Thursday, March 05, 2009

Buy or sell. Don’t just sit still.

It was the NHL trade deadline yesterday and Ryan already wrote about this in brief last night, but I already had this half-written, so pretend this is new. The Minnesota Wild made no changes to their team.

There is such a thing as doing nothing because it's better than doing the wrong thing (trading good prospects/players for mediocre players is worse than just keeping the bad players), just like there's addition through subtraction (getting rid of a player who is hurting the team and getting nothing in return).

At any trade deadline, I'm usually reasonable when no trades are made by Minnesota teams (because there almost never are). However, this year that didn't apply to the Wild. Their one star player--who's never played a full year healthy, although he came close last year, and isn't ready to return from his surgery this year--is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Unrestricted means that he can do whatever he wants. Restricted free agents have to bargain with their present team (the details are long; it’s similar to baseball’s arbitration). At any rate, Marian Gaborik is unrestricted. He's already implied he will not play for the Wild anymore. And he will probably play a best-case scenario of ten games the rest of this year (and it's always worse-case with him).

The Wild are in the middle of a swan dive--they’ve lost four in a row (one in overtime) and are in the middle of a long stretch of mostly games on the road, an issue nearly every team struggles with. Each game they're playing a little worse than the one before. They're on the outside looking into the playoffs, with little hope of attaining it.

From fan reports, their minor league team/prospects aren’t inspiring. There are a few guys that could be good, some that might be decent, but none that project to be great. The Wild have very few draft picks due to past trades. They've let a lot of players walk in their unrestricted year for nothing. (Baseball offers draft picks to teams whose star players leave via free agency and was offered a contract; this is not true in of unrestricted free agents in hockey.) Also note that hockey has a salary cap, so teams cannot just go out and buy all the best players.*

* People ask for baseball to have a salary cap. I don't think this is necssary, but I think baseball polices itself quite well without a salary cap. That's another topic, though.

At some point, a GM has to realize one of two things has to happen: he has to re-build, or he has to throw all his cards in. As the Wild didn't have any cards to throw in: that is, the only players they had that were tradable were the ones they needed to win. Their role-players weren't worth enough to get better players to support their stars. And none of their stars were good enough to warrant enough better supporting players in a trade. In short, there simply wasn't hope to build a winning team this year with the players they had. Unless they got the exact right GM who was just naïve or ignorant enough.

So they didn’t trade their injured, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, star player for anything, didn’t trade any of their decent players for prospects or low draft picks, or trade a few of their decent players for a star or two. They stood still, believing somehow this team that can barely manage to score three goals in a game will be okay.

The team needed to be buyers or sellers. They couldn’t afford to stand on its own.

I’m an optimist, but I’m realistic. I just don’t see it happening.

And if you think I’m dramatic, you should hear the season ticket holders.

Timberwolves update: 18-42 (0-3 since last time, 14-27 since McHale).

Marian Gaborik Injury Status: He’s still with the Wild. And will start playing towards the middle/end of March for a few games, and then gleefully wave good-bye. If Niklas Backstrom, who just signed a four-year contract with the Wild, isn’t fuming, he’s probably drunk.

It’s also my half-birthday today! Whee!

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Blogger Ryan said...

Yes! Victoria Times is good at communicating!

Also, I like the whole "righteous anger" angle you took. I was more just angry. I think you are accurate on Backstrom

4:25 PM  
Blogger beth said...

Communication is over-rated!

8:25 AM  
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