The Canucks-Lightning trade today is an interesting one. Willis, who is miles ahead of some of the other analysis over at OilersNation (I’m wondering whether Gregor really doesn’t see the problem with his some of his analysis or if the Oilogosphere has simply been infected by the worst qualities of sports radio), is bang on, I think, picking the Canucks as the winner. Michel Ouellet’s inclusion in the deal is particularly interesting:
Michel Ouellet’s transformation into AHL-calibre forward is slightly baffling. He played the 7th-toughest competition among Lightning forwards last year, and scored 2.00 PTS/60, while posting 2.88 GFON/60 and 1.92 GAON/60. He should see time in Vancouver this season, if he clears recall waivers.
If anything, I think that Willis is underselling things here. Bill James used to talk about the Ken Phelps All-Stars, defined by Baseball Prospectus as “…an assemblage of players with skills that made them useful, but who were generally not given a fair opportunity to prove their worth in the majors or had been given unwarranted labels they couldn’t shake.” There’s a pretty good argument that Ouellet should be considered as falling in that group.
Ouellet has put up some very impressive numbers over the past few years. Here’s how they look, along with a random player for comparison:
I tend to think that this is a hell of a move for the Canucks because they moved from a position of strength to shore up one of weakness. I suppose that you could make the same argument for Tampa Bay but I’m not at all sure that I’d rather have Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts for next year than Michel Ouellet. That PP number is legitimately elite for the past three years and, while he’s been playing with Crosby and Lecavalier types, anything over 5.0 in that many minutes should raise an eyebrow. He’s not going to be deadweight eating up PP minutes if the Canucks can slide him back up the NHL (I assume but don’t know for sure that he has to clear recall waivers to come back up; I would think that Vancouver will try this quickly because he is a UFA at the end of the year, so it’s not a situation like Jason LaBarbera a few years back where the Kings just stashed him for the year so as to be able to use him in the following season.)
I’ve been impressed with Mike Gillis so far. I know that there was a lot of criticism of his strategy this summer but he struck me as a guy doing the right thing: if the move didn’t make sense, he didn’t make it. It was like the polar opposite of Kevin Lowe’s 2007. If Ouellet ends up in the NHL, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he ended up putting up decent numbers. At the very least, it should make Kyle Wellwood feel the need to stay in shape.
TB’s moves have really puzzled me since Len Barrie took over. I don’t think that Tampa’s difficulties were up front last year; they had just godawful goaltending, which really hurt them. A lot of their underlying numbers were decent. Before I wrote a piece over at BoA suggesting that the Caps just needed a goalie (I was suggesting Garon), I was kind of scanning through teams that looked like they just needed a goalie and TB jumped out at me; for whatever reason, they’ve gone in a completely different direction. The second set of numbers up there belongs to Ryan Malone, who is the same age as Michel Ouellet, has had pretty much the same systemic advantages, scores at nowhere near the same rates and is slightly more expensive. Of course Malone played with Crosby last year and Ouellet spent a lot of time with Chris Gratton so that’s a point in Malone’s fav…wait, no it isn’t. It was a weird summer in TB. They seemingly tried to corner the market on forwards and ended up having to give forwards away to avoid paying them. It’s like the NHL’s version of Lamar Hunt trying to corner the silver market but stupider.
I’ve been kind of muttering this quietly in a few places for a while but I’m quite bullish on the Canucks this year. I’m hoping to throw up a big NW look back at last year at some point in the next week to highlight a few things but while I tend to think that, injuries excepted, while the Oilers had a lot of things go more right than they had any right to expect, absolutely nothing went right for the Canucks and they still piled up 88 points. I kind of see the NW as being a fight between Vancouver and Minnesota at the moment, which places me at odds with the the ESPN panel