As if Edmonton Oiler fans haven’t suffered enough this year, now comes the latest black eye in what is quickly becoming an ongoing saga of PR nightmares for their embattled team.
On the morning after the Oilers dialed in their final loss of what was arguably the team’s worst season in franchise history (27-47-8-62), often-injured D-man, Sheldon Souray publicly demanded a trade.
More to the point, he threw the Oilers management team under the bus, during an interview with Sportsnet. As a result, the city is buzzing today by Souray’s stinging, public attack on Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and company, only hours after the club wet the bed 7-2 in Anaheim to close out its dismal campaign.
Born and raised in the Edmonton area, Souray lambasted the front office, suggesting it wasn’t the players, fans or city – but management – that has sunk this franchise to the depths of the NHL, and continues to make it a difficult sell to free agents.
Continuing with his rant, Souray noted that both he and the management team had soured on one another, and implied that the front office were the reason some players, including Chris Pronger, left town with smiles on their faces – happy to see the last of the team’s front office!
Perhaps most damning was Souray’s assertion that management pressured him to play before his shoulder was properly healed, upon signing with the team in the summer leading up to the 2007-08 season. As Oiler fans watched in disappointment, Souray then re-injured his shoulder, during an ill-advised fight with Vancouver thug Byron Ritchie in the sixth game of the season. He missed the bulk of the 2007-08 campaign as a result.
Souray’s injury problems, including a concussion and a broken hand this season, are well documented throughout his career. That said, so are his strong leadership abilities and howitzer from the point.
Nonetheless, potentially most troubling about his vent is the timing, especially for an organization that has grabbed its fare share of negative headlines over the past several years.
Only hours after concluding a disastrous 09-10 season, and one day before the Oilers turn the page and learn whether they own the first or second-overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Sheldon launches a public tirade against the front office, while demanding a trade at the same time.
You’ve got to think that some GMs around the league were already apprehensive about committing to an injury-ridden player set to earn close to $11M over the next two years. Today’s rant can only solidify those sentiments.
Souray’s obvious frustration may do little to expedite his request to leave the team he grew up cheering, or help the Oilers maximize a return on their asset.
Then again, perhaps that was Souray’s intention all along!
In the meantime, keep your chins up and your sticks down Oiler fans.
About the Author
Written by Scott Pattison
Scott is an award-winning sports writer whose career spans more than 20 years. He's proudly covered the Oilers since moving to the Alberta capital in 2000.