Prof. Lombardi and the `red herring’

For those following the twists and turns of Mulletgate, or for those who mostly find entertainment value out of the whole thing — consider me to be more in the latter camp — here’s what Dean Lombardi said today about the latest. Apparently — and I didn’t hear this personally, so please correct any misrepresentation — there was a report out of Edmonton today that the league had “sided” with the Oilers in this dispute over the Ryan Smyth-Colin Fraser trade. The mention of that brought a long, raised-voice denial from Lombardi, who went into detail about the various medical examinations Fraser has gone through, and the debate over whether Fraser requires surgery on his foot. That’s the crux of the argument the Kings are making, that they deserve compensation for the Oilers’ assertion that Fraser was healthy at the time of the trade. So, here you go. Make of this what you will…

LOMBARDI: “We haven’t got a resolution yet. In fact, I’m supposed to talk to (league lawyer David Zimmerman) today. There’s no question. There’s a dispute, there’s a gray area, in terms of whether the doctors think it’s going to need surgery or it’s going to take two weeks or four months. There is some gray in terms of the doctors’ opinions. There is no question that this player is not fit to play now, and obviously was not fit to play when he [Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini] said he would be fit to play, which was the Wednesday after the trade. So, this is called the red-herring method. What you do is say, `OK, the doctors disagree,’ but they don’t disagree on the fundamental premise, that this guy is not fit to play. So, they might disagree on whether it’s two weeks, four weeks or four months, but the deal was, `He’s fit to play.’

“To say they sided with the Oilers, no. There’s a disagreement as to whether it’s two weeks or four months, whether they would do surgery on the cyst. The independent doctor says, `Let it go two more weeks to see if it heals.’ Our doctors say, `Don’t mess around.’ So, OK, there’s a little gray area. But the fact of the matter is, at the minimum it’s another two weeks. So, the independent doctor is saying it could heal within two weeks. Great. So, the issue is, was he fit to play on the Wednesday after the deal? No. Is any doctor saying he’s fit to play now? No. So, the gray area is how long, which might determine how we resolve this. It’s only relevant in terms of the solution. The gray area, as far as whether it’s two weeks or four months, or if you want to take the Edmonton doctor’s opinion and say, `Yes, their doctor was right,’ all it changes is the resolution, not whether they sold me a guy that was fit to play. So, bull.

“We did the deal on (Sunday) and it was, `Oh, he’s coming to see the doctor and he’s going to be cleared on Wednesday.’ That doctor still would not clear him to play now. So you’ve got a gray area in terms of the solution. If he was ready in two weeks, it might effect how you resolve it. If he’s ready in four months, that’s a different way to resolve it. So, OK, but don’t tell me he’s fit to play, which was the number-one issue. You know what they call it in legal circles? When you’ve got a bad argument, you throw out the red herring. Classic deflection. When you want to get the jury off-track, throw out an ancillary issue and turn it into a major issue, and they forget about the real issue. You learn that in the first year of law school. Nice try.

“Because there’s a gray area, do we wait those two weeks to see if the doctor is right and it heals, when it hasn’t healed at all in four months? That’s what our doctor is saying. He’s saying, `There is no improvement in this bone in four months. What’s going to change in two weeks? Let’s go in there and get the surgery done as quickly as possible, so he can get ready to play.’ Now, if you want to give it another two weeks, to see if all of a sudden this bone starts healing on its own, if David (Zimmerman) says to do that, we’ll do it. But I don’t know how that’s going to change anything.

“This is twice. There comes a point where you say, `This is wrong.’ I think it’s a fairly easy thing to work through. … We want to save the spirit of the trade, although I did have a team call me today, saying that if it’s not going through, they would take (Smyth), but that’s not the purpose. It’s, let’s try to work this out the way we understood it at the time we did it.”

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