The Ducks just finished a six game road trip going 3-3-0. Their record didn't really change nor did their position in the standings. The Ducks are continuing down this one step forward, one step back road, but still find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. Arthur, the recent Giguere trade has been analyzed from a lot of different angles, but one question still remains: did this trade actually improve the Ducks' chances of making the playoffs this year?
No, and there's no reason it should have. Giguere's contract was a problem for the 2010 offseason Ducks and the 2010-11 Ducks. We unloaded it to help them. The 2009-10 Ducks are still on their own.
I mean, there's something to be said for the rookie-dispersing bomb that Jason Blake sets off in the lineup (thus 'fixing' that which wasn't broke), but he'll shoot the puck plenty. And with all the one-goal efforts on this road trip, I think we were all starting to miss Joffrey Lupul. Sending Sexton and Beleskey down is tough, but I think we all expected them to go down when Lupul and Selanne came back. So getting Blake is just like getting Lupul back early, maybe an Edmonton-vintage, shot-happy and frustrated Lupul, but Lupul nonetheless.
Now, this trade might open up other possibilities at the deadline, but I can't really speculate there beyond saying it could conceivably help us after the Olympic roster freeze. At best, this trade resets the team to where it was to open the season-- struggling for production and line chemistry and trying to lean on Jonas Hiller. At worst, it stops a rookie-infused effort which was slowing down and just as likely to register a 3rd period comeback as a one goal game. The playoff odds don't move very much on the strength of this trade.
First, I know Hiller was already playing better and had won the starting job, but I can't help but feel that having this goalie controversy behind him is only going to make him and the team in front of him better. Questions surrounding a team can become an unspoken hindrance. I think that's gone now and will allow the Ducks to make a giant step in the right direction. I'm hoping removing this albatross from the team's neck is just better for their chemistry and thus their playoff chances.
Second, I think solving next year's problems allows Murray to concentrate on what's in front of him this season rather than worrying about the impending doom of potentially losing Jonas Hiller and Bobby Ryan this offseason. The consensus is that when Toskala's contract comes off the books and Blake's salary goes down, Bobby Ryan gets paid. Great!!! Problem Solved!!! Now about this year...
I think Murray will be able to explore new options for the immediate future rather than putting band aids on everything until his long term problems are solved. Do I think he's going to make good moves at the deadline? Nobody knows for sure, but I do know that he can stop thinking about making moves to save money next year, because he just did it.
Blake has the potential to be a valuable pick-up or a complete dud. There's no telling. I certainly would have preferred the cheaper (in terms of cap hit*) Jeff Finger, but Murray could get lucky. If Blake can offer some depth scoring on a line with Selanne and Koivu, then the immediate impact on our playoff pursuits is even or positive. Though, even if he doesn't pan out and ends up knocking Bodie back to the minors when Lupul comes back, that might be addition by subtraction.
Ultimately, though this move may not make us a substantially better team on paper, the resolution of the goaltending conflict and the questions about the future will help the Ducks be more focused on the season that's in front of them. That has to improve their playoff chances . . . at least a little bit.
*Ed. Note: Daniel has generally decried the budget in Anaheim, stating as recently as July that the team should be an over-budget or cap team despite the California economy and flagging attendance. Your editor disagrees.