Q: Does acquiring Olli Jokinen put Calgary on a level playing field with Detroit and San Jose in the Western Conference playoffs?
— Mark Thompson from Colorado Springs, Col.
A: Jokinen is a big player, skilled, and finally, for the first time since entering the league in 1997-'98, he'll be appearing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Coyotes dished him to the Flames on the March 4 trading deadline, giving Mike Keenan (one of Jokinen's former coaches in Florida), the towering, slick pivot he always likes in his lineup.
Now, Mark, did the upgrade at pivot close the gap — or level the playing field — with the likes of the Wings and Sharks? I'm not so sure. Prior to Jokinen's arrival, the Flames had 207 goals to San Jose's 206. The biggest difference was in goals allowed, 152 for San Jose and 186 for the Flames. Calgary added Jokinen for offense. I'm not so sure he's going to do much about preventing goals.
The Red Wings, as of deadline day, had scored more than anyone (239). I don't see Jokinen making up that kind of an impact alone that he'll turn the Flames into an offensive powerhouse. But he is good, and maybe his size will take some of the physical burden off of Jarome Iginla's wide shoulders. Overall, I like the Flames now better than before their deals, but still not as much as the Sharks and Wings, the latter of whom remain my favorite to win the Cup.
Q: Did the Red Wings simply not have any cap space/options to make a move before the deadline?
— Chris from Menlo Park, Calif.
A: Money was tight for the Wings, Chris, no question. But I think that was only part of their keeping a pat hand. The Wings like their team, and why not, given that the defending Cup champs added elite scorer Marian Hossa over the summer.
However, I was slightly surprised they didn't find some goaltending help at the deadline. They've shown great faith in Chris Osgood this season, but he has been almost ECHL material. Awful. Ty Conklin has performed admirably, if not sensationally, but he has but one game of playoff experience. Too risky for my liking, and I have to bet it's too risky for GM Ken Holland's liking. I know they like prospect Jimmy Howard, but he seems an even riskier proposition right now.
We'll soon see how it plays out. Holland and coach Mike Babcock either figure Conklin can carry the day, or that they have enough offense to keep the puck at the far end of the ice all night. Based on what we saw last spring, they could be right, again.
Q: I’m thrilled that Anaheim kept Chris Pronger. The Ducks could surprise some teams in the playoffs. Which team made the best ‘non-move’ at the trade deadline?
— Scott Cooper from N.Y.
A: Well, Scott, it has to be either the Ducks, holding on to Pronger, or the Panthers, not letting go of Jay Bouwmeester, another elite backliner who must have been even harder for the Panthers not to deal, simply because he can walk as a free agent July 1. At least in the Ducks' case, they know they can have Pronger back next season, if they so choose, because he has that year left on his contract.
All that said, they're both only good ''keeps'' if their respective clubs make the playoffs, right? The morning of the trade deadline, the Ducks were out of the running in the West, while the Panthers were tucked into the sixth slot in the East. Not very comfortable for either side. It wouldn't surprise me if they both missed out, and then they'll both likely regret not getting something for their big defensemen.
Honorable mention in the ''hold 'em'' brotherhood: the Vancouver Canucks. They actively shopped rugged defenseman Kevin Bieksa, but didn't let him go. I think they'll be happy. Come playoff time, his kind of grit is invaluable.
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