In baseball, sometimes basketball, it’s considered a show of confidence from your GM when he goes out and makes a trade early in the season after a healthy start. It’s not desperate thanks to the winning record, and it’s not scrambling at the deadline to get anything at all. It’s a show of faith that he thinks it’s not a mirage and you have genuine title aspirations, that even though there’s all the time in the world to adjust the roster, he’s making this move now because it’s there to be made.
I’m not sure it’s always felt like that in hockey, and Stan doesn’t need to prove to anybody that he has confidence in this team. And the whole heapin’ helpin’ of nostalgia on the Kris Versteeg trade last night makes it hard to keep in context. Steeger had a place in all our hearts as a member of the team that washed away a lifetime of misery. When players as well liked as Steeger are traded away you always hope that they may come back but you know in your heart they never will. So on the rare occasion when they do, you can’t help but be overwhelmed with surprise and glee.
But let’s try and remove the emotion out of it and see what the Hawks got and gave up.
When I finally wrapped my head around this last night, here’s what I think was going through Stan’s head. He wants a player on the 3rd line who does all the things he thinks Jeremy Morin will do one day. But he also knows that it would take months if ever for Morin to get the chance to do them under Q. So he just said, “Fuck it, here’s a player I can get pretty cheap that does all the things already, or used to, that I think Morin can do and that Q will actually warm up to.”
Let’s look at the pieces.
Kris Versteeg: The numbers aren’t pretty for Steeger this year, and this is coming off a major knee injury. However, the underlying causes to those numbers make you think there’s a violent market correction coming in Chicago. He’s at 2-5-7 in 18 games at a -9. However, Steeger’s shooting-percentage is an abysmal 4.3%, where his career number is 11.3%. And he’s still getting is 2.5 shots per game. The save-percentage for the Cats when Steeger was on the ice is a woeful .869, causing his PDO of 963. That’s going to go up here and will do an awful lot for his plus-minus. He’s also still one of the better possession players on the Panthers, only behind Bjugstad and Winchester.
But while those numbers should go up, remember that Versteeg has basically been off the leash for three seasons now. In Florida, Kevin Dineen kind of let him pull whatever he wanted, and you know that Steeger loves to try shit. He’s not going to immediately fold back into the somewhat disciplined 3rd liner he was when he left. That said, I can’t see how this could hurt the Hawks on the top roster. That spot was either getting 7 minutes from Morin or four from Brookbank. Steeger can give it 12-15 if he gets his head on straight and gets some luck. And he’ll chip in on the penalty kill, which I’m sure was another factor. Keep in mind though that knee, and he may not have the mobility you remember.
Jimmy Hayes: It’s funny, when a kid first comes up, you either take a shine to him immediately or kind of look at him cross-eyed immediately. Either way you hope they blossom. Just personally, I never really got what love there was for Hayes. He was big but not strong. He wasn’t slow but he certainly wasn’t fast and had to work really hard on his skating to even get to that. He had some hands around the net but could rarely get there in time to show them off. The Hawks clearly thought he’d never be physical enough and tried to move him to center because of it. And if you’re going to be slow and not all that strong but want to score, you’d better have Luc Robitaille’s brain. Hayes most certainly does not. Frankly, I just can’t muster up much emotion about him leaving, and his brother Captain Stairwell is probably going to end up a better player anyway.
Dylan Olsen: On the other hand, Olsen might still have an effective NHL future. He gave us some hope in the middle-to-end of the ’11-’12 season, looking to be the big atom-smasher the Hawks haven’t had below Seabrook. He took a huge step backward last year in Rockford where he looked downright stationary and dumb. But according to all reports this year he’s really improved his game this season. It’ll take him a lot of time to figure out how to position himself in the NHL without much speed, but I think he’ll eventually get there. For the Hawks though, Klas Dahlbeck (who I’ve come to really like), Svedberg, and soon Stephen Johns (possibly Sam Jardine and Dillon Fournier too) are just all more liked by the brass. Looking at the NHL roster, Keith, Seabrook, Hammer, and Leddy aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. That leaves two, three spots tops in the coming years. There’s just too many bodies. Which is why you deal from strength.
There is some fallout I don’t like. It almost certainly signals the end of Morin’s time in the organization, and to me I think that’s a waste. They soured on him because of a concussion (as is their wont), and honestly I think if given a real chance over the next month or two he could have given the Hawks most of what Versteeg will. He never stops moving and he has a scorer’s sense. But I guess I’ll just have to settle for getting Pirri to the second line on Q’s watch and be thankful for that.
Looking at it, the entire top 9 almost seems set for years, too. Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Saad, Bickel, Kruger, Shaw, Versteeg are signed for more years after this one, though obviously a couple are movable if need be. You wonder where Danault or McNeill or Ross might go, much less Morin.
But as I said, I just don’t see how it can possibly hurt. Yeah, a lot of times a player’s second tour of duty with a team isn’t as fun as the first, and this could be the same. But if Q can find something of the old Verstud around in the caverns between his ears, he’ll at worst be an effective player.
And the thing is, you can’t remove the emotion from it, can you? Because…