Gameday 64: Ready to Run?

March 22, 2022. A Tuesday. But not your average Tuesday. This is the Tuesday after Ron Hextall and Brian Burke announced that they’ve tweaked the roster to their liking and are ready to ride or die with this group of flightless waterfowl on their chase for a sixth Stanley Cup Championship.

There were plenty of questions leading up to yesterday’s trade deadline. Would the Pens upgrade the goalie position? The blueline? The forward group? What would the conservative Hextall and firebrand Burke identify as their ‘must haves’ for the stretch run and playoffs?

Just over a year ago, in February 2021, during the height of the unknown pandemic insanity, Ron Hextall was brought in to replace former GM Jim Rutherford, who left under… interesting circumstances. Last trade deadline came and went without Ron leaving much of a mark (did he even do anything? I honestly can’t remember but don’t think so) so this was a whole new thing. And after Gunslinger Jim, who averaged 10 trades per calendar year (holy shit), the cerebral and patient Hextall was a wholly different thing.

An interesting caveat to all of this? Brian Burke. We know his predilections – aside from his apparent inability to tie a neck tie, he’s big into, well, big dudes, I suppose. Big, tough guys who want to rumble, or at least make angry noises at people. Burke, too, didn’t really but his stamp on this team yet. Maybe he had a hand in the Brian Boyle deal, or Danton Heinen (ex and now current teammate of a dude we’ll talk about in a moment), but there hasn’t been a whole helluva lot else just yet.

So what would this year bring? We knew something had to happen. And we also knew it would be tough since the team is pretty much right up against the cap (as per usual) and would have to do some fancy footwork to make anything happen. So let’s see what happened:

Step 1: Re-sign the promising Mark Friedman to a team-friendly contract, thus stabilizing the blueline a bit. Cool. WE like this guy. He’s tiny, but FIERCE.
Step 2: Trade basically nothing for *checks notes* defenseman Nathan Beaulieu… or whatever his name is. Who, for what now? Also he’s on LTIR so nvm…
Step 3:

I think I like it. Right? I like it… I think…

OK, so Anaheim sucks out loud, basically, but DAYUM. I did not know this. AND they kept 35% of his salary? AND we got rid of Simon? AND we only gave up a second round pick??? Wow, please turn your head while I take care of this problem in my pants…

I have to admit, losing ZAR hurts a bit. He was a defensive dynamo. A legit contender for the … whatever that stupid trophy is for best defensive forward. I mean, he never would have won it because nobody knows his name, but when you look at raw stats, ZAR shut the other team dahn. HARD. Harder than Chinese algebra hard.

That said, him + Simon + 105 NHL games this season yielded precisely five (5) goals. Rakell has 6 goals in his last 10 games. Yeah… buh bye.

So there we have it. The front office decided that scoring goals (new #67) was more important than stopping them (ex #12 and whatever the hell Simon was, #49? Who cares?). Which is… precisely why most of US love this team. Score the goals and let the rest sort itself out.

Also, mega kudos to Hexy and Burkey for making a such a solid move. Trading our two not great players who cannot score goals for one very good player who led his team in goal scoring over the last seven (7!!!!) seasons is not a common thing. Super stoked!

Which brings us to CUMBLOWUS.

Honestly, who cares? They aren’t making the playoffs, they’re an also-ran this year, like every other year. And right now, today, this Tuesday, which is almost Wednesday (helllllOOOOOOOOOO Ms. Ricci), they stand in the way of the Penguins and two points in the standings.

The Blue Jackets, much like George Carlin reminded us about some children (definitely including my neighbor’s kid… stupid is just stupid, you know?), just are not going anywhere. They will finish middle of the pack, again. They will get middling draft picks, again. And Jacob Voracek will be left questioning why his talents are being wasted on a garbage team, again. Since he’s a redhead, it literally doesn’t matter, and also it makes me laugh to watch him suck. Their goalie is named Elvis, ffs.

Welcome to Pittsburgh, Mr. Rakell. WE hope it’s a productive stay, starting with tonight, somewhere in the middle of Ohio. Yes, we’re sorry about that, but we promise it doesn’t happen more than a few times a year, so don’t get TOO upset, if you please.