Happy one-week anniversary to the Polish Prodigy blog. And many more....(lame.)
When 3 p.m. rolled around yesterday, I was hoping against my better judgement that the Penguins would make more of a ripple in the NHL trade deadline pool. As it stood just minutes before the final horn, GM Ray Shero had just moved one chess piece--sending two draft picks to the Leafs for towering defenseman Hal Gill. I'd seen enough of Gill against the Pens over the last decade to know that his presence would deter opponents from skating freely near the goal and stationing themselves there. Solid pickup that could have made a difference in the playoffs on its own.
Then, after my 147th page refresh on TSN.ca's Web site, it dropped.
The Atlanta Thrashers trade F Marian Hossa and F Pascal Dupuis to the Pittsburgh Penguins for F Colby Armstrong, F Erik Christensen, F Angelo Esposito, and a 1st round selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
As soon as I regained consciousness, I thought about the message this bold move sent to the rest of the League. Since the new management took over in the spring of 2006, the mantra has always been "stay the course" and "our best years are still ahead of us." Acquiring Hossa, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, is a sign that the oft-anticipated "bright future" for this club might begin in June. In the Stanley Cup Finals.
Don't say that I'm jumping the gun. No lesser authority on postseason success than Petr Sykora said this trade signaled a prime chance to aim for "the big trophy" (his words). Sykora, who's been to the Finals three times and has his name engraved on Lord Stanley's old bowl, would certainly know more than most when a team has a legitimate opportunity to win its conference and go for it all.
The Penguins are the favorite in the East, make no mistake. With Malkin and Crosby each able to center a serious scoring line, Pittsburgh is now the toughest team to defend this side of the Honda Center in Anaheim.
A word for the departed Penguins: Colby and Erik grew up and became NHLers under the Pittsburgh Penguins umbrella, and their skills, efforts, and personalities will be missed both in the locker room and in the stands. However, at some point on the road to a Cup, difficult personnel decisions must be made. I seem to recall that quality gentlemen like John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski, and Mark Recchi have been dealt away in the past, only to see their old teammates hoist the silver later that season. Army is a rugged, unflappable winger who keeps everybody loose; EC possesses undeniable talent and a wicked shot. They both were commendable contributors on the squad, but in exchange for a weapon like Hossa, they simply weren't valuable enough to remove from the trade block.
Don't fear about the future. Shero didn't give up Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Whitney, Fleury, or Letang in order to make what could be a career-defining deal for him and his staff. Also, who says Hossa won't decide to sign a new deal at a discount rate with the Penguins after he experiences life on Crosby's or Malkin's wing?
Anyone with a brain stem should be able to see that the Pens are a better team today than they were yesterday, and that this team's development just got a serious boost of acceleration.
Who's ready for the stretch run?