For much of the last two years, there has been very little in-season trade action in the NHL.
If the deals didn't happen at the trade deadline, they were not going to happen.
Now if you are a Flames or Leafs fan and you didn't like your team's roster, you had much in common with your general manager - because it's clear they didn't like their teams either! Last week, I wrote why I thought the Calgary Flames couldn't be successful with their current lineup. And one week later, that roster has been totally blown up.
Let's look at the deals on the last day of January.
It was pretty clear watching the Flames play that their team, as it was constructed, was out of whack. There was way too much money committed to the defence and goalie, not enough up front. Watching the Flames try to score was like watching a guy climb up the greased pole at the circus - they try hard, but never get anywhere.
The centre ice position was a disaster. I didn't buy for a second that this was a talented team. Really, who was going to score? Nigel Dawes, Curtis Glencross and David Moss have one 20-goal year combined in their careers and were slotted as top nine forwards.
Olli Jokinen has been a disaster. (as of this post, the rumored deal that would send Jokinen to the Rangers along with Brandon Prust for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins had not been confirmed). A lot of the Flames' offence was a hope and a prayer.
As for the incoming players, Matt Stajan will get a breath of fresh air leaving Toronto. It was time for him to move on. Through the scrutiny of playing in Toronto, combined with the Players' Association mess, he was under the microscope that seemed to burden him. I don't think he is a No. 1 centre (he's more of a solid two-way guy) but he can distribute the puck, win faceoffs and will instantly become the best-suited centre to play with Jarome Iginla this year. I believe he will do well in Calgary.
Niklas Hagman is a legitimate 25-goal scorer. He shoots the puck a lot, and the Flames as a team have trouble generating shots. A couple of years ago in Dallas he had 27 goals, with 22 last year and 20 already this year. He can skate, and plays a style that fits in Calgary.
Ian White would be in my books, a late bloomer. I like that he plays as though he has to prove himself night after night. There is no doubt to me that he likes being the underdog, and he has played his way into a top four role. He will pair with Robyn Regehr and gives the Flames back end a much needed right-handed shot.
Jay Bouwmeester has been a mystery offensively, and the Flames believe a switch back to his more comfortable left side will allow him to jump more freely into the play. He'd better, or the Flames will still struggle on the rush. And of course, going the other way was Dion Phaneuf. He was the most expendable core player that Calgary might have moved, and he brought back the biggest bounty. He has never been a beloved teammate and was often on his own page. The Flames had to change the stale air around their team, and they did, in one day.
The Leafs shook the culture of their team as well. Their boldest move - acquiring Phaneuf - has the mark of a team looking ahead. Now I just said Phaneuf was on his own page in Calgary, so maybe the deal shakes him up a bit and starts to fulfill his potential and realizes he is one cog on a team - not bigger than the group.
As the Leafs demonstrated Saturday night, they can give up goals often and in many different ways. That has to change. A top five defence of Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson should be fine - and this is assuming that Tomas Kaberle eventually waives his no trade contract. Maybe he brings the first round pick this or next year that the Leafs don't have.
They will also find out if J.S. Giguere can re-capture his past magic. It is a gamble perhaps, but Giguere is only on the books for this year and next year and maybe he finds his game again with the Leafs and his old goaltending coach Francois Allaire. The trades sacrificed 48 goals from the forwards, and I have to wonder who's going to score. In case fans hadn't realized before, this is a full blown re-build.
When I take a step back and review the deals, Calgary is taking the biggest leap. They have the most to lose, but it was a deal they had to make. Trading Phaneuf for one Top 3 forward was not going to be enough. If that deal with Rangers goes through as expected, the Flames will have added five forwards in 18 hours that will play every night for them.
Now they have to produce.
The Leafs on the other hand, have little risk in these deals. Maybe Giguere returns to a past form and Phaneuf plays as he did when he was a rookie. They can't go backwards here (as only the Oilers are below them), but there was no way Brian Burke was going to leave that team alone.
1) The L.A. Kings have won five straight on their road trip after Sunday night's win at New Jersey. They have trailed and rallied in three of their five wins. This is a sign of belief in themselves - something that has not been plentiful in LA in some time. They haven't made the playoffs since 2002, but this young team will make it this year.
2) That's 10 straight wins for the Caps after a 3-2 win over Tampa and Mike Green out with a deserved three-game suspension for a dirty elbow he threw at Michael Frolik. But how about Mike Knuble? He's like the Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other." He's glacial compared to the high octane Caps forwards, but the 37-year-old has 11 goals in his last 13 games - all by going straight to the net. Know your role and execute. That's Mike Knuble.
3) I had to laugh when Andrew Raycroft relieved Roberto Luongo in Toronto Saturday. He had been booed out of Toronto, and it had to be difficult for the fans to know which goalie in the game to rag on - Raycroft or Vesa Toskala. And after this past weekend, they can boo neither with Toskala heading to Anaheim.
Razor - The Wings' situation is puzzling to say the least. Once Franzen, Williams and Homer return then you have the issue of whom to sit. Miller has played very well as has May. My biggest disappointment has been the play of Ville Leino. He look promising last year. Then the Draper/Maltby "old guard" looks like it is about to be replaced by the Helm's of the organization. Don't get me wrong, I have the upmost respect and confidence in the leadership of Mike Babcock but the vast improvement of the west made the injury bug that more critical this season. Hopefully this shows people (so called NHL fans) the importance of the regular season and the Wings season doesn't start in April. I guess my main question is who would you sit? Or trade? I am usually excited about the prospect of adding during the trade deadline but I don't think that is the answer. Love your insight. JIM
This has been a crazy season injury wise in Detroit. Most felt a decline would be order after they lost Hudler, Hossa and Samuelsson in the offseason. As the injured players return, decisions have to be made with cap considerations. Leino has been a major disappointment and seems likely to be moved. He has to clear waivers though, and it would be unlikely that the Wings would take the chance to send him down and lose an asset for nothing. I dont see anything major happening and the hope is that when everyone's healthy, they can push into a playoff spot. I believe they will.
Ray, what are your thoughts on the Oilers' cap conundrum as they enter “re-build” mode? It seems that they may have problems trading themselves out of the hole they are in unless they are prepared to accept an underachieving (and overpaid) player or two in return. What about the possibility of parking a player or two in the minors or buying them out in the off-season? Finally, which RFAs do you think Edmonton will keep?
Get ready for a couple of uncomfortable years in Edmonton. Trading their way out of the hole is nice in theory, but is not possible unless the owner, Daryl Katz, wants to pay people millions of dollars to play in the AHL. They may have to do that and there is no level that is palatable. They have the worst team in the AHL, so it's not like they have a bevy of guys waiting. The junior kids in their organization are fine players, and a No. 1 overall pick will help, but these are just kids and it is certain they will have growing pains. As for the RFAs, that's quite a list. Expect most of them to be signed, as I said they are not deep in prospects. There is no quick fix here.
Hi Ray, my questions have to do with the Boston Bruins. They have had a decent amount of injuries this year, do you think the Bruins can make the playoffs if they get healthy? Do you think they lost too much offence when they trade Kessel? Did Chara and Thomas leave their best years behind them? Do you think adding a guy like Kovalchuk would help the Bruins this year enough to justify a rental? Lots of questions today I guess. Thanks, Russ
I'd have lots of questions if I was a Bruins fan today,(they were my favorite team as kid - I had Bobby Orr stuff everywhere). I do think they can make the playoffs, but they will have to grind out every win as they just do not and will not score much. Last year they were second in the NHL with 270 goals for, and this year they are last! Kessel was a big loss - for his warts defensively he sure had a good feel with Marc Savard. When players have great years, teams sometimes believe that these years are the norm, not a career year. The Bruins had several players have terrific years last year, but not so much this year. As for Kovalchuk and a rental situation, the Bruins are among the best suited for this type of deal as they have five picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft. It is possible, even likely, that Boston will be a major player on deadline day. And yes, Kovalchuk will help whatever team he ends up with. He has one of the Top 3 shots in the NHL (Ovechkin, Semin, Kovalchuk). Ask the goalies who they would like to face, your answer would be none.
Ray, why doesn't any star player say something like this to his team: "You've paid me $100 million already. Now, at 32, I'm willing to sign a contract worth 2 million bucks annually (still a huge salary by any other standard) instead of an $8 million contract. But only if you promise to use the remaining $6 million to sign a star player who can help us win the Cup." Is it peer pressure that stop this way of thinking? Jonas
Good question. First of all, pretty short list of players who this would apply. Secondly, human nature seems to be to look after number one. Lastly, I don't know anyone who would trust that the $6 million dollars he leaves on the table under your scenario would be used to aquire players. Does that mean the player gets to help pick the players too? I like to think it can and has happened at some level, but you are right - taking huge cash and leaving the team crippled behind your contract is not a recipe for success long term.
Ray, I asked everybody I know this question,and none of us could come up with the answer. So, I decided to ask somebody I don't know - you. :) If a draft-eligible junior player does not declare for the entry draft, does that mean that he becomes an unrestricted free agent once the draft is over? What rules are in place to prevent this from happening? Thanks, Richard
A player does not declare for the draft, when he is 18 years old by Sept. 15 of his draft year, he is in. There is no underage or opt-out clause. The player is in the draft through his '19-year-old' year, at that point he can be signed by anyone. Look for players that sign in the first couple weeks of September as examples of players who went through the draft a couple times - not picked -and were scooped up as a UFA.
Razor, I'm curious how the NHL schedule typically works. It appears to me that most teams coming in from the East, that are on a Western Canadian road trip, more often than not play in Vancouver last. Teams always seem to come into Calgary and play a very physical Flames team, then go to Vancouver to finish their road trip, often tired and softened up for the Canucks (an example was this past week with the Blackhawks). If so, there seems to be a tremendous advantage for the Canucks frequently playing teams at the end of their road trips. I am not a cynical Flames fan, just curious how it works...GD
If you are curious how the schedule works, join the group. It must be very complicated to put the schedule together for 30 teams, taking into account travel, building availability, requirements with divisional games. There are times a team will play, in order: Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton. That doesn't make much sense either. How's this for a beauty - the Hawks just finished an eight game trip with games a day apart - in San Jose and Carolina. Anyone got a map?
Hey Ray, I'm wondering how they determine a "win" in a face off? Is it simply whichever team gets possession of the puck, 'wins' the faceoff? If so, that's a little misleading...because often a team gets possesion because the puck bounces off a skate, shinpad etc..or perhaps the opposing centre is TRYING to push the puck forward (as opposed to backwards). Often is seems as though the centre did nothing to actually 'win' the face off. I also hear your collegues talking about a "winger win" on a faceoff...when did this term come into existence?If the plus/minus rating is overrated, I am started to think the faceoff percentage is, maybe not overrated, but very misleading. Thanks! Brock
Possession of the puck will determine the win. An example of how finicky the stat can be - I win the draw cleanly, it hits the linesman's foot, and bounces to the opposition. The other center never touched it, and he gets the win. The stats can be a tad unfair at times - but you can look at a season's worth of face off stats and there is no grey area - the best guys are always on top by virtue of the number of draws taken-the odd bounces don't make that much of a difference over hundreds of draws. A winger win is imperative if you are going to have any success in the circle. Often the draws are basically tied, the puck sits in a neutral spot, and the quickest winger will win possession.
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