Trading your all star/franchise defenceman for very little return is the first step. Upon hearing of the necessity of moving Pronger (which I grant was a necessity) I felt that a negative could be turned into a positive. The (at the time) gargantuan Pronger contract could be liberated and in return the Oilers could get a couple top end prospects and a high end young player (who was cheap), and finally, could leverage that extra room into a long term contract for the heart and soul of the franchise, Ryan Smyth.
While the Pronger loss would sting, the Oilers would retain their core group: Smyth, Horcoff, Stoll, Hemsky, Pisani, Smith, Staios, Roloson (and to a lesser extent, Torres). Without blowing anyone away, it would be a consistent hard working group not yet hitting their prime. Add in a couple young prospects in the return and you've got a pretty decent group.
The Oilers managed to not get a useable young hockey player in the Pronger return. While I see a lot of potential in Smid, he was not the 'useable young hockey player' in the deal, he was the high end prospect. Lupul was supposed to be the useable guy; in his one season with the Oilers he had the 2nd worst plus minus in the league. Honestly, the less said about Lupul the better.
Step number two in this blueprint is to totally blow the negotiations with the key piece of your core. Not a soul in the world would argue Ryan Smyth was the engine that drove this team for years (although some have argued there are nicer engines out there). Kevin Lowe managed to overpay a bunch of cogs in the machine and avoid the engine in the year before the engine hit free agency. 'We'll negotiate in the summer' Lowe told Smyth, predicting Smyth would not continue to build on his consistently strong career. After Lowe signed Staios early into the season, Ryan Smyth declared he would not take a home town discount this time (a lie.) Lowe began to panic at Smyth's increasingly impressive goal total (one night he racked up 3 in a shorter time span than any Oiler in history, gaining his rightful place among Oiler greats) and implied they should negotiate in-season. The Smyth camp accommodated this suggestion but the two sides weren't moving a lot from their initial positions. Having already abandoned his plan of resigning Smyth in the off season, Kevin Lowe decided to go a step further and insist that if Ryan wasn't signed before the off season, he would have to be traded. Although practically a smart plan, it wasn't necessarily a necessity. The Oilers would undoubtedly have the high ground in an FA chance, and besides, they still had until July 1 before he hit free agency. Both sides were motivated to keep Ryan in Edmonton.
Kevin Lowe made the call and traded Smyth for some mid level prospects.
Now I don't believe in all the talk about Edmonton not being a desired location to play, but sending the heart and soul (and one of the most popular players in the league) of your team off with a bad taste in his mouth probably didn't ease over any image problems Edmonton has with NHLers.
Anyway, the final step involves the lack of ability to improve the team in any meaningful way. I'll be the first to admit that trading Smith (nooooooooooooo!) and Lupul (good riddance) for Pitkanen and Sanderson is probably a good move simply because Pitkanen is the best player in the deal; however, does it feel to anyone like a token move, meant only as a way to make it look like Lowe is doing something...anything.
If you look at balance sheet, Edmonton traded Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith for Smid, Pitkanen, Sanderson, Nilsson, O'Marra, Nash, Plante and a couple 2008 picks.
Have I got that right?
There has better be one hell of a rabbit coming out of that 2008 draft hat, or this is one of the worst series of deals in hockey history.
Not to mention all the talk after the Smyth trade about 'needing a better top guy than Ryan Smyth.' That talk is all well and good, but let's examine the reality. The Oilers had the ability yesterday to pick from a variety of top level guys that are arguably better than Ryan Smyth. Who did they end up with?
Now I have no particular issues with Michael Nylander, I've met him, he was a really nice guy, he can clearly put up the points. But is he a better top guy than Ryan Smyth?
If you're going into the trenches day in and day out, who would you rather have on your side?
It wouldn't surprise me either if Nylander was signed to a contract close in numbers to the contract Ryan Smyth offered up Edmonton way back in February. Maybe not in length, but in dollars/year.
Not to mention the Oilers are already stocked on centers. Perhaps this signals another future move, sending Moreau or Horcoff or Stoll out for a winger.
The engine's already gone, why bother keeping the cogs?
And that is a quick overview of how you quickly dismantle a great team without any rebuilding plan.