Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Life and Hockey go on

Terry Jones does a nice job of putting the Pronger affair into the proper perspective in his daily column for the Edmonton Sun and Canoe.

While admitting that the team that gets the better player normally is given the nod for getting the best of the deal, he credits Kevin Lowe with getting the best he could under some pretty unfair circumstances. His final line is telling and correct, better players have left Edmonton and hockey still is putting on a pretty good show in the Alberta capital.

As a bit of background for the Pronger story, here's the outline of his recent conference call after his trade to the Ducks.

Then read the Jones article which is provided below, it should pretty well bring to an end the angst over Pronger's departure from the Oil City.

July 4, 2006
Get over it! It's not a deal the Oilers wanted, but at least they can move on
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

It is what it is. And it's over.

Chris Pronger ends up with a far better fate than he deserves.

The Anaheim Ducks become a power with Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, the top two defencemen in the league, playing together.

The Oilers couldn't win or even come close to winning in doing this deal, but Joffrey Lupul is a good young pro player, 20-year-old Czech defenceman Ladislav Smid will play next year and they've loaded up on drafts. Never a deal you'd make under any other circumstances. But GM Kevin Lowe doesn't have to apologize to anybody.

Edmonton doesn't overcome an undeserved self-image hit where it hurts most - in hockey - with this deal. But you've been dealing with that for a couple of weeks already. It is what it is. And now you can get over it.

It's a retro Oilers deal from small-market survival days - give up a great to get a good young pro and a couple birds in the bush.

"You can't help but look at it that way," admitted Lowe on conference call after the deal was done.

The difference is that there's still a hockey team here. A pretty good one.
"Our fans have a really good ability to analyze hockey deals. When we dealt Doug Weight and Bill Guerin we didn't have an Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll and those guys coming into their prime."

At least it won't fester and end up a lose-lose situation for everybody like the Mike Comrie soap opera where it was more about punishing a player than moving on and making the best out of a bad situation.

This is the best of an even worse situation.

Lowe learned his lesson. And this time everybody moves on and moves on in early July not well into the season.

"The last thing we wanted to do is take away the ability of the team to win games early in the season and the distraction.


"We felt that would be bad for the fans - not that it isn't already - and bad for the team," said Lowe.

Lupul, the Fort Saskatchewan native, is 25 and already a first-rate player who very much fits the Oiler mold. And he's from the Heartland of Hockey. That counts for something, too.
There's a good group coming together up front, deep in 20-30 goal scorers and now proven pros and playoff players.

He'll fit in great and as Lowe pointed out, the Oilers haven't had a one-timer type shooter in a long while.

You don't replace Pronger. The old hockey adage is that the team that gets the best player wins the trade. That's certainly the case here and then some.

While you would have expected Edmonton to move to the top of the standings with the success and experience gained in the playoffs if they'd gone forward with Pronger and the nucleus, this doesn't mean they're going to be back missing the playoffs again.

Edmonton and Calgary both made it to Game 7 of the last two Stanley Cup finals. Look at the two line-ups today, and the Oilers look like the better bet to be successful with a whole lot of room in the budget to add missing pieces, the biggest one which will obviously be to find a couple defencemen to replace the 30-minute man they lost.


"We're two defencemen short right now but we now have the best offensive team we've had in a decade," said Lowe.

"We have seven or eight guys who can score a lot of goals and young guys who can contribute. We're a team that's going to compete. We're never going to replace Pronger. But if we can bolster the defence with a trade or through free agency ..."
It is what it is. And it's over.

"I don't know if I've had a more stressful time," said Lowe of coming off the Stanley Cup playoff success only to get hit by this.

"The whole situation is really unfair."

During the past two weeks, there has been so much speculation and so many rumours, some of them pretty personal and damning. But one point should be made today. Chris Pronger didn't cheat anybody in his year in Edmonton.

He gave Edmonton fans a great season and took the Oilers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Give him that. Boo the beejebers out of him when he plays his two games at Rexall Centre next year, but give him that end of it.

That said, he and his wife still owe Edmonton one thing and that's an explanation - despite saying yesterday that it was a "private matter, a personal matter."

It's time for Chris Pronger to stand up and be a man - be a real man and come to Edmonton to do it - and say exactly, or as close to exactly as possible, so you get a very real idea of what happened to so sour a sensational season only hours after it ended.

It's been a sorry story because it took the glow off the greatest playoff year in Edmonton since 1990.

But the City of Champions have seen greater players than Chris Pronger go. The team isn't going to turn terrible. Life and hockey will go on.

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