Sunday, April 4, 2010

Trade revisited: Wideman for Boyes


Every now and then in sports, we see a trade where everyone involved wins. The most recent example was when Minnesota shipped Benoit Pouliot to Montreal in return for Guillaume Latendresse. Both players struggled to earn ice time this season in their former locales and have now pretty much cemented key roles with their new clubs.

And sometimes we get a trade where everyone wins, then they all lose. I'm referring to a February 2007 trade in which Boston sent winger Brad Boyes to St. Louis in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman.

The career paths of these two players has been remarkably similar. Both made a splash as rookies - Boyes scored 26 goals and an impressive 43 assists in 82 games in 2005-06, including seeing plenty of power play time (22 power play points, eight coming from goals.) Wideman put up comparable numbers for a defenseman, registering eight goals and 24 points, including five power play goals and eight power play helpers, in 67 games in the same season.

Boyes suffered a sophomore slump the following year but Wideman was on pace to improve.

Then the trade happened.

After notching 22 points (five goals) in 55 games for the Blues, Wideman tallied just three points (one goal) in 20 games with the Bruins in 2006-07. The new location didn't exactly help Boyes (four goals, 12 points in 19 games with St. Louis after just 13 and 34 in 62 games with Boston) until the next season.

Boyes' breakout came in his first full season as a Blue when he scored a career-high 43 goals. He chipped in 22 assists. Wideman had a similar spike (up to 13 goals and 36 points) but his best was yet to come.

Last season was a mix of bad and good for Boyes. His power play production increased (16 goals, 19 assists) but overall his goals total declined, to 33. His assists went up (to 39 for a career-best 72 points) but fantasy owners were dismayed at his minus-20 rating.

Conversely, 2008-09 was Wideman's "Look at me, I'm big-time" season. He scored 13 goals again but also posted 37 helpers for a career-best 50 points and a plus-32 rating for the conference-leading Bruins.

Now, both players want to jump in the Hot Tub Time Machine and go back, Boyes probably to 2007-08 (though 08-09 wouldn't be the worst decision) and Wideman to a season ago.

Because 2009-10 has basically been an unmitigated disaster for Boyes and a train wreck for Wideman. The Boston blueliner has just four goals, his lowest since, well, ever, and has been a lightning rod for criticism from fans. He's had a couple injuries and has dropped to a minus-15. Little has gone right for him; it doesn't help that Boston just isn't filled with much talent up front, but Wideman's drop-off is one reason why the Bruins have the fewest goals in the league.

Among the defensemen who have more than Wideman's 26 points are defensive stalwart Marc Staal, John-Michael "Healthy Scratch" Liles, James "I didn't mean to take his head off" Wisniewski and Ian freaking White.

Boyes might as well change his name to Brad Griffin, because he's been an Invisible Man all season. That or Brad Cheechoo. Boyes' goal total has plummeted to 13 this season, a number made worse by the fact that he's played in every St. Louis game. It's not like he's missed two months of action.

A brief who's-who of players with more goals than Boyes: Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, Blake Comeau, Glen Metropolit (who almost has more power play goals than Boyes has total goals), a pair of unheralded rookies - Evander Kane (who will be good but wasn't expected to make a big impact this season) and Niclas Bergfors - and finally, Steve Downie.

For a while, Boyes turned playmaker. In 15 December games, he had three goals and 10 assists. His point total through three months wasn't bad (28 in 40 games) but he wasn't scoring a lot. Now, he's not doing either. He has two points (one and one) in his last 13 games after starting the post-Olympic break schedule with goals in two straight.

With the Blues hanging just outside the playoff picture, one has to wonder where they'd be if Boyes had even 25 goals on the season, which is still a decrease of eight from a year ago.

Another question to ask is, if these teams could go back and cancel the trade, would either one do it? Wideman is a valuable commodity, a right-handed offensive defenseman with a strong shot from the point. But Boyes isn't exactly chopped liver either, with three seasons of 26 goals or more in his first four years.

Though I guess Boston has the best, I mean worst, of both worlds already because of Michael Ryder's overpaid, under-performing self.

It's not all bad to be Boyes or Wideman though. Wideman is in the middle of a four-year contract that pays him over $15 million and Boyes, the proud owner of $7 million through two years, has another $8.5 million coming the next couple of seasons.

Good work if you can get it, though I'm thinking their teams might wish they were getting it elsewhere.

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