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KERBER: Both Blues & Avalanche Benefit With A Loss Tonight

Chris Kerber
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UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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It has been 23 games since the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche completed a trade that opened the eyes of the rest of the NHL. On Feb 19th, the Blues dealt their first over all pick from 2006, Erik Johnson, and Jay McClement to Colorado for a young power forward in Chris Stewart and rookie defenseman in Kevin Shattenkirk. As both teams enter the final week of their seasons with a head to head match-up, it’s a great opportunity to look at the immediate impact of that trade 23 games later and then add a twist.

Since the trade, the Blues have gone 10-12-1 and Colorado has a record of 4-14-1. Neither result stellar. Stewart has scored 14 goals with the Blues, which is one more in the 23 games with St. Louis than he had in his previous 36 with Colorado. Shattenkirk’s points pace is on the same pace he set with Colorado. Johnson’s goal total (3) is two shy of the 5 he had with St. Louis and McClement’s numbers are down just a negligible bit.

On the surface the Blues win the early returns of the trade. Not only did the Blues receive a power forward they had no where in the organization, the received a rookie defenseman whose point total is first in the league among rookie D-men, and his 32 assists is best among all rookie skaters. The Blues will receive the more immediate impact from this trade and see the results much sooner than Colorado. The success of this trade for the Avalanche rests on the continued development of Erik Johnson, and whether or not he reaches the potential expected of him as a first overall pick. At times he has shown all the tools that made him the first overall pick but has yet to show them consistently together game in game out.

Tonight’s game though could have a profound impact on another aspect of how the trade is viewed. It comes in the conditional draft picks swapped in the deal. If the Blues end up with a top 10 draft pick his season, the Blues keep their first round pick and Colorado gets the Blues first round pick next season. If the Blues end up outside the top 10, Colorado get the first round pick this season instead of next. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Blues were 9th in picking order, but 2 points behind Toronto who would be picking 11th. (Minnesota is 10th, tied in points with the Blues) If the Blues win enough in their last 3 games to pick 11th, Colorado would get that pick and then have two picks in the top 11 in this season’s draft. That makes the trade more impactful for the Avalanche than if Colorado were to get next year’s draft pick from the Blues, assuming the Blues have a better season and were to be picking in the 20’s. If you’re Colorado, you want the Blues pick this season. If you’re the Blues you’d like to keep the pick this season.

That’s the twist for tonight. If the Blues win tonight, and Toronto loses to Washington, the Blues and Leafs would have the same point total and a better chance of the Blues finishing 11th. If the Avalanche beat the Blues tonight and Toronto wins, the Avalanche stand a much better chance of losing the Blues pick this season. Quite a lot at stake for the 2 points tonight between two teams not playoff bound.

Now I have always believed you can’t let those things matter. You go out, play the game to win, and at the end of the season what plays out plays out. There is absolutely no doubt that is how the coaches and players will handle it. Most of the times they are oblivious to the nuances of how tonight’s game could impact the draft. But I do believe that in the front offices of both teams, neither team would lose much sleep if their team fell short tonight. It’s a rare situation with both teams benefiting by a loss.

In the end, will it matter? Maybe not, depending on how Toronto and Minnesota finish their seasons. At the same time it could be a major factor. But again with early returns favoring the Blues, the trade will look better to Colorado if they had the Blues first round pick this season.

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