Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Magnificent Bastard—Plus, hot commodities available for free!

Bob Clarke has pretty quickly gone from one of my least-favourite people involved with hockey to one of my favourite GMs in the league, all thanks to the fact he packs a pair that can only be described as pre-trade Prongerian.

First there was his Kesler gambit, which despite what naysayers may nay, was a long-overdue, shrewd hockey move for a team concerned with winning, and hopefully one that encourages GMs to care less about cordial relationships at Palm Springs retreats, and more about winning at all costs.

Now, there's this morning of the long knives business with Nedved, Baumgartner and Dimitrakos. As Mirtle rightly points out, the actual move itself is nothing more than shuffling deck chairs, as the big problem is clearly Philly's big, slow, stupid D (for which, of course, Clarke has himself to blame) and the fact Robert Esche isn't much of a goalie. And while the move frees up some money that will probably be spent addressing that (Brian Leetch should start looking for apartments in Philly), cutting Niko Dimitrakos hardly makes Derian Hatcher a good defenceman.

More to the point, though, whil I'm not sure exactly how shrewd a hockey move it is, or even if I'd like to have Clarke as my GM, I find it a rare thing of beauty when an NHL GM is this willing to admit mistakes (Baumgartner isn't worth $1.2mil! Petr Nedved can't play anything below number-two centre, if even that anymore, and you already have, like, three guys for your top two spots!) and start looking for other answers tout suite, as opposed to, say, continually throwing out the demonstrably worst goaltending troika in the league for five months. Before I get lambasted by the Loweists, I feel I should point out that I am aware that, perhaps, Lowe couldn't have swung a manageable deal before the trade deadline, and it obviously worked out in our favour in the long run, but my point is here that I admire Clarke's rash, trigger-happy, more-or-less unprecedented management style, if only because it seems a welcome change to the conservative suits running their teams by the book.

Now, again, I'm fairly glad that Clarke isn't running our ship, especially since it's his messes he's having to clean up so quickly, but it's fun to watch a player-pilfering, waiver-dropping, arrogant spitfire from across the continent. I actually hope the Flyers perk up a bit this year, lest Clarke get fired and replaced by the East Coast Dave Nonis.


I just got an e-mail from Chris! that brougt up the possibility of, you know, the Oilers bringing in one of the three completely free players dumped onto the market by Ballsy Bobby. Nedved, of course, had arguably the best stretch of his recent career with the Oilers, turning Radek Dvorak into a player that actually scores for a brief while, and making us all think we had a beautiful, crisp, number one centre until his wife made him go to a team in the Pacific division, starting a trend that has continued to this day.

Anyway, assuming no one in their right mind would want Nolan Baumgartner, even with our somewhat-suspect defesnive corps, Nedved and Dimitrakos are mildly interesting options, though perhaps not ideal. Nedved might indeed be worth a gamble (anyone wonder what a Sykora-Nedved-Hemsky line would be capable of?), though he's a $2.4mil gamble. He might kickstart that third-line scoring we were supposed to have, and our powerplay always looked good when he was here, but he could just as easily be Adam Oates 2006-07 (his hot streak was, after all, three years ago). He was playing with capable-if-not-top-flight talent in Geoff Sanderson and Sami Kapanen in Philly, and I certainly don't think it's a stretch to suggest that the right linemates could give him a boost. If nothing else, he would certainly light a fire in the general vicinity of the asses of Torres and Stoll, who are both streaky anyway. He would also, particularly if he pans out, give you even more leverage to trade away for a top-rank defenceman (if we did pick him up, I'd expect a trade fairly quickly). The downsides are obviously his salary, which he could very easily not earn (though his contract is up at the end of the year), and his suspect D, something we already have enough of in our forward corps. It would sort of make sense to pick him up, though I thoroughly doubt Lowe would do it, because more or less needlessly changing the dynamic of a team he likes doesn't seem like Lowe's style. Though I will pose the question: Nedved, yes or no?

Dimtrakos is actually more interesting to me than Nedved, mostly because I think the potential swing in his career path is greater (that is, I think he could quite easily go from second-line NHLer to second-line AHLer, depending on how this turns out for him). The fact the Oil have Thoreson, Winchester, Mikhnov, Jacques, Pouliot and Schremp as NHL-ready/soon-to-be-ready players would make picking him up seem quite redundant for us, but somebody should probably take a flyer (ha!) on him. He's never played more than 68 games, but he's had two 25-point seasons, only makes $650,000 and had a fairly stellar college career, even if he is 27 now. This is obviously far from a guarantee, and I haven't seen him play much, but his numbers in stretches (nine points in 19 games with the Flyers last year after getting traded from SJ) suggest to me he could be a player that gets a benefit from getting dropped into a role higher than what his stats would indicate he deserves. Maybe playing second line on Phoenix, or some powerplay time with Semin and Ovechkin in Washington turns him into a 50-point man—and seriously, at $675,000 and nothing given up in return, what do some teams that could use some bottom-of-the-roster potential have to lose?

Anyway, if I was going to throw out random predictions, I'll say that the Thrashers, who have a titload of talented wingers and a bunch of those clowns that pop back up again when you punch them at centre, will pickup Nedved in the hopes Hossa helps him get his touch back, and that a team like Phoenix or St. Louis grabs Dimitrakos, because why not?


Anonymous said...

balls, yes. brains, hmm, not so sure.

but I agree, watching him steer the plane right into the mountain is compelling to watch. more teams should try this method to rid themselves of the slow/disinterested/overpaid baggage they are carrying.

the sweet irony of all this is that he has only himself to blame!


Garnet said...

A hallmark of Clarke's career as GM is the vindictiveness he can develop for his players, which often means making scapegoats of them (ie. Cechmanek). He was pretty straightforwardly trying to kill Lindros for a while there.

mike w said...

He truly had balls, he would have demoted Darrien Hatcher. Did you see that immobile redwood on the highlights last night?

The D was so bad that I don't blame Esche. The dude had no chance to prove just how bad he really is.

Anonymous said...

I know the Nedved ship has long since sailed (after all, he blazed Pronger's trail in the "my wife would rather die than live here" department) and there's no way we have the room for him up the middle anymore... but I have to admit that I get more than a little horny thinking about how good Nedved would look centring Hemsky and Sykora on an all-Czech line.

Oh, man...

That Dimotrakos kid would look good in Winchester's spot, too. But then again, so would anyone other than Winchester. Like, uh, Mikhnov.


Anonymous said...

... and I see DAve updated his post to make my comment seem pretty redundant. Better late than never, I guess. ASS!

Good call on the Thrashers. They've got nothing to lose with Kovalchuk stuck in "I miss my friend Marc" jail, and Nedved might actually be a good fit.

I'll punch my own dink if Phoenix is dumb enough to do any waiver pickups over the next while though. They've got enough problems with the players they have.

Garnet said...

I must say I liked the Kesler move, though. In the zero-sum game that is the NHL salary cap, when you make another team spend more than they have to (especially a team with cap worries), you take them off the market for other players. And though he may not always know how to build a winner, it's clear Clarke would stab his grandmother in the eye to do it. That doesn't justify Philly's loyalty to him but goes a long way to explaining it.

uni said...

If only we could make him the next President of the United States...I bet he'd give George Jr. a run for his money.

bigleaguer said...

If Clarke really had testicular fortitude, he'd send himself to the minors, because the reason for the Flyers are in the swamp is looking at him in the mirror every morning.

He's the clear winner of the Gil Stein incompetent executive of the year.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that Janet was the wife that started the trend of making her sac-less worm of a hockey-playing husband move to a team in the, er, Pacific Division.