The Contrarian – Slave to the Deadline

by Demetri Fragopoulos on March 6, 2016

Is it possible to liven up trade deadline day?

Let me ask, how did your fantasy league trade deadlines work out this year?

If you are in one-year leagues, I suspect that there was not much to it unless your league allows owners to buy players against a potential future windfall at the end of the season. A little bit like Robin Hood, except the guys who win retain bragging rights even if their pockets are a little bit lighter than if they won the pool without the help of some lesser owners.

If you are in it for fun, then I do not imagine that there were many deals made. Why would the lower-echelon owners help out the upper ones unless they were trying to make certain that a particular owner failed in their quest to be league champion?

Now if you are involved in leagues that are keepers, dynasty, or involve playoffs, then you might have a bit more action. But it all depends on the rules, number of owners, roster sizes, benches, farm teams, draft picks and so on…

From that subset of fantasy leagues, how many would you guess involve 30 or more owners and have only 16 make the playoffs? You know where I am leading you with this.

Which brings me to an article by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News. He thinks he can liven up the NHL’s Trade Deadline Day activities.

First he wants to “have a complete moratorium on trades for 10 days prior to the deadline”.

Second, “assemble all 30 teams in one place and have them making deals on the floor right before the cameras and onlookers.”

Lastly in order for Campbell’s ideas to theoretically work, “[no] NHL games would be played that day so as to make the deals the focal point of hockey fans.”

His thoughts are based on what happens during entry drafts. As he describes, “It’s a lot easier to deal with another GM when all you have to do is walk across the draft floor or across the lobby bar at the hotel.”

We can all agree that this is common with what occurs in fantasy leagues as well. It is one thing when you are exchanging phone calls or emails, but totally another when you are eye to eye. It appears to be easier.

But what of his proposal?

No games played on the day of the deadline sounds reasonable to me.

Getting all 30 GM’s and their staffs in one city will be a big effort and costly. Maybe Campbell believes that all a team needs is one laptop, just like what we do in our fantasy leagues. (In a Grantland article they dead link to a Sports Illustrated one, where they claim that the Ottawa Senators made some invalid expansion selections because their laptop ran out of power.)

Not only that, there will be the question of which city will host Trade Deadline Day, or does it fall by default to Toronto because of the media outlets that are headquartered there?

The moratorium will not work. Teams will either make moves prior to the moratorium, which defeats the purpose of building this false sense of pressure on deadline day. Or they will hold back, only to wait until the very last second before announcing a deal.

Why make a deal and then allow your competitors a chance to counteract it?

Or even worse, you think you have a deal prearranged, your counterpart walks up to the podium to announce that they have traded the player you wanted but not to you. You find out that they instead moved him to your divisional rival who is nipping at your heels for that Wild Card playoff spot. How dare they! Now you have less than two minutes to find a trade partner.

That cannot happen. Impossible. Yeah, ask Eric Lindros. (See Grantland article again.)

This would open up a huge can or worms and make the league look terrible in front of a national audience at that.

Then there is this idea of GM’s making deals in front of cameras. If you saw a rival GM head up to the microphones with five minutes to go, would you not feel inclined to line up right behind them just in case they made a deal that you felt would secure them a playoff spot?

What if there was a lineup to get to the podium? When would the cutoff take effect, after all deadlines are deadlines? (See Grantland for Dale Tallon.)

What if a GM was deliberately slow in announcing their deal just to kill time, like ragging a puck during a game? Underhanded but technically legal I suppose. Would the league impose a time limit on the announcement like the Oscar’s do with acceptance speeches?

You might as well see the Grantland article for a third time, in this case, even technology couldn’t be trusted as a fax machine jammed. It prevented Kyle Wanvig from becoming a Toronto Maple Leaf. The NHL is not the only league to have this happen to them (see Denver Broncos and Elvis Dumervil).

I am going to assume that things can be done by e-mail and by attaching PDFs instead of faxes, but can you imagine what might occur with the league offices if 5 or 10 deals come in at the same time, all of them being close to the deadline? What if there is an error in a pdf or a page was scanned in with some information cut off?

No, the idea from Campbell is not about making the Trade Deadline Day an event for the NHL. It is meant to be an event for the media.

The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton pieced an article about five players that should have been dealt. Listed were Dan Hamhuis, Loui Eriksson, Radim Vrbata, P.A. Parenteau and Brad Boyes.

I ask you, if those guys were moved, would it have been a more interesting deadline day? No not really. If that was all that was available, then you can understand why most people feel that the day was a dud.

This year’s deadline was blah because teams were either in the playoffs or out if it. There were very few that were on the edge. Maybe the deadline should be set earlier in the season.

Of those teams that were out, were they really going to get much in return for their better players, especially if they were rentals for a month or two? General managers are smartening up.

They are mastering the trade deadline instead of becoming slaves to it.