By Rob Ficiur
Why did the NHL trade deadline consume the sports channels last week (like it does every year)? Through the course of a year, teams always have to say the right thing; “We are trying to win the Stanley Cup this year,” is the basic comment you get from the opening of training camp until a team is mathematically eliminated. However, at trade deadline, teams show what their real plans for the season are, by the trades they make and the trades they don’t make.
Calgary Flames: Building for the Future
Last year when the Flames traded their 36 year captain Jerome Iginla fans knew that the team was beginning a rebuild. This year the Flames made two minor trades. Forward Lee Stepniak went to Pittsburgh for a third round draft pick and goalie Reto Berra went to Colorado for a second round draft pick. The earliest fans are likely to see these draft picks play for the team is three years from now. Having missed the playoffs for four (soon to be five) years in a row, Flames fans know it will take several years to build a young core that can lead them to a higher level.
Best news for Flames fans is what they did not do. First they did not give away other veteran players for a minimal return. As we see in Edmonton, a team of young players without some veteran leadership does not succeed.
Edmonton Oilers: Stronger for Next Year Already
Through two quiet trades, the Edmonton Oilers have solidified their goaltending for next year…Okay, it may not be solid, but compared to four months ago the Oilers are far ahead of where they were at the beginning of the season. Ben Scrivens (picked up for a third round pick) leads the league in save percentage…yes we know that much of that came from his time in LA – but that still proves he can stop a puck. Victor Fasth was picked up from Anaheim for a fifth round pick. Fasth looked like a rising star when be broke into the league last year. In the middle of all this the Oilers acquired a fourth round pick for Ilya Bryzgalov, a goalie they did not want next year. Two goalie upgrades at no cost to the roster and one draft pick.
Maybe these two goalies won’t win the Oilers a Stanley Cup, but steady net minding can be the difference between being a bottom feeder and a playoff contender.
Tampa Bay: Bye Bye Captain
Three NHL team captains were traded at or near the deadline. Steve Ott’s contract in Buffalo was up at the end of the year, so his departure was not a surprise for the last place Sabres. Ryan Callahan, another unrestricted free agent in July, was not getting the type of contract offer he wanted from the New York Rangers.
However, the surprising move to everyone was when Lightning captain Martin St. Louis demanded a trade to the Rangers. Reports all suggest that St. Louis was so unhappy that Tampa GM Steve Yzerman did not originally pick him for the Canadian Olympic team that St. Louis wanted out of Florida (and please trade me to New York). Fans had come to see the undrafted undersized St. Louis as an example of what a player can do with determination. Now he looks like so many spoiled athletes who wanted out when he did not get what he wanted.
Vancouver: How the Mighty Have Fallen
For two years in a row (2011 and 2012) the Vancouver Canucks won the President’s Trophy as the best team in the regular season. Three years ago (2011) they were one win away from winning the Stanley Cup. Today the Canucks are 21st in NHL standings, four points out of a playoff spot. With a 2-7-1 record in their last ten games, they are falling down the standings faster the outdoor ice can melt on the West coast.
The most surprising trade of the week was when Vancouver traded two time Olympic Gold Medalist Roberto Luongo to Florida for a potentially good goalie and a potentially good forward. A year ago the Canucks had the enviable problem of two NHL level goalies. When they could not trade Luongo last year they traded Corey Schneider to New Jersey. Now with both Luongo and Schneider gone, the Canucks two goalies have played a total of 39 NHL games. How did this all happen?
Two simple answers. First, John Tortorella managed to alienate the team’s all star goalie. Why was Tortorella fired from the New York Rangers…the players were tired of his disrespectful mind games. In less than a year Coach T. has already alienated at least two of the Canucks top five players – sorry for you Ryan Kessler that the Canucks could not make a trade so you could take the first plane out of Vancouver as well.
Second, record setting bumbling by GM Mike Gilles. Two years ago he could have traded Luongo for what he got this week. The team discord that has gone on for two years would not have happened. Did they really think that a bully coach was going to get better results out of the team this year? Why has this GM not acquired other scoring help to assist the Sedins? What has he done to keep his job as GM of an NHL team?
I was talking to a loyal (but unhappy) Canucks fan today. He told me all these complaints and more. Seems we have a simple solution – the Canucks can hire the two of us as co-General Managers. We can’t do worse than what has been done.
Once we are named General Managers, if we have goaltending issues, we know that Edmonton has an overabundance of good goalies (2), maybe we can make a trade before next year’s trade deadline.