February 26th will mark the NHL Trade Deadline. The day where all GM's take out their microscope and scan their team searching for the tiny or gaping holes that separate them from either a) the Stanley Cup, or b) the playoffs.
In a time where scrutiny is the word best described, one aspect has always got me wondering...the pressure. The weights that are tied to GM's become significantly heavier and most fans expect a trade to straighten their club for the April showdown.
Anxiety, however, affects the outcome of many of these trades. Let's look at last year's trade deadline for example:
- To San Jose: Bill Guerin
To St. Louis: Ville Nieminen, Jay Barriball, and 1st Round Pick
(Bill Guerin currently plays for the New York Islanders)
- To Buffalo: Dainius Zubrus, Timo Helbling
To Washington: Jiri Novotny, 1st Round Pick
(Danius Zubrus currently plays for the New Jersey Devils)
- To Boston: Dennis Wideman
To St. Louis: Brad Boyes
(Boyes has 25 goals so far this season)
- To Toronto: Yanic Perreault, 5th Round Pick
To Phoenix: Brendan Bell, 2nd Round Pick
(Yanic Perreault currently plays for the Chicago Black Hawks)
To Vancouver: Bryan Smolinski
To Chicago: 2nd Round Pick
(Brian Smolinski currently plays for the Montreal Canadiens)
- To Islanders: Richard Zednik
To Washington: 2nd Round Pick
(Richard Zednik currently plays for the Florida Panthers)
To Atlanta: Keith Tkachuk
To St. Louis: Glen Metropolit, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Round Picks
(Keith Tkachuk currently plays for the St.Louis Blues)
To Nashville: Peter Forsberg
To Philadelphia: Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, 1st & 3rd Rounder
(Peter Forsberg is currently not playing in the NHL)
There is a concerning pattern here. For one, there is only one team amongst this list that has not been affected by acquiring a big name player. All others have lost the individual they have traded for. Giving up substantial and potentially solid youth for rental players is a tactic which is caused by anxiety. Teams feel the need to acquire help from star players to flatten out the bumps that are present with their respective clubs.
There is a difference between a need and a want. Quite simply, most of these teams do not need these players. In fact, they want them. I believe the pressure and hype of the Trade Deadline affects the GM's of the NHL. The expectations are high, and if they stand pat, they will get criticized if the team goes awry come April. On the other hand, they also get criticized for unloading youth for a player whose impact ends up being as powerful as a raindrop in the ocean.
This is what separates the competent GM's from the incompetent. We are all human, and everyone makes mistakes through judgment and opinion alike. But how they reconcile those mistakes, and how they've planned and prepared for the consequences is what makes a great GM.
So I ask you; are rental players really worth it? The term "rental" coincides with temporarily. Is giving potentially promising youth worth the price for a player who has no long-term plans for the club? Knowing that a handful of other teams are trying the same tactic -- all for the sake of getting a quicker grasp at the Stanley Cup -- why not let the current club compete in the NHL playoffs, and build from within with the youth intact.
It appears trepidation is a powerful thing in the world of sports.