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?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.
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.
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.