The Steve Staios Trade - Horrendous

Kent Wilson
March 04 2010 11:57AM

St. Louis Blues v Edmonton Oilers

 

Every move that Darryl Sutter has made in his recent whirlwind of desperation has been defensible to one degree or another. Even the Jokinen for Kotalik and Higgins trade, although one has to squint to find the silver lining on that one. The Phaneuf trade shifted money from the back-end to the front, added a couple of capable players and shored up the Flames offensive depth. The Bourque and Stajan signings were at about market value and both will be top 6 contributors to the team going forward.

The Steve Staio acquisition, though, is senseless. It's bad from just about every conceivable angle.

Let me first establish that I've heard nothing but good things about Steve Staios as a person since the trade went down. Oilers fans swear up-and-down that Steve is a tireless worker and a selfless warrior on the ice. I assume that these are the reasons he was coveted by Sutter. I guess he's trying to replace Rhett Warrener, who was of the same ilk (and who, not coincidentally, spent his last few years as a Flame being paid far too much for what he brought on the ice).

The truth is, however, that those same Oiler fans were positively thrilled by the trade yesterday, and not because they received Aaron Johnson in return. Steve Staios, even with all his leadership and work ethic, was a liability to the Oilers organization. His cap hit of $2.7M was grossly out of line with his contributions as an aging, third pairing defender and the shedding of his contract, regardless of return, was a major boon for the franchise.

As you can probably guess, all the reasons that losing Staios is good for Edmonton are the reasons adding him is bad for Calgary. Since moving Phanuef's S6.5M cap hit, Sutter has spent about $12.53M in future cap dollars on Bourque (3.33M), Stajan (3.5M), Kotalik (3M) and now Staios (2.7M). That leaves the Flames committed to some $56.8M next season to 17 players while needing to replace or re-sign Craig Conroy, Eric Nystrom, Jamal Mayers, Chris Higgins, Ian White and a back-up goalie. Sutter has taken the measure of flexibility he garnered through the Phanef deal and effectively reversed it in the space of about 3 weeks. The team is effectively carved in stone, absent some Vandermeer-like salary dumps. That would be okay if the Flames weren't scratching and clawing for 8th in the conference.

The apparent rationale offered by defenders of the trade and Sutter himself is Staios' "leadership and character". To be true, this would mean that:

1.) A team boasting Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr, Daymond Langkow and Cory Sarich (and coach Brent Sutter) is somehow notably deficient in that area.

2.) That, somehow, Steve Staios is going to walk into the dressing room and appreciably alter it's culture for the better.

Both presumptions strike me as rather absurd. Many of us have operated in poorly run or rudderless organizations in the past and can probably therefore envision how having poor leadership in a dressing room could effect a club's performance and morale. Good leadership can enhance cohesion and dispel dissension, I think, which is why it's potentially valuble. However, leadership doesn't strike me as an additive commodity - ie, it's important only when you lack it completely. It's a binary propositiion: either you have good leadership, or you don't. The apparent gains of piling "experienced leader" upon "experienced leader" in a dressing must be rather limited. To put it another way: how many "leaders" does a hockey team need?

The other rationale offered for the Staios acquisition is the fact that he adds to the Flames defensive depth. To consider this a valuable addition, however, one has to rate Steve Staios' potential value (with cap hit firmly in mind) above both guys inside the organization and available UFA replacements. In Calgary, the only guy Staios potentially usurps is Adam Pardy, who is a third pairing sophomore earning 700k. It's arguable as to whether Staios is superior player to Pardy these days (none of the stats support that view, nor do my viewings of Oilers games), but it's basically guaranteed that his contribubtions won't outstrip Pardy's to the tune of $2M. Especially going forward, given the difference in age between the two: Pardy may yet improve. Staios is a lock to get worse.

In addition, one has to assume that 2.7M, 37 year old Steve Staios is going to be a better option for the Flames next year over anyone available on the free agent market. Here is a sampling of guys who are scheduled to be UFA's this summer:

Brett Clark

Willie Mitchell

Derek Morris

Ruslan Salei

Andy Sutton

Toni Lydman

Joe Corvo

Henrik Tallinder

Brian Pothier

Anton Volchenkov

Aaron Ward

Dennis Seidenberg

Dan Hamhuis

Zbynek Michalek

Jay McKee

Nevermind that paying $2.7M for a third pairing defender is ridiculous (even if he's the most popular guy in the world) and nevermind that the Flames now have $6.3M committed to Cory Sarich and Steve Staios next season. With the Staios addition, a number of obviously superior options are out the window (Hamhuis, Michalek, Volchenkov). That's even granting the assumption that the Flames need to add to their defensive depth from outside of their organization, which I don't.

In fact, in the face of the Flames offensive struggles this year, it's clear that cap dollars would be better spent on acquiring difference makers up front going forward. To that end, I was personally hoping Sutter would swap Cory Sarich for a cheaper option at the deadline in order to free up money for forwards in the off-season. Instead, he added another Cory Sarich.

The Staios deal is a mess. Whatever "intangibles" he adds to the roster are likely to fall well short of his relatively expensive contract. Unless he regains the sort of on-ice form he showed years ago, Staios is a bad bet to provide value for his contract and is a toxic asset - one which was happily expunged by the rather hapless organization up north.

It's a move that smacks of a man either lost in the past or completely out of ideas. 

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Me thinks..
March 04 2010, 12:36PM
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After last nights game was 1-0 I turned it off. I could not watch any more.

I dont know what this team is anymore. I have lost my faith in every member in some way shape or form. I am sad to say it, Hell I hate to think it, but you look up north and see the start of a plan. Here.......nothing....old guys....grinders......cycling the puck....I just want to cry.

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#2 SmellOfVictory
March 04 2010, 12:58PM
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Me thinks.. wrote:

After last nights game was 1-0 I turned it off. I could not watch any more.

I dont know what this team is anymore. I have lost my faith in every member in some way shape or form. I am sad to say it, Hell I hate to think it, but you look up north and see the start of a plan. Here.......nothing....old guys....grinders......cycling the puck....I just want to cry.

For a very long time, the Flames has been a team of old guys and grinders. The difference was that, even up to last year, Iginla was putting up very solid point totals (and up 'til around 07-08, was almost a line unto himself). I'm of the opinion that Iggy and Kipper were nearly the only things keeping the Flames in the 04 cup run, for example.

Now that Iginla is getting old and/or has lost the will to live (thanks, Sutter), and Kipper is only playing really well as opposed to balls-out awesome, the Flames are again suffering from Sutter's idiotic hick concept of a team comprised of hard-working "common man" players with a ton of "character". Every good thing he gets, a Cammaleri, a Tanguay, he lets go for no reason other than the fact that he is, and always has been, completely out-to-lunch as a GM.

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#3 jess
March 04 2010, 01:13PM
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This makes me even more sad about the Staios signing. And I was already sad.

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#4 Jean Lefebvre
March 04 2010, 01:31PM
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@SmellOfVictory

I'm of the opinion that Iggy and Kipper were nearly the only things keeping the Flames in the 04 cup run, for example.

How soon we forget the contributions of, just to name a few, Martin (The Closer) Gelinas and his series-winners as well as the Here, There and Everywhere Line (Nieminen, Donovan and Nilson) which played a pivotal role in turning the San Jose series in the Flames' favour.

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#6 David Staples
March 04 2010, 02:06PM
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Did you mention that Staois has had two concussions this year?

When he's played, he's played very well in his own zone. He's still an excellent defensive d-man. Not everyone would say that, but it's certainly my take. He makes few unforced mistakes, unlike so many other d-men, including a bunch who played for Calgary vs. Chicago last spring (though most of those really bad ones, including Vandermeer and Leopold and Ericksson, are now gone).

He's got next to zero offence, though.

He's not a better play than Pardy.

And that cap hit is a killer, considering his age and hazy, hazy, hazy injury status.

Still smiling over this deal . . .

Wow!!!!!

The Oilers moved Staios!!!

Tamby is actually the toast of the Oilogosphere, as you point out.

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#7 Greg Wyshynski
March 04 2010, 04:30PM
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Hey! I think he was a solid pickup! You guys are getting a reliable puck mover who plays with heart and passion every night! HOW DARE YOU CHALLENGE MY STATUS AS A BLOGGER. I OWN YOU.

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#8 SmellOfVictory
March 04 2010, 05:20PM
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Jean Lefebvre wrote:

I'm of the opinion that Iggy and Kipper were nearly the only things keeping the Flames in the 04 cup run, for example.

How soon we forget the contributions of, just to name a few, Martin (The Closer) Gelinas and his series-winners as well as the Here, There and Everywhere Line (Nieminen, Donovan and Nilson) which played a pivotal role in turning the San Jose series in the Flames' favour.

I certainly remember Gelinas (phantom cup-winning goal :D). I'm not saying that the Flames didn't have a good supporting cast, but that's primarily what it was: a supporting cast. The difference I see between this year and 04 is that Kipper is not as good as that year (nearly impossible to be) and Iggy is not as good as that year. The DLB line this year has been a phenomenal 2nd line, and there is a very solid supporting cast at this point.

I will grant that I did a lot of drinking during those hockey games and my memory is shoddy, but team-wise the major differences that I see separating this team from that one are in the franchise players.

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#9 Dutch
March 04 2010, 06:37PM
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@Greg Wyshynski

Hey pal, try taking a look at his advanced statistics before you go blabbering on about his "puck moving" capabilities. He was clearly one of the worst defenders on a 30th place team and I don't really see what he brings to the table in terms of helping this team.

I'm really starting to get sick of you MSM types

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#10 Greg
March 05 2010, 10:14AM
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I think it's questionable whether Iggy, Langkow, et al are providing the leadership the team needs. The coaches have repeatedly said they are having to provide accountability that should be coming from the players themselves. Nor do I see many (any) players on the team playing like they are willing to do whatever it takes to win. Erego, I do by the "leadership and character" argument.

Additionally, I wasn't comfortable with Aaron Johnson's play, and while he may not be better than Pardy, Staois has to at least be an upgrade over Johnson. From that perspective, it's simply Sutter's annual Brennan-Evans-Insurance deal.

That said, the only way you can justify this deal is if you REALLY think this team is good enough to need these assets for an extended playoff run. Sutter obviously does. I still hope to be proven wrong, but I think he's completely disconnected from reality and could use some professional help.

To top it off, I didn't realize how bad this makes the cap situation for next year. If we can't re-sign White and Higgins as a result, I'll be calling for Sutter's job.

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#11 walkinvisible
March 05 2010, 05:30PM
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minus the profanity, this is (more or less) what i wrote over at M&G the other night about staios:

honestly, i couldn’t give a s*** if staios is a nice guy or the biggest douche this side of kesler, and i’m sick and tired of hearing that comment substituting as analysis about a TRADE.

if my team is paying 2.7 million dollars for a 36 year old defenseman, i’d like to hear the pundits (i'm lookin' at you, boomer/steinberg/wysh) tell me that he’s still a great skater, is smart positionally, has an accurate bullet shot from the point, makes awesome tape-to-tape passes, and/or is otherwise a generally very solid blueliner.

personally, i wonder if TOO MANY leadership types in a lockerroom doesn't just muddle what message the captain delivers... it was just last summer that i agreed with suggestions that perhaps iggy should hand the C to regehr but perhaps the problem was too many former captains milling around backstage. just postulating....

ultimately, i'd say give me a jerk with skills any day of the week over a “nice guy” who is gonna make me want to jam sharp things into my eyes when i watch him play.

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