Friday, February 24, 2017

Podcast: Joe Sakic, all-powerful trade deadline lord

In this week's episode of Biscuits, the Vice Sports hockey podcast:
- Lots of trade deadline talk
- The myth of NHL trades being too complicated
- Dave breaks out his impression of Joe Sakic, all-powerful trade lord
- One of us threatens to quit if the deadline is a dud
- We play a game of "buyer or seller"
- Reader questions
- And much more..

>> Stream it now on Vice Sports

>> Or, subscribe on iTunes.

Grab bag: When is a team record not a record?

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- NHL GMs are lying to you, and the NBA trade deadline proved it
- Wait, is Patrik Laine chasing Teemu Selanne's team records or not?
- An obscure player who may have been the worst deadline pickup of all time
- The week's three comedy starts
- And in the YouTube section, things get ugly when a blockbuster trade between two notoriously cranky GMs falls apart.

>> Read the full post Vice Sports

Ranking every Maple Leafs trade deadline of the last 25 years

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and most of the speculation has the Maple Leafs being relatively quiet. They’ll probably make a depth move or two, and could deal a pending UFA, but anything bigger than that would come as a surprise.

That’s likely the right move for the franchise, even if it would no doubt draw criticism from some fans who want to see the team swing for the fences. Trade deadlines are always more fun when your team goes big.

Then again, big deals aren’t always the best deals, and Leaf fans know that well. The team has had, to put it generously, a mixed history when it comes to the trade deadline. Today, let’s revisit that history with a quick ranking of every Leafs trade deadline of the last 25 seasons.

We’ll define “the deadline” as the two weeks leading up to the last day of trading, and our 25-season cutoff will take us back to 1991. Why then? Because 25 is a workable number, it essentially covers the time where the NHL’s trade deadline was a big deal, and it happens to coincide with the start of the Cliff Fletcher era. Also, it avoids having to mention the Harold Ballard era, as per my therapist’s recommendations.

We’ll rank our way down from worst to best. And we’ll start with one of the low points in recent franchise history.

25. – 2008

The deals: On the verge of missing the playoffs for a then franchise-record third straight year, the Leafs fire John Ferguson Jr. and head to the deadline firmly in fire-sale mode. Interim general manager Cliff Fletcher moves Wade Belak, Chad Kilger and Hal Gill, all for picks.

The outcome: None of the picks end up helping the Leafs, but that’s not the reason this year rates dead last on our list. No, that has more to do with who wasn’t traded – namely, the fabled Muskoka Five, the group of veterans led by Mats Sundin who decide en masse not to waive their no-trade clauses.

Fletcher is clearly furious, but his hands are tied. A golden opportunity to rebuild slips away – Tomas Kaberle would have landed the Leafs a young Jeff Carter – and the team doesn’t fully recover for years.

24. – 1997

The deals: With the Leafs on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in five years, Fletcher goes into sell mode. He’d already moved Doug Gilmour to the Devils a month earlier. On deadline day he sends Kirk Muller to the Panthers for prospect Jason Podollan, and Larry Murphy to the Red Wings for future considerations.

The outcome: Podollan never amounts to anything. But it’s the Murphy deal that stands out. The future considerations end up being nothing at all – Fletcher literally hands a future Hall-of-Famer over to the Red Wings as a freebie. Murphy puts in four good years in Detroit, helping them win two Cups, and the move stands as one of the most lopsided trade deadline deals in league history.

23. – 2003

The deals: In what turns out to be his last year as general manager, Pat Quinn goes all-in. He makes the Owen Nolan blockbuster, and trades draft picks for veterans Glen Wesley, Phil Housley and a returning Doug Gilmour.

The outcome: You can appreciate the effort, but in hindsight none of the moves work. Nolan gets hurt and later has a falling out with the franchise, and acquiring him costs the Leafs a first-round pick in the ridiculously stacked 2003 draft. Wesley and Housley don’t add much. And the worst of the bunch is Gilmour; his big return lasts just five shifts before his career ends on this play:

22. – 2001

The deals: In their only deadline deal, the contending Leafs trade Adam Mair and a second-round pick to the Kings for Aki Berg.

The outcome: Berg struggles badly and quickly becomes a whipping boy in Toronto. The deal somehow gets even worse when the Kings turn the second-round pick into Mike Cammalleri.

21. – 1996

The deals: With Pat Burns fired and the Leafs fading, Fletcher starts blowing things up by sending Ken Baumgartner to the Ducks and Dave Andreychuk to the Devils. But the big news is the blockbuster that brings Wendel Clark back to Toronto.

The outcome: The Clark trade ends up being widely viewed as a disaster; the Leafs give up a young Kenny Jonsson and a 1997 draft pick that turns into Roberto Luongo. It’s the deal that leads to Fletcher’s infamous “draft schmaft” comment and puts the first serious dent in his Toronto reputation. Still, if you were a Leafs fan back then, you can’t deny that Clark’s return to the Gardens was one of the decade’s best moments.

20. – 2013

The deals: In the first year of the Dave Nonis era, the Leafs only make one move, adding Ryan O’Byrne for a pick.

The outcome: You would have thought the playoff-bound Leafs would be trading for multiple assets, but as it turns out, it was for one.

>> Read the full post at TheAthletic

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The six riskiest trade deadline targets

An NHL rink has never been a place for the prim and proper, and when things get heated there isn’t much in the way of vocabulary that’s considered off limits. But these days, there’s one four-letter word that causes even the bravest hockey lifer to clutch at his pearls and reach for his fainting couch.


Coaches won’t tolerate it, as demonstrated by their game strategies. Players are benched for engaging in it. Fans don’t always understand it. And general managers hate it, which is why most of them go to such great lengths to avoid making trades.

As this year’s deadline draws near, every potential trade target carries some risk. Anyone can get hot, or get hurt. Young prospects can turn out to be the next Brett Hull or Markus Naslund, and tossed-in draft picks can turn out to be the next Ray Bourque or Patrick Roy. No trade, no matter how minor, is ever risk-free.

But some trade targets carry more risk than others. If you go out and pull the trigger on a move for Brian Boyle or Martin Hanzal, you pretty much know what you're getting. Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog would cost you plenty, but you could feel reasonably confident about what the future would hold with either guy.

Other players on the market... well, you wouldn't be so sure. Maybe that's a good thing — it's hard to find a game-changing bargain in the "sure thing" pile. But in a league where nobody ever seems to want to roll the dice and take a risk, these are some of the names that will require doing just that.


Best case: We're going to group these two together because they both offer up the same question: At what point does reputation, character, veteran leadership and good old-fashioned narrative outweigh actual performance?

Both guys are former all-stars and longtime captains who've been around forever, and neither has ever won it all. They're classic Old Guys Without a Cup, and from Lanny MacDonald to Ray Bourque to Teemu Selanne, the hockey world loves its OGWACs.

If you want to get all romantic about things, either of these guys would report to work for a contender and leave absolutely everything on the ice in what could be their very last chance at that elusive title. Then the rest of the team would see that, crank up their own effort level, and go to war for their new teammate. It's a beautiful, vicious cycle, and it ends with one of those Stanley Cup handoffs that makes everyone cry.

Worst case: Neither one of these guys has been very good this year.

Sorry, I know that sounds harsh. But it's reality. Iginla has seven goals and 16 points, while Doan has five and 20. Those aren't exactly the sort of numbers you want to mortgage the future for.

And sure, both of these guys bring more than offence to the table on and off the ice. But this is a young man's league now, and time comes for us all (except maybe Jaromir Jagr). If these two guys look like they're missing a gear now, what would they look like two months into a grueling playoff run?

It's possible that either guy could come cheap, especially if their no-trade clauses mean their current team lets them choose their destination. And that inspirational-veteran narrative is awfully hard to resist. But if this turns into a bidding war, there's a good chance that you give up a decent pick or prospect to bring in an inspiring story that just can't play anymore.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Deadline preview, part two: The buyers

Welcome to part two of the VICE Sports NHL trade deadline preview. Yesterday, we took a look at the league's sellers. That wasn't easy given where the market stands right now, and we had to stretch the definition a bit to find enough teams.

We won't have the same problem today, as we look at the buyers. In theory, you could probably make a case for as many two-thirds of the league's teams falling into this category. They won't all be able to find a dance partner, but they'll be trying—or at least, for the more timid among them, pretending to try.

Instead of giving you 20 identical capsules that all say some variation of "They'd like to add some depth in the middle six and on the blueline," let's narrow the field down to the teams that could be the most interesting over the next week.

Florida Panthers

Where they're at: Back in a playoff spot, albeit barely. That's still a big step forward after a terrible first half that cost the coach his job, painted the picture of a front office in chaos, and had this looking like a lost season. Now they're telling fans they're "all-in" and making it clear that they want to be buyers.

In a perfect world: They need help on offense; the powerplay has struggled and they rank in the bottom third of the league in goals scored. So, in theory, they'd want to be in on someone like Patrick Eaves, Radim Vrbata or Thomas Vanek. Maybe even more than one of them.

But it's more likely that: The team is red hot, and recently welcomed Jonathan Huberdeau back to the lineup after he'd missed the entire season. Aleksander Barkov also returned after an extended absence. That gives the Panthers room to claim that getting those guys back counts as their deadline additions, and they wouldn't be wrong. But GM Dale Tallon has been clear that he wants to do more, so some sort of rental deal to boost the offense seems like a sure thing.

Los Angeles Kings

Where they're at: Hanging around the playoff bubble despite looking like a team that could win it all. So, the usual.

In a perfect world: Dean Lombardi has made big midseason trades that helped the team win a Stanley Cup twice, so he's always a guy to keep an eye on. He's also never been shy about trading first-round picks, and still has this year's in his holster. There may not be many players out there that would be worth that price, and the Kings don't have any obvious holes. But they do have a little bit of cap room to work with, so Lombardi will be sniffing around bigger names that might shake free.

The other question is goaltending. Jonathan Quick has been expected back before the playoffs, but his recovery has been slow and there's a chance he won't make it back this year. If that's the case, the Kings will probably want an experienced backup for Peter Budaj.

But it's more likely that: Only the Kings know what's really up with Quick, but a deal for a goalie wouldn't be a surprise, and an addition up front seems likely.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports