TSM NHL Trade Deadline Review

It started at 8am and lasted until, well, I turned it off at round 5:30pm. 2 Major tv networks, 2 radio stations and the Score all had wall to wall coverage. Add to that the countless blogs, websites and then there was twitter. It was enough hockey coverage for even the biggest die hard. If ever the saying the numbers don’t lie were proven incorrect it was today’s deadline. Yes, there were lots of trades, but there was no sizzle. It was a day spent waiting for the other shoe to drop and at least locally it never did. In the end what Toronto Maple Leafs were left with is the uncomfortable feeling that their team is going to be life and death to get to 25 wins (they currently have 19 with 19 games to go). On the upside, Brian Burke’s nuclear destruction of the Maple Leafs continues. More on that in a bit.

So, how did the day go? Well at 8:05 TSN was having audio problems with Pierre Mcguire’ mic and a few moments later James Duthie wanted to break down all the deals that happened prior to the day. Duthie was quickly told to nix that idea for fear that all their best material could be used early on leaving the talking heads with nothing to talk about. Over at Sportsnet Rob Faulds was teamed up with Bill Watters (forshadowing?) out of the gate. All kidding aside it was a good segment between the two as Faulds asked Watters what happened on deadline day. After the usual jokes about the buffet breakfast, Watters explained how much work had to be done leading up to the deadline and that when he was with Cliff they would all sit together and Cliff would be the maestro, making sure everyone was working in concert.

Following that was really the start of the theme of the day. Tomas Kaberle. Nick Kypreos first on twitter and then with Bruce Garrioch suggested that the Leafs knew the teams that Kaberle would consider and that by the end of the day a deal would likely be worked out. The folks at The Fourth Period quickly came on twitter and said that the Ducks had inquired as to Kaberle’s availability and were told he wasn’t going to waive his no trade clause- “end of story” was how TFP ended their tweet. Inretrospect, Kypreos had it right. In fact Kaberle had let the Leafs know 2-3 teams he would be willing to go. What happened the rest of the day was quite interesting to watch if only for the Kaberle piece.

Steve Simmons on twitter and on TSN emphatically denied that Kaberle was “in play” which is NHL trade deadline speak for available or being shopped. At 8:30 Bill Watters was on Sportsnet and said that there had not been any talks between the Leafs and Kaberle. Watters did say that the only way a deal would happen is if Burke were able to make a deal and then take it to Kaberle’s agent to see if they would approve. Watters at that point was wrong, Kypreos was right- little did we know.

There was no action for several hours so we were kind of stuck listening to a whole lot of speculation. TSN was uncomfortably dull in my opinion. They had too many people saying all the expected things and to be honest we didn’t hear enough from the people we wanted to hear from. Hats off to James Duthie who put in yeoman’s work. He drove the entire show and manned one panel himself. The first panel was himself with Mike Keenan, Darren Pang, Matthew Barnaby, Craig McTavish and Michael Pecca (I am sorry if I forgot anyone.) Their was a good yet somewhat awkward exchange between Barnaby and Keenan about player reputations and players sending him text messages that they were hoping to be dealt. Keenan talked about former players and how he defended a guy last year that TSN (and Barnaby) disparaged. I liked Matthew Barnaby the player, he was pretty awful today. He’s clearly a bright guy, but is as stiff as a board. He didn’t smile, joke or look like he was enjoying what he was doing one bit. Mcguire had a few good lines during the day, at one point McTavish was asked whether he hated the media as a coach, and he said that he did but not as much as Kevin Lowe did. McGuire’s response was that had Kevin Lowe called the media a few deadlines back they could have saved him from the Ryan Smythe deal- ouch. Later in the day he quipped that Lee Stempniak was a total and utter failure.

The other panel was Dave Hodge’s Sports Reporters. Hodge was with his usual group, Damien Cox, Steve Simmons and Michael Farber. These guys just weren’t used properly. It’s not really fair either. With the exception of Cox and maybe Simmons to a degree, these guys aren’t rumor guys or source guys. They are critics or analysts. There was really nothing to critique or analyze. So we really got no added value from them today. I know why TSN had them, they just weren’t very good today.

The panel you did want to see was Gord Miller hosting Darren Dreger and Bob Mckenzie. This is there day to shine. You don’t however get to see them all that often. Most of the time you do see them they are on blackberries. Of the panels, there’s was on the least. Going to “the dealbreakers” as they were called only to break deals felt like a rip off. I wanted to hear from them way more. I know the argument is they can’t be on because they are talking to sources but they can find away, we are used to one talking while the other types or…… It was funny watching all three of Miller, Dreger and Mckenzie. Each was behind a laptop yet each was feveroshly typing on a blackberry. Of course inquiring minds wanted to know why the multiple tools and we were told that It’s easier to Twitter on laptop. Some emails on laptop too. BB for texting and emails and calls. So there you go.

Duthie tried to do a tour of the Canadian clubs but kept getting side stepped by minor deals. It was frustrating in retrospect because the deals were so minor and insignificant. The first things they should have done is a tour of the Canadian teams. Lastly the bit with Jay Onrait were brutal. They weren’t funny in any way shape or form.

By comparison, our team was impressed with Sportsnet’s coverage. Marc felt that Sportsnet’s talent did a very good job and their best content came from out west. Don Taylor was flanked by Garry Valk and Mark Spector, and the two latter men were very insightful. One of the day’s highlights was Spector’s breakdown of the Wojtek Wolski/Peter Mueller trade. He was very blunt with his thoughts on Mueller, saying that if Colorado head coach Joe Sacco was questionning Wolski’s toughness, he was going to have his hands full with Mueller.

Considering the consensus is that that trade was the day’s best, it’s a tip in Sportsnet’s cap that they were able to get Wojtek Wolski on the phone before TSN did.

The overall product was very good, although it did seem at times like they were sticking to a pre-determined lineup. They would throw to Evanka Osmak for a recap when nothing new had broken, and sometimes there was a little too much Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos at a time. Overall though, Sportsnet made a boring deadline day as entertaining as they could.

The thing is if you are watching Sportsnet you want to hear Kypreos, and Richie Rich MacLean. They’re the insiders. So too much of them is okay. This is thier day. I thought Watters was good when he was on (and you know I don’t say that all that often) and I though Gary Roberts was pretty good too- way less stiff then Peca on the other network.

On the radio, I was unimpressed by what the Fan was doing. I was surprised at how little I saw or heard Gord Stellick either on the Fan or Sportsnet. again, the fan suffered simply by virtue that there just wasn’t a whole lot to talk about. 640 mixed it up quite a bit, Brady drove all day and had good guests, opinions and updates. They didn’t go to Jonas all that much which was also a good thing. Dennis Beyak was good today too.

Things were simpler at the Score where Steve Kouleas provided updates as they happened.

Around noon word broke that Brian Burke had dealt Martin Skoula to the New Jersey Devils for a draft pick. Skoula jokes ruled the twitter world for about 20 minutes- a real highlight of the day.

At 12:30 the Kaberle talk started again. This time it was started by 640 Toronto. The rumor they had was Kaberle heading to Washington. This of course started the whole is he “in play” or isn’t he “in play”. That talk lasted until about 2:30pm. At about 130 pm Aaron ward told a group of reporters, I am sorry I don’t remember which group he was talking to that “The worst part in the age of bloggers is they’re about as reliable as Toyota gas pedals.”

Just before 2pm the 640 crew were talking about teas, specifically chamomile tea (I am a green tea fan myself). At 1:40 or so Eklund chimed in that Kaberle was absolutely in play and that this information had been confirmed. Shortly thereafter TSN stated that there were some teams for whom Kaberle would waive the no trade clause. It was at this time that Jonas Segal tweeted that Kaberle told reporters he had a deal with Burke to consider any deal Burke found acceptable. This too set off alarm bells all over as the discussion turned into all Kaberle all the time.

Shortly after that I started looking in on the Maple Leafs war room cam that they had on their website. Talk about seeing nothing. I mean to see the guys sitting around doing nothing was truly inspiring. Dave Poulin stared at the same pages for about 90 minutes while the other guys just stared at their computer screens or ate cookies.

After the Kaberle talk started we learned that Calgary acquired Vesa Toskala which of course led to another 20 minutes of Toskala jokes on twitter. Farber and Simmons chimed in that the only problem with Calgary acquiring so many Maple Leaf players is that the Leafs as a team have been so brutal for so long. One of the guys on on TSN said of Matt Stajan that he is the wrong guy at the wrong time.

Tony Ambrogio, who would make a great Maple Leaf beat reporter by the way was all over the Burke/Kaberle story, being the first to report that infact that there was a short list of acceptable teams to Kaberle and that Burke had unsuccessfully tried to trade Kaberle to them.

Just before 3pm everyone was saying that Lee Stempniak had been traded but no one could be quite sure to whom or for what. Just after 3pm Mckenize reported that it was a deal to Phoenix for draft picks. Shortly after that word came out that Joey McDonald had been dealt and that Leafs acquired a defenceman from Pittsburgh.

Burke addressed the media around 3:30 pm and was very good.

He started by thanking Poni for his years of service to Toronto and then he confirmed as much as he could about the other deals as they had yet to be approved by the league, he mentioned them because word had leaked out. Burke then confirmed what had been reported by Kypreos in the am that Kaberle had given a short list and what Tony Ambrogio reported that Burke couldn’t get a deal done with any of those teams. Burke said that he dealt Poni because they asked for a 4 year extension and Burke was confident Poni would get it on the open market, just not from him. He said that they were offered a 2nd rounder and a 4th rounder for Poni by another team but they liked the prospect more. Burke also said that this isn’t a 5 year rebuilding plan. They are trying to do it much faster. Burke said that he looks at his defence, from 1-6 and he thinks they are as good as any 1-6 in the league. He said he wants to keep Kaberle and has told him he would talk extension with him. He looks at college free agents the same way he would if he were to find a wallet. In his closing Burke said that he doesn’t care about the Kessel picks. He said they knew the risk when they made the deal and if he was worried about saving face he wouldn’t have dealt the guys he has over the last 24 hours.

Burke did avoid the one question I had which was what now, what’s for the rest of the season. I was at last night’s game with LT and CP and the Leafs were as bad against Paul Maurice as they were when they played for Paul Maurice. Burke said he was furious with last night’s game and that the players had better realize they have a job to do and that they are all auditioning for next season. Still, Burke didn’t say what he expects the rest of the way. He certainly didn’t address the fans in that regard. They can’t give tickets away, but I’m thinking they HAVE to do something- this team is likely going to really suck the rest of the way. Burke did say that he hates being a seller that if you are more than tinkering in March you have failed.

I will say this, the folks in the room with Burke did a really good job asking the questions. They tried to get him to answer all the questions we fans would want to hear. That alone was refreshing.

The best line of the day has to go to the guys at Down Goes Brown who said that “If you want to know about Martin Skoula, take the wheels off your car and try to drive to work every morning.”

Cue the broken record. Twitter rocked today. Not only were the usual suspects all over it, the MSMers were faster to twitter than they were to old school media. A trade would be broken on twitter and at times it was 3-4 minutes before the same person broke it on tv. That is simply amazing. You can see that the guys like Mckenzie, Simmons, Cox, Brady, Ambrogio, Friedman, Kevin Allen have all bought into the medium. They use it to share info, to interact with idiots like me and to be part of the noise. The same is true in almost every major hockey network as well south of the border. It used to be you had to read 30+ newspapers to follow the league, now it is so much easier. It’s truly fantastic.
Lastly, if you are reading this then you are already a fan of the blogs. There are so many good ones that cover the game exceptionally. Here in town we are spoiled, Maple Leafs Hot Stove, PPP, Down Goes Brown to name but a few (sorry if i didn’t mention you). In the USA- Washington, florida, Minnesota, Boston, Detroit, NYR, NYI and so on. All these outlets cover the game and days like today so well.

In the days ahead we will foucs on the days ahead. Ron Wilson hasn’t been left with much to work with the rest of the day. Which gives guys like me lots to write about.

All in all a fantastic day. Yes I’m nuts. No, there weren’t huge deals but it was a great day to be a fan of the great game.



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