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Fraser Feud


It has been common to just use the word gate behind any misunderstanding or wrongdoing. In this case, I don’t believe that the Oilers set out to pull the wool over the heads of the Kings. So, I hereby propose this subject be called the Fraser Feud.

I was in St. Paul at the NHL entry draft amidst all of the Ryan Smyth trade talk, and everyone was excited about it, no matter what team they were there representing or covering. TSN cameramen were telling me how wonderful they felt the move would be for Edmonton. The heart of the matter seemed to be at what cost.

In media availability with Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini, the question of Smyth and the trade came up quickly and often. Tambellini would dismiss the subject only for another person to bring it up again. On Brule’s health, Tambellini said “I’m not discussing it like that. He’s been cleared to play for a long time.” Further reports stating that the Kings had planned to buy out Gilbert Brule said that it was the Kings legal team that advised that the Kings would not be able to buy out Brule. It no longer sounded as though it was a matter of the NHL clearing Brule to play, but a legal matter of buying out a player due to their Brule’s reported depression.

At the conclusion of the weekend, the trade finally broke. It was of course Colin Fraser that went back to Los Angeles. Fraser had suffered an ankle injury near the end of the Oilers’ regular season, and had been slow to heal. The Oilers doctors had concluded that Fraser required time, but that the ankle would heal.

The Kings’ medical staff determined Fraser to be in a different situation, requiring surgery to repair the ankle injury, a cyst (that was not removed surgically and we don’t know what has happened to) and a blood issue, which may have just been an infection.

The next step was the NHLPA’s second opinion option with a doctor who was not a member of the Oilers or the Kings’ staff. This doctor wanted to wait two more weeks before making a conclusion. After those two weeks, the decision that Fraser would require surgery was made.

Fraser had the ankle surgery and according to Fraser ““I just had surgery on Wednesday and hopefully I’ll be ready for camp. But, it’s going to be close. If it goes quick (the healing), I’ll be ready for camp. If not, it will be just after camp.” Fraser is unsure what is going on between the teams and of course just wants to play hockey.

The main and worst point to this whole story is that it features a lot of one sided arguments. If the Oilers medical staff and the independent doctor were to come to the same conclusion, that more time was needed before opting for surgery, what kind of legs does this argument have to stand on. However, if it was that cut and dry, why couldn’t the mediator help conclude this? Unfortunately the medical reports will also remain a mystery to us as bystanders. The trade happened, Fraser was not an Oiler while the other medical staff investigated the case.

Another piece that may have influence over the outcome of this situation is Fraser’s return to the ice. The Kings have indicated that they did not intend to buy Fraser out, that they intended for him to compete for a spot on the team. If Fraser is back for training camp, the Kings have not lost any games due to the pre-existing injury. If Fraser returns during pre-season, the Kings have lost some time to evaluate his play before the start of the season, but that shouldn’t be the biggest imaginable inconvenience.

The final step is of course a decision from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The Oilers could be losing draft picks, or be fined, Bettman has a few options. However, if Bettman agrees that the Kings were aware of the injury, that they did accept Fraser “as is” and that the decision to have surgery was a decision that wasn’t cut and dry then this matter just end where it is now, with a lot of bad blood.

It is quite evident that Lombardi will not have Steve Tambellini on the top of his call list, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. Many fans would rather their GM make deals with teams outside of their division and outside of their conference.

Even if the league finds that no further steps need be taken, further damage has been done to the Oilers’ medical staff. It is very unlikely that you will see a heartfelt apology from the Los Angeles Kings. If the league finds that the Oilers are at fault, I would expect a very basic apology, not at all heartfelt either. This shouldn’t be a personal issue, but from some things I have been reading, some fans seem to believe it is.

One thing that is quite certain is that Gary Bettman does not appreciate the airing of grievances in a public manner, it is a safe decision to assume that since there have been no further memorable quotes that both sides have been told to tread carefully.

Ultimately, Fraser will play again, the Kings needed to trade Smyth and Smyth had a preferred destination all which have combined to leave Lombardi with fewer options that he would have preferred. Steve Tambellini didn’t offer any other players, or compensation to the Kings because as far as he is concerned he was as straightforward as he could have been; that Lombardi was made aware of the situation to it’s full extent. I have to agree with Tambellini. Neither of us are doctors and we have to rely on what the experts tell us. With both the Oilers’ medical staff, and the independent assessment agreeing that this was a wait and see situation there isn’t much else that could have been said.

Stay tuned for a conclusion to this Fraser Feud.

***EDIT appologies to Helene Elliot, it was an interpretation from her Los Angeles Times’ article stating that the independent doctor may have sided with the Oilers, that the injury required more time before a conculsion could be drawn. Helene Elliot has never stated that the Oilers and independent medical staff have come to the same conclusion and has been an impartial and essential source of information through this trade.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Edmonton Oilers, Lisa McRitchie, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: colin+fraser, dean+lombardi, ryan+smyth, steve+tambellini


Lisa Brown's avatar

Ah, but Fraser fit what the Kings were likely looking for, a player that didn’t have a long contract, did not make much and is not a high cap hit and the Oilers needed to rid themselves of a contract (they now sit at 49).

There has been nothing further said of the cyst or blood infection, and nothing from the independent doctor, so I didn’t want to touch on that too much. If it is only the Kings camp talking about it, it doesn’t help much.

A broken or sprained ankle can be tricky and let’s face it most of the Oilers that were expendable were injured either by concussion or ankle injuries at the end of the season. There was not much else either GM could do as a result of trying to move Smyth. The Oilers could have said no thanks, we’ll wait until he’s a UFA.

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/03/11 at 06:29 PM ET


You misunderstood the impartial doctor diagnoses. He told him to return in two weeks, to see if time was the answer. After the second visit the doctor recommended surgery because it was not healing. The next day Fraser had the sergery. Which would mean the impartial doctor ultimately sided with the Kings.

Posted by bowlby4 on 08/03/11 at 06:42 PM ET

Lisa Brown's avatar

No, I understand that come back in 2 weeks is still a wait and see. How can you assume that the Oilers doctors might not have suggested surgery if Fraser was still an Oiler by this point in the off-season? This was still an injury that needed to be assessed and observed.

The independent doctor wanted to see how things progressed much like the Oilers medical staff were saying. The decision for surgery may have been delayed or made more fuzzy due to the trade issues, but it’s impossible to say what might have or could have been.

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/03/11 at 06:48 PM ET

Lisa Brown's avatar

Fact is that they said he was recovering from an ankle injury. The Kings feel that the extent of the injury was misrepresented. I contend that doctors don’t want to perform surgery unless they feel there is no other option.

Brule was healthy enough to play, but there were legal concerns over buying him out. if the report is true and Brule was out with depression, or ailments related to depression at the end of the season that was a concern for the King’s legal team.

I don’t think that there was any kind of malicious intent here.

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/03/11 at 10:32 PM ET

Lisa Brown's avatar

Eventually yes, but who’s to say the eventually the Oilers doctor wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion?

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/03/11 at 11:01 PM ET


I thought the Kings’ only wish was for a scrub who made very little and was healthy enough to be bought out. Surely, there’s someone, somewhere with an NHL contract in the Oilers’ organization who fits that description and doesn’t fit into their plans.

What about Chris (Vickus) Vandenvandervanden? I never heard of him, but he looks to be a 4th round pick on an NHL deal who can’t cut it in the AHL.

I don’t know. I agree that the Oilers look like they twice tried to hose a King’s team that wanted next to nothing in return for a 1st liner.

Posted by steviesteve on 08/03/11 at 11:49 PM ET


Lisa, your argument is based on speculation and hyperbole. the problem is that you cannot take the Brule and Fraser trades separately: you must look at them together which shows that Tabellinii was attempting to trade players he knew to be damaged but did not fully disclose. First and foremost this is a NHL rules problem. As for Brule, yes the Kings wanted to buy him out a team cannot buy out the contract of an injured player. This means that Brule had to get better, be cleared, and then bought out. This would take time - which the Kings did not have because they needed the roster spot. Fraser replaced Brule and the Kings were told that he was “two weeks away.” This is not a situation where you are buying a car off Craigslist “as is”. There are contractual issues and monetary issues regarding the expense that the Kings had to incur to fiix and injured player. The truth of the matter was that Tambelli was not honest - twice - and even if the league does not punish him, the rest of the league GMs will.

Posted by scooter from saskatoon on 08/04/11 at 12:12 AM ET


Fact is that they said he was recovering from an ankle injury.

Fact is, if there’s even an outside chance that he’s going to need surgery, the Oilers shouldn’t be trading him.

Fact is, after trying to snow the Kings with Gilbert Brule, the Oil should not have tried to trade a guy if there was any question that he was going to need surgery.

There’s no way that the Oilers aren’t to blame for this.  It was a good faith deal made by the Kings and it wasn’t a good faith deal made by the Oilers.

Posted by Garth on 08/04/11 at 01:25 AM ET


BB, there are only two plausible scenarios here.

Either the Oilers’ medical staff is not competent or the GM misrepresented the health of his players.

In either case, the man who is running the show is culpable.

The beck stops there.

Posted by DSF on 08/04/11 at 02:18 AM ET

Lisa Brown's avatar

BUT, the trade for Brule never happened, it was just talk. The end result, according to everything I have read, is that it is not just a matter of the Kings buying Brule out this summer, but anyone buying Brule out ever. If he is battling depression and the Kings legal team didn’t want to touch that, and the deal never happened it says to be that Tambellini told the Kings what he knew and let them see if they could make it work.

With Fraser, again, Tambellini disclosed the injury. If the Oilers medical staff didn’t want to perform surgery they felt unnecessary at the time I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing either. I don’t have their findings in front of me, I’ve never spoken with them, so I have a hard time saying they were wrong or incompetent and I am certainly not saying that about the Kings diagnosis either.

I’m just glad that someone who gets to hear all of the information makes the decision at the end of the day, not us.

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/04/11 at 11:49 AM ET


I don’t believe that the Oilers set out to pull the wool over the heads of the Kings.
You don’t believe because you don’t want to believe.  You’ve reached the conclusion that Tambellini didn’t set out to deceive Lombardi, and you’ve fit the facts to support your conclusion, whether those facts are true or not. 

Further reports stating that the Kings had planned to buy out Gilbert Brule said that it was the Kings legal team that advised that the Kings would not be able to buy out Brule.
It wasn’t only the Kings lawyers who advised Lombardi that Brule couldn’t be bought out, it was the NHL lawyers. 

The Oilers doctors had concluded that Fraser required time, but that the ankle would heal.
They said it would be healed that Wednesday after the trade. 

With both the Oilers’ medical staff, and the independent assessment agreeing that this was a wait and see situation there isn’t much else that could have been said.
This is false on many levels.  First, the Oiler doctors didn’t say this was a wait & see situation.  They said he’d be ready to start practicing that Wednesday.  It’s the independent doctor who said wait and see.  And after 2 weeks, the independent doctor recommended surgery.  Therefore, he or she agreed with the Kings doctors. 

The Oilers did misrepresent Fraser’s health.  The question is was it deliberate?  Did the Oiler doctors just misdiagnose him?  Or did Tambellini give the Kings false information on purpose?  Either way, it’s his responsibility.

Posted by Marc C. from California on 08/04/11 at 12:50 PM ET


Marc C. has pretty much nailed it.

The trade for Brule couldn’t happen, not because it was “just talk” but because the Oilers had not filed the proper documentation with the league that Brule was cleared to play.

Obviously, he wasn’t cleared or the trade would have been concluded and Brule would have been bought out.

As Marc C. says, the Oilers medical staff had assured the Kings that Fraser would be ready to begin offseason workouts in 4 days…obviously that was wrong so you really only have two choices here.


Posted by DSF on 08/04/11 at 01:16 PM ET

Lisa Brown's avatar

If it’s that cut and dry, why didn’t the mediator immediately find for the Kings?

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/04/11 at 01:21 PM ET


The mediator was called in at a later date after, according to Lombardi, he tried to contact Tambellini but was rebuffed.

We don’t know much about what the mediator has done but for mediation to be successful, both sides need to want a resolution.

As far as I can tell, the Oilers believe there is no issue here so are not likely going to provide any relief.

That’s why Bettman has been asked to step in.

Should be interesting to see how it’s resolved.

Posted by DSF on 08/04/11 at 01:26 PM ET


Hockey must be a religion, because the stands are full of conspiracy theorists.

A lawyer GM getting the wool pulled over his eyes by a dishonest competitor? Riiiiight.

A lawyer GM not doing his due diligence, then screaming like a damp toddler at the mall when his mistake bites him in the ass? Yup.

And a million holier-than-thou lectures on sportsmanship and fair play by LA fans who are filling in the knowledge gaps as they see fit? What fun.

Thanks for sticking to facts, Lisa. When tweener Fraser is back on the ice for the Kings in Sept/Oct as Lombardi wanted, I’m sure the panicked minority will find another extreme miscarriage of justice to occupy their time.

Posted by Supermullet from SP on 08/04/11 at 01:56 PM ET


The Kings did not have to do anything. Smyth was under contract, if the Kings had done nothing, Smyth would have to play for the Kings or not play at all.

The Kings were doing a favor to Smyth and to Edmonton (the team that wanted him) that had some benefits for the Kings.

Posted by Phil from phil.k.dawson@gmail.com on 08/04/11 at 03:25 PM ET


Lisa - your answers and responses are at least honest - even if ill-informed and a bit homerish. I cannot, however, say the same for the Oiler faithful.

here is a pretty good response to your points by Quisp - a pretty good Kings blogger and overall hockey fan:


Posted by scooter from saskatoon on 08/04/11 at 04:36 PM ET

Lisa Brown's avatar

Scooter, interesting that I am a homer when Quisp has in fact written several articles on this, inluding one titled Edmonton Journal whines about Lombardi “spectacle”.

I assure you I am a hockey fan, but thank you for your comments and opinions.

Posted by Lisa Brown on 08/04/11 at 08:27 PM ET


By the way the mediator does not have the authority to award anything to either side. The point of the mediator is to try and find a common ground and present it to the teams. If either team doesn’t like it, then the disagreeing party can decide not to accept what the mediator came up with.

Posted by Mark on 08/04/11 at 11:48 PM ET


There are two issues that have never been brought out in this whole sorry mess.

First, if Smyth asked for the trade “1-1/2 to 2 months ago”, why did this all blow up in the last 24 hours? Are you telling me that Lombardi HELD OUT for Brule and a 5th? What on earth did he turn down?

So Lombardi knew about Brule’s condition long before (obviously disclosed by the Oilers as it’s not something that would turn up in a one-off examination), long enough that he had time to have the lawyers run through it.  The condition is odd but straightforward - cleared to play but open to legal challenge if bought out. NOT the Oiler’s problem, they can’t be responsible for whatever the Kings want to do with him after the deal. They offerred a player healthy enough and medically cleared to play. Fair enough.

Now, because Lombardi wants to change the deal at the last minute (again, two months in), the Oilers offer up Fraser. NOT cleared to play. No secret with respect to his condition, public knowledge that his season was ended by an injury. Lombardi claims that the Oilers guaranteed he would be OK “by Wednesday”.  Bullshit! Name a medical professional that would put his reputation on the line by saying that “X is not healthy today, but will be in a few days”. Not a chance. And if Tamby says as much, it’s bullshit and Lombardi should know it’s bullshit.  Like buying a car that doesn’t run today but the seller says will be fine after the weather changes. And again, if Lombardi had been paying attention six weeks ago, he would have had LOTS of time to make an informed decision.

Bottom line, Lombardi painted himself into a corner by waiting until the last minute.  The Oilers disclosed EVERYTHING - the extent of Brule’s injury, the existance of Fraser’s, the FACT that Fraser was NOT cleared to play, all of it.

So tell me what’s the beef?

Posted by Snake Oil from Vancouver on 08/10/11 at 06:59 PM ET

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