I cant believe how in love the Flames fans seem to be with Dion Phaneuf.
They are acting like Bobby Orr got traded for Martin Kariya.
Sure Phaneuf is a tough as nails hard hitter that CAN change the momentum of a game. But that skillset isnt enough to pass up the chance to make your team better now. Especialyl when your team was in dire need of an offensive boost.
The Flames pick up offensive depth with Matt Stajan & Niklas Hagman that they desperately needed. They get some offensive depth. Instead of being a 1 line team with 1 or 2 other mid level scoring options, they now have 2, maybe even 3 capable lines with 1 trade.
They get rid of a terribly underachieving Fredrik Sjostrom in the deal (although they were forced to take Jamal Mayers to offset that..so essentially that part of the trade is a wash).
The Flames pick up Ian White. In White, the Flames get a very capable power play quarterback who will fill the absense of Phaneuf relatively fine in that regard. He managed to be a +1 in Toronto this year, so he obviously is doing something well defensively. as well. Where the Flames lose on this swap White for Phaneuf straight up, is size. Phaneuf is 5 inches taller and 30 lbs heavier. But grit & toughness is the one thing this defense had an abundance of with Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich & Adam Pardy. They needed a puck moving skater. White brings that to them. Sure, Toronto gets the flashier name out of the defenseman swap, and probably even the more talented one. But Ian White is no slouch & if Phaneuf doesnt progress much more, this part of the trade isnt too lopsided at all.
This brings us to the rest of the package, Keith Aulie is a young defensman prospect that I am sure the Flames were not keen on moving, but to get as many bodies as they got, they had to dangle something else with Phaneuf. Maybe in 2-3 years, this will be a mistake. But in a "now" driven league, the Flames needed help NOW. Keith Aulie was sacrificed for the greater good of improving now.
The rest of this trade breaks down Aulie for Stajan & Hagman (I dont count Sjostrom or Mayers in this. They were both throw aways). The future of Aulie is still uncertain. He COULD pan out to be a top 4 dman, or could be a career AHL journeyman. Its unknown. For the Flames, they needed scoring help NOW & Hagman with 20 goals and Stajan with 16, gives them that. They just landed a pair of guys who currently have 74 combined points, for a prospect that wouldnt be utilized by Calgary till Kipper & Iggy are past their primes.
Calgary now can roll 3 competent lines (in theory)
This takes pressure off of Daymond Langkow to be a #2 centre which he doesnt really appear to be anymore. Mikael Backlund, assuming he stays up (he may get sent back to Abbotsford with all the new bodies) can slide into a #2 or 3 line spot where there is less pressure on him to perform miracles right away. Olli Jokinen & Hagman could turn into a deadly duo, if the shoot first Hagman and pass first Jokinen get on the same wavelength, while Stajan brings a mix of puck moving & shooting to the 1st line that was missing at centre with Jokinen and Langkow who are both pre-dominantly passers.
This is a sound trade for them if they are thinking of making a run NOW.
Getting 2 top 6 forwards & a bottom 6 forward for a bottom 6 forward & a prospect you might not use for 2+ yrs is a good decision in the short term. They dont have a lot of years left where Kiprusoff and Iginla will be elite top level talents capable of building a winner on. That time is already starting to slip as it is. They need to make use of these assets while they can, and this year could be their final chance to do that. This trade now gives them a better chance to do that.
For Toronto, this is merely a matter of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Phaneuf isnt going to thrust them into the playoffs, and with the additional loss of Jason Blake to Anaheim today, they threw out 100 points in forwards. For a team that is already offensively challenged, they are quite literally pulling the plug on this season. I hope Phil Kessel is on a suicide watch, because after seeing todays moves he might consider it. He now has even less talent to play with than before. The leafs also did a goalie swap. JS Giguere is an upgrade on Vesa Toskala for sure, but he still cant carry a bad team anywhere on his own. Instead of the Leafs losing 5-3 on any given night, now they'll lose 4-2 instead.
I saw a writer today suggested the T.O. trades is to distract the media from the fact the Leafs are in a tailspin. Its true. The media for 2-4 weeks will have Phaneuf Phever. They will disregard them going 1-5-1 or some abysmal mark like that in that stretch, and by the time they start to notice the team isnt any better, the trade deadline will have passed & there will only be a month and a bit left in the season & Burke can do damage control then, for only 4-6 weeks, instead of 8-10 weeks.
The Anaheim Ducks get a small boost of offense that they may need depending on the status of often injured Teemu Selanne in Jason Blake. But they lose in the goalie swap. Will Blakes 1/6 of a goal (he did once score 40 goals however) a game make up for the 1/2 to 1 full goal a game Toskala will give up? perhaps. Afterall, Toskala is the back up & thus wont be damaging them as often as Blakes offense should help....in theory. Anaheim IMO didnt help themselves much in this deal here, and for a team only 5 pts out of the playoffs, they probably needed to do better in this deal. Blake will certainly get a chance to produce there however. As a natural left winger, something Anaheim doesnt really have right now, he instantly jumps into the 2nd line by default, perhaps maybe even 1st line depending how they see things fitting. If he recaptures some of the scoring touch he saw in Long Island where he scored 40 goals once, perhaps he can finish this year with 20 goals & then the Ducks will be able to validate this trade a bit more. For now however, I think they simply did not get enough for an asset like Giguere.
My final grades on this deal
With the season just slightly over 1/2 over, the race for the playoffs is starting to clear a bit. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets & the Carolina Hurricanes are already trying to envision what to do about the team in the off season. While at the other end of the spectrum, teams like the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks & San Jose Sharks are looking ahead & trying to figure out what they might need to tweak for their Stanley Cup pursuits.
Mired in the middle is a cluster of teams that frankly includes the majority of the league. Right now they are either just in or just barely out of the playoffs, a simple 3 game slide here, or 4 game streak here can put them out or in the playoff race in a flash. Mixed right in the middle, the Vancouver Canucks.
Currently 6th in the west with 58 points in 48 games, the Canucks sit just 2 points ahead of the 9th place Detroit Red Wings and only 7 ahead of Minnesota Wild & Dallas Stars. They are also only 2 points out of 3rd in the conference, behind their divisional foes from Colorado. But if the Canucks know anything about their season to date, its that they are probably more focused now on maintaining a playoff spot than chasing a division title.
While they are in the mix for a division championship, the fact remains that the Canucks, will be road warrios for the longest road trip in NHL history coming up very soon. Its a road trip that will span 14 games over 6 weeks. See the Canucks are being evicted from their home to make way for the Olympics. Because of this, they will play 20 of their final 35 games on the road....a place that has not been all that pleasant for them this season.
In their first 21 road games, the Canucks have a 9-11-1 record. While they run wild at home with an 19-7-1 record, they have struggled on the road. If there is any saving grace, its that only 10 of those final 20 road games are against teams currently sitting in a playoff spot. They can also take some comfort in the fact they are 3-1-1 in the last 5 road games perhaps. All that aside though, this extended road trip will certainly be the true test of this team.
In the middle of this road trip is a 2 week break for the Olympics. If they struggle in the first half of the trip, they will at least have time to correct the problem perhaps. This can also work against them though. If they have a decent first half on this raod trip, they could potentially lose all the momentum they have built up with 2 weeks away from the rink.
There is also the potential fatigue factor of their top players. With 7 Olympains on the roster, including their most notable pieces, Roberto Luongo, Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler & Christian Ehrhoff, the 2 weeks of elite level do or die play could really wear on some players. Granted every team has this problem, but every team isnt going to be doing this in the middle of a 14 game road trip.
In a league where a team that is 8 games above .500 is not in the playoffs right now in their conference, the Canucks can not afford to have a mediocre road trip. A .500 road trip could conceivably end their playoff hopes. By the time this marathon is over, they will have just a little over a month of the season left to rally back from any holes they have made for themselves.
The top line of Sedin-Sedin-Burrows is magical in their own building where line matching benefits them, on the road however, they are less magical & this will mean the Canucks will need to rely on secondary scorers like Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson & a hopefully healthy Pavol Demitra to pick up the slack. They could use the likes of Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier to pick up their play as well.
Their defense core is solid, when healthy. Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler and Sami Salo are quite capable puck moves, while Willie Mitchell, Shane O'Brien and Aaron Rome are capable defensive defenders. But when they have injuries they do seem to be out of sync a bit. Brad Lukowich is a decent NHL defenseman, but the level of skill drops off considerably from there. With Kevin Bieksa out, the Canucks will need to keep healthy thru this trip on the back end.
How will Luongo react to this stretch? He could in theory be playing close to 20 games over this stretch if he plays the majority of Canucks games, and Olympics games. Of course, the likelyhood is he will get only some starts at the Olympics. Which means he should have a bit of rest. Problem will be if he gets too much rest (say he doesnt play for the final 4 or 5 games). Luongo has a long history of starting slow after any type of extended break away from action. This has to worry the Canucks going down the stretch where points will be vitally needed & they will be on the road to start. A cold Luongo might end the Canucks playoff hopes in early March. Andrew Raycroft, the back up has been very good this year & could be relied on to take some of the load off, but if coach Vigneault has one flaw in his coaching, its that his confidence in his back up goalie, despite a very good record, seems to not be there for whatever reason.
This team has been ravaged with injuries this season & over a 14 game stretch, the probability of an injury is realistic. What the Canucks cant afford, is injuries to any of their major pieces, this goes for the entire top 2 lines, defense pairs, and of course Luongo. Any pieces missing could literally destroy a team that will probably struggle thru this venture.
If the Canucks get out of the odyssey close or still in the playoff race, they will probably be ecstatic. They have 10 of their last 15 games of the season at home, a place they have been exceptionally strong this season. But that is a long way away & they first have to worry about getting thru the adventure that will be the make or break part of their season, an incredible 14 game road trip. No team in the league will have any homestand or road trip more vital to their playoff positioning than this 6 week, 13 city, 14 game road trip.
If the Canucks miss the playoffs, fans & critics alike will probably look to this horrible schedule as the downfall. While players & coaches generally dont like to use easily found excuses for shortcomings, this is a blatantly obvious one that cant be overlooked. Of course, if the Canucks do make the playoffs, even if by the thinnest of margains, you will have to take them very seriously at a run in the playoffs. Afterall, if they can survive the road trip & still have enough in the tank to pull them thru it & into the playoffs, then you have to wonder what does it take to put them down. To make the playoffs would likely mean a winning record on the road thru that stretch, and ontop of that, confidence in their abilities on the road. This trip will either break them, or will rally them around each other & possibly create the type of team building that championship teams desperately hope for.
The season might say 82 games on the schedule, but any Canucks fan, reporter, player or staff member knew when the schedule came out, their season really came down to 14 games and 6 weeks.
If you are one of those "thats just part of hockey" neanderthals, stop reading. I am going to use some pretty big words from here on out, and I doubt you'll comprehend them.
Last night in a game in Rouyn Noranda, Quebec a junior player for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL was hospitalized & nearly killed. It wasnt from stopping a booming slap shot, or in a 1 on 1 gloves off fight, it wasnt even from a clean or borderline clean hit. It was from a direct, intentional elbow to the head from a player charging across the ice with malice intent on his mind.
Mikael Tam, an 18 year old defenseman for the Remparts is currently in hospital with brain trauma & a broken jaw according to reports from various sports netowrks. He was rushed to hospital after spending several minutes on the ice having a convuslion after he received an elbow to the head from a player who only had got on the ice 2 seconds earlier, and whose first action was not to try & get into the play, but to beeline across the ice in full stride & deliver an elbow at full speed to this young kid. A kid who was not carrying the puck at the time (not that there is justification for the hit even then.).
The aggressor, Patrice Cormier, 19 year old centre for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Many of you may know Cormier as the captain of the 2009-10 silver medalist Team Canada World Junior Hockey team. These days he is playing for the Huskies after a recent trade from Rimouski, where he had played for the past 3 1/2 seasons. Cormier has a long history of shady hits & has grown a reputation as a dirty player.
In fact, just a month earlier, Cormier got lots of attention after hitting Swedish team member, Anton Rodin with an elbow in an exhibition game before the Worlds. It was, just like last nights incident, only not as severe. It was again on a player without the puck and intentional. A couple nights later he hit a Finnish player, away from the play near the bench for no reason other than he was there.
This player continues to play "over the edge" and last nights action was possibly the worst of them all. In a 2-2 game in overtime, Cormier came off the bench & went full speed across the ice & raised his elbow up into the head of an unsuspecting Tam who was not carrying the puck at the time of the hit. Cormier was on the ice for less than 2 seconds at the time of the attack. It wasnt 40 seconds into a shift on a player actively in the play, it was clearly intentional & done with considerable malice to an unsuspecting player who was not immediately in the play. His intention with the hit was to injure, and if he ever says differently, he is a bold faced liar.
In hockey there is expectations a player goes in with, and that is to be physically tested some. You even expect some questionable play from time to time. Plays that go a little beyond the typical minor infractions that penalties are called on. This was clearly not one of them. This is above & beyond what a player "expects" in a typical game environment.
The term "keep your head up" is often sung loud by the cement headed neanderthals who clearly have never played a second of hockey and cherish UFC & bar fights as much as their mullets and the fact they havent gone back to get their GED 10 years after being kicked out of school. The type who thinks this ideology is a justification for any play short of a baseball swing with a stick to the head. The term has its just place in the game, no question. But there is a point where that term is not relevant, and this is one of those cases. You can not justify a player skating across the ice at full speed less than 2 seconds after getting on the ice & elbowing a player without the puck as acceptable under the "keep your head up" code. This player should not be expecting any imminent attack from anyone. The puck was nowhere near him.
Patrice Cormier SHOULD be banned for life from all hockey leagues. He SHOULD be, but he wont. Unfortunately, there are leagues that will give him a chance because he is truly talented. A near point per game player in the Q, Cormier is a 2nd round NHL draft pick of the New Jersey Devils. It is naive to believe he will get banned from playing in the AHL or even the NHL if he is good enough to be there someday because of his actions in the Q. With various minor pro leagues & European leagues around as well, its a sure thing he will be employed as a hockey player somewhere eventually. Which is sad. Sad for the team that will sign him & not take into consideration the safety of others. Sad for the sport of hockey as a whole that his actions will be ignored by some.
What I expect to happen is, Cormier will be given a lifetime ban from the Canadian Hockey League, which really only adds up to a year & 1/2 ban at most. Of course the very real potential of criminal & civil action coming down on Cormier is a possibility. He absolutely should face charges. He should even be convicted for it. I am not saying "lock him up & throw away the key" type of charges. But it needs to be on his record, if for no other reason but as a safety net in case he recklessly does something like this again. He also should face a severe civil penalty to Mikael Tam and perhaps even the Remparts and the QMJHL for the damage inflicted on them as well. The Remparts are without one of their players and the league is facing a serious black eye in the media.
As for Mikael Tam. Right now, his immediate health is first & foremost for him & his family. The idea of whether or not he will play hockey again should not even be discussed right now by his family, friends, team mates, the media or you & I. Its irrelevant at a time like this. Hoping the kid doesnt have any long term physical problems because of this hit is first. If he comes out of it relatively fine on that front, THEN, and ONLY then does the idea of "will he play ever again?" should be discussed.
Patrice Cormier. You are a disgrace to hockey. A disgrace to Team Canada. A disgrace to Canadians. You should be shunned by your team mates, fans & other leagues. If there is any justice, we will never see you in a hockey game anywhere ever again. Your style of play has no place in any league.
Mikael Tam. I can honestly say I dont believe I had ever heard of you before this incident. I dont follow the Q too closely compared to other leagues. You certainly did not deserve what happened to you & any resentment you hold towards Cormier is likely just. All I have to say, good luck in your recovery and get well soon.
**WARNING**- video contains disturbing images. Including Tam having his convulsion.
The first minute is not relevant to the play.
But he wont be. Realistically he will face some disciplinary action, but firing will not be it. Its not practical for the NHL to take such a heavy handed action on him.
A little back story on why the suggestion he should be fired. Lets take you back to just last night when the Nashville Predators faced the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place. Stephane Auger was one of the referees in the game that the Preds eventually won 3-2 on a late power play goal by Shea Weber.
The questions have arised as to whether or not Nashville should ever have been on the power play. Far more importantly, did an NHL official directly affect the outcome of a game by trying to even a score with a specific player that he felt embarrassed him in a completely different game?
It was clear by the actions of Auger in the last period of the game that he had every intention of "getting" Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows any way he could. First he called Burrows for diving early in the period. Was it a dive? Perhaps. It certainly wasnt a blatant one. At best, it was borderline. Its a call that probably should not have been made, but in the grand scheme of things... Ok, fine you got him. You got him on a questionable call. Score settled. From there you move on.
However, later in that same period the Canucks got a power play with 4:49 to go in a tie 2-2 game. Burrows was on the ice to start the power play. Only 4 seconds in, with not even a slightly valid case, Auger called Burrows for "interference" to even up the sides to 4 on 4. Burrows was livid. His teammates were livid. The fans were livid. It was a crap call. There was no merit to it. Everyone in hockey knows it. The play Burrows was called on happens literally dozens of times a period without ever being called. Off a faceoff Burrows skated close to an opposing player making very light (by hockey standards) contact with him on his way to the front of the net. It didnt impede the opposing player too much, if at all. Let alone in a 2-2 game late in the 3rd period, it should NEVER be called, especially since its probably not even a penalty in childrens hockey.
After the game Burrows ripped Auger publicly. He stated that he was approached by Auger before the game & told that he was going to get him. The reason, for making him look bad on a call in a game Devcember 8th where Burrows seemed to embellish a hit to get a more severe penalty against an opponent. Were these penalties in last nights game pre-meditated? Seeing them, it might seem like it. Burrows scored 2 goals in the game and was looking to make a little NHL history if he could have scored a 3rd. Auger clearly tried as much as he could to prevent Burrows from having this chance. Taking him off the power play late in the game on a phantom call was his revenge. Considering he got Burrows for "diving" earlier in the period, this latter call should never have happened. He had evened up any debt he thinks Burrows might have owed him. The late call was purely a spiteful vendetta filled attack. This is action unbecoming of a professional sports league official.
What Burrows did by publicly chastizing Auger is likely going to get him in hot water with the league & he will probably get a moderate fine. I doubt a suspension will come of it. But it is a possibility. Maybe a game? He'll deserve it. You cant just go around ranting publicly all the time. That being said. he has a valid argument, and one that the league needs to deal with.
The real question for the NHL is what to do with Auger? He will continue working as a ref while the investigation goes on. What should they do in the end? Its clear they cant let it slide. This is a ref that is now at the centre of 2 of the NHLs larger black eyes for referee incidences. He is the same referee who claimed Shane Doan, (one of the friendiest & nicest & most humble players in the league) once made derogatory remarks about francophones in a game. He handed Doan a 10 minute misconduct penalty (like what Burrows recieved at the end of last nights game...sound familiar yet?) for making culturally offensive remarks towards the refs who were all francophones. The NHL investigated this allegation & found it to be totally baseless.
No actions were taken on Doan by the league. But the actions of this ref caused such an uproar that a francophone MP wanted Doan to pay. Denis Coderre, a liberal MP demanded Doan be removed from Team Canada & a public apology. Doan fought back & sued the MP for defamation...all because of a ref who clearly has some sort of warped vendetta. Shane Doan would go on to play for Team Canada AND was made team captain.
Just a little over 4 years later, Auger is at the centre of another controversy on the ice. This time, all because a player made him look bad on a call a month earlier. This type of action happens dozens of times a year to refs. Refs deal with it either by letting it roll off their back, or they get the player back privately with a slightly questionable call down the road. But not 2 of them, and certainly not one as dreadful as the interference call. Certainly not in a 2-2 tie late in the 3rd period. Its an abhorent abuse of power.
The NHL knows it will eventually have to deal with Auger. They SHOULD fire him for now being at the middle of 2 hugely embarassing moments for the league. But they wont. What they may do is give him a hefty fine & a moderate suspension.
My suggestion (one that I think is practical for the NHL)
-Surrender all salary from that game, plus an additional 5% of his salary fine.
-Not allowed to ref any games Burrows is in for the duration of the 09-10 season & playoffs.
-Suspension of 2-5 games.
This in my mind seems like a more logical and reasonable assessment. Its certainly more practical, as the NHL would have a huge issue with trying to reschedule so many games from here to the end of the season if they suspended Auger outright, not to mention the fight it would cause with the NHLOA, the officials association. But a penalty is needed against Auger, and it cant just be a stern finger wagging. This is after all his 2nd offense of grossly questionable conduct, it very likely affected the outcome of a regular season game this time, perhaps prevented a player from obtraining a piece of NHL history, and worse, it puts the NHL in a bad light.
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.