Those ill-conceived knee-jerk rushes to judgment after the first few days of the free-agency period are so annoying, mostly because they get in the way of our own ill-conceived knee-jerk rushes to judgment.
Even though it’s still two months until training camps and National Hockey League rosters remain written in pencil only, it’s only natural at this point in time to collect our wits, take a deep breath and try to make sense of the strange fever that makes a general manager give full-time superstar money to a part-time labourer.
But enough about Glen Sather.
What we aim to do is take a quick inventory of the July activities to date for all the Northwest Division clubs and declare provisional winners and losers.
Today, we’ll start with the two clubs south of the border. We’ll follow up with the three Western Canadian members later this week.
We alluded to Marian Gaborik above and it would seem the cliché “addition by subtraction” was invented for the slick but oft-wounded Slovak and his former Twin City employers. It’s not that the good folks of Minnesota didn’t enjoy Gaborik’s spectacular cameo appearances in the Wild lineup but as his absences became more prolonged, the questions about possible malingering grew more pointed and the number of his staunch supporters in the dressing room dwindled.
Of course, it’s somewhat humourous that to replace Gaborik the Wild went out and grabbed Martin Havlat, who for much of his career has been as un-Garry-Ungerish as Gaborik. The games-played tally in 2008-09, however (81-17 in favour of Havlat) for now makes this seem like a good move for Minny.
The rest of Minnesota’s roster movement has been relatively minor, although a lot of smart hockey people seem to be big fans of Greg Zanon, a defenceman who didn’t get much exposure playing in the shadow the likes of Hamhuis, Suter and Weber in Nashville.
Of course, all eyes will be on the firm of Richards & Fletcher now that Lemaire & Risebrough have left the premises and while the complaints of the Wild’s supposed boring style have been greatly exaggerated, especially in recent seasons, it will be interesting to see what the new guys will do with the franchise that until now had known no other leaders.
KJR (Knee-Jerk Ruling): Moderate winner (which gets upgraded to big winner if you want to count the late-season re-signing that took the excellent Niklas Backstrom off the free-agent market before he ever got there).
From an emotional standpoint, this is going to be a tough summer for Avalanche fans. With long-time captain Joe Sakic apparently ready to skate off into the sunset, most of the lingering confusion between the Colorado teams of the glory days and the current bunch should evaporate.
Still, from a practical standpoint, and while this may sound like sacrilege, it’s not that big of a deal. With Sakic logging just 59 games over the past two seasons, the Avs have already had plenty of practice running without No. 19 on the anchor leg. And while Sakic had a remarkable 100-point season as a 37-year-old, how much could they have reasonably expected from Burnaby Joe at age 40?
Elsewhere in the minus department, the Avs will definitely miss Ian Laperriere, an honest hockey player who actually gave meaning to the usually hollow praise “he’s good in the room.” Conversely, the departure of Tyler Arnason and Andrew Raycroft will hardly be noticed at all, at least not in a negative sense.
Craig Anderson gives new coach Joe Sacco a better alternative to Peter Budaj than Raycroft gave Tony Granato, but it’s still a real stretch to call goaltending a strength with the Avs.
Getting Ryan Smyth’s off the books might make the accountants happy but loading up on Los Angeles Kings blue-line rejects has rarely fast-tracked a team into contention. The new administration in Denver is hardly advertising a Wait-Til-Next-Year philosophy but with top pick Matt Duchene likely to be given every chance to make the team and only $20 million in salary committed for 2010-11, the Avs seemed destined to wait until next summer before continuing with the roster reshaping.
By the way, don’t think that Sakic’s imminent retirement suddenly gives Colorado more dollars to spend. Indications are that the budget was set with the assumption Sakic was not returning because the captain had already privately told the club as much well before the news leaked publicly.
KJR: Loser, especially from the nostalgia standpoint. The previous time this franchise plowed ahead without Sakic, names such as Peter Stastny, Gaetan Duchesne, Mike Eagles, Normand Rochefort, Robert Picard and Mario (Goose) Gosselin populated the roster.
Next episode, we make enemies from Robson Street to Whitemud Drive to Stephen Avenue.