It took guts to pull trigger

Ryan Smyth appears at his last Oilers practice before being traded to the Islanders on Tuesday....

Ryan Smyth appears at his last Oilers practice before being traded to the Islanders on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Robert Taylor)

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

In the new NHL this wasn't supposed to happen. Finally a player was going to be able to be an Edmonton Oiler from the start of his career, past the age of 31.

And the chosen one was Ryan Smyth.

The beloved mullet man was going to be able to be the first to have a start-to-finish career here.

Ryan Smyth was, for much of his 12-year run in Edmonton, the face of the franchise, the heart and soul of the Edmonton Oilers. And now he's gone, traded to the New York Islanders for minor leaguer Robert Nilsson, junior Ryan O'Marra and a first round draft choice.

Say it ain't so.

FANS SHOCKED

When it came to Smyth, Edmonton fans didn't care about the dollars. He'd signed his previous two deals with hometown discounts. If it was $5.5 million per year, which seems to be the number it would have cost per year over five years to keep him here, fine.

To the fans, Ryan Smyth was not about dollars, he was about love and location.

To Kevin Lowe, he was about "a hockey decision."

There will be a public outcry about this one. And you can't blame fans for feeling that way.

Lowe and Oilers ownership and management made it quite clear they expect negative initial reaction from the fans.

The shock involved, alone, left people stunned throughout the hockey world, many of them live on the air at the time.

But give Lowe credit for guts.

He didn't think he was in a giant game of chicken, but he was ready for it just in case, and he didn't turn chicken.

It would have been so easy to concede Smyth had him where he wanted him and to do the deal because of the optics involved, especially on the day Mark Messier's banner would be raised to the rafters.

This took big, big, big, big balls.

"It was probably the most difficult phone call I've ever had to make," said Lowe of calling Smyth to break the news.

"I know it was the most difficult phone call I've ever had to make.

"I've known Ryan personally and professionally for many years.

"I used to think that there weren't many people who cared for the game more than I did, but I know one for sure that does.

"He was shocked. We're all a little stunned, but it's not like we knee-jerked anything.

"We've been thinking about this and I said, 'Go, you're a hockey player, play hockey.' I was able to do it and come back and, who knows, maybe he'll be able to do it, too.

"I hope I don't get in trouble for that. I don't think so,"

If that happens this summer, if Smyth returns to be an Oiler and Lowe has No. 94 plus a first-round pick, and two recent first round picks, we'll all be toasting Kevin Lowe's brilliance.

If it doesn't, and Smyth vows not to return here because of what happened on deadline day, there's going to have to be one fantastic free-agent signed in the off-season or Lowe is going to have a season ticket on the hot seat next year and maybe well into the future.

In one move, Kevin Lowe put his previously through-the-roof public approval rating on the line.

In one move, with many fans, he broke the trust.

So much for the new NHL.

Chris Pronger comes and goes.

And now Ryan Smyth is a New York Islander.

TRADE HITS HOME

Edmonton has suffered a lot of low blows when it's come to the loss of players over the years, but this one hit home.

The loss of Smyth is not only losing the best player on the team and Captain Canada, he was a player who represented their work ethic and values.

Smyth wasn't talking yesterday. He'll make himself available at the airport at noon today before flying to New York to join the Islanders.

You can't blame the fans for the shock and the emotions involved. They were my emotions.

I was stunned.

Shocked.

I didn't believe it could happen, that Lowe would actually be able to do it, especially on the night Mark Messier's banner was to be raised to the roof.

And you know what?

The fact that he did is what's telling me he knows, beyond a question of a doubt, he's doing the right thing.


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