The playoffs are over, a new champion has been crowned, the champagne is flowing, and it’s time to focus on the question on every fan’s mind as we watch the winners celebrate: Which dummy went and handed it to them?
No? Just me? It’s possible. But every time there’s a new champ, part of me wants to scan their roster and figure out which key players they stole from some other team. I don’t care about the guys they drafted and developed, or even the savvy free-agent signings. I want the guys that they got in a trade, especially if they ripped off the other team to make it happen.
Today, I’m creating an award for that dumb team, in recognition of their impact on the championship: The Conned Smythe.
Here’s how it will work. We’re going to go through every Cup winner of the cap era, check their roster for any key players that they stole in a trade with a dumber team, and award the Conned Smythe to that helpful donor. For repeat champs, the same player can’t win twice, so it will get tricky on a few teams but we’re up to it. The key factors in determining each year’s winner will be the importance of the player and the lopsidedness of the trade. The deal can be from that season or years before, but we’re not counting trades for draft picks that became players. And I hope it goes without saying that we can use the full powers of hindsight to point and laugh at deals that didn’t work out. Sorry NHL GMs, it turns out I’m way smarter than you as long as I’m sitting on my couch and it’s 15 years later.
Nobody ever wins a championship alone, but some teams have more help than others. Let’s hand out some fake spite-based hardware.
The year: 2006
The champs: Carolina Hurricanes
The candidates: We start off with a tough call right out of the gate, because the Hurricanes featured several important players who came over in trades, including midseason pickups Mark Recchi and Doug Weight. But I think our two best options are captain Rod Brind’Amour, who arrived in a 2000 trade for holdout Keith Primeau, and clutch specialist Justin Williams, who arrived in 2004 and only cost them half a season of Danny Markov.
Rod Brind’Amour hoists the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)
Brind’Amour was arguably the team’s most important star, but Primeau was at least a decent player while the Williams deal was a much bigger heist. This one is a really tough call. Except it’s not, because William and Brind’Amour were both provided by the same team. Thanks for the championship, Bobby Clarke!
And the Conned Smythe winner is … Philadelphia Flyers
The year: 2007
The champs: Anaheim Ducks
The candidates: The Ducks used free agency to land two of their biggest names, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer. They did get Francois Beauchemin in a smart deal with the Blue Jackets, and they stole Sammy Pahlsson from the Bruins way back in 2000. And you could absolutely make a case for another 2000 deal, the one that saw them land starter J.S. Giguere from Calgary for just a second-round pick.
But in the end, I don’t think this one is all that tough a call. It has to be Chris Pronger, right? Sure, they paid a decent price to get him out of Edmonton, including a pick that turned into Jordan Eberle, and we can’t really blame the Oilers because their hands were tied. But Pronger was an absolute force in the 2007 playoffs, and there’s no chance the Ducks win it all without him. They make this trade again 100 times out of 100.
And the Conned Smythe winner is … Edmonton Oilers