COHEN’S CONDEMNATIONS: The Trade Deadline

Greetings hockey fans!

Jesse Cohen here again to tell you why the things you love are horrible and why you’re horrible for loving them!

For every “Greatest Trade in Trade Deadline History” there’s a fan base rubbing it’s collective temples still wondering twenty three years later, “How in the hell did Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson turn into Zarley Zalapski (yes that’s a real name) and oh yea…  where the hell did our team go?”

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Carolina. They wen’t to Carolina.

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THE 5 WORST THINGS ABOUT
THE TRADE DEADLINE

 

5. The General Managers (Dean Lombardi exempt)

There’s a particularly pernicious prevarication that goes a little something like this…   “Well there’s only 30 of those jobs in the world so they must know SOMETHING in order to have gotten one of them.”  With apologies to Mark Twain (or Benjamin Disraeli if you prefer) there are lies, damn lies and this ridiculous myth.

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Garth Snow couldn’t generally manage being a starting goalie.

Garth Snow was a career backup goaltender before being hired, upon retiring from his playing career, as the General Manager of the New York Islanders.  He was hired despite a total lack of experience in any kind of management other than having ridiculously over sized shoulder pads.  Defenders of the hire pointed to his  Master’s Degree in Administration and Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Maine.  Sane people point to the New York Islanders record of 231-259-75 and a 5th place finish (out of 5) in 5 of the 7 seasons with Snow as General Manager.  The Islanders are currently in 8th place in their division.

THIS is the kind of man who can rise to assume one of those coveted thirty jobs in the NHL.  This is the kind of man who would trade an impending UFA AND a 1st round pick AND a 2nd round pick for another impending UFA, then turn around and trade that player he acquired for a prospect and a 2nd round pick at the trade deadline.

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Snow isn’t alone among General Managers that routinely elicit looks of confusion or guffaws of derision from their fan base.  All one needs to do is examine the last few years worth of transactions in Vancouver and Philadelphia (two recent Stanley Cup Final participants no less) to see how clueless even the relatively successful hockey minds can appear.

I’d put a picture of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter holding the Stanley Cup here just to drive the point home but I feel like that would be cruel and frankly a little lazy.  I mean how many times can we go to the same well?  How many times must we remind people that the Philadelphia Flyers signed these two players to long term contracts and then turned around and traded the both of them to make room for a big name free agent Goalie only to then watch them reunite and win the Stanley Cup in dominant fashion with the Los Angeles Kings???

Oh.  One more time?

Fine.

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It never gets old.

It’s made only more poignant by the fact that the goalie the Flyers acquired was traded this trade deadline to the Minnesota Wild.

By the Oilers.

Because the Flyers bought him out already.

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The newest development in General Manager self sabotage allows a team to “retain” a portion of a traded players salary giving them ANOTHER WAY TO PAY PLAYERS NOT TO PLAY FOR THEM.

These are the men in whose hands rests the fates of your favorite teams and players.  Certainly you can tell yourselves that these men are simply spending someone else’s money and that it’s none of your concern but how much time and energy have you invested in your favorite team?  Now try and attach a monetary value to that time and energy.  Now realize that once a year twenty nine degenerate lunatics take that money, toss it into the back of a station wagon and wantonly drive it off a cliff.

Into a vat of flaming dog poop.   

4. The Allure of the Entry Draft

It would be one thing if the Trade Deadline occurred in a vacuum and teams were simply given a deadline by which no more trades could be made, but every season the shadow of the NHL Entry Draft looms over each deadline transaction and rumor.  The NHL Entry Draft rewards the teams with the worst records.  This system forces teams to annually choose between being “buyers” or “sellers” and subjects the fans to endless conversations regarding which teams will be which.

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It’s a polite way of asking “which teams know they’re utter garbage and are going to start shot gunning their talent all over the league with no regard to competitive balance in order to hoard a bunch of lottery tickets?”

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this next little bit…   but…   NO TEAM SHOULD EVER BE A SELLER.  Except the Flames.

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The current model of awarding high draft picks to the worst teams in the league is well meaning but it’s time to recognize it’s flaws.  Besides encouraging teams to deliberately become less competitive, it subjects loyal fans and paying customers to a sub par product.  Worse yet, many fans actually find themselves rooting for their teams to lose games.

It’s utterly absurd that the NHL season trudges along for 60 games with all 30 teams building rosters and chemistry only to then have 8-12 of them decide to suddenly start planning for a future when they’ve already proven they’re woefully unqualified.  How many draft picks do the Oilers have to make before they realize they’re terrible at translating them into regular season success?

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It’s a trick question. They’ll never realize it.

3. The Salary Cap/Free Agency

The Salary Cap and Free Agency are the two headed monster of the NHL Entry Draft.  It’s not enough anymore to know what your team needs to make them more competitive.  Now you have to be intimately familiar with the contract status of not only all your favorite players but also of any potential players you might want your favorite team to acquire.  

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Think the Ducks should acquire Kesler?  HOW WILL THEY FIT HIM UNDER THE CAP???

Think the Kings should acquire Vanek?  DON’T OVERPAY FOR A RENTAL PLAYER!!!

General Managers are already hard pressed to make wise hockey decisions without the pressure of a manufactured deadline stressing them out and the allure of shiny draft picks to distract them.  Toss in complicated math involving salaries, contract length and things like Salary Recapture penalties and you begin to see why General Managers and Coaches are fired so frequently in the NHL.

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2. The Media

Everything can be summed up by this clip.

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A room full of “journalists” sitting around different tables spend all day over analyzing a handful of transactions and rumors while harassing General Managers in a desperate attempt to be the first to report transactions that the NHL will announce as a matter of policy anyway.

1. The Fans

Every year tons of you skip class or call in sick to work.  You devote an entire day (or more) to tracking the transactions and rumors while neglecting friends, family, responsibility and personal hygiene.

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You spend all day feverishly checking twitter or facebook or TSN or NHL.com and when someone finally makes a trade involving 4th round draft picks and utility forwards you’ve never heard of you convince yourself it’s relevant and that you care deeply about it.

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Then that moment arrives when an honest to goodness All Star caliber player is traded.

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Lost in your hysteria over a trade made to accommodate personality conflicts, salary cap restrictions, Free Agency concerns and maybe fill in a roster gap here or there is the fact that every year 30 teams attempt to win the Stanley Cup and every year only one team winds up doing it.  That team is comprised of players acquired over years of trades and free agent signings and it’s rare that a serious contender makes a huge trade that results in a Cup win the same season.

The Trade Deadline’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

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Of all the members of Team TRH Jesse Cohen probably comes closest to actually hating the Kings. Whether obsessing over the 1998 sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, wishing he had witnessed the fight between Dmitri Khristich and Barry Potomski or cursing their attempts to fool the fans by dressing Randy Robitaille for 18 games, Jesse harbors a deep-seeded resentment towards the Kings.You can follow Jesse Cohen on Twitter @KingsMenPodcast.