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I Heart NHL Trade Deadline Day (and the Improved Calgary Flames)

March 5, 2009

I woke up yesterday morning with a little extra kick in my step. A little sparkle in my eye. A little… well, you get the point.

See, it was trade deadline day for the NHL. For me, the allure of the day never seems to fail me, despite the fact that Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter rarely makes a momentous move. That sly old dog knows an inflated price when he sees one.

Photo by D'Arcy Norman (Flickr CC)

Photo by D'Arcy Norman (Flickr CC)

Still, I love NHL trade deadline day. For you see, there’s a little bit of pixie dust in the air… Sorry, there I go again.

Lo and Behold, my usual post-deadline disappointment was conspicuously absent this year. For you see, this was a killer trade deadline for Calgary Flames fans, and a mind-numbingly boring day for everyone else.

A day of infamy, a moment of triumph, a fantabulous, splendiferous…. Oh never mind.

Trade #1: Bucket of hockey pucks for Jordan Leopold:
Okay, not really a bucket of hockey pucks, but as close as possible.
– Lawrence Nycholat = picked off waiver wire yesterday = free
– Ryan Wilson = undrafted free agent signing = free
– A 2009 2nd Round Draft Pick. Well, it was a little bonus on the day the Flames traded Alex Tanguay, received Mike Cammaleri, and moved from 17th to 25th in the entry draft. Let’s call it a freebie too.

Verdict: Nothing for something? Very very very nice.

Trade #2: Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust & 1st Rounder for Olli Jokinen:

Photo by Point n Shoot (Flickr CC)

Photo by pointnshoot (Flickr CC)

The Flames world is divided on this one, much to the bewilderment of some pundits. For you see, Jokinen is clearly the bigger name (and ergo, better player). Hockey writers worldwide (or at least in Toronto) see Jokinen as the #1 centre Calgary needs, much needed scoring, blah blah blah blah, whatever they’ve heard since they never watch the Flames anyway.

Never mind that Calgary has a highly underrated, brilliant #1 centre (Daymond Langkow), or that Calgary’s getting plenty of scoring this year from its deepest group of forwards in well over a decade.

But Flames fans message boards and blogs keep bringing up several points of contention:
– Lombardi is a better value ($1.8 mill/yr) than Jokinen ($5.25 mill/yr)
– Jokinen has been called a “cancer” in the locker room
– Jokinen’s +/- is terrible (-5) compared to Lombardi (+11)….

Plus there’s a spot in most Flames fans’ hearts for Lombardi. We all like that speed, occasional scoring touch, and winning smile from a guy who’s also great on the PK. We all think he’s on the cusp of breaking out, becoming an elite player, and what have you.

Still, complain all you want, it’s hard to argue that Jokinen isn’t potentially a major upgrade, with his many 30+ goal seasons on very weak teams.

Verdict: Very nice. Well maybe. We’ll see.

The great thing about trade deadline day is that it’s all debatable. All of it. And while all deals can’t be seen as a sweet blessing, like the Jordan Leopold deal, they can at least give hockey fans plenty of material to analyze, like the Jokinen deal.

It’s entirely a day of imagined worlds (but not those boring ones from philosophy class), a moment for fans of the would be, the team one trade away from greatness, or whatever that intangible quality (spark, hustle, grit, skill, etc.) a team requires.

That’s what puts a grin on our face, a song in our heart, a rainbow in the… Oh never mind.

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