Hockey

The change-of-scenery NHL deal

Last season when Wojtek Wolski of the Colorado Avalanche was dealt for Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes at the trade deadline, Coyotes fans were understandably excited, but he was just one example of a player whose individual fortunes didn't change with the scenery.

It's a popular phenomenon, but rate of success is mixed

Last season when Wojtek Wolski of the Colorado Avalanche was dealt for Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes at the trade deadline, Coyotes fans were understandably excited.

It would give the highly touted Wolski a much-needed change of scenery that would help him find consistency and reach his potential.

But after lighting it up in the remaining 18 games for Phoenix, Wolski sunk back into his offensive funk this season and was shipped off to the New York Rangers for defenceman Michal Rozsival.

Ian White. Erik Johnson. Craig Anderson. All were recently traded with the idea that they could do better elsewhere. A change of scenery — it's one of the most popular reasons for trades in the NHL these days. Yet it rarely ever works out.

It takes an almost ideal set of circumstances for a struggling player to reverse their fortunes on their new team — ones that tend not to be carefully considered before pulling the trigger on a deal.

In looking back on the long list of scenery-related trades the past few seasons and their chances of success, a few trends become abundantly clear: the players must receive more ice time to be successful, they must fit the team's style of play, and they must be comfortable in the market.

Here's a look at two change of scenery trades from last season — one that worked out and another that didn't — that are indicative of the trends:

Calgary Flames trade Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik

After failing to gel with Jarome Iginla, the Rangers took a chance that Jokinen would break out with Marian Gaborik. Not so. Jokinen continued his middling pace before whiffing on the final shootout attempt in the last game of the season, causing the Rangers to miss the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

But Calgary didn't walk away smiling either: Kotalik saw his power play time drop when he failed to gain the confidence of the defensive-minded coaching staff, and Higgins couldn't buy a goal on the offence-starved Flames. The lone bright spot of the trade was Prust, who fit John Tortorella's up-tempo system perfectly.

Edmonton Oilers trade Lubomir Visnovsky to the Anaheim Ducks for Ryan Whitney and a sixth-round pick

Visnovsky was more than happy to waive his no-movement clause to leave the gun-shy Oilers to the trigger-happy Ducks. Anaheim's fifth-ranked offence boasted goal-scoring machines Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, and Teemu Selanne — the perfect environment for an offensive wizard like Visnovsky. He didn't disappoint with 13 points in 16 games.

In Edmonton, Whitney was the complete package he was billed as: a steady defensive presence that contributed in every situation. He continued his impressive offensive pace despite playing with a popgun offence.

Both players continued their strong play this season, but Whitney was lost for what is likely a season-ending injury in December.

So what do these trends say about the likelihood of success for this year's traded players?

Take Wolski, for example. As a Greater Toronto Area product, he probably knows a thing or two about big-market pressures, and the dearth of creative offensive talent in New York should net him a bump in ice time. He's also a decent enough skater to fit into Tortorella's high-forechecking system — provided he can show consistent effort and stay out of the coach's doghouse, something he isn't known for.

As it stands now, Wolski has 11 points in 18 games with New York, equal to 0.61 points-per-game. It's better than his poor showing earlier this season for Phoenix, but exactly in line with his career average. That might suggest that what you see is what you get.

As with all of these type of trades, the X-factor is always the player's willingness to embrace the opportunity to begin anew. Perhaps Wolski and the others can buck the trend of recent change of scenery failures, but history would suggest otherwise.

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