It's all moot, though. Whether he was our best prospect or just one of our better prospects, the point is that the return for Calle Jarnkrok and a second-round pick was a few games from David Legwand (unless he re-signs. Though, even then....) The only way that doesn't hurt right now is if we rationalize it. "He was gonna go back to Sweden anyway." "He's not that good anyway." "We have too many centers anyway." "We need to get bigger anyway."
I'm not just making stuff up or talking out of my butt. For the past couple of years, when people would talk up our pipeline, Jarnkrok would usually be regarded as The One. He has a lot in common with Zetterberg. He doesn't have Mantha's size or mutant scoring prowess, he's not a goalie, he doesn't have Jurco's size or shifty hands, but what he does have is elite sense, very good all-around ability, that Zetterberg-esque knack for holding the puck and making plays out of nothing, and tremendous upside. I've seen him play. He's extremely impressive. (I have no real reason to be defending him. It's not like I'm especially biased about this. If I didn't think he was all that, I'd have no problem saying so.)
Saying he wasn't even close to being our best prospect is revisionist history after the fact. Same thing with "He had no future here, he was never gonna crack the lineup." What if Nyquist or Tatar had been moved? People would be saying the same thing. Hell, some people were saying that neither had a future here because too small not enough room blah blah blah.
Datsyuk won't be around much longer. Zetterberg is a warrior, but he's on the wrong side of 30. No one knows if Weiss will pan out. Legwand probably won't re-sign. Sheahan probably ends up a solid third-liner. Helm is a third-liner. Andersson is a fourth-liner. Glendening is a fourth-liner. Jarnkrok projects as a top-end two-way centerman, possibly one you can build a team - or at least a top-six unit - around. Guys like that are very hard to come by. I'm not talking mystical voodoo or rocket science here, guys. I'm saying we lost a guy who, a few months ago, was the face of the next generation. He struggled in the first half of this season, but he was adjusting to the NA game. He seems to have figured it out, and now I expect him to get better and better and better.
You answered your own question. He wasn't a key piece of our future and had no future here
He was our best prospect. He had a very bright future here, until he didn't, because he was traded. He was essentially our only high-end center prospect, and he's right-handed. If a center logjam was an issue, he could've been moved to the wing, which Babcock likes doing with young, inexperienced centers anyway.
My question was, How many times did Holland say he wouldn't sacrifice futures for the short-term? (More to the point, maybe, How many times has Holland talked up the importance of drafting and building from within and developing what you have in the pipeline? You know what I'm saying.) By trading Jarnkrok for Legwand, he moved our crown jewel for...David Legwand. And very possibly only a few games from him.
Like I've said elsewhere, I'm not looking to s*** on Holland for any and every little reason. But, so far, this deal was not worth it. If, however, Legwand re-ups with us and goes on to be a key piece for a few seasons and we push deep into the playoffs, I'll feel a lot better about it.
Jarnkrok is a very, very good player. I've been high on him for some time now.
Ultimately, it comes down to puck possession. Great defense is what gets you there. Great defense is more than just d-zone coverage. It's the transition game, the first passes. Great offense comes from great defense. Great defense doesn't come from great offense.
The Kings are so good defensively because they don't spend any time in their zone. Their defensemen know how to manage the puck once they regain possession. If they have the puck and they're not forechecking or cycling in the o-zone, they're pushing the play up the ice, away from Quick (who, yes, does benefit greatly from all this). That means they're not embarking on African safaris deep within their zone every 40 seconds like we are. They're spending a lot of time on the attack, because they're spending little time in their zone. They're spending little time in their zone because they "defend" well. They move the puck out of their zone and through neutral ice well.
Arguably the best top three we've ever had is Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall. Three offense-minded, puck-moving, possession-savvy veteran defensemen. Lidstrom and Rafalski especially - they knew how to take care of business in their own end and put us on the attack with brilliant breakouts, a quick-strike transition. And that's saying nothing of their work in the o-zone. They were spectacular quarterberbacks, and they could bomb it from the points.
We miss the old Mule. We miss Z and D in their prime. But, more than anyone else, we miss Lidstrom and Rafalski, and the luxury of being able to play Kronwall on the second pairing. (I'd also take Stuart over Quincey.) I mean, think about it. Our forward corps isn't bad, even with the injuries we've had. It's actually quite good. It should've been scoring at a much better clip. What went wrong? Was it beause we just needed one more top-sixer? Was it because we didn't have Thomas Vanek? Would Vanek have been the difference? Doubtful.
What we need is a veteran top-four defensemen who, above all else, does good things with the puck.
I get the impression Alfie will never win a cup. This playoffs it looked like he wanted his team to get the cup for him more than he wanted to get it for himself. He wasn't very good, and I was extremely excited when he came at the beginning of the year.
Lower back pain can do that to you. I know from 15+ years of experience.
About Mantha - I'm not saying I think he's fully ready. Certainly I wouldn't expect him to be a key player right away. I'm just looking at our window with Z and D and K, and...it's closing. The future's pretty much here anyway. Might as well open the door. (Within reason, of course.)