Thursday, January 31, 2008

Buyers or Sellers?

This past Tuesday I sat in a relatively barren NYI Blog Box (just me and Dee from 7th Woman Blog, more on that later) in a relatively barren Coliseum (a disappointing post-All Star crowd) watching an uninspiring loss to the Senators. As I sat there in all that empty space, numb to any of the normal excitement I get attending a game, my mind started churning. I started thinking about the work I needed to do later that night for my "real" job, the renovations I'm doing to my house. Eventually my thoughts returned to hockey (although not on the game at hand) and I started pondering the upcoming trade deadline. My internal dialogue was raging with the age old debate...

Buyers or Sellers?

For a team that consistently finds itself right on the precipice of a playoff berth, this is always a tough question to answer. Are we one or two pieces away from making a serious run at the Cup (and, if so, do we have the resources to acquire those pieces) or are we better off unloading some of our resources with an eye towards the future? To me, there are four key elements to examine in answering this question.

1. The DiPietro factor - as every hockey fan knows, any team with a hot goaltender (not looks-wise, ladies) can make a serious run at the Cup. DiPietro loves the big stage and is capable of carrying this team on his shoulders. From that perspective, perhaps the addition of one or two scorers can get us to that next level and make us a real threat in the East. Let's be honest, Ottawa aside, is there anyone in the East that scares you? If we can capture the #7 seed or better and avoid a first-round matchup with the Sens, anything could happen.

2. The 2008 free agent pool - we currently have a good amount of room under the salary cap, and we have 9 UFAs that may potentially come off of our roster at the end of the season. It would take a crystal ball to even hazard a guess as to what this team will look like next year. But clearly the quality of the upcoming free agent pool, coupled with Snow's ability to land the guys he wants (old arena, wah wah wah), will have a big impact on what he opts to do at this year's deadline. While I follow the Isles very closely, my knowledge of the broader list of UFAs throughout the league is limited. But certainly, this is a big factor.

3. Confidence in our prospects - this can impact things in several ways. On one hand, you could argue that we could move some of our veterans at the deadline (e.g. Comrie, Satan, Fedotenko) and back-fill them with some of our young guys (e.g. Tambellini, Nielson, Okposo) and still make a run into the playoffs. In doing so we could acquire some prospects, rebuild our farm system, and unload players we likely would lose or let go at the end of the year anyway. On the other hand, if our confidence in these rookies is not that high, we could still go this route with an eye towards simply acquiring prospects for the future. Or, on the third hand, if the confidence is not high but we feel like we can make a run at the Cup this year with our current team, we would opt to stay put and let things play out.

4. Talent available via trade - so this one is a no-brainer. Obviously the quality of the players available, coupled with their contract status, will have a big impact. The standings are so tight, it's bound to make things interesting this year. There isn't a clear list of "sellers", as most teams rightfully believe they have a shot at the playoffs. There will no doubt be a few marquee names in the mix (e.g. Mats Sundin) but it's hard to ascertain just how deep the candidates will run.

I'm sure we could add a dozen more items to this list, but these are the ones I have been thinking about.

So what do I think should happen between now and Feb 26th? As usual I'm on the fence. But if I were GM, which is a scary thought by the way, I'd be more inclined to be a seller at this year's deadline. We have a number of pending UFAs that could be attractive throughout the league, most of whom I would classify as unlikely to be resigned by the Isles. And since I would say our realistic chances for the Cup this year are slim, why not stockpile some prospects for these guys while we can? And frankly, I'm of the belief that we could probably backfill these roster spots with guys like Tambellini and Nielson and probably not see too big a drop-off in scoring. In fact, I could argue that things might get better, but that's a topic for a different post. What I can say with confidence is that we won't make the same kind of splash we did last year. And based on the way things turned out from that, that's not a bad thing.

Kudos to Dee - for those that missed it, just wanted to say "great job" to Dee from the 7th Woman Blog for representing the Blog Box so well during her in-game interview with CJ Papa. Despite her self-deprecating comments in her blog, she handled things well and spoke highly of all of the writers contributing to the Blog Box.

1 comment:

7th Woman said...

Well, I am surrounded by some of the nicest guys who just happen to be very talented writers. How can I lose?
You're right about not making the same type of splash this year, but I worry. Although I don't know which FA would be as big a splash as Smyth was. And how could scoring get any less? Oh right, they could get shut out every night instead of losing by one.