Today was the NHL trade deadline, typically a furious day of wheeling and dealing as general managers try to find the pieces they need to push contenders over the top or dump contracts and stockpile draft picks and prospects. Unfortunately for the ninety-five “experts” assembled by TSN, almost none of whom I’ve ever seen nor heard of before, it turned out to be the slowest deadline day since 2000 (incidentally, that year’s deadline’s inactivity was blamed on the cost incurred by the NHL’s ill-fated Y2K
hockey bunker). There were, however, some interesting developments for us to explore.
Missing: The Florida Panthers Roster
Having dealt just about everybody they could, the Panthers have thrown in the towel and accepted that they’re going to miss the playoffs for an NHL record tenth straight year. With the only notable players on Florida’s roster being netminder Tomas Vokoun and forwards Stephen Weiss and David Booth, one is led to question how the Panthers will ice a team. My theory involves bags of Florida oranges with Panthers jerseys stapled to them.
Theoretically, the Panthers’ long-running rebuild project will eventually pay off and make them a competitive NHL team. Although forcing Tomas Vokoun to make two hundred saves per game as the oranges that serve as his defencemen get deked out of their sacks on a regular basis doesn’t seem like the best way to develop a winner.
Sportsnet had correspondants in each of the Canadian NHL cities to cover the flurry of trades that would surely shake up the Great White North. The reality of the day when talking about most of the Canadian clubs (no, not sandwiches, although I’m sure those were also discussed around hour 34 of the coverage), however, was trying to pry as much conversation as possible out of minor moves involving players nobody cared about.
Aside from the Dustin Penner to Los Angeles trade, most of the conversation carried on along the lines of “so, this depth guy sure is going to be a depth guy on his new team. Yup.”
As has become a custom on deadline day, the Canadian GMs spoke to the media in televised press conferences. Brian Murray ostensibly talked about his plan for the Ottawa Senators going forward, although this is more of a guess on my part since, as far as I can tell, he did his entire press conference in the language of the turtles. Leafs GM Brian Burke, who represents the media’s best shot at getting anything vaguely resembling and interesting quote, also had a tough time delivering, since there’s only so much that can be said about sending John Mitchell to New York. Burke would have had to come out with his pants on his head and punch a camera man to make that interesting.
Conference Calls With Players Are Awkward
Many of the traded players on their way to or from Canadian teams appeared on the deadline coverage via conference call. It goes without saying that the top priority of a player who has just found out that he needs to uproot his life and move to a new team in a new city later that day is to talk to members of the media who are trying to fill time in hour 19 of their coverage. And if you thought hockey players were uninformative in their usual interviews, well you’re in for a surprise: they can be less informative. In this case, it’s because they’ve known about the trade for exactly as much time as the media have.
Conversations typically break down into one of a few categories.
- “I’m excited for the opportunity to help out (insert new team) and try to win a Stanley Cup.”
What it really means: “Thank God I get to leave that train wreck behind and maybe win a Cup because I can kill penalties.”
Example: Chris Higgins (Traded to Vancouver from Florida)
- “I guess I just wasn’t part of their long-term vision.”
What it really means: “I’m over 30 and I’ve just been traded from a truly awful team to a moderately okay team. I am envious of the guy who gets to play for a contender.”
Example: Freddy Modin (Traded to Calgary from Atlanta)
- “I’m excited to be a part of the rebuilding process and help get this team back on track.”
What it really means: “Well I’m glad I got all that winning out of my system last season, since I won’t be seeing it for a while.”
Example: Anyone who ended up in Florida.