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The Healthy Scratch and the NHL Trade Deadline

The mystery of the 'healthty scratch'
| 4 min read
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This Is the time of year which angers, infuriates, and yet stokes the curiosity. That’s right. Teams get anxious as the trade deadline approaches. When teams feel they are close enough to making a deal, the protection of players begin. Healthy scratches keep the player from getting injured in order to ensure the desired return. 

Why scratch players? Why not showcase them? With just days before the trade deadline, scouts and general managers likely have seen enough. That does not deter some scouts from trying to gain that extra peak. However, selling teams now will rest their assets for as long as a week. If that does not seem like good business, one would be right. This has a short-term impact.

For example, Thursday night featured a chaotic mess that stamped its footprint on the NHL landscape. Besides the flu, the healthy scratch was on full display. One game above any other featured all this was the clash between 29th place New Jersey and last place Ottawa. Both teams were confirmed sellers for quite awhile before the deadline. Ottawa announced hours before game time that Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel would be given the night off. Expect them to have the night off on Friday as well against Columbus. New Jersey countered with the scratches of Ben Lovejoy and Marcus Johansson. The Devils were already missing Taylor Hall. This turned a game which was devoid of talent into what felt like a match between two minor league teams.

The result mattered little. Although, New Jersey won 4-0 behind a stellar goaltending performance by Cory Schneider, both teams protected their tradeable assets. That is the nature of the business this time of year. Few like how it must be done, and some teams do not practice the policy.

Consequently, there was the New York Rangers. They employ several tradeable assets, and all were playing on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild. When Adam McQuaid was knocked out of the game during the first period, the people who say “I told you so” came out in droves. Fortunately, New York’s coach, David Quinn, reported McQuaid was held out the rest of the game for precautionary reasons. The risk is real. Losing assets to injury this close to the trade deadline has an effect long term.

Contrary to popular belief, a healthy scratch does not imminently mean trade. It could take several days for a trade to happen and some transactions simply fall through. This occurred last year with Damon Severson of the New Jersey Devils. A deal was close, and he was scratched, but the trade was not made. Demands were not met. Rumors run wild and the media circle quickly around the healthy scratch. Once again, the scratch leads to a trade typically. That is a myth. It tends to be the case but not always.

There is still an entire long weekend to go before Monday’s trade deadline. Friday features five games, Saturday has 11 contests, Sunday and Monday both with six each. Saturday features seven matches that start before 7:00 pm ET. Expect more healthy scratches over the weekend as teams get closer and closer to making deals. Some will happen and others will not. This is a process after all. Unfortunately, that is not always understood. The speculation takes on a life of its own.

Watch to see if any of the bigger players are traded. That will change mindsets quickly. Then, scratches will turn faster into transactions. Two key points from healthy scratches are this. One, it can impact a game directly. Two, that type of scratch leads to unbridled speculation. Those are the facts!

By Chris Wassel


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