For those of us old enough to remember, there was a television show titled Lost in Space. For all who watched the show, it was known primarily for one signature line: ”Danger, Will Robinson!”
Recently, both in the local Columbus print media and the local Columbus internet community, there has been an exorbitant amount of recent speculation on the possibility of trading Blue Jackets stay-at-home defenseman Mike Commodore for the Edmonton Oilers’ premier offensive-specialist defenseman Sheldon Souray.
While I did not address this rumor for Inside Hockey, I did write at least four articles for a friend’s local blog, spanning back to late-June, of possibly acquiring Souray on waivers.
Which lends me to ask the question: “A little late to the party, aren’t you?”
I will also say that my position on acquiring Souray was via the re-entry waiver route, given my recent discovery that the Blue Jackets do spend a healthy and competitive amount on their team payroll. However, this impending surge by local media types was only prompted by a singular event: Kris Russell’s injury sustained during training camp, at the Blue Jackets intra-squad tournament.
Add to that the growing unrest regarding Mike Commodore’s lost 2009-10 season, one in which he suffered from ailments stemming from an off-season conditioning program. While I elect to not comment on the direct effect that program did or didn’t have on his lost season, I will say that the fallout to it has resulted in the rumor-mongers placing a bull’s-eye right on the back of Commodore. In this case as a logical trading partner for Souray.
On the surface, or so the speculators would lead you to believe, this trade would make a lot of sense. The Blue Jackets, who are intending to implement new head coach Scott Arniel’s up-tempo system, one in which defensemen are actively involved in puck movement and possession, would certainly like to transition away from their plethora of stay-at-home defensemen like Commodore and opt for a premier puck moving defenseman like Souray.
Souray has the distinction of having both the record for power play goals scored by a defenseman in a season as well the unofficial record for the fastest slapshot recorded during the Edmonton Oilers’ 2009 skills competition, at a blistering 106.7 miles per hour.
From a scouting standpoint, here is an analysis of Souray (Forecaster.ca):
ASSETS: Packs a big shot from the point-one of the best in the game. Has natural leadership qualities and takes on all comers to protect his teammates. Is adept at clearing the front of the net.
FLAWS: Can get beat one on one, due to questionable lateral skating and mobility. Can at times cough up the puck when rushing up ice. Is somewhat injury-prone and can also take bad penalties.
CAREER POTENTIAL: Big-shooting defenseman with a mean streak.
Add to that the immediate injury to Russell and you have the makings of a rumored trade situation. Well, let me say, “Danger, Scott Howson!”
First to note is Souray’s current “situation” with the Oilers.
In short, Souray is not welcome at the Oilers training camp. For those of you who follow the classic sitcom Seinfeld, this is akin to when George Constanza was banned from the handicapped restroom facilities at PlayNow. So I guess life does imitate art, at least as it relates to the disgruntled Souray
This lockout primarily stems from Souray’s public criticism of the Oilers organization back in April for having him play through a shoulder injury — before he felt he’d fully recovered — when the Oilers had no chance to play for anything with the exception of not sealing that number one overall pick in the NHL entry draft.
The Oilers eventually placed Souray on waivers, then placed him on re-entry waivers. In both instances, there were no takers. Frankly, given the six former Oiler players that Howson has brought to the Blue Jackets, I personally thought Souray would be claimed via a ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ waiver re-entry claim. Basically, the principle that the Blue Jackets, having previously brought in a previous waiver claim from the Oilers – Ethan Moreau – would lead to an agreement that a later deal could be worked out with Souray.
Which leads to an even more interesting thought: What is the reason Howson’s stayed away from Souray at this point? Is it his injury history having only played 37 games during 2009-10 and 26 games during 2007-08? Is it his age (35), as Howson has never claimed a defenseman older than 28 years old ?
Or maybe: Is this instance of Souray being locked out of the Oilers facilities a prime example of the rumors of Souray’s off-ice issues – that he is a perceived major distraction and a ‘clubhouse lawyer’?
One reason for not claiming Souray on waivers or re-entry waivers could be Howson’s respect for the Oilers, the organization that gave him his first NHL job as an Assistant GM. This could be a type of ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’, but given the current animosity between the Oilers and Souray, Howson may have promised to stay away from claiming him.
Now, on to the rumored trade with the Oilers for Commodore.
For those of us nerds who engage in fantasy sports, when making a trade, it is always important to keep in mind that when you trade away a player, you have to keep in mind what you’re going to be left with – or in this case, without. In other words, the best move is no move at all.
Was Commodore’s 2009-10 season a disappointment? Absolutely. However, was his 2008-09 season helpful towards the Blue Jackets making their first ever playoff series? Absolutely, as well.
But the bigger question is: Is Commodore in shape, which was the issue last season? Well, I saw him (and spoke to him, at length) in the only attire in which one can make that assertion: Shorts and a T-Shirt, and the answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’.
Let that be a note to journalists who like to assess a player’s off-season size increase by looking at them in full hockey equipment, rather than looking at an athlete in the above or similar attire.
It’s pretty safe to say that Commodore is not the puck-moving defensemen that both Howson and Arniel would like to go ‘up-tempo’ with. However, he is a solid stay-at-home defenseman. So why would you look to trade a solid asset and a well-liked clubhouse player for an injury-prone, aging (Souray is 35 years old) player with rumored character issues, particularly for a team with a reputation for having a leadership void? After all, they aren’t called ‘Club CBJ’ – Club Columbus Blue Jackets, as in ‘Club Med’ – in local circles for nothing.
So, using the fantasy sports trade context, if you trade away a known, healthy, albeit offensively-limited commodity for a questionable, oft-injured, potential character issues type commodity, what did you really acquire and what are you now left with?
Now, for an update to the very incident that drew the knee-jerk reactors into a frenzy: Within a day or so after Russell’s injury, it now appears that he will be ready to for the start of the regular season. So it seems that there is not as much of a crisis to fill the once-feared void of possibly the lone puck-moving offensive defenseman the Blue Jackets currently own.
So, if the team resumes to their current state, let’s then assess where the organization is with this puck-moving defensemen void. Yes the team still has a glut of stay-at-home defensemen, like Commodore, but they also have a bevy of young puck-moving offensive defensemen waiting in the wings: John Moore, Cody Goloubef and David Savard just to name a few.
For a team who has already committed a respectable amount towards the salary cap, as well as one who is trying to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the best move is no move at all.
So again, if I were Howson, I would heed the warnings of that robot from Lost in Space: ”Danger, Scott Howson!”