Originally I was going to talk this week about who I thought would reel in the big fish at the upcoming trade deadline on Wednesday. You might see some big names move like Edmonton's Ryan Whitney or maybe Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester, and there are definitely teams like the Boston Bruins or Chicago Blackhawks that I think will look to get deeper in certain areas before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But something strange happened last week.
All of the big fish got traded already -- and they're all in Pittsburgh.
If you had told me eight days ago that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be sitting here with Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray, I would have said you were nuts, but the Penguins found a way to do it. The good general managers always find a way to do it, and Ray Shero's now done it a couple of times -- not only this season, but in past years with Bill Guerin and Marian Hossa. One of the main reasons Shero can make moves like this is that players know what kind of an organization the Penguins are and they want to be a part of it. Iginla wanted to go to Pittsburgh.
The Penguins were already probably the best team in the NHL before they made any of these trades -- at least if the last month is any indication. Pittsburgh has won 15 games in a row now, and that's not an accident. With these acquisitions, though, it's hard to think there's any other team that could be picked as the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup this June.
I will be honest and say that with the way the Tampa Bay Lightning had been going for the last two months, I thought coach Guy Boucher's days might be numbered, but I actually didn't think he would get fired until this summer. I thought Tampa Bay wouldn't do it during the regular season because the team is just six points out of a playoff spot right now but general manager Steve Yzerman must have felt Boucher had lost the team, because making a move like this with 18 games left in the season is somewhat unusual.
The reason I think this happened now is that Yzerman is trying to get a bump from his team. The Lightning have lost three games in a row, they gave up four goals in the first period Saturday night in Ottawa and they just haven't been playing well for a while. But they're also just six points out, and that's not a margin that's insurmountable. Sometimes when you fire a coach the players respond and rattle off five or six wins in a row. With the shortened season, we're basically in the middle of the playoffs anyway. Making this move allows Yzerman to appease the fans by doing something, it could potentially give the Lightning that bump they need to make the playoffs and perhaps most importantly, it makes Yzerman a proactive general manager. He's making it clear that losing and the potential of missing the playoffs for a second straight season is not acceptable.
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We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.