When the CBC's Elliotte Friedman talks, the hockey world listens. So when he offered up an insider perspective on what happened behind the scenes of the Steve Downie for Max Talbot deal on the radio, it would behoove Avs fans to take note.
Yeah, I asked around and, well, obviously people thought that it was a weird trade. You rarely see a first rounder get traded for a guy who, well, useful players—now pretty much a fourth liner. And basically what it goes back to was—and you can find this story if you choose to Google it—during training camp Downie got angry at Landeskog for a trip during a scrimmage and he drilled him. And I was just told that from that day, you know, considering that Downie was a bit unrepentant about it, and—I just heard that the Avalanche decided that they were going to make the change at that time. That, you know, you can’t have guys doing that. I mean the timing…still a bit…is very odd, it's... it’s an interesting time for the deal. But I was told that basically the Avalanche had decided that when that happened and Downie was kind of unapologetic about it that the time was gonna come where he was gonna get dealt. And I believe Philly was specifically targeted because they believed that Philly would probably have interest, knowing the guy.
And the other thing, too, is one of Patrick Roy’s best friends and coaching buddies is a guy by the name of Benoit Groulx, who coaches in the Quebec league. Benoit Groulx and Max Talbot went to the Memorial Cup finals together. And I think Roy had, you know, some advice that he was the kind of guy you wanted, and Colorado specifically targeted that deal.
Friedman was then asked about Downie's now having been traded four times at such a young age.
Well, you know, Downie's an edgy guy, just in general. The one thing someone pointed out to me this weekend, Glenn Healy were kind of talking about it this weekend between the two of us. He went through a pretty traumatic experience early in his life. His father and him were in a car accident and his father, who Downie was very close with, was killed, and you know, he saw it. I think that there are people in the game who have tremendous empathy because of what he went through and what that can do to a person.
It doesn't always excuse what he does. He needs to keep himself under control on the ice and he's a guy who's been suspended for 20 games before, but I think there are people who see that this is a guy who's overcome a lot, some very long odds to get where he is. I don't know if they always accept what he does but they have an understanding that he's been through a lot and maybe deserves a bit more rope than some other guys would get.
Stick taps to SeeSeven in November 5's Daily Cupcakes and Travis Hughes at Broad Street for the bulk of this transcription.
There's a couple of takeaways from this. First: If you thought training camp didn't matter for veteran players, well, lol at you. Here's Adrian Dater's original story on the scuffle, complete with video of Landeskog kind of blowing it off.
While there have been no fights so far, there was some bad blood today between Gabe Landeskog and Steve Downie at least. I didn’t see the whole thing, but Landy took major exception to a hit Downie gave him during scrimmages today and tried to go after him along the bench. But Downie, whose helmet flew off on his hit, was bending down to pick it up and couldn’t engage much.
So later, Landy got Downie in the corner and flat-out pitch-forked his feet from under him with his stick, sending Downie down on the ice. When Downie got up, he skated gingerly back to the bench, looking to have a leg that was not feeling too hot. He sat out a couple of shifts, but when he returned for a faceoff, with Landy lined up outside on the circle, he skated like the wind to get next to Landy just in time for the drop of the puck and there was a little more pushing and shoving from there. But after that, nothing much happened between the two, and Landy shrugged it all off afterward as just part and parcel of what training camp is all about...
The second takeaway starts with this: Did the Avalanche really trade a player over that? It's training camp. Guys are literally fighting for jobs, trying to impress their new regime to earn roster spots, or ice time, or to prove they deserve the C after an underwhelming year, or to cement their place opposite Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. And Downie is a guy who plays with an edge and apparently is just an overall intense guy ("Well you know, Downie's an edgy guy, just in general"). Funny, going through an extreme trauma like Downie did can have that effect on a person... but I digress.
The Avs traded Steve Downie a couple of days ago. Was it a shock or was it expected?
It wasn’t expected at all. I was really surprised. Steve’s a great guy, fits in well. I think that he was traded because you can’t really predict what he does on the ice. He’s a fan of the occasional not clean play. He brought a lot of energy, but he took too many penalties. We had a meeting in the morning, trained afterwards. I was told that he was traded after I came off the ice. I said that the team’s been playing well and working, it just doesn’t happen this way, but it still happened.
What are your first impressions of Max Talbot?
He’s a nice guy. His first game was a little difficult. We play a system that probably nobody else in the entire league plays. I liked the way he played in his own zone, he’s really great on the PK. Plays a similar game to Downie’s. I think it’s going to work.
Hejda has a pretty candid relationship with David Puchovsky over at Eurolanche, as non-native speakers tend to do with writers in their home tongue. I wouldn't expect him to go out and trash the guy, for sure, but if Hejda tells Eurolanche he was "really surprised" by this deal, at the very least the players had no idea it was coming.
And finally, as if on cue, Mike Chambers posted a quick story about the Avs' practice, including quotes from Roy on the trade, at All Things Avs:
I covered practice Monday and asked Patrick Roy about last week’s trade that sent Steve Downie to Philadelphia for Max Talbot. I was doing college hockey last weekend and didn’t have access to the Avs, but my questions Monday were: A) Did Downie do something to force the trade? B) Downie has a rare blend of natural skill and sandpaper, will you miss that?
Roy said Downie was a solid teammate and absolutely didn’t do anything to get him shipped out of town, and about the second question, the Avs rookie coach said: "Talbot is sandpaper, as much as Downie was, in my opinion. Is he going to drop the gloves as good as Downie? No. But, I mean … just watch him play the last two games. He played with a lot of grit and we’re certainly happy with that."
Roy also said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren called him "five or six times" and every time asked about Downie, and as he previously said, Roy was looking to add a primary penalty killer up front, and Talbot definitely has that over Downie.
If you take all of this together it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
- Downie was traded due to running a teammate, the captain no less, and being unrepentant about it, but was a good teammate who wasn't traded for a particular thing.
- The incident happened over a month ago but even after all that time it was a surprise in the room.
- The Avalanche were targeting Max Talbot. Paul Holmgren had called several times about Steve Downie. Somehow two and two never came together until just now.
But at the end of the day, here is where the logic seems to be.
If you pay attention, Friedman's source tells him that Downie's hit was a response to Landeskog's trip. Dater's story from that day tells the story being the other way around, with Downie hammering Landeskog, the captain replying with a can opener, and Downie shoving him a bit later. Roy and the Avs took note right then, which they would have already known about Steve Downie from watching game tape, that this was a guy who looks to make big hits and might need to be watched. That he was unapologetic may have set off some alarms but it seems unlikely to be the Trade This Guy NOW Flag. But Downie does little to get himself out of trouble. He becomes the entire focus of a solid team win over the Nashville Predators railroading Roman Josi. He continues to take minor penalties throughout the year, which is more obviously a problem when penalty killers Jamie McGinn and Cody McLeod are out of the lineup. He puts up a grand total of 7 points on a line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly (the latter of whom has 8 right now to Duchene's 14, but again, digression).
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Mr. Yolomgren is looking for anything to give his slumping Flyers a boost, and when he comes calling for old friend Steve Downie, the Avalanche are definitely listening, and by the way we've heard nice things about this Talbot guy, is he available? Oh who are we kidding, you're Philadelphia! Everyone is Always available. Holmgren decides this is a price he can pay (because OBVIOUSLY) and pulls the trigger, and here we are.
I don't buy that Steve Downie was traded entirely because of one hit in training camp nearly two months prior. It makes a ton more sense that it was an eye-opener for the team, a reminder that this guy still hasn't quite figured out where the line to play on is, and that moving forward, he may not be the best asset for the team, regardless how much grit and fire he plays with. That's a characterization he did little to dispel, from Roy telling (forgive this article's bias) a Nashville reporter he isn't always convinced Downie is in control of himself to getting into a fight with a guy when he's already had to have stitches and ruining his nice white unipron with the bloody results, and ultimately got him moved again.
After all, the Avs are coached by a guy who's willing to knock over plexiglass dividers to make a point. Fire is hardly in short supply.