Unpoisoning the Well

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Earlier this week news broke that the Oilers' best defenseman since Lubomir Visnovsy officially wouldn't be hitting the UFA market, and thus won't be able to return to Edmonton a playoff-hardened hero, positioned to help the Oilers climb back into relevance. Jeff Petry is a Montreal Canadien for the next six years. Allegedly.

This news, while disappointing those of us so drunk on Oilers kool-aid that they're running through walls, serves as no surprise. Anyone paying attention knows the Oilers mishandled the Petry situation last summer when then-GM Craig MacTavish decided to challenge his best defender to an indefensible 'show-me' contract that would take him to unrestricted free agency. The writing was on the wall. Petry was as good as gone at the deadline as soon as that deal was signed, and I'll never forgive Craig for that one.

But what's most concerning for me are Petry's comments that convey his genuine surprise for how much better he's been treated by his new hockey club. It's concerning because he's not the first former Oiler to show extremely well somewhere else (see: Cogliano, Andrew or Dubnyk, Devan or Brodziak, Kyle - the list goes on...), and more critically, he's not the first former Oiler to say something along these lines.

Hmm.. Maybe a one-off?

"I can’t put my finger on why it just snowballed. It wasn’t good for anybody," Dubnyk said.
"I’m more disappointed the way the summer had gone coming into the season. I felt like they were trying to move on from me even though I felt I was steadily playing better.
"It was just disappointing to spend 10 years with an organization, buy a home there, have our first kid there and plan to be there a long time. But you know what? I forgot to stop the puck.
"I guess you can say I’m happy I ungracefully exited Edmonton to make my way here."

-Devan Dubnyk

Uh oh.

I'm a firm believer that where there's smoke, there's fire. Two significant players - their former starting goalie, and their former #1 defenseman (to those of us who DON'T believe that Schultz has a Norris in him, unless he somehow ate Chuck) both publicly alluded to the damning truth that the Oilers don't treat their players that well. To further speak to the Dubnyk point, a relative of mine is close friends with his sister, and she further mentioned that Dubnyk was shocked at how much better the Arizona Coyotes treated him than the Oilers did. That he felt undermined by the organization and was struggling when he, despite showing improvement, seemed to be an afterthought to the powers that be. This is a problem.

So where do the Oilers fall short? Could it be that the Oilers would finish 30-30-29-etc-etc in terms of how they treat their own players?! Are they THAT bad at EVERYTHING?! The smart money's on yes, but I'm still very curious to know exactly where they fall short. I know that they didn't make Dubnyk fly coach, or make Petry stay at the Super 8 while the rest of the boys posted up at the Fairmont. I'm sure they weren't drinking tap water from a trough while Ference was sipping on Fiji the team paid for. So, what is it?

My thoughts are that it has to do with confidence. Reading between the lines of Dubnyk's statement, it seems he felt the organization had already moved on from him, and he couldn't fight through that and focus on his job. I'm inclined to believe the same about Petry, but it's pure speculation at this point. Given that local player-cum-analyst Jason Strudwick said he's never seen a good player treated as poorly by his own team as Petry was, it makes sense. What do you think it is, or was? Will it change with the new boys in town, or will Lowe and MacT's presence in the organization lead to more of the same?

For a team that's always had to fight a little harder to attract UFAs and is trying to rebuild rebuild rebuild rebuild rehabilitate itself into respectability, this simply cannot continue. For the Oilers' sake, let's hope it won't.

In the meantime, Happy McDavid Day.

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