Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What does the Cory Stillman trade mean for Toronto?

Only one game in the league tonight so there wasn't going to much to update here anyway, but Phoenix lost to Dallas by a goal, so literally nothing changes except for me adjusting two numbers slightly. Convenient, but boring.

1.  LAK 58 GP, 24 W, 49 PTS, -25 DIFF
2.  TBL 56 GP, 23 W, 52 PTS, -24 DIFF
3.  CHI 55 GP, 24 W, 54 PTS, -10 DIFF
4.  TOR 57 GP, 23 W, 55 PTS, -27 DIFF
5.  EDM 57 GP, 25 W, 55 PTS, -19 DIFF
6.  NYI 56 GP, 24 W, 55 PTS, -30 DIFF
7.  STL 54 GP, 24 W, 56 PTS, -19 DIFF
8.  FLA 58 GP, 26 W, 57 PTS, -8 DIFF
9.  ATL 58 GP, 27 W, 58 PTS, -29 DIFF
10. CAR 58 GP, 27 W, 58 PTS, -17 DIFF
11. PHO 57 GP, 28 W, 60 PTS, -4 DIFF
12. BUF 55 GP, 26 W, 60 PTS, +9 DIFF
13. CLB 58 GP, 26 W, 61 PTS, -7 DIFF
14. VAN 57 GP, 28 W, 63 PTS, +7 DIFF

But we value-add here at Bring Back Potvin, so you're going to get a bleary-eyed, number-filled blog. Never say I don't give you what you pay for.

Jared called me at work today and informed me that the first trade of this year's deadline season had taken place: Ottawa sending Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Hurricanes for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. I have taken the liberty of breaking that up into two separate trades: Commodore for Corvo (a defensive defenseman from a team that needs an offensive defenseman for an offensive defenseman from a team that needs a defensive defenseman) and Stillman for Eaves. The second one is the part that is of more interest here; ideally, the Leafs aren't going to be affected by the trade itself in terms of on-ice impact because they're going to start losing more games, and soon. Ideally.

Anyway... Cory Stillman. Nice player, albeit aging and broken down. The last time he played 45 or more games and didn't score 20+ goals was 96-97. He's working on a cheap contract ($1.75 million) and can walk in the summer as a free agent. At age 34, he's breaking down, and can barely skate at this point, but he's still piling up traditional counting stats and might finally crack the 30 goal mark this season. He has two Stanley Cups rings and will add a valuable secondary scoring presence to the Senators.

Stillman has become very important to the entire NHL today, but especially to the Leafs (maybe not especially, but for our intents and purposes it is, and that's what counts). That's because the market is always set with the first few trades of any given deadline season. If another big deal goes down tomorrow, the market is adjusted; but for now everything is based off of Cory Stillman (for forwards, anyway... although I'm not really sure how Commodore-for-Corvo sets the market for defensemen, other than you have to give quality to get quality at that position... but this is a unique situation where both teams had something the other needed that was of roughly equal value, so that swap meshed well. I can't imagine you're going to see many contending teams add extra defensive depth by giving up an equal defender). As of today, the market for a player like Cory Stillman (mid-30s, good offensive numbers, small cap hit, free agent at the end of the summer) is set at Patrick Eaves: a young forward who is two years removed from a 20 goal rookie season and was picked at the end of the vaunted 2003 draft's first round. This is a nice precedent to me, because I want to trade Darcy Tucker.

If you can think of someone who is more firmly on the 'trade Tucker' bandwagon than me, I'll be shocked. I like him but he's never been one of my favourites, and to get him, we had to trade Mike Johnson, who WAS one of my favourites. He was always a fun guy to have around, but when his contract came up last year, it was time: he, like Bryan McCabe, should have been sent out of town long before a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract was thrown his way. With a no-trade clause, no less. But here Tucker remains, and here the team circles the drain. The time to trade Darcy Tucker was last season, but that doesn't mean we can't do it this year, anyway. And I think we should start looking for a return comparable to Patrick Eaves.

At first glance, Tucker doesn't really seem to match up with Stillman, so there isn't much relevance to this comparison. They're roughly the same age (Tucker is a year and change younger), both seem like a pretty good bet to score 20 goals for you, but they don't really play the same style of hockey. Stillman is a deceptive scorer (so deceptive, in fact, that when asking around for people's thoughts on the trade and Stillman in general, I got a lot of "I have no idea how Stillman gets so many points, he's so slow and bad and never seems to be anywhere near the play"); Tucker is an agitator. Tucker is also not having a very good year, and Stillman's stats dwarf his (21G/25A/46P for Stillman, 9/8/17 for Tucker in six less games). Tucker has another three years and $9 million left on his contract, taking him to the age of 36. When today's trade first broke, I figured "well hey, maybe we'll get something better for Tucker than I was hoping", but I expected that an Eaves-type player would be a high ceiling on any type of Tucker return. I mean, he's not Cory Stillman.

Where it gets interesting is when you bring up Behind the Net stats. Looking at even-strength numbers (in a select few categories, because I know not everyone knows/uses/understands these stats, and I am only beginning to myself, so...) they're actually a lot more comparable than I thought:

TOI/60: Stillman 14.01, Tucker 11.61

GFON/60: Stillman 2.49, Tucker 2.21

GAON/60: Tucker 2.42, Stillman 2.65

Goals/60: Tucker 0.74, Stillman 0.70

First Assists/60: Tucker 0.63, Stillman 0.62

Second Assists/60: Stillman 0.70, Tucker 0.11

Some thoughts here: Stillman isn't NEARLY as productive as it looks based on his G/A/P numbers. You'd expect his GFON/GAON numbers to be higher than that, and he is actually getting less goals and first assists per 60 minutes of even-strength play than Tucker is (in 2.40 less minutes of EV ice-time, no less). Where Stillman kills Tucker is in secondary assists, which would seem to match up with my low-rent scouting reports of Stillman being a player who gets points despite being invisible.

Stillman also racks up a lot more points on the powerplay than Tucker. Stillman gets more ice time on the PP, and Tucker has been a PP bust this year, despite being pretty dependable in the past. Obviously, they're not the exact same player, but at least in terms of EV play, it's not really as far as you'd think. Plus, Tucker brings the bump-and-grind style that playoff teams (especially after the Ducks last year) covet, and he's under contract for another three seasons. If you're going to give up a recent first rounder for a player, wouldn't it be nice if you could actually keep him around for more than 20 games plus playoffs?

So maybe Stillman is a decent comp for Tucker, and maybe we can get a nice return on him yet. You'd have to think Tucker would fit on teams like Detroit, Dallas, and Vancouver, teams that need more offensive depth and are hoping for lengthy playoff runs AND have spare cap room for next year. I'm not sure, I haven't really looked into it. But our players aren't as worthless as we might think.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Great post.

It's interesting that you'd invoke Eaves as a fair price for Tucker, given that Eaves' one-sided loss to Tucker in that scrap last year was the beginning of the end for him in Ottawa.

Not so much the fight itself, which was relatively forgettable, but the bizarre emasculation Eaves had to suffer through at the hands of Neil and McGratton's constant chirping to the press -- as if Eaves was a tiny child who could never be expected to handle himself against someone half his size. He never seemed to get his confidence back after that (and of course Neil and McGratton never did follow up on their rants on the ice). He went from untouchable building block to spare part within months.

Hopefully he gets back on track in Carolina. He always struck me as a classy kid.