Well, who’s laughing now. Certainly not fans of the Edmonton Oilers. “I hope Canadians aren’t too mad at me for taking Captain Canada,” Snow told The Canadian Press with a chuckle Tuesday. Snow, the backup-goalie-turned-GM, turned heads Tuesday when he landed by far the biggest impact player available – and few knew he was actually available – in Ryan Smyth.
Captain Canada makes the Islanders a dangerous team down the stretch and in the playoffs – should they make it. Smyth’s grinding-style of hockey is a premium in the post-season. No need to look further than last season’s run to the Stanley Cup final by the Oilers to know how valuable Smyth come crunch time.
Forget Peter Forsberg, Bill Guerin, Todd Bertuzzi or Keith Tkachuk – Smyth was the biggest impact player to move.
“One word came to mind when I was asked what is Ryan Smyth – warrior,” Snow said.
“The direction this organization wants to go, is for people with character and grit. We want people in that locker-room that have that charisma and Ryan Smyth epitomized that for us.”
Add that Snow also picked up winger Richard Zednik from Washington on Monday, and the hard-working Islanders got exactly what they were missing: goals.
Yes, the future was sacrificed: a second-rounder sent to Washington, while solid prospects Ryan O’Marra and Robert Nilsson as well as a first-rounder were shipped to Edmonton.
But it’s a shot for success this season in the wide-open East, where the No. 1-ranked Buffalo Sabres are beatable, by the way.
As for Snow, don’t expect him to look for any vindication after the abuse he took around the hockey world last summer.
“No, we got a game tonight, and it’s a humbling sport,” he said. “As soon as you look in the rear-view mirror, that’s when you hit a telephone pole. “
Snow’s fellow rookie GM Ray Shero in Pittsburgh was also a winner on trade deadline day, addressing his team’s clear lack of toughness by acquiring the league’s best tough guy in Georges Laraque, adding more leadership to a young club in winger Gary Roberts, and picking up depth players in defenceman Joel Kwiatkowski and impressive minor-league goalie Nolan Schaefer.
Who wants to face Sid The Kid and his young sidekicks, now feeling two feet taller with Roberts and Laraque now in tow?
Out West, the Nashville Predators made a loud statement earlier this month when they landed Forsberg and their Western rivals responded loudly on trade deadline day. Detroit got Bertuzzi a day after landing forward Kyle Calder, San Jose won the Guerin sweepstakes two days after adding veteran blue-liner Craig Rivet and Dallas added to their Ladislav Nagy pickup from earlier this month by surprising many with the blockbuster acquisition of Los Angeles Kings captain and star defenceman Mattias Norstrom.
The Wings wanted to get grittier, and they did that in spades with Calder and Bertuzzi. The young Sharks wanted more experience and got that big time in Rivet and Guerin. The Stars felt one more horse was needed on the blue-line with Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher and go it in the underrated Norstrom.
With Calgary (Craig Conroy, Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart) and Vancouver (Bryan Smolinski, Brent Sopel) also addressing their needs before Tuesday, that pretty much left the Anaheim Ducks as the only Western contender to do nothing. Ducks GM Brian Burke refused to give up his prime young assets for rental players.
“I’m not a big trade deadline guy, you look at my history, my splashes are in the off-season,” Burke told The Canadian Press a few hours after the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. “I don’t believe in giving a ton for rental players.
“I really like this group, I respect this group,” added Burke. “Virtually every deal I was offered, they wanted a guy from our dressing room and I didn’t want to do that.”
Having said that, don’t think for a second Burke wasn’t trying given what his Western rivals were doing. While he wouldn’t say, it’s believed Burke made serious attempts at landing Guerin, Bertuzzi and Norstrom.
“Obviously teams we’re competing with in our conference made some moves and they’re better now,” said Burke. ” But I’m not disappointed. We made our big move last summer (Chris Pronger).”
The Ducks head into the playoffs lacking depth on defence after superstars Pronger and Scott Niedermayer and No. 3 Francois Beauchemin and that may come back to haunt them.
People will say Montreal was a big loser on the day but the reality is that Canadiens GM Bob Gainey was in a pickle. He’s rebuilding the team while trying to remain competitive so dealing high draft picks or prospects for a rental was out of the question. On the other hand, with his team on the bubble, he couldn’t afford to deal high-scoring defenceman Sheldon Souray despite the huge return he would have fetched. The Habs can’t make the playoffs without Souray, so they’ll accept that when he leaves town as unrestricted free agent in July that his stay in the spring was worth it.
Besides, Gainey deserves credit for pulling a first-round draft pick and a 22-year-old defenceman in Josh Georges in exchange for a rental, Rivet, on Sunday.