Here’s the thing about parity — it makes bad teams think they’re not that bad.
There is an obvious example right here in New Jersey, where the Devils are fooling themselves if they think winning 25 of their first 60 games — sounds a lot worse than 25-25-10, doesn’t it? — should have them within relative striking distance of a playoff spot. Going into Friday night’s action, they were eight points shy of the second wild card (held by the Islanders) with six teams to leapfrog and 22 games to play.
So that brings us to the March 1 trade deadline. If general manager Ray Shero can get a bag of pucks for Mike Cammalleri, he should take it. He’s likely going to have to eat half of Cammalleri’s $5 million salary-cap hit for the next two seasons, but that’s fine if the return is something like a combination of third- and fifth-round picks.
Shero’s team is in this spot because goalie Cory Schneider was not playing all that well — and not getting much defensive support — through the first few months of the season. He should have explored a Schneider trade then to start an honest rebuild, and at this point, he should broach the topic of Schneider’s no-trade clause this summer just to see what kind of market is out there.
Because the whole point of this process is not to collect the gate receipts for two or three (or even five or six) home playoff games. It should be about trying to compete for the Stanley Cup, year in and year out. The Devils are nowhere near being that team right now, and in order to be, they need a major overhaul. That should start in the next week.
In terms of creating a contender, how about those wild-card Islanders? Do you think they really have a chance, as currently constituted, to beat the Capitals in a seven-game series? And if they do, can they beat the Penguins? The odds of the Islanders being able to come out of the East are very small, so why should general manager Garth Snow think any differently?
Why not try to find out what he can get for impending restricted free-agent defenseman Calvin de Haan or a package that might include one of his many prized prospects? The free-agent market hasn’t bared any top-line wingers to ride shotgun with John Tavares, so why not try a different approach? Heck, you think Doug Weight could get Cammalleri to play a little harder, and do you think they could use some new blood to keep pushing guys like Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome for ice time? If the Islanders want to do anything this season (or next), they need to improve their NHL personnel soon.
Of course, this trade deadline also happens to be complicated by the upcoming expansion draft. Certainly there will be players traded just for the sake of being pieces to expose come the Vegas Golden Knights selections from all 30 teams beginning June 18.
But this always is the time of year when clubs have to figure out if they’re contenders or not. Despite the cliche, it’s true that it’s the old “buyers” and “sellers” game, but the cramping of the standings has confused who’s who.
And the ball already has started rolling, with the Penguins picking up veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey from the Hurricanes in a nice deal for both, Carolina receiving former Rangers farmhand Danny Kristo and a 2017 second-round pick.
It would behoove a handful of GMs — especially the ones who work on either side of Manhattan — to realize that the gate for a few playoff games is not the big windfall. If they want to win in the years to come, they have to start planning for that now, and start coming to grips with reality sooner rather than later.
For the sake of hockey, let us hope that the Maple Leafs don’t fall apart, and that they make the playoffs. As it currently stands, they would play a raucous first-round series against the Senators. And Auston Matthews and his mates would just be a delight to watch under pressure. The way goalie Frederik Andersen is playing, they could have a chance to win a round (or two), as well.
As for Matthews, I mean, this talent really is like watching a video game sometimes.
Auston Matthews has access to hockey cheat codes you don't. https://t.co/mkzTzc85xf pic.twitter.com/tInvWxxad1
— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) February 20, 2017
So we actually lauded the NHL and the Department of Player Safety (DOPS) for getting some things right last week. Well, it certainly didn’t take long for them to revert to their old ways.
Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba laid a clear headshot to Ottawa forward Mark Stone on Monday, and got himself … a two-game suspension! Boy, that oughta teach him, huh? I get Trouba was going for his front shoulder, and Stone moved. And I get Trouba isn’t a dirty player. But it still happened. How do you think Stone’s brain feels about those happy circumstances?
It’s insane the Department of Player Safety doesn’t have guidelines for these sorts of things. Here’s a suggestion: Headshot with no nefarious surrounding circumstances and no history equals a five-game suspension. You have to start somewhere. But then again, how long can we bang our head against this same wall?
… to the Red Wings. General manager Ken Holland recently said his team — in last place in the Atlantic Division — is “open for business” leading up to the trade deadline [http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/30-thoughts-red-wings-telling-teams-theyre-open-business/]. Thank goodness, at least someone is admitting it, even if it’s the guy whose franchise is about to end a 25-year run of consecutive postseason appearances.
With some nice obvious assets such as Thomas Vanek and Mike Green — as well as the most promising player possibly available, young forward Andreas Athanasiou — they could get a nice return. Expect Holland to be active leading up to March 1.
This Wednesday was the 10-year anniversary of all-around great guy (and former Rangers backup goalie) Marty Biron getting into a smiling fight with Ray Emery. Classic.
And cheers to Marty, who just became a U.S. citizen. Our populace just got a little more interesting.
Thanks for the pictures Claudine. Great to see you again. https://t.co/KyB0MKoNke
— Martin Biron (@martybiron43) February 21, 2017
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