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January-13-2004,
Taking a Stroll Down Drury Lane...By Bookiekiller`s Rink Rat

An aspect of sport guaranteed to give the heart a flutter is a trade. Particularly a nice, big one. The team considered to have .won. the trade fires up the season ticket holders while those of the team nominated the stiff in the deal vent hundreds of foot-pounds of steam.

TV types nearly blow a gasket trying to land the definitive, can.t be topped, observation. Bob McKenzie always ends up shouting his head off, talking with the speed of a Gatling gun, and likely spitting on James Duthie.

Newspaper writers gush over the new arrival, play-by-play guys fall in love with him, inflating his performances, and somtimes dark tales of our man.s experience with his old team emerge.

And so on and so forth.

Trades wind everyone up because the end result is often wretched. Calgary made a ridiculous trade, involving Doug Gilmour heading to the Leafs, which ripped the team apart. Wayne Gretzky was useless in St Louis, Anson Carter is a bust with the Rangers, and Montreal bought out Donald Audette.s contract last week. On the other hand, Rob Blake is phenomenal with the Avalanche and Los Angeles would savour Adam Deadmarsh except he.s badly injured. Markus Naslund was a steal for Vancouver (from Pittsburgh) but the player heading east was a mutt. Is there a team left which would trade for Chris Gratton?

Detroit is a team which profits nearly every season bringing in new players . the odd one by trade, others by free agency. Toronto.s trading record over the years hasn.t been bad.

But for every good one there is a bad one, which makes these moves so delicious. There are plenty of pitfalls when greedy little hands reach for the phone and say: .We.ve got a deal..

The mistake interesting the Rat today has to do with over-rating the incoming player. Years ago, Winnipeg Jets general manager John Ferguson traded hot young defenceman Dave Babych to Hartford for nothing more than a plugged nickel. Ferguson had fallen in love with the Hartford player and was mad at Babych. One lousy trade coming up.

Serge Savard had nothing left when he showed up in Winnipeg, Larry Robinson was a pylon in Los Angeles, and Phil Esposito in decline when he left the Bruins for the New York Rangers.

Any trade involving Igor Ulanov can be considered bad.

Which brings us to Chris Drury. He.s in Buffalo these days and not flourishing, evidently. In the first three games of this season Drury had 20 minutes, 17 3/4 minutes, and 20 minutes ice-time plus one assist. Also, his power play time amounted to nearly 12 minutes. The past three games have seen him twice have less than 17 minutes of ice, seven minutes on Buffalo.s power play, and little penalty killing work plus another assist. Something must be wrong.

Drury was a hot-shot leaving college hockey . Hobey Baker winner (1998) then voted to the NHL.s all-rookie team and copping the Calder Trophy in 98-99 with Colorado Avalanche. He doubled his points total his second year, then maintained that pace in season three. Around that time he was something of a Canuck-killer as he made a habit of hitting crucial goals when playing Vancouver. Moreover he was a reliable player and was useful killing penalties. After 394 games with the Avalanche he had 275 points.

Calgary Flames, desperate for scoring, then made a mistake. They traded defensive rising star Derek Morris to Colorado for more goals . in the person of Chris Drury.

Drury had no experience being the big dog on an NHL team. Sixty-seven points with a high-octane outfit like Colorado isn.t outstanding. Flames fans and media weren.t expecting a player who seldom talked. Rumours circulated he was unhappy, which he denied. He was poor on the Flames power play. He was thought to not like living in Canada. Worse, he didn.t score much and Calgary pooched 186 goals for the season, fourth worst in the league.

Buffalo then compounded Calgary.s error: seeing his effort with the Flames as an aberration, they sent Calgary Steve Reinprecht, another centre, and defenceman Rhett Warrener.

Drury.s supposed power outage is apparent rather than actual. If Calgary and Buffalo general mangers had traded for him as a tight-checking, hard working forward who can score a little, he would have been fine. Unfortunately he was sold on an imagined scoring ability.

Both clubs over-estimated their catch and decided to follow John Ferguson.s example.

BookieKiller.com`s RinkRat



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