By now, every Avalanche fan with an internet connection knows about the trade of Kyle Quincey to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Steve Downie. Then Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman quickly flipped Quincey like a house in 2007 to the Detroit Red Wings for a first round pick.
My immediate thoughts on the trade were negative. I couldn’t see a good reason for the Avs to trade away a perfectly decent defenseman when for a bona fide fifteen goal scorer that has a history of suspension. After further consideration, I still don’t get it.
First, let’s look at Downie. He has a history of suspensions that can’t be ignored. From Wikipedia (with severely clunky language for hockey fans to stomach):
During a September 25, 2007, preseason game against the Ottawa Senators, Downie was involved in an incident in which he checked unsuspecting left winger Dean McAmmond into the boards, while Downie’s feet were off the ice. Due to the extent of McAmmond’s injury and having left his skates during the hit, Downie was suspended by the NHL for 20 games three days later for deliberate injury to McAmmond, as the NHL were cracking down on any play resulting in a head injury. To date, it is the fifth longest suspension given by the league.
On February 28, 2009, Downie, by this point playing for the Norfolk Admirals (the Lightning AHL affiliate), slashed a linesman in the shin following a controversial empty-net goal in a game against the Hershey Bears, receiving a game misconduct for physical abuse of an official. Under AHL rules, this penalty carries an automatic 20-game suspension, which would be Downie’s second such lengthy suspension.
Aside: Make sure you take a look at that Wikipedia page, and the first picture they have of Downie. He’s in the penalty box, isn’t he?
So lets not kid ourselves, we have us a real winner here. Downie seems to have settled down under the tutelage of Yzerman and Coach Guy Boucher. He did have twelve assists in the seventeen playoff games the Lightning were in last year. So sure, he may have changed his ways. He doesn’t have an ungodly amount of penalty minutes, but he is a minus fifteen (a stat I take with a grain of salt). The Lightning do have a -31 goal differential right now, so even if that isn’t surprising, minus fifteen is tied for second worst in Tampa Bay (and make sure you say hello to Brett Clark who has the worst +/- on the team (miss you, buddy)).
What does this trade do to the Avalanche (and you will notice I didn’t use the phrase ‘for the Avalanche’)? Some say it brings ‘sandpaper’ to the team. And fine, I can see that. I can also see plenty of opportunities in the past for the Avalanche to bring in sandpaper, and even at reasonable prices (Sean Avery comes to mind, even if I wouldn’t want to see him wearing Burgundy and Blue). And Cody McLeod and Shane O’Brien are sandpaper guys, and can probably mix it up even more if needed, without getting in penalty trouble. If sandpaper is the issue, why not trade TJ Galiardi? Oh, right, because no one is buying Galiardi. Sandpaper, grit, toughness, whatever you want to call it, it’s a good thing to have. Downie’s brand of it? That will remain to be seen.
My other big question is how is Downie going to get along with Joe Sacco? Boucher and Yzerman have been positive influences on Steve Downie, but put him in the current managementland in Colorado and step back. We don’t know when this baby is going to blow.
There are two ways to look at the trade, with the deal between the Red Wings and Lightning, or without. I prefer to look at it without the deal with Detroit, because the buck really stops for the Avalanche with the trade they were actually involved in. But just for the fun of it, let’s look at Quincey for a first round pick.
Detroit shelled out a first for a guy they signed and quickly waived, and who wanted to show the Red Wings they made a mistake. They traded that pick to former Red Wings star Steve Yzerman’s team. Saying the Red Wings overpaid for Quincey is an understatement, until you remember this is a Red Wings pick, so it will probably be in the low to mid twenties by the time it comes up in the Draft. Still, if Yzerman is shedding dead weight, and pick in the first round is valuable to him. And lo and behold, he just shed a boat anchor about five minutes earlier. Remember kids, it’s always good to not burn bridges when you leave a job or organization. You never know when they will help you out.
According to plenty of media types (but I got my info from Puck Daddy), the Sherman and Red Wings GM Ken Holland had been in discussions about Quincey, but neither side cared for what was available in the end. So Greg Sherman had his chance at a Red Wings first round pick and chose to say no. That I can understand. A late first round pick is less valuable to Sherman than a roster player. And he did get a roster player, but it happens to be Downie.
As for the Avs and Tampa deal, Tampa is the obvious winner here. Even if they had kept Quincey, they would have gotten a puck moving defenseman who isn’t scrawny, and there is always a need for those. Instead, they got a draft pick that could be used to move up in the draft, or put them with two first round picks overall. And they are still wheeling and dealing. They could get more.
What does this say about what the Avalanche are doing in their final stab at making the playoffs? Does this signal that they are selling, buying, or have gigantic pockets to be picked? Has there been a trade that makes it look like there is any plan whatsoever in place for the Avs as they rebuild? And is that why they don’t like to call it a rebuild, because they don’t know what the word really means?
I’ll leave the final word to my twitter account.