SUN Hockey Pool

Move along, nothing left to see here

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Kevin Lowe didn't even want to watch.

The Edmonton Oilers general manager, instead of sitting in his normal press box perch, was ensconced in his bunker in the dressing room while his hockey team produced another pathetic performance without Ryan Smyth.

The No. 1 thing there is to sell in sport is hope and there's clearly no hope left after the Wild scored a 5-0 win over the lifeless Oilers - a team which hasn't scored a goal since the Smyth deal was done, a team which has been outscored 8-0 since the dirty dead was done.

Now 12 points behind Minnesota and 11 out of a playoff position, to match last year's 95 points to finish eighth and make the playoffs, they'd now have to go 14-2-1.

Doug Risebrough watched his Minnesota Wild for all purposes seal the deal with a playoff position last night. But while he sat in his press box location, a part of him was down in the bunker with Lowe.

Risebrough says fans don't get it yet, the real meaning of what happened here.

But they will. Here, there and everywhere.

FIRST OF MANY

"Unfortunately for Kevin Lowe, he had to do something we're all going to have to do. He just had to do it first," said the Minnesota Wild general manager.

"Because of the salary cap and players hitting unrestricted free agency earlier, every last general manager in the NHL is going to have to do the exact same thing Kevin had to do with Ryan Smyth.

"Fortunately for the rest of us, we weren't the one who had to be the first one to do it and suffer through it."

With the facts of what really happened in the deadline deal which sent Smyth to the New York Islanders revealed in yesterday's Sun - that all it would have taken was $100,000 movement by Smyth and his agent Don Meehan to come down to $5.4 when Lowe went that high 20 minutes before the deadline - public opinion took a dramatic turn yesterday.

"I think what was important is that our fans have found out that the Oilers did everything possible and went above and beyond what we felt we could do to keep Ryan here," said Lowe.

"I think now that they have found out about our offer, they now know we weren't cheaping out. It wasn't that we didn't want the guy. We all wanted the guy. We wanted to keep the guy."

CEO Pat LaForge said the feedback the Oilers were getting back from season ticket holders yesterday went something like this:

"'I get it. I was pissed off but I'm starting to see you did the right thing.' It's like Ryan was their kid and you want to support your kid. Until you figure out the facts."

Chairman Cal Nichols said $100,000 isn't much when you consider the tax difference between Alberta and New York.

"It's 7%. That more than covers it."

But while public perception has clearly come around, all you had to do was look around the building last night to notice the number of empty seats.

There's nothing left to this season. It's over. Move along, move along, nothing left to see here.

While it was officially the 65th consecutive regular season sellout, there were enough empty seats in the building to invite everybody sitting in the upper blues to move down to an empty seat as the AMJ Campbell 'Move Of The Game.'

UNRESTRICTED VIEWING

And one of them was Lowe, who wasn't in his usual perch in the press box but down in his bunker in the Oilers dressing room,

"I'm watching a bunch of games," he said when tracked down in the second period.

"I have a lot of unrestricted free agents to watch. All of a sudden we have a lot of work to do."

The reality here now is that next year's pre-season is likely to be a whole lot more interesting than the rest of this season.

It's like the off-season starts today.

That's where all the Oiler hockey talk is going to go now.

Going by yesterday's standings the Oilers are going to have the 11th, 16th and 26th picks with the three first round draft choices they have, one from Chris Pronger, one from Ryan Smyth and their own.

"If we can't get active in the free agent market we can maybe take a player and one of those picks to move up," said Lowe last night.

You can go there if you want to, start talking about all that stuff, but I'm going to the Brier. Hockey season is over here. It's now curling season.


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