Thursday, March 01, 2007

Breaking Down the Wings Trade Deadline Pick Ups

Anyone who has read anything of mine (blog, message board posts) knows that I'm not a Ken Holland fan. But I can give credit where credit is due, and his moves at the NHL trading deadline were absolutely brilliant.

The Kyle Calder trade was an upgrade on so many levels: He'll crash the net unlike Williams. He'll go in the corners unlike Williams. He's a free agent after the season, Williams still had another year. And he's not Jason Williams.

I can't begin to express how happy I am that I never have to watch Williams run the point on the power play again. He was absolutely terrible back there.

Both players probably needed a change of scenery. Williams was brutal in the playoffs last year, and hasn't been nearly as good this regular season as he was in 05-06. Calder had a huge year for Chicago last year before moving on to Philly, where he disappointed.

But the players seem to be going in opposite directions. Before the trade, Williams had scored something like 4 goals in his past 18 games, and his line (Cleary/Lang/Williams) had gone completely stagnant. Calder, on the other hand, started the year with just 4 points in his first 37 games and was a -23 in that span. In the 23 (or so) games since then, he had an 8-9--17 line and was just -8 (playing for the worst team in hockey, mind you). He acclimated himself pretty quickly, tallying a goal on his first shift, adding an assist, and was a +2 in his first game as a Wing.

While he won't be the answer, he does have some grit (despite being small), he'll do the dirty work in the corners, and he's great on the forecheck. Anytime you pull a player-for-player swap, and not only get the better player, but also free up future cap space, you did a good job.

If the Calder trade went off without anyone batting an eyelid, the Wings' other move most certainly did not. Todd Bertuzzi is headed to Detroit.

I have mixed feelings on this one, solely because of the Steve Moore incident. That was a shameful act, and while I don't think he meant to hurt him as badly as he did, it was still a cheapshot. And it was the final act of a complete overreaction by the Canucks team to a hit by Moore on Naslund that was probably not even illegal.

Now, I do feel that he was remorseful. He took his medicine for the hit. And hopefully he's a better person now because of it. But I really do feel that the Wings are a bunch of likable guys. I can't think of a bad guy on that team. And maybe Bertuzzi isn't a bad guy. But the onus is on him to prove that. Because he will be forever linked with that lapse in judgement.

Character issues aside, he could really help this team. He's the type of big, talented forward that we have needed for years--but that aren't especially easy to acquire. And on a day when the asking price for players was just going up, up, up, the Wings got him for virtually nothing, including all sorts of conditions in the trade to protect themselves if they a) tank in the playoffs again, b) don't get any use out of Bertuzzi because of his health.

He is a medical risk. He hasn't played since early in the season, and back injuries can linger. But they swear he's going to be close to 100% when he comes back, and if that's true this could be a huge addition. Even in a down year for him last year, he still tallied 71 points and 25 goals. Maybe he's not the 45-50 goal scorer he used to be. But he's big. He's skilled. He's physical. And based on what we gave up for him, he's pretty low-risk.

I liken this to the Hasek acquisition. You don't know if he's going to be healthy, but this team probably wasn't good enough to win the Cup without him. And if he DOES stay healthy, he sures up a major area of need on the team.

We changed our second line from Cleary-Lang-Williams to Bertuzzi-Lang-Calder without giving up a top prospect, without taking on any salary for next season, and the only way we give up a first round pick is if we make it to the Western Conference Finals or farther. Hard to argue with that.

Great job, Kenny! Now just don't use that added cap space to drastically overpay #13.

Does this make the Wings the favorite in the West? Probably not. I'm as big of a homer as there is, and I still like San Jose. They've run our show several times this year, and they're ridiculously deep up front. They aren't as good on the blue line or in goal (as long as Hasek is healthy) but they're good enough.

The top 4 in the West (Detroit, Nashville, San Jose, Anaheim) are all great teams. And that ignores the sleeping giant in Dallas, and a team in Calgary that improved as well. It's a wide-open conference. It's just too bad that with Zetterberg, Cleary and Samuelsson out, the Wings probably will not catch Nashville...meaning we need to keep our fingers crossed that Dallas holds off SJ for the 5 seed. I want no part of SJ in the first round....

Edit: It should also be mentioned that the Wings had a deal in place for a guy I really wanted in Owen Nolan, but due to his wife's pregnancy, he didn't want to leave Phoenix and the Coyotes honored that request even though he has no no-trade clause. He would've been another really good fit and Kenny gets another atta-boy out of me (not that he cares) for that one. The Coyotes should also be given some good pub for looking out for one of their players, even though they weren't obligated to do so.

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