x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Jokinen has talent to fire up Flames

Considering the Calgary Flames landed the lone marque player to change teams at the NHL trade deadline, it is easy to say they were the team which did the best last Wednesday.

Considering the Calgary Flames landed the lone marque player to change teams at the NHL trade deadline, it is easy to say they were the team which did the best last Wednesday. The Flames made the most noise among the league's six division leaders, with the Boston Bruins the only other top-flight contender to make any moves of consequence. New Jersey did their usual backline tweak and San Jose added some sand in case things get gritty, but Detroit did not address their crease concerns (and neither did Washington). While 22 trades were consummated, the league's annual last-day sale was mostly a quiet affair, an exchange of depth players and prospects with only a handful of deals likely to impact the regular season homestretch and NHL play-offs.

Jay Bouwmeester, Marian Gaborik, Chris Pronger and all of those other stars rumoured to be on the move? Nope. Not in this economy. So it was up to Calgary and their slow-playing GM Darryl Sutter to pull off two deft deals. In acquiring big, talented Finnish centre Olli Jokinen from Phoenix - as well as offensive rearguard and former Flame Jordan Leopold from Colorado - Calgary bolstered two areas of strength, their forwards and defence corps, in front of all-star goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

Jokinen impressed with two goals on his debut for the Flames and Sutter is sure the 30-year-old will be a hit in the spring when Stanley Cup love is in the air. Boston did their best to mimic the Flames, bringing in 41-year-old Mark Recchi for scoring savvy and capable defender Steve Montador. The Bruins, the NHL's surprise team through the first 50 games of the season before swooning in mid-February, hope they - and goaltender Tim Thomas - can recapture their earlier form in time for the play-offs. With this in mind, both Recchi and Montador are solid additions - veteran players who will have a stabilising influence and can step into various roles.

The San Jose Sharks pulled off a single depth deal, obtaining gruff winger Travis Moen and the equally unpleasant defenceman Kent Huskins from California arch-rival Anaheim. (Yes, it is true: The Ducks, the big seller on deadline day, were so determined to make trades they even helped out their bitter state rival.) Both these players were instrumental - in a blue-collar, down-in-the-trenches way - in Anaheim's 2007 Stanley Cup. So San Jose, for so long the talented team that couldn't, now become a team of mean old men, of Moen and Huskins and grumpy 43-year-old Claude Lemieux and never-won-a-cup-39-year-old Jeremy Roenick. Motivation should no longer be an issue, if it ever was.

If the Sharks do not do it, it might be the most unusual of usual suspects, the New Jersey Devils. They have just got all-world Martin Brodeur back from a four-month injury lay-off, Zach Parise is vying for the NHL's non-Alex Ovechkin goal-scoring lead and, their anonymous blueline has just added a nice fit in low-profile, highly-mobile Niclas Havelid. Finally, the team that won it all last year, Detroit, did not do a thing at the deadline despite a goaltending tandem that does not inspire confidence. Ty Conklin has outplayed Chris Osgood - who was brilliant for the Red Wings en route to the cup last season - but it is hard to see perennial powerhouse Detroit pinning all their hopes on perennial backup Conklin. The Wings hope Osgood can rebound between now and mid-April, but he followed up his first shut-out of the year with an 8-2 loss to Columbus at the weekend. Anyone have Dominik Hasek's phone number?