February 01, 2010

Monday Slap Shots: Trading Spaces

Time to put the puck on the 'Net:
  • Wowzers! I wake up Sunday morning to hear the two big trades by the Leafs, acquiring Phaneuf and Giguere. Lots of people were applauding Brian Burke on Sunday, and generally I agree he appears to have gotten the better part of both deals. But there are some big ifs needing to go his way to ensure that he does win the trades. Can Phaneuf rejuevenate his career in Toronto? Can Giguere find his form? I'm not sure it matters because Johnny Bower would not be able to help out this terrible Leafs defensive team.
  • Funny thing is their blue line group has some good names on it, before and after the trades. For some reason the mix was not right. That and Ron Wilson really needs to be removed as coach. That woeful penalty kill is inexcusable.
  • Burke has had a rough year. He kept falling to back up plans, failing to sign the Sedins, failing to draft Tavares, failing to find a goaltender. He correctly judged how weak the Eastern conference was going to be when he traded away his first round pick for Phil Kessel, fully believing the Leafs would not finish in the bottom 10 in a weak draft year depth-wise. But he greatly overestimated what he had in Toronto, as this has been one of the worst Leafs teams in a long time. Burke needs Phaneuf and Giguere to somehow pull the Leafs up the standings with only 26 games left. They should finish ahead of the Oilers, but Burke wants to get high enough to avoid the lottery giving Boston either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.
  • Even if both Phaneuf and Giguere can rebound immediately and play well, who is going to score goals? Toronto just traded away 39% of their offense. Nik Hagman and Ian White are very serviceable players, although they are playing to their utmost potential right now, which is low compared to Phaneuf's potential. Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski have no one to play with. Alex Ponikarovski and Nik Kulemin need to step it up, as do the Marlies players that are going to get good looks for the rest of the year.
  • Kudos to Burke for keeping the bigger picture in sight, though. People forget Phaneuf is only 24 and his prime years are still ahead of him. His potential is higher than any other defenseman available, and there isn't a lot becoming available later in the UFA derby. Burke acquired a brilliant building block.
  • That being said, has Burke misjudged Phaneuf? He's a defensive liability and his offensive game is somewhat limited to his big shot. There are lots of rumors about an over-inflated ego that may have contributed to his exit from Calgary. At this stage I think everyone has given up on the idea of him being the next Scott Stevens, and they're hoping he can still be the next Ed Jovanovski. He has long way to go still.
  • Speaking of Calgary, lots of talk about the Sutters panicking with this move. They gave away a potential blue chip player (and a decent prospect in Keith Aulie) for Niklas Hagman and three potential rentals in White, Matt Stajan, and Jamal Mayers. Calgary really needed to do something badly. Their team lacks speed, creativity and dynamics greatly. Hagman will offer some speed and scoring relief, while Stajan offers underrated (although far from spectacular) support up the middle. And based on this season alone, Ian White is easily a better than Phaneuf.
  • It appears Calgary is not done trading yet. Late Sunday night everyone was reporting Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust were headed to New York for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik, although the official trade call has been held up as I write this. Jokinen has been a huge disappointment in Calgary. Kotalik might be able to spark the Flames power play.
  • Calgary does free up some cap space for this year and beyond with the Phaneuf, but bringing Kotalik would scale that back quite a bit. Surely there are better options than Kotalik.
  • History tells us revamping your team so late in the season does not work. The successful playoff teams usually have tinkered at the trading deadline, not completely overhauled.
  • Lastly, Anaheim is positioning for next season, looking to move Giguere's huge contract in favor of Toskala's expiring contract and freeing up cap space. But why they took on Jason Blake's big contract too is puzzling. I'm sure Anaheim wanted someone else, perhaps Alex Ponikarovsky, but how Burkie convinced Bob Murray to take Blake is almost larceny!

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