An emotional Ryan Smyth bids farewell to Edmonton after being dealt to the New York Islanders. (John Ulan/Canadian Press)
Viewpoint: Scott Morrison
What did we learn from trade deadline day?
Last Updated Thursday, March 1, 2007
by Scott Morrison
Okay, so what did we learn from the NHL trade deadline this year class?
- A first-round draft pick in 2007 matters to some, but apparently not to all since eight of them have changed hands in the past few weeks. It is fair to assume the draft, in the eyes of many, is not a good one unless, of course, you are selling assets, in which case, like the stock market, you will take your chances.
- Loyalty is a term that doesn't quite apply any more, it appears, especially as it pertains to Ryan Smyth and the Edmonton Oilers, who parted ways after a dozen memorable seasons. Point the finger where you prefer, but that is one split-up that should never have happened. Maybe we are hopelessly romantic, na´ve, stupid or all of the above, but while the possibility of it happening always existed, we just didn't see it becoming reality. But then, it seems almost all Oiler greats end up in New York eventually, or in this case, nearby Long Island. The burning question is whether this Oiler great will ever go home?
- Charles Wang is the smartest man in hockey. He had the foresight to essentially force his general manager into quitting a month or so into the job, then hire a back up goaltender with no managerial experience, and pull off a deadline shocker, acquiring the aforementioned Smyth and incredibly enhancing his chances of winning. All of that is true, except the smartest man in hockey part. There is still the matter of the 15-year contract...
- The salary cap appears to prevent teams from making trades, or many of them, from October through January. After that, it is easy. Rental player for a draft pick; salary out and hope in.
- Among other discoveries, we now also know who will win the Stanley Cup. Or which team is the favourite. Not so much.
That picture is as muddy as ever.
What we did learn on Tuesday, particularly after the Smyth trade, is that the playoff teams have been established in the Western Conference, and all that is left is to sort out the final order. But the elite eight have been set. Beyond that, the top six appear a little stronger than Minnesota and Calgary, but not enough to wager our money. Not yet, anyway.
In the East, the Islanders attached the legitimate contender sticker to their sweaters, potentially leaving Montreal, Toronto and defending champion Carolina to argue over the final playoff spot. The rest, barring the unforeseen, should be academic.
That's the synopsis, now a closer look at what the playoff bound, or hope-to-be-playoff-bound teams, in order of standings as of early Wednesday, fared with an appraisal attached:
Buffalo Sabres: Needless to say the Sabres, still smarting in every way from the Chris Neil experience, are ravaged by injuries and for them the deadline was about getting an asset for goaltender Martin Biron and depth for the playoffs. They did all of that quite nicely. Dainius Zubrus is a nice addition to an offence that doesn't need any help, but you can also never have enough scorers.
New Jersey Devils: What's the old adage? Some times the best moves are the ones you don't make. The Devils sat quiet, Martin Brodeur pitched another shutout after the deadline, and they set their watches for April.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Despite losing Tuesday night in overtime, they have been very good for a while now. Overall, they are 22-10 since the start of December, 17-6 since Jan. 7. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards are all humming and the goaltending has improved. They added defenceman Shane O'Brien. Good work by GM Jay Feaster to issue threats, rather than pink slips.
Ottawa Senators: Another team that has been quite good the past six weeks. The Senators are 15-5 since Jan. 7 and have the likes of Jason Spezza back and in good form. They added centre Mike Comrie earlier, which helped, and added winger Oleg Saprykin at the deadline, a player John Muckler likes, but not a ton of other people. Whatever, the Senators appear in good shape for the playoffs with a different demeanour than in past years. They are not hanging their hats on a deadline saviour, but rather they are a team that has grown over the season, overcoming adversity. We like the Sens strategy.
Pittsburgh Penguins: All the talk was about finding an armed guard for Sidney Crosby and company and they got that in Georges Laraque. They also acquired toughness and talent in Gary Roberts, a proven winner, who will fit in nicely. They added Joel Kwiatowski on defence, which we're not sure was enough of a boost there. The addition of goaltender Nolan Schaefer from San Jose for a seventh-round pick was another nifty move. Good debut deadline day for GM Ray Shero.
Atlanta Thrashers: Their deadline came late Saturday night and early Sunday morning when they acquired defenceman Alexei Zhitnik, then winger/centre Keith Tkachuk. The price wasn't cheap, in terms of the future, but as general manager Don Waddell said, the future is now. Or so he hopes. Missing the playoffs is not an option. Give Waddell credit for making the bold move. The immediate return could be great. If it isn't, it won't be his mess to clean up.
New York Islanders: If Rick DiPietro continues to play well behind an average defence, the additions of Smyth and Richard Zednik make them a playoff lock, especially since they kept Jason Blake. Now, they gave up a lot of future and Smyth, Zednik and Blake can all walk in the summer, but the Isles have given themselves a chance this spring. Smyth brings so much to the table. Good work by Garth Snow, who will have his work cut out for him this summer.
Montreal Canadiens: GM Bob Gainey made the decision to keep defencemen Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov, who both become unrestricted free agents, but moved Craig Rivet, who fell into disfavour and is also a potential UFA. The return was 22-year-old defenceman Josh Gorges. Gainey had no choice, really, but to keep Souray, who is the key to their power play and if the Habs are to make the playoffs, special teams will be a big reason why. If he leaves in the summer, so be it. This is all about stretching out the winter. Their goaltending has gone cold, especially with the loss of Cristobal Huet. They added depth with Michael Leighton, off waivers, but are still in cover-your-eyes and hold-your-breath mode. Quiet deadline day for Gainey.
Carolina Hurricanes: The defending champions have been in a fog since training camp and are having a hard time finding their way, at least consistently. GM Jimmy Rutherford has made some small moves to inspire of late, with the latest the addition of Anson Carter, but this team doesn't seem to have the swagger of last year. Resisting the temptation to overpay for more, this year, was a good move on Rutherford's part, particularly when he couldn't get the big gunner he wanted.
Toronto Maple Leafs: GM John Ferguson is sour with the Panthers after they traded Roberts to Pittsburgh. The Leafs were pitching hard for his services. All they had to show for deadline shopping was centre Yanic Perreault, in his third incarnation as a Leaf. He helps on faceoffs and the power play, though he is also playing with a sore shoulder, which might limit his effectiveness. Toronto needs Darcy Tucker back in a hurry to fill the role of the deadline saviour, though until they figure out a way how to stop pucks they are doomed. Give marks to Ferguson for not overpaying and mortgaging the future, knowing full well his job quite likely is on the line this spring.
Nashville Predators: GM David Poile shed the conservative approach and made the big splash, spending big to pick up Peter Forsberg, who has played to mixed reviews on the ice, but has gotten better. Give him time to acclimatize and he will be huge for the Predators. He has already had an impact on ticket sales, which is significant to the overall success of that franchise. Good work by the boss.
Anaheim Ducks: GM Brian Burke kicked more tires than a used car salesman, but he resisted the temptation of losing a good, young player off his roster to get a rental player. Is his team better today than it was a week ago? No. But it also isn't worse and the Ducks were pretty darn good for most of the year until injuries derailed the train. Burke is confident they can find their way again and added a first-round pick for the future. We like Burke's performance. Sometimes less is more.
Vancouver Canucks: Not sure what the Canucks found under the Christmas tree, but since then they have been one of the best teams in the league, taking off on a 10-1 post Noel run, which is now at 19-8. All of which meant GM Dave Nonis just wanted to tweak, not go big. He added good ingredients in centre Bryan Smolinski and defenceman Brent Sopel, a former Canuck. Full marks to Nonis, who got his work done early and addressed his needs. Now it's up to Roberto Luongo and the Sedins to do the rest.
Detroit Red Wings: GM Ken Holland refused to part with his first pick in 2008 to do business, knowing his team as it stands isn't exactly in dire straights, especially at home, and just a point out of first overall. All along he has wanted to fill the void created by the loss of Brendan Shanahan. When he couldn't get either of the Blues brothers from St. Loo, he opted for a riskier proposition, taking on Kyle Calder, who flat lined this year (but has scored as a Wing) and Todd Bertuzzi, who has been flat on his back most the season. If either or both get suitably healthy and inspired, they could put the Wings over the top, though Bertuzzi has been idle for a long while and average for a few seasons. Still, we applaud Holland for his efforts, with the price of his dealings okay.
Dallas Stars: They were one of the first out of the gate shopping for rentals and picked up Ladislav Nagy at the Phoenix garage sale, in the process establishing the bar as a first-rounder and something else to get in the game. They made a nice deadline addition, acquiring Kings captain Mattias Norstrom, giving them a splendid foursome on the blue line. If the Stars get healthy, they are right there. Nice work by GM Doug Armstrong.
San Jose Sharks: One of the favourites and front runners all season long, the Sharks have been in need of a goose for a while and they managed to do it without having to sacrifice a goaltender. And we all know how important two goalies can be come spring time. GM Doug Wilson had made the big splash of deadline day acquiring Bill Guerin for a role player, a prospect and the ever-popular first pick. He also added veteran defenceman Craig Rivet from Montreal and getting experience on defence had been the goal all season. In fact, the Sharks had expected at some point this year they might have to move a goalie to get it. Good work by Wilson on all fronts.
Minnesota Wild: Their big addition arrived a month or so ago when Marian Gaborik returned from injury. Since then the Wild is 14-7 and finally winning on the road, as well. They can be dangerous this spring, but still have time on their side. Good work by GM Doug Risebrough to avoid the temptation and allowing his team to grow, though he did add the very useful Dominic Moore, a player the Rangers players will tell you they sorely miss in New York.
Calgary Flames: GM Darryl Sutter got to work in late January, adding centre Craig Conroy to finally address that need, then picking up Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. At the deadline he added depth defenceman David Hale. Despite the moves, the Flames haven't been good defensively and still can't win often enough on the road, all of which has prompted speculation, or at least prompted folks to ask whether a coaching change might be in the offing if things don't improve.
It's an interesting question and the other we learned on Tuesday...no more trades, but firings are allowed.
And for a day, at least, most of the GMs looked pretty smart.
- Final week grab-bag: Carolina's woes, traditional foes
- The debate over fighting in the NHL rages on
- Resignation not part of Saskin's vocabulary
- Penguins' plight: relocation, relocation, relocation
- What did we learn from trade deadline day?
- Thrashers pay hefty price for Tkachuk
- Winds of change spring from GM meetings
- Nashville wins the Forsberg sweepstakes
- Pat Burns keeps fighting the good fight
- Conroy's return bolsters Flames' Cup hopes
- The NHL schedule: better wait 'til next year
- Montreal's losses, Carbonneau's pain
- Comrie a better choice for Ottawa
- The Penguins may yet be on the march
- What happened to respect in sports journalism?
- Blue Jackets bombed as they waited for a new coach
- Penguins win huge off the ice
- The Hall of Fame: beyond riding the rainbow
- Let's leave the NHL schedule alone
- More questions than answers as Colie says no to Philly
- For GMs, patience is a virtue
- NHL attendance could be a problem. Again.
- Things could be finer in Carolina
- Don't hold your breath, Leaf fans
- Scott Morrison, the recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fame's 2006 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, has been covering hockey for 25 years. The Toronto native began his career at the Toronto Sun in 1979. After spending more than 11 years as a hockey writer and columnist at the paper, Morrison became Sports Editor in 1991 and led the section to being named one of North America's top-ten sports sections in 1999 - the first sports section in Canada to receive the AP Sports Editors North American Award. Scott, a former two-term president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, joined Rogers Sportsnet in 2001 as Managing Editor, Hockey, and is currently both a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and a columnist for CBC.ca.