Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa McRitchie on 08/03/11 at 05:04 PM ET
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.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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