NHL Trade Deadline Culture Change

Brad Richards headlined the not traded list following this year's NHL Trade Deadline

Even though the 2011 version of Canada’s second Christmas ended up being more like my great aunt’s birthday party, it may have signalled the beginning of a new culture in the NHL.

The NHL and NBA essentially switched positions this year as it was the NBA drawing headlines from a flurry of deadline deals. Generally, the NHL trade deadline is filled with intense madness as the clock strikes 3, with every Canadian sports channel and website giving you up to the minute updates and analysis on the most recent happenings around the league.

The lack of flare from this year’s trade deadline could be explained by the short supply of marquee and impact players on the trading block. That’s the easy explanation.

It seems to me though that the increasing acquisition of rental players by teams in recent years not translating to playoff success has led General Managers to realize the downfall of selling the farm for 2 months of a star player that you will most likely be unable to retain in the off-season. It has become apparent that, in the new millennium, past Stanley Cup Winning teams have not been forced to make major acquisitions in order to take home a title.

Whether it’s the inability for the acquired player to mesh well with the current roster, the team’s roster simply not being good enough, or luck being the cause of the failure of rental players, NHL front offices have taken notice.

This year’s most prominent moveable asset was soon to be free agent forward Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars who currently sits 8th in league scoring. The Dallas Stars are very much in the playoff race, sitting at 8th in the Western conference coincidentally, and the dilemma of trading or keeping Richards had caused the price for the Star forward to be quite steep.

The New York Rangers, who were rumoured to be the front-runners in the Brad Richards sweepstakes, would have had to pay a pretty penny to attain him. It didn’t happen. The Rangers decided to continue with their strategy of building around their young core of players.

Well, it’s about time.

In 2008, deadline day acquisition Marian Hossa was a key component in the Pittsburgh Penguin’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. It sure worked out for the Pens in 2008, but more often than not we see the teams that take on rental player’s finish their season more like Peter Forsberg and the Nashville Predators did in 2007. The Predators gave up Ryan Parent, Scottie Upshall, as well as their 1st and 3rd round picks for Forsberg and were eventually ousted by the San Jose Sharks in the first round. Through the beauty of hindsight we see that in actuality the trade was not all that bad. Nevertheless, it’s the process that counts not the result.

The overwhelming amount of failed deadline day shake-ups appears to have had a significant effect on the NHL. Teams are starting to place more importance on keeping prized prospects and quality draft picks while acquiring the steady, bottom 6 players that could be that slight difference between Lord Stanley and a 12:30 tee time.

Even the Toronto Maple Leafs and Brian Burke have shifted gears. Prior to the common insanity that accompanies the trade deadline, Burke traded away proven current NHLers Tomas Kaberle and Kris Versteeg in exchange for prospects and draft picks. Much to everyone’s surprise, Burke stood pat on deadline day.

There was only one striking trade this year with Dustin Penner’s tenure in oil town coming to a close. The Los Angeles Kings gave up first round draft pick Colten Teubert (13th overall) in addition to their 1st and 3rd draft picks to attain the 28-year-old power forward.

The number 1 seed Vancouver Canucks acquired Christopher Higgins and Maxim Lapierre, a couple of veteran depth forwards, in return for some minor prospects and mid-round draft picks.

This feeling of the need for a top defenseman or renowned forward seems to be slowly deteriorating and the 2011 trade deadline could very well be the start of this changing philosophy around the NHL.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Is the NFL Combine Overrated?

Workout Warrior Tony Mandarich was one of the biggest busts of all-time

Lucas Oil Stadium — The Mecca for NFL prospects. The NFL Combine takes place each year in Indianapolis and has become one of the biggest NFL events of the year for football fans. In 2010, the Combine garnered 5.2 million viewers and as Fox Sports writer John Czarnecki points out, that number is more than double the amount of viewer’s to ESPN’s baseball telecasts on an ordinary week. Oh yeah, the NFL Network is shown in 43 million fewer homes than ESPN.

With all the hype that the Combine gets and the amount of value that is placed on 40 yard dashes, verticals and bench pressing, you have to wonder why.

Everyone, from your average fan to top scouts seem to place so much value on these tangible aspects of the game of football. The Combine displays physical skills that are obviously translatable to the NFL game, but the fact of the matter is that everything that is accomplished at the Combine is accomplished in non-game situations.

The Combine is kind of like that old golf adage, “drive for show, putt for dough.”

It looks really nice when you drive a ball 350 yards right down the middle of the fairway, but when you get up and down in 4 shots that 350 yard drive is forgotten.

It is no different in football. You are very impressive when you do 40 reps on the bench press or run a sub 4.4 in the 40. Good on you.

At least at the combine you can also drive for dough, if you know what I mean. Darrius Heyward-Bey knows all about that.

The draft stock of players is too dependent on their performance at the Combine, despite the NFL front offices and scouts knowing all about the folly this event. To this day, the tendency is still there to shy away from Combine failures and be drawn to the workout warriors.

It’s silly.

The intangible elements that are only seen during game play are not on display at the NFL combine (obviously). You aren’t going to be able to find out if a receiver can find the soft spot of a zone defence or if a linebacker can read the quarterbacks eyes. Some guys can flat out play the game and are denied an opportunity to show what they can do because they don’t possess those god given physical gifts that scouts drool over.

You’re probably thinking it, but I still have to say it. Jerry Rice ran a 4.6 in his 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine in 1985. Jerry Rice was the 3rd receiver taken in the draft at 16th overall. Best receiver in NFL history isn’t too bad now is it?

Vince Young might have scored a 6 on his first attempt at the dreaded Wonderlic exam, otherwise known as the IQ test for dummies, but no matter what that test says the dude can play ball. He might have had some trouble throughout his NFL but you don’t win an offensive rookie of the year award for doing nothing. Young may not have the best throwing style or put in the effort to make himself the best player he possibly could be, but he makes things happen on the football field.

The intangibles of players that you don’t see at the NFL Combine need to be taking into account more. College success may not always translate to success at the NFL level, but if you have a player who has proven he can make things happen it might be best to overlook some of those supposed physical “deficiencies.” Not to say that a guy’s draft stock should improve simply because he was a good college player, rather I mean that, for example, a player projected as a first round talent prior to the combine should not necessarily lose that status because of a weaker than anticipated performance.

This isn’t to say that the combine means absolutely nothing either. Chris Johnson was projected as a mid-round pick until his ridiculous 4.24 time that launched him to 24th overall in the 2008 draft. Take your Combine with a grain of salt.

So watch the Combine, have a ball, but beware of the foolishness.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Head-Scratching Deals Highlight NBA Trade Deadline

Baron Davis is on his way out of LA

Generally the trade deadline is a rather uneventful time of year in the NBA. I guess you can call this year an exception. In the last 72 hours, NBA GM’s were more active than Charlie Sheen at a brothel. With a final flurry prior to the 3pm eastern deadline and team’s desperately trying to piece together a winner, it was almost inevitable that we see some mind-boggling transactions.

In sifting through the plethora of deals here are my biggest head-scratchers from the NBA trade deadline.

Clipper Calamity. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a calamity but it definitely should fall under the category of a head-scratcher. The Clippers traded Baron Davis and their 2011 first round pick to the Cavaliers for former all-star Mo Williams. I’m actually very surprised at the amount of people who felt this deal was a positive for the Clippers. Sports Illustrated writer Zach Lowe is one man who feels this was a success for the Clippers. Supposedly, it will also allow their young point guard Eric Bledsoe to take the reins of the team while allowing more cap flexibility for the Clippers.

The problem that I have with the trade is that the Clippers are likely giving up a top 10 pick. I don’t care that this year is supposed to be a terrible draft class. Besides Blake Griffin, didn’t they also say the same thing about the 2009 class that produced Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Demar Derozan, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison. Maybe you won’t find a franchise player but there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to find some quality, impact players with that high of a pick. They need to be surrounding Blake Griffin and Co. with solid role players, not trying to save money.

Moreover, despite the fact that Baron Davis has proven himself to be a fat, lazy slob, it is evident that he has been a steadying influence on the Clipper team this season. They don’t need to win now, nor are they going to win with Baron Davis at the helm. However, a veteran guy like Davis is important on such a young team, and you can see it by how lost they are on the floor without him.

Sure, the Clippers gain flexibility to sign free agents in the off-season, especially if they are able to dump Mo Williams’ contract on someone. That’s not what they should be focused on though. Getting a quality player in the draft should be priority number one. The Clippers, in my opinion, have done it again. They had been in prime position to finally play the role of contender in 2-4 years, but yesterday they took a step backwards.

Boston Blow-Up. Kendrick Perkins is gone. Yeah, you’re probably thinking what we’re all thinking. Whaaa??? Perkins is well-known around NBA circles as an incredibly intricate cog to the Boston Celtics’ well-oiled machine. He represented the hardnosed, defensive force that is the Celtics. Not anymore. Perkins was traded alongside Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic.

Even this guy was perplexed by some of the NBA deadline deals

Obviously, there was an Orlando Magic-like need for a shakeup in Boston as they sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 41-14 record. Wait, I don’t think something is quite right about the last sentence.

With a team as thin at the center spot like the Boston Celtics are, you have to wonder what they are thinking giving up Perkins. They also traded rookie center Semih Erden to the Cavs, which leaves them with two old farts in Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal. Durability is such an issue surrounding those guys and even though Nenad Kristic will be added to the mix he doesn’t fit the Celtics mould of rough and tough. Of note today, Glen Davis started at center for the Celtics. Yup, Big Baby.

They did acquire a great piece in Jeff Green but where does he fit in? Does he take over the Marquis Daniels role? Is that why they felt that Perkins was expendable? Who knows?

For a team that has reached 2 finals with Kendrick Perkins and currently sits first in the Eastern Conference this deal is more peculiar than a dog riding a scooter.

Sun Setting. Steve Nash protégé Goran Dragic and a lottery protected first round pick was traded to the Rockets for soon to be restricted free agent Aaron Brooks. After being injured, Brooks lost his job as starting point guard to Kyle Lowry and like Goran Dragic he has regressed in his play since coming back from injury. I don’t see anywhere that Brooks fits into the short or long-term plans of the Suns. Nash is still under contract for 2 years and there is no way that Brooks and his undersized self can play alongside Nash at the 2 guard spot for the time being.

Obviously Goran Dragic is not the wave of the future but could someone please try and make some sense of this deal for me because I flat out don’t get it. I don’t see the Suns signing Brooks to be the long-term option, but hey, you never know.

Memphis Blues.
A sad trade for the Grizzlies that can only benefit this team in the short run as they hope to reach the playoffs in the ever weakening Western Conference. The Grizz traded former #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick to the Houston Rockets for an expiring contract in Shane Battier and guard Ish Smith. This is a head-scratcher for me just because it seems odd that the Grizzlies felt that they had to give up a first round pick to unload Thabeet. Sure, this move might put them over the edge in their playoff run this year but giving up so early on such a high draft pick on top of sending away a likely mid-first round draft pick won’t make things any easier as they try to build a contending team in the future.

Raptor Riddle. For my finale I have to vent about the Toronto Raptors acquisition of James Johnson. More specifically, I have to point out another blunder from the city of Toronto’s equally confusing General Manger. Bryan Colangelo obtained James Johnson by giving up the first round pick Toronto acquired from Miami in the whole Bosh mess. Johnson was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft and apparently the Raptors would have drafted him had Demar Derozan not fallen to them, at least according to the Colangelo.

The Raptors, in desperate need of more wing players, got hold of the lengthy 6 foot 9 Johnson to play small forward. As much as they need more depth on the wings Johnson is not a guy that they should be looking for as he is yet another wing player for the Raps who is unable to shoot from beyond the arc.

I realize that I sound like a broken record, nevertheless I can’t stress enough the importance that bottom teams should place on their draft picks. Colangelo has done a terrible job managing draft picks for the Raptors and the first time in a long time the team has multiple first rounders he decides it’s a good idea to trade one of them away. Great. I’ll just put it out there that I have zero faith in Colangelo’s overrated self. He has done nothing for the Raptors organization and the only thing keeping him alive is the fact that he signed Steve Nash. Great.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Carmelo Anthony Finally Dealt. Are the Knicks Ready to Contend?

Carmelo Anthony will now be teaming up with Amare Stoudemire in the Big Apple

So the Melo-drama is over. The inevitable happened. I wonder how Mikhail Prokhorov is feeling right about now.

In case you don’t have twitter here’s how the deal went down. The Knicks gave up Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, and their 2014 1st round pick. The Nuggets will also receive 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013 that originally belonged to the Warriors. The Timberwolves get Eddy Curry’s expiring contract, Anthony Randolph and $3 million cash. Most importantly, the Knicks will acquire Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer and a 2nd round pick.

Throughout this whole ordeal Donnie Walsh had been adamant in his refusal to include both Gallinari and Chandler. Whether or not it was pressure from above to incorporate both players, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the Knicks have once again screwed themselves over for the future.

I’m also not alone in loving the idea of a ball-dominant wing player combined with a very good big man. Kobe-Shaq, Kobe-Gasol, Wade-Shaq, yeah, you get the picture. The problem with the Knicks picture is that selling the farm makes the combination significantly less lethal. Landry Fields, Toney Douglas and Ronny Turiaf ain’t going to get the job done by themselves.

The Knicks aren’t ready to contend. Anthony is a very good player but he doesn’t make those around him much better. Essentially a .500 team without Carmelo, it will become apparent that the Knicks will roll through the abundance of weak teams in the East but simply roll over when they face real competition.

Amare Stoudemire is not going to benefit from less touches and a ball-dominating non-creator.

Chris Paul or Deron Williams in 2012? Possibly, but like the Heat, the issue of adequate role players leaves them in quite the predicament. The combination of a superior point, wing and big player is as ideal as it gets from a star recipe stand point, but the headline ingredients cannot complete the meal without their lesser parts.

No draft picks and the potential for a hard cap in the future make the assembling of a quality supporting cast that much more difficult. Not to mention that putting all the eggs in the PG basket might not work out exactly as planned. Sorry to burst your Knick bubble if you hadn’t figured that one out. It sounds like the fool-proof Lebron plan all over again.

So what now? Do the Knicks just settle for a 4-6 seed in the Eastern Conference for the next couple seasons?

Donnie Walsh must know that his team can’t compete with the likes of Boston or Miami yet.

The much hyped Carmelo Anthony trade changes the complexion of things in the East but not drastically. The Knicks will be better but not as much as they should be given how much they traded away.

The Denver Nuggets suckered the Knicks into a bidding war with the Knicks paying not only in players but in their future as well.

Related Article: Whatever Happened to Good Ol’ Rebuilding?

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Brian Burke is Too Confusing

Dion Phaneuf is just one in the long list of disappointments for the Toronto Maple Leafs

It might be a bit generous to describe what Brian Burke has done with his Toronto Maple Leafs as two steps back and one step forward. In just over 2 years as General Manager, Brian Burke has been unable to dig the NHL’s most important franchise out of its deep, dark hole. After another confusing trade today it is apparent that Burke is guiding the Leafs down a pathless wood.

The Tomas Kaberle saga is finally over in Toronto. Kaberle waived his no-trade clause and has been dealt to the Boston Bruins in exchange for prospect Joe Colborne, their first round pick in 2011 and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012. This is the Leafs 3rd deal in a little over a week. Coincidentally, in a little over a week Brian Burke has changed the direction of this team around 180 degrees.

While not conceding that his initial decision as GM to win right away was wrong, Burke’s dealings over the past week have done the talking for him.

He traded away Francois Beauchemin back to his former team the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul who have both had disappointing seasons. Both teams are hoping that the solution is a new environment for their overpaid underachievers. He also traded away off-season acquisition Kris Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 1st and 3rd round pick. Versteeg was had by the Leafs for a number of prospects including Viktor Stalberg.

Right now it would seem that a headless chicken would have a better sense of direction than this Toronto Maple Leafs team. Win now? Go young?

The Leafs have an interesting mix of veterans and young players, but nothing that is near ready to compete at a high level.

Their franchise player, Phil Kessel, who they paid a pretty penny for (2 first rounders and a 2nd rounder) has simply been a disappointment for Leaf fans. Lack of production and effort have highlighted the season of the supposed franchise. Inadequate line mates could partially be responsible for this but it’s clear that Kessel is not worth the value that Brian Burke initially placed on him.

Captain Dion Phaneuf who they received from Calgary approximately a year ago is also not performing close to the level that they hoped he would.

However, Toronto is witnessing breakout seasons from their 3 leading scorers. Young guns Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin are all having career seasons. The issue here is that trade speculation has surrounded these guys as MacArthur and Grabovski are restricted free agents at the end of the season.

What to do? At some point you have to pay your young up and comers, but are these guys the ones you want to move forward with? Going even younger is exactly the opposite of what Burke says he wants to do, but with his recent trades who the hell knows what the Leafs front office wants anymore.

Regular readers of mine will know my thoughts on rebuilding and in June I wrote how the Maple Leafs had set themselves up for a future of mediocrity. As of right now I can’t see how this has really changed despite these last two trades that look to signal rebuilding. The Leafs are still facing a number of bad(ish) contracts so in actuality they are not even starting from scratch at this point, rather they are restarting from a hole that has been dug by Brian Burke trying to win with an unwinnable roster. Rebuilding, a slow process in itself, will likely take a greater length of time for the Maple Leafs.

It looks like Burke is finally taking the proper route in rebuilding this team, but the drastic change in the appropriate direction could also mean that another 180 degree turn isn’t out of the question. With this always entertaining drama in full motion and the pieces of the puzzle still scattered, is it possible that the Toronto Maple Leafs situation is even more confusing than it was on November 29, 2008 when Brian Burke was appointed General Manager?

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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