Sunday, May 4, 2008

Trade Deadline '08 - Why it's good news for the '09 Leafs

Apparently a few readers have noted that this blog tends to take a somewhat pessimistic view of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is probably a fair observation. I do tend to be a tad negative about the Leafs, largely due to the fact that I have two eyes and a functioning brain.

But the whole "wah wah, go cry emo fan" routine can get stale after a while. So I'm pleased to announce that this week will be Optimism Week. For one solid week, it's going to be nothing but puppies and birthday cakes here at Down Goes Brown. Enjoy it while you can, we'll be back to reality next week.

Today's post: a look at the 2008 NHL Trade Deadline, and why it's shaping up to be good news for the 2009 Maple Leafs.

I know, I know. The 2008 deadline was a disaster for the Leafs. Their desperately needed rebuilding plan was torpedoed by Mats Sundin and the rest of the loser brigade, tying the hands of Cliff Fletcher and dooming Leaf fans to another half decade of soul-crushing misery.

Hm, this optimism thing is harder than I thought.

But in addition to watching a bunch of fat millionaires destroy the Leafs rebuilding plan, the 2008 deadline was also notable for a constant theme in the coverage leading up the big day. Story after story made sure to point out that recent history seemed to show that deadline blockbusters didn't work out. The big deals in 2007, such as Ryan Smyth to the Islanders, Keith Tkachuk to the Thrashers, Ladislav Nagy to the Stars and Peter Forsberg to the Predators had all amounted to a big hill of jack squat come playoff time.

So let's take a look back at the '08 deadline, with an eye towards how the big deals have impacted the playoffs so far.

- The Penguins acquire Marion Hossa from the Thrashers - Probably the biggest deal of the day. When the trade went down, most observers agreed that the Pens had given up too much. Fast forward ahead two months, and the Penguins have rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, knocking out the Rangers today thanks to an OT winner by Hossa. They'll be heavy favorites in conference finals.

- The Sharks acquire Brian Campbell from the Sabres - This deal moved the Sharks from solid contender to quasi-favorite. They closed the season on a tear, and were touted by many as Cup favorites. They knocked out the Flames in round one, and as of this writing are still alive against Dallas (although hanging by a thread). Speaking of Dallas...

- The Dallas Stars acquire Brad Richards from the Lightning: Richards had four assists in his first game with the Stars, and has been a steady contributor ever since. The Stars shocked the experts by knocking out the defending champion Ducks in the first round, and are on the verge of eliminating the heavily favored Sharks in the round two.

- The Capitals acquire Cristobel Huet and Sergei Federov in separate deals - Thought to be playoff longshots, the Caps loaded up at the deadline and went on a tear. The stormed through the rest of the regular season, winning the division on the final day. While they lost a seven game heartbreaker to the Flyers, the Caps put themselves back on the hockey map thanks in part to their aggressive dealing.

Other teams also made efforts to bulk up. The Flyers added Vinny Prospal, and are headed for the conference finals. The Avs picked up Adam Foote and free agent Peter Forsberg, and won a playoff round before being overcome by injuries. The already stacked Wings picked up Brad Stuart and are looking like odds-on favorites to take the title right now.

Meanwhile, some teams stood pat:

- The Ottawa Senators were struggling badly and looked like they needed to make a big move. But as per team tradition, the went deer-in-the-headlights on deadline day, only making one minor deal for Martin Lapointe who had no impact during his Sens stint. Instead, the team continued to freefall. They almost missed the playoffs, backing in on the season's final weekend, and then were embarrassed during a listless first round sweep.

- The Anaheim Ducks, who had won a Cup the previous year without making any major deadline moves, once again stood pat. They were pushed aside with relative ease in the first round.

- The Montreal Canadiens actually managed to get worse at the deadline, moving Huet to the Caps for a draft pick. The looked strong to end the season, but their lack of goaltending depth killed their promising post-season chances. They managed a round one win over the eight seed Bruins (barely), but surrendered easily to the Flyers behind Carey Price's best Andre Racicot impression.

Bottom line: For the most part, the teams that went big at the deadline have reaped big rewards. The teams that played it cautious are sitting at home with tire treads on their jerseys.

What does any of this have to do with the Leafs? Simple. When next year's deadline rolls around, we're going to hear all sorts of talk about how the 2008 playoffs were shaped by the trade market -- especially if the Stars or Penguins win the Cup. And all that hype can only be good news for the teams that will be selling at the 2009 deadline.

And make no mistake, the Leafs will be sellers next year. When it comes time to trade whichever veterans are left -- McCabe, Tucker, Kaberle, Blake, Sundin, or even (dare I say it) Vesa Toskala – there should be a very nice seller's market waiting for them. That could translate into a nice windfall if the new GM plays his cards right.

It will be a year too late, but good news delayed is still good news.


  1. we should try and trade toskala for a pick(s) right now...that way we're forced to play rayCRAP and tavares is a maple leaf in 2009/2010...

    tank it up!

  2. optimism week is going to be entertaining. it will be hard to find other avenues to be excited about.

    demand at the trade deadline is always heated, more importantly we need a gm that can capitalize on a seller's market.

  3. No! Not Vesa! NOT VESA!!!!

    well....only if Tavares was a lock.

    -jaredoflondon via Internet Purgatory

  4. in my drunken stupor last night i thought i was dreaming when i read that "optimism" was going to be a part of Down Goes Brown.

    turns out it is true.


    yes, should be a glorious week, indeed!

  5. I do tend to be a tad negative about the Leafs, largely due to the fact that I have two eyes and a functioning brain.

    Damn that functioning brain!

    Imagine if Habs fans knew about them though. They might have clued in that their team was dead if the PP didn't go at a 25% clip which, and apparently this suprised them, is difficult to do in the playoffs.

    p.s. no kittens?

  6. At least I'm not the only one in a girly/overly sugary mood today.

    PPP, the problem with kittens is they turn into cats. Puppies, however, turn into dogs.

    jaredoflondon lives! kinda...