Unlike virtually everyone I knew, I was very much on Philly’s side when they traded away their supposed franchise players last summer. (Though not so much when they signed their supposed franchise goalie.) And through the regular season, it certainly looked like I was right.
Of course now the Kings have won the Cup and it looks like they won the Richards trade hands down and also somehow managed to make the Carter trade bad for Philly. So do I take back what I said?
At the time I suggested that both trades were very risky – not for Philly but for LA and Columbus – but my real feeling was that they were stupid. I think thinking about them as major risks rather than as just mistakes is definitely more intelligent, but I don’t pretend to have thought differently back then. I hedged my bets with my blog post [since deleted because it was too short] but the moment the season started I became convinced I was right. I subsequently got cocky and claimed in a since-deleted blog post that I had been totally correct.
With hindsight trades can look either brilliant or retarded, but as I have tried to argue regarding the Phaneuf trade, trades shouldn’t be judged in hindsight. Trades should be judged – at least in part – on whether they made sense at the exact time they happened. With hindsight we can then learn what mistakes were actually made, but nobody can foresee injuries – or chemistry for that matter.
So, if we put aside hindsight, I still think the decisions Philly made were good decisions at the time.
Carter and Richards were – rightly or wrongly – identified as a problem preventing the team from excelling: they were supposedly partying but moreover they had out-sized salaries.
- Philly gave up Richards and a nobody for a potential future replacement for Richards, a 2nd / 3rd liner and a draft pick. That strikes me as smart.
- But the other trade was far smarter: they gave up an inconsistent, over-paid top six forward – to a team where he did not fit at all – for a role player and two picks.
- Of course Philly subsequently ruined this by signing Bryzgalov, but what can you do?
Philly had no control over what Columbus did with Carter so you can’t really blame them. Trading for Carter in the first place made no sense – Carter is hardly a true centre and trying to play two shoot-first players on the same line without a true centre makes no sense to me, big surprise it didn’t work – so trading him for a possible #1 or #2 D actually saved the situation for Columbus, at least a little.
But with hindsight, can we now say that the Kings won this whole ex-Flyer fiasco definitively?
Obviously, if I were a Kings fan I would take the Cup on any terms and in that sense the Kings won the Carter-Richards deals.
But lets think about this a little differently. Here are the most important players on the Kings this playoff run:
- Quick (drafted)
- Doughty (drafted)
- Kopitar (drafted)
- Brown (drafted)
- Williams (traded for O’Sullivan and a pick)
- Mitchell (free agent)
- Scuderi (free agent)
- Voynov (drafted)
And though personally I would say that Penner falls outside of their top 10, you could conceivably argue that Penner was more important than Carter, given that he had better numbers going into game 6 (11 points, +4) than Carter (11 points, -1), but Carter’s final game gave him the edge.
So the Kings gave up Brayden Schenn, Simmonds, Johnson and two picks for the 5th and 10th best players on their Cup winning team. If we really want to be critical, we can throw Penner in the mix. For their 2nd line the Kings traded all those players plus a prospect, a pick and future considerations. That is expensive and extraordinarily risky (perhaps even reckless) for a 2nd line.
And I almost want to say that one Cup – especially one cup won in a great part by a goalie who had nothing to do with these deals – isn’t enough. But that’s silly, as all that matters is winning. Dynasties in this day and age are nearly impossible. So to say that the only thing that would make those moves sensible is a dynasty is rather silly.
But I can’t say that I am part of the school of thought that thinks the Kings will now be perennial contenders from this point on. I think they live and die by their goalie and so if Quick gets hurt and Bernier isn’t as good, then this all falls apart pretty quickly. And Philly still looks set to contend next year in spite of their goalie.
All that being said, if this was the Leafs instead of the Kings I would be happy the trades were made, even if I worried about the Leafs being able to sustain this success in the future.