This year we’re doing something a little different for the Trade Deadline. Every blogger out there is going to tell you who’s going to be a buyer, who’s going to be a seller, who needs this, and who needs that. And for the record, we reserve the right to do the same thing later—although it might just be more entertaining to make fun of teams and completely overreact after the fact.
But we wanted to do something a little different around here. This year, we wanted to put these same questions in front of fans who cheer passionately for their teams. It’s one thing to hear answers from a blogger who follows the team and has an eye towards objectivity; but it’s something else completely when you ask the question to a diehard fan who cheers with their heart on their sleeve. We’re talking about people who watch their team every game, know what their team needs, and have strong opinions on what they need to do to get better. They’re you and me. Hockey fans.
What better place to look for passionate hockey fans all over North America than checking out Twitter? So that’s where we went—and here’s who we found! For the Atlantic Division, we have Michael representing the Flyers, Jason for the Penguins, Doug for the Devils, Angelica for the Islanders, and Justin for the Rangers.
Hope you enjoy the project as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. After checking out everyone’s views, we’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with everyone’s answers. We know you have an opinion as well!
**Editor’s note: Some of these contributions were submitted before early trades were executed.**
1. Is your team living up to the expectations they had going into the season? Do you think there’s more or less pressure to make moves at the deadline because of those expectations?
Michael (Flyers): I think the Flyers have had some high expectations placed on them this season after exceeding the expectations last season by going 6 games into the SCF. My own personal feeling is that they are meeting those expectations, rightly or wrongly put on them. You could argue that goaltending, always the Flyers Achilles heel for the last 2 decades, brought about some of the expectations when Leighton and Boucher teamed up to have a pretty great run in the playoffs. Expecting the same from them this season, added with a rookie in Bobrovsky, may have been unrealistic and added some undue pressure but they all have been solid ( Leighton of course lost his job in the process). There is still some talk about adding someone like Vokoun, but I don’t see that happening. I’m happy with the recent move to get Versteeg and glad they didn’t give up anyone on the roster or mess with chemistry. I think that should be it for moves. We are loaded at forward and I like our defense this season. I’m happy with things the way they are right now with back-to-back wins over Lightning and Panthers. Let’s just stay the course now!
Jason (Penguins): I’m not 100% sure what expectations the Penguins had going into the season, but I’m certain a concussed Sidney Crosby and surgery for Mark Letestu and Evgeni Malkin weren’t among them. I’d say most fans thought we’d compete for the Atlantic division and maybe the overall Eastern conference. While the recent rash of injuries has all but erased those thoughts, there are two bright spots: 1) We’re still fourth in the East and 2) Ray Shero has some cap space to work with because of players on injured reserve. I’d say moves are inevitable, but I don’t think there’s a ton of pressure; we’ll be fine in the long run when we’re healthy again and I think most fans understand that.
Doug (Devils): I can honestly say, this is not what I expected of the Devils this season. With the signing of Kovalchuk in the off season I expected the Devils to be a top 4 team in the east, not battling to just get into the playoffs. There is no pressure to make a move. The missing pieces may be on the team already, just unable to play due to injuries.
Angelica (Islanders): Honestly, no. And not through any fault of their own, though I have my doubts about the Roloson and Wisniewski trades – what with the injuries to so many guys at both of these positions. Still though, it’s incredible how bad our luck is. Mike Mottau, Milan Jurcina, Mark Streit, Mark Eaton, Kyle Okposo for much of the season, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, and recently Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin… how many guys is that? I’ve lost count. But you get the idea- obviously little is beyond Jack Capuano’s or Garth Snow’s control. And if I could tell you before the season started that the Islanders would undergo another coaching change before the halfway point of the season, I would be a hero right now.
With all of that said, did I expect them to go into the Finals? No, of course not, but with the lineup at the beginning of training camp- not to mention all of the expectations for John Tavares, Okposo and Josh Bailey, among others- I expected them to at least make a determined push for the #8 spot. I think with everyone healthy, the Islanders could have been a surprise for the Eastern Conference. That, of course, can’t really happen now, but it’s wonderful to dream.
As far as the deadline goes, I think there’s relatively little pressure now that we’re in, what, 28th, 29th place? The EC has always been tight, but what with all of our losses and man-games lost, I don’t think we’ll be in any position to contend for a postseason spot once the trade deadline comes near. There have just been too many games where the Isles have let leads slip away, or fallen behind too early and waited until too late to catch up. The same goes for overtime losses and one-goal games. This is all part of the learning curve for a lot of the younger players in particular, but at some point the guys who have been here the longest have to buckle down and say, “Okay boys, we need to do this, this, and this in order to win.” With Doug Weight pretty much headed to retirement (as it looks), it’s up to guys like Okposo, Streit (once he’s back), and Tavares- not to mention Zenon Konopka, who’s seemed to take a leadership role- to make that happen.
Justin (Rangers): The New York Rangers are definitely meeting expectations considering that this particular team is built for the 6th or 7th seed at best. Knowing the Dolans, they won’t really do anything but add one or two bit role players. The Rangers are too close to the cap to really make any major moves as far as I am concerned.
2. Will your team be a buyer or a seller? What are fans hoping to see the team do at the deadline?
Michael (Flyers): Definitely not going to be a “seller” in the sense that moves need to be made, but the Flyers are loaded with forwards: Carcillo, Zherdev, Shelley, Nodl – someone may be sent packing. Some fans would like another defenseman or even a goaltender like Vokoun just to sure-up that back end. Right now I am of the belief neither is “needed,” certainly not Vokoun. Although I do like him, I have faith in Boucher and Bobrovsky. I don’t want to see a move made just to make a move, though if one of these forwards can be moved for a solid 5/6 defenseman, I’m OK with it though it’s not necessary.
Jason (Penguins): Buyer. We don’t have much to sell except some role players and draft picks. I’m guessing we’ll bring in a rental player or two to make a run in the playoffs. Then again, maybe we just make our best effort with the current young players on our roster. I honestly think I’d prefer the latter. The young guys playing for our team right now could gain some valuable playoff experience. I think fans want to see us make a playoff push, but at the same time understand that we have a solid core of players and don’t need to do anything too drastic at the deadline.
Doug (Devils): If the Devils make any moves, they will be sellers. They already tried to unload salary by waiving Brian Rolston earlier in the season. I personally can’t speak for all Devils fans, but the team has proven with a recent streak that they can win. Any change at the deadline is not guaranteed to give them that push into the playoffs.
Angelica (Islanders): I think my team will be a buyer. I don’t expect Snow to give away any bodies, considering we’ve been way too messed up by the injury bug for that to be feasible without getting someone back; however, he has fooled me before, so who knows. I would like for us to grab someone who could contribute to the team on something other than a microscopic level, whether it be a young guy with promise or a savvy vet who’s still got some miles left in him. To be really honest, I have heard some rumors, but being in Buffalo and not really being able to do anything other than glance at trade rumor sites or Twitter every now and then, I wouldn’t be too sure who’s out there and who isn’t. Then again, if I were to tell you we need a big name, maybe I’d be a little too shallow in my decision; after all, how many people had really heard about Michael Grabner before we picked him up on waivers? I also know Garth Snow is set on this “youth movement” and rebuild phase, but in order to help the building go faster, we DO need guys who have been there before, so it wouldn’t hurt to look at who’s available in that regard.
Justin (Rangers): Considering that they are getting great contributions from players like Matt Zuccerello, I really don’t expect the Rangers to do much of anything to improve. If I were Glen Sather I would at least *try* to add a scorer or a quality defenseman without wrecking the farm system. Doing that is easier said than done given….yeah the cap situation. (Thank you Boogard for making it worse)
3. What specifically does your team need if they want to take the next step? Which players/prospects are on the trading block and could be on the move by Deadline Day?
Michael (Flyers): In my opinion, the only thing the Flyers need in order to get to a game 7 and win the Stanley Cup (last season’s scenario), is to play solid defense which they have done. By the time they got to game 4 against Blackhawks, Pronger was out of gas due to the fact that they only had 3/4 guys who could do the job. Sean O’Donnell has been a great addition and if the goaltending holds up, he could be the difference maker. The addition of Versteeg could be icing on the cake. I think because of the amount of forwards the Flyers have though guys like Carcillo, Shelley, Zherdev, and Nodl should probably have a bag and toothbrush ready to go next week. We are hearing that Nodl may be injured, so that may nix a move with him. As far as moving any prospects, I don’t believe there is much of a demand for any Phantoms (AHL). They have been a last place team past 2 seasons with internal team problems. In summation, I like where the Flyers are at today. No moves “need” to be made, but if it happens hopefully it won’t be a move just to make a move.
Jason (Penguins): We’re obviously missing goal production, but our faceoff wins are down as well. Letestu and Crosby were our two best faceoff guys and their absence really left a void. Again, with both of those guys hopefully returning this year I think we’re fine in the long run. But if either player’s return is questionable then we definitely need someone strong on faceoffs to make a serious run in the playoffs.
There are also some questions on defense, which has often looked less than stellar (or maybe I’m just still excited from watching the Rob Scuderi tribute at Consol Energy Center the other night). Alex Goligoski has found himself in Dan Bylsma’s doghouse on a few occasions and, although he’s signed through next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s moved. Our young defenseman Simon Despres should be in his last year of major junior and headed to the big club soon too, making one of our current defensemen expendable. And I think everyone knows that Tyler Kennedy is on the way out. But other than those guys, as well as what exactly Shero expects in return, it seems to be up in the air. Whatever happens, I just hope Alexei Kovalev doesn’t end up here again. Go Pens!
Doug (Devils): The Devils have one major hole: Finding a goaltender who will replace Brodeur when he retires. That is very unlikely to happen at the trade deadline. The only name that has come up on possibly being dealt is Jason Arnott. Arnott waived his no trade clause to come to the Devils prior to this season and is only likely to waive it again to a team that he believes can win the Stanley Cup.
Angelica (Islanders): The Isles just need to look at all areas. Offensively, the team has recently exploded, and we have three 20-goal scorers on the team again- Grabner, Tavares, and Moulson, which is wonderful. However, we also have players who have just stalled in terms of offensive production- Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, and Frans Nielsen, as well as Rob Schremp. Maybe the problem is that a couple of these guys are more playmakers than anything, so we could always look for a finisher. Defensively, we are a mess, as well as in goal, so we could definitely pick up some guys there. And goalie – well, that’s just self-explanatory, isn’t it? As for moves, Matt (@mattclausen) believes Comeau may be on the way out, and he also said a while back that either Tavares or Parenteau could go (though how true that is, I have very little faith in). Bailey would also be plausible- he makes great plays and can score in bunches, but I don’t know where his head is right now and that is a problem for the Isles. Perhaps that could fix itself somewhere else, though I’d hate to see him go. Overall, though, I don’t know if Snow would be willing to make very many moves with his young players unless he wants to stockpile more draft picks for this summer (which he always wants to do, apparently). Let’s just hope that if he does, he’ll make them good ones.
Justin (Rangers): More than anything, a bona-fide goal scorer is needed to raise the team from mediocre 7th seed to possibly contending for the 4th seed. Injuries and another losing streak are going to guarantee that they miss the playoffs…again.
Also, to be really honest, I’m not really up to date what is going on in Hartford (err… Connecticut). Hopefully someone is dumb enough (Brian Burke) to take any of our underachieving, higher salaried players. If that happens, no matter what they win by taking salary….until the NEXT overpaid signing is made this summer!