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The Oilers Try to Purge Everything Likeable About Them

What does it say about an organization when its best player thinks that the team is terrible so he doesn't want to sign another contract, and that organization's response is to discuss trading its best player?

Really, Edmonton's recent years are playing out like a Shakespearean tragedy. We tasted victory in the glorious summer of ought-six, and flushed with success the Oilers have been casting off all those who loved them and served them loyally. The Baron of Banff, exiled to a distant isle under cover of night. The loyal, steadfast, and underpaid Lord Brodziak vanishing to a rival kingdom in mysterious circumstances. The gallant Gator of Calgary, once captain of good King Lowe's army, abandoned in favour of a young pup who could never show his loyalty or his tenacity in the harshest circumstances. Meanwhile, the liars and the flatterers remain, allowed to grow fat on wine and plunder as a once-proud kingdom descends into misery and despair.

Who now remains who knows of honour and valour? The Trail Titan is a shadow of his former self, his body marred by countless sorties against insuperable odds. The living saint Fernando Pisani seems fated to be cast off by an ungrateful warlord in spite of his years of service as his body has not proven the equal to his will. And now we hear that the greatest of them all, the Prince of Pardubice, Ales Hemsky, seems fated to leave as well when his contract expires. If not sooner.

Can we just skip ahead to the part where Tambellini is slain/fired for his wickedness? That would be great, thanks.

What's that I hear off in the distance? Is it the braying of hounds? Yes, it's the chorus of people who will defend everything the Oilers brain trust, who lest we forget just steered this organization to dead fucking last in both the National and American Hockey Leagues, with their usual sycophantic ravings. "Ales Hemsky is soft!" they say. "He was never an élite player! He only played well when superior players surrounded him! He's injured all the time! He's just the sort of cancerous veteran presence that wise new king Claudius Tambellini is right to get rid of if he won't shut up and play his balls off for an awful, awful hockey team that shows no signs of getting better and treats its players like dirt!"

There. If you were going to write a comment like that, I just saved you the trouble. I'm also going to save myself the trouble of telling you all individually how unbelievably wrong you are. Yes, Hemsky played only twenty-two games this year because of injury. A shoulder injury that, lest we forget, Hemsky exacerbated by trying to play through it when he obviously needed more time off. A shoulder injury that he incurred because he fights in the corner and flies down the ice without heed of the consequences and as a result every couple of games gets stapled by some plug because he'll give up his body to make the play.

You may think that Hemsky is overpaid. After all, his cap hit is $4.1 million. He is the lowest-paid, youngest, and best member of Horpensky, the only decent first line we've had since the Cup finals. The Flames pay more for Daymond Langkow. The Leafs pay significantly more for Phil Kessel, who is maybe Hemsky's equal. Hemsky is two years younger than Patrick Sharp, of all people, and makes just a half million bucks more. Hemsky makes less bank than Joffrey Lupul. Have I made my point yet?

I don't blame Hemsky for wanting to leave. I kinda want to leave the Oilers too and I don't have to play for them. The Oilers are becoming that guy who has been married six times, divorced six times, and refuses to consider that maybe he's the reason for all of that. Any rational organization would take a long look in the mirror, but the Oilers are not a rational organization. Instead they blunder obliviously through the night, pausing only when they run over something, like a drunk goalie at the wheel.

Making a playoff team is not difficult. Sixteen teams out of thirty manage it every year. This level of rampaging self-delusion from management is a classic symptom of the other fourteen.