The Cammalleri non-trade has been a hot topic of discussion following the trade deadline (to the chagrin of some). The disappointment in the lack of return is understandable; Cammalleri was the last of the organization’s aging, expendable trade pieces and therefore the final asset one could reasonably expect to flip for a decent return without cutting into the backbone or new flesh of the club. with him not moving, Calgary will likely see another of its primary bargaining chips walk into the sunset without return, a la Miikka Kiprusoff.
– The discussion of whether Burke is to be pilloried for his failure to leverage Cammalleri is a rather complex one. I suspect the Flames “interim” GM was hamstrung by a number of factors outside of his control, not the least of which was Cammalleri’s concussion and altogether lackluster play overall this season. The 31-year old winger suffered through an ill-timed 9-game pointless drought between January 7th and March 1 and is operating at roughly a 40-point pace this season.
His play by observation has matched the lackluster totals, at least as far as the last two months have gone. This doubtlessly suppressed his stock in the eyes of visiting scouts as the deadline approached.
Of course, the day was also filled with all sorts of complicating factors, including the lack of cap space for many of the contendors, with the few who could bear the addition of a few dollars battling over guys like Ryan Kesler (who also didn’t move), Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson. This interplay of various factors no doubt led to Burke chasin hesitant and shrinking offers from the few suitors he could find.
– On the other hand, I’m one of the few who probably would have taken even a 3rd round pick in return for Cammalleri. It seems pointless to worry about moving someone for a 10-15% chance at a future NHL, but I’ll lean on some of Nassim Taleb’s ideas from The Antifragile to make my case.
I’ll begin by stating that, in general, I would almost always operate at as a “seller” at the trade deadline were I an NHL GM. Not in the strict sense of a lousy team desperately selling off any and all assets for future returns, only that I would always be willing to consider moving marginal depth pieces for draft picks, depending on the level of demand. Think Doug Wilson dealing Douglas Murray for a pair of second round picks at the 2013 deadline for instance.
Anyways, in Antifragile, Taleb talks about “optionality”, or the strategy of trial and error where the potential gains of a “hit” far outweigh the small, recurrent costs of a “miss” – even when the occurence of a hit is apparently rare and random. He includes this graph to illustrate:
In the Flames case, the cost of a moving Cammalleri for a hit is limited and known (or at least rather predictable): He is very unlikely to sign with the Flames, and even if he stays he’s more than likely to degrade rapidly as he approaches his 35th birthday which is when most NHLers more or less fall of cliff*. Even now Cammalleri is a good (but not truly high impact) NHLer – it won’t take much of a slide to move him into mediocre or worse territory.
*(This reality non-coincidentally increases the chances of his re-signing being a bad thing long-term for the organization, as it increases the risk that his next deal will become a toxic asset).
The third round pick, paradoxically, is very unlikely to be anything at all, but still has a greater likelihood of being something vastly more wortwhile to the Flames organization long-term. That’s because the potential “hit” of getting a impact NHLer in the third round, while rare and random, has a much, much higher pontential upside for the club than what is possible with Cammalleri. Particularly given the fact he is a) unlikely to stay with the team at a price that makes sense and b) is entering the sunset stage of his career when he won’t be of much use to an actively rebuilding club (concerns about mentoring the kids and leadership notwithstanding).
I’ll put it another way: though I understand the probability of choosing a good or better NHLer in the third round is slim, I nevertheless regard that potential gain higher than the known, limited value that is Cammalleri for the Flames currently.
– The only way this isn’t true, I think, is Burke manages to convince the player to stay on a cheap, brief contract which will allow the team to avoid the risk of an expensive, longer-term deal and gives them the option of trying to flip him for a better return during a more seller friendly deadline. This is how I personally hope things play out.
– On to other things. I noted with amazement that Brian McGrattan scored a goal and managed 6 shots on net versus the Kings the other night. I was asked on twitter if this was “my worst nightmare”. Quite the contrary – I think it’s awesome when guys like McGrattan have big nights. My position of skepticism of the value of enforcers (and the need for toughness for toughness sake in general) is a tactical concern. I can express doubt about the viability of old school notions about the fighter role and also simultaneously admit that what goons do requires sacrifice and courage – and that many of them seem to really likable guys besides.
So congrats, Big Ern. I don’t begrudge you your scoring streak at all.
– Finally, I am as guilty as anyone for continuously pointing and laughing at our hapless neighbours up north. On the other hand, I am becoming ever more aware that hubris and incompetence (of which there is a seemingly endless supply in all endeavours, the NHL included) can mean that a rebuild can become an unending Sisyphussian torment foisted upon a wailing, yet entirely helpless, fanbase.
The rebuild is not a foolproof road map back to relevance, and clearly even multiple first round picks don’t guarantee the inevitable turn around. So even while am I still able to poke fun at our rivals boundless purgatory, my fear grows that we could very well join them in their wander through the unnavigable fog.