Beware of Predators, plus more topics in my post-deadline mailbag
It's been a while since I addressed your concerns, and judging by the contents of my mailbag, there's a lot on your mind especially after the trade deadline and Olympic break. So let's dig in...
I don't know about the Preds surprising anyone. They've earned their due as one of the league's best-coached, hardest-working teams, but I'd agree that they belong on the list of deadline day winners. First, they were buyers not sellers, and that's a boost for both the room and the fanbase. Neither of the players they picked up,
Grebeshkov should bring some bang to the power play and eliminate the need to shuttle young defenders in and out of Milwaukee. Boyd is a player who'll bolster the penalty kill and add some grit on the depth lines. He has decent wheels, some offensive touch and, most important, upside. I spoke with two scouts after the deal was made and they believe Boyd never received the chance he deserved in Calgary. If things work out in Nashville, he could develop into a second-line player...and wouldn't that be a nice pickup for a fourth- rounder?
But as is the case so often on deadline day, the best deal was the one the Predators didn't make. By keeping potential UFA
Well, it's true that the most deadline activity involves the exchange of, um, unproven quantities, but it's not so much bluff as it is a case of treasure-hunting or filling deeper organizational needs. Sometimes, it's like the neighborhood garage sale. You walk around and scope out the junk until something catches your eye. You think, "Hey, this might look good if I clean it up and stick it in a corner of my place." Maybe it works out that way, but odds are it'll end up looking just as crummy in your house as it did at the sale. Still, hope springs eternal that you'll scrounge something really useful at a bargain price. And that's where scouts come in. Maybe there's a player they've loved for years who is languishing in someone else's system. The scouts sell their GM on picking him up cheaply and taking a chance.
Then there are the deals that are made with stocking a minor league club in mind, or maybe a team is motivated to move a draftee they're having trouble signing. A lot of these players will never be heard from again, at least not on a national level, but its like panning for gold. You sort through a lot of mud on the off-chance that you'll uncover something of value.
It's not a lack of talent that led scouts to pass on MZA at the past five drafts. The 22-year-old right wing is listed at 5-7, 161 pounds, and that may be a generous estimation of his stature. Is that a deal-breaker? Not necessarily. But for every
Still, MZA made an impression in Vancouver. There's no questioning his hands. The kid is dynamite with the puck, and if he's trying to build on the buzz, the four goals and nine points he's posted in three games since returning from the Olympics should do the trick. He also has a lot of compete in him. He doesn't shy from contact and is willing to battle along the boards. He has decent puck protection skills and that long stick of his always seems to be in the right place. I compared him to NBA oddity
There are sure to be a few offensively-challenged teams whose desperation will encourage them to be open to an offbeat solution. Boston and Toronto come to mind as clubs with openings in their top six that might take a chance. Here's hoping MZA gets one. He's the sort of player fans can get behind no matter what team they cheer for.
A couple more names to watch coming out of the Olympics:
No doubt it was a cheap shot delivered by a player who's building a reputation for borderline hit 'n' runs. Suspendable, though? I don't know. On the one hand, Lapierre's doing his job by clearing out a player who was in position to pick up a rebound off his breakaway attempt. And Nichol must have been skating on Bambi's legs to go down that easily on what looked like a pretty lightweight crosscheck. That said, Lapierre has to make a better decision. Lack of intensity notwithstanding, that crosscheck was pretty reckless, and players have to show some respect for an opponent who is in that dangerous position.
The fact that neither
But as bad as things look for the Flames right now, Sutter's hold on the GM job in Calgary is secure. This year's been an epic disaster in terms of talent and cap management, but he can point to a playoff berth every year since the lockout -- and to coming within a win of the Cup in 2004 -- to suggest that he knew what he was doing at one point in time. If nothing else, ownership loves him, and that should buy him the time he needs to figure out what this team's identity will be moving forward and who on this roster fits that image.
That can't be reassuring to Flames fans who have watched Sutter deal away draft picks (they have no first or second this year) and wonder why aging vets like Kotalik and Staios were deemed more valuable than a huge chunk of cap space this summer, but that's the situation. It's not a job for life, but that leash looks pretty long.
If there's any smoke, it's just your friend exhaling. Not to say it couldn't happen five or 10 or 50 years down the road, but the Thrashers to Winnipeg in any kind of short term time frame is a pipe dream.
Depends who you talk to, because teams have differing opinions on the potential of these players. While there are always going to be late bloomers, some are still available at this point for good reason.
Here are four worth keeping an eye on: