilers win some day, this is just another piece of evidence that the management team is not a particularly detail oriented group.
Update: Terry Jones has a story with some quotes from Kevin Lowe that has to be read to be believed:
“It’s ludicrous,” said Kevin Lowe, president of hockey operations.
“The intent of the rule is to protect the AHL a bit from teams sending down six or eight players at the end of the season.
“All the general managers feel the same way — it’s a rule that needs to be changed.
“It wasn’t Tambellini at all. And I’d hate to see Ricky take a hit on this. He is impeccable when it comes to dealing with all of this.”
Now, it’s not clear what, exactly, Lowe is talking about. It sounds like he’s talking about the clear day roster rule in the AHL – that’s the rule that prevents teams from sending six or eight players down at the end of the season. If you aren’t on the clear day roster, you can’t play. But that’s not really the issue here – the issue here is the fact that the Oilers are limited to four recalls post trade deadline. That’s why MPS wasn’t allowed to play. I think that’s the rule that GMs are up in arms about – Brian Burke was all upset about that immediately post trade deadline.
Of course, the Oilers burned one of those recalls doing a paper recall with MPS, in which they were effectively trying to game the AHL rules and do what the clear day rule is designed to prevent. So I’ve literally no idea what Lowe’s point is here. The AHL rules are intended to try and make sure that AHLers are the ones play in the AHL playoffs by limiting eligibility to those who were on AHL rosters towards the end of the year. There’s a dodge, the paper demotion/recall, which comes with a cost of burning one of the recalls that the NHL CBA permits you. The Oilers incurred this cost with MPS and then, apparently, were stunned when the bill came due.
It’s hard to overstate how stupid this defence is. It’s tantamount to saying “Well, we were totally aware of the rules, we just thought that they were stupid and therefore inapplicable.” This is the dumbest defence possible. “We had no idea that there were any rules whatsoever and it never occurred to us to ask” would be a better defence. I don’t understand how the Oilers could possibly have thought that this recall was permissible, based on what Lowe’s said.
John MacKinnon at the Edmonton Journal basically handwaves all of this away: “…the Paajarvi ‘easy-come-easy-go’ fiasco is mighty small beer in the overall scheme of things. It’s embarrassing, but everybody lived, for example.”
He has a point: if you have “death” as your standard of failure, then yes, it’s like the 32nd successful season in a row for the Oilers. Sure, it’s six years without a playoff appearance and they’re within spitting distance of clinching the title of “Worst team since the lockout” but NOBODY HAS DIED. For those of us who aim slightly higher, who think “not making the playoffs for six years” should be a measuring stick rather than “nobody died.” this is another sign: the people in the front office have no idea what they’re doing. Picking Hall and RNH is the easy part. Actually, complying with the rules in the CBA is pretty bloody easy too. The hard part is moving from “having a bunch of talented young players” to “being an elite hockey team.” I’ve no idea why, other than hope, people would expect that of this group.