Friday, March 05, 2010

Trade deadline features quantity over quality

By Michael Rushton 

Philadelphia, PA - One of the best days of my life involved a trip to Taco Bell many years ago.

During said trip my order was pretty standard: three soft supreme tacos to go. However, the employee completing my order was apparently a rookie, and he instead constructed my tacos in a hard shell. Informed of his mistake, he prepared to discard the food items and correct his gaffe.

Then, like a guardian angel his manager stopped him. He instructed his worker to put the three hard tacos in the bag along with my newly created soft-shell gems. I'll never forget his words, which came out of his mouth like a hymn.

"He gets to eat your mistake."


Is it sad that one of my greatest memories involves questionable meat and a teenager's folly? Probably, but there is a point to this.

Are six tacos better than three? Absolutely, but quantity doesn't always dictate success.

Take the recently-completed NHL trade deadline. A record 31 trades involving 55 players were completed, but not a single one created much buzz among cell phones and Twitter accounts. In fact, I would go as far as to say all the trades combined weren't as newsworthy as the handful of deals made before the Winter Olympic break.

While the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Olli Jokinen were all moved back in late January and early February, the day of March 3, which many NHL enthusiasts have had circled for months now, came and went with a whisper.

"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." T.S. Eliot said that.

Now granted, the NHL isn't going to fall to pieces because of a boring trade deadline, but it is one day that many fans who remain middle-of-the-road about the sport actually care enough to check in. With the event superceded by the success of the Gold Medal Game, names like Derek Morris, Wojtek Wolski and Ryan Whitney aren't going to rope in new followers.

There were names out there. Florida's Tomas Vokoun, Dan Hamhuis of Nashville and Ray Whitney of Carolina were all reportedly out there. Even heavy-hitters like Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer and Vincent Lecavalier of Tampa Bay found their way into rumor mills, credible or not.

But in the end, anyone who didn't get a chance to sneak away during the day to check the latest news didn't miss much come dinner time.

The Philadelphia Flyers were one of only a few clubs in a playoff position that didn't make any type of deal, and general manager Paul Holmgren said there just wasn't anything out there that made sense for his club.

"At the end, we explored some of the guys who were mentioned and then we started to focus on depth when it didn't look like anything was going to make sense for us," Holmgren said. "I didn't believe that anything that was made available to us, made us better and then we just started to look at adding just a small piece by a late-round draft pick or something like that, and we weren't able to do that."

Ultimately, the deadline will be evaluated by its impact on the season. Did contenders like Washington, Pittsburgh and Phoenix get better? Probably.

The Coyotes definitely subscribed to the quantity theory, making seven trades and adding five players to their NHL roster, including defensemen Morris and Mathieu Schneider, forwards Wolski, Lee Stempniak and center Petteri Nokelainen.

"We went into it hoping to add a few parts and add to our depth and I think we've addressed those needs today," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, whose club hasn't reached the postseason since 2002 but stands fifth in Western Conference points (79) at the moment.

On the other side of things, bottom-feeders like Carolina, Toronto and Edmonton unloaded talent to better position themselves for the future.

But sex sells, and the lack of big names may have left a bitter taste for some. I don't know about you, but perhaps that sourness can be improved with a mix of beef, sour cream, lettuce and tomato.

No comments: