NHL Trade Deadline Roundup

The trade deadline this year has been pretty interesting. It’s been an arms race for most of the East, while the West has lost a lot of talent, with one or two teams bulking at the others’ expense. This year, most big-time trades happened before the deadline, some even a month in advance. Let’s review what each team has done on the trade block in the past month and change, shall we?

Boston, predictably, was loading and loading some more this deadline. They were linked to Columbus for a while, but their big trade came about two weeks ago when they reached down and got Dimitri Orlov and Garnet Hathaway for a cap dump in Craig Smith. They then got Tyler Bertuzzi on deadline day to make that forward core even deadlier. They’re a wagon going into March and April, but the playoffs are always a different animal. If they don’t make it at least to the conference finals this year, this will be a massive, massive failure. Just saying.

Toronto is, yet again, bolstering their latest attempt at winning a playoff series for the first time in the cap era. This time, they’ve gone for one of the big fish of the Deadline in Ryan O’Rielly. They also exiled Pierre Engval to Long Island in a cap dump move. This was to make space for depth adds like Erik Gustavson from Washington, Sam Lafferty from Chicago, and Luke Schenn from the Vancouver tirefire. Another year of miserable failure will not be tolerated in Ontario. Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe, consider this your Pickett’s charge. Win or forever live in infamy.

Tampa Bay is also getting into the mix but doesn’t need to do much adding to maintain their championship roster from years past. This year, they’ve returned to the well in the form of their big annual trade. This time, it’s for Tanner Jeannot. FOR A FIRST, A SECOND, CAL FOOTE, AND FIVE TOTAL DRAFT PICKS? Jesus Christ, I know Poile is stepping away after this year, but you didn’t need to double his retirement fund! Tampa is cooked if they don’t make it back this year. All those lost picks will be significant assets for Nashville should they come up short.

Buffalo is a team that’s in the middle of an identity crisis. They’re a talented team, there’s no doubting that, but consistency has been a major issue. They’re sitting 4 points out of a playoff spot, and are doing what every up-and-coming team does in their position: Trade late-round draft picks for depth pieces to try to make a run at the wild card. Boston would destroy them in the playoffs, but Buffalo wasn’t supposed to even be in this position this year. Just take this season as a learning experience.

Ottawa is another team in the Buffalo situation of being right on the cusp of greatness. They have a talented roster but are sitting a few points out of a playoff spot, but unlike the Sabres’ dumpster diving, they have chosen to go big game hunting. Enter Jacob Chychrun, the Arizona refugee who has spent the last two years demanding a trade out of that desolate hellhole. Chychrun is a talented player and will bolster a roster in dire need of defensive help. Senators, you may be getting out of the woods this year. A first-round exit awaits!

And then we get to the Panthers. Another fringe team that has come nowhere near expectations is the reward for South Beach this season. They’ve been struggling all season and aren’t even in playoff position. What did the Panthers do at the deadline to rectify this? Nothing! Because a group that has underachieved dramatically doesn’t need a shakeup, am I right? The Panthers are back to being the league’s gong show, and this year proves it. It’s just a continuation of last year’s playoffs, nothing to see here.

Detroit is in a similar situation to the three teams above but has chosen a different course in selling off most of their valuable assets at bargain bin prices. Tyler Bertuzzi, we don’t need to extend him. Let’s ship him off to Boston for a 4th round pick. Jacob Vrana, we don’t need you either. Pack your bags for St. Louis, buddy. They want to buy now for some reason. Detroit will just finish this year and build for the next. You might as well write off this last month, as they’ll have a lot of cap space to work with this offseason. The empire might rise again.

Montreal is the only team in the Atlantic that is utterly out of the playoff race. Most of their core pieces are either injured or underachieving, and they did next to nothing to try and add to it. I approve of such actions. Joel Edmundson is a fan favorite and a core piece of their team, which will be great next year once they bring in actual players to support him, Wifi and Caufield. They’re probably out of the Bedard hunt, so they might as well play these last games and try to play spoiler.

Carolina didn’t do much this deadline, but they didn’t need to. The only things they did were add Shane Ghostisperre and Jesse Pullijarvi. They were on a roll even before this and are gearing up for what they hope will be another deep playoff run. They won’t screw this up… right?

Two points behind them are the Devils. Jersey has been very busy this trade deadline, unlike their division overlord in Carolina. They started by confirming what hockey fans had been discussing for weeks by adding Timo Meier in a trade with the Sharks that included over 15 players and assets. They also brought Curtis Lazar from the Canucks, a nice depth piece that should shore up their bottom six going into the playoffs. They’re in a dogfight with Carolina for the Metro Division crown right now, and it’ll be interesting to see how everything shapes up.

Then we get to the Rangers. They’re sputtering a bit, but they’ve tried to rectify that through huge splash moves. They started in early February by bringing in Vladimir Tarasenko, but they weren’t done yet. They capitalized on Chicago’s desperation to acquire Patrick Kane for a ridiculous sum that didn’t even include a first-round pick. They also added a depth piece in familiar face Tyler Motte and exiled Vitali Kravtsov to the Canucks in a cap dump to clear space for Kane. The goal is clear: Stanley Cup or bust. There’s no option C here.

The other New York team has been making moves too, but most were before deadline day. Right around the All-Star Break, they got Bo Horvat from Vancouver, and on deadline day, they got Engvall from the Leafs for a cap-dump discount of a 3rd round pick. The Isles are currently in a Wild Card spot and are storming the Metro after a disastrous start. They’re interesting going into the playoff push. Interesting.

The Pens made moves too, but they were mainly focused on adding depth pieces. They brought back the old playoff hero Nick Bonino and reached down to nab Mikail Granlund from the Predators. They were linked to JT Miller for a while, but their deal with Vancouver fell through, and the Pens came away with nothing. It might even be better in the long run. They’re on an absolute heater right now, and it might be best not to change that. A first-round loss to Boston in 6 awaits!

Washington is nearing the end of an era. They will retool this offseason and started it already by trading away Garnet Hathaway, Dimitri Orlov, and Erik Gustafson to contenders. They can still make the playoffs but have nowhere near the horses for a deep run. This offseason will be critical for maintaining their prolonged regular season success.

Then there’s the Flyers. Chuck Fletcher has a lot of eggs to deal with this deadline. Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, and James Van Riemsdyk were all rumored to be on the trade block. Did the Flyers trade any of these guys? No, because, of course not! Tortorella believes in old-school, hard-nosed tactics, and trading away potential franchise cornerstones isn’t a part of that. But that’s not to say Chuck Fletcher didn’t try. He had a deal in place with the Red Wings involving JVR, but talks broke down, and the Flyers filed the trade after the 3:00 PM Deadline. Well done, sir. This guy is going down as one of the worst GMs in NHL history, and this entire season backs up that claim.

Then there’s Columbus. They’ve had more issues this season than the Broncos in the football realm, and their shopping of top defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov backs that up. Apparently, they had several high-profile deals in place but balked in favor of sending him to LA in a package that included their best goalie in Jonas Korpisalo. They had to acquire Kings legend Jonathan Quick to make the trade work. However, after Quick stated that he wouldn’t even report to the Jackets after being banished to Ohio by Rob Blake, the Jackets quickly flipped him to Vegas for a ridiculous sum, and will you look at that, he’s spry and ready to play for the Golden Knights. Mission accomplished, boys. You get nothing. You lose. Good day sir. Kindly report to the draft lottery to also take the L in the tank bowl. God, this team can’t catch any breaks, can they?

Leading the Central is Dallas. They’ve had a bit of a slide lately and have been knocked off the #1 seed by Vegas. They haven’t done much, but their one move involved a nice top-six anchor in Max Domi. Hopefully, this will put them over the top and take them on a deep playoff run. It’ll be interesting to see how everything clicks when it comes to them.

Right behind them are the Minnesota Wild. Overcoming a slow start, they have surged back to contending status and have been busy this trade deadline. They started by trading away perennial underachiever Jordan Greenway to Buffalo and getting depth pieces in MoJo and Oskar Sunqvist. The Big Fish, though, came at the end of Deadline Day. They reached down and acquired John Klingberg from Anaheim for several picks. Klingberg is a good player and will bolster that defense for the playoff push in front of an increasingly overpowered Filip Gustavsson. Perhaps they can take this franchise to uncharted territory: The Conference Finals.

If they do, it’ll have to be through the Avalanche. They seem to have woken up from their cup hangover and are again making the rest of the league their piñata. For a team that has been this inconsistent this year, though, I’m surprised by the moves they made, or lack thereof. They did next to nothing at the deadline besides a random prospect swap with the Rangers. We all know what they can be if they click, but who knows? Dallas and Minnesota look excellent right now, and they’ll probably have to face both if they are to defend their title.

The Jets are in freefall. Once atop the Central Division in December, they have since nosedived to the point where they’re barely clinging to a playoff spot. The Jets’ thing has always been to go after a nice top-6 piece to bolster their scoring. This year, Nino Niettereiter was stolen from Nashville for several draft picks. He should be an immediate boost to their forward core and an excellent addition to pair with Wheeler, Schieffle, Connor, and co. Maybe they can win another playoff series this time.

Nashville is in an era of transition, and a soft rebuild is underway. There’s no doubt about it. This year, they were sellers at the deadline, and they did it in style. They traded away Nick Bonino, Mikhail Granlund, and Nino Nietereitter. Unfortunately, David Poile, the franchise’s only GM throughout its history, will be abdicating to the Eggman at the end of the year. He went out in a blaze of glory by committing highway robbery on Tampa for Tanner Jeannot and securing his retirement fund for the next 20 years. They probably won’t make the playoffs, but they had the best deadline possible. Nice work on that front.

St. Louis, this is the sound of your playoff-contending window slamming shut on your fingers. Many major pieces of the 2019 Cup Squad were shipped off weeks before the deadline for middling returns. These were guys like Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. Come deadline day, the Blues added to the pile of lost souls by dealing Ivan Barbashev to Vegas for a bargain-bin rate. They did get Jacob Vrana from Detroit, but this is a hollow victory. Binnington will probably never get back to his peak form, and the entire roster has gone through a nuking over the last month and now has to deal with the fallout. This includes Craig Berube, who will probably find himself under a guillotine this offseason for reasons of the NHL shuffling through coaches like a deck of cards. We’ll see you back here in another 50 years.

ROLL IN THOSE BEAUTIFUL TANKS, THE SUN DEVILS, I mean COYOTES, ARE PLAYING SIX-DIMENSIONAL CHESS THIS DEADLINE. The latest genius strategy from the Disaster in the Desert is in attempting to assemble the 2014 All-Star team. They traded away Jacob Chychryun for scraps, gave Carolina Shane Ghostisperre for even less of a return, and took on dead cap like nobody’s business. The newest members of Arizona’s franchise mode crew? The contracts of Shea Weber and Patrick Kane and the LTIR tragedy that is Jacob Voracek. They join other Coyotes pressbox legends like Pavel Datsyuk and Marion Hossa to go back in time and contend for the Chel 14 title. And Bettman has the audacity to claim there isn’t tanking in this league. At this point, why even deny it? It’s beautiful for 31 other fanbases to witness. The Coyotes only have like eight fans anyway, so who even cares?

Another group of tank enthusiasts is the Blackhawks. Unlike Arizona and the clown show they’re dealing with, Chicago has gone for a more traditional approach. Trading away pending free agents Patrick Kane, Max Domi, and Sam Lafferty will do that. But Jonathan Toews he’s not getting traded. He wants to stay in Chicago! Translation: You get nothing. You lose. This is karma for Kyle Beach, guys. Get used to losing.

Vegas has been on a tear since the turn of the new year. The Golden Knights have regained their form from the beginning of the season and are showing no signs of stopping. Rather than go after big splash names this deadline, Vegas chose to bulk up by acquiring depth in Ivan Barbashev and trading away Shea Weber’s contract to the aforementioned All-Star team. They look dangerous going into these playoffs.

Close behind them are the LA Kings. Like they were expected to do, they’ve leaped into their cup-contending window in style. Unfortunately, this is not what they’re known for anymore. Let’s say they took a longtime face of the franchise and completely screwed him over. Jonathan Quick wanted to retire a King. He’s said it himself. So why on earth did they flip him to Columbus? A team he had no interest in playing in? And wouldn’t you know it, the Jackets flipped him to Vegas, so not only is he back in the division, but they will probably face him in the first couple rounds of the playoffs. This scandal will follow LA around for the rest of the season and enraged a good portion of the fanbase. Well done.

Then there is the Kraken. Their torrid start has tapered off, but they’re still a good team and are in playoff contention. The lifeless bore turned Jack Adams candidate Dave Hakstol has turned this team into one of the scariest in the West. These guys are exactly what a city like Seattle needs to embrace the Kraken, and some playoff games in April and May will do the trick on that front, too. In terms of deadline moves, Seattle did nothing. Perhaps they realized that there are flaws on the team and that it’s probably going to be a learning experience year for them, and decided not to give up assets for a team that will be doomed in the later rounds if they make it that far. Still a great season by expansion standards, though. Keep it going.

Edmonton has always struck me as a team one piece away from greatness. Their issues have never been in scoring but in being scored on. In defense, besides the pylon albatross of Darnell Nurse, there’s really not much else back there. The Oilers hope to fix that by bringing in a proven commodity from Nashville in Matias Ekholm. He should be an immediate boost to their top four back there and provide needed reinforcement and locker-room presence after Edmonton exiled Jesse Pullijarvi to Carolina for crimes against the Boys’ Club.

Calgary has horrifically underachieved this year, but that can all be fixed with some Playoff Hockey. Jacob Markstrom hasn’t been his Vezina self this year, and the Flames have fallen off with him. They didn’t do much this deadline besides nabbing Nick Ritchie from Arizona in exchange for his brother Brett Ritchie. It’s okay. They’ll just swap apartments now. Nothing to worry about.

The Canucks are not in the situation like the rest of the conference above them. They spent the deadline dangling JT Miller around like bait, only to refuse a trade to the Penguins at the eleventh hour. They are in a state where it’s in their best interest to lose to attain infamy with the first overall pick. The only good thing they did this deadline was acquiring Kravtsov from the Rangers for a cap dump discount.

The smaller-market California Teams are battling it out for who gets the prize of worst in the Pacific division. Up first is Anaheim. Instead of trading any former rangers who have been problems this year, they traded John Klingberg to Minnesota for peanuts. This was a horrible deadline for them, and it firmly cemented their place as this league’s greatest tank other than the Disaster in the Desert.

Speaking of disasters, the Sharks are begging not to be left behind in the tank race. Timo Meier had been rumored to be dealt for a while, and he eventually was to the Devils in a huge trade that didn’t even get any good prospects out of Jersey. There were rumors that they would trade Erik Karlsson, but talks fell through, and San Jose held onto him. They are in a long, arduous rebuild right now, and who knows when they’ll get out of it. Please free Logan Couture from this hell for all of us.

A Flyover of the Western Conference at the All-Star Break

The west is much more intriguing than in years past, if only because there aren’t that many true favorites to make it out over the others. The playoff contenders in this conference are all relatively balanced, which should make for an exciting finish to the season. Here’s how the 16 teams in the west are doing this All-Star Break.


Dallas Stars

Dallas is experiencing what San Jose and Vegas did in their first years under Pete DeBoer. This Stars team has finally found the scoring touch that they’ve been lacking for the better part of a decade now. Dallas is one of the most electric teams in the league this year, with Jason Robertson emerging as a superstar and guys like Roope Hintz starting to come out of their shells as well, with several hat-tricks to boot. In goal, their brick wall from the playoffs in Jake Oettinger has chosen to maintain his stellar form by stopping everything in sight once again. They’re an exciting group headed into this playoff push. A deep playoff run might be on the menu if everything goes right for them.


Winnipeg Jets

I can’t tell if this team is legitimately good or if everyone is playing way over their heads. The scoring being dominant, I get, it’s Winnipeg, but the defense? Wasn’t that one of their more considerable weaknesses over the past few years? Having Connor Hellyebuck recapture his 2018 form helps with that, but the Jets have been giving their Vezina-caliber goalie more help than usual this year. They’re hitting a bit of a skid going into the All-Star Break, but barring a collapse, they should make the playoffs. Don’t even think about it, Jets.


Minnesota Wild

I need Minnesota to tell me what they are before I judge them. Are they the team that starts the year unable to play defense? Are they the juggernaut that rattles off 6 in a row? Or are they the mediocre squad that couldn’t hold onto a lead for their lives? So far, we’ve seen all three of these, and there’s no telling which version we’ll get for the second half of this season. They’ll probably buy at the deadline again, but those Parise and Suter dead-cap hits loom large. They might have convicted Chuck Fletcher of sins in absentia, but they can’t recover. Maybe they’ll win more than two playoff games this time around.


Nashville Predators

The Preds, despite all of the offseason moves, are still the mediocre washup that doesn’t want to admit the glory days are over. They’re still a talented team, but they’re by no means a cup contender right now. The west is too stacked for them to do anything this year, so their only options are to sell at the deadline or limp into the playoffs to get massacred by Dallas or Winnipeg. The catfish will rain down with impunity soon. Maybe they can make a chant about how much everyone besides Jusse Saros sucks this year.


Colorado Avalanche

Cup hangover? The Avs are still blacked out well into the next day if that’s the case. The whole team has had enough injuries to rival North Korea, but the team has struggled to round into form this year. They’ll have these moments where they look like the juggernaut of last season, only to lay a massive egg and fall apart against inferior competition. I’m not that worried, though. They’ll probably buy at the deadline, and even if they make it in as a wild card, they’ll still have a chance. We all know what can happen if they get rolling. The question is if they can figure out how.


St. Louis Blues

Nazem Kadri broke this team last year. This season has been nothing but toxicity and arrogance from the Blues, but they haven’t done a thing to back it up. Jordan Binnington is once again elite… in the antagonizing department. Taking cheap shots at unsuspecting players, trying to fight opposing goalies, and getting in the grill of other teams when they’ve done nothing wrong is a surefire way to end up on the good-guy list. The Blues have lost the fire they’ve had in seasons past, and the rumors swirling have them as deadline sellers, too. Craig Berube may be on thin ice soon, and Tarasenko and O’Reilly will probably be dealt this march for some peanuts. It’s too bad, St. Louis. You guys have one cup, and then you’re back to the incredible failure of years past. See you in another 50 years.


ASU Coyotes

Behold, the NHL’s rendition of the Chargers moving to LA! It’s easy to sell out every home game when you can only fit 5,000 fans in the “arena.” Even then, opposing teams’ fans still dominate the Coyotes’ games. This team is deep in a tank, and the only thing they’ll win this year would be Connor Bedard. Trade for Taylor Hall at the deadline. You can thank me later.


Chicago Blackhawks

Sadly, a team with Toews and Kane on the same line is as bad as the Blackhawks are. This team was supposed to take a step forward this year; instead, they’ve fallen to the point where they’re out-tanking the Coyotes. This is another team taking a deep dive for Bedard, and Toews and Kane are likely to get dealt to real teams come this deadline. Chicago is in a sports dark age right now, and it doesn’t look like the Hawks will help with their plight. Cheers.


Seattle Kraken

Now we’re seeing why so many people last offseason were so high on the Kraken. It’s taken a year, but the hype they had after their expansion has finally been realized. The most significant difference, though, has been in the net, which seems to be the piece that has fit the entire puzzle together. Last year, Phillip Grubauer experienced a massive regression, turning into swiss cheese and giving up endless goals to the opposition. This year, he’s recaptured the form that made him a Vezina finalist in Colorado. The rest of the team, and their young core, are starting to emerge to the point where they are leading the division going into the All-Star Break. Even the optimists didn’t see this out of them. Impressive.

Vegas Golden Knights

Early in the season, this team looked unstoppable. Vegas had all their injured guys back from last year, and Thompson was playing way over his head. Alas, they had to regress to the mean, to the delight of all hockey traditionalists against putting the team there. Vegas has lost control of the division to Seattle and are playing .500 hockey going into the All-Star Break. At least they’ll have those future considerations to cling to, as they will probably be a second-round exit this year.


Los Angeles Kings

I thought this team had what it took to make the next step this year. This year reminds me a lot of last year, except this time they actually have expectations of being more than a bottom-feeder. Their rebuild got a big shot in the arm this offseason by getting Kevin Fiala from Minnesota, and so far, he’s been everything he was advertised as at the beginning of the year. However, their Achilles heel this year is goaltending. Quick looks like he’s finally starting to fall off, and his replacements have been substandard. His backup, once given the starting role, was a dumpster fire. But Phoenix Copley, am I right? Nope. He was chased out of a game after giving up two to Nashville in the first 40 seconds. They’ll need to get that part of the machine fixed and fast. The grace period is finite, and the Kings will be at the end of it pretty soon. The bandwagon Angelinos will not tolerate more playoff futility for very long. The Ducks can tell you how that goes.


Edmonton Oilers

Wasn’t this team supposed to be good this year? I guess not. Unfortunately, you need more than one competent line and no overpaid albatrosses of defensive contracts to succeed in this league. McDavid and Draisaitl are beasting, but the rest of the roster has been lacking. That playoff run last year is looking more and more like a fluke. The Jay Woodcroft luster has worn off, and he has been revealed to be in the same boat as most Oilers coaches before. With how insufferable Oiler fans were last year during their run, no one feels sorry for them.


Calgary Flames

Cup contenders. We thought the Flames would be cup contenders this season. Why does this team take every single expectation and completely defecate on it? It happened last year when they got to face Mike Smith in the playoffs, and it’s happened before then in pretty much every other season. Remember over the summer when we were all fawning over Brad Treliving and his brilliance when putting together this year’s roster? Turns out we all drank the Kool-Aid on this team. The Flames have, once again, produced nothing in the regular season but horrific underachieving. They can’t even use not having Johnny Hockey as an excuse; he’s been horrible with Columbus since being traded. This team got carried on Markstrom’s back for most of last year, and it shows. I’ll await the inevitable first-round exit.

Vancouver Canucks

Typically, in this segment, I’d talk about how Vancouver failed to take off. I’d be talking about how the new management made the first good move of their tenure by fleecing the Isles for a rental in Bo Horvat. I would also mention how the underachieving of the core, in large part, led to the Horvat trade. That is all irrelevant. You can’t talk about the Canucks these days without mentioning BBQ Bruce. The way top brass dragged their feet when choosing to part ways and hung him out to dry for over three weeks is grounds for all the abuse under the sun. They realize the entire fanbase lost faith in them over this debacle, right? There’s zero trust in Aquilini and his minions to do the right thing anymore. The Canucks, even without Trader Jim Benning, are still being run by a bunch of clowns. This move is their magnum opus. Enjoy being unlikeable and mediocre for the next half-decade.


San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are roughly in the same predicament as the Penguins and Capitals. The only problem is that the fossils they’re keeping around have completely sucked instead of using necromancy to revive the glory years. Most of the team sucks this year, but the main culprit for this team is its goaltending — if you could even call it that. Devan Dubnyk retired before the season, so the Sharks have been stuck with an aging James Reimer and the perennial backup Kappo Kahkonen. In terms of performance and metrics, this is one of the worst goalie tandems in the league. The sieves they call defensemen aren’t doing a good job helping, either. Besides an unprecedented throwback year from Erik Karlsson that probably does nothing but increases his trade value at the deadline, there’s nothing back there. This team will be spinning the tires for a while, and the SAP center will continue to be a cavern on a nightly basis. Timo Meier and Kevin LeBanc will also probably be gone. Such a tragic end.


Anaheim Ducks

Picture the scene in front of you. A majestic tank comes rolling down the street toward you. You are already dazzled by its awe and might, but then it sprouts several limbs and appendages and turns into every field marshal’s dream. That would be the Ducks. Behold one of the most hilarious tank jobs this year in the NHL. The tanks are beyond rolling into view. It’s gotten to the point where they’re driving themselves off cliffs—such epic failure. The funniest part is that Anaheim treated the offseason like they were contenders. They saw the overachieving last year and decided to add to it. Adding all those former Rangers only turned Anaheim into a watered-down version of them. They were devoid of scoring touch and defense and were carried to their few wins by John Gibson. Even then, his back is close to breaking again from his imitation of Atlas lifting the Ducks organization. This team has been the worst in the league this year. It was so bad that they didn’t even get a regulation win until Thanksgiving. They haven’t scored more than five goals in a game all season. That’s near historical failure. It’s gotten to the point where the fans hope they lose so they can ruin Connor Bedard next season. Congratulations, you’re the 2014 Buffalo Sabres. Enjoy the rest of your pathetic season in limbo.


In terms of playoff predictions, it’s anyone’s race. The only teams that are really out of it are Chicago, the Sharks, and Anaheim. Everyone else at least has a shot. The divisional berths will go to Winnipeg, Dallas, the Avs in the central, and the Kraken, Kings, and Vegas in the Pacific. The wild cards are, well, wild cards. I see Minnesota and Calgary making it this year. See you at the deadline.

A Flyover of the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break

I haven’t talked a lot about hockey this year. My main focus when writing these has been the cascade of football around every corner and the blip in the radar that was the World Series. However, the All-Star Break is upon us in the hockey realm. This is an excellent time to take a step back and look at the 16 teams in the East and where they stand. Every team is alive besides Columbus and Montreal, so it’s an intriguing time for the Conference. Let’s unpack it.


Boston Bruins

At the beginning of the year, I thought keeping the gang around for one more year was a colossal mistake for Boston. I had them missing the playoffs to give you an idea of how wrong I was. The only thing I’m doing now is eating heaps of crow, thanks to the Bruins reverting to 2019 form. The entire team is performing at a level we haven’t seen in a good bit. Pasta is raking, Charlie McAvoy has slotted in as Chara’s genuine replacement, and old man Bergeron hasn’t been a total liability. Couple that with a goalie tandem that is solid and doesn’t break, and you have an unstoppable wagon going into the bye. This team looks scary, but I wonder if they can keep up the gas until playoff time. Better teams than them have fallen off a cliff come April. Just look at the last few teams in NHL history that were playing at this pace and how they did.


Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs look to enjoy the last few years before cap hell in 2024 by hopefully making it past the first round at least once in that timeline. Toronto is boasting the best roster to have been iced by them in a long time. I’m not impressed. You see, we say that about them every year. They’re going to make the playoffs. That part is a given. The only thing I care about with these guys is the playoffs. Wake me up in April when they choke again.


Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa sputtered a little to start the season, but I’m not worried. They’re going to get third in that division, and if they even make the playoffs, they’re fine. They are similar to the Leafs in that the regular season has meant nothing to them for a long time. However, unlike Toronto, that is due to consistent success in the playoffs rather than repeated flopping and failure. However, with that said, they have looked much more mortal than in seasons past. It might be time for a changing of the guard soon.


Buffalo Sabres

Well, this is a shocker. It is mid-January, and the Sabres are in contention for the playoffs. Those words haven’t been uttered for a decade and a half. Buffalo managed to mostly avoid their trademark November collapse, mitigating its effect by having Tage Thompson turn into a demigod. Their roster is electric, and they’re an exciting team to watch going into the playoff push. The Bills may have diverted the city’s attention for a few months, but that has only distracted from how surprisingly good the Sabres are this year. Buffalo is entering an era of sports that we haven’t seen before. Let me put it to you this way. The last time the Sabres and Bills have both been on 6-game winning streaks at the same time was… never. This past January was the first time that happened.


Detroit Red Wings

I was wrong about this team at the beginning of the year. Contrary to being an absolute tire fire as expected, the Wings jumped from utter trash to mediocre in about a year. The Yzerplan is beginning to bear its fruits, but it’s going to be a couple of years before they can contend again. All in all, nothing else really of note to talk about.


Ottawa Senators

I had this team finishing 3rd in the Atlantic this year. What has happened to the Sens is a return to before 2017, when they had a bunch of skilled pieces that would never gel together. Pierre Dorian’s dream team isn’t even in playoff position at the All-Star Break and is spinning the tires of mediocrity this year. The only positive you could say is that they’re a team.


Florida Panthers

Behold, the self-proclaimed champions of the offseason! Because Matt Tkachuk solved all of your issues, right? How is trading two of the better pieces of your core working out for you, Florida? The Panthers, far from competing for the playoffs as was expected before the year, are currently on the outside looking in. You better hope you can rebound and catch up with Tampa and Toronto because you won’t make it in as a wild card with how stacked the Metro is this year. Perhaps Paul Maurice could resign again to spark the team.


Montreal Canadiens

“This is going to be different from last year, Habs fans. We’re going to be competitive. We’re going to make some noise, and…Nope, just kidding, we’re tanking! We suck! Ignore us, please! See you in six months when there’s a draft where we can win something besides a Slovakian draft bust!”


Carolina Hurricanes

This team was hyped to be the class of the Eastern Conference at the beginning of the season. So far, they haven’t disappointed. Carolina is playing at a level we haven’t seen out of them since their ’06 vintage. Every piece on their roster has been at optimal production, and the Canes are a wagon going into the All-Star Break. However, I must warn them. Another second-round exit will probably result in heads rolling in Raleigh.


New Jersey Devils

I had them making the playoffs before this year, but this was a bit of a surprise to me. After their torrid start, they are beginning to falter, but the Devils are still a strong team that boasts some of the best depth in the East. Jack Hughes is finally producing at the rate he was hyped to when he was drafted, and New Jersey is in a dogfight with the rest of the Metro in terms of playoff seeding. A playoff berth is likely in their future, but with how good their division is this year, I wouldn’t call that a given. Check back at the deadline.


New York Rangers

To say this season has been a roller-coaster would be like calling the explosion of the Hindenburg a minor malfunction. The Rangers started strong, as the Cup contenders they were supposed to be, but then hit a month-long slump. However, since Jacob Trouba chucked his helmet on the ice in that game against Chicago, the Broadway Blue have been on a tear and taking no prisoners. The Rags have finally started playing up to their potential despite choking enough to be mistaken for the Falcons. A 6-2 drubbing of Florida right before my writing of this is evidence of such.


Pittsburgh Penguins

Dear Yinzers, this is what it feels like to have a window close after perpetually wanting more. Yes, three cups won over this decade-long window of contention, but in between, it’s been disappointment and mismanagement. They had to deal with Dan Bylsma for a while. Sully is way past his expiration date and is holding the team back. This team’s hopes died when Burkie Boy decided to keep the gang around this past offseason to try and relive the glory days. Remember how that worked out for his Leafs and Flames teams of old? The same has happened here. The Penguins are a fringe-playoff contender and are more of a natural history exhibit these days than a hockey team. They had their moments in the sun, though. No one feels bad for them.


Washington Capitals

This is how we know that a new age is beginning in the Metro. The Pens and Capitals have taken their perpetual battle for playoff seeding and, soon, the draft position from the top two spots in the division to the fringes of playoff contention. At the very least, Washington still has some stuff left in the tank this year. They’ve put together some outstanding performances, and old man Ovi hit the 800-goal mark. I’m interested to see if this Caps team can get it together and make noise come April and May, but this is good enough for now, considering the expectations before the season.


New York Islanders

I remember hearing all the excuses about why the Isles missed the playoffs last year. “Oh, but the new arena!” “We had a monthlong road trip and had the least rest!” Everyone got covid and derailed our season!” “Barry Trotz must have been holding us back. Lou knows what he’s doing”. What’s your excuse now? Maybe it’s time to accept that the Islanders’ two deep playoff runs may have been lightning in a bottle, pun intended. The reality is that this team is mediocre, lacks talent outside its first line, and was getting carried by Sorokin earlier in the year. The magic has seemingly run out. The Isles are currently on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, and as a fan of a division rival, I hope they stay that way. Let’s see who they will desperately overpay for this— Bo Horvat? For two starters and a first?!? Dear god, Lamoriello, get a grip!


Philadelphia Flyers

This team has exceeded expectations this year. They are solidly mediocre instead of the tire fire we expected. This is a team that caters to John Tortorella’s strengths. Not that much talent, but many good depth players buy into his system and play as a fleshed-out unit. The lack of said talent is why the Flyers aren’t competing for a playoff spot. Still, given how badly Chuck Fletcher mangled the roster this past offseason, I think anything besides a total disaster is a pleasant surprise for Flyer fans. They have real teams to root for in Philly.


Columbus Blue Jackets

Replacing Philly as the resident Metro division tire fire is Columbus. Dear god, they are awful. I had them pegged for mediocrity this year, but I didn’t think they’d be dead last in the Eastern Conference halfway into the year. The entire season has been a complete trainwreck for them. Their big free agent signing in Johnny Hockey has morphed from a young star exuding confidence to one showing up at press conferences looking like the living embodiment of Ohio. His production hasn’t been much better, either. In addition, we probably need to send out an amber alert for Patrick Laine… wait, never mind, he’s probably just at home playing Fortnite because there’s nothing better to do in a college town like Columbus. The Jackets were supposed to compete for playoffs this year, yet they’re out-tanking the Sharks and Coyotes. That takes skill to implode like that.

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