Ah yes, it’s that time of year when the silly season in hockey comes around, when everyone and his dog proposes trades that are sure [sic] to work out and make Montreal a winner. Everyone thinks the deal they’ve worked out is *the* one that Gainey is sure to use, and wonder when the GM just can’t pull it off, the incompetent sod.
Sadly, Bob Gainey does his trades in the world of the NHL and not in the fantasy world of hockey fans – and in particular Montreal fans – who feel that the Canadiens have the divine right to acquire the best players.
In flying around the message boards online and in listening to friends and others discuss their trade ideas, I’ve heard things (and these are legit trades that have been proposed) that range from the ludicrous (Perreault, Dagenais, Dykhuis and a 5th round pick for Iginla), to the highly unlikely (Theodore for Lalime and Spezza), to the crazy (Koivu for Scott Gomez), to the insane (Theo for Belfour – and the person insisted that Belfour was a better goalie and would still be playing at a high level for another five years).
The problem with about 90% of proposed trades from fans is that they fail to take into consideration a series of unwritten rules that exist amongst the GM’s of the NHL. These fans only see a player they want on the Canadiens and decide to pass off junk to try and get them. The following, then, are some of the rules that need to be considered before you go to your respective boards and friends and propose that Perreault for Iginla (oh yeah, I heard that one too) doozie.
If you’re getting something good, remember, it has to hurt. You can’t be trading your junk to another team for their best players. There isn’t a handy stupid stick to hit other GM’s over the head with when you propose these things. In the past some might have worked because there were times GM’s weren’t NHL quality (Kordic and a 6th for Courtnall), but those times are past. If you get something like that over on a GM today, that poor guys will be fired so fast he’ll leave sparks as he’s pushed out the door. If you want Iginla from Calgary, you’re going to have to put in either a top-notch player, or a couple of dandy prospects to even get them to come to the table.
It has to be realistic. This rule goes hand in hand with the first rule, but I can expand on it a little as well. For instance, trading within the division is hardly ever done. No one wants the players they trade away to come back and haunt them continually. Now, this is a bendy rule, because lower ranking players are generally exempt – Dackell for an 8th round pick with Ottawa as example. However, that Theo for Lalime and Spezza thing is so unlikely, it makes a date with Britney Spears look reasonable in comparison.
You have to consider the other team’s needs. Ahhh, and this is such a huge failing when trades are proposed. You want to send Perreault to the Rangers for a 4th line winger? FABULOUS. But what are they going to do with Perreault when they have four guys who are already infinitely better down the middle? You have an urge to send Dykhuis to the Red Wings, however they’re so deep defensively that poor Karl will be a 5th defenseman…on their minor league club! If you want to acquire Simon Gagne, then you’d best look at the needs of Philly and address those. Start with a defender, add in someone to replace Gagne, and you have a starting point.
Supply and Demand. A GM is much better off in trade talk when others are coming to him for players. When you start saying that Koivu is injury prone and isn’t a first line centre and is expendable, do you really think you’ll be getting a solid return on him? Why do you think Gainey always talks up his players? He’s raising their trade value. People want to get Koivu now because the respected GM is saying he’s *that* good. Now, when someone comes to ask him about Koivu, he can point out how the captain is doing fantastically, how he’s made Ryder into the player he is, how he’s done a great job leading the team. All of a sudden, the demand is much higher. The Perreault to the Rangers case is similar. They have no need of a 5th line centre – the demand is low – so do you really think they’re going to give you much? “Here”, says Glen Sather, “have a broken hockey stick!”
Now, one of the most needed type of players in the NHL is the big defender with great upside. I’ll bet money that Gainey’s had a few juicy offers on Komisarek for that reason. Demand is high, supply is low, and therefore the asking price is a meaty morsel. On the other hand, goalies are everywhere, there are some who can’t even get a job and toil in the AHL – Arturs Irbe. That’s a saturated market, and as such the asking price is necessarily much lower.
CBA. This is the toughest year in hockey to make a trade because no one knows what’s going to happen with the upcoming CBA. Will there be a salary cap? I’d say a majority of the teams out there aren’t willing to take on many high salaries, particularly if those players are under contract for longer than just this year. If they did, there’s a chance they’d be paying through the nose because of the cap. Doesn’t makes sense to potentially put your team in a hole for many years to come with the promise of a player for a couple of months.
Money and Contract Issues. Pittsburgh isn’t going to be ringing your phone to ask about Brisebois, Rivet, or anyone else who has a contract over about a million bucks, for that matter. Before proposing that blockbuster, understand the situation of the team that you are wanting to trade with. The Rag$ will take anything because they’ve got the money for it, the Flames, on the other hand, don’t. Perreault and Sundstrom to Calgary for Gauthier and a pick is not a winner for the Flames in terms of salary. The Habs would probably have to eat a goodly portion of it.
On the other hand, if a team is willing to put out a little extra to put them over the top, then rent-a-players are the way to go. There’s a reason Ottawa is talking to Washington about Bondra – they can afford him short-term and since his contract is up, they can discard him at the end of the year if they feel they don’t want to pay him. We don’t have a lot of players in this situation, so it’s a tough call all around.
There are other issues out there that have to be considered as well, but they aren’t rules so much as common sense. I think a great many Habs fans propose trades just for the sake of the trade. They just want to see something happen, however with Gainey as your GM, the chances of that are the same as my chances of winning the $32.5 million on Lotto Super 7 this Friday. There has to be some reason for the trade: filling a hole, addressing some need, changing the chemistry. He’s not going to go out there and make a trade because he wakes up one day and says to himself: “My Bob, you haven’t made a trade today! Go bananas!”
Another important factor to consider is the make-up of your team. Gainey is a guy who loves character players and wants guys who work hard. Is he going to go out there and trade for a floater? I’d say not, so don’t propose it. He wants someone who will mesh with the current bunch, not cause problems both on the ice and in the dressing room. Don’t just look at any name out there, do some research and discover things about the player in question.
Of course, everyone wants to get the best of a trade, what better feeling that knowing you won the lottery while the other person is left holding your old jock. However, there are times when it’s not only prudent, but advisable to go after a player with perhaps lesser talent but with more to offer your team than what you’re giving up. Laperriere would probably be a wonderful addition: he wants to play in Montreal, he’s a really hard worker, and he’s a tough character guy. I’d be more than pleased to overpay for this kind of player.
By the same token, Hainsey is someone who’s a party boy, has no character, has a questionable work ethic and is a headache for the organization. If you can go out there and get something, perhaps with lesser talent, but who will be far more valuable to the club in the long run, then don’t hesitate!
You see, when you make trades, it’s all about building your image of the team. If that image is a pile of hard working guys, then you really don’t want the floaters of the NHL. If you want to be huge like the Flyers, then you probably don’t want Bouillon. If you want to be all skill, then Vaclav Varada isn’t for you. Gainey has a vision of what he wants this team to be. That’s the philosophy that should be guiding your proposals. If you don’t understand what he wants, then propose nothing!
And there you have it, easy as can be. Now you can all go out there and submit resumes to teams in the NHL and take over as GM’s. No longer will you propose the farcial, thus inciting snickers behind your back. No longer will your proposals make people want to tear out your larynx. No, now you are the intelligent GM-in-waiting! You can be the hero who makes the trade that turns the organization around!
So please, please don’t suggest Perreault for Iginla anymore. I think it makes me insane.