John Chidley Hill.com A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.

5Mar/100

Trade deadline day is over-rated

Although I’m still a young pup in this sports journalism game, most of my friends and family, as well as people following me on Twitter, have often ask me for my opinion on major events in sports.

As you can imagine, I took lots of questions about the National Hockey League’s trade deadline. People wanted to know about what deals I thought would happen and how I felt about the moves teams made.

You know what? I didn’t think much of it at all. It’s a boring, media-generated event that is over-hyped.

This wasn’t always the case. I remember being an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and stopping people on the street to ask if they’d heard what the latest trade was and congregating with friends between classes to talk about the latest move.

Back then, big names were thrown around. I remember the palpable sense of excitement when the Toronto Maple Leafs landed Owen Nolan in 2003. I also remember the sense of regret and foreboding when the Leafs missed out on Rob Blake in 2001.

The difference between then and now is that the post-lockout collective bargaining agreement has instituted a salary cap (as well as a minimum) for all teams. Adding a big ticket player destroys any franchise’s budget. This cap makes crazy, last minute moves virtually impossible.

Yes, there have been some major moves made close to or on the deadline like Marian Hossa joining the Pittsburgh Penguins in Feb. 2008 or this year’s trade of Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers to the New Jersey Devils. But these deals were motivated by teams trying to dump expiring contracts before the free agents walked away for nothing. They are very temporary, and took months to negotiate.

Instead of the free-wheeling desperation deals of yore, trade deadline day consists of a gaggle of analysts trying to fill air time between commercials for hours on end.

I watched TSN’s coverage, which spent several segments introducing the many commentators they’d employed for the day. After nearly three hours of coverage they began to break some news, like the thrilling trades of Derek Morris for a fourth round pick in 2011 or Martin Skoula (being traded by a team he never played with) for a fifth round pick. Yawn.

If you really want to see exciting personnel moves in the NHL, wait for free agency to open up in the summer. That’s where teams are made in this day and age, not at the trade deadline. No, now the last day of the deal-making season is the home of third line centres and depth defencemen.

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