Wednesday, March 24, 2021

12 excuses to have ready for when your NHL team makes a bad trade

We’re weeks away from the trade deadline, which is just about the best time of year for a hockey fan. Right now, everyone has hope. It comes in different forms, depending on how things are going for your favorite team, but it’s there. Whether your team is looking to start a rebuild or add some key pieces or just find that one last player that will make them Cup favorites, this is the moment. Any day now, they can make the trade that turns it all around.

Unless they screw it all up.

That’s the downside of trading, right? When they work, there’s nothing better. But sometimes they don’t, and a deal becomes that one mistake that sets a franchise back years, or worse. Often, it can take years before we realize a team has messed up. But not always. Sometimes, we know right away, because a trade is just terrible. It gets announced, there’s immediate confusion that it can’t be right, the smart people start asking questions, the GM is doing deer-in-the-headlights interviews, and suddenly even the most loyal fans begin to realize things have gone horribly wrong.

That’s where the excuses come in. It’s a defense mechanism, mostly, with a little bit of homer self-preservation mixed in. When your team has screwed up and you know it, you really have two options. You can embrace the misery and start calling for everyone to be fired. Or you can start trying to convince yourself that it’s not so bad.

I’m a Leafs fan, so I have plenty of experience in this area. So today, in anticipation of the trades to come in the next few weeks, I want to walk you through some of the excuses that are available to you under different scenarios. Not all of these will apply to every team or every situation, but I’m pretty sure there’s something here for everyone.

Remember, it’s important to be prepared. Here’s hoping you won’t have to use any of these over the next few weeks. But given who’s in charge of some of your favorite teams, you’re going to want to be ready.

He Just Needs a Change of Scenery

Who says it: Every fan who just watched their team trade for a guy who’s been terrible this year.

It goes something like: “OK, sure, it seems like we gave up too much based on the season this guy is having. But maybe he just needs a change of scenery. Surely he’ll improve once he’s on a new team where he doesn’t know the system or have any chemistry with any teammates. Huh, that sounded better in my head.”

What it means: Nobody really knows, but that hasn’t hurt this one’s popularity. It’s basically included in the starter pack for fan excuses, and the nice thing is that it can even be used preemptively on players who are only rumored to be on the trade block.

Has it ever come true? Sure, like three times in NHL history, so you can’t rule it out. Just don’t get your hopes up.

Don’t mess it up by replying: “Is it really a change of scenery if it’s during a pandemic and nobody is allowed to leave the team hotel?”

Too Many Prospects

Who says it: A fan of a team who just seemed to give up way too many future assets for a rental who may not even be very good.

It goes something like: “On the surface it may seem like we gave up way too much. But here’s the thing, we can afford it because we have so many prospects. Too many, really.”

What it means: That the person knows how to Google the name of their team and “Pronman.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that every team has a lot of prospects. It would be almost impossible not to. There isn’t a single NHL team that’s icing an AHL lineup with 10 guys because that’s all they could find, or passing on every draft pick. You’re supposed to have prospects, and some of them will even be good.

But do you have too many? Or at least, so many that you can afford to part with them at a discount? It’s not impossible, and it’s a nice problem to have, but it won’t apply to roughly 90 percent of the teams this excuse gets made for.

Don’t mess it up by replying: “Hey, why does Pronman use the term ‘future ECHL depth piece upside’ six times on his top 10 list?”

The Veteran Presence in the Room

Who says it: The fan of any team that just gave up way too much for a guy who’s way too old. Also, that team’s coach and GM, probably.

It goes something like: “This guy might not be any good anymore … on the ice. But what about in the room? Got to have guys that are good in the room. This guy is good in the room.”

What it means: He’s old and bad but probably has a Cup ring.

Look, we all know the deal. NHL teams love their Gritty Veterans who have Lots Of Compete and who Just Know How To Win. They will absolutely pay a premium to add those guys at this time of year, even if they’ve spent the entire season skating around dragging a giant fork sticking out of the small of their back.

Sometimes there’s even some truth to it. I’m not going to knock it, because I’m the guy who writes love notes to OGWACs every season. But yeah, fans will overdo this one.

Side note: I love when old guys are described as a “presence in the room” because it makes it sound like they’ve died and are now haunting the rink.

Don’t mess it up by replying: “Do you mean the trainer’s room, because that’s where he’s spent pretty much this entire season.”

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