The Aftermath

Ah, the NHL trade deadline - a good time to reflect on impermanence.

I had an ex who was not a hockey fan, but who still watched a fair bit of it simply due to association with yours truly. Her favourite player was Ryan Smyth. Why? Because he was by far the most emotional player on the ice after Canada won in Salt Lake.

After being traded to the Islanders, the poor guy was a wreck - see the clip up at CiO. When you invest as much in your job as Ryan Smyth does, the highs are ecstatic and the lows are agonizing. The sword cuts both ways.

Defending Bob

Pierre Lebrun:

"People will say Montreal was a big loser on the day but the reality is that Canadiens GM Bob Gainey was in a pickle. He's rebuilding the team while trying to remain competitive so dealing high draft picks or prospects for a rental was out of the question. On the other hand, with his team on the bubble, he couldn't afford to deal high-scoring defenceman Sheldon Souray despite the huge return he would have fetched. The Habs can't make the playoffs without Souray, so they'll accept that when he leaves town as unrestricted free agent in July that his stay in the spring was worth it.

Besides, Gainey deserves credit for pulling a first-round draft pick and a 22-year-old defenceman in Josh Georges in exchange for a rental, Rivet, on Sunday."

I think Lebrun hit the nail on the head.

As a dedicated fan, I would have been fine with Gainey taking the long view and getting what would have been a jackpot of a return for Souray in the ultimate sellers' market. But I'm not a season ticket holder, nor am I one of the twenty-odd roster players who have committed a good chunk of their careers to this season. As long as the playoffs are within reach, Gainey couldn't sell off his star rentals no matter what the market conditions were.

On the flip side, this year's team is not a Cup contender. It would have been utterly foolish to sacrifice the future by paying the going rates for rentals. By getting a great return for a role-player and keeping his major contributors, Gainey hedged nicely.

There have been a lot of comments criticizing Gainey, saying the team needed a goalie/#2 centre/winger.

The goalie criticism is baffling. The team still has a servicable starting goalie in Aebischer, and they are deep in prospects. Giving up assets for Curtis Joseph or some other retread who is no better than Aebischer/Halak would be wasteful. What probably happened was word got out that "Gainey's looking for a goalie" after Huet went down. Pundits automatically assumed that meant he sought a big name, when he may have been targeting a depth guy like Leighton all along.

The '2nd line centre' talk was foolish too. Bryan Smolinski is no better than Tomas Plekanec, and he would have cost a 2nd round pick. Yanic Perreault is no better than Tomas Plekanec, and he would have cost even more. Zubrus might be a slight upgrade, but is a slight upgrade worth a 1st round pick and a solid prospect?

The one valid criticism might be the winger. A true star winger (preferably a LW) would have improved the Koivu line and allowed Higgins to solidify another line. By star winger I mean Smyth calibre, or Tkachuk at the very least. That kind of upgrade would have cost too much. A rental of Smyth is not worth A. Kostitsyn, David Fischer and a 1st round pick.

Playoff Implications

While Bob Gainey kept a level head, some other GMs were buying like ugly spinsters at a bachelor auction.

If the Penguins were a fun team to watch before, they'll be an absolute hoot with Big Georges in the lineup. Gary Roberts is older than dirt, but dirt is still better than what Pittsburgh was trotting out on their bottom lines. They are looking solid for the #5 spot.

It's down to Tampa and Atlanta for the SE division title. Feaster only did some minor shuffling while Waddell was in full panic mode. Tampa had been rolling before the deadline while the Thrashers addressed their biggest need (a warm body to play centre), so I'll grant them both spots.

The Islanders added a star and should be OK unless the wheels fall off. I'll concede another spot to them.

Uh oh. That leaves Montreal, Carolina, Boston, NYR and Toronto all fighting for the last spot. The Rangers have been owned by the Islanders so far, and they face them four more times. Boston sucks. They're at -50 and lucky to be doing this well. So let's count out Boston and the Rangers. That leaves Carolina and Montreal at 5 to 2 odds, and Toronto at 5 to 1 because of the Raycroft factor.

Tangent time. Why hasn't the Toronto media been universally napalming Raycroft? He's been terrible. Just like any series of coin tosses, he's had his 'hot streaks.' But .894 Sv% on the season? Yeesh. There have been 25 goalies to play 40 games this season. Among them, Raycroft is #25 in Sv%.

Unrelated Trade Deadline Stuff

There was a highly entertaining article in USA Today (via Kukla's) in which Brian Burke documents his adventures leading up to the trade deadline. Some highlights:

"If you are offended by profanity, it's difficult to make a trade in the NHL."
"I call Montreal's (GM) Bob Gainey and push him about whether he's going to move any of his defensemen. Gainey says he's unsure if he's selling. Timing is beginning to be a problem. I decide to push on this, but I don't get anywhere."
"Craig Rivet is traded to San Jose by Montreal, and I call and whine to Gainey about not calling me back and telling me he was available. He tells me that I was late to that party, and he had been talking to Doug Wilson for three weeks. Fair enough."
"I told our younger players that I wouldn't trade them and I kept my word. But I did get May. He's a great character guy with a sunny disposition."

Final Filler

- What often goes unmentioned when discussing impending UFA players as 'rentals' is the exclusive negotiation rights a team holds until July 1. That must count for something.

- There is a new table up at Behindthenet. It ranks players according to penalties drawn/taken. Compare the relative positions of Rivet and Gorges.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why hasn't the Toronto media been universally napalming Raycroft? He's been terrible."

A vain and desperate attempt to justifying dealing an excellent young prospect like Tukka Rask for him?
Being more accustomed to blaming a typically sub-par defence and generally excellent goaltending in the last 5-6yrs or so?

If it's not already obvious I'm a Leafs fan, and someone not exactly pleased with Raycroft and sadly entirely unsurprised by this fact.

3/02/2007 6:26 p.m.  
Anonymous kazmojo said...

If you look at the arc of Abby's career, he is indeed a serviceable starter. But he hasn't played that way since early this season, when he was giving Huet some real competition at starting goalie.

I still think Gainey was right not to trade Souray or any other major component who might get them to the playoffs -- even with Abby we're still not a seller. But Carbo's got to ride Halak now. Abby's showing last night, while not entirely his fault, should be the nail in the lid of his season.

3/03/2007 4:27 p.m.  

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