Raise your hand if you hate this hockey player. /raises hand.
Alright, with that out of the way, I was recently chatting with some MHH members concerning the merits and demerits of the Andrew Brunette/Darcy Tucker affair, and we came to the same conclusion that we usually do on the matter. Bruno would have been better than Tucker, but neither of them was a great choice.
So I had a thought (shocking, I know): if I was GM (tremble in fear, all ye Avs fans!) who would I have signed instead, with only the info we had from that time? Bear with me, this is going to get long, I'm...ah...analytical. Or just the first 4 letters of that last, according to thenurse.
So a quick recap, in case you forgot: the Avs had a great run into and through the first round of the playoffs but were derailed by a couple things in the 2nd round. Of course the first was injuries, but the second was that the team lacked any semblance of speed to keep up with Detroit.
There was also the issue of where to slot Andrew Brunette. When Forsberg returned, Bruno was tried at 3rd line LW with disastrous results, and eventually they had to stick him at 2nd line LW to get any effectiveness out of him and move Ryan Smyth to the 3rd line instead. Smyth kind of worked there, but you have to get more out of your stars than effective 3rd line play in order to be a true contender.
Finally, the team had to plan for the worst: what if Sakic didn't return? That meant Wolski would be the 2nd line center and not a LW either. But you also had to leave enough cap space in case Sakic did return.
Now we move from the facts into speculation. Here's what I think: the team decided they needed to get faster, and find a 2nd/3rd line tweener that would allow Smyth and Wolski to play in the top 6 when Forsberg returned for our playoff run (so they assumed) and regardless of whether Sakic returned. Both of these needs could be addressed with one player: a replacement for Bruno, the slowest guy on the team that would hustle, score some, and slot on the 3rd line if/whenForsberg returned or if Sakic did. But, we only had about 2.5 million to spend as well because of the aforementioned Sakic factor.
So let's look at the left wings available in UFA. I searched on UFA signing lists and nhlnumbers and these were the guys I found. I listed their cap numbers with the reason they weren't as good on paper as Tucker.
Sean Avery, email@example.com (too expensive, even bigger douche than Tucker) Ruslan Fedotenko, firstname.lastname@example.org (in hindsight a decent choice, but worse stats than Tucker and would he have come here over Pitt?) Curtis Glencross, email@example.com (not a 2nd line performer) Niklas Hagman, 4y@3m (perfect choice, but too expensive) Jarko Ruutu firstname.lastname@example.org (not a 2nd line performer) Cory Stillman email@example.com (too expensive) Ryan Malone firstname.lastname@example.org (lol) Anti Miettinen email@example.com (in hindsight a decent choice, but worse stats than Tucker)
There's others, like Pandolfo, Dupuis, Shanahan, etc, but none are as close to the ones I have listed. I welcome...actually, I challenge you to find more viable candidates I missed or left out and we can debate it in the comments. Bring it on!
When I look at that field, I realize why they signed Tucker. He was needs-wise, statistically, and money-wise the best choice available. Now, there's certainly blame to be placed for not foreseeing Tucker's decline and the epic douche factor, but I honestly get it at some level. The reasoning was sound...paper wise.
I can hear you, skeptical blog-readers, right now: "So what doc? That's the insight? They used stats and didn't scout properly?" Well, yeah, kinda...but I there's something else. They couldn't have just looked at stats, could they? Perhaps we're seeing the reason the video coaches were fired. I speculate the video staff and scouts had to review Tucker's play and report on whether he was a viable choice still...and they failed miserably. Just a guess, but...