1. The Flames’ action, or lack thereof
So after all that, the Flames’ big haul as they attempt to rebuild from years of mismanagement is what will probably end up being a mid-second- and late third-round pick, and the only guys they offloaded were Reto Berra and Lee Stempniak.
Let’s start with the former of those deals, which shipped Berra, a 27-year-old goaltending “prospect” who was in way over his head in the NHL and should have no value whatsoever. Getting anything for him, let alone a pick that’s likely to be in the 50s, is frankly not half bad. It’s more than should have been expected.
The Stempniak trade, meanwhile, was about par for the course given what was being thrown around for far better players than him. He was never going to be worth more than a pick in the 90s, if we were being realistic.
But with that having been said, this is another catastrophe in a long line of trade-deadline catastrophes for the Calgary Flames. That’s even if they end up re-signing Mike Cammalleri. This is a team that needs assets to restock the cupboard, not to re-up mediocre declining veterans. Of course, I don’t know why anyone should be surprised; Brian Burke said just yesterday that his goal was for the Flames to be buyers at the deadline next year, which shows how ridiculous his view of things is, necessarily. Because let’s say Calgary (miraculously) is in a playoff position around this time next season. To what end does the acquisition of rental players help this team in being competitive for the Stanley Cup? It doesn’t. That’s correct.
This is a team that — to borrow Jay Feaster’s phrase — is still not being “intellectually honest” about the way in which it should approach what it has now acknowledged is a rebuild. Even now. Even after everything that’s happened these last four years or more.
2. A big change in Vancouver
How weird is it to see a Western Canadian team realize less than one year into their likely descent into mediocrity that they needed to blow everything up?
Roberto Luongo was shipped, at long last, to Florida this week for a return that was underwhelming but understandable given That Contract. As I write this, before the deadline lands, Ryan Kesler is being shopped around and appears likely to be traded either now or in the summer, and Alex Edler might get a similar treatment. Mike Gillis reportedly might not have the authority to make any such trades (i.e. he is fired as hell the second the season ends) and John Tortorella may likewise be asked to pack his things after just one season in Vancouver.
This is responsible stuff from ownership, period. They saw the problem over these 50-something games and said they wouldn’t stand for it, rather than trying to fruitlessly milk another playoff appearance or three out of a team so far past truly competing as to no longer be able to see it over the horizon.
(I would listen to an argument, though, that not letting Gillis trade Kesler of his own volition today, if that’s the case, is some level of interference from ownership. That’s a generally loathsome proposition but if Murray Edwards had stepped in and said, “No more,” to Jay Feaster after, say, the Iginla trade, then I think we all would have understood.)
The Flames and Oilers could really take a page out of their book, but maybe the Canucks saw what happened in their own division and just learned the hard lesson.
3. Hemsky finally gone
Speaking of the Oilers, I can’t believe they finally traded Ales Hemsky after all this time. Of course, they traded him for a third- and fifth-round pick because that’s all the market would bear for him, and they picked up half his salary, but still. Hemsky playing somewhere other than Edmonton will be a bizarre thing to see.
This is a great lesson for Brian Burke — or whomever ends up being the next Flames GM — to learn. The Oilers worked so, so hard to systematically devalue a guy who has proven that he can be a useful if often-injured offensive contributor on a garbage team (and boy did the local press ever chip in to help), so to then to get this kind of return for him should come as no surprise.
Another thing that should come as no surprise: If Hemsky starts ripping things up on a line with Kyle Turris in Ottawa; I’m not sure it’s necessarily all that wise a move for Ottawa since they’re not going to make the playoffs and should, instead, be looking to sell, but it’s certainly low-risk given what they gave up to get him. Hemsky’s old these days, yeah, and the likelihood they re-sign him this summer likewise appears quite low, but this too is a valuable lesson to learn.
4. St. Louis in New York
I really can’t believe this was a thing that ended up happening. The Rangers paid through the nose to get him — and dumped a negotiations headache they didn’t want to deal with this summer — but he’s a huuuuuuuuuuge pickup for a team that’s really ready to be a threat in the East, all things considered.
It’s unfortunate that the team traded the guy who’s been the face of the franchise for the last decade (sorry Vinny) on the day the guy who’s going to be the face of the franchise for the next decade returns from a horrific broken leg. But that’s life. Especially when you’re dealing with a baby like Martin St. Louis. Alain Vigneault better hope he doesn’t look at good ol’ Marty the wrong way, and Mats Zuccarello might want to start wearing platform shoes so the big ol’ cockalorum doesn’t get upset about no longer being the shortest guy on the team.
This really does make the Rangers pretty terrifying. St. Louis playing run-n-gun with Brad Richards again is going to be fun to watch. Just don’t screw up any passes, Brad!
5. Something doesn’t have anything to do with trades
When last we spoke of hotshot goaltending prospect Jon Gillies, it was to say that he had been hot garbage since the end of World Juniors. Fortunately, though, whatever was ailing him seems to have corrected itself, and the ship has absolutely been righted at this point.
After suffering loss after loss — and giving up large amounts of goals even in wins — Gillies has rounded back into form over the past three weeks while playing some fairly tough opponents. He gave up 24 goals in eight games from Jan. 7 to Feb. 11, and really looked pretty disinterested in doing it, going 2-5-1. But giving up three on 26 and losing to lowly UConn (one of the better teams in perhaps the worst conference in the country) seems to have scared him straight.
Since that loss, he’s played Notre Dame, UMass Amherst, and Maine, and gone 4-1-1 with a .933 save percentage. Those four wins, by the way, were in a row, including a sweep at Maine, where the Black Bears had, previous to last weekend, lost just one game all season.
Very encouraging stuff from a kid many thought had checked out after World Juniors. He’s likely to improve on that performance, too, because he basically got the Friars into third place in Hockey East by himself over the last few weeks. Providence scored just 15 goals in those six games to support him.