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Hawks better with Byfuglien?

Dustin Byfuglien has cooled from his hot start, but is still fifth in NHL defensemen scoring with 46 points in 65 games. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Dustin Byfuglien has cooled from his hot start, but is still fifth in NHL defensemen scoring with 46 points in 65 games. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A good Friday to you all. This will be my last mailbag for the next two weeks - a working vacation beckons - but, as usual, my trusty THN colleagues will step in and answer your questions to the best of their ability.

Until then, here’s a selection from your latest batch of inquiries:

Hey Adam, I was wondering what the Anaheim Ducks' long-term goalie plans are. They just traded for Dan Ellis a little while ago. They also signed Ray Emery. When Jonas Hiller gets back from injured reserve, what will happen? What would be their best option? I think having Emery in the backup slot is risky.
Kevin Sporka, Macomb, Mich.


Hey Kevin,

The lack of certainty regarding Hiller’s health makes it perfectly understandable why Ducks GM Bob Murray would seek out two decent alternatives in Emery and Ellis while his team slugs it out for a Western Conference post-season berth.

Neither of those two bring to mind the possibility of a Jaroslav Halakian playoff run, but the financial ramifications are livable - Emery is an unrestricted free agent after this season, while Ellis will earn $1.5 million next year - and if either goalie rises to the occasion and proves himself worthy of challenging a healthy Hiller next season (or filling in for Hiller if he isn’t back to 100 percent), the experiment will have been worth it.

Hey Adam, Do you think that Chicago’s chance of making the playoffs decreased because they traded Dustin Byfuglien?
John Part, Edmonton


Hey John,

The short answer is no. The longer answer is that, thanks to the salary cap, the Blackhawks had no choice but to move out significant players. Would you rather GM Stan Bowman have traded Patrick Sharp (and his team-leading 33 goals)? How about Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook? There would have been no shortage of teams wanting to take those three players off Chicago’s hands.

Now, some mental defectives out there might argue that overpaid defenseman Brian Campbell should have been dealt in order to keep Byfuglien (and/or Andrew Ladd, whom I think the Hawks have missed as much as any player). I would suggest those Technicolor dreamers argue that to someone employed by one of the 29 other NHL teams and prepare to be laughed out of the area in which they ask the question. 

Simply put, the salary cap should be seen as a talent cap as much as it should be seen as a cost-controlling mechanism. All successful teams will have to endure its wrath sooner or later.

Adam, I am a huge Thrashers fan and just wondering what you thought should be done to take them to the next level. It seems even with different rosters, different coaching staff, they continue to struggle. I put part of the blame on the terrible ownership (that, too, explains a good bit of the attendance issue) and Don Waddell to an extent. But there has to be something else. Any ideas?
David Reed, Atlanta

 
David,

As with most problems in the world, the struggles in Atlanta can’t be explained away by identifying just one influence. Certainly, Waddell has earned a share of the blame, but so too has the Thrashers’ long-feuding owners and their drafting and development departments.

Once the Ilya Kovalchuk saga ended, the franchise had to start from scratch in many ways. But I like where they’re headed under GM Rick Dudley and coach Craig Ramsay; to me, seeing them suffer growing pains under a new regime is to be expected, the same way the Minnesota Wild struggled after charting a new course that didn’t include Doug Risebrough or Jacques Lemaire.

Adam, I'm hurting here. I like Joe Nieuwendyk and I like the Stars fighting against the (ownership situation induced) odds. But why oh why did he do the Alex Goligoski trade? Please, can you sort it out for me? Is there any logic or upside to this for the Stars that I am missing?
Robert Lindblad, Stockholm


Robert,

I was as initially bewildered as anyone when Nieuwendyk shipped James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for Goligoski. But upon further reflection, there are a couple reasons that explain the move.

The first, and perhaps most important reason, is the Stars’ ongoing ownership search; if Dallas turns into another Phoenix and the league has to completely take over the team, the budget constraints on Nieuwendyk will be severe and will hamper his ability to address all of his roster needs. Landing Goligoski - who’ll earn just $1.83 million against the cap next season and is a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012 - and trading the higher-salaried Neal ($2.875 next year) helps him in that department.

As well, it was no secret the Stars needed a replacement for Sergei Zubov. Very few teams would move the kind of puck-moving defenseman (especially a young one) who could serve in that role - and the improvement of Kris Letang on Pittsburgh’s blueline made Goligoski expendable to Pens GM Ray Shero.

Could the trade still blow up in Nieuwendyk’s face and see Neal thrive, while Goligoski fails to live up to expectations? Sure, but you could make the argument the reverse could happen just as easily. Time will be the ultimate judge here.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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