Don’t know if you’ve heard, but next Monday is Trade Deadline Day in the NHL.
All kidding aside, I don’t think I can recall a more intriguing deadline day in my 35 years around the NHL. Aside from the Rick Nash derby (and we’re not even sure there will be a race by Monday) it appears that almost anything could happen OR nothing at all.
Confused? Me too!
Take the plight of the Boston Bruins for example. Lately, the defending Stanley Cup champions haven’t been the intimidating force we saw in the first half the season. The injury to Nathan Horton certainly hasn’t helped; nor has the semi-public political stand of Tim Thomas, who while “taking the fifth” forced his teammates to answer some of the questions for him.
Since the visit to the White House, the Bruins have four wins and seven losses, and just don’t look to be playing true “Bruins Hockey”. What do they do? Do they wait for Horton to return? Will he be ready? Or do they shuffle the cards a bit and make an attempt to trade for Nash, who could be a cornerstone for any team with the opportunity to play four rounds in the playoffs?
If so, what do the Bruins give up for him? Would a Top 6 forward like David Krecji, a prospect like Dougie Hamilton and a high draft pick be enough to seal the deal? We will have to wait and see. The Blue Jackets are asking for four parts in return for Nash, mostly picks and prospects, with a plan of re-building once again in the Ohio capital.
Or take the Vancouver Canucks, who appear to be better than they were last year. They are faster and deeper for sure, but do they have enough edge and grit? Acquiring Nash wouldn’t give them that edge and grit, but more importantly his big contract jeopardizes the relationship general manager Mike Gillis has created with the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and the like. It would be difficult for the Canucks to bring in Nash, and not compromise the hometown discounts the players have taken to stay in a great city with a great team.
The other key questions on Monday have to deal with teams that will try and re-vamp their rosters over the few weeks and months. Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has already decided that next year starts now. By shipping Steve Downie to Colorado, he was able to collect his fifth pick in the first two rounds of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. I would be surprised if he in fact uses all five picks on draft day, but rather he will parlay a few of those picks into a quality goaltender.
And what happens in Buffalo, where the Sabres have to be considered as one of this season’s biggest disappointments? One insider told me that, if the team decides to make wholesale changes, then even Ryan Miller might be available – and, like Rick Nash, Miller would welcome a change. “If a club decides to blow up their core, everyone is on the market. Of course, the issue regarding Ryan is the cap hit,” I was told earlier this week.
The other city that ranks alongside with the Sabres is the Washington Capitals. Certainly, they have had many key injuries, like Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, but that shouldn’t excuse Alex Ovechkin from being considered the under-achiever of the year in the NHL. The coaching change in DC has done nothing to even stir the Great Eight over these past 40 games.
Which leads me to think that Dale Hunter might be having second thoughts about leaving the comfort of the OHL for the pressure of the NHL. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dale doesn’t return to Washington for a second year, and maybe, just maybe, finds a way to return to the London Knights for their potential Memorial Cup run.
With everything that has happened in Washington this season, nothing would surprise me.
Had to smile the other day when I read that New York Rangers coach John Tortorella had suggested the NHL go to the NFL style of video review for key times in a game, particularly the last minute of play and with expanded jurisdiction.
You see, these ideas probably do warrant some consideration at the General Managers meeting in March, but please know that the Rangers coach only made the suggestion after a controversial call went against his team. Rule change recommendations should be born on the basis of making the game better and not because he thinks his team got the short end of the officiating stick.
Expanding video review beyond good or bad goals is a mistake. The process that the hockey operations team has created is as close to perfect as humanly possible. And trying to improve the game and the officiating process should always be discussed and examined without emotions or personal agendas involved.
The other discussion point that I’m sure will raise its head at the meetings next month in Florida is that of timing and clocks. The incident at the Staples Center with Columbus earlier this month was bad enough. In fact, there is now video evidence that it has happened before at Staples, without being noticed. The clock manufacturer had to wait until the Grammy Awards were over to inspect the clock there, but found no error in the oversized computer.
Now comes the problem of Friday last at Madison Square Garden where both TV feeds had a different time on screen than that of hockey operations, when the Rangers scored a goal at the end of the second period. While viewers could see on TV the goal appeared to be good with .01 seconds on the clock, it was ruled no goal because time had expired. Only after screen grabs of the video review monitors were shown was it clear that the NHL operations people did in fact have the proper time on the screen, and TV was delayed a few hundredths of a second.
There will be a ton of discussion on this topic by the managers with the intent of creating and distributing a single source of timing to all the constituents involved.