The Colorado Avalanche made a strange trade a week ago, sending forward Steve Downie back to Philadelphia in exchange for Max Talbot. The timing seemed curious for a number of reasons.
Chief amongst them: the club had won 10 of their first 11 games. This seemed like a lateral move at best, the sort of thing teams do to shake up a stagnant roster, not something you do when you're the hottest team in the NHL. What was that about?
According to the CBC's Elliotte Friedman, it wasn't entirely a hockey trade: Downie punched his ticket out of town as far back as training camp. On Tuesday, Friedman appeared on Sportsnet 960, where he told the whole story, and Eye on Hockey was kind enough to transcribe it:
"Basically what it goes back to was during training camp Downie got mad at Landeskog for a trip during a scrimmage and he drilled him. I was just told from that day, considering Downie was a bit unrepentant about it, I just heard the Avalanche decided they were going to make the change at that time. You can't have guys doing that.
The timing is still very odd, it's an interesting time for the deal, but I was told basically the Avalanche had decided that when that happened and Downie was basically unapologetic about it, the time was going to come where he was going to get dealt."
Let this be a lesson to you kids out there: you can't hit your captain. Especially when he's a week away from starting a seven-year deal with an annual average salary of five and a half million dollars.
Admittedly, this still seems a little far-fetched. If the Avalanche had been shopping Downie since the beginning of the season, one wonders how they could have that much time and settle on Max Talbot. Furthermore, any chemistry issues that Downie and Landeskog were having didn't seem to be affecting the club at all. Again: 10 wins. 11 games.
But you definitely can't have a guy on your team that's trying to hurt other guys on your team, especially not your captain. Downie may have six years on Landeskog, but Landeskog's got a letter, and that trumps all.
Meanwhile, Avalanche coach/overlord Patrick Roy insisted Tuesday that Downie did nothing to force the trade, and really, it was Holmgren's insistence that got it done. From the Denver Post:
Roy said Downie was a solid teammate and absolutely didn’t do anything to get him shipped out of town, and about the second question, the Avs rookie coach said: “Talbot is sandpaper, as much as Downie was, in my opinion. Is he going to drop the gloves as good as Downie? No. But, I mean … just watch him play the last two games. He played with a lot of grit and we’re certainly happy with that.”
Roy also said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren called him “five or six times” and every time asked about Downie, and as he previously said, Roy was looking to add a primary penalty killer up front, and Talbot definitely has that over Downie.
Not sure I buy this either. Penalty-killers really aren't all that tough to find. If that's your only area of upgrade, I'm not sure you won the trade.
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