It's hard to be a fan of hockey in the south. The local newspaper regularly gets the players' names wrong and doesn't run corrections. People often question the need for a cold weather sport in a region where temperatures rarely dip below freezing. But yesterday was the trade deadline for the NHL, and while I probably shouldn't admit this in such a public forum, I will admit that I spent a majority of the day refreshing Craig Custance's blog, waiting for news of our star player's trade.
For those of you unaware, Marian Hossa is one of the best players playing professional hockey today. That may be a childish statement, but if you look at his stats (26 goals, 30 assists, decent on the power play AND the penalty kill), you can't really argue (as long as we ignore that pesky -14 rating...shh!). With Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg taken care of yesterday, Hossa was the prize, the one to get. Everyone knew he would get traded. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he hasn't been lighting up the boards in Atlanta like he did last season. Both the Thrashers and Hossa needed a change of pace, something to light a fire under their respective asses, and a trade with Pittsburg was such a fire (or so Don Waddell hopes).
I'm sorry to see such an attractive player go (read THAT however you'd like). Even in his "slump" he was still providing goals and offensive power, something that isn't guaranteed with the newbies we obtained. And he wasn't too hard on the eyes either (good grief, what a hottie. --Alex). But he's gone, and so is Pascal Dupuis, so let's look at what Don Waddell got us in return.
Colby Armstrong - According to NHL.com he has been even-or-better in 21 of 25 of his last games (+9) and ranks third on the team with a plus-eight rating, and he's got 9 goals and 15 assists in 54 games with the Penguins.
Erik Christensen - Just came off of a rehab stint for a shoulder injury, has had an even or better rating in 37 of 49 games played this season, and he's got 9 goals and 11 assists.
We also acquired Angelo Esposito, last year's first-round draft pick, who seems to have a lot of potential. AND we stole this year's upcoming first round pick, which is sorely needed after last year's Tkachuk rental cost us most of our 2007 and 2008 early round draft picks.
We also traded with the Caps: Alexandre Giroux for Joe Motzko (and sent Joe to the Wolves). I don't know much about them since they're still both minor league players, but from what I hear, it was an even trade.
Overall, I think we did okay yesterday. Not great, not poorly, just okay. We got some offensive help, but our defense wasn't touched and that's a problem. Kari and Moose are facing upwards of 40 shots a game, and that can't happen for a playoff contender. Don Waddell made a big mistake in not moving Holik or Zhitnik for some large defensive players with power, but there it is.
As for the trades he actually made, I think they were good moves. Our roster is a little full right now (read: some kids are getting put on planes to Chicago very soon), but it's also younger and bigger. Size has always plagued us. Don Waddell wanted to make a smaller, faster team, but he failed, pure and simple. So...new plan! We just got ourselves a youth movement with physical presence, which I think will help us out in the long run. He also called up some of the great rookies that showed so much potential earlier in the season. I'd really like to see a game full of Little, Stuart, Kiwi, Armstrong and Christensen. You get these guys out there with some of the bigger players like Kovy and Recchi, and maybe we'll see some magic happen.
Plus, while Hossa was out the door a long time ago, Pascal Dupuis said that he enjoyed playing in Atlanta and wanted to stay here. So even though he's in Pittsburg right now, he is also an unrestricted free agent this summer, and cheap enough that we can buy him back. (And then we can yell "Du-pwweeeeeeee!" again at games. These are the things that matter. --Alex)
So while I wouldn't say that these moves just guaranteed us a spot in the playoffs, it did give us a boost. It will be hard going, thanks to moves around the league, especially moves that Washington made (see here, here, and here), but there you go. We're not out of it yet, we're only 8 points away from the 8th spot with 18 games left in the season. True, we are second to last in the conference, but it's such a close race right now that after these trades anything is possible.