The 40 minutes that changed the landscape of the NHL

The 40 minutes that changed the landscape of the NHL
By Evan Presement

Let me take you back to a simpler time, around 3:30 p.m., June 29th, 2016. The NHL draft has come and gone, without the significant trade activity that many anticipated. Free agency is just over a day away, with Steven Stamkos set to hit the open market as, arguably, the greatest free agent of all time.

That’s when I decide to open the Twitter app on my phone and BOOM, there it is:

Whoa. I knew the Oilers were going to shake things up and them trading Hall wasn’t exactly a shock, but to the Devils? What could the Devils possibly have that the Oilers would want in return for Hall?

At first, like everyone else on my feed, I thought that McKenzie had been hacked. After all, this is a trade that someone on some hockey forum, somewhere, has probably proposed.

But then others started to confirm it. One after the other, after the other, after the other.

This is the funniest thing I have ever witnessed in my 20 and a half years on this planet.

As far as I can tell, all the smart people that I follow on twitter.com feel the same.

Life comes at you fast… What an understatement.

Just as me, along with hundreds of my on-line friends begin to attempt to process the sheer stupidity of this trade, Nick Kypreos drops the second bomb of the day, some 20 minutes later:

Oh. My. God. It’s all happening. Didn’t Bergevin say just this past weekend that he wasn’t interested in trading Subban? I can’t believe they’re actually doing it. What could they possibly get in return to justify trading one of the NHL’s top-5 defensemen?

At this point, all I feel inside is sheer glee. You mean to tell me that the team I grew up absolutely hating, DESPISING, traded a franchise player for Shea Weber? THE Shea Weber? ‘Fourth-Best-Defenseman-On-His-Team’ Shea Weber? This can’t be real life.

At this point, my world is like that spongebob meme, where the world is swirling around Mr, Krabs and he has absolutely no clue what’s going on.

Capture

Yeah, something like that.

Still, I haven’t really been able to process exactly what has gone on. Still, I’m going to do my best to break down both trades to the best of my abilities. To be honest, I’m still kind of shell shocked.

Anyways, here’s what you need to know about whatever the hell it was that went down Wednesday afternoon.

Edmonton Trades Taylor Hall To The New Jersey Devils, Straight Up, For Adam Larsson

Just when you think the Oilers had finally turned the corner, they drop this on the NHL world.

This deal honestly reminds me of when I was a little kid, and I would play NHL on my xbox. I always used to play ‘Be A GM’ mode, where you can make trades, signings, etc. There was also the option of turning the ‘force trades’ option on, meaning any trade that you proposed to another team would have to be accepted. That’s what this trade feels like.

Right off the bat, I feel pretty confident in saying that this is among the top five worst one for one swaps in NHL history.

There are multiple layers to this trade.

Taylor Hall, Top-10 Forward In Hockey

First of all, everyone needs to understand just how good Taylor Hall is. Since the 2012/2013 season, there have been only six wingers who have scored more points than him. If we’re getting in to specifics, all six are right wingers, making Hall the highest scoring left winger in hockey over the past four seasons.

Furthermore, the Oilers were, simply put, awful when he wasn’t on the ice.

What happened in Edmonton was far from Taylor Hall’s fault. Imagine what it would have been like had he not been there?

As for Adam Larsson, well, he’s not exactly the kind of player you’d hope to get in return for one of the most valuable forwards in hockey.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 12.24.45 PM

Just in case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, that’s Larsson on the left compared to Ron Hainsey on the right. The numbers you’re looking at range from shot generation to possession, and the length/colour of the line demonstrates at what level that player does whatever the stat is i.e at a first, second, or third pairing level.

As you can see, Adam Larsson is pretty bleh. He’s really doesn’t generate much offense and is not a high-possession player, either. Does he defend well? Yeah, shot suppression suggests he does. Not at a first line level though.

Just for fun, here’s how Taylor Hall compares to Jamie Benn.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 12.37.37 PM

It boils down to this: The Oilers traded one of the most productive players in the NHL for a guy who’s proven to be a slightly above average defenseman. Good going.

They Had To Shake Things Up

Many people will point to the fact that Edmonton ‘had to shake things up’. Others will point to the fact that they so desperately needed a defenseman. Both are true. Neither are an excuse for what the Oilers pulled off.

This is one of the most over-used, cliche’d phrases in hockey. When something’s not going right, you gotta shake things up. That’s what Edmonton thought they were doing here. Sadly for them, instead of shaking things up, they just fucked things up.

Making change for the sake of making change is one of the worst things you can do. Were people expecting Hall to get dealt? Absolutely. Were people expecting Hall to get dealt for a second-pairing d-man who won’t come close to having the impact on your team that Hall did? No, absolutely not.

Again, Hall was not the problem. In fact, Hall was probably one of the only solutions on that team.

It needs to be understood that Taylor Hall is a franchise player. I know I’ve said this in some form or another throughout this post, but it needs to be driven home. Hall should be treated like a cornerstone of a franchise, regardless of what other pieces that team has.

Is Adam Larsson a cornerstone piece? No. Is he a nice complimentary piece? Probably? I guess?

Edmonton Wasted Their Top Trade Chip

If I were an Oilers fan, this would probably be the hardest pill to swallow.

The Oilers are in desperate need for a blueliner. Emphasis on desperate. Hall was their golden ticket and they threw it in the garbage.

Edmonton’s known to have multiple players on the block. Other than Hall, names like Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins were being tossed around in potential deals.

If anyone out there believes that Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going to net you more than Taylor Hall, you’re out of your goddamn minds.

You don’t trade your Lamborghini straight up for a Subaru because you want a hatchback, a little more trunk space. That’s not how it works.

In Conclusion…

This entire trade such poor asset management on the part of Peter Chiarelli, I don’t even know where to begin. This trade alone has to put him among the worst general managers in the NHL. He has now traded Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall for Loui Eriksson and peanuts. Good luck, Oilers.

Montreal Trades P.K Subban To The Nashville Predators, STRAIGHT UP, For Shea Weber

Just like the Hall deal, this may go down as one of the worst trades of all time.

Seriously, it blows my mind that there are those out there who actually defend this trade from Montreal’s standpoint. Have you watched Weber play hockey over the past few years?

Again, like the Hall deal, there are a number of different aspects that need to be addressed.

Shea Weber Was Nashville’s 4th Best D-man in 2016

This is perhaps the one that most people tend to overlook, just because of the weight and pedigree the name ‘Shea Weber’ carries. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm were all better during the 2015-2016 season.

Here’s Weber, on the left, when compared to his three teammates.

Josi

josi

Ellis

ellis

Ekholm

ekholm

As you can see, Weber is essentially a black hole defensively. When looking at quality of competition, Weber didn’t even play the toughest minutes of Nashville’s defencemen… Josi did.

Also, in terms of offensive zone starts, Weber started 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone. There were 192 NHL d-men who played at least 40 games last season. The average zone start percentage is 49.9%. Though it’s not a huge discrepancy, that means Weber starts more shifts in the offensive zone than more than half of the NHL.

Past Performance Does. Not. Matter.

Many of the people who will defend Montreal for making this trade will always point to Shea Weber’s list of accolades. He’s won Olympic gold medals. He’s a five-time all star. He was, for a time, a perennial Norris trophy candidate. None of that matters.

The Montreal Canadiens made this trade in 2016. Not 2007. Not 2010. 2016. Using past accolades as a barometer of future success is one of the dumbest things that consistently happens in sports.

Does anyone seriously think that Shea Weber will ever contend for another Norris in his career? He’s not. Was he selected to Team Canada’s World Cup of Hockey roster? Yes, he was, but that means nothing. Fucking Justin Abdelkader made team USA’s roster while Phil Kessel did not. Chris Kunitz made Team Canada in 2014. Hockey executives make stupid decisions all the time.

Subban Scores & Defends at a Higher Level Than Weber

Everyone loves to talk about how much Shea Weber scores. Yes, he’s got one of the NHL’s best shots and can quarterback a powerplay… But is he a better offensive option than Subban?

Since the beginning of the 2011 season, here’s how the two match up (all stats even strength):

Weber: Games (361), Goals (28), Primary Assists (33), Primary Points (61)
Subban: Games (355), Goals (20), Primary Assists (45), Primary Points (65)

The reason secondary assists aren’t included is because they’ve proven to be mostly a useless stat. Also, stats are even strength because we all know power play numbers don’t mean a whole hell of a lot. Don’t @ me.

Also, Subban generates a lot more offensively. Instead of boring y’all with numbers, again, here’s a lovely HERO chart comparing the two:

subban

Something else you may notice in thir graphic is that contrary to popular belief, Subban actually suppresses shots at a decently high rate.

Relative to his team, Shea Weber allows upwards of three more shots against while he’s on the ice compared to his teammates. Subban? Well he suppresses shots at a 0.09 better clip than his teammates. Not great, but clearly not a detriment to his team.

Possession Matters

We’re learning more and more about the importance of puck possession in today’s NHL. It’s probably not a smart move to trade away one of the league’s best puck possession d-men for a guy who, well, isn’t a puck possession d-man.

This past season, there was only one full time Nashville blue liner who posted a worse corsi rating than Weber. On the other hand, there was only one full time Montreal blue liner who posted a better corsi rating than Subban.

Ignore possession all you want, it’s not going to make it less important.

Weber’s Contract is one of The Worst in The NHL

This is one of the more confusing parts of the trade. Even if you think that Weber is better than Subban (he’s not), does his contract not make him much less appealing?

Weber is set to enter his fifth year of a 14-year, $110 million deal. That averages out to a cap hit of roughly $7.85 per season. Yeah…

Also, consider the fact that Weber is also going to be 31-years-old at the start of this season. That means that in 2026, when his contract is up, he’ll be in his early 40’s. So not only is Weber already out of his prime, but Montreal’s on the hook for another TEN (10) !! years at almost $8 million per year.

Meanwhile, P.K Subban is on an extremely reasonable deal. Does he get paid more? Yep, he’s got an AAV of $9 million. The difference is that he’ll be turning 28-years-old in May, is still in his prime, and his contract expires when he’s 33.

In Conclusion…

As a Leafs fan, I absolutely love this trade. People don’t understand that Subban is a top-7 defenseman in the NHL… It’s not up for debate. Weber is a good player, don’t get me wrong. But he’s not a top pairing d-man, at least not anymore.

So Which Trade is Worse?

This is the question I’ve been asking myself essentially every day since June 29th, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Without any context, Hall for Larsson is the worse trade. The gap between the two players is so damn large that Stanley Cup Champion Phil Kessel could probably fit between them. You know  I love you, Phil.

With context, the worse trade is Subban for Weber, and here’s why.

Without Hall, Edmonton still has a plethora of young, talented forwards. McDavid, Draisaitl, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins… Did they trade away a top NHL player? Yes, they did. Luckily for them, they’ve got enough talent up front to save their stupid asses.

In Montreal, they don’t have a backup plan. They acquired the worse contract, worse player, and there’s no saving grace. They just flat out made their team worse for the long, long term.

I have to give the edge to Subban for Weber here. Both trades were mind-numbingly stupid, but Montreal takes the cake, and nothing makes me happier.

 

Stats via corisca.hockey, behindthenet.ca, HERO charts via ownthepuck.blogspot.ca

 

 

 

 

 

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