Deadline day again fails to match hype

American showman P.T. Barnum is credited with saying “there’s a sucker born every minute.”
Although it’s never been proven that he actually uttered those famous words, to me it widely describes the annual hype job that is the NHL trade deadline, especially in recent years.
Each February, it seems television networks and beat writers everywhere rant endlessly about big names that could be dealt, fuelling excitement for the day to build to ridiculous amounts.
I mean, why is there nearly 12 hours of live coverage on the major sports networks in Canada devoted to this day, complete with a cast of thousands as analysts?
Then when the majority of moves on deadline day end up being depth ones, with the number of trades itself decreasing over recent years, those watching end up becoming upset and declaring the deadline as the worst they’ve ever seen.
Yet without fail, the same cycle repeats itself year after year.
Sure, there was a time where blockbuster moves with big names almost always would take place, but that was in a different time and era entirely.
With a salary cap system now in place, you aren’t going to see teams throw money around like it was going out of style (okay, unless you’re the N.Y. Islanders, but I think there’s doubts that is actually a properly-run franchise—my apologies for the lone Islanders’ fan I have offended).
At the same time, the moves a team usually is going to end up making are for a rental player for the playoff run, namely those who are going to have a contract expire at the end of the season.
While a player like Rick Nash being traded on Monday certainly would have been a huge deal, the fact of the matter is players with those lengthy contracts will be moved closer to the NHL entry draft in June.
All you have to do is go back to last year, when the Philadelphia Flyers practically held a full-fledged fire sale in the span of a few hours.
So why do we watch the trade deadline coverage all day at work (and if you said you didn’t, I know you are lying).
It’s simple. It’s because of hope.
As a fan of a particular team, we hope our team makes that move that brings us the Stanley Cup, and that we somehow acquire that big player that makes everyone take notice.
On Monday, that sort of thing didn’t happen. In fact, the biggest trade took place a few days prior when the Columbus Blue Jackets traded Jeff Carter to the L.A. Kings for Jack Johnson.
But unlike last year, when nothing of real note happened (quick, name a trade from last year’s deadline—I had to look to remember what happened as all I recalled from the top of my head was obscure goalie Anton Khudobin being dealt along with forward Dustin Penner), there was one deal of interest when top prospects Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian were swapped by Vancouver and Buffalo.
For the hard-core hockey junkies, that certainly was a trade that made you stand up and take notice. But for casual observers, it hardly raised an eyebrow.
In reality, the real big day where anything can and will happen from now on is the “Free Agent Frenzy” on Canada Day, where the free agency window opens and teams try to snap those players who can fill those roles that need fixing for the next few seasons.
While it may lack the seemingly all-day coverage the trade deadline enjoys, those are the real moves that can make or break an organization for years to come.
Well, that and the NHL draft. But unless you’re the Detroit Red Wings, how many people get excited about a seventh-round draft pick from the Czech Republic these days?

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