Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who's this Smyth character?

Tom Benjamin has a good wrap post on the whole Ryan Smyth business today. I don't agree with everything he wrote, but it's certainly well worth a read — especially this tidbit:
The idea that this was a hockey decision is nonsense. The Oilers can't replace Smyth for $5.5 million. They can't replace him at all. Does anyone really believe Edmonton can acquire a first line winger via a trade or free agency for $5 million? Does anyone believe they will be better if they instead add another second and third liner to a team with too many second and third liners?

With Smyth, Edmonton was missing the playoffs this year. To make them next year — or the year after — the Oilers have to first replace Smyth and then improve some more. Good luck.
Agreed. The only way this pans out as a hockey decision for Kevin Lowe is if (a) Smyth re-signs with the Oilers or (b) Lowe manages to coax one of the league's top unrestricted free agents to take less money to sign in Edmonton.

Both seem as likely as JR hitting that magic 500-goal mark this season.

The one thing Benjamin doesn't account for is the growth from within on Edmonton's roster, although I doubt many are counting on the Oilers' current blueline taking many steps forward. The pertinent question facing Lowe, then, should be 'is this a playoff team next year?'

And, if the answer's no, he's got his work cut out for him to make it so — and that means doing more than putting Robert Nilsson in an Oilers uniform.

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At 5:09 p.m., March 06, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

There's a lot of assumption that the Oilers, with the space they've cleared from dealing away Smyth (and M-A Bergeron) will be able to use that to bring in some UFA help.

Perhaps, but as you noted, James, that won't be easy, and if he can't bring in some quality UFA help, and fails to bring back Smyth(which I doubt happens, anyway), Lowe's gonna have a tough time convincing the Oiler faithful that his moves are in the best interest of the team.

Should be an interesting summer for Oilers fans once again.

At 10:01 p.m., March 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pertinent question facing Lowe, then, should be 'is this a playoff team next year?'

Good question.
No way is this bunch playoff material this year, but I'd venture that they will be more able to compete next season...

Clearly the Oilers are trying to build from within. They have identified the young talent they want to develop, and are showing a great deal of faith (and patience) by essentially foregoing the playoffs, selling a fan favourite and generally frustrating Edmontonians who could taste the Stanley Cup, in exchange for keeping and developing the young guys they think will be great NHL'ers.
At that price I don't think Lowe will be willing to settle for less than a stellar young team in the near future.

At 11:17 p.m., March 06, 2007, Blogger joninabox said...

Though I realize there's no point in aruing with Tom, there's just so much wrong with his points.

1. The cap will continue increasing rather rapidly, the Oilers budget will not. Smyth's contract would have maintained a relative monetary value in relation to their budget. Smyth's contract would eventually actually decrease in value as his production will decrease over time. How many forwards increase or maintain production between years 32-36? I would wager less than 1%.

2. Comparables are no longer applicable? The idea is ridiculous. The idea of relative value is implicit to the concept of sports contracts. What makes Smyth worth 5.5 million? His production, intangibles, age, and history all have to be compared to other players in order to determine his value. Yeah, the current market and UFA status will influence contract value, but there's a point at which GMs drop out of the bidding war, and that's when the player is no longer worth the premium. Just because someone is dumb enough to pay Smyth 6.5 million doesn't mean he's worth that much to them or to the Oilers in terms of performance.

3. No, you won't replace Smyth for 5.5 million. I think the point is that if you're going to overpay someone, it might as well be someone who is more of an impact player. Whether or not Lowe can get that player is questionable, but that's obviously the choice he made, the EIG did have the money to pay Smyth and finances were not the primary impetus for choosing not to pay him.

4. This point is right on. The EIG will keep payroll low until it affects attendance and revenues may potentially decline. They write the cheques and treat the organization as a business. More people should be angry at them and not with Lowe, who most likely has one of the most difficult gigs in the league.

A way to frame the entire dilemma for Canucks fans is this. If Naslund were a pending UFA this year, would you agree with your GM signing him to a 5 year 25 million contract? Obviously the standings create very different situations for the teams, but the contracts and age would relatively match up.


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