Thursday, June 29, 2017

The craziest half hour in offseason history, one year later

Do you remember where you were one year ago this afternoon?

If you’re a hockey fan, there’s a good chance you do. That’s because today marks the one-year anniversary of the craziest 23 minutes in NHL off-season history. In less than the time it takes to deliver a pizza, NHL front offices delivered three of the biggest stories of the entire year: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, and Steven Stamkos re-signing in Tampa.

Sports fan like to talk about days and moments that change everything, and it’s almost always hyperbole. But June 29, 2016, might qualify. We woke up thinking that certain players were untradeable, that the art of the one-for-one deal was all but dead, and that a superstar in his prime really could reach free agency and switch teams.

By the end of the day, none of those things was true anymore, along with thoughts like, “Nothing that happens in an NHL off-season could truly shock me.”

So yes, a lot changed in just 23 minutes. But a lot can change in 12 months, too, and some of the things we were left believing a year ago have evolved since. Today, let’s mark the anniversary of that wild day by comparing how things looked in the immediate aftermath of the madness compared to how they look right now.

The view a year ago: Trading P.K. Subban is the kind of thing that could come back to bite Marc Bergevin.

The view today: Trading P.K. Subban has come back to bite Marc Bergevin.

We’re not declaring winners or losers in the Subban/Weber deal yet — we’ve still got another decade or so to decide that. But when you look at everyone involved in that wild afternoon, you could make a case that nobody’s reputation has taken more of a hit than Bergevin’s.

Being the GM of the Canadiens may be one of the toughest jobs in sports, and Bergevin has been doing it for five years now, so it was inevitable that some of the shine would come off. But it wasn’t all that long ago that Bergevin was pretty darn shiny. He’d been named a finalist for GM of the Year in just his second season, and notoriously hard-to-please Montreal fans seemed cautiously optimistic about the job he was doing. He’d locked down Max Pacioretty on a fantastic deal, and got Carey Price at what turned out to be decent value. The Thomas Vanek rental hadn’t really worked, but Jeff Petry seemed like a smart pickup, and Habs fans seemed OK with the recent Andrew Shaw trade.

And then came Subban/Weber, a blockbuster so big that nothing else really seemed to matter anymore.

Many fans and analysts absolutely hated the trade, calling it a huge mistake, maybe even the worst in team history. That view was far from unanimous, and even today many Habs fans are perfectly fine with the swap.

But after watching the Canadiens make a first-round exit while the Predators rolled all the way to Cup final, everything Bergevin does is viewed through the Subban/Weber lens. And it didn’t help that it sure looked like the Habs were choosing Michel Therrien over Subban, only to fire the coach midway through the season.

By the time the 2017 trade deadline arrived and Bergevin was remaking the bottom of his roster on the fly, the skepticism was palpable, and today many Habs fans seem to be holding their breath over his attempts to trade Alexander Galchenyuk and/or acquire a top-line centre. Bergevin is facing more off-season pressure than any GM in the league, and his fan base seems a lot less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt than they were before that fateful day a year ago.

The view a year ago: The Oilers don’t know what they’re doing.

The view today: The Oilers might know what they’re doing.

Here’s the other side of the criticism coin. While Bergevin was questioned about his trade, Peter Chiarelli was outright roasted for his. The Hall trade became an immediate punchline, with a consensus forming almost instantly. The Oilers had made a huge mistake. They needed to get a bigger return. The Devils had pulled off a robbery. One so-called expert even said Edmonton had finally “worked up the nerve to talk to the pretty girl across the street, then stepped right into an open manhole cover”. (That last one was me. Look, I’m a Leafs fan — bad trades are kind of an area of expertise.)

One year later, well, it’s funny what a 103-point season and a return to the playoffs after over a decade can do to perceptions.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

No comments:

Post a Comment