DG's Quick Hits- June 30, 2002
NOTE: This is a compendium of Quick Hits over the past two weeks
Kozlov shuffles out of Buffalo
Senators: rebuilding or remodeling?
Belfour’s a Predator…for now
On the radar screen
(World Issues Page Announcement Inside)
KOZLOV SHUFFLES OUT OF BUFFALO
A disappointing end to a disappointing campaign transpired for winger Vyacheslav Kozlov, traded by the Buffalo Sabres with a second-round pick to the Atlanta Thrashers for a second-round and third round draft picks. Kozlov’s season was marred with inconsistency, injuries and a period where the winger was benched by Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff, frustrated that Kozlov, acquired by the Sabres from the Detroit Red Wings for Domonik Hasek, wasn’t putting up the numbers that were hoped. The Sabres wound up missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
Personally, I would have liked a better return, though I will admit that the Sabres probably wouldn’t have gotten much in return for the underachiever. He’s a bit like Mauriz Czerkawski, a player who has the talent but rarely ever uses them effectively, and, like Czerkawski, was pretty much given up on during the draft and dealt for practically nothing. There’s a difference though: Czerkawski’s old team, the New York Islanders, are moving up and looking to enter the next echelon of National Hockey League supremacy, while the Sabres are still trying to figure out what direction their rebuilding scheme is going in. Coupled with the Sabres’ financial woes, the direction-less rebuilding is an unfortunate development for Buffalo and not the way the franchise, once hailed as one of hockey’s most successful, would want to remember the post-Hasek years. One can only hope Buffalo can get their house in order and compete next year, but the sentiment goes that the Sabres probably won’t be for several more seasons. It’s not the message one would want to hear, but sometimes the reality is much different from what it should be.
Imagine: let’s say that, instead of Mike Milbury showing the media tapes of inconsistent officiating in the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Milbury decided to go ahead and sue the league for corruption. Or what if the Leafs’ Pat Quinn threatened to do the same thing, charging the league was negligent for not calling a penalty on the Ottawa Senators’ Daniel Alfreddsson, whose hit on Darcy Tucker nearly cost the Leaf the playoffs? Think it is silly? Think again: the Italian soccer federation is considering to sue FIFA over inconsistent and corrupt officiating, charging that FIFA rigged the games to ensure the Italians would be booted out of the World Cup by South Korea.
Now, soccer has always been known for its eccentricities and this is just one of them. The fans of the world’s most played game sometimes take the game too seriously, as evidenced by the hooligans and riots that erupt after some games, and the fact that results sometimes have political implications, for example, a team’s victory could topple a government. Hockey, as many other sports in North America, tend not to go as far as soccer has across the world, as the reserved nature that many North American fans project towards their sports stops them from taking the game too seriously. However, considering hockey is the only sport where on-ice actions can net a criminal record, where only those who run it say the officials are doing fine and where the game is turned into a wrestling sideshow night after night, that day may not be too far off. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
SENATORS: REBUILDING OR REMODELLING?
The Ottawa Senators yesterday traded right winger Shawn McEachern to the Atlanta Thrashers for defenceman Brian Pothier and a draft pick. The deal was the first for new Ottawa General Manager John Muckler, hired last month after the previous GM, Marshall Johnston, stepped down in the aftermath of the Senators’ second round play-off loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For many, this may, at first, look like the Senators are rebuilding, accepting a trade for one of hockey’s more reliable right wingers for a young defenceman that many in Ottawa may not know. However, if one looks closer at the deal, this deal makes more sense for the Senators than the Thrashers, as the Senators give up an aging winger who was practically useless during the playoffs (McEachern) for a young and improving defenceman in Pothier. Pothier will be useful immediately, aiding a defence that was beaten pretty badly by Toronto and will give the Senators another effective body. Meanwhile, the Thrashers, in the course of two days, acquired two slumping wingers in two weeks- Vyacheslav Kozlov from the Buffalo Sabres and now McEachern. Maybe the Thrashers think that losing will correct both players’ slumps. Don’t bet on it.
BELFOUR’S A PREDATOR…FOR NOW
The Dallas Stars traded unrestricted free agent goaltender Eddie Belfour and Cameron Mann to the Nashville Predators for David Gosselin and a draft pick. The deal, coming just days before Belfour hits the open market as an UFA, means that if the Predators lose Belfour, they’d receive a compensatory second round pick. The Stars, whose payroll is too high, would receive nothing if Belfour walked.
This deal all depends on what Belfour does July 1. If the Predators keep him, this will become one of the most lopsided deals in National Hockey League history, even though “Eddie the Eagle” was supplanted by Marty Turco in Dallas because of poor play and even poorer behaviour (just ask the Vancouver Canucks about that). However, both Nashville and Dallas are betting on Belfour going elsewhere, meaning this trade is, ultimately, a second rounder and Mann for Gosselin and a pick. Plus, the Predators may not want to keep Belfour anyway since they have two solid goaltenders in Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun, both of whom cost a fraction of what Belfour will command- even in his current state. However, if there is anything 2002-03 taught us, it is to expect the unexpected. Hey, who would have thought both Dallas and Nashville would miss the playoffs?
ON THE RADAR SCREEN
I’m taking a farmer’s bet (no money) here: how many Toronto Maple Leaf draft picks this year will be overhyped? I’m saying all of them…Domonik Hasek is gone from hockey for good, now that he’s a winner- and a whiner. Like I said last time, he could have avoided all this by retiring in glory as a Buffalo Sabre two years ago like he was supposed to, but no, he had to be selfish and demand a trade to a contender. No wonder he wasn’t an all-world goalie last year: his ego was too big…The Vancouver Canucks and Toronto made two trades, where the Canucks expended their excess baggage for Toronto’s excess baggage. The difference here is that Vancouver may have to use that baggage later and Toronto won’t…Speaking of Vancouver and Toronto, their dilly-dallying (instead of trying to sign the players during the season) will cost them two of the biggest free agents either have acquired in recent history. Get used to seeing Andrew Cassels and Curtis Joseph in different uniforms next year, and don’t kick yourselves too hard Vancouver and Toronto for failing to have what you could have easily had…Jose Theodore and the Montreal Canadiens are miles apart on a new deal. Is Theodore going to follow his idol, Patrick Roy, and spurn the Canadiens? Let’s hope not…Was Calgary Flame Jarome Iginla stiffed at the Awards by not claiming the Hart Trophy? As much as I like Jiggy, Theodore deserved it because Montreal went somewhere while Calgary did not…Finally: minnows like the Columbus Blue Jackets and Atlanta are going after high profile free agents. How many will they land? I’m guessing none.