As time ticks away until the deadline passes, and Pierre McGuire drones on about some stupid bullshit, yinz can't help but think, as I do, that this trade deadline day has been one of the most disappointing excuses to drink in recent memory. As somebody who will crack one open to celebrate the invention of the cotton gin for Karstens' sake, that's saying something.
This bitching and moaning is coming from Chuck K as a hockey fan, not a Penguins fan looking for Shero to pull off some improbable Jedi mind trick moves that ship out the team's most cumbersome contracts and least vital players for Jesus H. Christ.
So the question remains, what the hell happened? The deadline this year was like opening up your presents on Christmas, wonderfully presented in recycled beer case cardboard, only to find a steaming pile of shit. Well, there's a number of reasons, so let's go over them now.
The NHL has fewer freewheeling, cowboy general managers
At one point in time, NHL organizations made trades and signed deals like Brett Favre threw the football: chucking it aimlessly down the field with complete disregard to the risk and potential long-term effects on the game and team.
Just like these nausea-inducing heaves, the aftermath of these blockbusters was either a resounding success or an utter implosion that altered the landscape of the game.
This era was full of Craig Patrick types, ready on a whim to throw down several key parts in a deal for another bunch of players in the hope that it would do some good shit for your team.
Nowadays, though, "war rooms" are packed with scouts, assistant managers, and Karstens knows what other personnel, who together examine, scrutinize, and ultimately decide the fate of every potential move. Between "cap specialists," extensive video, and just the general duress these guys are exposed to, it's easy to see why deals are much more calculated than they have been in the past.
The cap, for better or worse, has altered the game
The salary cap has been a blessing for some teams, as they are more capable of competing now that the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, etc. of the league are unable to throw their money in accordance with the Brett Favre simile from the previous section.
This consequence holds equally as true, one would think, for the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least when it involved getting their ass out of the league basement. Now, though, they can comfortably charge every fan a gazillion fucking dollars a game to visit their new money cow of an arena -- which still features bat-shit goofy design, by the way -- and buy a few snacks.
That whole debacle aside, the cap is what it is, and where teams in the past have made even more overt salary-related deals, they now have some more limits when it comes to picking up other team's stars.
League parity and that stupid fucking point for a shootout loss
Despite being a professional sports league, the NHL has, since its 2004-2005 lockout, been the place where everybody gets a cookie and medal, even if your team played like insufferable shit.
Gary Bettman still goes on television and publicly masturbates to the shootout, running his tongue up its proverbial wang because he was and is at the helm when some fucking rocket scientist came up with it.
Honestly, I find real hockey to be more thrilling than a shootout, so I'm not sure why we can't just play 10 minutes of some 4-on-4 hockey and bring back the tie. There's so much ice and so many rushes, it's hard to stop to take a breath, and somebody will find the back of the net.
Fuck it, though -- let's cater to that segment of the population that prefers the shootout and keep it. So be it. All you have to do is get rid of the pity point for losing the damn thing. I know Gary Bettman wants to keep sales up in markets with poor teams by keeping them in the playoff race longer, but doesn't this gimmick just water down the results of the NHL anyhow?
I mean, if you really wanted to make the shootout suspenseful, then why not only reward the winner? Seems even more compelling than dishing out three points in the standings because neither team was good enough to beat one another beforehand.
To sum it up, I'm getting at this: that god-forsaken extra point keeps teams in the playoff hunt longer even though they probably shouldn't be; being in the hunt means that teams won't be as willing to move assets or make more meaningful moves; having fewer sellers means that the price goes up significantly for available players; and the dreadful combination of these factors renders the deadline day utterly fucking boring.
The NHL will almost certainly refrain from altering its current product, though. How, then, do we remedy these problems with the deadline day, without making huge changes to the league's approach to the game itself? Quite simply, I would say. The trade deadline can be spruced up with any or preferably all of these tweaks.
1. Put all GMs and their staff in a building together akin to the NHL draft.
2. Ditch pussy sponsors like Tim Horton's coffee (TSN's choice) and instead get financial support from various companies that produce booze -- the cheaper the booze, the better. The NHL Network has a great start, represented at times by "The Kraken." The league could up the ante, though, by mixing in other grand beverage enhancers, such as 151, Everclear, or homemade moonshine.
3. Include a clause in the sponsorship contract that requires the management of all teams to down a preset quantity of the provided alcohol, the amount of which is correlated to the number of staff members working.
4. As a precaution, to ensure that binge drinking is not simply pushed off onto younger and/or less influential individuals, league officials will administer a breathalyzer test for all general managers every hour, on the hour, starting at 9 a.m., with an absolute minimum blood alcohol level of .08 during the first test and an increase of .01 every hour, resulting in a minimum of .14 by the deadline's arrival.
5. In the case that two general managers have a deal squared away, but there is a disagreement regarding the trade's complimentary details, including draft picks, minor-league players, or NHL players amassing fewer than ten minutes per game, the general managers can select any member of their staff to engage in a hardcore, no-holds-barred wrestling match with a member of the other team's staff. The number of wrestlers involved from each team should correspond to the number of pieces in question.
6. Once an hour, Stone Cold Steve Austin gives two random persons from any American team on the deadline floor the middle finger and a Stunner. For Canadian teams, Bret Hart places only one person in the Sharpshooter. On a side note, this punishment is one potential penalty for general managers not meeting the prerequisite level of hourly intoxication.
7. Marc Crawford gets his hair cut on live television; this is more for his benefit than ours.
8. More Alyonka Larionov. I don't care when, where, or how. Just start putting her out there for everyone to see.
So, those are my recommendations for improving the trade deadline. What yinz think? Regardless, I'll get into some updates later on teams that did well and not so well.