The deadline buzz has engulfed our thoughts over the prior week as we watched the anticipation build. As the clock struck 3 PM Eastern Time on March 4th, fans were collectively taciturn in nature. Everyone waited for the big deals, but very few occurred. Chris Pronger remained with a team ready to experience a renaissance in Anaheim with Ryan Whitney on board, while Bob Gainey failed to work his wonderful magic to bring Vincent Lecavalier to Montreal. This is Part 1 in a series of Ice Actions columns that will focus on the bigger deadline deals of this past week.
Calgary Flames acquire C Olli Jokinen and a third round draft pick from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for C Matthew Lombardi, LW Brandon Prust and a first round draft pick. [3/4]
The fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome are already in love with this deal. Todd Bertuzzi’s absence blatantly plays into this move as the Flames had to move quickly to replace his 43 point production. Jokinen, who is signed through 2010 for $5.25 million per season, will now have the opportunity to be the fulcrum between a + 9.2 GVT right winger in Jarome Iginla and a + 9.8 GVT left winger in Michael Cammalleri on the Flames’ first line. The Calgary Flames were already third in the NHL with 133 Even Strength Goals, ESG, before the acquisition. Jokinen has previously familiarized himself with the way Coach Keenan runs a team during his time in Florida, which should help to ease the transition for everyone. The Stampede City might now be able to proudly claim the title of having the greatest show on ice. The only knock on ‘The Fireman’ is his less than stellar 42.6 % Face-off winning percentage, which will need to hover around 50 % if he is to hang with the better centers in the league. Olli’s baggage includes a disappointing – 7.4 Corsi Rating on the year, however this should improve vastly with the offensive talent that surrounds him.
While goals and statistics combining even strength and special teams goals can be useful, most of the time I will be using Even Strength numbers for the sake of standardization. For example, baseball team A and baseball team B have 8 fielders, plus the pitcher, as defenders on a field. By removing the Center Fielder twice as much on team A as on team B during fielding, team A will be vulnerable to surrendering more runs. This is why looking at both teams with 9 defenders, including the pitcher, helps to paint a more accurate picture. Even strength ice time tends to be spread fairly evenly throughout an entire roster. On power plays, coaches will select certain players to skate for more ice time, which leads to goal scoring being unevenly distributed. Special teams numbers will still be used in context, such as in the case of a power play specialist like D Mathieu Schneider.
Surrendering the first round draft pick was mitigated by receiving Phoenix’s third rounder. With Calgary sitting nearly atop the NHL’s standings and Phoenix sinking further by the day, this was a trade-off of approximately 40 spots. Not a bad exchange for a playmaker in return.
Calgary Flames acquire D Jordan Leopold from the Colorado Avalanhce in exchange for D Lawrence Nycholat, D Ryan Wilson and a second round draft pick. [3/4]
Leopold, 28, started his career with Calgary back in 2002. He won an assortment of accolades during his time at the University of Minnesota, including the defensive player of the year in consecutive seasons. The former Avalanche defender began to look like a seasoned veteran in only his second season in the NHL when he posted 33 points , including 16 at even strength, over the course of 82 regular season games. His postseason performance thereafter catapulted him onto the 2006 U.S. Olympic roster. Ever since, the Minnesota-born defenseman has suffered a similar fate to Ken Griffey, Jr. After being dealt to the Avalanche, Leopold underwent surgery for a sports hernia that would keep him from playing for a month. Upon his comeback, he suffered a groin injury that kept him on the sidelines for additional time. The defenseman fractured his wrist during his third active stint with Colorado, which effectively ended his season. During the 2007-08 season, Leopold suffered from a variety of problems, including a hip ailment, lacerated leg, pneumonia and a concussion. Through this season, he has managed to remain healthy. Leopold is tied for seventh among defenseman this year with 7 Even Strength Goals, ESG, and 16 Even Strength Points. If Jordan can stay away from the injury bug that plagued his seasons in Colorado, the Flames will have added two valuable pieces during their stretch run into the postseason.
Calgary Flames acquire fourth round draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for G Kevin LaLande. [3/4]
Colorado Avalanche acquire D Lawrence Nycholat, D Ryan Wilson and a second round draft pick from the Calgary Flames in exchange for D Jordan Leopold. [3/4]
The only value Colorado receives is the second round draft pick, which in the 1990s turned into a successful NHL player about 25 % of the time. Looking at the deal as Leopold for a second round draft pick would make the Calgary Flames slight winners.
Lawrence Nycholat is the definition of a journeyman. He has played for 7 teams over the course of the past decade, never sticking with a team for more than a couple of seasons. The Calgary Flames claimed their hometown native off waivers the day before he was dealt.
The Flames signed Ryan Wilson to their squad during this past offseason. The 6’1’’, 205 pound blue-liner has been a favorite of Flames scout Tom Webster and has proved to be outstanding as he has led the OHL in points among all defenseman. Many scouts doubt that Wilson has the ability to prosper in the NHL due to his inability to play solid defensive zone coverage. His recovery speed and skating stride are unanimously considered major flaws in his game. If he’s going to be successful in the NHL, he will need to become a better defender. Each team incurred risk in this deal that could pay off for both the Avalanche and the Flames or neither.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets acquire G Kevin LaLande from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a fourth round draft. [3/4]
Phoenix Coyotes acquire C Matthew Lombardi, LW Brandon Prust and a first round draft pick from the Calgary Flames in exchange for C Olli Jokinen and a third round draft pick. [3/4]
The Flames selected Matthew Lombardi with the 90th overall pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft. In his first draft eligible year at the age of 17, he was playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The future success marker for first year draft eligible forwards in the QMJHL is approximately 1.17 Points Per Game in comparison to the 1 PPG threshold for most of the other junior leagues.The QMJHL tends to be a higher scoring league than the others, which is due to the lesser quality of talent in the QMJHL rather than the greater offensive talent in the league. The Point Per Game totals for each of Lombardi’s QMJHL years are listed below:
The Quebec native spent four years in the QMJHL before managing to have a season that would be considered outstanding for a 17 year old in his first draft eligible year. Though he is still young, Lombardi has been on the path of a marginal player who has yet to have scored more than 20 goals in a season. Forwards tend to peak around the age of 26, which is the age of the Coyotes southpaw acquisition. It’s still too early to determine Lombardi’s impact on Phoenix because of his great potential upon being drafted, however it looks like the Coyotes are mistaken if they believe Olli Jokinen’s production will be replaced someday by Matthew Lombardi.
Brandon Purst was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NHL entry draft in order to replace the team fighter in Daniel Carcillo, who was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers. While Dale Hunter might be proud to see toughness exhibited by Purst, in his first three seasons in the OHL, he failed to live up to the 1 PPG standard that implicates success in the NHL.
Neither side is expecting Brandon to be anything other than the enforcer, which renders his offensive numbers irrelevant and a throwaway in this deal. While the Coyotes are only trading down 40 spots in the NHL draft, a first round pick can help this team that desperately needs to rebuild. Combining all of these factors, the Coyotes could have looked to get a better return. However, there is the possibility that this was the best deal Phoenix would be willing to move on and there is some potential involved. There exists the possibility of one of the latest Coyote acquisitions being a late bloomer, however that sort of career curve is just not likely. At least the Coyotes acquire a first round draft pick to aid in the gathering of future talent.
Andrew Rothstein is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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