2011 NHL Thanksgiving: Should Each Team Consider Trading Away Its Captain? PT.2

Torrin Batchelor@TdawgBatchelorContributor IIINovember 21, 2011

2011 NHL Thanksgiving: Should Each Team Consider Trading Away Its Captain? PT.2

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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 2 of 4, done alphabetically from Colorado to Los Angeles.

Colorado Avalanche: Milan Hejduk

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    Colorado Avalanche: Milan Hejduk

    Stats 2011/12: 21GP, 7G, 6A, 13PTS, -2

    Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 27G, 23A, 50PTS, -7

    Career Average: 75GP, 29G, 33A, 62PTS, +9

    Milan Hejduk has just been named the Avalanche's captain so that already severely decreases the chances of him being traded. Add to that fact that the Avalanche have a very well stocked cupboard of top prospects at every position and a core of young players that if anything, need strong veteran guidance to reach that next level and you decrease that chance even further.

    Hejduk has been a loyal soldier to Colorado his entire career and will most likely retire there. The only thing the Avalanche really need is a serious boost at D and some more consistent goaltending, but considering what they paid to get Semyon Varlamov (a first 2012 and a second 2013), they are going to give him every chance possible to find his groove between the pipes. If the Av's do manage to find a trade partner with some available D, they'd only be weakening their top 6 forwards by trading Hejduk, and since their pipeline is already so full of young talent there is really no reason to get rid of him—unless he asks to get out—which because he's already played 12 years here and won a cup, he has no real reason to do.

    Verdict: 90-10 that he stays, GM Sherman could always decide that the Av's aren't ready for prime time and need another vet purge...but based on their growth as a team so far...I'd say probably not.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash

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    Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash


    Stats 2011/12: 19GP, 4G, 10A, 14PTS, -12

    Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 17G, 43A, 60PTS, -51

    Career Average: 74GP, 32G, 28A, 60PTS, -6


    Here's controversial captain part two. Rick Nash has been nothing but a loyal and enthusiastic soldier for the Blue Jackets but much like Iginla, has only been rewarded by management with patch-work roster upgrades, barely top 6 caliber line mates, abysmal goaltending and sub-par defensive units.

    This was all supposed to be fixed this summer, as GM Scott Howson finally got aggressive and brought in Jeff Carter (to be Nash's long awaited number one centre) and James Wisniewski (to help anchor the Defense). So far with an absolutely abysmal record of 4-13-2 for a total of 10 points, good enough for dead last in the league. They have one of the weakest offences in the league and are tied for second worst Goals Against count with Toronto.

    Now none of this can really be blamed on Nash. The thing is, however, this is his team; it has been his team since he was drafted in 2002. Going through his ninth season with the franchise, Nash has been able to lead his team to all of a four-game sweep against the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs. He's been a perennial 60+ point guy and a very clutch scorer for the team...but there is only so far and so much losing a player can take before that losing culture starts to become acceptable.

    Now, I'm not saying Nash is content to being a loser, because Nash is one of the most competitive players in the league. But he has become used to losing, and that's a hard thing to shake.

    Columbus still has plenty of time to turn this season around, Mason could rebound and find his form, Wisniewski has missed the first eight games with a suspension so is only just starting to afflict his will and imprint of the defence and Jeff Carter has missed 10 games with a broken foot. So really, all the changes made over the summer haven't had time to adjust and make a difference on the roster.


    In reality though, all the critics of Howson's moves are being proved right. James Wisniewski isn't a bona-fide No. 1 blue liner and isn't capable of running a defence by himself. Jeff Carter and Rick Nash need a third elite playmaker on their line, as they both play far too similar a game (shoot the puck every chance you get) and haven't been able to find any semblance of chemistry. Mason looks completely lost and nothing like he did in his Calder trophy winning rookie season where he guided the team to it's first and only playoff berth ever.

    The critics have so far been completely correct in analysing and criticizing all of Columbus's moves. Some people would ask: why if you have to make a move not just turn around a trade Carter?

    Well besides the fact that Columbus is dealing from a position of extreme weakness, Carter has been reportedly upset with the entire situation and wants out; he has been playing poorly, so his value is at an all-time low.

    Also, as many other teams have proven, it's far easier to build around an elite centre than it is to build around an elite winger. The losing history, Carter's low value, the lack of any real putting the franchise on his back by Nash and Columbus's poor start during a season in which fan support is waning and they were expected to challenge for the post-season.

    All of these things combine to tell us that the Blue Jackets must at least consider trading their Franchise player and Captain.


    Another aspect that hasn't helped the Jackets in recent years is their horrible draft record. With stud prospects like Brassard, Filatov and Russell not panning out to anywhere near their supposed potential and a lack of any kind of real blue-chip prospects in the system, the NHL roster hasn't been getting the influx of support from it's pipeline, which is especially troubling based on the amount of high and quality draft pics they've had since the lockout.

    Ryan Johansen has been playing very well and is one of only a handful of other Blue Jacket players to have a "plus" rating. Matt Calvert has also looked like he belongs with the big club. John Moore and Grant Clitsome has slowly been improving steadily on the back end so it looks like Wisniewski and Tyutin won't be alone on the blue line forever.

    Steve Mason has completely fallen apart this year and his supposed backup Mark Dekanich has been injured for almost all of the year as has AHL starter Curtis Sanford, leaving Mason very much alone and without any kind of veteran protection (Ala J.S.Giguere in Colorado for Semyon Varlamov).

    So the Jackets aren't completely devoid of youngsters, and they have some solid contributors in Antoinne Vermette, RJ Umberger and Samuel Pahlsson.

    Between Carter, Johansen, Vermette and Pahlsson the Jackets actually have one of the more enviable centre corps in the league. It's the wingers but more importantly the defence that really needs help to not leave Mason hung out to dry on a nightly basis. Or perhaps it's Mason's time and Columbus needs to move on to a new net minder.


    If traded, Nash (who is on par for his usual 30+ goals and 60+ points) would definitely be able to fetch Columbus a handsome return, especially with such an incredibly deep 2012 NHL entry draft coming up. Nash and his $7.8 million salary would definitely require some salary to come back, but plenty of teams would still line up around the block to get a shot at him, with Toronto, Philadelphia, Ottawa and LA leading the pack, if recent rumours are to be believed.

    If Howson was going to trade Nash, he'd need to be seen by the media and fan base as definitely winning the trade hands down. He'd need to address his D, Goaltending and elite prospect depth. A promising goaltender/top prospect + a roster player (preferably on D) and a first-round pick would have to be the STARTING point for any Nash conversations. But i for one choose to believe that something like (LA) J.Bernier, A.Loktionov, D.Penner + a 1st for R.Nash or (TOR) J.Gustavsson, C.MacArthur, N.Kadri, C.Franson, M.Komisarek + a 2nd for R.Nash, A.Vermette, M.Methot + a 4th or (OTT) D. Rundblad, C.Greening, J.Cowen + a 2nd for R.Nash, A.Johnson would make Columbus a better team now and in the future.

    NOTE: None of those are any kind of official offers or deals. Most are based off of partial rumours i've seen floating around and then just running the salary cap and system needs of both teams. I am not an insider and have no reason to believe any of those deals are in the works.

    Nash does have a NTC (No-Trade-Clause) in his contract so ultimately, his fate is up to him.


    Verdict: Columbus needs to SERIOUSLY look at trading Nash and if they can get an elite goaltending prospect and a good combination of roster players/prospects and picks then they should pull the trigger and get a deal done. Nash is committed to Columbus, but deserves to get out of what is going to quickly turn into another rebuild in Jacket country.

Dallas Stars: Brendan Morrow

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    Dallas Stars: Brendan Morrow


    Stats 2011/12: 19GP, 3G, 5A, 8PTS, +1

    Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 12G, 21A, 33PTS, +4

    Career Average: 68GP, 20G, 24A, 44PTS, +9


    This one is a pretty quick one, Morrow is somewhere between Jonathan Toews and Milan Hejduk in terms of safety.

    NOTE: Read into thishe's most likely not going anywhere

    Even though he's on pace for a low year offensively for his standards, Brendan Morrow is an absolute warrior and is the kind of player every team needs come playoff time. He's been a consistent and valuable role model to the Stars' younger players like Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson. He's helped guide the Stars to a very surprising start to the 2011/12 season that none of the experts saw coming. They've cooled considerably since the start of the season going 4-6 (losing five straight) in their last 10 games. Most of that is due to teams finally cueing in on the return of Sheldon Souray and his blast from the point on the Powerplay and neutralizing it.

    The Stars weren't pushing Pittsburgh and Chicago for first overall in the league during the month of October for no reason. And with Morrow leading the way, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Stars squeeze into the post season.

    The Stars are made up of equal parts, are youth and veteran savvy, they have solid to stellar goaltending depending on Kari Lehtonen's mood and the defence has been reborn—behind S.Souray, A.Goligoski and S.Robidas and with L.Eriksson, J.Benn and M.Ribeiro leading the charge up front the Stars have all the bases covered; they just need to figure out how to start hitting home runs again.

    Verdict: 95-5 that he doesn't get moved.

Detroit Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom

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    Detroit Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom


    Stats 2011/12: 19GP, 6G, 8A, 14PTS, +6

    Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 25G, 34A, 59PTS, +25

    Career Average: 78GP, 13G, 45A, 58PTS, +22


    This is honestly the least likeliest player in the entire league to be traded. He IS Red Wings Hockey. He'll play out this season, maybe next, and then he's going to retire a career Red Wing and get his number retired most likely.


    Verdict: Hell No. You're on crack if Lidstrom pops into any of your self-generated or Internet-generated trade rumours and you believe them.

Edmonton Oilers: Shawn Horcoff

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    Edmonton Oilers: Shawn Horcoff


    Stats 2011/12: 19GP, 4G, 8A, 12PTS, -2

    Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 17G, 34A, 51PTS, -8

    Career Average: 68GP, 14G, 26A, 40PTS, -2


    Shawn Horcoff costs the Oilers 5.5M a season for a 40+ point, under 72 games a year second line pivot. Yes he's good on face-offs. Yes he's been a good mentor for the "Kids in the Hall" line (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle). Yes he's been a solid role-player and defensive specialist for the Oilers....but they are still paying him too much to do his job.

    When you factor in that he is rarely healthy for an entire season and his general lack of any kind of offensive instincts worthy of a No. 2 center, the Oiler's brass must just be salivating at the possibility to get rid of him.

    Like i said, Horcoff does a lot of little things that rub off on the kids and for that reason alone, if the Oilers can't move him, it is not the end of the world.

    Because of his massive salary cap hit, any trade would have to have money coming the other way. In an ideal scenario the Oilers could cache in on a team with surplus "D" trying to shave off some cap space and take on a bad contract or two defensively (right now with Whitney, Sutton and Barker out, the Oilers "D" consists of T.Gilbert and L.Smid and then four players who should be playing in the AHL) for a combination of Horcoff + Gagner/Omark.

    Verdict: He doesn't need to go, but he also doesn't fit into the long-term plan so if there is a deal available, and especially if there is a deal available to get some defensive help, then Horcoff should be shipped off immediately.

Florida Panthers: Vacant

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    Florida Panthers: Vacant


    It's kind of hard to talk about whether or not to trade a team's captain when that team does't have a captain...such is the case with the Florida Panthers.

    If they were to have a captain it would probably be one of Stephen Weiss, Ed Jovanovski and/or Mike Weaver.

    In terms of players getting traded, although Dale Tallon is always going to make a deal if it makes his team better, he's also not actively shopping anyone except possibly one of is goaltending tandem, due to the massive amount of need in the league for competent net minding.

    The reason for this is that 10 of their 23 skaters and one of their three goaltenders are new faces to the franchise, combine that with a new head coach and that's a helluva lot of change to be just throwing more new faces into the mix willy nilly.

    Verdict: Again, hard to trade someone who doesn't exist.

Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown

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    Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown


    Stats 2011/12: 20GP, 4G, 9A, 13PTS, +2

    Pro-rated stats over a full season: 82GP, 16G, 36A, 52PTS, +8

    Career Average: 73GP, 20G, 23A, 43PTS, -6


    Dustin Brown is an interesting case. On one hand, the Kings are really playing this season with a "Cup or Bust" mentality so more or less anyone is game if it improves the team.

    On the other hand, the Kings two biggest weaknesses right now are defensive depth and top-6 scoring from the wings (Justin Williams and Dustin Penner are flopping). Removing Brown only adds to their lack of top-6 scoring and unless you are getting a defensive stud like a Luke Schenn or a Niklas Hjalmarsson, then all of the variables that you lose with Brown doesn't make the deal worth it.

    Brown has consistently been in the top 10 in hits since the lock out and plays the game the right way—a very physical, north/south, grind-em-out goals kind of way, exactly the way you need to play in the playoffs to win.

    Brown's cap hit is a reasonable $3.175 million and he's the type of guy you want on your team for the post-season. For that exact reason though, he's extremely attractive to other teams and his value has never been higher than right now most likely.


    Verdict: GM Dean Lombardi should keep Brown, but also keep his ears open, if another GM wants to blow Lombardi away with an offer that solves some of the other problems for the Kings, then Brown will go. 70-30 he stays.



    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.

    Let me know if I got it right or not and as always please feel free to comment below and stay tuned for sometime in the next week for Part 3, Minnesota to Ottawa.