Tuesday, February 26, 2008

D-Day is done!

The deadline is done! The annual trade deadline has come and gone. Like all of the others over the last 5 years, there were 41 thousand trade rumors leading up to the deadline and just 25 deals actually done. There is nothing including the NHL’s entry draft which is hyped as much as the deadline and yet the results are ridiculously predictable. The names may change each year but the volume of player movement in the last 5 years is remarkably similar year over year and always less than a sliver of what is predicted.

That being said you rarely find people who feel dissatisfied with the day. They stew for weeks to theorize which deals will happen and which ones should happen. Then weeks afterward fans dissect the ones which actually happened. There is a reason why the Team 1200 and all other sports talk radio stations have followed the lead of TSN and Sportsnet in having long form “Deadline Day” shows tracking and analyzing all the deals both done and those which fizzle and die. It gives fans a chance to play along with a live board game of “Be the GM”.

It also gives those of us on the air the chance to let you know exactly how many people we know. The guy who’s Blackberry goes off the most is the most powerful person on the air. The guy who has to continuously leave the set to respond to calls and emails surely is the most connected man in hockey. It seems like everyone is dying to give them their secrets and their deals. I have to get one of those Blackberry’s from Bell so that NHL big wigs can buzz me with their every thought. I jest of course. The likes of Pierre Maguire, Bob Mackenzie, Darren Dregger and Bruce Garrioch really are that connected. They really do get that many calls and they really do know that many high powered agents and managers. That’s why they are on TV on deadline day. It is also the only time when they ask people to call them while they are on the air. It gives the shows that true sense of immediate information and immediate contact with decision makers. Any other time we all ask people NOT to call us because we are on the air. The deadline day is the exception where calls which happen while you are off the air are like props in a magic show which the audience never gets to see.

We can all poke fun at the huge gap between rumored deals and actual deals but let’s be completely honest. I watch and listen to every second of it. I love it! It’s like being at the stock market the day everyone is trying to become a fortune 500 company all at the same time and all on the same day. We were in Boston for deadline day and on the internet I could not link up with the Sportsnet broadband feed but could get the TSN feed and while doing my afternoon homework for the Senators/Bruins game it was a buzz to think of all the ramifications of all the deals as they came in.

There is a school of thought that the deadline should be moved up by a month so that teams are forced to make decisions about their teams earlier and it would become less of a frenzied flee market as teams get closer to the playoffs. It would certainly make managers think long and hard about how much they like their roster if they have to make those final decisions in late January instead of late February. It would also make it tough for teams to overcome late season injuries and it would send messages in certain cities as to what the manager really thinks his team’s chances are of making the playoffs. That is the biggest single reason why the deadline will never be pushed back into January. In some markets it would destroy ticket sales for the last 2 months of the season.

For Ottawa, Bryan Murray did about as much as he could I believe. He got a veteran in Martin Lapointe who plays a gritty style and has won 2 Stanley Cups and he got him for a very good price. Everyone wanted the home run in Marian Hossa or Brian Campbell or Peter Forsberg but that just never happened. In Hossa the price paid by Pittsburgh for a rental player (even as good as Hossa) was ridiculous. Buffalo made it clear to most everyone they would not trade Campbell within the eastern conference. Forsberg would have been a huge medical crap shoot and will be for Colorado. Any or all of the above would have been nice to have, but sometimes no matter how badly you want to make a deal it just doesn’t happen. No matter how motivated you are as a manager, you are always dependant on other managers to be just as motivated to take what you are offering. Rarely do both sides have the same level of motivation. That is why in most cases managers settle for the third of fourth names on their wish list. The top name on that list is usually the top name on about 25 other manager’s lists and only 1 gets that name.

All in all, Bryan Murray made significant improvements to this team in experience, size and talent. Mike Commodor is a big, physical defenceman. Cory Stillman is a veteran, playmaking forward who can play anywhere in your top 6. Lapointe is that extra bit of sandpaper. All three have won Cups and all 3 want another.

Now the only problem is to get this team close to its potential again. Right now we are flying from Boston to Philly after the Senators suffered another shut out loss. To say this team is out of synch right now would be a massive understatement and March is upon us.

See you at the rink.

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