Monday, March 02, 2009

Trader Bob

Not Unless This is Dallas '96...

The trade deadline always brings a load of expectations, triumphs and disappointments.

For the supporters of down and out teams, it brings something to cheer about (at least until the fans realise they were fleeced 5 years on...). And for the supporters of contenders, it brings hope of filling all those gaps that we've been discussing ad nauseum for months.

Fans of the Montreal Canadiens are used to rolling out the lines "In Bob We Trust" for just about any move that comes from the GM's office. Usually that trust refers to the faith we have in his do little or nothing approach. Two years ago with the Canadiens looking down and out and ready to claim some draft picks (thanks, Swiss Dave); Gainey responded by making a single trade – well ahead of deadline day (Rivet and pick for Gorges and pick). He did not cash in on demand for league sweetheart and Montreal defensive millstone Sheldon Souray. Last year, with Habs fans gagging for some reinforcements for the Cup run, he instead traded our number one goalie (and UFA) for a second round pick.

In fact, if recent history is to be a lesson to Habs fans – it would be to enjoy March 4th outdoors and catch Toronto's trades the next day. Gainey makes few moves a season, and this one, he's exceeded his usual quota already.

Nevertheless, Gainey is a top GM. He rarely gets blown out in a trade, but has been known to blow his witless peers away. On the eve of the deadline, here's a retrospective on his trading record as a GM – with evidence to throw behind "In Bob We Trust" (and for the cynics, to cast doubt over all that hoopla).

Full career

Trades as a GM: 79

Trades 1992-1996: 42 (8.4 moves per year over 5 seasons)
Trades 1997-2009: 37 (3.7 moves per year over 10 seasons excl. lockout)
Trades 2003-2009: 21 (4.2 moves per year over 5 seasons excl. lockout)

Trades for cash: 2
Trades for future considerations: 5
Trades for draft picks: 5
Trades for minor leaguers: 20
Trades for NHL players: 47
Trades for NHL stars: 12

Montreal Canadiens

Trades as a GM: 21

Trades for cash: 0
Trades for future considerations: 1
Trades for draft picks: 2
Trades for minor leaguers: 6
Trades for NHL players: 12
Trades for NHL stars: 5

Top 10 trades

1. Kevin Hatcher for Sergei Zubov (1996)
2. Josef Balej and 2nd for Alexei Kovalev (2004)
3. Shane Churla and Doug Zmolek for Darryl Sydor (1996)
4. Jon Casey for Andy Moog (1993)
5. Mathieu Garon and 4th for Radek Bonk and Cristobal Huet (2004)
6. Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen for Joe Nieuwendyk (1995)
7. Bob Errey, Todd Harvey and 4th for Mike Keane, Brian Skrudland and 6th (1998)
8. Craig Rivet and 5th for Josh Gorges and 1st (2007)
9. 1st and 2nd for Alex Tanguay and 5th (2008)
10. 2nd for Robert Lang (2008)

Worst 10 trades (No real horror stories here)

1. Mike Ribeiro and 6th for Janne Niinimaa and 5th (2006)
2. Cristobal Huet for 2nd
3. Brian Bellows for Russ Courtnall (1992)
4. Ulf Dahlen for Mike Lalor and Doug Zmolek (1994)
5. Mikhail Grabovski for Greg Pateryn (2008)
6. Richard Jackman for Cameron Mann (2001)
7. Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen for Joe Nieuwendyk (1995)
8. Trent Klatt for Brent Fedyk (1995)
9. James Black for Gord Donnelly (1994)
10. Neal Broten for Corey Millen (1995)

Finally, proof he believes in Montreal Canadiens development of defensive forwards:

1. 5th for Mike McPhee (1992)
2. Todd Elik for Brent Gilchrist (1993)
3. Paul Broten for Guy Carbonneau (1995)
4. Bob Errey, Todd Harvey and 4th for Mike Keane, Brian Skrudland and 6th (1998)
5. Juha Lind for Scott Thornton (2000)
6. Donald Audette and Shaun Van Allen for Martin Rucinsky and Benoit Brunet (2001)

If Gainey doesn't make many trades, he makes even less bad trades. While he stole Sydor and Zubov from under the noses of opposing GMs, he has never been stung the same way himself.

If there is a word of caution, it is that he makes his worst trades from positions of weakness (i.e., those trades where he feels addition by subtraction is the way to go). Given that KOvalev has been rejuiced, the danger of him doing this again in the next couple of days is low. However, as he showed last season – he's capable of surprising with a reeking poor trade near the deadline for no reason.

Realistically, Gainey signalled his completion when he picked up Metropolit (asking prices for centres rising too high for his liking). Add to that he made a trade that almost pushed his top 10 all time (and could with more observation). It seems unlikely that anything bigger than big would happen from Bob – even if the frenetic Hockeybuzz does want us to believe it for hits.

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