Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fan Favorite Conacher Traded For A Really Tall Guy

Cory Conacher is the new points leader for the Ottawa Senators

When I started writing this blog, well actually the other blog, I told myself that I would follow a couple of rules.  One of them being, “Never write anything when you’re angry.”  More than likely if I didn’t follow that rule I would go off on some rage-fueled rant about something or another and then feel embarrassed about it the next day.  Not that I don’t feel embarrassed about half the things I post anyways, but that’s just because I don’t really edit my work. So that is why I didn’t write anything about the move the Tampa Bay Lightning made during the trade deadline yesterday.

I love the NHL trade deadline.  I love it even more when I have the day off and can fully enjoy it without interruption.  I love it especially now in the twitter/24-hour coverage/live-streaming world that we live in. You literally cannot get enough NHL talk on Hockey Christmas.

So I was doing my thing (sitting on the couch refreshing twitter and surfing the web while listening to TSN radio) for most of the day and it looked like it would be a quiet day for the Lightning.  After all, they weren’t really in a position to go all in, and it didn’t seem like there was much demand for the players they had (although with the price being paid for defensemen I’m surprised Sami Salo didn’t draw any interest). There were some rumors floating around that the Lightning were one of six teams interested in Ben Bishop, but nothing concrete from any of the insiders (or insiderrrrrs).

Overall there wasn’t much going on overall in the morning, in fact, the most entertaining aspect was watching the guys for The Score get increasingly drunk as the day went on thanks to their Deadline Day drinking game. So at about 1pm CST The Duchess and I went out to lunch.  While we were at Kuma’s Too (brand new sister location of Chicago’s legendary burger bar/hard rock shrine Kuma’s Korner) I couldn’t resist occasionally checking my phone to see what was going on.  Needless to say, my better half wasn’t amused by that.

As we were finishing up our beers (Three Floyds Robert the Bruce for me) Bob McKenzie sent out the tweet heard ‘round the Tampa Bay area, “Ben Bishop informed he’s been traded to Tampa.”  My initial thought, “Ehhh.  They finally got him, wonder who they gave up for him.”  I figured it would be some combination of a pick and a B-level prospect (or in my wildest dreams a semi-healthy Ryan Malone).

Then the follow-up tweets began.  First it was Darren Millard and then Bruce “Not many fans in Tampa” Garrioch.  They both had the same name – Cory Conacher. I was not pleased.  In fact, I was quite agitated, one might even say angry.  That’s despite the fact that I am at the age where anger shouldn’t really be an emotion associated with sports.  Disappointment, yes.  Jubilation, yes.  But anger, never anger, after all it’s only a game.  Why let it hijack my emotions to the point of being physically upset?

However, there it was - anger.  How could the Lightning trade one of their new fan favorites, the five-foot-nothin, one-hundred-and-nothin’, undrafted scrapper who clawed his way into the NHL by outworking and outscoring everyone else? He is a rookie-of-the-year candidate for goodness sake! The online fan base will no longer be able to use the #DeathTaxesConacher on out tweets anymore. The undersized line of Conacher, Tyler Johnson and Martin St. Louis would never exist again.  All for another oversized goalie with potential?

Now imagine that paragraph spread out over a thousand words.  That’s what you would have read yesterday had I taken to keyboard as soon as I had gotten home from the burger place.  Instead, I waited. I waited through the final flurry of deals, through Bobby Luongo’s “My Contract Sucks” press conference, through the endless speculation involving the Washington/Nashville deal and finally through the knee-jerk-who-won-who-lost analysis of the day. I watched some TV (The West Wing) and went to sleep.

Now I’m writing.  I still don’t like the deal, but I’m not so upset about it.  Non-partisan reviews have made me feel a little better about the move. Yes, it was a steep price for Mr. Yzerman to pay, especially given the exorbitant price he paid in the off-season for Anders Lindback.  If you’re following along at home the current price tag for the future in the Lightning net stands at Cory Conacher, a 4th round pick, Sebastien Caron, two 2nd round picks and a 3rd round pick. Oh and neither one is signed past next season.

While the reports on Bishop are positive, like Lindback before him, he hasn’t been tested as a true number one. I wonder if Mr. Yzerman is that blackjack player who, after being dealt a few losing hands, starts doubling his bets in order to make his money back.   He’s been able to build a young, solid team in front of the net, but inconsistent goaltending has plagued his regime and already cost one coach his job. 

If Bishop struggles in Hockey Paradise I willing to wager the next coach collecting unemployment will be Frantz John. The relatively under-the-radar goaltending consultant has been with the organization since 2010, joining the team after spending many years in the QMJHL. During his tenure only Dwayne Roloson in 2010-11 played anywhere near an acceptable level in net while two players (Mike Smith and Dan Ellis) have gone on to play much better with their new teams. 

Mr. Yzerman’s legacy is going to hinge on the two deals he made for goaltenders.  The luster of the Eastern Conference Finals run has worn off.  The sellout streak has ended. Next season is going to be interesting as the team already has $61 million committed to the roster and still has to get Bishop and at least five other players signed with less than $4 million to play with (actually closer to $7 million if they put Mattias Ohlund on Long Term Injury Relief). Couple that with moving to a tougher division and the questions really start to pile up.

In the end the deal does, at least on paper, make the team better. Does it make the fans happier?  Well, that depends on Ben Bishop and how many wins he gets.  

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