What started out as a day that was shaping up to be All Quiet on the Eastern and Western Front ended with a bang. No less than 24 out of the 30 teams that currently make up the NHL were involved in deals of some sort today, leaving only the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Islanders, the Los Angeles Kings, the Montreal Canadiens, the Winnipeg Jets, and the Dallas Stars out of today’s action. Of course, we all know that Dallas and Los Angeles were involved in NHL trades just days ago, so when the dust settles, the overwhelming majority of teams in the NHL either cleared house or made strategic moves in order to better their playoff chances.
Of course, with all of these moves, there are winners. . . and teams that make you wonder, “What the heck were they thinking?” Here’s my take on the biggest winners, and the team who left me scratching my head the most, during this trading frenzy.
Winner: the Pittsburgh Penguins
Forget about what they were involved in today – picking up Jussi Jokinen from Carolina – the Penguins were the winners of the trade game before most teams even started playing. Adding two veteran players (and one surefire Hall of Famer) in Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, and a slow-but-steady blueliner in Douglas Murray last week made a team that was already the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference the prohibitive favorite to win the Stanley Cup. (Obviously, this was before the injury to Sidney Crosby.) Ray Shero knew what he wanted, and he didn’t wait until the last minute to go out and get it.
Winner: the Columbus Blue Jackets.
These guys are winners for three reasons. First, they got rid of Steve Mason, a guy who just seems to have lost his game. Second, they brought in Marian Gaborik, a player who many people felt would remain in New York. Sure, Gaborik is 31, and is not having a stellar year – but he did put up 76 points just a year ago, and he is likely to have an immediate impact on the Blue Jackets’ offense and, by extension, their playoff chances. Third, the Blue Jackets showed everyone that they are in it to win it. They could have been happy just to find themselves fighting to make the playoffs; instead, they showed that they take winning in the playoffs quite seriously. Their moves might not be enough to get them out of the first round of the playoffs (if they do, indeed, make it in), but it shows that GM Jarmo Kekalainen is bold and that the Blue Jackets are primed to become a serious contender for years to come.
Winner: the Minnesota Wild
From what I’ve read, the Wild paid a pretty steep price in order to acquire Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres; still, it will be worth it, as a team that is currently third in the Western Conference (and clinging onto first place of the Northwest Division) has landed a proven scorer who will can jump right in and play on their second or even first line. I know Pominville has been struggling as of late, but I’ll eat every key on the keyboard in front of me if he is not rejuvenated by this move. He’s going from a cellar-dwellar to a team that could be playing for the Cup, with an enthusiastic fan base and some great young talent (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter) that are certain to light a fire under his ass. I predicted the Wild would not even make the playoffs when the year began, namely because I felt that they would not have enough time to gel. All they’ve done is build a legitimate cup-contending team. Bite me, Minnesota!
What the Heck Were They Thinking?
I was pretty close to giving this award to the Philadelphia Flyers, who, after failing to land Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators, went out and acquired . . . Steve Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Huh? Does this team not understand that goaltending is NOT the reason they are currently languishing in 13th place in the Eastern Conference?
But that’s the reason why the Flyers did not get my nod today – because they’re in 13th, and didn’t have much to lose today.
No, my “What the heck were they thinking?” award goes to the New York Rangers, a team that is currently sitting in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. Here’s a team sitting dead last in the NHL in goals scored (79 for the year, a rate of just over two per game), and they go out and grab Ryan Clowe (he of the zero goals scored until he arrived in New York) and gave up Marian Gaborik (9 goals). Yeah – that will help you score more goals! Yes, the Rangers picked up some guys who will play gritty hockey . . . but so did the Buffalo Sabres this year, and look how they worked out for them. I know there’s more to hockey than just scoring . . . but you have to fix the problems you have, and right now, the Rangers cannot score. And they didn’t fix that problem. So here’s your award!
No – I haven’t forgotten about the Sabres! I will do my homework and discuss the Jason Pominville trade when I have a better feel for the players involved. Until then, leave your comments on who the winners/losers of this year’s trading bonanza were, or tweet me @theamazingMrS!