Thursday, January 11, 2007

Still Pining For Pronger OR Why Are The EIG Still Being So Goddamn Cheap?

You know how it is when someone breaks up with you: you have your good days and you have your bad ones. And sometimes just when you think you're over the whole thing you head out to a club and there's your former GF and she's smokin' like John Daly at an after hours club. All of a sudden you think back to just how horny she was when she was drinking and you wish you were the guy who was taking her home that night because this new guy's in for a treat.

That's sorta how I feel today about Chris Pronger leaving the Oilers and yes I know that whole metaphor was creepy:D

It seems like a weird day for an Oilers fan to bring out their dead considering the club won two road games in a row for the first since Glenn Anderson wasn't traumatized by swimming pools and they might have finally caught some luck, well there's no debating it they did catch some luck, by winning in a tough Sharks barn while boasting a less than impressive defense.

Things may well be finally on the upswing but today I only feel like looking back.

Pronger's currently on the shelf for the Ducks and the team's gone in the toilet, yes I know they're also missing Marchant and Beauchemin, and that's no big surprise. I think the Neidermayer/Beauchemin duo was playing the really tough min but Sleek had a post the other day on his BOC site listing the goal differential Pronger's wrought in various situations and it was mind blowing. Before he was hurt the guy was on his way to a top 3 Hart trophy finish at the absolute worst.

So while he's out of sight right now he's never out of mind and if anyone else saw the Oilers trying to make a breakout pass last night they'd be made of stone not to imagine just for a second the difference that Pronger could make.

Yes I know it would mean our forward corps would lose some of it's perceived depth in the likes of Lupul and Sykora but the truth is, get ready for it Flames fans, I don't know how much depth we really have anyway and I'd be willing to give up some of it for a guy who was awesome on the PP and really steadied things on the back end.

I know their combined salaries still don't equal Pronger's stipend but it's pretty damn close and just to make you break out that mixtipe Chris made for you so you wouldn't miss him that weekend he spent with his grandparents, OK I'll stop now:) let's take a look at what this team might look like if Pronger had a set of balls:

94-10-83: These guys are back together and playing tough min. 83 hasn't seen much time in that role this year and I still don't think he's ready for it but I'd imagine that's where he'd be.
14-16-34: Stoll supplants Peca and we've seen how these guys can roll. They've been lagging a little lately, or at least by my eye, but still effective.
18-19-28: Thoresen finds a home with an old combo that's been together for a long time. Note: this might have also been the place where they broke in MAP similar to how Hemsky first cut his teeth back in Oct of '02.
26-78-???: Schremp clearly wasn't ready this past fall and there would no need to keep him around for the PP given we already had bonafide man advantaged weapons in 44 and 83. This would've been a nice place to throw in a grinding winger, say a Todd Harvey but someone in better shape and with more gas left in the tank. Or maybe it would've been a place for Dvorak who loved Edm but didn't figure into their plans and eventually signed in Stl for the paltry sum, unless you're Dr. Evil of course;), 1 MILLION DOLLARS!!

On the defense you could've left together the '06 spring tandem of 21/44 and then still signed Shaggy and paired him with Staios. 2-47 would get the job of the soft min and Jan Hejda would be the 7th dman and if he got a chance then maybe he could become a super utility guy.

Nothing changes in net of course.

In any case that looks like a team that would be responsible at ES, above average in goal and have the potential to be special teams monster.

Of course we know what happened and this was not to be and there's no way I can fault the EIG for this.

One thing I can fault them for though is how they're spending their money or specifically how they're not spending their money while on the other hand they've started to more than gently remind the fans that they'll be asking the Govt for some of their money to build a new rink.

There's a lot of talk about optics among Oilers fans when it comes to the possibility of Lupul being dealt or at the very least, healthy-scratched. Well I wonder how it would look if the Oilers miss the playoffs the very same year that theif owners are asking for help in building a new arena? And it's not like they're in danger of missing the playoffs in a season where their payroll is tight to the cap, they're in danger of missing the playoffs in a season where they're a full five million dollars away from the limit.

You know earlier when I slammed Pronger for his lack of seeds? Well let me tell you, this EIG has got a pair of stones that would make King Kong blush. While it is true that those guys built up a lot of capital by stepping up to the plate to keep the team in Edm, you have to wonder if missing the playoffs the year after a long Cup run while spending under the cap might not just rub some fans the wrong way.

It's unlikely that the Pronger trade will be reversed and that's true for a lot of reasons, ie reasons like Lauren Pronger probably still doesn't like Edm and Brian Burke knows magic beans when he seems them unless it's the early part of this century and he's evaluating the netminding position in Vancouver;) The Pronger trade request , and the craptacular return engineered by Kevin Lowe, is something that could damn this franchise for a lot of years and is currently a big reason why we've re-entered the morass of mediocrity. The EIG can't change that but they could've helped and still can help soften the blow somewhat by furthering opening their coffers.

Their days of crying poor and everyone believing them are way past due, IMO. They're on the record as saying they're staring to put a serous dent in some of their old outstanding debts and the memory of 12 additional ' 06 playoff home games and the furious sale of merchandise that ensued is fresh in the minds of everyone. Oh yeah and they raised ticket prices too. Yet they're still in charge of a floundering team that has the money to spend but hasn't once exihibited the desire to do so.

It would be interesting to know if Lowe has gone toe to toe with these guys and explained to them the urgency of the matter given the ages and contract situations of guys like Roli and Smyth. Hell, even a guy like Stoll might eventually price himself out of this market if the last quarter Stoll is the real deal.

There will never be another Pronger but I'm sure we can all learn to love again;) The EIG can help that a little by renting someone for our affections for the duration of the '07 season. And then come this summer they can help us out with some longterm relationships.

24 Comments:

Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Cam scores again;)

I asked him for a pic of Pronger's PS goal from G1 last spring in Car and he came through.

1/11/2007 2:48 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

They've got the stick that he scored that goal with in one of the first displays you see at the HHOF, right beside that dumbass green Flames Hard-hat.

I was there two weeks after the trade went down on July 3rd. Honest to God, I wanted to cry.

Lord knows I wish he was back here, but since he's not, and due to the fact it was his own lack of "walnuts" and handled the entire situation with such a lack of class that it would make Terrell Owens blush, I will continue to do things like I did when I found out he had broken his foot.

That is, quietly laugh and think to myself "too bad it wasn't his knee".

Oh, and you're damn right about this cap situation. With a couple d-men, this team would be a dangerous playoff opponent for anyone, Anaheim at full-health included. And considering the age of the goalie and most of the core, there's no reason not to be going full throttle right now. Spend to about 2 million less than whatever the cap is, leaving a bit of wiggle room for trades, injuries, and perhaps a tweak at the deadline.

1/11/2007 2:57 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

I don't know how you do it Dennis but between the pop culture references of shows I watch and the humourous analogies I always seem to have experienced and understand, your posts are always enjoyable.

That lineup with Pronger looks like a pretty damn good team although the 4th line looks like a bit of a gongshow to me with basically 3 rooks.

Do we know that all of this is because EIG doesn't want to spend money? It maybe that Lowe isn't willing to trade the assets needed to get the D-man. Lowe is defintely a patient guy when it comes to trades and when he isn't forced into making a trade he generally makes good ones where he comes out the winner.
Just going back over the last few years this has pretty much been his MO.

In 2003-2004 the Oilers were painfully hurting for Centermen with the Comrie situation happening and with Reasoner getting hurt. Lowe did sign Oates who was at the tail end of his career and we did see a trade for Nedved eventually but it came too little too late and the Oilers slid out of playoffs.

2005-2006 was pretty similar in the sense that everyone knew the Oilers needed a Goalie but we didn't get one until very late. He also added some scoring depth and defensive help.

We're pretty much approaching a similar situation for 2006-2007. The only question is if the Oilers can hold on until Lowe can swing a trade.

All in all it'll be interesting when we finally do see a trade for D-man. I just hope it doesn't come too late.

1/11/2007 3:34 pm  
Blogger Bank Shot said...

I think it's probably a combination of EIG's cheapness and Lowe's tendency to try to give up as little as possible in every trade. Or maybe midseason trades just aren't worth making during the season under the new CBA. I can't think of a notable one that happened this year. Just piddly stuff like salary dump for picks, or back up goalie for AHLer.

Also where's the damn AHL agreement? Some things just shouldn't be cheaped out on.

I don't mind the government paying for a new arena. Oiler players alone probably pay around $20 million in taxes every year. So over the next 20 years the gov will make it's money back anyway.

1/11/2007 6:31 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I think that the EIG is spending as little as it can without causing public outcry (aside from yourself). I also think that the hockey operations budget (including coach's salaries, Howson's, the scouting staff costs, AHL salaries, player insurance costs, etc) is probably set in June, and it's fairly clear from there how much Lowe will have to spend on payroll, even if he does abandon the AHL squad.

So when Laforge tells us that Lowe has the go ahead to spend to the cap, and that the Oilers will spend close to that ... he's really saying that Lowe has a budget of $40.3 M, but if he spends $39 M for the season and adds $6 M at the deadline (21.5% of the salaries of the players still due) ... then he will be at the cap in March. And if you, the Oiler fan, are the complete fool that Laforge seems to presume you to be, then you're eating that bowl of shit and asking for seconds. :)

1/11/2007 6:52 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Back to point:

If Lowe had acquired Hossa, Gaborik, Alfredsson or similar in trade for Pronger then I think the break up pains you're feeling would be numbed a bunch.

I remember talking with speeds when Pronger was acquired for Brewer, even though Pronger had been EV+/- -4 the year before on a marginal Blues team, he still looked to be good to improve the team goal differential 12 or 15 goals. Just a guess of course, but considering he would be stepping almost exactly into Brewer's shoes, just on the PP you had to expect a lot more. So probably reasonable.

Now send away Pronger and get Lupul and Smid back ... yikes. That's a large step back, without doing any math I'd guess handily 20 goals in terms of the team's goal differential. Probably more.

But Lowe didn't do that. He was never looking for an impact player back in return, not from the things I've read. He was looking for quality youth. And he used the savings in salary, at least in part, to secure other players to longer deals (Hemsky, Horcoff, Staios, Pisani, Moreau).

1/11/2007 7:05 pm  
Blogger godot10 said...

The EIG is going to have to cough up several tens of millions of dollars towards a new building to get public money, so one shouldn't be calling them cheap, IMHO.

If you add the salary room necessary for a #1 pairing defensemen, to re-sign Smyth, and to re-sign Smith, the Oilers are effectively spending to the cap.

Leaving salary space for late season rentals is smart management. The Oilers would have spent more, but the defenseman they were looking for last summer didn't materialize.

1/11/2007 7:09 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Vic,

In your scenario the Oilers would never be at the cap, they'd be around $40.3MM.

Unless we're just saying that Laforge is a manipulative SOB and would sum the Oilers salary at the end of the season and go, "LOOK = $44MM!"

1/11/2007 7:19 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

The cap is a "right now" number, if I recall correctly. Otherwise the Oilers would have space to add $26.9 M in salary at the deadline (assuming they have averaged $39 M to that point and that the cap is at $45 m).

Someone like speeds will surely correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that the only time that you are allowed to be over the cap, even for a day, is during the summer period.

1/11/2007 7:25 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

godot10:

The EIG will also be renting their additional luxury boxes for for considerably more than the ones in Rexall now (about $320k per annum plus about $90ish per head for each attendee, considerably more in the playoffs).

I would be shocked if the EIG is more emotionally invested in a new arena than fandom. And it is impossible for me to believe that the EIG will be losing money in order to boost civic pride.

The Oilers have high revenues and high profits from last season, even after they paid into the revenue sharing scheme. And they're not taking the payroll to the cap. Because the public isn't demanding it.

'Cheap' was Dennis' term, not mine. I mean if the EIG purchased a sweat shop in Laos for $5 M ... I wouldn't call them 'cheap', I mean $5 M is a lot of scratch. But I would still spot the obvious difference in their ability of the Edmonton Oilers to generate revenue and their willingness to spend it on the on-ice product.

1/11/2007 7:35 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

It's definitely pro-rated Vic, that's why you see all the silliness with sending Josh Green back and forth all season long.. it counts against for that one or two days and can hurt your breathing room at a later date.

The cap allows for the Oilers to pay out $44,000,000 throughout the course of the season. Right now we have around $10,000,000 in cap space...

One of the main reasons I'm getting extremely annoyed with EIG right now.

1/11/2007 7:35 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Yeah it's pro-rated for sure. It's number of dollars spent over a whole season so we could pick up both a Sundin and say a Redden at the deadline if both teams were giving them away.

And yeah cheap is a relative term but given how much money this group made last season it just looks cheap to me to be 5 mill under.

The fans have more than done their part in Edm, ie they stood by and were happy with making the playoffs every second year and winning two games a playoff series;) and they knew that the Oilers couldn't spend what the Wings and Avs could. But now the playing field has been leveled but the Oilers are still crying poor.

Thanks Steven, BTW. My themes are pretty universal I think but I'm glad you get a kick out it all:)

Sweaty: Yeah I'm not saying they should get super tight to the cap because it's nice to have some flexibility but what's the point of saving money if you're not prepared to spend it later? Seems like a copout to me, ie we have money to spend but we won't because we don't want to give up any kids. And it's a bit much to be this far under the cap given the money the EIG made last year. BTW I don't agree with spending for the sake of spending like Cuntreal did with Sammy and maybe no one besides Shaggy and Sykora wanted to come to Edm in the first place;)

1/11/2007 8:23 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Dennis:

I refuse to believe that none of those UFA d-men would have come to Edmonton. I just think that Lowe didn't think that the defensemen on the market were worth what they ended up getting on the market, possibly based on how much Pronger was getting paid. I wouldn't be surprised if he made offers to several of the higher end guys, but ultimately got rebuffed and ended up with the tjitty end of the stick.

In hindsight, 15 million over four years for Willie Mitchell might have been a necessary expense. That, or 3.5 million a season for Spacek.

Whatever happened, Lowe didn't get a d-man, and it has hurt, but not killed, this team's chances. They've managed to keep their head above water. Now Lowe's got to go out and get two d-men (like last year) except one must be in a position where they are guaranteed to be here beyond this year (RFA-to-be like Pitkanen or Jackman, or a guy with time left on his deal like Visnovsky).

1/11/2007 8:53 pm  
Blogger godot10 said...

Think Scott Pioli and Bill Belichek. They know how to manage a cap. Lowe so far has been doing a bang-up job, apart from the problem on defense created by Pronger's betrayal.

LA was able to get Jack Johnson because they had cap space.

If one's team has no holes, then spent to the cap. But the Oilers have to keep room for a $5-6 million dollar defenseman in the summer budget, and potentially for Smyth, and if it doesn't get spent during the summer, then it can be spent on rentals now.

One doesn't spend cap room just because its available.
Again, see Scott Pioli and Bill Belichek. The Patriots started the season with a gaping hole at receiver because Givens was lost to free agency and Branch wouldn't agree to a reasonable contract. They still made it to the final eight (and maybe more) with a patchwork wide receiver core. They had the cap room to re-sign Branch, but he want more money than they thought he was worth.

1/11/2007 9:01 pm  
Blogger ToTheBank said...

Re: Pioli and Bellichek I think you should ask Tom Brady how fond he is of the "cap management" (or Kraft being cheap) given the fact that he took a below market deal with the idea that the Pats would spend the money keeping key guys around. Now, Branch is gone, and his recievers drop more balls than they catch, they change over half the o-line and he gets abused every game, and their d-backs couldn't cover Elgaard if he suited up today.

The Pats keep winning because they have one of the most talented QBs in the game, who also happens to be the most competitive player in the league. I wouldn't give too much credit to the front office for stumbling into the second coming of Montana.

1/11/2007 9:51 pm  
Blogger allan said...

The EIG can help that a little by renting someone for our affections for the duration of the '07 season.

Is there anything hookers can't do?

1/11/2007 9:58 pm  
Blogger oilerdiehard said...

I don't get it. You say we have "re-entered the morass of mediocrity" (due to the loss of Pronger and Lowe's poor return) but was not the team with Pronger, Peca etc... a couple games away from not making the playoffs? Was it not that same team that was 1st in the division at Christmas and utterly crapped the bed in the second half and really were pathetic down the stretch run playing as if they could care less with our playoff lives on the line? If we put the big playoff run aside for a second that team did not deserve to be in the playoffs, yet it was our good fortune that the Vancouver Canucks decided to be even more pathetic (when it counted not to be) and undetermined than we were (and that was a mean feat). Had that not happened it would have been nothing more than another year mediocrity despite the mighty CP patrolling our blue line.

Of course we had the loss of Pronger forced upon us and that is not the EIG or Lowe's fault as far as I know. But otherwise I totally agree with your points about the EIG and their reluctance to spend up to the Cap. Though I suppose a couple of big ticket rentals (at least 1 on D corps) at the deadline could go a long way toward making me forget about that (providing we still are in the playoff picture or close to it at that point).

1/11/2007 10:37 pm  
Blogger dynastydays said...


oilerdiehard said...

I don't get it. You say we have "re-entered the morass of mediocrity" (due to the loss of Pronger and Lowe's poor return) but was not the team with Pronger, Peca etc...


Your post would make a lot of sense, ignoring the fact that we played 3/4's of the season with sub .900 goaltending.

But then again thats a pretty large and significant fact to ignore now isn't it.

1/11/2007 11:04 pm  
Blogger Matt said...

Yeah Vic, what it is is this: you cannot, even for one day, be in a position where [Salary Already Paid Out] + [Present Salary Committments] would have you over the cap as of year-end.

So, you can have a $35M/yr payroll for the first 60 games and a $60M/yr payroll for the last 20, but even though it adds up to the same dollars, you couldn't do it the other way around (with the big payroll for the 1st 20 instead of the last 20).

1/12/2007 12:22 am  
Blogger vic ferrari said...

Matt:

Ya, that's the clear explanation. I read Article 50.5 of the CBA again anyways, which is tedious reading. As pdo says above, that's why there is all this craziness with cap challenged teams shuttling players back and forth to the minors.

oilerdiehard:

I agree with that, last year's Oilers weren't as good as they have been presumed to be in hindsight. And I'm sure we're in the distinct minority with this thinking. But between Christmas and the Olympics they were outchanced in all but a handful of games. The goaltending was poor, but there were clearly a lot of other problems as well. The stretch drive was no hell either.

And there was not a single playoff series in which the Oilers outchanced the bad guys. It was a fantastic run, but it was what it was. Lightning, meet Bottle.

1/12/2007 10:13 am  
Blogger namflashback said...

I think we know the answer, 07-08 was the real target right from the day the Pronger news broke.

We're going to get steadily fed the PR treatment about how the market for the offenceman they need is so tight. We'll get a lesser-man (guys off of the b-list) at or before the deadline. As long as that guy doesn't have to be the PP guy -- maybe he's not too expensive.

Maybe they make the playoffs. And maybe, if the lightning is captured again, a minor run. Doubtful, as this team is a coupla things short.

I think mgmt just wants a return to round 1, and they'll take anything else they get from there.

1/12/2007 11:41 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Allan: that's exactly where I was going with that one:)

Vic: I can't agree with you man. I thought the Oilers certainly outchanced the Canes in the Finals and I'd give them the edge vs the Sharks too. Especially in G4-6. Plus, let's not forget this team was in first place at christmas last year and this was without Roli and spacek and with Conkkanen.

Yes, Roli did catch on fire in the second season and some things came together, like say that Peca line MacT assembled, but there as certainly more than just some gold in them dar hills long before Roli showed up and showed us how to truly prospect it.

1/12/2007 3:27 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Yeah, namflashback, probably. If this is/was the plan, then where it is looking a little shaky is the development side. I mean how much better have Hemsky, Lupul, Smid and Greene really gotten? Or Jacques and Pouliot? Stoll and Torres have really stepped up their games, but besides that the improvement from the younger guys is not easy to see. Not right now anyways.

Maybe Hemsky, who still creates very nearly as much for the other team as his own, but has had at least a dozen games where he's been paying the price.

1/12/2007 3:27 pm  
Blogger namflashback said...

Vic, the guys you listed ARE pretty young, so some inconsistency is expected. If the PP continues to get some, Hemsky will continue to rack the points up. If they are going to give the Czech line the soft minutes, those three better start raping the opposition.

Greene was probably decently stable in the first 25 games, but started to fall off. Probably not unexpected for a sophomore.

Horcoff has taken a step back, but his puck luck aside, I think we know he will step back up. (it's already turning for him over the past 5 games)

Jacques and Pouliout have to be the biggest dissapointments, because with the injuries the team faced, this was a superb opportunity for them to show it.

1/12/2007 4:47 pm  

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