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The Puck Stops Here

A Big Comeback

A big comeback story, which is as big as any in the league this season, is that of Sheldon Souray of the Dallas Stars.  After being exiled to the AHL last season and bought out by the Edmonton Oilers, he is back in the NHL.  He has been a significant contributor to the Stars with 8 points in 11 games and a +8 +/- rating from defence.  He leads his team in +/- and is the highest scorer on the Dallas defence with twice as many points as any other defenceman on the team.  His strong play is one of the reasons Dallas leads the Pacific Division.

Souray is an example of Edmonton Oiler mismanagement.  When the Oilers wanted to make a free agent splash in 2007 they signed Souray to a 5 year contract with a $5.4 million salary cap hit.  Souray was an Edmonton Oiler for three years.  Two of them were injury plagued and the third was good enough to put him into the All Star Game.  Souray was painted as a locker room cancer and the Oilers decided he needed to be moved by the end of his third season - an injury plagued one.

After spending the summer of 2010 trying to trade him unsuccessfully, the Oilers decided to send Souray to the minors.  Souray cleared waivers because no team was willing or able to take on his large salary cap hit and Souray spent an injury plagued year exiled to the minors playing with the Hershey Bears.  The Oilers finally bought him out in the summer of 2011 after writing him off for a season at full cost.

The Oilers took a valuable but injury-plagued player and turned him into a player of such negative value that they had to pay him to go away.  Immediately upon paying him to go away, he has been a valuable player to another team.

Souray will likely be a key player for the Stars as long as he remains healthy.  Dallas is only paying Souray $1.65 million, which is a cut-rate price compared to what the Oilers paid.

Souray is proof that potentially valuable NHL level players get exiled to the minors as a result of the CBA despite the fact they would be helpful to their team in the NHL.  This loss of NHL talent weakens the talent pool that fans can watch.  Some might argue that it isn’t a huge loss given the 700 or so players in the NHL, but it is totally unnecessary.  The NHL should be actively trying to get the best players in the world.  When it actively tries to exile some of those players instead, something is wrong.

Sheldon Souray is clearly a good NHL player when he is healthy.  There is reason to wonder if he can remain healthy this season.  If he does, he will be a valuable contributor to the Dallas Stars.  The way the Edmonton Oilers paid big money to bring him in, exiled him out of the league when he clearly could have helped their team and then paid him to go away is embarrassing to them.  Moves like that help explain how the Oilers finished last in the league for the last two years.  Dallas is the beneficiary of the Oilers mismanagement in this case.

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Comments

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Souray is proof that potentially valuable NHL level players get exiled to the minors as a result of the CBA despite the fact they would be helpful to their team in the NHL.

He is no such thing.  He was a negative factor in the locker and he was injury plagued.  There is nothign to suggest that he would be helpful to the team if he was still playing for the Oilers.

It’s easy to say that they “labeled” him a locker room cancer, but when you look at the fact that they decided to pay him his full salary to not play for them, you have to at least consider the fact that it was better for Edmonton to not have him around.

And also, it’s disingenuous to ignore the fact that he has been given a second chance meaning it is very, very possible that he has changed his attitude and the way he looks at the game because he knows what it’s like to be riding on the bus to Providence rather than flying on a plane to Los Angeles.

Posted by Garth on 11/03/11 at 03:14 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

you have to at least consider the fact that it was better for Edmonton to not have him around.

The Oilers finished in last place in the NHL last season.  That is a sign that a lot of things were wrong with the team.  One clear thing they missed is a top power play point man on defence.  Sheldon Souray has been that this season. 

You won’t get very far making the argument that a team that desperately needed a player with Sheldon Souray’s skills and finished in last place was better off without him.  The NHL fan is better off with a player as good as Souray in the league - as opposed to in the AHL.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 11/03/11 at 03:21 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

His strong play is one of the reasons Dallas leads the Central Division.

Didn’t realize that realignment had already occurred.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 11/03/11 at 03:29 PM ET

wolverine's avatar

You won’t get very far making the argument that a team that desperately needed a player with Sheldon Souray’s skills and finished in last place was better off without him. 

Unless you consider that they got Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a result.

Posted by wolverine on 11/03/11 at 03:36 PM ET

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Is Souray the ‘person’ the one you wanted as a role model for all those impressionable Oiler kids? Probably not.

Posted by J3ff on 11/03/11 at 03:39 PM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Souray is proof that potentially valuable NHL level players get exiled to the minors as a result of the CBA despite the fact they would be helpful to their team in the NHL.  This loss of NHL talent weakens the talent pool that fans can watch.  Some might argue that it isn’t a huge loss given the 700 or so players in the NHL, but it is totally unnecessary.  The NHL should be actively trying to get the best players in the world.  When it actively tries to exile some of those players instead, something is wrong.

I agree with everything that Garth said above, plus the fact that there was no indications that he was sent down because of a cap crunch.  With him off the books, they had 13.6 million in cap space.  Edmonton had cap space but simply determined having Souray on the team was not in their best interests anymore. 

Now maybe it is because other teams did not want his salary (I certainly think that there should be some flexibility in trading salaries, ect.) but even this is diminished by the fact that he was placed on re-entry waivers right around the trade deadline last season (which means a team would only get 1/2 his salary on the books, plus the fact it would only count minimally towards the cap being so late in the season) and not one team picked him up.  Thus, I think it is fair and obvious to state that simply put, teams did not believe that he could really help them last season. 

He did nothing in the AHL to show others that he was anything other than a locker room cancer who did not have the skills he once showed.  Teams even scouted him in the AHL said the following:

“You want to like him,” said a source familiar with the Rangers activities over the weekend. “But you can’t deny what your eyes are seeing.”

Too many speedsters were beating Souray at the AHL level for the Rangers to convince themselves that the shunned Edmonton Oilers defenceman could help them at the NHL level.

Simply put, no-one really wanted him last season, at any price.  The Stars took a chance on his this season, believing that he had changed his attitude and game, and it is paying off well.  It is a great story, but not the story about the oppressive nature of the CBA as you lazily state.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 11/03/11 at 04:03 PM ET

Teebz's avatar

He demanded a trade, and Edmonton said no because they wanted him to play for them. They told him to stay home because he didn’t want to play for Edmonton, especially after some of the stuff he said about the management and team. Why is this mismanagement?

Souray is an example of Edmonton Oiler mismanagement.

Look, if he isn’t willing to play for the team, why would they want him around? It’s not mismanagement to STOP him from playing for other teams. In fact, I’d say that’s excellent management since he can’t hurt the Oilers with his scoring or his horrible attitude.

Souray is proof that potentially valuable NHL level players get exiled to the minors as a result of the CBA despite the fact they would be helpful to their team in the NHL.

Can you say the same for Wade Redden? Make no mistake that they are useful to SOMEONE at some reach, but to their respective teams, they are not. Their albatross contracts make them difficult to move, so burying them in the minors is the easiest solution to the problem. This is a CBA issue, but it certainly says nothing about the usefulness of a player at any point. The fact that Souray rebounded from injury-plagued seasons is simply a testament to his training and readiness.

Dallas is only paying Souray $1.65 million, which is a cut-rate price compared to what the Oilers paid.

This statement makes little sense in a comparison. The Oilers paid for a younger, heathier, NHL-star Souray at the time. The Stars paid for an aging, oft-injured, non-NHL Souray at the time. Huge difference in how the economics of those two situations play out, and you know it. Deny this, and you simply fail to comprehend how any contract is handed out in pro sports.

This loss of NHL talent weakens the talent pool that fans can watch.

Did you, at any point last season, miss Souray? Redden? How about Avery this season? C’mon… it’s one decent player in a league full of budding superstars. Gimme a break. If you really did miss him on Edmonton’s blueline, name the game where you can honestly say that Souray would have made the difference.

The NHL should be actively trying to get the best players in the world.  When it actively tries to exile some of those players instead, something is wrong.

Hate to break it to you, but all leagues need stars to thrive and survive. “Exiling” Souray only opens an opportunity for someone else to step up - Ladislav Smid, for example. And it’s not like Souray would have been a Norris Trophy candidate last season with Edmonton. He didn’t even want to play for them. You’re making him out to be the next coming of Bobby Orr, and we all know that’s a load of crap.

The way the Edmonton Oilers paid big money to bring him in, exiled him out of the league when he clearly could have helped their team and then paid him to go away is embarrassing to them.

This is a logical fallacy and is bordering on ridiculous. Souray’s presence wouldn’t have changed the fact that Edmonton’s team for the last two years has been vastly inexperienced and had some shoddy goaltending. How you arrive at the conclusion that it “is embarrassing to them” is beyond ridiculous when Souray made it clear he didn’t want to be part of the team. He demanded a trade, Edmonton balked and told him to stay home, and then Edmonton buried him in the minors. They can’t fire an insubordinate player, so what else were they to do when no one wanted the weight of his contract?

Posted by Teebz on 11/03/11 at 04:15 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Chris you write:

Now maybe it is because other teams did not want his salary (I certainly think that there should be some flexibility in trading salaries, ect.) but even this is diminished by the fact that he was placed on re-entry waivers right around the trade deadline last season (which means a team would only get 1/2 his salary on the books, plus the fact it would only count minimally towards the cap being so late in the season) and not one team picked him up.

You are explaining the problem.  No team had salary cap space to bring in Souray.  This is CBA related.  The Oilers didn’t get around to putting him on re-entry waivers in the season until trade deadline time.  That was a mistake on their part.  Teams were busy doing other stuff and not interrsted in him at the time.

Its true that he didn’t play well when he was exiled to the AHL and not even to his own team’s farm system.  But it should be clear he is an NHL calibre player and a team would have taken him for the right price ($1.65 million seems to be that price and thats less than his re-entry value).

I do miss Wade Redden, Sean Avery, Cristobal Huet and other NHL calibre players exiled from the league.  They are better than the worst players in their respective positions.  they would improve the NHL talent pool.  It is a shame the CBA keeps them out.

Finally I reject wolverine’s suggestion that exiling souray to the minors was some brilliant plan of the Oilers to tank to get Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Nothing in this story is brilliant from the Oilers standpoint.  It is an wonderful example of their mismanagement.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 11/03/11 at 04:47 PM ET

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The Oilers finished in last place in the NHL last season.  That is a sign that a lot of things were wrong with the team.  One clear thing they missed is a top power play point man on defence.  Sheldon Souray has been that this season.

True enough, but he wasn’t a particularly good power play point man when he was playing in Edmonton.

Add to that the fact that Edmonton is a really young team and the last thing you want is a big negative influence in the locker room because it can disrupt the development of the younger players.

I like souray and I’m glad he’s back in the NHL and doing well, but you can’t simply put all the blame on the Oilers for what transpired.  It can not have been a simple decision to exile him in the AHL and pay him all that money to not play for them.

You won’t get very far making the argument that a team that desperately needed a player with Sheldon Souray’s skills and finished in last place was better off without him.

Absolutely I will.  There’s a huge, enormous difference between a young team that hasn’t learned to be good as a unit yet and a team that has a corrosive veteran whose presence taints not only the present but also the future of some incredible young players.

This is CBA related.

No it isn’t.  If he had shown enough upside, teams would’ve made room for him.  He was overpaid, had a shitty attitude and was injury prone.  THAT is why teams didn’t pick him up.

Dallas, on the other had, needed to make it to the cap floor this year when they signed him.  If he worked out (as he has so far), great, and if not they could pay his salary and have him watching from the press box, not poisoning the locker room while still counting against the cap.

Posted by Garth on 11/03/11 at 04:57 PM ET

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I am no supporter of Oiler management, but Souray forced the issue by emabarrassing the team (which would have got him in the bad books of any team) and kept getting hurt so that they couldn’t move him.

He could have avoided the whole ordeal by excersizing a little more class and a lot less yap. I wouldn’t have put a negative influence like that in the room either, especially with all the young players.

Still, good for him so far, and I hope he learned some humility.

Posted by FastOil on 11/03/11 at 05:30 PM ET

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I don’t get it.  Why would Souray be such a bad influence on the young players, when all he said was that he wanted a trade because the team did not allow him time to properly heal from injuries?

Posted by Kel on 11/03/11 at 07:36 PM ET

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Why oh why did the Rangers pass on this guy?  It was a cheap gamble.

Posted by 13 user names on 11/03/11 at 08:17 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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