Friday, February 29, 2008

Hossa Trade Looks Even Worse

In my trade deadline review, I picked the Atlanta Thrashers as the biggest long term winner and the Pittsburgh Penguins as the biggest long term loser because of the Marian Hossa trade. Pittsburgh acquired free agents to be Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis in unlikely hopes of a Stanley Cup playoff run this season at a large cost. They gave up two young useful players in Eric Christensen and Colby Armstrong and last year's first round draft pick in Angelo Esposito, as well as this year's first round draft pick. In all likelihood, Hossa is only a shortterm rental. When the season is completed, he will sign as a free agent with another team and his short tenure in Pittsburgh will be over (Dupuis is the same situation - though in this trade he is mostly an NHL calibre warm body in this trade). Pittsburgh gave up a sizeable chunk of their future. Christensen and Armstrong are solid young players. Likely neither will be superstars, but they should have useful NHL careers. Atlanta will benefit from their presence. With young players like Esposito and the 2008 first round pick, one never knows. They might turn out to be very good players and they might not. I think it is likely a safe prediction that the three players involved in this deal that score the most points with their new teams are all players the Atlanta Thrashers obtained. In a best case, Hossa may score well for a few games, but it will only be a few games before he leaves Pittsburgh.

This trade just got worse in last night's Pittsburgh at Boston game. Not only did Pittsburgh lose 5-1, in the second period Marian Hossa hurt his knee and left the game. It was an accidental knee-on-knee collision with Boston's Glen Murray. Initial estimates are that Hossa will be out for about a week, but we will not know for sure until doctors examine him today. Things could easily be worse than a week. When you pay a high price for a shortterm rental, it is a huge blow for the player to be hurt. It is a huge blow if he comes back but cannot perform at 100%. It is really starting to look like Pittsburgh got burned on the Marian Hossa trade and the trade was made only a few days ago.

Before I go any further, I want to mention that I read your blog daily, and while I've never commented before, I very often find myself agreeing with what you say, and I sometimes find your entries to be thought-provoking and intelligent.

Now, there are two ways to judge a trade. The first one is to judge it with the situation in which it was made, and the second is to judge it in hindsight. In my opinion, judging a transaction in hindsight, judging it according to information that was not available to the general managers that made the trade, is not very informative on how good of a trade it is.

It's easy to say, for example, that Winnipeg trading Robert Picard to Montréal for a draft pick that turned out to be Patrick Roy was a bad trade - but, when you think about it, Robert Picard for a 3rd round pick is not bad at all. Montréal clearly benefited more from that trade than Winnipeg, but Winnipeg didn't make a bad trade.

In a similar vein, if the Canadien traded Tom Kostopoulos for Evgeni Malkin, and that Malkin died in a fire tomorrow, the Penguins would benefit more from that deal, even though Montréal made a wonderful trade.

While I agree with you that the Penguins made a rather bad trade, I don't think Hossa being injured makes the trade look worse. There was no way the Penguins could've anticipated the injury, and I think that it's unfair to claim a GM made an even worse decision due to something unpredictable. Also, while we're on Hossa's case, while I believe he will take advantage of unrestricted free agency, I wouldn't claim with any certainty that he will not be a Penguin next year. The Penguins clearly like him, and that interest in him could warrant a high free agency offer. The Penguins are an attractive team for a player who wants to play on a contender, or with good linemates. Will he be a Penguin next year? Well, maybe not. However, I wouldn't call it an impossibility.

A good trade, in my opinion, is not necessarily one that, in the end, helped your team - it's a trade that, at the moment it was made, improved your team.
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