Saturday, June 24, 2006

Is it my birthday?

Last night, via my brother, I learned of the trade involving the Canucks and the Panthers that sees Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld head south for Lukas Krajicek, a sixth round draft pick, and some goalie named Roberto Luongo. I thought perhaps it was merely a dream, and the hockey pundits on television were falling all over themselves with how one-sided of a deal this is for Florida. All the while it seemed to me that GM Dave Nonis of Vancouver took his counterpart in Florida for a ride.

It was most certainly not a dream! And I'm thinking it must be my birthday or something.

The Canucks have picked up the premier goalie in the league. He is arguably the best out there behind Martin Brodeur (if anyone mentions Kipper in the comments section they'll be barred from WCC for life!). Last year he had 35 wins, a 2.97 GAA, a save percentage of .917, and 4 shutouts in 75 freaking games on a team that finished with 85 points. Alex Auld (whom I thought deserved a lot of credit for keeping the Canucks in the playoff hunt last season) had 33 wins, a 2.94 GAA, .902 save percentage, and zero shutouts in 67 games. Pretty good numbers for both, to be sure. However, Auld faced an average of 29 shots per game in Vancouver, compared to Luongo's 33 in Florida. This indicates to me that Florida was not as strong of a team as the Canucks, at least defensively. Luongo should face a lot less shots in Vancouver, and will have a better team in front of him.

It sure is disappointing to see Bryan Allen go. I was really impressed with his play, and he proved he can be a bona fide NHL defensemen. He is responsible defensively, can put the puck in the net, and hits like a Mack truck. He had 17 points and 115 penalty minutes in 77 games last year, while Lukas Krajicek had 16 points and 50 penalty minutes in 67 games. Less time in the penalty box and more scoring (if you consider the games played) means an upgrade on D.

I do not see how a 6th round pick is going to make up for the loss of Bertuzzi. He's a top quality player with skills and ability that 600 other NHLers only wish they had. However, he did not play as good as he should have last year. He did not hit like he used to. He did not score like he used to. He still took penalties at the worst possible moment and did not improve defensivly (he was a -17). He also earned 5.3 million dollars last year, which can be used to sign a quality free agent. Luongo is going to make at least 6 million, but when Cloutier gets traded we will have more than enough cash (with the increased cap) to sign replacement for Big Bert. Keep in mind, 71 points is not that hard to come by in the new NHL. Maxin Afinogenov, for instance, had 73 points. Patrice Bergeron had 73 on the lacklustre Bruins squad, and Brian Rolston had 79 in defensive-minded Minnesota. None of those players makes the kind of money Bertuzzi does.

Perhaps the only lingering question is how will this affect Markus Naslund. Nazzy went to bat for Bert big time last year, and I'm sure he's felling a little upset that one of his best friends is leaving town. Here's hoping that whoever replaces Todd on the top line will help Naslund improve on his 79 point, -19 season.

I'm not at all convinced that this was a lop-sided deal for Florida. Quite the contrary, in fact.

As a side note, here is an interesting thought: Did Mike Keenan draft both Alex Auld and Bryan Allen? I think he might have. He also was responsible for bringing Bertuzzi to Vancouver. This trade makes a whole lot more sense when seen in that light. Iron Mike is familiar with all three players and likes all three players.

I can't wait for the start of the season!