Thursday, March 5, 2009
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Grading the Trades, Gutless Punks Edition
This week, our hockey scribe chastises the weak and the infirm.
Top of the morning, hockey amigos! Last week we warned the Dallas Stars not to partake of the dangerous Moronic Fruit, mortgaging their future in some sort of ill-advised trade at the deadline. And while I'm happy to report that the Stars finally took my advice (while you're at it, this band's got some songs you might want to put into your in-game rotation), we've first got to clear the air about the lowest point in Stars hockey in nearly half a decade.
I'm talking, of course, about the final two seconds of the Stars-Ducks debacle, in which Steve Ott finished the game crosschecking Anaheim captain Scott Neidermayer in the back three or four times (technically immoral, but standard hockey play, happened roughly forty times that evening). After the final whistle, Ducks goalie J.S. "Puffin' Fresh" Giguere sucker-jumped Ott from behind, attempting to shove Ott headfirst into the ice before the entire Anaheim team gang-tackled Ott, with Travis "Candy From a Baby" Moen swinging wildly at Ott near the boards (no doubt knowing that Ott could not defend himself with his broken hand).
So far, so good: the only real crime was the reaction of Ott's teammates. Which was this: nil. Nada. Zip. Modano, Robidas, Neal, Lehtinen and Niskanen all stood there and watched their on-ice sparkplug get the beatdown of his life without so much as skating over to check on him. The incompetent referees that helped cause the melee with a game's worth of idiotic ticky-tac calls eventually jumped in there, but only after a partially-defenseless Ott was forced to go 'dirty', and allegedly gouge out Moen's eyes in self-defense. Dumb move, but what are you gonna do?
Stars = gutless punks for not sticking up for Ott. For one shameful moment, the Stars colors ran yellow with cowardice. I very nearly wrote 'PLAYOFFS OVER' in my Hannah Montana dream diary.
Modano = gutless crybaby, with his obvious loathing for actual hockey players barely concealed in his post-game comments. Christ, Mike, would you please take your hockey-when-I-feel-like-it attitude and go scam waitresses at the Ghostbar already? The guy's got all the talent in the world, yet fans (and the Stars announcers) are forced to make excuses for him over and over again.
NHL = cabrones con no cajones for not suspending Moen and Giguere for instigating a fight after the whistle, per the league's own never-enforced rules. Fights are one thing, and Ott's 'pest' act gets underneath players' skins, but those two obviously went after Ott with intent to injure. Where was the player's union in all of this?
Ducks = no-talent arseclowns for jumping an injured player after the whistle. Reportedly, the Ducks regularly beat orphans with spiked clubs after overtime losses as well.
The aftermath? A one-game suspension.... for Ott. (The NHL also issued a warning to Poland to stop trying to invade Germany). The Pens game was just like all the others this season without Ott: listless, no defense, no backchecking forwards, zero energy. This is why Steve Ott is clearly the Stars' MVP. Once Ott returned, the Stars absolutely manhandled the best team in hockey - again - playing exactly the game they needed to get back into the playoff hunt. No other player, including Turco, has that kind of effect on this team.
Now, onto the trades!
Realistically, it's always tough grading trades, because you really have to wait about five years to make the most accurate judgment possible. But since sports fans can't even remember what city they lived in five years ago, it's Impatient Rush to Judgment Time! I feel particularly qualified to pontificate on this matter, since --with one notable exception-- I was 100% correct on the impact of every trade last season. You professional gamblers can take these predictions to the proverbial bank. To make sense of it all, I will be grading on a scale of 1 to 10 Herschel Walkers, with 1 HW = strangely sensible for both teams (think Nieuwy for Ignila) and 10 HW = Matt Millen/Mike Milbury-level incompetence, where one team gets brutally fleeced.
Matt Schnieder to Montreal for scrubs: an expensive, d-less d-gramps to Montreal? I pity Guy, I really do. Is Hull giving Tippett players that he played with in the 80s and hoping for a quick turnaround? I'm giving this one four Hershel Walkers, as this trade will just be one more piece of the Canadiens' Centenial of Suck; but far from the primary reason for this team's late-season collapse.
Ryan Whitney to the Ducks for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi: Kunitz is what makes the Ducks tough to play against. Period. (oh, yeah, and Getzlaf too). Whitney sans Crosby will make many fantasy hockey owners very, very sad. I'll give this one seven Herschel Walkers: Pittsburgh is already seeing the benefit of having a hard-nosed, lightning-fast power forward in Kunitz, and will likely benefit tremendously from Tangradi in the next few years, while Whitney will turn into Anaheim's very own version of Tom Gilbert.
Vermette to Columbus for Pascal LeClaire: two theoretically-awesome players who have put up underwhelming seasons, but Vermette has far more upside, as LeClaire has already peaked, obviously the product of Ken Hitchcock's five-man trap system. Ottawa does get a 2nd rounder, tho, to sweeten the deal, making this no more lethal than three Herschel Walkers: that pick will probably have more of an impact on these two teams than either of these players.
Leopold to Calgary for prospects and a pick: awesome for Calgary, but it better work or else they just made their division rivals tougher next year. Then again, Leopold wasn't exactly lighting it up in Colorado (but who is?). Three Herschel Walkers, as it appears Calgary just fleeced the pathetic Avs for next to nothing. But can that balance out...
Olli Jokinen to Calgary for Lombardi, Prust, and a 1st rounder: one huge, sloppy, steaming bucket of FAIL for Calgary on this one. The single most overrated center in the game for a speedy and dangerous forward and a 1st? Phoenix got hosed when they acquired him for SuperStud Ballard (who --as I predicted-- is leading his team to the playoffs as we speak); the Coyotes immediately took a huge step in the right direction in dumping him for this assortment of talent. Jokinen is Finnish for 'the sound girls make when they squeal at slumber parties'. Who do we have to kill to get the now-highly-coveted 6th seed and a guaranteed ticket to the second round? Is this why the Stars lost five straight? So they could finish where they wanted, avoid Chicago and get the equivalent of a first-round bye playing Calgary? This one gets eight Herschel Walkers until the offseason, when a battered and wiser Flames front office unloads Jokinen on the next unsuspecting rube of a GM.
Billy Guerin to Penguins for a conditional pick: low-risk move, until the Pens squeak into the first round and see just how useless a black-and-gold traffic cone truly is come playoff time. But since they gave up nothing and would probably just sneak into the playoffs anyways, I'll give this one two Herschel Walkers.
Recchi to the Bruins for prospects: if they stick 'im on the fourth line, it's a good pickup. Expecting a repeat of the Hurricanes' Cup run is about as likely as the Democrats finally getting that 2000 recount they've been crying about. The Bruins are a tight team --except when I watch them-- so this acquisition will likely have zero impact. Two Herschel Walkers, unless Martins Karsums, Matt Lashoff and that second round pick make some sort of splash in Tampa. Knowing Tampa's track record on drafting and development, however, it's safe to say that regardless of the talent Boston gave up, they've won this trade.
Carcillo to the Flyers for Scottie Upshall: Carcillo was always a pain in the ass to watch, and I won't miss him in the West one bit. His style of play is more Flyers-esque than some current Flyers. Upshall is clearly the better player with significantly more upside, and will likely step into a huge offensive role with the Coyotes. Six Herschel Walkers, as the Flyers got fleeced today, tomorrow and next season to get another Steve Downie clone.
Derek Morris to the Rangers for three regular players: each of the three would have to score negative one million goals to make this trade appear even mediocre for the Rangers, who just got hosed --again-- by taking the most expensive underachiever amongst all NHL defensemen. 12 points in 57 games? You know who else can put up that kind of production? Despite not even "quarterbacking" the powerplay? Oh, that's right, Dmitri Kalinin, the d-man he was traded for. Along with actual hockey players Prucha and Dawes. Once again, Glen Sather proves that his knowledge of the NHL stopped in 1998, and while none of the three players he sent off will make a huge individual impact, the immediate effect Derek Morris' suckage has on any team he joins will be felt right away in Madison Square Garden. The media will have a field day blaming Avery, but the duo of Redden-Morris will have more to do with the Rangers missing the playoffs than any other single factor. Eight Herschel Walkers, and possibly a new GM for New York when all is said and done. To top it off, the Rangers also got frustratingly inconsistent Russian malcontent Nik Antropov, to go along with fellow frustratingly inconsistent Russian malcontent Zherdev. All for high draft picks! Oh well, Sather doesn't care, he knows he won't be around to screw up those picks anyways.
Sami Pahlsson to Chicago for James Wisniewski: the Ducks just made Chicago ridiculously stronger, while beefing up their own d-corps for the foreseeable future. Win-win for both teams.. wait, what? I'll give this one the rare and elusive One Herschel Walker: the mythical, legendary trade that actually helps both teams. Chicago needs a guy that can shut down Zetterberg and Datsyuk, while Anaheim will need a guy to replace the old crusties currently manning the blueline. The Ducks also sent Travis Moen and defenseman Kent Huskins to San Jose for prospects and a pick: so much for Anaheim's vaunted checking line. Moen will (somewhat) replace the injured Grier, and Huskins will (hopefully, if you're a Sharks fan) replace the somehow-uninjured Error-hoff. An added bonus: without their checking line, Anaheim will likely miss the playoffs, making it that much easier for the Stars to sneak in.
And finally, Stars pick up Brendan Morrison off waivers: two years ago, Morrison was one of the league's most dangerous unsung players, quietly centering the line with superstars Bertuzzi and Naslund. Now, after multiple injuries, he's not quite the skater he used to be, but he's still a hell of a player, and the Stars gave up nada to get him other than the remainder of his salary ($650,000) for the year. Too often, hockey pundits mis-use the term "rental" when describing players who come to a team in exchange for young prospects/picks: who here has ever had to give up a portion of their future income to rent a U-Haul? Morrison, however, is a true "rental": the Stars pick him up for nothing but a little cash, hope he fills the void left by Brad Richards' injury, and gets them that much closer to the playoffs this year without sacrificing anything in the years to come. Brilliant move by Stars co-GM Hulkson. An added bonus: the new guy has somewhere to stay in the meantime.
That's it for this week's long-winded collection of uninformed, sweeping generalizations: tune in next week when I reveal the saucy details of my hosptial bill after my timely, much-needed beatdown at the hands of Willa Ford! Her capacity for cruelty may surprise you.