Monday, February 01, 2010

Calgary Shows What's Possible

When the Canadiens had locker room problems, they excommunicated a player. yet neither his salary nor his roster spot were gained in the transaction. It was a great PR move, but a nothing from a hockey point of view.

Calgary has been bombing in the standings of late. Possible explanations include their lack of scoring, and that old losing streak favourite – a rift in the locker room.

Considering the issues facing Darryl Sutter, the task must have seemed monumental. A second number one defenceman, but one with an attitude (and not one that helps the team). How to get value in a trade. Next, a one-dimensional attack, hampered again by an anchor of a personality. Both problem players are paid as if they're not problems, as if the order wasn't tall enough already.

Yet Sutter seems to have pulled off a coup.

In his first trade, he seemed to manage to get value for his promising, yet troublesome young defenceman. Not only that, he actually got a second line in return. Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman are among the Leafs top scorers and come in ahead of most Flames but Iginla in the scoring race. The fact he also replaced Phaneuf with Ian White, a pretty adept blueliner, without the salary or the ego, was the winning shot as he parted the negotiation.

This first trade allowed him to turn around and jettison Jokinen, which reports say he did in a trade for Ales Kotalik and sudden journeyman and trade throwaway Chris Higgins.

All in all, not a bad remake.

From the Leafs point of view

I'm not sure another pundit needs to get into this from the Leafs point of view. TSN has a month ahead of them here. But I thought a couple of thoughts wouldn't kill anyone.

Bringing in Phaneuf was a coup for Burke as well, no matter how you look at it. On the Leafs at the moment, it makes no difference who is sipped out, since it's a losing formula anyway. Phaneuf may not be a winner, but being the top dog will surely stroke his ego again, the way he likes.

It also fulfills Burke's one ask this season – improve the team for next season. In acquiring Phaneuf, he claimed a piece that will be harder to grab in July. Presumably he'll replace the forwards then, as forwards of the Stajan stature, though valuable now, are not July 1st material usually.

If I want to take a negative view on the Leafs, it's losing Ian White. But that's a case of giving to get, it doesn't happen any other way.

Habs implications

Many Habs fans are getting antsy after this. In the land of consecutive losses, a big trade would at least stem the break between Feb 1 and the Olympics with some excitement.

My feeling is that is a bad reason to make a trade. There's no way the Habs missed out too much yesterday. Phaneuf, even if he matures into a man one day, is still an offensive defenceman. With Markov and then every prospect worth the paper his name is written on being an offensive defenceman, the addition wasn't on the radar. The Giguere move would be a disaster here – we already have two goalies better than his current self. The forwards exchanged, perhaps with the exception of Jokinen were extra pieces in trades, not the key pieces. I suspect Burke doesn't trade Stajan unless he's part of a big one. Jokinen himself seems to burn a lot of bridges. Maybe he'd fit. perhaps not worth the gamble.

In terms of future trades, I don't think it changes much. Not for the Canadiens anyway. New York would have always been looking for a centre, but we wouldn't give them Plekanec, and they wouldn't have Gomez. Calgary may be finished, but a team with forwards who can't score and offensive defencemen who trip on their own feet is not one we should be mining to correct a problem.

Yes, I'm envious that Toronto fans get to dream for a few days about a better backline while we await an MRI, but ultimately, I'm fairly comfortable that we didn't get into this affair.

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