What do you mean, “The Pens traded Jordan Staal??!!??”
June 23, 2012 Leave a comment
(Note: Get used to this.)
I cleared my schedule to watch the NHL draft, because that’s me. Rather than going to the bar and blowing $80 on Cabo Wabo or 1800 Silver, I went to the gym, which has TVs on all the cardio machines. This is what I posted on my Facebook prior to leaving for the gym:
Watching the NHL Draft, because that entertains me even more than girl-on-girl
Rejean Shero’s Game Plan:
1) Sign Jordan Staal
2) If Jordan Staal won’t sign, trade him for, in order: Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan, Keith Yandle, the Carter-Columbus Platter (young NHL player, high draft pick), Nail Yakupov
It turned out to be the now-infamous “Carter-Columbus” Platter, which means a promising young NHL player under salary control and a high-draft pick, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First, a quick visual:
I am 45 minutes into a “cardio” workout on an elliptical machine, having gotten to the gym promptly in time for the start of the draft. Rivets of sweat are cascading off my beach-bronzed body. Ordinarily, the elliptical machine would not be a strenuous workout for me, but I am feverishly grinding the pads of the machine like I’m trying to stomp coal into diamond. I keep catching the handful of girls behind me on the treadmills are gawking as I try to break the pistons on the machine; I would describe their collective facial expressions as half-terrified/half-aroused.
Matt Dumba has just fallen to the Minnesota Wild at the 7th Overall slot when suddenly, Pierre Maguire gets that giddy, sexually-excited tone usually reserved for moments when Brayden Schenn is taking off his shirt. Something big is happening involving the Carolina Hurricanes, picking 8th Overall, and the host team Pittsburgh Penguins.
I can see it before it happens, the same way I presume your life slows down five seconds before an oncoming semi-truck is about to careen into your sub-compact car. I almost want to wince, like if someone told you he was going to punch you in the face and you absolutely had to stand there and let him.
The Penguins’ crew, spear-headed by Rejean alias “Showtime” alias “Ray” Shero, is approaching the stage. Mario, as always, is a model of class and dignity, but he has a smirk on his face like he was at Blush until 5Am with his buddy Marc Bergevin and Ron Burkle’s credit card. This momentarily calms me, though my sweat has turned ice-cold.
Showtime is calm, which further calms me, but he delivers the news like an upbeat doctor telling you your favorite aunt has just died: Jordan Staal has been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and the 8th Overall Pick.
“GOOD FUCK,” I shout/stammer, a cross between “Good God” and “Holy Fuck”, I think. I say this in a volume that one would usually reserve for talking at the front row of a death-metal concert. I can feel the girls on the treadmills behind me collectively flinch, not sure if I am offering a “Good Fuck” or demanding one. I battle the urge to put my fist through the elliptical machine’s TV screen by gripping the heart-rate monitor handles so hard my knuckles whiten. Images flash through my mind:
It’s like one of those image montages from the end of the Saw movies. While my logical brain is assessing the data and saying, “My, that’s quite a haul we got; that should put us back on the level with the Phuckers”, my body is reacting like it’s going into shock. I am positive I snarled some incomprehensible, profane remarks as I stood there trying to choke the life out of a piece of fitness equipment.
I am well aware of the fact that I am making a scene. Don’t care. There are more important things going on right now. The Pens just traded Jordan Staal. For Real. Not the jerk-off material for a repressed Canadian fan base or the wet dream of an NHL General Manager, but for real. Jordan Staal is no longer a Pittsburgh Penguin.
I prepared myself for this. I wrote an exhaustive analytical piece barely one month ago in which I mechanically outlined potential Staal trade destinations. The writing was even more clear on the wall on Thursday, when Staal rejected a ten-year deal in the neighborhood of $60 million dollars. This was a crystal-clear indication that no amount of money that is going to make Jordan Staal a top-line Center for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that Jordan would rather fulfill his NHL potential than make insane amounts of money toiling in Sid and Geno’s shadows.
(Note: Not for nothing, click the link above and check out the prediction I made for Carolina acquiring Jordan Staal. MENTOR)
After all five of my senses returned, I grabbed my cell phone and text-bombed anyone who would be even peripherally-interested. I’m fairly sure I texted a few girls I randomly hooked up with 18 months ago (and I’m sure they’re as rapt as I am by the whole situation). I was literally nauseous. I felt like I just sent my kid to college.
(Note: Jordan Staal would have been a freshman when I was a senior; perhaps I’m exaggerating the age difference.)
Eventually, I became rational again and remembered the deal for what it was: an inevitability. The Pens had played Jordan Staal on borrowed time since the moment the organization drafted him; most of us knew that there was no way three elite Centermen such as Sid, Geno, and Staalsy were going to all finish their careers in black-and-gold. Logically, I think it is a much better idea that Rejean Shero took care of this issue now, selling high on Staal, before it became an out-and-out distraction and eventually a fiasco.
It was just so immediately disappointing because my guts knew that I had already watched my last game with Jordan Staal in a Penguins sweater. Illogical as it is, there was a small hope that Staal would want to hang around and be part of the Sid-Geno Offensive Carnival. Alas, it was not meant to be.
As Shakespeare also says, “An act once done cannot be undone.” In NHL parlance, we couldn’t undo the trade if we found the box of toys Jim Rutherford sent us to be unappealing. I am not going to micro-analyze Sutter, Dumoulin, and Pouliot; those three will be mentioned in the same breath as Jordan Staal for the rest of their NHL careers and possibly longer.
From what I know of each, we got an appropriate return for Staal. My knee-jerk assessment is that the trade was B-Plus for Pittsburgh (with points added for Shero sending Staalsy to a desirable situation and team as a final “thank you” for six years of quality service). While my initial preference had been that Showtime somehow turn Jordan Staal into a top-line winger for Sid (such as Bobby Ryan) and if possible get him out of the Eastern Conference, my suspicion was that it was more realistic to get a Carter-Columbus Platter for him. If Dumoulin or Pouliot play any significant amount for Pittsburgh, this trade was a win for Shero and Pittsburgh.
Jim Rutherford and Carolina fans have every right to be happy with the deal, as they got the best player. As I wrote a month ago, I was adamantly against trading Jordan Staal. But as I also said, if Staal had to be traded, I could certainly see the necessity of it. Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, he was the team’s fifth or even sixth most-influential player; I can successfully argue that Flower, Tanger, and maybe even James Neal are more critical to the fortunes of the Penguins than Jordan Staal was. Trading Staal is a necessary evil that comes with keeping Sid and Geno and surrounding them with sufficient talent at all other positions.
Following the Staal trade and two additional hours of angst-ridden cardio (damned if I didn’t stay and watch the Pens draft Olli Maatta 22nd Overall on CNBC, my legs burning like your crotch after a fun weekend in Myrtle Beach), a measure of peace came over me. I was ready to just grab a half-price Sonic milk-shake, replace some of the 2600 calories I’d just torched, and have some nice, Sober Friday Night sleep when…
I get a call from Eric, asking me what I think of the Michalek trade.
“Gee Eric, I don’t know I guess it was whhHHHAAATTT????“
It was like watching the end of The Usual Suspects. Rejean Shero is an even bigger pimp than I previously thought. He’s freaking Keyser Soze. He’s juggling with one hand for the crowd of his fellow GMs while he concocts Secret Evil Plans right under their noses.
Showtime Shero is creating Cap Space for a Ryan Suter-Zach Parise Double Face Turn. Mark my words, you don’t trade top-four NHL defensemen under salary control for two apples and a flathead screwdriver unless you have a Secret, Evil PLAN.
I wouldn’t pretend to know what goes on in the mind of an Evil Genius like Rejean Shero, but here are the snippets I’ve picked up:
1) Ray Shero is a proud American, assistant GM of the U.S. Olympic team, and huge advocate for USA Hockey
2) Ray Shero spent many years as an assistant GM in the Nashville Predators organization and oversaw the drafting of Ryan Suter
3) Sid Crosby needs a new Left Winger
4) Sid Crosby and American Hero Zach Parise go waaay back:
5) Sid Crosby and American Hero Zach Parise are still cordial:
6) The Penguins are an annual Cup Contenders suddenly storing an inordinate amount of Cap Space
7) The Penguins still have not disappeared Paul Martin and his $5 Million-Dollar-per-year contract
8) Ray Shero is extremely familiar with Ryan Suter from his days as a Nashville Predators executive as well as Assistant GM of Team USA
9) Ray Shero is extremely familiar with Zach Parise from seeing him up-close six times per year as well as being Assistant GM of Team USA
10) Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, according to some, have interest in playing on the same team; most presumed this would be Detroit, but every fan base in creating scenarios in which the twosome would join their team as a package deal
11) The Penguins offer a gorgeous new state-of-the-art arena, nightly sell-outs, and the opportunity to play under the watchful eye of Emperor Mario Lemieux
12) Money is no object to Mario, who has a Black Burkle Credit Card that allows him to spend silly amounts of real money on strip-club funny money, expensive red wine, and NHL players
13) In order to stay competitive in the Atlantic Division, the Penguins have to significantly re-tool their 2011-12 team. While the team was never going to add young assets on par with those Philadelphia added last summer, there are certainly avenues through which to make the team better; not the least of which is selling the attraction of playing with the defending Hart /Art Ross/Lindsay Trophy winner:
And his Sidekick, The Best Player in the World:
Under the careful Mentoring of This Guy (pictured without his Sangria I-V Drip):
The Penguins can still offer something fairly rare: a combination of Organizational Prominence and On-Ice Talent. If you’re an NHL player able to write his own ticket, you want to enjoy going to work every day and you want to play for a popular team in a relevant market. I’m not sure any other team can offer all those things (plus Tuesdays with Mario at Cheeleaders!) in the same way that Pittsburgh can.
It appears to me that Showtime Shero’s Secret Evil Plan is getting Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, or selected other U.S. Olympians under contract in Pittsburgh. While Plan A involved giving Jordan Staal a ten-year contract and going with the Three-Headed Monster at Center for another decade, the Secret Evil Plan seems to involve stealing as many of the sought-after 2012 NHL Free Agents as possible like Cobra stealing television. What a Sneak!
If you thought everyone hated the Penguins before because they’re “The Most Arrogant Organization in the League“, just wait until Showtime enlists Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter, collectively destroying the psyches of four or five fan-bases. After all, why not? Fans of the rest of the League already think the Pens are the Purple Cobras and that Sid Crosby is a crybaby – what will they do if the Penguins sign up Zach Parise and Ryan Suter?
They’ll watch, that much I can assure you.
Trading Jordan Staal is a major turn of the page. But this is also a new day for the team, and one without restrictions. For the first time in his tenure, Showtime Shero can build his roster any way he wants, without the awkward restriction of the Three-Headed Monster limiting his creativity.
Best of luck to Jordan in Carolina, where presumably Marc Staal will join his brothers in two years. Congratulations on your new marriage; try to have as much fun on your Honeymoon as you did at Eric’s Bachelor Party. Thank you for the six years of service, and especially for the work during the ’08 and ’09 Cup Finals runs. I look forward to watching you live in Raleigh, as well your presumptive run of Selke Trophies after Pavel Datsyuk retires. I hope you and Eric have a great time with the Pillow Fighting, you crazy farm boys.
Let’s Go Pens