Now that “the trade” has been completed many fans have progressed from shock to acceptance to a quiet excitement for the upcoming season. If you’re like me you were probably already excited about seeing a team that would feature more youth than in recent years, a team that probably wouldn’t make the playoffs but would put forward an honest effort each night. But with season ticket renewals down, and an increasing number of empty seats each game it was obvious that not all fans were willing to bear the brunt of the re-building process.
Then came the Lindros rumors that eventuated in the trade that was completed just this past Monday. Gone were Jan Hlavac, Kim Johnsson and Pavel Brendl, three of the cornerstones of the expected youth movement, and in their place a player who had some serious question marks looming ominously over his head.
While we grieved over the loss of the youngsters, the Rangers organization continued to promote their latest signing dismissing any questions about his health while seemingly putting the press gallery under some sort of spell. Realistically we probably couldn’t expect anything else, far be it from Sather and co. to question their signing in public and create further outcry over the “one-sided” trade and though many fans were initially angry, the momentum has slowly shifted towards Sather’s point of view.
So what is the likelihood of another concussion? In the aftermath of the trade it appears six concussions may have been exaggeration. Bobby Clarke himself expressed his doubts believing that at most that there were four. Rumors about faking injuries and “concussion diagnosed over the phone” hit the newspapers and were quickly picked up by television and radio.
However many concussions and to what grade they were is difficult determine in this post-trade honeymoon but one thing’s for sure, there’s not a lot of evidence within hockey one way or another to aid us in predicting the future. Paul Kariya’s recovery from Post Concussion Syndrome is well known but the Anaheim winger’s game is light-years away from the physical style that Lindros plays. Numerous other players have managed to come back from one or two concussions (Mark Recchi and Gary Suter come to mind), while closer to home Pat Lafontaine and Beukeboom show the negative side.
Only hindsight will be able to judge accurately the risk has been taken, but to expect more than 70 games from #88 this season is probably going against the odds, concussions or no.
On the other side of the trade Philadelphia appears to have done well. Kim Johnsson provides a dimension to the Flyers defense, that has been lacking for some time. It remains to be seen whether Barber and Clarke will tolerate his lack of physical play in the defensive zone, but his offense and what he can do on the power play could certainly help the team. Hlavac may end up having the toughest time adjusting to his new team. Playing behind Leclair and Gagne, the left winger may find it tough to get ice time, especially on the power play and at critical junctures in the game. Unfortunately for Jan, this move may not help his career and it would not surprise this observer to see Clarke shipping him out by the trade deadline in 2003.
Pavel Brendl remains the big unknown, perhaps Barber can find a way to motivate the young winger into realizing his potential, either way future reviews of this trade will probably be tied to the success that Brendl does or doesn’t have.
Before we close the door on this trade please let’s have a moment of silence for those that were Rangers. Farewell Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac and Pavel Brendl, we hardly new you but now you’re working for the enemy.