2011 NHL Thanksgiving: Should Each NHL Team Consider Trading Away Its Captain?
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To trade or not to trade, that is today's question.
Around the NHL, teams are approaching that critical quarter-season mark of 20 games played, where general managers can accurately get a feel for where their team's weaknesses and strengths lie and what their Christmas shopping lists should be for their respective teams.
It's a well-documented fact that the NHL trading season starts to really kick up around American Thanksgiving (also happens near the 20-game mark). As such, I thought I would take a look at each team around the league and discuss whether or not the team should trade away its head honcho on-ice; aka the team captain.
Some teams should consider it, others should never even think about it, and some almost need to.
This will be Part 1 of 4, done alphabetically from Anaheim to Chicago.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf should feel pretty safe, and rightly so.
Harry How/Getty Images
Stats 2011/12: 17GP, 4G, 5A, 9PTS, -4
Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 19G, 24A, 43PTS, -19
Career Average: 71GP, 21G, 48A, 69PTS, +13
Clearly, Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks are having a rocky start to their season; going 6-8-3 in their first 17 games for only 15 points, ranking them 14th in the West and 26th overall in the league.
The problem is the Ducks offence, which besides the top-line has been almost anemic, generating 35 goals for only 2.00 goals per game—good for dead last in the NHL. The top line, consisting of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, as well as their power play running mate Teemu Selanne, have hit the back of the net a total of 20 times, which is 57 percent of Anaheim's total offence.
Every team has a right to want their best players to be their best players, but the complete lack of any kind of consistent secondary scoring has really sunk the Ducks.
Anaheim was a serious playoff contender just last season and probably could have pushed deeper had No. 1 goaltender Jonas Hiller not been sidelined with a strange case of vertigo. Now that Hiller is healthy, he is still an elite level goaltender, so the Ducks have that shored up.
With Lubomir Visnovsky and Toni Lydman, they have veteran presence on the defence with young guns Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa logging significant minutes, so the D isn't looking too bad either. The problem stems from a lack of toughness in the bottom six to play the aggressive, hard-hitting, wear-me-down game that coach Randy Carlyle loves to play, as well as a complete lack of any kind of finishers on the team not named Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan or Selanne.
The team isn't in horrible shape however, as Emerson Etem (the Ducks' first-round pick, 29th overall in 2010) is dominating in the WHL and looks ready to step in for Selanne on the right side on the second line next year, should Selanne finally choose to retire. With Peter Holland not looking ready and Saku Koivu looking devoid of any offence in what could possibly be his last season, the Ducks have no one to step in to replace Getzlaf should he be moved.
Pros of trading him: a massive return for such a dominant, physical player with elite hands and vision.
Cons of trading him: Ducks just got off a few successful offseasons and are only a few tweaks to the second line away from being legitimate contenders again.
Sending away Getzlaf could seriously hurt the effectiveness of Perry, as the two really feed of each other on the ice. Getzlaf's recent injury history over the past three seasons, combined with his slow start, will have significantly hurt his trade value. With no other viable centre ice options to step in and replace Getzlaf, the Ducks would have to commit to a serious rebuild to justify his exit.
Verdict: No, Getzlaf stays a Duck.
Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara
Boston is built with Chara as a corner stone of just the D, but the entire team.
Stats 2011/12: 16GP, 1G, 12A, 13PTS, +10
Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 5G, 61A, 66PTS, +51
Career Average: 71GP, 9G, 22A, 31PTS, +8
Career Average with Boston: 79GP, 13G, 32A, 45PTS, +13
Clearly, the Boston Bruins were off to a rocky start to their season, but with a recent six-game winning streak bringing them up to a 9-7-0 record in 16 games, they seem to have found their collective way back to being a championship-caliber team.
Chara, with his 13 points and plus-10 rating, has been a big contributor to the team's recent success. He's on pace for a career year and is very much a piece of the core of this team and how it operates both on the ice and in the locker room.
The team has Dougie Hamilton waiting in junior, but he's at least two to three years away from being ready for the big time, so there is no rush to move Chara. With Rask, the future stud netminder, and Seguin tearing up the NHL at forward, this team is nowhere near wanting—or needing—a rebuild.
I'm going to make this one quick and easy...
Verdict: Not going to happen. Chara is most likely a Bruin for the rest of his career.
Buffalo Sabres: Jason Pominville
Pominville is backing up his claim to the captaincy with solid two way play
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Stats 2011/12: 17GP, 7G, 14A, 21PTS, +3
Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 33G, 67A, 101PTS, +14
Career Average: 65GP, 21G, 31A, 52PTS, +6
Buffalo is riding second in the Eastern conference and first in the tough North Eastern division. They are generating offence while playing solid defence, they have a top 12 Power Play and a top 3 Penalty Kill. They can roll all four lines and all three defensive pairings rather comfortably, and have excellent net minding from (the now concussed) Ryan Miller and his backup (who is undefeated this season) Jhonas Enroth.
Even though the Sabres have Zach Kassian and Marcus Foligno waiting in the minors, chomping at the bit to get a crack at the big leagues, they have no pressing needs and no real concerns on the team right now.
Another very simple verdict...
Verdict: Not likely to happen, no urgent team needs plus very strong play and chemistry with leading scorer Thomas Vanek most likely means Pominville is staying put.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
Iginla and his Flames are really feeling the Heat this season.
Mike Ridewood/Getty Images
Stats 2011/12: 17GP, 5G, 4A, 9PTS, -10
Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 24G, 19A, 43PTS, -48
Career Average: 78GP, 34G, 37A, 71PTS, +4
Well, here we get to our first contentious captain. The Flames have been floundering for years now with an aging roster, no real help in the pipeline and teams that are just good enough to miss the playoffs every year by only a few points. We start this season off with yet again another slow and unhappy start for the Flames, as they wallow in 13th in the Western conference.
If Flames management truly thinks this roster can compete with the elite teams of the West and make it to the playoffs, the roster is going to need help. With only a few players on the team holding value though, who do you move? Kipper? Giordano? Bouwmeester? Bourque? Tanguay? Backlund? Or the player with the most value, who would fetch the most return, the very face of the franchise...
If Flames management finally realizes it's time to throw in the towel and blow it all up, who better to move than a perennial 70-point, heavy-hitting, high-class character, power forward like Iginla?
Now before Flames fans start jumping down my throat, I agree that Iginla has earned the right to retire as a Flame if he really wants to—the rebuild can definitely start with Bouwmeester, Tanguay, Jokinen and Kipper being moved while Iginla stays. But I also think that this warrior has earned the chance to actually compete for the Stanley Cup and play meaningful games in April and May.
Also, I seem to remember a day not too long ago when a face of the franchise was traded for a young up and comer... that turned out all right, didn't it? Iginla could easily fetch back a younger impact player or several high value prospects in return. The team's pipeline needs the shot in the arm for there to be any kind of bright future in Cow town.
Verdict: Trade him. He deserves a shot at the cup, which he won't get in Calgary due to an aging roster and no cap flexibility or high value trade chips to bring back impact players. It's time for the city of Calgary and its hockey team to stop lying to themselves and realize they need to blow up their team, and that process starts with Jarome Iginla.
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal
Eric Staal has had a very rough start to his season.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Stats 2011/12: 18GP, 4G, 4A, 8PTS, -17
Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 18G, 18A, 36PTS, -77
Career Average: 80GP, 32G, 39A, 72PTS, -1
Staal is having an abysmal season by any top-six forwards standards, let alone for an elite, Olympic goal medalist and team captain. His plus/minus is worst on the team and, in fact, it takes the combining of the next two worst plus/minus ratings on the team (Joni Pitkanen -10, Jiri Tlusty -7) to make his atrocious numbers.
Offensively, he's on pace for half of his career average and his worst season statistically since his rookie year in 2003/04 (81GP, 11G, 20A, 31PTS, -6). He's been lacking any kind of real offensive help on the wings, as Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose, Carolina's three leading scorers, have spent most of their time together on the second unit. Staal has had a rotating cast of wingers ranging from Tuomo Ruutu to Alexei Ponikarovsky, to Jiri Tlusty to Patrick Dwyer.
Carolina has a solid young nucleus of talent with Skinner, Sutter and Dalpe up front and Jamie McBain and (the recently concussed) Ryan Murphy showing a lot of promise from the back end. In net, they have their star netminder in Cam Ward, who is 27 years old and still in his prime and has more than a few elite seasons left in him.
Ever since Staal took over the captaincy from Rod Brindamour last year, his game hasn't quite been the same. Maybe the captaincy is just too much pressure for him? Maybe he's finally run out of creative juices when he has to do everything himself due to no talent on his wings. Maybe Staal needs a change of scenery to refresh himself and get back to his true All-Star level.
It's pretty clear something needs to happen for the Hurricanes, as they are wallowing in the basement of the Eastern conference (13th in the East, 27th in the league). Either they need to go out and spend the money and get Staal those wingers (note: Paul Maurice has recently switched Staal to the left wing position to try and break his funk, so the Canes might need to look for a centre and winger combo instead), or they need to commit to building around Ward, McBain and Skinner and ship Staal out for a handsome return.
Verdict: Trade for wingers or trade Staal. Realistically the Canes aren't competing this year, so why not move Staal and be a force for next year?
Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews has helped to piston his team for another Cup run.
John Grieshop/Getty Images
Stats 2011/12: 18GP, 9G, 6A, 15PTS, +7
Pro-rated Stats over a full season: 82GP, 41G, 27A, 68PTS, +31
Career Average: 75GP, 28G, 38A, 66PTS, +17
This one's going to be short and simple. Gold medal, Con Smythe, Stanley Cup, WJC winning centre who gives his all for his team and sometimes simply wills them to victory isn't going anywhere. Especially now that in the last two seasons he's really begun to find the next level to his offensive game.
Verdict: No way In Hell.
Who will win this year, and will it be with the captain they started the season with?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it generates some good debate.
As always please feel free to comment below and stay tuned for sometime in the next week for Part 2, Colorado to Florida.