I’m usually a bit of an optimist.
NHL players, for the most part, are better hockey players than any of us writing about the game. I don’t buy into the ‘they should never play him because he’s terrible’ dialogue, and I think that players can be better than their stats with proper usage. Sometimes, it’s really not the guy on the ice — it’s how he’s being played.
Pushing all that aside, though, I do think that some rosters need to be reconstructed — or, at the very least, certain players need to stay, while others need to go.
Some teams feel differently — and these are the teams that, from a logistics standpoint, failed the trade deadline.
5. Ottawa Senators
Deals made: none
Don’t get me wrong; I think the Ottawa Senators are the recipients of some weird, ill-times injuries and poor coaching (at least, to start off their season). The roster they have possesses some of the better talent around the league, even if they do strangely operate it close to the salary floor.
For a team that hasn’t done as well as expected this season, though, the Senators were oddly silent during the final weeks leading up to the deadline… and on deadline day, they did nothing at all. The closest they came to making any kind of deadline deal was signing defenseman Marc Methot to a pretty nice extension — not a bad move, but pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
It was rumored that the team was putting out feelers on guys like Milan Michalek and David Legwand — and there was plenty of chatter about whether Chris Neil could get dealt despite a finger injury — but it seems that the team decided the returns for these notable names, plus the minor contracts they were hoping to get off the books, weren’t enough to warrant making any noise on Monday.
Although a number of teams each season go all in to either start a rebuild or push for the cup, it was chirpily pointed out by former goalie Corey Hirsch that only one team will win it all — and only one team will get that coveted first overall pick — so it’s smart of Ottawa not to tear things down or attempt to squeak into the playoffs via tossed aside assets. With no roster looking perfect, though, the Senators were a disappointment this year.
4. Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins had their hands tied coming into the trade deadline and everyone knows it, but doing a good job with ‘what they had’ still wasn’t a very good job.
The Bruins are short top line center David Krejci and defenseman Kevan Miller for the forseeable future, but they’re occasionally down fourth line center Gregory Campbell and have very little in the way of forward depth in the first place — so while it was refreshing seeing the team finally part ways with former first round pick Jordan Caron, the team may have wanted to push for someone more in the top six range if they truly want to compete in the post-season.
Obviously, the best option would have been to pick up a player from the Edmonton Oilers — who didn’t seem to be selling, which we’ll get to in a bit — such as Jordan Eberle or even Taylor Hall. Either one would be worth the draft picks and assets they’d part ways with, especially considering Boston’s superior defensive depth in relation to Edmonton’s.
Operating under the assumption that the best trading partner available was likely unwilling to strike a deal, though, this may have been a year that the Bruins should have been sellers — and the lack of dedication to doing that may have sealed their fate for a few seasons to come. With the team strapped for the cash to give pending RFA’s Reilly Smith, Dougie Hamilton, and Torey Krug the raises they deserve — and holes in the lineup still needing to be addressed — the Bruins could struggle even more next season.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
Deals Made: Mike Santorelli (F), Cody Franson (D) for [Olli Jokinen (F), dealt to St. Louis Blues for a conditional pick], Brandon Leipsic (F), 2015 first round pick; Daniel Winnik (F) for 2015 fourth round pick, 2016 second round pick, Zach Sill (F); Korbinian Holzer (D) for 2016 fourth round pick, Eric Brewer (D); David Clarkson (F) for Nathan Horton (F)
The Leafs were one of five teams that opted for the total rebuild this spring; of those five, though, they might have done the worst job so far.
They did well in unloading forward David Clarkson’s massively unnecessary contract, swapping him for long-term injured reserve forward Nathan Horton in a semi-blatant circumvention of the salary cap. They also did well bringing in a first round pick for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and a decent prospect for Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson, although it was argued that those were both players the team could have used in a rebuild period.
Most teams recognize that, beyond selecting a few key players to center around in the future, big assets that don’t necessarily have a place in the team’s future are the players that should be unloaded at the start of a rebuild. Instead, the Leafs sold off players that were underrated but quite good, leaving their older — and pricier — players on the roster moving forward.
They also brought in one prospect and five draft picks, rather than targeting players already considered to have potential. If the team wants to truly start from the beginning, that makes a bit more sense — but holding on to the veteran stars if they’re building from the 2015 draft out still doesn’t make a ton of sense. They got good deals for all the players they sent out, but those didn’t seem like the right players.
2. San Jose Sharks
The two worst teams at the trade deadline were hard to separate into the first and second places — as far as the Sharks went at the deadline, they did poorly in a serious way.
Sitting outside a playoff berth, the Sharks don’t look any closer to seeing the post-season than they did a few weeks ago — considering the changes that were promised last off-season (which ended up consisting of stripping the veterans of their captaincy and that’s about it), the team seems to be regressing noticeably enough for the team to maybe accept the fact that it’s time to rebuild.
The San Jose Sharks have struggled all season long, and they’ve got a lineup that doesn’t quite fit together — players like Logan Couture are seeing a nosedive in their defensive game, and the team neither brought in pieces to help the current roster nor took on draft picks — they even retained salary for Andrew Desjardins to make a deal work for the Chicago Blackhawks without asking for a pick in return.
There’s been lingering sentiment that the Sharks are poor asset managers, and this deadline did nothing to combat that.
1. Edmonton Oilers
Deals Made: Jeff Petry (D) for 2015 second, fifth round draft picks
The Edmonton Oilers are no stranger to being called out for asset management incompetence, but this really takes the cake.
While we call out the San Jose Sharks for being kind of ambiguous and noncommittal at the deadline, the Edmonton Oilers are flat-out ruining their own lineup season after season.
They’re already in possession of a first round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but it’s well known around the league that the Oilers have trouble drafting and developing NHL-caliber players; if the team truly wanted to turn things around, they would have traded for some assets or young players instead of more picks.
Beyond that, though, the player they chose to trade was baffling; in dealing away Jeff Petry, the Oilers dealt away their only consistent blue liner in front of a horrendously incompetent tandem in net. The team hasn’t addressed their goaltending situation at all, they didn’t begin to look at their defensive corps from an improvement standpoint, and they held on to the players that everyone around the league is begging them to sell off in hopes of seeing revitalized play from all of them.
Their offense is made up of ill-fitting superstars, and they’re likely to add another one with their own first round pick this season. Instead of looking for good players in the positions they need, though, the Oilers again proved that they’re in the middle of a never-ending rebuild.