EDMONTON - It’s a very humbling, humiliating time for Sheldon Souray.
There seems to be a goodbye-and-good-riddance thing which exists with not only the organization he ripped last spring, in asking for a trade which couldn’t possibly be made, but with the fans and media who have very short memories.
No suggestion here that general manager Steve Tambellini didn’t make the right move by telling Souray not to come to training camp.
And no problem here with the inevitable follow to that which saw Souray placed on waivers Thursday, giving the other 29 NHL teams until noon today to claim him from waivers.
And no problem with the next phase, either — sending him to Oklahoma City, to set up putting him on re-entry waivers where a team putting in a claim for him would only be on the hook for half his $4.5 million salary for the next two years, leaving the Oilers to pay the other half.
And no problem with Tambellini wanting to reclaim his team and remove absolutely everybody and anybody who proved to be a negative influence, to allow the new era to begin with a clean set of sheets.
But the reality here is that all Souray did was be Souray.
He didn’t hold a gun to the head of now director of hockey operations Kevin Lowe to give him $5.4 million a year.
He was the same big injury-prone player with the same big shot, the same big defensive liabilities (minus 28 in Montreal one year) who wore out his welcome in Montreal by being the same clubhouse-lawyer type of “leader,” which won him not just the money but the ‘A’ on his sweater here.
Souray was sitting out there as a free agent who had bashed Montreal management for devaluing him because of the history of his injuries and publicly offering his opinion to GM Bob Gainey on who he needed to sign, etc., etc. etc.
Members of the media weren’t ignorant of everything involved with the big Elk Point, Alta., product when he signed well after the July 1 free-agent frenzy began.
And Edmonton was exceedingly happy to have him.
“If no one else wants to be associated with the organization, believe me, there’s one guy here who does. Being from there, it’s like a dream come true to go home and be able to put on that jersey,” said Souray in the conference call interview that day.
I wrote it that way the next day: “Before this is a hockey story, it’s a bigger story on so many levels. The way it’s been since Chris Pronger left, especially following the Michael Nylander fiasco and the failure to find a free agent willing to come here despite the Oilers having around $18 million in signing money, before this is a hockey story, this is good news even if it’s not an especially great signing.”
This was an eyes-wide-open deal in every direction.
And let's fast-forward to last spring, when Souray made statements at the end of the season which helped bring him to this day.
The 34-year-old ripped the organization in several different directions, including throwing an accusation at Lowe for pressuring him to play before he was fully recovered from a shoulder injury, and at Tambellini for not visiting him or showing any concern when he was in the hospital with an infected hand.
He said he wanted to be traded.
Classic Sheldon Souray.
Second verse, same as the first.
Blame Souray? Sure. But Blame the Oilers first.
The bottom line is that, in a warped sort of way, Souray helped make the future, which is now in front of the Oilers, happen.
If owner Daryl Katz, Lowe and to some extent Tambellini hadn’t made all the mistakes they made in the last few years, the Oilers’ future wouldn’t be so bright.
There might not be a Jordan Eberle, a Magnus Paajarvi and damn sure not a Taylor Hall.
With Souray clearly one of the players most responsible for poisoning the pond prior to joining Nikolai Khabibulin and Ales Hemsky on the long-term injured list, he played his part.
Sheldon Souray, in a twisted way that somehow fits his persona perfectly, will have a lasting legacy here.