For this time of rumors and speculation, it's good to exercise some skepticism. Though you don't necessarily need to have this facial expression to do so. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
There's less than a week before the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, which is on Monday, February 28. Already there have been several deals made in advance of the deadline. These include, but are not limited to, Nashville shipping a 2011 first round picks to Ottawa for Mike Fisher; Philadelphia giving Toronto their first and third round picks for Kris Versteeg; and Dallas shipping James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski. There's been a lot of action and there could be much more in the coming days.
As with any other season, it appears the trade deadline will be a big deal for the entire league this season. Unfortunately with great popularity, comes with a great load of misinformation. While there are reporters with their sources reporting reasonable things, it's all mixed in wannabes with their sources spreading false rumors and people just spouting nonsense in general.
I want to help. You, me, and even George of the Jungle (watch out for that tree). I've come up with a list of tips about how to deal with all of the noise out there in the NHL for this crazy time of last-minute deals and speculation. This won't help you be popular or make you attractive that person you want to get to know better. But it should help prevent people from looking like morons for passing off junk as treasure, or getting worked up over something incredibly unrealistic.
1. Rumors are Exactly That. Take Them with a Grain of Salt.
At the risk of sounding like Captain Bring-Down, I wouldn't trust a rumor any farther than you can throw it. I know they are fun to talk about, and with the Internet - especially Twitter - it's easy to spread them around. However, it's the biggest source of the misinformation which obfuscates with any truthful information.
As Derek Zona pointed out yesterday at the Copper & Blue, not even those who are considered to be credible insiders called out most of the trades that happened in the past few weeks. While rumors have flown, not much has come true unless it's imminent news (e.g. the Kaberle deal). Zona's entire post is a must-read so I'm not going to re-hash what he wrote. All I'll add to it is that it's reason enough to not take them so seriously in general. It's easier for anyone (like Tom Gulitti) to handle the frenzy of the trade deadline if you don't put a lot of faith in what some unnamed source says.
2. There is No Prize for Being First (Unless You're a Reporter)
I can see how breaking a news story is advantageous for a reporter. It's their job to get the word out and if they're the first, all credit to them. However, there seems to be this rush by others to break the news. I guess out of some desire to get/claim credit, get attention, and/or to just feel important.
Personally, I think it's a fool's game. Let me ask this: If a trade happens, what's going to spread around? What will people be most interested in seeing? What will they be tweeting, posting, blogging, writing, and talking about? The person who broke the news or the actual news itself? I'm pretty sure it's the latter because it is the story.
I'm all for giving credit to where it's due; but I fear that in rushing to be "the first one," details can get lost, news can get messy, and trust can be broken if/when it turns out to be mistaken. I'd rather wait a little bit and comment on something that has been confirmed to have happened than something "pending" or "ensuing." This way I'm not wasting my time writing and your time reading. The same can be said if you want to pass it along on a message board or on a blog or in conversation. You and I don't get anything for being first, but we lose in someway if we're wrong.
3. Consider the Source First
Now, I can't speak for Matt, Tom, Kevin, or Tibbs; but I don't have any of those fabled "sources" that "say" a "deal is being worked out." I'm sure there are legitimate sources with legitimate information. There are legitimate insiders out there. However, there are a people who want to claim sources that are nothing more than second- to fifth-handed information. There are people who want to be insiders for whatever reason, but are truly not. Anytime they get something right, you'll never hear the end of it; anytime it's wrong and it's ignored or excused away. Then there are people like Eklund, who I am convinced is fed false information on purpose; which he parrots because he's a numpty.
Thanks to the Internet and Twitter, there are people you can trust for information. For the Devils, it's Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record and Rich Chere (among other writers) at the Star-Ledger. Gulitti and Chere both blog their reports at Fire & Ice and NJ.com, respectively; and Gulitti is even active on Twitter. If anything happens with New Jersey and they report it, I can be confident in what they have to say. Much more than any dude who claims to be incarcerated, or some guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows another guy who ran into Lou at a restaurant 10 years ago or whatever.
The Devils aren't the only ones to have reporters plugged in on the scene. If I want Canes news, I can trust what Chip Alexander has to say at Canes Now, as he works for the News & Observer. For Tampa Bay information, I know I can take Damien Cristodero's word for it as he's employed by the St. Petersburg Times. Rich Hammond knows the score of what's up in LA, and Chris Botta is aware of what's doing down on Long Island. I'm not going to name who to trust from every team, but you get the idea.
And there are networks that have reporters whose word can be trusted. On Twitter alone, there's Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie of TSN; Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet; and Pierre Lebrun of ESPN. All are active on Twitter as well as their network's respective sites, and they are plugged into the league like anyone else.
While I didn't list everyone possible, it's not a coincidence that the people who know what they are talking about happen to be legitimate journalists who interact with the public. They're not infallible, mistakes do happen. But I'm going to trust a journalist who has an actual connection to the team or league when they say something may be happening with two teams much more than some random guy (or even myself).
Essentially, consider the source before passing it on. If you're not sure, then leave it alone.
4. Remember that There is a Salary Cap
Whether the deal is cap compliant is a tell-tale sign of determining whether a rumored deal is fantasy or not. Sure, speculating on trades can be a fun way to pass the time and to float an idea on what you want to see happen. However, the NHL runs with a hard salary cap and any speculative proposal worth their salt would keep that in mind.
CapGeek is a wonderful and freely-available resource to see how each team's salary cap is broken down. What's even better is that CapGeek has a trade machine that calculates the team's cap after a proposed deal. Check to see if that trade idea in your head makes any sense cap-wise before telling anyone about it. If it does, then it's more of a reason to say it's a reasonable idea. If not, then you can learn what's wrong and fix it. Just make sure you check if the numbers work before spouting out an idea. Likewise, if you catch word of a rumored deal, check it with the trade machine at CapGeek to see if it's even plausible. If not, then simply pay it no mind.
5. Trades are (usually) Made to Benefit Both Sides
Too often with trade proposals by a fan (or a supposed "source" that benefits one side), they'll usually be in favor of the team that they support. This is not how most trades work.
Yes, there are trades where a team gets fleeced (e.g. Bryce Salvador for Cam Janssen from a few years back). There are stupid moves made by general managers (e.g. Florida trading away Michael Frolik in the middle of a slump). However, for the most part, both sides have to come away feeling that they achieved something for their side. They may be dead wrong, but both parties have to feel like they benefited in someway. If it's a team looking sell assets to kick off a rebuilding movement, then they need to get picks and good prospects in return to have something for their players. If it's a team looking to bolster a need, they may need to move a player at position of the other team's need. If it's a team looking to dump a player with a bad contract, then they may have to take on a similarly bad contract.
Basically, it's not as simple as saying, "I would love it if Player X from Team Y was a Devil; so I think they should move (lesser) player Z and prospect Q for X." You need to consider what the other team would be interested in the return along with how they regard the desired player. If a rumored deal doesn't have that, then pay it no mind (or make fun of it, whatever).
Now, some of you are probably thinking: "John, that's a lot of words and I just don't have the time to read. Can you sum it all up into something shorter?" The rest of you would like a summary anyway.
Certainly. Don't put a lot of trust into rumors in general, don't rush to be the first guy to know what's going on, consider who is spreading the news and rumors before passing it on (or asking a reporter to check on it, this will usually be fruitless for all involved), and don't forget about the salary cap and the simple truism that trades usually benefit both teams in some way.
Most of all: Relax. Whatever will happen, will happen. I'm not saying don't react to a trade. By all means, share what you feel about a move. If your favorite team does make a brain-dead move, then say so - though I recommended think about it first and show why you think so. Just wait until it actually happens before you get upset, ecstatic, or somewhere in between.
If you can follow all this, you will reduce the risk of beclowning yourself in front of your real or Internet peers and be able to properly observe what happens at the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline without going nuts. It's not much, but it's a step ahead of freaking out over every small rumbling.