The Colorado Avalanche were eliminated from playoff contention in December. And yet they were still the biggest disappointment of today’s NHL Trade Deadline.
General manager and former Colorado great Joe Sakic was holding a pair of grenades he could’ve lobbed into the middle of the Stanley Cup race. Instead, he chose to tuck them into his back pocket.
With the Avs sitting on their game-changers, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, the rest of the NHL mostly resorted to swapping auxiliary pieces. So while there were over 30 trades over the past week, let’s not kid ourselves, 95-percent of them didn’t matter. And you can blame the Avalanche for that!
When looking at moves that actually impacted the Stanley Cup odds, the biggest ones came at the top. Pittsburgh and Washington were already entrenched as Cup favorites, and the two teams were both courting the services of defenseman and power-play specialist Kevin Shattenkirk. Eventually, the Capitals won the bidding war, and the NHL’s stingiest defense added another weapon on the back end.
After losing the battle for quality, Pittsburgh opted for quantity, adding Ron Hainsey, Frank Corrado, and Mark Streit to their back end. The trio will help the Penguins in the short term while Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and Kris Letang are on injured reserve, but come playoff time, most of them will find themselves scratched on game day. The depth moves don’t really make Pittsburgh a sexier play. Does it matter? Knowing the success they’ve had over Washington, as well as the Capitals’ penchant for playoff choking, the Pens are deserving co-favorites either way.
In the West, the biggest add came from another team looking to finally get over the hump, Minnesota. Trading a bunch of picks for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, the Wild now have roster depth that is unmatched in the West. But can all these moves help them get over their greatest obstacle, the Chicago Blackhawks? Chicago has knocked Minny out of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.
Speaking of those Blackhawks, they did their typical deadline move: bringing back a player from one of their previous championship teams. This year, they acquired Johnny Oduya from Dallas. This will almost certainly work out for Chicago, because everything does. But there were also some teams who made questionable additions (or stayed curiously silent).
The most notable offenders were the Montreal Canadiens, who chose to ignore some glaring problems with their roster, and instead added more “sandpaper guys.” Marc Bergevin, clearly inspired after watching a western remake with Jeff Bridges, wanted his bunch to have true grit. But when your team can’t score goals in five-on-five situations, you need to bring in more than the pesky play of Steve Ott, Dwight King, and Jordie Benn.
The Habs would’ve been a fine destination for Duchene. His salary cap hit is the same as Tomas Plekanec’s garbage contract, so Montreal would’ve just had to include the Czech in the deal, along with the expected boatload of prospects. Instead, the Canadiens played it boring, and now they have the look of a team ripe for a first-round knockout. Don’t let their record fool you, ten of their wins are in three-on-three OT or shootout, tie-breaking methods you won’t see come spring time. The Habs lack the scoring make an impact on these playoffs, no matter how good Carey Price is.
Another questionable add came from the Los Angeles Kings. In their past Stanley Cup runs, they made big moves for scorers at the deadline, getting Jeff Carter in 2012 and Marian Gaborik in 2014. Their blockbuster this year? A 39-year-old Jarome Iginla! There’s obviously a sentimental motivation behind this move, as he and head coach Darryl Sutter were together in Calgary, and Sutter would love to deliver him his first ring. But this is not the winger that is going to demonstrably boost the Kings offense.
You know who might have? Landeskog.
I don’t know whose fault it was that a major deal never got done, Sakic or his dance partners, but he is about to find out that the market doesn’t get better in the summer, when teams have more options to pursue. Those grenades he never threw will go off in his hand one day, and he’ll be left pretending Adam Larsson is fair return for a 30-goal scorer.
As for the teams who still have a chance (and a clue), it’s still a pretty open race. And making a big trade isn’t the only thing necessary to grab attention; just look at teams like Nashville and Calgary, who are rounding into fine form as the stretch run approaches. Almost anyone could still make a surprise run to the Cup, but the odds certainly favor that someone coming from the Metropolitan Division.
Photo Credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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