David Staples of the Edmonton Journal recently wrote an interesting article singing the praises of the trade which sent Joni Pitkanen to the Hurricanes in exchange for the services of Erik Cole. Mr. Staples names the Oilers the "winners" in this deal simply because, according to the author, "you can't win the Cup with Joni Pitkanen".
Strong words, strong words indeed.
First of all, if there must be "winners and losers" declared in this deal, it might be a bit premature to be standing on top of a snow bank and thumping one's chest. Erik Cole is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and since there are 29 other teams in the league, chances are that he will not be re-signing in Edmonton again next year.
Joni Pitkanen has already signed a three year deal and most likely will be in the service of the Hurricanes long after Cole has moved on from his "glory days" with the Oil. As a matter of fact, if the Oilers are not in the playoff picture in another month, Cole might not even finish the year in Edmonton. Would the Oilers still be declared "winners" if the forward is dealt before the trade deadline?
Based upon their statistics alone so far this season, it's tough to say who got the best of the deal. Pitkanen has 21 points in 40 games with a plus/minus of (-3). After a slow start, Cole also has 21 points in 46 games and is (-2). Each brings something different to the team. Cole leads the Oilers with 85 hits, (compared to 119 for Ruutu who leads the Canes), while Pitkanen leads the Canes in time on ice.
Staples goes on to give more negatives about the blueliner, including his apparent inability to "play hurt"? From my perspective though, Pitkanen has been able to take a hit and still be effective. I remember one particular game when he was hit high and hard when he crossed the blueline trying to set up a play. The hit almost knocked his helmet off and it was obvious that he was a bit groggy. He left the game for awhile, but to his credit he tried to come back. He returned the very next game like nothing happened.
Admittedly, the defenseman does make his share of mistakes and sometimes seems to be drifting while he is on the ice, but he is much better on defense than what was advertised. He's extremely adept at sweeping the puck away from penetrating forwards and has a quick stick when blocking shots and breaking up passes. When he does get beat and is caught in his own end, he is quick to recover and tries hard to make up for his error.
Although, perhaps his mistakes just don't seem as bad because the Canes have certainly had bigger problems on the ice this year than Pitkanen.
Finally, to say that you can't win the Stanley Cup with Joni Pitkanen is absurd. Staples certainly places a lot of importance on just one player, when everyone knows it takes a total team effort to be successful. Also, to think that any 25 year old is incapable of changing and improving is just plain being short-sighted. Hurricanes fans have noticed improvement just from the beginning of the year to this point in time, there is no reason to think that the improvement shouldn't continue.
This scenario reminds me of last year when Ottawa writers were proclaiming the Corvo/Eaves and Stillman/Commodore deal a slam dunk win for the Sens. Those writers are pretty quiet right about now. I wonder how David Staples will feel about the deal this time next year?