The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames began last week in similar situations.
Both teams were destined to miss the playoffs, both teams were looking to be sellers at Monday’s deadline, and both teams had valuable assets on expiring contracts to move.
After the dust settled and the deadline passed, the mood in each city was starkly different.
Calgary GM Brad Treliving pulled the trigger on three trades, while Canucks GM Jim Benning was unable to complete a single deal.
Here’s a recap of Calgary’s deadline week:
Here’s a recap of Vancouver’s deadline week:
The reason for Vancouver’s ineptness at this year’s deadline has been speculated and theorized, ranging from management’s reluctance to accept draft picks, to ownership meddling in hockey operations. Did the Canucks just wait too long to deal players? Is Jim Benning just a poor deal-maker?
We may not know the answer to these questions, but whatever the case, their Albertan neighbours are making them look bad.
Calgary has a better crop of young players in their system by virtue of having more losing seasons in the last ten years. They have young players like Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett because they were picking at the top of the draft. That’s understandable and not the issue at hand.
What isn’t comprehendible if you’re a Canucks fan is what has transpired at the last two trade deadlines.
Last year, the Flames and Canucks were both battling with the Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff spots in the Pacific Division. The Canucks stood pat, for the most part, although they acquired prospect Sven Baertschi from Calgary in a deal that could work out well for both teams.
The Flames, on the other hand, sold high on Curtis Glencross, dealing him to the Washington Capitals for a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick. Glencross was a useful player on an expiring contract that was not in their future plans.
Basically, Calgary got some help for the future by mildly hurting their club in the short term.
The Canucks chose not to deal Shawn Matthias, who was having a fine season, but was not going to be re-signed in the offseason. Matthias had 16 goals in 60 games by deadline day last year, despite not being used extensibly by the Canucks coaching staff. He was expendable and likely would have fetched a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick.
The result of the Flames’ prudent moves with an eye on the future has been an incredible stockpile of draft picks, particularly in the first two rounds, while minimally affecting the team on the ice.
Having a stockpile of draft picks allowed the Flames to acquire defenceman Dougie Hamilton last summer.
The Flames currently have ten selections in the upcoming NHL Draft in June, while the Canucks have just seven. Calgary also has four picks in the first two rounds, compared to just two for the Canucks.
Treliving may decide to move some of his picks for a player again, or simply decide to build up his prospect depth.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Flames can do no wrong.
They signed Mason Raymond to a 3-year deal with a $3.15 million cap hit before last season. Jonas Hiller ($4.5 million cap hit) was brought in to be their number one goalie but has not ran away with the top job.
Perhaps the Flames will pick poorly in the draft, too.
The NHL Draft is a lottery of sorts, so getting more picks in the top-two rounds significantly increases the odds of hitting the jackpot.
Sekeres saying #Canucks could've got Dano and 1st for Hamhuis.
— Omar A (@omarcanuck) February 29, 2016
Not being able to get a good return on Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata will hurt the Canucks for years to come, given what could have been had for the pair this season.
Benning can salvage it, but only if he buys the right lottery ticket in June.