With the trade deadline approaching, trade rumors are swirling with increased volume and, dare I say, fairy dust. While some rumors remain plausible, some of those are completely off the wall and based on nothing more than a hope and a dream. Sorry boys and girls, but as much as you want a player, making up stories about them is not going to bring them to your squad. This week, I'm going to talk about the large rumors that have been going around - Sergei Gonchar, Olaf Kolzig, Jeff O'Neill, as well as my take on the deals that have already been made. However, I also want to take a minute to throw out some of the absolutely ridiculous rumors that I've heard - I feel they need to be addressed with equal importance (or shall I say disdain? Your call.)
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Lets get the obvious ones out of the way.
Chris Pronger does NOT want to become a Maple Leaf. He never said it. He never gave any indication of it. That's it. Pronger is a once in a lifetime defenceman, and St. Louis will not trade him. Period. Pronger is in love with a St. Louis girl, and he wants to continue playing there. I am a Leafs fan, and would love nothing more than to see him suit up as a member of the blue and white but to suggest he will makes all Leaf fans look stupid. To all those who waste their breath in spreading this kind of journalistic excrement, I beg of you, keep your head down and mouth shut. Accept the fact that no, not every player wants to play in the Big Smoke. Deal with it. Ditto on Keith Carney - Anaheim management has already assured him that he is staying within the organization, and Brian Murray has always been a GM to stick to his word. These guys are untouchables. Deal with it.
As a Leafs fan, I can honestly say that I HATE most Leaf fans. Why? Because they make the real, sane ones look terrible. Detroit is not going to trade Nik Lidstrom for Robert Reichel and Aki Berg. No, Colorado is not going to trade Peter Forsberg for Mikael Renberg. In fact, I don't think we could trade any of these players with their inflated salaries. This is something the Toronto Maple Leaf fans have to understand; we love our team, and we think it's a great place to play, but not every player feels the same way. We are no Utopia, we are not hockey Avalon. We are a city, just like the 29 other cities in the NHL the only difference is the fanatical lengths we go to in order to show our devotion. It is when those fanatical lengths involve pure stupidity that it gets tiresome.
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Ken Holland and John Muckler are currently on Interpol's top ten most wanted list and if they're not, they should be. The charge?
robbery, whichever you prefer.
I suppose this is the world the NHL has become. The rich get richer, while the poor just cry into their beer on Yonge Street. Detroit already has a potent offense, and yet they continue to pursue and secure another potent weapon to their arsenal. Ottawa is already the highest scoring team in the league - and yet they go out and acquire another sniper. Each of these teams made immense improvements to already impressive clubs and yet the teams with the glaring holes are left scattering. Colorado is currently in heated negotiations to acquire Sergei Gonchar, to add to a defence corps that already boasts Rob Blake, Adam Foote, newly acquired Kurt Sauer and Bob Boughner. Alexei Zhamnov, Sean Burke, and Danny Markov are all newly crowned Philadelphia Flyers, within days of losing Robert Esche (temporarily), Eric Desjardins (back in a week or two) and Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau (the former likely gone for the year, but the latter back in time for the post season).
This is where the wheat gets cut from the chaffe. Where the cream rises to the top, and the desire to win a Stanley Cup becomes most evident. The teams with no holes to fill are laying on the gravy, and yet the teams with immense holes aren't even looking at the potatoes. Vancouver could have used some second line scoring depth - was Zhamnov not sufficient for them? Toronto needs a #1 defenceman, and yet are falling behind in the Sergei Gonchar sweepstakes. This is where a true commitment shines through, and the desire to hoist the Cup is real.
Time to crap, or get off the pot.
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It looks like the Colorado Avalanche are going to get their hands on superstar offensive defenceman Sergei Gonchar, and possibly even one-time Vezina trophy winner Olaf Kolzig in yet another one of Pierre Lacroix's deadline blockbuster deals. Although the Toronto Maple Leafs have long been considered the front-runners in this pursuit, with the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, and Dallas Stars all getting an honorable mention for having their hat in the ring, I'm fairly certain that Gonchar will end up a member of the Avalanche (despite the Leafs website blunder, developing a bio page for Gonchar before the deal had taken place and then leaving it in an active domain to the internet.) Why do I think this? Because Lacroix is a doer. He sees a need, and he addresses it. He makes deals happen. While John Ferguson sits in his Air Canada Centre office, fretting over the possible loss of names like Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt Stajan, Nik Antropov, and Alexander Steen, Lacroix is making command decisions for his club on the spot, as they need to be made. No offense to Fergie, though - he's been given a daunting task. The Leafs, for the first time in a long time, have coveted prospects and he would like to keep them and frankly, 2 blue-chip prospects AND a first round pick are a bit much to be asking for a player who is going to be a restricted free agent AND eligible for arbitration, especially considering the possibility of there not being a 2004-2005 season. With the news that Colorado has leapt right back into the race though, is a fairly strong sign that Kolzig and Gonchar will be wearing burgundy sweaters this time next week. Scuttlebutt at the moment has the Avalanche sending defenceman Derek Morris, as well as picks and prospects over to the Capitals (my guess would be a decent prospect, a first and fourth or fifth round pick).
To be fair, I find flaws with this deal. Derek Morris makes 3.5 million dollars per year - hardly the cheap defenceman Washington was looking for. Basically, Washington is giving up its two most talented roster players to get one roster player back with a fairly high salary, and a prospect or picks? This seems a bit off. It seems to me that if George McPhee were a smart GM (which I've been debating the past few months), he wouldn't package these two assets together. McPhee could get a roster player and a pick for Gonchar from the Leafs, Bruins, Stars, or Devils, as well as a first round pick or another prospect with a third or fourth round pick. For Kolzig, I'm sure that Colorado could be coaxed out of a player or two. Perhaps not Morris, but there are other players available.
Overlooked in this deal is poor David Aebischer. Imagine this situation - you are thrust into the number one goalie spot on a team with a hugely successful reputation, and you are taking over for arguably the best goalie to strap on the pads. You have a shaky start, but solidify into one of the leagues top netminders. All of a sudden, management basically says to you "Hey, thanks for a great run, you did great, but we don't trust you in the playoffs, so we're bringing in someone else. Remember the bench? You two shall become well acquainted once again." Enter Olaf Kolzig, who will NOT be a backup to David Aebischer, I assure you. No team will pay 6.5 million dollars per year for a backup goaltender. Period. Aebischer has performed extremely well this year, and this could be a serious shot to his development and his confidence, not to mention his happiness in Colorado. I certainly hope that Lacroix takes that into consideration.
If this deal, the only question is what is Lacroix slipping into the other GM's kool-aid to pull these deals off?
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It seems less and less likely that Jeff O'Neill is going to be traded at the deadline, but that is merely because of the decline of whispers that have been going around the media - with all the distractions of the Langs, Bondras and Gonchars, O'Neill has slipped a bit under the radar. However, don't doubt for a second that teams want this guy. Vancouver has been rumored to be looking at him, but with the current Brian Burke debaucle, that looks less and less likely. New Jersey may also take a look at this guy, since they could always use a bit more offense, and O'Neill would provide some grit and size to an otherwise relatively small forward contingent on the Devils.
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My two minutes are up. I'm out of the box.
For comments or questions, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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