Now that the Game 7 loss has morphed from disbelief to a low throbbing pain, my thoughts are mostly off the past and onto the future. FWIW, I am not one of those who are screaming for the Caps to trade anyone and everyone not wearing 8 or 19. In fact, I think there are very few trades that would be better than simply letting these players live with the painful lesson of this post season and having them be stronger and the more focused for it.
That being said, I think there is one trade worth considering that is realistically doable and arguably beneficial for both teams: Semin for Iginla.
Why would this make sense for Calgary?
Iginla wants out or is at least open to the idea of being moved; the Fames have cap problems; and they ranked 16th in goals scored in the regular season. The Flames had only 3 players score more than 20 goals last year (one of whom, Hagman, played 55 games with Toronto) and no one scored more than Iginla’s 32. Since scoring 50 goals in 2007-2008, Iginla scored 35 in 2008-2009 and 32 in 2009-2010. Iginla’s goal production, it would seem, is on the decline. Semin, on the other hand, scored 26 goals in 2007-2008, 34 in 2008-2009 and 40 this year. Semin's goal production, it would seem, is on the rise. The Flames missed the playoffs because they couldn’t score goals in the regular season and Semin’s 40 goals are $1M cheaper than Iginla’s 32. When looking at Iginla’s declining goal production; his $7M salary for the next 2 years; the Flames cap problems; and Iginla’s unhappiness- this is a move the Flames should consider. Making the playoffs, not winning the Stanley Cup, is a more realistic goal for next year’s Flames and Semin significantly increases the likelihood that Flames make the post season.
Why would this make sense for the Caps?
Because the Caps, especially Ovie, need every intangible that Iginla brings far more than they need the extra 10 or 15 regular season goals they’ll likely give up. And because everyone on this team needs to understand that, unless your number is 8 or 19, no one is safe.
Most would agree that this series was lost in the first 10 minutes of Game 5. There have been many reasons offered as to why the Caps came out as they did, but to my eye (and this is no great insight) the Caps’ performance indicated a team expecting to win rather than playing to win. And it betrayed an immaturity that convinced me that this team was never going to win the Cup this year, even if it did somehow make it past the Habs.
Some of the Game 5 debacle is on the coaching staff for sure. But, as Captain, I think Ovie had an independent obligation to get his team ready to play and to let them know that anyone half-assing it would answer to him. I don’t if he has that in him yet, if he has matured to that point. Again, this is not unusual for young Captains- the Pens got Guerin for Crosby, the Flyers got Pronger for Richards. Both of those guys seem to have taken their Captains under their wing and have made them better players as well as leaders. There is no one currently on the Caps team that can fill that role for Ovie- and I think he needs it.
Iginla is all of Guerin and Pronger and more. Plus, Iginla may be one of the few guys who can legitimately talk to Ovie about some of his (Ovie’s) own shortcomings. BB is either unwilling or unable to modify Ovie’s behavior in any meaningful way, with the clearest example being that no one seems to control Ovie’s shift length other than Ovie. Further, Ovie still tends to revert to individual play when the chips are down and to try to do too much himself. These are things we have been commenting about for some time, but they don’t seem to be getting any better. Iginla might be one of the few people on the planet who can sit Ovie down and to whom Ovie might listen, if only because of whom Iginla is and what he has been through.
Iginla is also a big, smiling personality whose star power compares favorably to Ovie. Iginla can take some of the media pressure off Ovie and let him escape that obligation, if only for a little while. And while Friedman may have been surprised to learn that Ovie has been shaken by the public’s change in opinion of him, I am not. Ovie wears his heart on his sleeve and every time he would say that he didn’t care about the criticism he was taking, I sensed it was eating him up inside. There is no denying it- some of the joy is gone from his play and he seems more concerned with avoiding any mistake that might lead to more criticism than he is with just playing the game. Ovie could really use the support of an older star player whom he respects and who can speak meaningfully to him about how to handle to ebbs and flows of public opinion. Iginla is likely that guy.
The only issue with Iginla is his contract. He has 2 years left at $7M a year, which is not a problem this year if he and Semin swap teams but it might be the following year. But, by the same token, Semin needs to be re-signed the following year as well, so it might not be that much of a problem after all.
I am not for wholesale changes and I don’t believe (for example) that this team needs the “crease clearing defenseman” that many commentators do. I think BB’s style is ideal for these players and can indeed bring championships. My old signature used to be “if it ain’t broke, don’t break it” and that is a good lesson in life. This team is not broken and any move to “fix” it might do more harm than good. Iginla for Semin, though, is one trade I could get behind.