Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trade Deadline: Winners


Toronto Maple Leafs

No, the Leafs weren't able to pick up any big names, nor any big prospects, but they were the envy of many teams in their successful attempts to drop bad players with bad salaries and get some useful assets in return. They dropped Hal Gill (making over $2 million next year), Wade Belak (UFA at end of season), and Chad Kilger ($700k next year).

11:18 am, Tuesday February 26, 2008
Fla Acquire:
Wade Belak
Tor Acquire:
5th round draft pick

2:47 pm, Tuesday February 26, 2008
Pit Acquire:
Hal Gill
Tor Acquire:
'08 2nd round pick, '09 5th round pick

3:20 pm, Tuesday February 26, 2008
Fla Acquire:
Chad Kilger
Tor Acquire:
2008, 3rd round pick

Overall, Toronto gets a 2nd, 3rd, and a couple of 5ths which is pretty good considering they got rid of a guy they had no intention of resigning, a defenceman that practically doesn't belong in the NHL, and a guy that can be replaced by a youngster who might have a big(ger) upside. The Toronto media called Toronto losers, but truly they are the winners.

Dallas Stars
I suppose I'm being a bit hypocritical after my last post, but I don't consider Brad Richards to be a rental in the same way Brad Stuart was a rental for Calgary. This is a move more in the tradition of the New Jersey Devils picking up a player like Joe Niewendyk ( March 19, 2002: Dallas traded C Joe Nieuwendyk and RW Jamie Langenbrunner to New Jersey for C Jason Arnott, RW Randy McKay and New Jersey's 1st-round pick in the 2002 Entry Draft.) who's a champion who will be a cornerstone of the team for years to come. It didn't pay off that year for New Jersey who bowed out in the first round to the upstart Carolina Hurricanes who made it all the way to the final. Turns out Niewendyk had the flu that year. He didn't the next year as he played his way to the final and won the cup for a third time on a third team. If you ever looked up champion in the dictionary I am sure Niewendyk's name would be mentioned one way or another.

Is Brad Richards a Joe Niewendyk type guy? I don't know, he doesn't have the experience, but he certainly has a good pedigree. Nonetheless, this wasn't just a short term 2008 playoff run move, this was a long term move where Dallas said we want our team to have championship pedigree. In my books, collecting champions is always a good move, especially if you can afford it.

11:46 am, Tuesday February 26, 2008
Dal Acquire:
Brad Richards
Johan Holmqvist
TB Acquire:
Mike Smith
Jussi Jokinen
Jeff Halpern
2009 fourth-round pick

Monday, February 25, 2008

Trade Deadline Deals Make Fools of Us All

I've got to admit, I'm a sucker for trade deadline day. There's so much possibility; for a better team now, for a better team in the future. It's such a meat market you can't help but be taken in. When I think of a great trade deadline day, I think Chris Drury for Rhett Warrener and Steve Reinprecht. Several years later I think we can say Drury was the best player in that deal, but I don't believe he was helping the team in a significant way, and Warrener and Reinprecht both had key roles in changing the Flames from pretenders to contenders.

On the Oilers side of things, I was pretty happy with the Dwayne Roloson trade. The Oilers desperately needed a steady veteran goalie and Roloson got them through at least one playoff round with his play. He was then arguably the Oilers best player the season after, and although his play has dropped off, I believe he still has value, whether in a trade or in a mentoring/leadership role or simply by playing better.

But the fact is the deals on or near trade deadline day rarely seem to work out.

I remember coming home one year from school on deadline day to discover the Flames had aquired...Sergei (He's actually still playing in Russia if anyone cares). I think last year's deal for Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart is the perfect example of a deal gone bad. I praised it at the time and still do for the simple fact that I can accept going all in, given you have a good hand. However, the Flames lost that bet and they basically mortgaged the future for a gain of nothing. Brad Stuart bolted for warmer weather as we all knew he would, and we were stuck with Wayne Primeau (actually we stuck with him rather than the other way around). Andrew Ference would be mighty welcome on this team today.

Of course, I don't even have to mention the nightmare of last year's deadline for Edmonton. In my opinion that's a deal that will negatively impact the Oilers for years to come.

Those are some personal examples, but I honestly believe that trade deadline deals tend to be a mistake for playoff bound teams. First of all, if you're heading into the playoffs anyway, why mess with a good thing? If there's one thing fans should take away from international competitions, it's that often a good team concept (including chemistry and camaraderie) can overcome talent.

Taking that philosophy a bit further, why would you take a willing team with roles and chemistry already sussed out, then add a guy who is used to playing 20 minutes a night and try and slot him in on the first line? It's a mistake.

When Carolina won in 2006 they acquired Doug Weight on the deadline, but he was utilized as a third line center, not as a centerpiece of the team. In 2007 Brian "Big Head" Burke acquired Brad May to fill in as a 4th line agitator. Before that, the Lightning acquired Darryl Sydor about a month before the trade deadline. None of these guys are marquee players, they were brought on board to fill a small role.

Apparently Brad Richards is available, and it sounds like he will be traded, if not in the next 24 hours then in the off-season. I think he's expensive but I think any team would be lucky to have the 2004 Conn Smythe winner, especially since he's not a typical rental. That said, if I were a team that was top 8 in my conference, I wouldn't be going for him.

I'm not going to make a list of players I think will be traded (away or for), because it's far too speculative a game. Trades rarely make sense for both teams, sometimes make sense for one, and often make no sense for either. That said, here is a list of guys I wouldn't mind see hitting the old dusty trail. Nothing personal guys, this list is all business.

Wayne Primeau - big contract, no role,

Mark Smith - just a pointless player

Marcus Nilson/Stephane Yelle - one or the other has to go, they're duplicate roles and neither of them are doing a particularly good job

Eric Godard - what's the point?

Anders Ericksson - he's not worth keeping around long term so we might as well get something for him

Rhett Warrener - just too damn injured

Cory Sarich - not good enough

Adrian Aucoin - not worth the money

Kris Chucko - throw this go nowhere draft to 'sweeten the deal'

Geoff Sanderson - just not good enough to keep around long term

Robert Nilsson/Robbie Schremp - we're only going to be able to develop one of them, get something useful for the other

Sheldon Souray - god awful contract, ok player

Marc-Antoine Pouliot - he's obviously going nowhere with the franchise, might still have some value

Mathieu Garon/Dwayne Roloson - I agree with Andy Grabia, Garon could fetch some value, while Roloson could rebound. On the other hand, Roloson's contract is worth dumping and Garon is worth keeping. It might be prudent to get rid of one though

One defenceman not named Staios or Gilbert - Holy crap, we got a lot of guys! If we aren't going to be able to retain Pitkanen, trade him. If Lowe thinks he can send Greene or Smid or Grebeshkov out and get a legitimate 2nd pairing guy then do it (assuming Souray is gone). Not enough veterans on the blueline makes for a disaster for developing any kids. We're either going to screw up all of them or sacrifice a couple to ensure the survival of the remainders.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The Ottawa Senators have made a couple moves these last couple of weeks that I believe vindicate some of my personal feelings towards some high profile hockey players, not all of which synced with popular opinion.

Let's start with the report coming out of Ottawa that Wade Redden refused to waive his no trade clause, purportedly to San Jose. Normally a team that is on the verge of winning the Cup, or believes it will be competing for the Cup will load up on high priced veteran defenceman on the last year of their contract, and in fact they will trade good young prospects or solid middlemen to accomplish this feat (see last year's Petr Forsberg or Brad Stuart trade for examples). They do not let go of their short term high end players.

To me there is a clear message from Bryan Murray: Wade Redden is not a particularily important cog in this machine when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup.

Despite his pay level, his hype, and his fanfare, Wade Redden doesn't seem to have that much support from a guy who coached him for 2 years and has been his GM for one. A guy who has spent a lot of time evaluating Wade Redden's performance and impact has decided that he doesn't have much of an impact, or at least much of a necessary one.

I have been saying for quite some time that Wade Redden is an over rated hockey player, and judging from Bryan Murray's evaluation, and the fact Redden has been an overwhelming no show for most of the Team Canada 2010 roster predictions, the popular opinion is really starting to sway in that direction.

The other significant roster move the Senators made this week was the acquisition of Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore, two long time faves of mine. Although Cory Stillman was touted as a great addition as a secondary scorer for the Sens, in my mind it was Mike Commodore who was the key to the deal.

The defender has continued to add to his reputation as a steadying presence on the blueline, and as a champion.

Murray went out of his way to acquire Commodore, and he went out of his way to attempt to move Redden. Apparently the Senators believe Commodore has more of an opportunity to help them win the Cup than Wade Redden. The guy that has hair like a clown and was untouted his whole career is now considered more valuable than Wade Redden in terms of role in a championship run. Wow.

Am I reading too much into this?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Edmonton Oilers: What We Can Expect?

You know on Saturday night I had a whole list of things I wanted to say about the remaining quarter of the Edmonton Oilers season written down, and I lugged it around with me for the last 5 days, and of course, now that I'm going to publish my thoughts I've lost it.


Still, I think I can wing it and come out with some pretty accurate predictions.

No Horcoff? No hope.
Despite the wins over the last week or so the Oilers have lost their best forward for the rest of the year, and with it, they lost the smallest remaining chance of making the playoffs. Not that this is some sort of bold claim, I can't imagine there were many people at the beginning of the year believing the Oilers would make the playoffs, but let's face it, with Horcoff going out, only disaster can follow.

This team, give it credit, has shown an impressive degree of resiliancy. I expect them to get blown out of the water every week, but so far they only have against the Flames. Outshot and outplayed badly, they actually managed to put 4-5 pucks behind Kiprusoff, only converting one. If Garon doesn't catch a rut it's a 1 goal game with a couple minutes late, and while it's not an excuse it's at least respectable.

But let's just put this season out of it's misery.

A Trade
The more often Mathieu Garon plays the more I believe it's unlikely the Oilers are willing to accept Roloson as a $3 million backup. I love the man, I really do. I appreciate what he did in 06, I love his fire, his commitment, and I believe he can still be a respectable goalie and a veteran leader for some lucky team. Goalies' have bad years, it happens (Kipper has been pretty mediocre for instance). But Garon is simply playing too well to be ignored, and Roloson is just too expensive and too old to be a backup.

Roloson is the obvious trade of course, and probably the smart one, but given the last 2 years or so a smart Oilers fan wouldn't bet on the smart trade. Knowing Lowe, he's lining up Gilbert to be traded to Philadelphia for Derian Hatcher. His reasoning will be that Hatcher is more affordable because his value is going down while Gilbert's is going up, plus Hatcher did that hit job for Lowe on Lupul and Lowe 'owes him one.'

The Kids Aren't Alright
You'd be hard pressed to find a better online (or even offline for that matter) resource for evalution of the Edmonton Oilers farm system than LT, so you're better off taking your specific preditions from him, but I'll say this; we're going to get some peeks from kids on the farm. Whether it be Robbie Schremp or Jeff Deslauriers or more Liam Reddox, we'll see someone from the farm.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Calgary Flames: What Can We Expect?

I'm just sitting here watching Hockey Day in Canada and after the events of the past week or so I think the rest of the season is coming into focus for both Calgary and Edmonton, although tonight I will focus exclusively on Calgary.

Of note before I get into it is a conversation I had with a Flames compatriot at the Saddledome regarding Owen Nolan. After being a replacement Tony Amonte for much of the early season (as well as being injury prone), Nolan should be looked at as a pretty successful FA signing if he hits certain criteria. He's got 14G and I think 20G would be a respectable, he's on a pretty close pace. His ES quality of competition is ranked as 6th on the team (I'm going to ignore Ramholt), his CORSI is a +5.0 and he's got a On Ice/Off Ice/60 rating of 0.07, which although paltry compared to Iginla's +2.32, is at least on the positive end of zero. I think we can all agree that although Nolan might not be a captain on the ship, he's certainly not an anchor.

Ok, now onto what we can expect for the final quarter of the season:

A Trade:
MG at Five Hole Fanatics has done a lot of blogging about the Tanguay trade rumors, siding on the 'don't trade Tanguay' and the 'Tanguay is worth more than Huselius' side of the debate. So will Tanguay be traded? I think it was Duncan at Flames Blog who said that more than likely the trade that Sutter will make will be completely unexpected in terms of his target and who he trades. I'll agree. I think though that we can make a couple of statements with an near absolute certainty, and then I'll make a couple of completely speculative comments as well.

Firstly, I think I can safely predict neither Iginla, nor Regehr, nor Kiprussoff, nor Phaneuf will be traded. Secondly, the Flames will not acquire Petr Forsberg.

Now for the speculation: I agree with MG when he says that the Flames biggest problem is not the forward group, its the defence. There are two bonafied defenceman, a couple of guys who are not bad, and then some who are simply too injured or too terrible to be consistently counted upon. Would the Flames have the same record they do today if Giordano and Ference were in the lineup for Ericksson and Warrener or Hale? I know who I'd rather have, given the choice.

So we can speculate about Mats Sundin but for my money I'd rather have Sutter go after a solid defenceman to compliment the group.

I like watching Dr. Phil because I think it probably provides the most laughs per minute of any other scripted comedy show, but I think he's right when he says the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Last year about this time the Flames went on a surge, and then they played terribly through March and then limped into the postseason and got worked by Detroit. This year had a terrible October and November, followed by an outstanding December and pretty good January, now a mediocre February. Can anyone tell me a reason not to expect inconsistency? We've already had the monthly 'Sutter visits the dressing room' event, and we'll probably see a few more.

The Dion Effect:
If there's one singular area where Darryl Sutter has excelled it's that he has very aptly identified the core of his team and rewarded them in terms of dollars. While Calgary's salary is extremely top heavy, it's at least going to the right guys. (Sutter's job identifying value in his perimeter players is less commendable). Now it's time for those core guys to step up. Besides Iginla, I don't think we've seen the other core guys' best this year. I think Regehr can play better, Phaneuf has truly stepped up his game in the past couple of weeks, and it's obvious Miikka Kiprusoff can play better. Alex Tanguay should be in that group too, and despite my concerns about him I know he can put a few more pucks in the net. There's no more money to spend this year, at this point the guys earning the big bucks have to prove they're worth it. It's not just about leadership now, it's about results.

The Goal:
There's been some talk of the goal as being finishing 1st in the conference, but make no mistake about it, the Flames have one single goal in the regular season: DO NOT FINISH 8th. Playing Detroit does not look like it's any better of a matchup this year than it was last year, and I am sure it doesn't matter if the Flames finish 2nd or 7th, the matchups will all probably be pretty even. Obviously the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, but after two consecutive first round losses, I think we can qualify this season as a success by winning a playoff round.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Gretzky to Lemieux: The Story of the 1987 Canada Cup

As ‘fans’ of this site have come to realize, I have a few things that really pique my interest when it comes to hockey. This includes, (but is not limited to), Team Canada, Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers, hockey history, international competition and finally, the little stories about players and personnel that gives the game flavour. This book has all of that in spades, and I found it to be an utterly fantastic read.

Gretzky to Lemieux, The Story of the 1987 Canada Cup mostly concerns the 3 game Canada Cup final, but to say the book purely about 3 hockey games would be a true disservice. The book puts the tournament within a lot of historical context, both in terms of Russian and Canadian hockey history.

Willes does an excellent job of framing the big personalities involved and illustrating the stakes of the series by giving the reader an excellent prologue involving Canada’s biggest names, (not Gretzky and Lemieux, but Gretzky and Eagleson, the man who often tried to be a bigger story than the game itself) and the biggest names in the USSR (which I think we can safely say were Viktor Tikhonov, the biggest opponent of the West, and Igor Larionov, the biggest proponent of glasnost and perestroika). Willes details the story of Eagleson’s shady dealings putting his Canada Cups together in the prologue of the book, while he completes the epilogue with the stories of the Soviets’ introduction to the NHL, and the dismantling of the Edmonton Oilers, the core of Team Canada in 1987.

My only true contention of the book comes about due to a diatribe Willes writes regarding the current state of the game, or at least the current style of play as compared to that of the 1987 Canada Cup. Willes makes little hesitation about his admiration for the talent and play of the Canada Cup, but I think he loses the context when comparing it to today’s game, 20 years later.

It was a quick read but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anyone who watched hockey in the 1980s, or at least wishes they had.