The quick change of narrative regarding Milan Lucic this summer might be seen as a positive to some fans and negative to others. After weeks of trade speculation Lucic was looking for a way out of Edmonton and that the Oilers were looking to trade him, Lucic’s agent, Gerry Johannson, quickly shot down speculation the bruising NHL forward was leaving and said, “Milan is 100% going to come back and play.” Just recently, Lucic cemented those comments during a podcast interview with a couple former NHL players. In fact, he spoke glowingly of the Oilers organization.
But, in the process, Lucic also took a stab at NBA players like DeMar DeRozan in what many see as an unnecessary admonishment of someone who did nothing wrong.
Our question is, did Lucic just put his foot in his mouth?
Milan Lucic: The Positive
Speaking with Ryan Whitney and Paul Bissonnette on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, Lucic discussed his time in the NHL, his stay with the Oilers and how first class an organization they are. Most importantly, he made it clear he was excited to come back next season. He spoke directly to former Oiler Whitney — a player who hasn’t always been kind to the Oilers post-retirement — when he said the Oilers are top notch in terms of how they run their facilities, amenities and how well the Oilers organization has treated him since his arrival. It sounded like the only thing Lucic didn’t love was the dryness and how much lotion he had to use during the winters. Otherwise, the team has treated him like gold.
Down to the arena, the food on the plane, the requests a player might make, he said, “the Oilers will literally do whatever you want and give you whatever you need in order to succeed.”
Lucic then added, “I think a lot of guys are excited to come back. I know I’m excited to come back and go back and have that ‘prove people wrong’ kind of mentality.” He wants to help the team get back to being elite and “for myself personally be an elite player once again.”
This is the version of Milan Lucic Oilers fans want to cheer for.
Milan Lucic: The Negative
Unfortunately, Lucic then said some things that might not sit well.
When the conversation turned towards professional athletes in any sport being traded, the two hosts and Lucic had a field day with DeMar DeRozan’s situation in Toronto. It started when Whitney called DeRozan a “little bit&).” — Whitney has a history of knocking players and people so this wasn’t terribly unexpected. But, what might have been a bit more surprising was Lucic weighing in with such vigor.
Lucic added, “he’s being like a little bitter bit^% at like the organization for [being traded for] Kawhi Leonard, like literally a top-five player in the league.”
Lucic bashed DeRozan and any professional athlete who couldn’t wrap their head around the fact professional sports is a business. He stated teams don’t need to give you a heads up you’re being traded and unless your name is Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid or LeBron James, you’re just another player.
Technically some of these points are true, but do these comments feel out of place to anyone else?
Bad Timing on Lucic’s Part
Lucic found himself front and center of many media articles suggesting he wanted out of Edmonton. Reports went as far as to suggest he’d waive his no-move clause to help facilitate a trade. Speculation is, the only reason he wasn’t traded was that the interested teams wanted the Oilers to give up an asset to take on Lucic’s contract. In the end, it wasn’t a good deal for Edmonton.
If any of these rumors were or are true, being so opinionated about a player being upset about being traded from a location he wanted to finish his career comes off as almost hypocritical. DeRozan was lied to, told he wasn’t going to be traded and then was, with no player control over the situation at all. Meanwhile, Lucic has gotten to pick where he plays, where he’s been traded to or signed with for most of his NHL career.
Lucic knocked DeRozan for making good money when Lucic has arguably one of the worst contracts in the NHL. He bashed him for being upset about leaving a team like Toronto for the San Antonio Spurs when Lucic admitted being traded from Boston to LA didn’t bother him because, after all, it was LA. Lucic also said he chose Edmonton, in part, because he could play with the best player in the world. DeRozan won’t be quite so lucky.
The question becomes, would Lucic have been so quick to welcome a move out of Edmonton, or any of the teams he’d played for if he was being moved to a team that wasn’t competitive? He may not have been given a heads up when traded from Boston to LA, but chances are, that trade wouldn’t have happened elsewhere because he’d have squashed it in a heartbeat. Lucic even admitted he could have had some say but found the idea of Los Angeles intriguing.
In the end, maybe this was just bad timing. Maybe Lucic never wanted to leave Edmonton and told the Oilers this from the second his name popped up in the rumor mill. Maybe he wouldn’t shoot down a trade to anywhere the Oilers ask, if they do, in fact, ever ask him to go.
Still, it’s disheartening to hear Lucic say DeRozan doesn’t have a right to be emotional because he’ll be coached by one of the best coaches in the history of the NBA in Greg Popovich, he’ll make $30 million per year and play in a location that has no state tax. Lucic didn’t just say so, he said so emphatically by saying,” nobody feels bad for you, like fu%$ off.”
Yes, DeRozan will be coached by the best, he will make good money and he won’t pay state tax. It doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve better treatment on the way out.
Related: Oilers Should Consider Trading Nurse
The Real Milan Lucic Is…
What are we to make of this interview? Is this a Milan Lucic who wanted out, realized he was untradeable and is now doing a 180-degree turn? Maybe he was being a good guy and his willingness to move only a gesture on his part to help the Oilers who felt it best to try and move him? Or, were the rumors overblown and he never wanted out in the first place?
Furthermore, will Lucic have the same attitude about athletes being unexpectedly traded if he struggles this season and trade talks kick up again? It’s great news Lucic is fond of the Edmonton Oilers and wants to be a better player. It’s too bad he had to run down someone else to try and get that point across.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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