Monday, September 1, 2008

On the way out, Sens politely hold open the playoff door for TB

As offseason mini-dramas go, the Andrej Meszaros saga made about as many waves as Jeremy Roenick's acting career or Mike Comrie's engagement. Not exactly the stuff we're going to be watching closely by the time the All-Star Game rolls around. Nevertheless, it's a good bellwether for two Eastern Conference teams on opposite paths: one quickly dismantling itself into playoff irrelevance, the other trying to throw together enough spare parts to crack the top 8.

Since the lack of competing hockey headlines has caused this subject to be over-analyzed already, my contribution is strictly Bruin-centric.


The good: The Senators' company line is that the team is still competing for a playoff berth, the division championship, and the Cup. The reality is that they may have just traded themselves out of the playoffs by making a borderline Lightning team slightly better. Considering the 6-10 seeds were separated by only 5 points last season, the Bruins' chances of passing the Sens get slightly better. And even though Ottawa gets rid of any further lockerroom distraction, it takes another step away from the team model that should have made them a Cup contender for the next decade.

The bad: No question that Ottawa got the better value out of this trade. Kuba has made a career out of being the averagest defenseman in the league, but Picard has a strong future and a 1st-round pick in the range of 10th-20th overall may turn out to be the plum of the deal (in 2005, players selected in that range included Anze Kopitar , Marc Staal, and Tuukka Rask). In the long run, the Sens will be better with Picard and a strong prospect than they were with Meszaros alone. In the short run, Kuba is a serviceable addition to a weak blueline corps.

Tampa Bay

The good: Tampa is far less of a contender than Ottawa, so temporarily shifting the balance of power in their direction is a good thing for the Bruins... at least better than allowing the Sens to get back on their feet quickly. Far better for us to have a potential All-Star defenseman leave for the Southeast Division, than sign on with a division rival.

The bad: Meszaros gives the Lightning a solid #2 or #3 defenseman (depending on how Paul Ranger's season goes). Tampa's biggest weakness is its shallow defensive corps, so this is a step in the right direciton for a squad that wants to play meaningful games in April. Chances are, that means they'll be going head-to-head with the Bruins for one of the road-ice playoff berths. While we might not worry about them overtaking us in the division, the Lightning might prove to be a real problem as a conference opponent.

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