Friday, April 9, 2021

Who was the best player to ever be the worst player in a trade?

With just days until the deadline, I want to try to tackle one of those questions that sounds simple but ends up being tougher than you might think: Who was the best worst player in an NHL trade?

In other words, if you took every player from a given trade and ranked them from best to worst, which trades from history give you a really good player in the last spot?

Clearly, we’re not looking at deals that only had one player involved, or even those with just two. Johnny Bucyk was probably worse than Terry Sawchuk, but that doesn’t really fit the spirit of what we’re going for here.

But a funny thing happens if you set the minimum at even three players: It suddenly gets really hard to find “good” bad players, because as it turns out, NHL GMs really love to start tossing random names into trades. Once you knock them out of the one-for-one equilibrium, they start floundering around and the next thing you know, your Phil Esposito-for-Brad Park blockbuster also has Joe Zanussi in it.

So today, let’s try to find that best worst trade piece from a trade of three players or more. We’re not counting draft picks here – your name has to have been in the original trade.

I went looking through the archives, and here are a few candidates I came up with.

Bob Rouse

The player: Rouse was never a Norris candidate, but he was a very good defensive defenseman in an era where that was a highly coveted skillset.

The trade: At the 1989 deadline, the North Stars traded Rouse and Dino Ciccarelli to the Capitals for Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy.

Why this guy was good: Rouse was a classic hard-nosed blueliner who could throw big hits and handle himself in a fight with pretty much anyone. That translated to a 17-season career that included two Cups with the Red Wings. His 127 playoff games in the 1990s ranks third among all defensemen.

But the other guys in the deal were: Hall-of-Famers. All of them.

That’s what makes this trade such a great example of what we’re looking for. Bob Rouse was really good! His arrival in Toronto was a big piece of turning that team around, and there’s a reason the Wings targeted him in free agency when they felt like they were on the verge of winning it all. But he’s the fourth best piece in this four-player trade by a mile, because the other pieces in the deal were a 600-goal scorer, a 700-goal scorer, and a guy who ranks in the top-five in all-time scoring for his position.

Compared to those guys, Rouse is schlub. But he might be the best player to ever be the worst player in a four-player trade.

Then again, this next guy might have something to say about that…

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Athletic Hockey Show: A GM's perspective on the trade deadline

On this week's episode of The Athletic Hockey Show:

Ian and I are joined by TSN analyst and former Flames GM Craig Button:
- What it's like to negotiate a deadline day deal
- Behind-the-scenes on the Iginla/Nieuwendyk trade
- The human side of trading players away
- Whether Craig is expecting a quiet deadline day on TSN
- What kind of GM is the most annoying to deal with

- More deadline thoughts
- The Devils and Islanders make a deal
- Should the Canucks finish the season?
- Which current coach would make the best emergency goalie
- Listener voice mails, the craziest final day in NHL history, and lots more...

The Athletic Hockey Show runs most days of the week during the season, with Ian and I hosting every Thursday. There are two versions of each episode available:
- An ad-free version for subscribers that you can find here
- An ad-supported version you can get for free wherever you normally find your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Puck Soup: Deadline countdown

On this week's episode of the Puck Soup podcast:
- We count down to the trade deadline
- Where we'd want to see Taylor Hall end up
- Should the Blues be sellers?
- The races for the final playoff spots are shaping up to be... bad
- The Canucks' COVID situation
- How the awards race is shaping up
- The NHL's top ten centers, the best wrestling heels, and more...

>> Stream it now:

>> Or, listen on The Athletic or subscribe on iTunes.

>> Get weekly mailbags and special bonus episodes by supporting Puck Soup on Patreon for $5.

In the final days before the deadline, who’s under the most pressure to make a deal?

We’re down to less than a week until the trade deadline, and do you know who needs to make a deal? (Checks notes.) Everyone. Pretty much every team needs to find a move or two, at least according to their fans. And those fans are probably right, because there are no perfect teams in the modern NHL, so there’s always room for improvement.

But while everyone should do something, not all trade deadline pressure is created equal. Some teams want to make a move. Some should make a move. But some teams need to do something, and preferably something big. If they don’t, well, those GMs aren’t going to have a very good month.

We really don’t know what to expect over the next few days. The cap is tight, almost nobody has money to spend, the playoff bubble somehow has like three teams, and there may be more sellers than serious buyers. What does that mean? No idea, but let’s run through the entire league and work our way up to the ones under the most pressure to get something done. We’ll use some categories along the way, as we make our way through all 32 teams. Yes, 32. We’ll get to that.

The situation we’ve never seen before

Before we get to the rest of the list, we have to single one team out.

#32. Vancouver Canucks

In theory, Jim Benning and the Canucks should be staring down several tough deadline decisions after a disastrous season. But with a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak impacting players, staff, and families, all bets are off. How do you trade somebody away during this sort of situation? How do you bring somebody into it? I’m not sure you can. We’ve never this before, and here’s hoping we never see it again. The league and its business marches on, but if Benning decided that the Canucks had far bigger things to worry about right now, nobody could blame him.

Sellers without much to sell

The deadline can be kind of fun when your team is bad and you’re just collecting picks and prospects. But when you don’t really seem to have any big names on the block, you’re mostly left to make minor deals.

#31. Ottawa Senators

The Senators will almost certainly do something, because Pierre Dorion is low-key one of the most active traders in the league. But this isn’t the Mark Stone/Matt Duchene storm of 2019, so unless Dorion’s got a surprise up his sleeve, he’s probably taking calls on Erik Gudbranson and maybe Ryan Dzingel, and those names don’t scream blockbuster. The Derek Stepan injury hurts here.

#30. Detroit Red Wings

The Wings have a little more to offer, with the annual Luke Glendening sweepstakes and at least some potential for a Jonathan Bernier move. But for the most part, Steve Yzerman can make a few minor moves and then focus on losing the lottery again the offseason.

Contenders that are already really good

There’s always deadline pressure on the contenders, who are expected to make that one last move that will put them over the top. But these teams are already close to the top, which means that if they chose to stand pat (or swung big and came up empty), they could justify it.

#29. Tampa Bay Lightning

Julien BriseBois had a strong deadline last year, adding Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, and both are still on the roster. You only get so many shots at a Cup, so you could understand if BriseBois wanted to keep pushing all-in and chase down a name like David Savard. But if he said he was sticking with what he’s got, could you blame him?

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Monday, April 5, 2021

Weekend Rankings: Which team has been the league’s most mediocre?

This is the season’s 12th edition of the weekend power rankings, which feels wrong somehow, but I’m not sure in which direction. Are we really almost three months in? I’m pretty sure the season just started. Or maybe it’s been going on forever. One of those two, though.

Either way, this feels like a good time for one of my favorite annual bits: The quest to find the season’s most average team. This is where we step away from arguing about the top five and bottom five and instead look for the one team that’s been the most middle-of-the-pack. Or, as it used to be called before Kirill Kaprizov showed up, the Minnesota Wild Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Being The Minnesota Wild.

Every week, we pick the five best teams and the five worst, and since there tends to be at least a little churn on both lists, we usually end up covering most of the league. This year has been no different, as we end up with some nice round numbers: Ten teams cracking the top five so far, and ten more in the bottom.

On the good side, we’ve had Tampa Bay and Vegas on the list all season long, with Colorado right with them apart from a brief absence. The Hurricanes have been a regular since mid-February. The Capitals and Bruins have both had long stretches representing the East, and the Islanders slipped in a few weeks ago. The Leafs and Habs have both represented the North. And the tenth team to make an appearance was (squints at list) the Flyers. Huh. That one stands out, although in fairness they were ranked fifth just once, and it was way back in week one after they scored 11 goals against the Penguins on the way to a 2-0-0 start. Look, we said that one was too early.

The bottom five has featured Detroit and Ottawa every week. The Ducks have been there most of the time, and the Sabres have been a weekly regular since February. The Kings and Hawks both showed up early before working their way off the list, the Devils and Sharks have had multiple appearances, and the Predators and Canucks have both shown up in the five-spot.

All in all, I think both lists hold up reasonably well, with the exception of that one Philadelphia pick. We’ve also yet to see a team crack both lists, which happens most years, although again the Flyers sure seem to be working on it.

So what about the 11 teams that haven’t shown up on either list? Which ones have come close, and which ones are so stuck-in-the-middle that they barely even register as a candidate?

Let’s start at the top. The Panthers haven’t cracked the top five yet, but they’ve been extremely close on a few occasions, to the point where an extra weekend win here or there might have done the trick. Our old friends in Minnesota have been in the running too. Either team could make the list at some point down the stretch and it wouldn’t be a surprise. We haven’t given the North much love, but the division’s best team will always have at least a claim to a top-five spot, so a strong finish by the Oilers or Jets would put them in the running. And the Penguins have looked strong lately, making a solid case that they should be considered the East’s top team.

At the other end, the team in the most danger of cracking the bottom five these days is the Flames, with the Blue Jackets not far behind. Either could hit the bottom list soon, especially if they weaken the roster by selling at the deadline. The Stars aren’t quite as close, but they could at least make a case with ten more losses than wins.

And that leaves us with three teams who don’t seem all that close cracking either list, fighting it out for “most average” honors. The Blues were hanging around top-five consideration for the first month before flatlining recently; there’s not enough time for them to make a real run at the bottom-five, but those big swings don’t really fit what we’re looking for in an average team. The Rangers got off to a slow start and had a pair of four-game losing streaks in the first month, but have been better since. They’re a classic fake .500 team, good enough to be kind of in the playoff mix but not really a scary matchup for anyone they’d face. I’d say they had a strong case for Most Average, although they lose a few mediocrity points for those beatdowns they put on the Flyers.

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