The Root of the Rumor
Let’s assume two NHL general managers are talking to each other about a possible trade, formally or informally. How many other people are likely to be privy to the conversation? From what I know, just a handful. And they’re not likely to let it go any further than that room, which makes one wonder: where do these rumors come from?
The Caps annually convene their hockey operations and pro scouting departments a few days prior to the actual deadline. The boys will be getting into town soon for this year’s festivities. What follows are long days filled with phone calls, pacing, scrawling of scenarios, consumption of various local takeout cuisines and ultimately, decisions.
The Caps have a “war room” especially for this and other related hockey decisioning purposes. The seven, eight or nine guys basically sequester themselves in the room for days on end, leaving late each night and arriving early each morning. There is quite of bit of discussion that goes on among those men over those few days, but I don’t imagine any of them spends any time late at night phoning various members of the North American hockey media/blogosphere to inform them which teams they’re calling, which players they’re discussing and what moves they might make.
I’m guessing it’s fairly similar to this in the other 29 NHL cities, too.
But I don’t know. Maybe not.
Maybe in those cities, the GMs and assistant GMs and pro scouts discuss deals and then “leak” the particulars to office workers, media types, man-on-the-street-passers-by, and the delivery guys who bring the takeout vittles. That way, those people can spread the rumors like wildfire, passing them along to media types and bloggers, who in turn make charts and lists and predictions with them. Then, the NHL fans can fire up their computers, log on to message boards and weigh on whether they’d make that deal or not. The GM and his staff can then read those message boards, and use them as a trial balloon, thus using the sagacity of the masses to avoid a disastrous deal. Smart.
Actually, that doesn’t sound very likely either. So who are these “sources” who claim various deals are imminent, possible, dead, pending, or whatever? I don’t know that either, but they’re wrong far more often than they’re right. If you’re an employee of an NHL club, and you decide to leak some info to an “outsider” so you can appear to be “in the know,” well that’s the expressway to becoming an ex-employee of an NHL club. Nothing I have ever “learned” from various conversations here would be worth losing my job over. Even if it was Mike Wallace or Bob McKenzie doing the asking.
I understand that all this trade deadline rumor mongering is fun. It’s interesting. I’m a fan, too, but when so many of the “talks” that are rumored to be talking place have never even happened, it’s extreme.
You can bet that the Caps will be active between now and the Feb. 27 NHL trading deadline. But that’s all you should bet on. I asked Caps GM George McPhee this morning what was going on. He said it’s just a lot of talking, for the time being. He’s received what he termed “a few soft offers,” but nothing that feels imminent or even intriguing for now. Plenty of time, though. You can tell that by the bluster in the quotes of the “buying” GMs, who are currently blathering on about “prices being too high,” and how “we may do nothing.”
While you’re doing nothing, you might want to note that five of the last six Stanley Cup champions did “something” at the deadline. Just some food for thought. Here’s some more:
Last year’s NHL trading deadline was the most productive in terms of the total number of trades (25) and ranked second in terms of the number of players moved (40). The 2002-03 deadline saw 46 players change addresses.
The trade dealine of 1979-80 is considered the first, and the biggest and most far-reaching deal made was the one that sent plucky center Butch Goring from Los Angeles to the New York Islanders for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. Goring helped the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles, with the first coming mere months after the trade. Only five players changed hands on that deadline day, but three of them (Goring, Lewis and Ron Low) went on to become head coaches in the league.
That first deadline day also produced a very cautionary deal for the GMs and future GMs. In addition to dishing Goring to the Isles, Kings general manager George Maguire traded away the Kings’ first-round choice in the 1982 Entry Draft to the Buffalo Sabres for veteran defenseman Jerry “King Kong” Korab. The Sabres used the choice (sixth overall) to select high school hotshot Phil Housley, who went on to tally 1,232 points in a 1,495-game NHL career that spanned 21 seasons and eight different NHL teams (including the Caps).
A year later, Maguire again traded away his first-round choice of two years hence, and again sent it to the Kings. This time, he got former French Connection winger Richard Martin for a first-round choice in 1983 and a third-rounder in 1981. The first in 1983 turned out to be the fifth overall, and the Sabres chose goaltender Tom Barrasso. He won 369 games in his 19-season NHL career. Soon after the Sabres strolled to the podium to choose Barrasso, Maguire became the Kings’ ex-GM.
The first actual deadline day deal involving the Capitals was a whopper of a swap. It came on Mar. 9, 1982 when the Caps shipped left wing Todd Bidner to Edmonton for defenseman Doug Hicks. Bidner, who hailed from Petrolia, Ont. (the same hometown as Dale Hunter), never played another game in the NHL after leaving Washington, where he skated in a dozen of them. Hicks tallied one assist in his 18 games in the red, white and blue. Chalk one up for the Caps.
The seeds of Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship were planted some six years earlier, in two seemingly innocuous deadline day deals. First, the Bolts traded defensemen Bryan Marchment and David Shaw and a first-round draft choice (later traded to Nashville) to San Jose for Andrei Naarov and a first-rounder in 1998. Then much maligned Lightning GM Phil Esposito shipped center Jason Wiemer to Calgary in exchange for winger Sandy McCarthy, a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick in 1998.
With the first-rounder from San Jose (first overall), the Lightning chose center Vincent Lecavalier. With the third-rounder from the Flames, Tampa Bay took center Brad Richards. Esposito converted a bag of shells and some magic beans into picks that turned into the team’s two top centers.
Sometimes, you can be buying when you appear to be selling.