DENVER - When the Flyers acquired former first-round pick Steve Downie back from the Avalanche for Max Talbot on Halloween, many around the hockey community threw up their hands in question.
Colorado was 10-1-0 at the time.
Why did the Avalanche believe that was the time to trade a player skating on its first line for a player best suited for the penalty kill?
Soon after, multiple reports surfaced saying that Avalanche brass made the decision to move Downie after a questionable incident in training camp.
During a scrimmage camp, Downie reportedly crosschecked Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog in the back of the head. Downie and Landeskog, 21, got into a shoving match after the incident and traded verbal blows but punches were never thrown.
"Downie got mad at Landeskog for a trip during a scrimmage and drilled him," Hockey Night in Canada's Elliott Friedman reported in November. "I was told basically the Avalanche had decided that when that happened and Downie was basically unapologetic about it, the time was going to come where he was going to get dealt."
Downie, now 26, had a similar on-ice altercation with a teammate, Akim Aliu, in training camp in junior hockey in 2005-06. He was suspended five games for that incident, in which he knocked out three of Aliu's teeth with a crosscheck to the face and the two also fought.
Finally with a chance to respond to the reports, Downie said yesterday he does not believe his spat with Landeskog was the reason for his trade.
"I think it was [overblown]," Downie said. "I don't make the trades. I really can't comment on it. Writers are going to write what they want. I never saw anyone quoted or anything.
"You'd have to ask [the Avalanche]. I'd say me and 'Landy' had a great relationship."
To this point, the trade has been one of the best of Paul Holmgren's tenure as general manager. The Flyers entered last night's quick and dirty referendum 17-8-4 since the trade; the Avalanche have gone 14-10-4 since Halloween.
"They got rid of the bad apple," Talbot joked yesterday.
Talbot, 29, was caught completely off-guard with the trade.
"It's part of the business of hockey, but you never expect it. When it happens to you, it's a lot of stress in a short period of time," Talbot said. "I just left practice, after a normal practice day, I was going home to have lunch and I got the call from 'Homer.' You get the call from Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy and they tell you to meet the team in Dallas 3 hours later."
For Talbot, the hardest part about his cross-country swap was leaving behind his girlfriend, Canadian figure skater Cynthia Phaneuf, who is expecting the couple's first child Feb. 5.
Luckily, they found a buyer for their Center City home on its first day on the market. Cynthia was on her way to Colorado within 2 weeks.
"I think it was more stressful for the family and for her," Talbot said. "The next day, you go to a new team and you don't think about too much. You just go and play. You have to turn around and adjust real fast."
For the Flyers, the biggest concern was losing one of their top penalty-killers. Interestingly, the Flyers are giving up fewer power-play goals per game (1.45) in the 20 games since the trade than they did (1.57) in the 11 with Talbot in the lineup.
Aside from regulars Matt Read and Sean Couturier, Adam Hall has stepped up with a committee of other players, including Zac Rinaldo and even Chris VandeVelde, to kill off penalties.
"I think when you lose a good penalty killer, you're always concerned," Berube said. "He was very good at it. But I think guys have done a real good job. [Adam Hall] has done a good job."
Berube has been pleased with Downie, who can play up and down the lineup, up to this point.
"He's played real good," Berube said. "He's had a couple injuries [concussion and upper-body], and he's not quite back to where he was. When he came back from the first injury [concussion], he was real good."
Despite the slight dip in record with the Avalanche, coach Roy - a living legend in Denver and Talbot's home province of Quebec - says Talbot has been a perfect fit.
"He's been just perfect for us," Roy said. "It's a great fit for us. Every time you make trades, you just hope it works well for both teams. That's the way it's been."
Winger Matt Read missed last night's game with what the Flyers are labeling an "upper-body" injury. Read left Tuesday's win in Calgary after the first period with an apparent head or facial injury.
Jay Rosehill was inserted into the Flyers' lineup.
Read was seen in Denver with a cut near his mouth area. Craig Berube said Read's injury was "not worse than expected." Read could play tomorrow night in Phoenix.
"We'll give him another day," Berube said of the night off.