I believe one of the under-considered side effects of sports video games is that they warp our perception of reality. Everyone has a story of some ridiculously lopsdided trade they pulled off, the record-breaking year they had with their favorite play (Alexei Yashin, 100-goal scorer? Believe it.) or the superteam they put together. Being able to achieve this in a make-believe environment only fuels our desire to see it happen in real life. We can't help but add 10 goals to anyone's projected total merely because they'll be skating on Jason Spezza's wing. We want a top defensive pairing of Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, just so we can have a second pairing of Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber. It could work if they all take discounts to play on a Cup contender, right?
This desire to always add more talent sometimes blinds us to what we actually have on the roster. It seems logical. After all, talent is good, so more talent must be better, right? And not only that, but you'd always rather have the problem of too much talent than not enough talent. The Ottawa Senators completed a major roster overhaul this offseason, and hopes are high. The pairings of Spezza and winger Bobby Ryan as well as Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur have Sens fans feeling like the team has one of the better sets of top-six players in the league, and this is before guys like Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher are brought in to the conversation.
So, when Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal writes that the price for acquiring Ales Hemsky from the Oilers could be merely Colin Greening--the rationale being that Hemsky is in line for third line minutes and not suited for them in salary or talent, while Greening is both--my first reaction is that the Senators should pull the trigger on that immediately before anyone has a chance to reconsider. After all, there's no doubt that Hemsky is a more talented goal-scorer than Greening. A natural right wing, he would round out the top six nicely.
|Assets:||Has excellent instincts and offensive creativity. Owns an effortless skating stride and incredible puck skills. Possesses outstanding playmaking ability. Also has an uncanny ability to hold onto the puck a very long while.|
|Flaws:||Gets hurt way too often. Doesn't shoot the puck enough, even when he's in prime scoring position. Isn't physically strong enough to dominate in the corners. Can appear lazy at times, since his game is more graceful than gritty.|
|Career Potential:||Dangling, playmaking but fragile scoring winger.|
via The Hockey News
|Assets:||Complements offensive forwards well and can score a little himself. Has the size teams love from a forward. Is versatile enough to play both wing and center. Also displays speed and a defensive conscience.|
|Flaws:||Could stand to play a more aggressive role for a player of his size. Isn't a natural point producer at the National Hockey League level. Needs more work on his defensive-zone coverage.|
|Career Potential:||Sound complementary winger.|
via The Hockey News
But then I pause and think. An abundance of talent isn't a magical recipe for a Stanley Cup--the Pittsburgh Penguins proved that this season. The New York Rangers proved it yearly before there was a salary cap. Colin Greening clearly does not have the same offensive tools as Hemsky, but he obviously has other attributes that the organization, including head coach Paul MacLean, clearly value. Greening's size, speed, strength, and intelligence are what allow MacLean to comfortably deploy him on any line. MacLean's system seems to value a power forward, which is why we're all so excited for Ryan, as well as why we're all so frustrated when we see a guy like Chris Neil in front of the net on the power play.
But Neil is there because he is hard to move and willing to take the beating. So is Greening. Hemsky is not that kind of player, even if the reason for most of his injuries is a willingness to get his nose dirty. On a second line with Turris and MacArthur, who is the player you'd turn to to retrieve the puck after it's dumped in the corner? Especially in a playoff series? Who are you looking to as the horse to win a board battle? End-to-end rushes made up of dazzling dangles and ending in pretty goals are exciting, but also rare--because the NHL is harder than a video game. Like it or not, there is a physical element to the game, and that means a player can be valuable for things besides goals and shots. In that sense, Greening might be more valuable to the Senators than Hemsky would be.
It's a tempting trade to consider, because I like goals, and Hemsky doesn't represent a long-term investment. But I can't help think of Greening's work in the playoffs, and wonder if he's the kind of player you'd regret losing the second you start looking for him. What do you think?
- Speaking of big wingers, the Senators signed Ludwig Karlsson. GET YOUR KARLSSON JOKES IN WHILE THEY'RE FRESH. [Senators Extra]
- Remember when Jean-Gabriel Pageau had that hat trick that one time? Of course you do; it's why you're assuming he'll center the third line next season. Anyway, the NHL named it one of the top individual performances of the year. Duh. [Sens]
- It's been a little bit under the radar, but Fredrik Claesson won the hardest worker in development camp this year. As a 5th round pick and only 20 years old, he's been quietly developing nicely. [Sens]
- This cool Russian blog thinks the Senators are ready to contend for the Stanley Cup. I think. I used Google Translate. [Tribune]
- The Minnesota Wild reportedly lost $30M last season. Holy crap. [TwinCities.com]
- No one makes it to salary arbitration anymore. Why? [Puck Daddy]
- The goalie market in the NHL is beyond dead. This is, paradoxically, a position everyone covets yet approaches with the caution of a man holding nitroglycerin on a bumpy road. [Sports Illustrated]
- Larry Brooks doesn't think the NHL has the PED issues of other sports, like MLB and the Tour de France. [NY Post]
- The Czech Republic has changed its rules to try to stop its best prospects from playing in North America. [Pro Hockey Talk]