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Melrose Minute: Holding judgment on Vanek deal

by Barry Melrose /

Without a doubt we had the biggest trade of the season so far Sunday night when the Buffalo Sabres shipped Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders for two draft picks and Matt Moulson. Now everyone is going to rush to judgment on who won the trade, but when you're dealing with draft picks like that, a lot of times it doesn't come out until you see the draft picks play.

A few years ago the Boston Bruins traded Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs and one of the draft picks the Bruins got eventually turned into Tyler Seguin. He was unbelievable with Boston at first, particularly when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, but now Seguin is gone and people are saying maybe Toronto won the deal because Kessel is playing so well. With draft picks, it takes some time.

Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - BUF
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 9
SOG: 50 | +/-: -5
Obviously Buffalo had to do something and they got a pretty good return for Vanek. I know there's the argument that John Tavares made Matt Moulson and that he may not score as much without Tavares, but I still think he'll score over 20 goals a year. He's not going to turn into a bum. The key, though, for Buffalo is definitely that first-round pick. Vanek was going to leave anyway, and now Buffalo won't have to pay him the huge contract he was going to demand, but if that first pick becomes a stud, Buffalo will be the winner. If it doesn't, people will say Darcy Regier got taken to the cleaners.

As for signing Vanek, I have to think the Islanders have a good chance of getting him under contract. I can't believe they would make this deal if they hadn't done their homework and talked to Vanek or his agent. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't sign with New York because I just can't believe the Isles would take this risk without knowing they had a real good chance of signing him. This is also a move where Garth Snow is putting his neck out, but you also don't make this move without the owner's consent or his backing, because if you do sign Vanek, it's going to be a long-term deal for big money. Vanek is basically going to be an Islander for the rest of his career when you look at the deals comparable players get.

What makes this so noteworthy, though, is that this is a big statement by the Islanders. They've always hoarded draft picks and traded veterans. Now it's a complete turnaround. They're taking a run at things. The easiest thing in the world is always to be rebuilding. The Islanders were rebuilding for a long time until recently. Now they're dropping that tag and taking a run at it.


The Bruins have always had a bad power play, and we've always sort of joked about it because they won. They won the Stanley Cup with the worst power play I ever saw two years ago. Now their penalty killing isn't very good either, and you saw that Saturday night when they gave up four power-play goals to the New Jersey Devils, a team that is by no means a great offensive team. Boston's penalty kill is now at 77.4 percent and it's 24th in the League, so right now it's not a stretch to say that's the Bruins' Achilles' heel.

Five on five, the Bruins might be the best team in the NHL, but they can't be giving up power-play goals the way they have. This is complicated even more because the Bruins play a pretty aggressive style. They've got Jarome Iginla now, who's physical, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk are all physical players and Brad Marchand draws and takes penalties. Boston has got to clean up its penalty kill if it's going to continue playing such an aggressive style.

I also don't think this is a matter of discipline. The Bruins' penalties that set up New Jersey's final two goals Saturday night were not bad penalties. Sometimes when you give up four goals in one game you can laugh at it and say it was just one of those nights, but when your penalty killing is under 80 percent and in the bottom third of the League, that's not good enough for a team that prides itself on being a good defensive team. This is a weakness the Bruins have to address.


Patrick Roy and the Avalanche finished October with a 10-1-0 record just months after finishing the 2012-13 season with the second-worst record in the NHL. (Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche are not the best team in the NHL and they won't finish first overall. They're too young and other teams are too talented and experienced, but after finishing October 10-1, it's obvious this team has brought in a coach that changed the culture and turned this franchise around. The young players on Colorado are all taking off at the right time. Matt Duchene is arguably the best player in the NHL right now. Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Erik Johnson are all playing well. Paul Stastny is too. Night after night, someone else is putting the puck in the night.

Don't forget, when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the first time, they basically did it with a bunch of young guys who had never won before. That's what happens. They all mature at the same time and become a team at the same time. Right now this is happening in Colorado, and the Avalanche have gotten the goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere to go along with it. The defense is playing well and the forwards in Colorado are as good as any team in the NHL.

And they're quick. This team can fly.

The West is a much faster conference than the East, and the Avalanche may be the quickest team in the West. When you see them play, the amount of breakaways and chances they get because of their speed is just phenomenal. They may not be the best team in the League when it's all said and done, but they're pretty good, and they're probably the most entertaining team in the NHL to watch.

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