A wise GM once said, “More mistakes are made on trade deadline day than the other 364 days combined.”
The rationale behind Brian Burke’s claim is teams in quest of the Stanley Cup grossly overpay to get a player for one month, plus whatever might happen in the playoffs.
It’s an easy claim to make because 15 teams that qualify for the playoffs won’t go home with the Stanley Cup. But does that mean they made a mistake on trade deadline day? Hardly.
More often than not, the team that goes on to win the Stanley Cup can, in part, look back to an important move made on trade deadline day as a contributing factor in reaching the pinnacle of success.
That will be the case again this year.
Trade deadline acquisition Marian Gaborik will probably be the league’s leading playoff goal scorer if the Kings go on to win the Stanley Cup.
If the New York Rangers rally from a 2-0 deficit to win, Martin St-Louis will surely be a key player in the surge. He’s the team’s top scoring forward.
Neither of those acquisitions were mistakes, regardless of who wins or loses.
So it’s not true trade deadline day is rife with mistakes? It might make sense at face value because we know eight teams lose in the first round of the playoffs every year and it’s an easy thing to say that those who made trade deadline deals erred because of the early exit.
Here’s a look back, with the benefit of hindsight, at the teams who were Cup contenders on trade deadline day and what they did. I don’t see a lot of mistakes.
Anaheim – The Ducks made a mistake in not acquiring a proven playoff producer (such as Mike Cammalleri) to diversify the scoring. That might have been the difference in a close seven-game series loss to Los Angeles. Anaheim has a deep system of prospects and four picks in the first two rounds of the 2014 draft that it was reluctant to part with. In two separate deals, the Ducks effectively traded Dustin Penner for Stephane Robidas.
St. Louis – The Blues took a chance acquiring Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from Buffalo for two players, a prospect and draft picks. The first round exit to Chicago makes this look like an easy mistake, but I give the team credit for trying to solidify what it thought was its biggest weakness.
Boston – The Bruins added a third-pair defenseman in Andrej Meszaros for just a third round pick. Certainly not a mistake in a second-round playoff exit.
Detroit – The Red Wings added experience in David Legwand from Nashville in exchange for prospect Calle Jarnkrok and a draft pick. Detroit had a tough first round match-up with Boston.
Pittsburgh – The Penguins picked up bottom six forwards Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc for two third-round picks and a fifth-rounder.
Tampa Bay – The Lightning did the best they could with an unhappy St-Louis. They parlayed him into pending UFA Ryan Callahan and a pair of high draft picks. Tampa Bay then got swept in Round 1, but the deal positions the team a lot better for the future.
Minnesota – The Wild, realizing they’re well positioned to start making a move immediately, picked up Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick from Buffalo for Torrey Mitchell and a couple second round picks. Minny upset Colorado in the first round, then lost in six games to Chicago. I don’t think they would undo that deal if they could.
Chicago – No significant deals on trade deadline day. The Blackhawks lost to a loaded Kings team in the third round.
San Jose – No significant deals on trade deadline day. The Sharks went up 3-0 against the Kings and failed in four attempts to knock them out in the first round.
Colorado – The Avs for some reason picked up fringe goalie Reto Berra from Calgary for a second round pick. OK, mistake there.
Montreal – Thomas Vanek maybe didn’t have the offensive splash the Canadiens hoped he would (11 goals and 25 points in 35 regular season and playoff games), but he was a contributor on a journey that lasted three rounds. Montreal gave up a mid-range prospect and a second round pick in that deal. Hardly a mistake.
Los Angeles – Gaborik from Columbus for Matt Frattin and a couple of draft picks.
New York Rangers – GM Glen Sather gave up a lot to get St-Louis, but that generated a trip to the Cup final. Sather also picked up depth defenseman Raphael Diaz for a fifth-round pick.
So I don’t buy into Burke’s “mistake” theory about trade deadline day. A more accurate credo was coined by Lord Tennyson back in the 19th century: ‘Tis better to have traded and lost, than never to have traded at all.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN