Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
Last week in this space, I said I spoke to Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who had interest in acquiring Andrew Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
On Thursday, he did just that, getting Ladd in a package deal that sent 21-year-old forward Marko Dano to the Jets. Ladd won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and also won it with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He's very well-respected in their locker room, understands their style of play and understands what it means to be a Blackhawk. If anything, he is an even better player now than he was back then. He's rounded out his offensive game and has been the Jets' leading goal-scorer since they moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta.
Ladd, who was the captain in Winnipeg, always comes to play hard and brings a lot of intangibles to the table on a nightly basis. You never have to worry about his work ethic. This was a great move by Bowman. Instead of waiting to see what the price was going to look like, he went out, got creative and got his man.
Video: Breaking News: Blackhawks acquire Andrew Ladd
To be able to make this deal, you have to be able to manage assets. The Blackhawks have a great development model, the best in the League. To be able to acquire Dano from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad last summer and then trade him and two draft picks for Ladd is a good look.
The Jets added to their prospect pool, either on their roster now or in the near future. They already have Mike Comrie's brother Eric, who was an AHL All-Star this season. They have Connor Hellebuyck, who basically played as well as any starter in the League during his time in the NHL for the most part. They have Michael Hutchinson and are three-deep in goal. They have young defensemen who are on the team led by Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. They were able to re-sign Dustin Byfuglien, and have Nikolaj Ehlers up front, who is a star player. As a team, they have taken a major step back from last season because their commitment to detail hasn't been there and they've been hit by injuries. But they have talent and draft picks, so next season could be a lot like last season for the Jets.
The Ducks continue their surge up the standings in the Pacific Division and are four points behind the Los Angeles Kings thanks to a 13-1-1 run. I think once captain Ryan Getzlaf started scoring and making plays for them, it turned things around. He is a critical piece for them and their tone-setter. Corey Perry started scoring goals but Getzlaf has started to get points. Getzlaf looked like a completely different person at the start of the season. Anaheim has started to get some depth scoring, and Ryan Kesler is back playing at the high level we know he is capable of, which is what he was brought in to do as a No. 2 center. He was brought in to take some of the heat off Getzlaf and make the Ducks a deeper team, the way Jason Spezza has with the Dallas Stars.
Frederik Andersen continues to impress. He hasn't lost in regulation since Dec. 21 and is 10-0-1 in his past 11 decisions. John Gibson has great numbers as well, but has recently taken a back seat to Andersen. I think it's the NHL's best young one-two punch in net. Coach Bruce Boudreau told me their turnaround had to do with playing better defense. One they started defending better, the offense came.
Their play has them in the mix for a wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They took a tough 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, but they're still right there. Jordan Staal has looked more like Jordan Staal again. A lot of their younger players have turned their games up several notches - guys like Joakim Nordstrom, Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask. Of course defenseman Justin Faulk is having a great year. Eddie Lack has gotten more playing time in goal and has looked good.
This is a team that a lot of people didn't think would be this far along. They are certainly ahead of their curve and ahead of where we expected they could be or would be at this point, which is impressive to see. They're a team a lot of general managers were looking at and thinking would have a lot of assists available at the NHL Trade Deadline. I know they are not buyers, but with them being this close, I can't see them being sellers.
For whatever reason, they haven't been able to play well at home and haven't been consistent. Following a bad 6-4 loss to the Columbus Blues Jackets at home on Monday, they went out and dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-1 on Wednesday. The Bruins have alternated wins and losses in their past seven games; they are great on the road and not very good at home.
It will be interesting to see what ends up happening this season. This was a retooling season in Boston, tweaking the style of play, but the Bruins are right there in the playoff race. I didn't think they'd be this good. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have sparked them, and Tuukka Rask has played more like himself lately.
A tip of the cap to Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers who had his 15-game point streak, the longest in NHL history by a rookie defenseman, stopped this week. It was an incredible run.
We can't forget the Minnesota Wild and the great job they did hosting the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series last weekend.