Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Rant answers: Trades backlash, Caniacs in panic mode, concussion questions

By Pierre LeBrun

Stars fans seem less than impressed with Monday's big trade. Colorado fans are even more disappointed with the Avs' blockbuster move. A look at this week's rants:

Dallas-aggster: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS JOE NIEUWENDYK THINKING!? Trading away a top-3 forward with really good upside in the future and an OK at best defenseman for what? An above average offensively minded D-man who can't defend? I thought Dallas WANTED better defense.

My take: Puck-moving blueliners, particularly young ones with upside, are gold in this league. Yes, James Neal is a stud forward and just what the doctor ordered for the Penguins, but those players are more common in this league than young D-men like Alex Goligoski. Give this trade a chance. The Stars' blue-line corps was dying for this kind of puck-moving threat, and Goligoski (pushed down the depth chart by Kris Letang in Pittsburgh) will have a chance to shine in Dallas.

superfan7979: Can Hulsizer, the City of Glendale and the NHL just get this deal done already? The Don (GM Don Maloney) has got to be itchin' to make some kind of splash by the trade deadline but is still handcuffed by this thing.

My take: Expect to see the sale finally close over the next 7-10 days.

tn_treyc: Pierre, I know you do what you can for the Preds and their credibility ... but as a Preds fan, I'm going insane dealing with fans of the other teams in the league (particularly Canadiens, who feel entitled to another team). They are a great club and they 19th in the league for home attendance percentage-wise. I'm just so sick of hearing jokes about their attendance and how the south doesn't deserve a team like this.

Why is it the people who claim to love the sport the most hate it when its popularity is on the rise? Do they not want to share the joys of the game with the rest of us? The whole notion that fair-weather cities don't deserve teams is total hogwash. Just because we don't spend nine months of the year shoveling our cars out of snow doesn't mean we are somehow less deserving of a quality team that has made great strides.

Why doesn't anyone care that teams like the Avalanche, Devils or Islanders have worse attendance (besides their respective owners)?

My take: It has certainly been nice to see attendance go up this season. Stability at the ownership level has perhaps persuaded fans in Nashville to buy in a bit more. One thing hasn't changed -- the David Poile-Barry Trotz GM-coach combo is among the very best in the NHL. I believe in Nashville as an NHL market, but I will say this: The Preds need to get Shea Weber signed long-term or else his possible departure would really hurt the franchise.

gandia21: I am a HUGE Carolina Hurricanes fan and I just can't wrap my head around their last trade move, sending Ian White for a 2nd-round draft pick in 2012 and some no name from San Jose. Ian White wasn't necessarily making a huge impact in Carolina by scoring goals and racking up the points, but I feel like he was playing a solid role on this young team.

On the topic of the Canes, our play of late has also scared me. If you take away the spirited effort against Philly on Ron Brind'Amour night, we haven't played well at all! What do you think it will take down the stretch for this team to really make a run for the playoffs and then go deep into the playoffs as well?

My take: Caniac, White is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1; money is tight in Carolina and GM Jim Rutherford has to judiciously decide where his money will go. White will command $3 million plus via free agency, and that's too rich for Carolina's blood given where he'd be on its depth chart. It was the right move on Rutherford's part. The Canes draft like nobody's business and just added a second-round pick. Not bad at all.

Kishiree: Sabres, nuff said.

My take: Really mind-boggling. I was convinced they were playoff-bound. They may still be, but losing three straight at such a critical juncture is a head-scratcher to me.

NickyPank: Are the Rangers serious? That's my question. I'm all for building the youth and I know losing comes with that, but COME ON!!!! Don't make every Rangers fan salivate for the first half of the season with terrific play and then take a dump all over it the second half. I'm so sick of watching them lose; play like you actually want the playoffs. Am I expecting a Stanley Cup? NO. But at least play like you want it. Sather is so worried about defense when what they really need is a No. 1 center and a scoring winger because Marian [Gaborik] isn't doing it this season.

My take: It has to be tough to take for Rangers fans, some of the most loyal fans in the league. But as for your No. 1 center, circle July 1 on your calendar and pencil in the name of Brad Richards. They'll take a serious run at him.

bct27: Maybe I'm biased because I'm a neuroscientist and spend the vast majority of my time studying the brain or playing/watching hockey. But there is no bigger issue in the world of sports right now than the devastating effects of concussions. Gaborik is down; one of the biggest markets in sports won't be in the 2011 playoffs. Teams struggle in the absence of concussed All-Star players. Players and their families are looking at serious long-term consequences. But here's the real motivation to clean it up: Pro athletes are the model for youth athletes, and think about how many members of our society play contact youth sports!

These kids will never make their living playing a pro sport, but the research shows that they will suffer in the long-term from playing a game where concussions are the norm. So what is the answer? All of the talk about equipment is smoke and mirrors; unless the players respect each other, they will always find a way to hurt each other. Yeah, better equipment needs to be adopted, more padding on the shoulders, Messier's fancy new helmet technology, and all the rest. But the problem comes down to a few bad seeds on each team that don't respect the opposition and don't take on the responsibility to protect them. Respect comes slowly, but let's keep the conversation going and keep hockey a model.

My take: Great post, and thank you for taking the time. No question concussions are the most important issue in pro sports, especially football and hockey. Brad Richards has a concussion, now joining a long list of big stars with head injuries this season. Scary. NHL GMs will once again tackle the issue mid-March in Boca Raton, Fla., at their annual spring meetings.

mc_mcs: It's so frustrating to be a Blues fan. I'm convinced the only equally suffering fans have to be the Leafs faithful. I don't mind the Chris Stewart deal, but it was necessary because we have tight salary constraints and a void in ownership. Will you and your hockey buddies please buy my team and let JD and Army get down to business? We seem to fight every year with one hand tied behind our back. The fans deserve better.

My take: Dude, your GM just made a heck of a blockbuster trade. You're going to love it. Chris Stewart joining David Backes -- two monster power forwards on the same team? Kevin Shattenkirk is a young stud blueliner. Keep your chin up; good times are ahead next season after this trade.

ceraunograph: I really don't know what Greg Sherman is thinking and I am not happy about it one bit. I know defense is the ongoing problem for the Avs, and I know something needed to be done. But trade away Chris Stewart? He was on a 40-goal pace THIS SEASON. He is tenacious around the net and has the hands to finish. He is a superstar in the making, and not a player who should be cast aside. Shattenkirk, meanwhile, is a stellar prospect with legitimate 40-point potential and a booming shot from the point. He still has lots of room to develop into a top-pair defenseman.

Johnson, meanwhile, is older and has not reached his amazing potential while being closer to a cap-crushing contract. He could end up being the stud defenseman the Avs need, but at what cost? Did Sherman not realize how badly this team needed a top defenseman before the season started? Did he not realize this when the Avs were still in the thick of the playoff race while giving up goals at an alarming rate? He could have had Souray or Kaberle at a much lower price before the season, and maybe they would still be in the playoff race. ... As good as I felt as an Avs fan this time last year, I feel so much worse.

My take: I give credit to Sherman for having the gumption to shake up his team; it needed it. But he's taken more of a risk than St. Louis in this trade. Erik Johnson just hasn't looked like a first overall pick. The Avs have to pray he finds his potential in Denver, otherwise this is a move they'll regret for a long time. Johnson looked terrific at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, so he may just need a change of scenery. Maybe.

CanucksDynastyInWaiting: My vent is the outdoor games. I love the concept. The atmosphere looks great and I'm sure is great for those attending. But the GAMES themselves, such as Montreal vs. Calgary, have been less-than-adequate at best. For a game that has an important two points on the line, I don't think an outdoor game is the best place for it. Yes, I know that both teams have to play in it, but the outdoor ice doesn't lend itself to crisp passing and nice playmaking, simply a north-south, shoot-the-puck-on-net game which we can see in any arena for any age group at any skill level. NHL players are infinitely more skilled than you or I are. How about giving them an ice surface to showcase that skill?

My take: As I wrote Sunday night after covering yet another outdoor game in person, the event was once again a huge success, the game itself was not. That's just how it's going to be in these outdoor games. For the local fans, it's well worth it. But I think fans watching at home on TV have figured out it's not a pretty game to watch. So be it.