December 15, 2010
Leafs won Phaneuf trade
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
Trades aren’t supposed to be judged until many years have passed.
Not until careers play out, draft picks are made, and prospects have blossomed.
Or so the saying goes.
But sometimes a deal in professional sports looks so bad even just one year later that a clear favourite emerges.
Congratulations, Toronto Maple Leafs.
You’ve got a team captain in Dion Phaneuf and a solid potential future partner on the blueline in prospect Keith Aulie.
And as irrelevant as his inclusion was in the deal, even Freddie Sjostrom has proven to be a serviceable third or fourth liner.
What came back to the Calgary Flames in that big deal Jan. 31, 2010 was a little puzzling then, and has become a real head-scratching return when you consider the position the team is in now.
Matt Stajan has been a healthy scratch the last two games before Thursday’s big date with his former squad at the Saddledome.
Niklas Hagman has shown only brief flashes of his past as a 20-goal scorer.
Jamal Mayers and Ian White are no longer with the Flames — the scrappy Mayers signing with the San Jose Sharks as an unrestricted free agent this summer, and White being shipped to Carolina last month along with Brett Sutter in return for Hurricanes spare parts Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos.
Even adding the newcomers to the equation, things are lopsided in the big picture.
Babchuk has been anything but spectacular so far in Flames silks (one goal, two assists in 14 games), and Kostopoulos is one of a dozen grinders this team has in excess both on the team now and in the farm system.
Delving deeper into the motive of the deal, the Flames wanted to snap out of a serious funk last season and turn things around quickly because GM Darryl Sutter knew the window to win a Stanley Cup was getting smaller by the month with his veteran-laden squad.
He can say now that it was all about the salary cap and an effort to keep key pieces for the future in Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano, but giving Stajan and White fat raises and adding more bodies than he dumped wasn’t just about future cap management.
The trade came after the Flames won for the first time in 10 games that January and was followed by an aftershock swap that saw Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust sent to the New York Rangers for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik.
It was all in the name of adding offence.
But look at the numbers. Stajan has one goal in his last 43 games as a Flame and just four goals and 28 points in 52 games with his new team.
Hagman is marginally better with a dozen goals but has 25 points in his 58 games wearing the Flaming C.
The offence that finished second-last in the league last season isn’t faring that much better this year.
“Me and Haggy have chuckled about a bit,” Stajan said Wednesday after practice when asked who won the big trade.
“That’s for you guys to talk about. You guys wouldn’t have jobs if there wasn’t stuff like that.
“What am I gonna do? There’s ups and downs in people’s careers where people say one thing, and there’ll be points where it goes a complete 180.”
All he can control, he says, is the way he plays.
That will ultimately help determine the winner in the deal when all involved are done their playing days.