Ryan Smyth and Chris Pronger - Not so different?

Editor's Note: The following is a FanPost by a regular commenter here at The Copper & Blue. The views contained in this FanPost do not necessarily reflect the views of management.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?

People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"

You thought they were all kiddin' you

You used to laugh about

Everybody that was hangin' out

Now you don't talk so loud

Now you don't seem so proud

About having to be scrounging for your next meal

Bob Dylan was warning people to be careful about judging others because we are not always so far from our own 'Fall from Grace' and we could find ourselves in the situation that we are judging other for.

It kind of feels a bit like that today as we think about the Pronger and Smyth situations.

For many Oiler fans, the act of Chris Pronger in requesting to be traded from Edmonton was unforgivable. The man signed a contract in good faith, but decided part way through that he didn't like the terms. He put the Oilers in a difficult place because he was a self centered jerk. Rumours were started about why he was leaving (many of them involving relationship scandals). People ranted and raved and the hate was thick accross the Oilogosphere.

Now we see a situation where someone we deeply respect has done something similar and the expressions of joy are equally thick across the Oilogosphere.

Should we be questioning our previous judgments here?

More after the jump...

The facts as we know them are as follows

  • Pronger asked to be traded one year into a five year contract with the team he signed for. Smyth asked to be traded at the end of the fourth year of a five year contract
  • Both asked for 'Family Reasons'. We don't know the details behind Smyth's request, wheras it is reasonable to assume that Pronger's wife and perhaps family simply was not happy being in Edmonton, away from her family and in a city without the amenities she was used to.
  • Both asked 'quetly' and it appears that in both cases, it was the team who leaked the request. (EDIT - Some commenters have since noted that Pronger's camp did leak the demand to Al Strachan who wrote a substantial article on it - so I stand corrected on this)
  • Pronger had been traded for by the Oilers, Smyth had been traded for by the LA kings - both went to their destinations willingly (Smyth had a No Trade Clause and could have remained in Colorado where he signed his 5 year deal).
  • Pronger was willing to go to a handful of destinations giving Lowe options in trading him. Smyth wanted to go to a very small number of destinations and perhaps only Edmonton. This greatly handcuffed Lombardi in getting something back in the trade.
  • Both are well paid professionals and should have known what they were doing when signing a contract.
  • Pronger is a villain and Smyth is a hero ;)
  • Pronger was a key asset of the Oilers, Smyth is somewhat marginal and his cap hit is probably too big for what he brings to LA, so moving him is not too painful for them.
  • Pronger apparently 'demanded' a trade while we are not sure how 'demand' oriented Smyth's request was. Bob McKenzie suggested that Smyth "indicated to the Kings that his preference would be to play next season in Edmonton if a trade can be worked out.". We don't know if Smyth would have happily played out his contract in LA if Lombardi were to indicate that the Kings were unable to get value for him. Below is the primary statement from Lombardi.

"I think it’s pretty well-documented, in terms of what I’m doing here. This has kind of evolved over the last two months, actually. When Ryan asked to be moved, at first I was really troubled. Ryan, in our first 40 games last year I thought he was one of our better players. He kind of tailed off a little and then, in the playoffs, was one of our best players. And certainly, left wing, it’s not one of our strongest positions. So first off, my reaction was, `No way,’ and I couldn’t figure out why, because I think Ryan had adapted well. So I talked to him a couple times, and he was very clear that it had nothing to do with hockey, that it was strictly for his family, that he wanted to go home. I thought about it (for) a week or so and talked to his agent and said, `If it’s a hockey issue, I would not approve of this, because if it’s coaching, the power play, his ice time, who he’s playing with, these are things that we will work through.’ But if it’s a personal thing, a family issue, it’s hard to argue with that and have a player that’s not going to be happy. So I resigned myself. He asked to go back closer to home, and I’ve primarily dealt with three teams, and particularly two right now. This kind of hit the front burner last week, in terms of coming out publicly, because of the predicament I was in. I was talking to other teams about getting a left winger if Ryan goes, and teams say, `Why is he going?’ and I had to explain it to them. I tried to move this along because I have to replace him. I’m not in a great position here. We’re just going to have to adapt. I’ve talked to one team a number of times, and they’ve been very forthright in trying to piece it together. I hope to have that wrapped up here in a day or two. Maybe he changes his mind now that Mike Richards is in our lineup, I don’t know, but it’s an awkward situation. I’ve never had this before. It’s nothing I’ve certainly ever planned on. I think his contract is very favorable, in terms of the cash and (it being) the last year, but we’ve got to adjust to it. So that’s kind of the soap opera that’s been going on for a month and a half. It just kind of broke last week."

So, how different are the situations? Do a lot of Edmonton fans feel the need to look in the mirror and challenge their previous judgments or are they happy ignoring the similarities and simply painting Smyth a Hero and Pronger a Villain. This happens a lot in society, painting other religions as laughable (ha ha, the world is on the back of turtle) while revering our own (of course God made women from the rib of Adam), judging conflicts from a very self centered point of view, etc.

I, for one, never felt any ill will towards Pronger about the trade request. His wife was unhappy (I have a wife - keeping her happy is important!), he asked quietly and gave the Oilers options. The NHL does not give a good 'out' to players who are locked into contracts (other than not showing up to play and having the contract broken because of it). I don't believe that you can 'hold' someone in a city against their will. It sucks that Lowe blew it and got a poor return, but Pronger gave him a good opportunity to get a good return.

Smyth may have told Lombardi that he would continue to play in LA if a deal could not be worked out. Perhaps this is the difference, but still, its a very similar situation and if you can find sympathy for Smyth, I think you need to find sympathy and forgiveness for Pronger.

I still have a lot of 'fan hate' for Pronger and a lot of 'fan love' for Smyth and there are other things that I judge the nature of their character on (Pronger often sounds like a real jerk in interviews for example). It's fun to hate villains and revere our heros, but deep down, I know that both are professionals going about their careers and I respect them both for their accomplishments.

What say you Edmonton fans?

Note - David Staples has a post about this issue now at the Cult of Hockey. There are some good quotes from Kings fans that echo those of Oiler fans in the Pronger situation.

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