There are four people whose shoes many of the people in the hockey world don’t want to be occupying today. They are, in order: 1. Taylor Hall, 2. Shea Weber, 3. Marc Bergevin, and 4. Ray Shero.
You have to feel especially for Hall, who desperately wanted to be a part of the solution with the Edmonton Oilers, but was dealt last summer just when the team was on the cusp of doing some great things. Now, through no fault of his own, his playoff scoring totals (0-0-0 in 0 games) are now being held up as a referendum on the trade and on him as a player and a person.
Weber, on the other hand, probably could have produced what P.K. Subban did in Game 1 of the second round against the St. Louis Blues. He’s a right-shot defenseman, the same as Subban, and his ability to rip the puck from the blueline is legendary. And if you’re being honest, ask yourself the following question: If the trade last summer that sent Weber to the Canadiens in exchange for Subban had never happened, would things have materialized any differently for either team than they have to this point? Perhaps. We’ll never know, but I would say probably not. The Canadiens still would be on the outside of the playoffs looking in and the Predators would have realized their potential and been exactly in the same spot they are.
But here’s the thing. We rush to judge. That’s what we do. Guilty, by the way. So when Adam Larsson has the night of his life in the Oilers Game 1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the low-hanging fruit gets picked and Larsson becomes everything to the Oilers that Taylor Hall was not. It’s not terribly fair to the guys who were on the other side of the trade, but you pretty much sign up for that kind of scrutiny when you become a part of the NHL Millionaires Club.
So equipped with that lens, let’s take a look at the trades now.
In the case of the Hall for Larsson trade, when it was made, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli took an enormous amount of heat for trading a premier offensive talent in exchange for a little-known defenseman. As the season progressed, though, that sentiment started to tilt dramatically the other way, to the point where the perception was that the Oilers got the better of the deal. And after Larsson’s performance in Game 1 against Anaheim, that chorus became a full-blown movement.
Fair enough, but this ignores some very relevant facts. First, Hall went from a team that had enormous promise to the worst one in the Metropolitan Division. His possession numbers were very good considering how bad the team was and he led them in scoring. He didn’t even have the benefit of playing a full season with Connor McDavid. The Oilers No. 1 defense tandem for much of last season was Justin Schultz and Mark Fayne. Come on, seriously. Hall never had a chance in Edmonton. Yes, he could have and probably should have been a bigger part of the solution, but the Oilers as currently constituted are nothing like the teams he played for, either in style or substance.
It would probably be more realistic to say the trade was a good one for both teams. Chiarelli knew what he was giving up Hall, but he also knew what hole he was filling with Larsson and good for him for having the courage to make that deal. But here’s the thing. You do not win in the NHL without elite-level talent. Full stop. You can have all the heart and character and will to win in the world in your lineup, but unless you have a significant amount of talent, there is no way you’re going to be a serious contender. Hall has that kind of talent. Edmonton already had it in abundance and surrendered some of it to shore up an area where it really needed to improve. The Devils improved their talent level, something they desperately needed to do, but there’s still not enough there.
As far as Weber for Subban, that trade seemed a lot more divided in terms of the winner and the loser, with most thinking the Canadiens had won in the short-term, but the scale would tilt Nashville’s way in future years. That will almost certainly still happen. This trade is probably not going to get any better for the Canadiens, who failed to capitalize on Weber’s presence in Year 1 of his tenure and whose overall roster construction looks terribly flawed. There was a time early in the season when the Canadiens were being hailed for the Weber acquisition, cheers that dimmed as the year went on and Subban started to find his footing. But it’s also worth noting that prior to Game 1 of the second round, Subban did not distinguish himself as much of a difference maker in the first-round sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The snapshots provided on Wednesday night have moved the needle for the time being, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played, years and years of it, before we can definitively start determining winners and losers in the two biggest blockbuster trades of last summer.
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