Post-Deadline Peformances, Part 1: Paying Dividends
Itâ€™s been 9 days since the deadline and already certain teams are rising and others are falling based on their performance on the â€œmaydayâ€ trade day. Hereâ€™s a closer look at how a few teams and players are fairing since the event transpired:
Top 3:#3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Acquiring Vermette for a 2nd round pick.
In what was possibly the most intelligent move by the history of the Blue Jacketsâ€™ management, they dealt an injured goaltender who will not play a single game this season to the Senators for Antoine Vermette. They also dealt a 2nd round pick, along with the injured Pascal Leclaire, to Ottawa as compensation for his injury. Essentially, for the rest of this year (including the playoff run), the Jackets dealt a 2nd round pick for a player with an unbelievable amount of untapped potential in Vermette. He can fly, he can shoot, and he has the ability to jump very, very high.
- Also worth noting is the guy in the Sabres jersey who is clearly bored by this play.
Vermette joined the Jackets after they went 2-4 in their last 6 games, and immediately sparked the team to a huge victory over the Red Wings (8-2), followed by a 2-0 shutout over league leading Boston Bruins, and a 4-3 win over the hottest team in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thatâ€™s right, arguably the 3 best teams in the league right now all fell to the hands of the Blue Jackets. Did I mention heâ€™s been one of the 3 stars of 2 of his 3 games in a Jackets uniform? Over those 3 games, he has a goal and 3 assists, and is a +2. In 62 games for the Senators, who basically had him rotating between 2nd and 3rd line, he 9 goals and 28 points. To put this into perspective, if Vermette continues his strong play as a Blue Jacket for the rest of the year, he could post an additional 18 points in the remaining 14 games, giving him 22 points as a Jacket. Essentially, in 17 games, Vermette could nearly match his point total on the season as a Senator. Talk about a guy who just needed a change of scenery. Not the mention, the Jackets now own the 6th seed in the West and are just 1 point behind the Vancouver Canucks, who they could very well leapfrog at any minute. For those who thought the Jackets didnâ€™t do much to guarantee themselves a playoff position, you better take a closer look before casting a judgment. This team is much stronger than they are at first glance.
In a Few Words: Nash, the untapped potential of Vermette, and the heroic antics of Steve Mason = Cinderella Story.
#2. Calgary Flames: Acquiring Jordan Leopold and Olli Jokinen.
Both players have joined the team for 6 games thus far and are immediately paying dividends. Jokinen has 8 goals over the course of the 6 games but is a -1 in that duration with 6 PIM. Leopold has 1 assist for his efforts and a -4 with 2 PIM. They both average between 18 to 20 minutes of ice time per game and are effective in their role. The +/Minus statistic does not reflect their game whatsoever. Considering both are offensive machines, itâ€™s no surprise they would not be fantastic defensive players but that is not why Sutter acquired them. If he wanted a shut down defenseman he would have traded for Andy Wozniewski. All kidding aside, Jokinen has added that secondary punch this team has craved for years. He has been rumored to be dealt to Calgary before he even signed his lengthy contract with Florida and itâ€™s no wonder â€“ he is absolutely the perfect fit for this club. Calgary is known for playing a physical and somewhat boring game as they rely on their defensive and goaltending skills to bail them out from time to time but not they have a legitimate offensive threat in the new â€œbig 3â€; Iginla, Jokinen and Cammalleri.
Then throw in some zesty Bertuzzi and Langkow and you have yourself a hell of a strong core up front. This team is scary good. How scary? They can bounce back whenever they feel like digging in their heels and regain control of a game. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings who watched their 4-2 lead after 40 hold off the Flames from scoring until there was just under 4 minutes to play and they netted 3 goals in 2:02. Thatâ€™s right, with under 4 minutes left, the Flames forced the Red Wings to tie the game up with under a minute left. Then they routed Conklin with 2 out of 3 shots in the shootout to win the game. They made it look easy, and that is downright scary when youâ€™re playing the Red Wings. Did I mention they were outshot 45 to 33? No worries though, they outshot the Red Wings 17-2 in the final frame. Let me repeat that, 17 to TWO. So much for the offensive dynamo that is Detroit.
In a Few Words: Fear the Flames.
#1. Pittsburgh Penguins: Acquiring Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz
There was no big change, there was no trade of Jordan Staal for a veteran shooter or leadership, there was no defensive explosion, and they fixed everything without tearing much of anything down. Ray Shero dealt Ryan Whitney for a great prospect in Tangradi and Chris Kunitz and dealt a conditional pick for Bill Guerin. Oh, and they also fired Michel Therrien â€“ this guy:
They replaced Therrien with Dan Bylsma and heâ€™s put the â€œsmaâ€ in â€œsmackdownâ€ that the Penguins have been dishing out lately. The team is 8-1-1 in their last 10, and are far and away the hottest team in the league right now. Chris Kunitz, who has averaged just over 16 minutes of ice time per game in Pittsburgh, has 3 goals and 8 points with a +5 in 7 games. Yeah, heâ€™s over a point a game after being considered a 40 to 50 point guy his entire career. Did I mention his shooting percentage in Penguin-land is 20%? I didnâ€™t? Better jot that down next time you play proline. Bill Guerin, the old guy who they got for a weird conditional pick, has been playing like he is 25 again. As a Penguin, heâ€™s appeared in 4 games and has posted 1 goal, 4 assists, and a +2. He plays just over 17 minutes a game and he was practically free. In their last 7 games, the Penguins have averaged 4 goals a game. To put that in a much simpler term: If you tune into a Penguin game and watch 15 minutes and they donâ€™t score, youâ€™re not watching a Penguins game.
In a Few Words: If the Playoffs began today, I would feel bad for Washington.
Stay tuned for Part 2: The House of the Falling Sun.
Micheal A. Aldred