Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Chiarelli Cup: Which GM can make the best starting roster from players they’ve traded away?

Last​ week we tried​ to​ figure​ out​ the​ identity​ of NHL​ history’s most entertaining​ trader by assembling​ starting​ lineups based on​​ players a single GM had traded for. Once we rigged the rules to keep Sam Pollock from rolling over the competition, it turned out to be a tight race.

But plenty of you had the same request: Now do it for players a GM had traded away. Or, as we took to calling it in the comment section, The Chiarelli Cup. OK, the customer is always right. You get your wish. Let’s do this.

A few notes before we get to the teams. First, we’re working with slightly different rules than last week. We’ll keep the Sam Pollock rule – the player himself has to be in the trade, not the draft pick used to select him. But last time, we were only giving GMs credit for what a player did on their team. Today, we’re giving credit for everything a player did in their career after the trade. So in theory, today’s rosters should be slightly better than last week’s.

It’s also worth pointing out that the easiest way to make the cut on a list like this is to have lots of trades to work from. Somebody who was only a GM for a few seasons just isn’t going to have the body of work to compete with somebody who was around for three decades (well, with one exception that we’ll get to). So this doesn’t actually end up being a list of history’s worst GMs like you might think. Guys who are widely considered to have been poor traders, like John Ferguson Jr., Réjean Houle or Mel Bridgman don’t show up here. They didn’t keep the job long enough and didn’t have enough talent to work with when they did.

And here’s one final note: There shouldn’t actually be any suspense here, since the answer is actually kind of obvious. Or at least, it should be. But maybe it isn’t, because of all the names I saw thrown around last week, almost nobody mentioned the actual frontrunner. So let’s see if you can figure it out before we get to the end of the list.

But we’ll begin at the beginning, with the man this exercise was named after.

Team Peter Chiarelli

Goalie: Tim Thomas

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Justin Schultz

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel

It’s a solid group. That forward line is a killer and we could follow it up with a second unit that includes Jordan Eberle and Blake Wheeler. There’s depth all up and down the roster, to be honest, and the Pollock rule means we’re not even giving credit for the Mathew Barzal pick here. But the starting blueliners are just OK and the goaltending isn’t great – Thomas should barely even count, since he was traded to the Islanders, never played and then left as a free agent before playing one more decent NHL season.

So Chiarelli’s not bad. But we can definitely do better. Let’s try the other name that probably popped into your head as soon as you heard the concept.

Team Mike Milbury

Goalie: Roberto Luongo

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Darius Kasparaitis

Forwards: Ziggy Palffy, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi

Even without quite as much star power up front, this team beats Chiarelli’s pretty easily. It’s more balanced, with first-ballot Hall of Famers in goal and on the blueline. And it’s deep too, with names like Chris Osgood, Mathieu Schneider, Bryan McCabe, Bryan Berard, Michael Peca and Wendel Clark available.

Maybe even more impressively, it’s not like Milbury builds this roster by swinging high-profile but well-balanced blockbusters like some of his colleagues – he lost pretty much every trade that leads to that starting six. And you could make a strong case that we should waive the Pollock rule for Jason Spezza, since Milbury traded the second-overall pick on draft day and it was well-known at the time who the Senators would be using it on. We won’t do that here – rules are rules – but we all know what’s up.

So with apologies to its namesake, it’s Milbury who stakes out the early leader status for the Chiarelli Cup. But the competition is about to heat up.

Team David Poile

Goalie: Devan Dubnyk

Defensemen: Larry Murphy, Seth Jones

Forwards: Mike Gartner, Dino Ciccarelli, Jason Allison

Yikes. This loaded lineup is basically the anti-Milbury team; Poile did well on several of these trades, but has always been willing to give up something to get something. Still, that’s three Hall of Famers from his Washington days, plus two current all-stars – not to mention Shea Weber, who you could swap in on the blueline if you wanted. The third forward is really the only iffy spot, as Allison edges out a three-way Matt Duchene deal that only kind of counts.

The Dubnyk deal is a little bit of a sneaky addition, since he was barely considered an NHLer at that point and was basically given away to Montreal for nothing in return. Still, it counts, and based on his career resurgence in Minnesota it gives Team Poile a potential goaltending controversy with guys like Byron Dafoe and Tomas Vokoun. And as a side note, the Pollock Rule comes into play yet again, and it keeps a couple of big-name draft picks out of the Team Poile lineup: Joe Sakic and Erik Karlsson.

And just like that, I think we’ve got Milbury beat. With the two early favorites already out of the running, let’s see if we can find someone to challenge Poile.

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