• The Bruins and Trade Evaluation

    by  • September 10, 2013 • Hockey • 4 Comments

    I sometimes think that NHL teams would benefit greatly just from having a guy around in management who is willing to be the guy who says things that are awkward for other guys in the room. As teams increasingly release video of what goes on behind the scenes, I’m coming to think this more firmly that I already did. Take this from the Bruins’ behind the scenes look, which I found on Puck Daddy:

    Scott Bradley, Director of Player Personnel: “It’s knowing your player and their value and when to move them. We were good on Raycroft, we were good on Phil…”

    Old Man With White Hair: “Now it’s time.”

    Bradley: “It’s time.”

    OMWWH: “For this guy.”

    The Bruins have been a pretty successful organization. That being said, it’s not like trading Raycroft was a genius move or anything. Sometimes you find a sucker and the B’s found a sucker, as I pointed out at the time:

    As dumb as LA was to trade a second for Cloutier when they’ve got a decent pair already and don’t seem like they’re going to be contending this year, it just pales in comparison to John Ferguson’s work. An excellent goaltending prospect in Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, proud owner of one (1) good pro season in four? JFJ couldn’t say the words “Calder winner” enough in his interview. I don’t see how Raycroft is a better bet than Manny Legace next year; I don’t see how Raycroft is a better bet than Cloutier. This is like the guy who goes to Vegas, loses 90% of his net worth and then borrows whatever he can to add to the 10% he has left to win it all back. Then he goes to the slots. Add to that the crazy spending on defencemen and it could be a long ugly season in Toronto.

    I took a look at Mirtle’s thread on this – we were talking the other day about how nuts this contract is. David Johnson was putting up a pretty stout defence of the deal, arguing that it’s worth it because of the upside. I can’t agree with this. Even if the Leafs get the upside, they’re not going to have a team that contend. I think that the belief that he can dominate again is far fetched as well. I’ve said it before but he never dominated in the minors. If you were trying to pick out the season he’s had that looks like an outlier, you’d have to pick 2003-04. It’s a risky deal because of what the Leafs are giving up. No one knows that Rask is going to be but when you consider that the smart money is probably on Legace to have a better save percentage than Raycroft next season, I can’t see how this deal is defensible. It’s the kind of deal that you make when you need a miracle to keep your job-better options in terms of risk and asset management are available but JFJ needs something outrageous to happen.

    Raycroft was coming off a season in which he’d posted an .879 save percentage. “Team doesn’t keep using terrible goalie” isn’t exactly Pollockian genius. As far as Phil goes…well, that’s an interesting question. If you’re operating on the premise that you moved Phil at the right time, ok, but if you’re now talking about moving a big piece of the return for him…well, there seems to me to be a disconnect somewhere. Also, it’s probably worth pointing out that Kessel’s been twelfth in the league in G/gm since he was traded and 23rd in points, so I’m not even sure they moved him at the right time. I’ve defended Brian Burke on that trade a few times because it could have very easily worked out that the picks the Leafs gave up were lower than they were but that goes the other way too.

    All of which is to say that I’m not sure I buy “We traded Phil at the time and Raycroft at the right time” as rationales for this trade. There was a lot of reason to think that Raycroft was horrible and that trade looked lopsided in Boston’s favour as soon as it was made. Kessel’s lit it up for four years since the Bruins traded him and they’ve now dealt a big part of the return from what they thought was a good deal. Maybe the trade will work for the Bruins, maybe it won’t – I like Dallas’ end of the deal because they got the higher end player – but winning Stanley Cups doesn’t make all of your moves good and finding a sucker, or telling yourself that a deal was good, doesn’t mean that it was.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    4 Responses to The Bruins and Trade Evaluation

    1. September 10, 2013 at

      “I sometimes think that NHL teams would benefit greatly just from having a guy around in management who is willing to be the guy who says things that are awkward for other guys in the room.””

      This is, essentially, correct.

      From the book “You are now less Dumb” by David McRaney

      “True groupthink depends on three conditions—a group of people who like one another, isolation, and a deadline for a crucial decision. It turns out, for any plan to work, every team needs at least one asshole who doesn’t give a shit if he or she gets fired or exiled or excommunicated. For a group to make good decisions, they must allow dissent and convince everyone they are free to speak their mind without risk of punishment.”

    2. September 10, 2013 at

      Every management group should have a devil’s advocate. That goes triple for an insular, old boys culture like pro sports, where thinking and acting more or less like everyone else is considered a strong indicator of character.

      I proposed this on twitter half joking after the Cleary signing, but I really think there is a very strong element of what I call “cut of his jib” player evaluation – there was a strong hint in the Boston video that some person – or person’s – just didn’t really like the kid. The justifications offered (Not improving other aspects of his game, doesn’t fit with our “culture”) were all variants of cut of his jib management.

      • daryl
        September 11, 2013 at

        I agree. As much as I like the “behind the scenes” stuff, this Boston one left me wanting a “Behind the behind the scenes” on Seguin. Somewhere on the cutting room floor is video that has someone in that room saying exactly what you’re thinking in not-so-nice terms.

    3. Lewis Grant
      September 15, 2013 at

      I think you nailed it. Kessel has become a PPG+ player the last two years. The trade was reckless on Toronto’s part, but if Toronto had been a mid-range team both years, that deal wouldn’t look so bad for them.

      I think Boston will totally regret trading Seguin. I like MacT as a person, but as a GM, I’d much prefer Jim Nill.

      I didn’t realize Raycroft had been that horrible in the year before he was traded. Good Lord! That’s like if Columbus had gotten Jakob Markstrom in return for Steve Mason.

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