Horrible One-Sided Trade For The Ottawa Senators

It was not a happy Hockey Day In Canada for the Ottawa Senators. On the very day that the Senators and their prized acquisition, Matt Duchene blew yet another two goal league to arch-rival, Toronto, Duchene’s old team, the Colorado Avalanche won their ninth straight game, putting themselves in a playoff position, while the Senators drop further away out of sight.

Ottawa must still be reeling from the shock. Nobody would have predicted such a one-sided trade. What’s even more horrible is that Ottawa was supposed to be the big winner. To recap: Ottawa got Duchene from Colorado in return for a bunch of players and at the same time let Kyle Turris go to Nashville. To rub it in, Nashville is now leading their division and Turris has made a significant contribution, while the Senators have got virtually nothing from Duchene.

Getting Duchene made sense for Ottawa. Last year in the playoffs they solidly defeated a tough Boston Bruins team and then pulled off one of the two major upsets of the Stanley Cup tournament by ousting the New York Rangers. The Senators weren’t through either. They proved to be Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins toughest opponent, going toe to toe with them for the maximum seven games and only losing in double overtime. To General Manager Pierre Dorion, the difference in that series was that the Penguins had two superstar players at forward, Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, arguably the best player in the world and the best European player in the world. Dorion figured that if he could acquire a superstar forward of his own, it would be the final piece of the puzzle that would put Ottawa past Pittsburgh and give them a Stanley Cup to match their recent Grey Cup. Dorion was not alone in such thinking. Many fans, coaches, media, other general managers, etc. believed it too.

So with the best will in the world, Dorion looked around for a superstar forward. The biggest prize available seemed to be Matt Duchene who was rumored to be available for the right price. In a way, Colorado was trying to imitate the Pittsburgh formula for building a Stanley Cup champion, by molding a team around two superstar forwards, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon. But the Pittsburgh formula was not working in Denver and the Avalanche finished near the bottom of the standings last year. It was rumored that Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic had made Duchene – significantly not MacKinnon – available for a trade.

Sakic obviously made a sound assessment of his club. As things would turn out he picked the right source for the “cancer” on the team and then kept the result close to the chest. His accurate assessment qualifies him to being named this year’s top General Manager of the NHL, in conjunction with Las Vegas General Manager George McPhee. One only has to compare the result of Sakic’s diagnosis with that of Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin who targeted P.K. Subban as the scapegoat for Montreal missing the playoffs two years  ago and shipped him to – a potential deja vu for Dorion – Nashville. And today, both Ottawa and Montreal are out of the playoffs by a wide margin while the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche soar.

So without divulging the reason for his assessment, Sakic held out until he got what he believed was the right equivalent for Duchene and then let him go to Ottawa. Nobody flinched at the move. As an added incentive, getting Duchene would seem to be a way for Ottawa Senator owner, Eugene Melnyk to tell local Ottawa politicians, “We’re serious about winning the Stanley Cup. Now provide funds for building a new arena.”

For Duchene, perhaps it meant he was now going to be released from playing under the shadow of MacKinnon and be given his own team to lead. But instead of responding to the challenge, Duchene has failed to produce and Ottawa, once so close it seemed to the Stanley Cup now finds itself in the dregs of the league. Nobody would have predicted this. It was supposed to be a win-win-win trade for every team. Instead Ottawa stands fleeced.

Who do you blame? How can you blame coach Guy Boucher who got his team to respond so well in the playoffs last year and until Duchene appeared, had the Senators in playoff contention this year? Obviously Dorion is going to get a lot of blame, but other NHL general managers, coaches, media, fans too numerous to count, believed in Duchene too. Duchene was coveted by a lot of teams. This trade seems to prove Sakic’s worth as a general manager, rather than any deficiency by Pierre Dorion. And owner Melnyk approved the trade for the arena reasons listed above. There have been no further moves since the trade by Ottawa. Probably the results have left the owner, general manager, coach and the rest of the team in shock, stunned.

As to why Duchene has proven to be not what he was projected to be, there you have me. Obviously I am not close to the Senators. I am not acquainted with Duchene personally so I cannot accurately access why he failed to respond in his new environment. Obviously Sakic and the Avalanche management had come to believe that he was not what he was projected to be and wanted him gone and carefully and wisely kept it to themselves. They were lying in wait, ready to take advantage when any inquiring general manager like Pierre Dorion came calling.

So most of the blame clearly falls on Duchene. A lot of people are going to be refining their judgment and assessments about him. There is no way Ottawa is going to get what they paid for if they try to trade him. If he became a free agent, there is no way he is going to command the salary he once seemed to merit. Unless he turns things around, his value on the NHL market will take a severe drop.

Unless Duchene becomes what he was projected to be, this trade will become one of the worst or best in NHL history, depending on who you are cheering for. Not even the Gretzky trade of 1988 was so one-sided. Edmonton won one more Stanley Cup without Gretzky, while he failed to take the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup. So far, a more accurate trade to compare this one to was the one in which the Chicago Blackhawks traded Phil Esposito to the Boston Bruins. Esposito subsequently became the NHL scoring champion and Boston won two Stanley Cups while Chicago had to wait over 40 years until the days of Jonathan Toews to win the Cup again.

Right now it is a nightmare to play for or be part of the ownership, management, and coaching staff of the Ottawa Senators. A logical trade, one that most people might have predicted that Ottawa would win has blown up to catastrophic proportions. The team that seemed one step away from the Stanley Cup now has plunged into the depths of the NHL. And still worse, from Duchene’s point of view, they can accurately name the date of when it started to occur.

 

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Duchene Trade: 3 Different Goals For 3 Different Teams

It took time but the Ottawa Senators finally found a way to make the Colorado Avalanche part with Matt Duchene. Duchene had been promised a trade by Colorado General Manager Joe Sakic long ago and despite Duchene’s good work in the early part of the season and despite Duchene’s fondness for both Denver and the Avalanche organization, both sides never changed their minds and when a suitable trade became available, Sakic consummated it.

Ottawa did not have enough on its own to satisfy Sakic so Nashville got in on the act by sending the Avalanche the missing pieces and receiving Kyle Turris from the Senators, a potential free agent who promptly signed a long term contract with the Predators. It is no use speculating on who won the trade because each team was at a different state of development and each has a different goal in mind. What was each team looking for?

Ottawa

Senators

They want the big man on the forward line, indeed probably the big line of the forwards. Last year, Ottawa took a significant stride forward in the playoffs, becoming Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ toughest opponent. They have a star defenceman in Erik Karlsson and a potential Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Craig Anderson, but their offence doesn’t scare anybody. Turris, despite his steady improvement and solid play doesn’t have the potential that Ottawa sees in Duchene. The Senators think their defeat by the Penguins last season was because they did not have anybody like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin at forward. They expect Duchene to be their Crosby or at least Malkin right now. The immediate task is to find line mates with chemistry for Duchene. There will be a lot of experiments in Ottawa at the beginning until a line is built around Duchene.

Nashville

Predators

Like the Senators, the Predators are looking for chemistry. But unlike the Senators, the Predators believe they already have their big man at forward, Filip Forsberg. They want somebody to play with him and they believe Kyle Turris is that guy. And if Turris turns out to not be that player, at least they have got someone who can make a significant improvement to their second line. They reached the Stanley Cup Final last year and in this trade, they have not traded someone significant from their existing team but added another significant player to it. Is Turris enough to make them the equal of Pittsburgh and put them over the top? He’s probably a step in the right direction, but to win it all now, there may be further moves coming.

Colorado

Avalanche

Joe Sakic has a rising young team who may have a real chance to make the playoffs this year. But he is willing to sacrifice that. In this Duchene trade, he is thinking long term. What he wants from this trade is depth. Almost all the players he received from Ottawa and Nashville are either first or second round draft choices whom the other two teams believe were not quite ready for the NHL yet. Sakic wants to find out for himself. If even only two of his flock of new players can make the Avalanche a better team, he’ll look on this trade as a successful 2 for 1 deal. The Avalanche of course are no strangers to this kind of transaction. Their most famous trade, the one that probably did the most to send them on their way to winning two Stanley Cups was when they traded (alias the Quebec Nordiques) number one pick Eric Lindros who refused to play in Quebec to Philadelphia for half a team in return. They hope the same thing will happen here.

Everybody was so excited by this trade that they could not wait to consummate it, even if it meant Ottawa and Colorado playing each other immediately in a back-to-back series in Sweden. Last year I wondered if the Senator-Avalanche match would be suitable to renew playing regular season games in Europe again and if a better match could not have been arranged. Ottawa was a good team but Colorado was near the bottom of the barrel. But the improvement of the Avalanche this year and now this trade should give the Swedish media and fans plenty to be interested about if they have been following along. Hopefully this match will increase interest in the NHL in Europe and mean more games being played there next year.

 

NHL Goes Back To Europe…But Don’t Pull An NFL

There was some good news and bad news when the NHL announced that it would play some regular season games in Europe once more, this time in Stockholm, Sweden. It will be the first regular season NHL games in Europe since 2011. The NHL is billing this as a revival of the “NHL Global Series” and will feature two games between the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche in November.

The good news is that NHL is playing games in Europe once more. This will give the fans over there a chance to see the best players in the world playing in front of them again. There are several Swedish players on Ottawa and Colorado so there will be some native players to cheer for. It is also a great way to improve the morale of the non-North American NHL players, who now compose a significant 26% of the total NHL rosters. The NHL is also proclaiming that these games will be part of its Centennial Celebration.

It is also a good way to prepare the ground for future NHL expansion to Europe. While that is still a long-term goal, perhaps even a very-long-term goal, it is still a feasible future concept, not some dead, dormant idea that cannot be realized. With future improvements in transportation, travel to other continents may not be so difficult and teams in Europe and Asia competing for the Stanley Cup may occur at some later date. This is certainly a progressive, not backwards idea.

Besides the Stanley Cup is already an international trophy. European players on the winning team have been taking it to Europe every year and displaying it proudly over there just like their North American teammates do in Canada and the United States. Having teams based in Europe and Asia will just complete the picture.

The bad news is the team match-up. Ottawa is a good choice, but Colorado is worst team in the NHL this year and is vying with Las Vegas for the number one draft choice. While there are some good players on Colorado, some Swedish natives as noted above, and the idea of next year’s number 1 or 2 draft choice playing two games in Sweden is good, the NHL should not give Europe “garbage games” that are a poor draw in North America. Please NHL, do not ape the NFL.

That arrogant league has just sanctioned another “traditional” franchise city to lose its team – this time the San Diego Chargers, again to Los Angeles, just like it did last year to St. Louis, not because of poor fan support, not because of a bad stadium, but because Los Angeles is the second largest market in the United States and the NFL wants to peddle itself in larger, “more important” markets than “small city” St. Louis and San Diego. (What’s next? The Las Vegas Raiders? It’s a distinct possibility.) So much for loyal fan support, local corporate sponsorship, extensive local media coverage, and local government perks that were given to the NFL owners.

It is even more disgracefully arrogant when it is remembered that Los Angeles merely yawned when the Raiders and Rams left in 1995 and could not care less whether the NFL came back or not. Los Angeles was content to live for two decades without the NFL. In L.A., the movie star, not the sports figure is king and queen. Los Angeles certainly did not react the way the stricken cities of Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, Oakland and St. Louis did when they lost their teams. Nor does the NHL, NBA and MLB sanction the stripping of franchises from cities on the scale the NFL does.

But the NFL’s arrogance does not stop there. They despise foreigners and make no secret of it. When the Buffalo Bills played some of their games in Toronto, ticket prices were set so high that even the most fanatical Toronto fans, longing for an NFL team of their own, had to wince and think twice about buying a ticket. Games did not come close to selling out. Still worse are the games that are played in London, England. Usually, the NFL selects the games between teams at the bottom of the heap, that are the worst draw, which they know will not sell out in North America and ships them off to football-starved London. Last year there were open calls of derision by the British NFL fans at the sheer gall and arrogance of it.

Hopefully that will not happen with this renewed “NHL Global Series”. The NHL has far more at stake in Europe than the arrogant NFL. The NHL has a significant number of European players, scouts, and management in its league and there is no need to offend them. Give the Europeans decent games to watch which will encourage fan support and pay off in the future. Hockey has to grow around the world and arrogance and stupidity by North American professional sports leagues will not help.

Is Patrick Roy The Next Owner Of The Quebec Nordiques?

Everybody is questioning and speculating why Patrick Roy has resigned as coach and vice president of the Colorado Avalanche but to me it would not be surprising if it really has to do with the Quebec City situation.

First the background. In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities that lost their NHL franchises in the 1990s, Hartford, Quebec, and Winnipeg, and offered them terms for readmission to the league; a great fan base, a proper NHL arena, and an acceptable NHL owner. Winnipeg is already back in and Quebec built a new arena with Bettman’s encouragement and applied unsuccessfully for an expansion franchise.

The NHL is publicly explaining that the reason for the rejection of Quebec is the low Canadian dollar and that Quebec is an eastern city and they need another western team to balance up the conferences, but that is not the real reason. The NHL wants nothing to do with Pierre Karl Peladeau, majority owner of Quebecor which sought to be the new Quebec owner. Peladeau is a supporter of the separatist Quebec political party Parti Quebecois, and squashed whatever little chance he had of joining the NHL Board of Governors by publicly questioning the suitability of Board member Geoff Molson owning the Montreal Canadiens because he was an anglophone Quebecer. Such blatant racism was offensive not only to Molson but probably to the majority of the English-speaking NHL Board. Bettman had no choice but to reject Quebec’s bid.

At the same time, that put Bettman on the spot. He is not going to make a tour of cities, offer them terms and then reject them when they make a strong attempt to comply like Quebec has. He is not going offend important people like the Quebec City mayor, the Quebec Provincial Premier, encourage them and their communities to spend nearly $400 million tax dollars on a new arena and then not accept them. The NHL’s and his own personal integrity is on the line. The NHL also wants that $500 million expansion fee. So right now behind the scenes, he is attempting to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec City team.

Is it just coincidence that Pittsburgh Penguin owner Mario Lemieux is trying to sell his share of ownership and that Patrick Roy resigns from Colorado? There is no real reason for Lemieux to sell his shares in the Penguins or for Roy to quit the Colorado Avalanche. Both men have strong emotional ties to the teams they are leaving. For Lemieux, owning the Penguins is a dream come true just as it is for Roy to coach and be vice president of the Colorado Avalance, and also work for his friend and teammate Joe Sakic.

There has to be some strong inducement for them to leave and the probable answer is involvement with a new Quebec City team and both Lemieux and Roy have strong emotional ties to Quebec City. They are also the ideal potential owners for Gary Bettman and the NHL; French Canadian NHL heroes with no political ties who would put the team and the NHL first above any other consideration. They would be welcomed to the NHL Board by Molson and every other NHL governor.

So while everybody is scratching their heads about Roy’s resignation, my guess is that he and probably Lemieux will be involved with a returned Quebec Nordiques, and that ex-Nordique Sakic knows and approves of it though he’ll publicly pretend that he does not.

Gary Bettman is moving behind the scenes and Roy’s resignation from Colorado may be the next step in solving the Quebec problem. There may be other former French Canadian NHL players who will make some unexpected startling decisions in the future too. And what about former Nordique players? Can the Stastny brothers and Michel Goulet be far behind?

Quebec City is coming back into the NHL. It is just a matter of time and finding the right people.

Interview with Borna Rendulić!

Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/bornarendulic. Photo used with permission.

We recently caught up with Colorado Avalanche forward Borna Rendulić! For the readers that aren’t familiar with him, he’s the first Croatian born NHL player ever (Joel Prpic played in the NHL and the Croatian national team, but was born in Canada.). He’s played all over Europe before crossing the pond to join the Avalanche organization. Rendulić was able to play 26 games in the AHL and 11 games in the NHL before suffering an injury. Even though that’s a tough way to end your season, he’s been working hard in the gym to be better than ever. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @bornarendulic. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @hkyblogger and “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog. So without further to do, here’s our chat with Borna Rendulić!

As per usual, we are in bold.

Croatia isn’t the biggest hockey market in the world, generally known more for soccer. How did you end up playing hockey with most of the country crazy about soccer?
Although I was and still crazy about soccer, I started with hockey almost by coincidence. When I was a 6-year old, I went with my preschool group to skating a course and one of the Medvescak coaches saw me skating. He liked my style and called me to join a hockey team. I said yes and the rest is history haha, I mean, that’s how I started with hockey, although I trained in soccer, basketball and handball as well in my childhood.

How often do you get noticed in the streets of Zagreb?
I don’t get noticed in the streets of Zagreb very often. But it happens from time to time. I only get noticed very often in Zagreb when I come for a hockey game.

What is it like to be the first player born and raised in Croatia to play in the NHL? Do you feel that there is a certain amount of pressure knowing that you represent Croatia whenever you step on the ice?
Well it’s a really big thing, definitely a dream come true and absolutely a huge accomplishment for me. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. You know the proverb from Spiderman, “With great power comes the great responsibility” haha. So yeah, the pressure is always here, but I’m trying to give my best to represent Croatia the best as I can.

What was your first game in the NHL like? Take us through it, the butterflies and the excitement.
My first NHL game was pure excitement and enjoyment. However, it’s impossible to describe all the feelings and emotions with words. There is a big mess in your head, you are fascinated by the crowd and everything, but you are still 100% concentrated on the game and every shift you take. You want to give your best while you are in awe, so yeah, it’s really hard to explain everything that’s happening out there. I hope I managed to give you at least a bit of the atmosphere.

Where is the puck from your first ever goal? Is it something you show off to your friends, or is it something you put away as a keepsake?
The puck from my first goal is in my home. It has a special place in my room with all the other medals and awards I won during my career. That is one of the things that I put away as a keepsake more than I show it off. I don’t like to brag so these types of things are something I keep for myself.

What’s the best part of your game?
I believe the best part of my game is my shot, especially my slapshot. Also I’m a winger with a big frame, and I am always being told that I posses a promising combination of size and scoring ability. I think I’m an intelligent player, good in corners, who likes to play offensive, but smart. I am tactically very good and I have a finisher’s instinct both in strength and skill to power my way to the net. I have a good technique and tendency for finesse and attractive game.

What’s something you need to work on?
On the other hand, I often look passive off the puck and I could up my intensity and sharpness. Furthermore, I need to fine-tune all aspects of my play. I have to place special focus on skating and adding grit, in addition to improving my defense and realization skills. That are some things I definitely need to work on.

So the next part is more of a rapid fire section, it’s a get to know you. You ready?
You’ve played hockey all over Europe and now in North America, how many languages can you speak fluently?

I speak Croatian natively, Finnish and English fluently. I think my English is the best of all three languages I speak, and my friends often tease me that I speak Finnish and English better than Croatian haha. I also understand Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin because these languages are very similar to Croatian.

Who did you idolize growing up?
When I was growing up I idolized Wayne Gretzky, but I also liked Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic. They are the best of all time but at the same time, they were one of the few players I had heard of since we couldn’t have watched any hockey in Croatia. However, I later started to like Ovechkin when he came up and got to the NHL. I idolized him during the most of my career so I can say he was and is my idol.

There’s a lot of pranksters in hockey, who’s the biggest prankster in the locker room and what’s the best story you have?

Well all the guys in the locker room are cool and funny. We have a lot of pranksters, and when I first came to Colorado I instantly liked Berra, Briere and Hejda. But I don’t want to single out anybody, I love them all, they are all kings! I have a lot of stories haha, don’t know if I could say some to you and what story would be best for you haha.

Who’s the roomie on the road?
My roomie on the road is Dennis Everberg and we get along quite well.

What’s fun to do in Zagreb?
There’s a lot of fun things to do in Zagreb, although not as much as the US. But Zagreb has a lot of sights, wonderful parks and promenades. The clubbing is ok and everyone can find something for themselves. It’s not such big city, but it’s beautiful and is definitely one of the best places to visit when in Croatia, together with Dubrovnik. Zagreb has lots of restaurants, bars, wine bars and tourist attraction that can leave anyone breathless.

Final questions:
Advice for aspiring hockey players?

I think the best advice for aspiring hockey players is just to believe in themselves and to work and train their asses off. That’s the best combination for success.

Who should we interview next?
If you want some interesting hockey stories from Croatia, you should interview Ivan Sijan.

This is a terrible pun, but I just have to ask this, how often do people ask if you’re “Borna” ready and on a scale of 1 to 10 how annoying is it?
People ask me many things and thus they ask how ready I am. But it’s not a problem to me to answer any questions, so I don’t find that question annoying at all. So the answer is 0.

Thank you for your time.

Colorado Avalanche Preview

Editor’s note: Today’s team preview is about the Colorado Avalanche, the defending champions of the Central Division. This preview was also written by Derek Kessinger; the radio voice of the Denver Cutthroats of the Central Hockey League, and an intern 5280 Magazine, a local magazine in the Denver area. He is based out of the Denver area. If you would like to read more of Derek’s work, make sure to check out his website at: http://derekindenver.com. You can check out more of Not Your Average Hockey Blog’s work at: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog and by following me on Twitter: @hkyblogger.

While a season preview a year ago could only hint at optimism, it is now clear the future of the Colorado Avalanche is bright. However, the present still holds many questions for this young team. For the Colorado Avalanche to defend their Central Division title, the Avs will need to fight through growing pains and tough competition in the Central Division.

There’s a feeling around the league that the Avalanche’s apparent luck from last year will run out. While Coach of the Year Patrick Roy did turn the franchise around in his first season, the team’s poor performance in advanced stat categories has some around the league concerned. If the Avalanche hope to succeed, they must evolve into a better puck possession team or hope their fast paced style continues to create opportunities—despite pundits proclamations for an imminent downfall.

There is still doubt that Semyon Varlamov is a top tier goalie in the NHL. Varlamov has not shown that he can steer a rocking ship on course in critical situations, including last year’s Game 7 collapse in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. The same goes for a defensive group that always seemed close to coming unglued—with an aging Brad Stuart joining the corps.

The Avalanche’s offense is stacked with a youthful core hungry to rise to the top of the league including: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene. A healthy Alex Tanguay and the addition of Jarome Iginla round out the top six forwards. Look for MacKinnon to continue to dazzle in his second season with friendly competition for the title of the team’s best center from Duchene. The Avalanche also have added forward depth to the third and fourth line.

The Avalanche must win a playoff series this year to prove that they are moving forward and not stagnant.