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Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: Why big trades down the stretch are for suckers

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Starting around this time in the season, there are a lot of scenarios people like to play out. We're about a month and a half away from the trade deadline, and fans are already outlining what their favorite team needs to get over the hump; to go from good to great and steel themselves for what is hopefully a long playoff run.

But unless things change in a hurry, there isn't going to be much out there. And, if your team is looking to improve at the deadline, that's probably a good thing.

It came out Sunday that the Dallas Stars told Brad Richards(notes) he wouldn't be traded this year. Can't say that's at all surprising, since the Stars are, y'know, leading their division. They're not going to offload a point-a-game player and former Conn Smythe winner to help anyone, no matter what it ends up costing them in the offseason.

The NHL is nothing if not sickeningly close once again this year. In the East, there are seven points separating ninth from third, and the West has just 10 points separating the 14th-place team from home ice.

Because of that, no one will believe they're out of it for at least another few weeks. But even when the realities of mid-February standings do start to crystallize, it's unlikely that the still-competing teams will be able to make a deal to really add some star power to their lineup.

The high number of teams that believe they're competing will only create a feeding frenzy for the handful of difference-makers that are likely to be available from the truly bad teams who aren't going through dramatic rebuilds. So unless your favorite team is one that positioned itself so poorly prior to the season that it's in win-or-blow-it-up mode, then your GM would be a fool to trade the raft of picks and prospects that a guy like, let's say, Jarome Iginla(notes) would command.

And really, it might be better that way.

When's the last time a team made a major acquisition at, or even near the deadline, and actually did anything of note in the playoffs?

(Coming Up: Rangers' scoring goes ice cold; Marc Savard(notes) gets lit up; Ted Leonsis not feelin' the Capitals; more money woes for Glendale, Coyotes; Rick DiPietro(notes) back for the Isles; another Steve Mason(notes) blunder; Drew Doughty's(notes) huge hit on Taylor Hall(notes); Lightning struggles; Carey Price(notes) speaks out on 'D'; BJ Crombeen's(notes) symbolic goal; the Flyers hit Central Park; and another NHL Guardian rip-off ... er, homage.)

I'm not even talking making the Stanley Cup Finals, either. Of the four teams to make their conference finals last season, the only noteworthy pickups were Ville Leino(notes) for the Flyers -- an unwanted castoff from the Red Wings system -- and Nick Boynton(notes) for the Blackhawks, nabbed for future considerations.

If you wanna stretch the definition of "near the deadline," you can throw in Niclas Wallin(notes) to the Sharks as well, but that was like a month beforehand.

Of course, if you're a fan of a team who's out of it, you should be hoping someone, anyone is willing to trade something for your half-decent players. In tight markets like last year (eight teams were within five points of a playoff spot on deadline day), guys who just aren't good earn ridiculous returns.

Case in point: offloading Raffi Torres(notes) netted Columbus a second-round pick and Nathan Paetsch(notes). Repeat: That was for Raffi Torres, who had 31 points in 60 games at the time. He went on to pick up five helpers in 14 games for Buffalo, which got unsurprisingly bounced out of the first round, because he is Raffi Torres.

It's no real secret that trade deadlines are certainly a seller's market. But in the NHL, paying boutique prices for bargain basement players is becoming the norm. And it's actually becoming rarer.

If your team still has designs on a deep postseason run, that's exactly how you want it.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Coyotes, like most sane people, seem to have a problem with Corey Perry(notes). Keith Yandle(notes) two-handed him in the hand on Saturday night, obviously, but on Dec. 28, Shane Doan(notes) hit him in the face with a puck.

Atlanta Thrashers: Andrew Ladd(notes) has been a great penalty kill guy for the Thrashers this year. Freddy Modin, not so much.

Boston Bruins: Steve Kampfer(notes), who's been playing his ass off for the Bruins in a call-up role lately, had his nose broken on this play. That would be Zdeno Chara's(notes) stick that hit him. (And no, I don't know why the NESN feed is in Russian or whatever.)

Still, he'll play Monday night against Carolina with a full cage.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are one of those teams getting invited to Europe for the Premier Games or whatever they're called. Because that's what Europeans want to see: a team that's two points ahead of Toronto.

Calgary Flames: Wanna know how bad things are in Calgary? There was a legitimate debate on Saturday as to whether the Flames should start Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) against the Leafs, or if Henrik Karlsson(notes) had earned another game. Karlsson was getting talked up because he had recently lost to the Hurricanes in a shootout (granted, that was after Kipper had made every attempt to blow it) and beaten the Senators. WOW!

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. And still don't have a playoff spot. Poor Cam Ward(notes), having to deal with that.

Chicago Blackhawks: The 'Hawks blew a 2-0 third-period lead to Nashville on Saturday and lost in a shootout. They've allowed 53 third-period goals, tied for the most in the league. That's out of 125 goals they've allowed total.

Colorado Avalanche: After that scary injury on Saturday, Ryan O'Reilly(notes) will only miss two weeks. I had a link to this earlier that said he might be done for the season, so I guess that's a bit of an upgrade, eh?

Columbus Blue Jackets: Watch as Jonathan Ericsson(notes) carries this behind the net. Try to figure out how an NHL-level goaltender -- which is what Steve Mason allegedly is -- allows this to get past him.

Dallas Stars: Marc Crawford has done a hell of a job coaching the Stars this year. You might wanna consider him for the Jack Adams, no?

Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard(notes) could be back Tuesday. Osgood and Modano by early March. Everyone else? Who knows. I'm sure they have Henrik Zetterberg(notes) swaddled in bubble wrap at this point.

Edmonton Oilers: I think the Edmonton Journal is trying to tell us something:

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Florida Panthers: The Panthers have won three games in a row. This is only the second time they've done that all season.

Los Angeles Kings: I cannot sufficiently express to you my undying love for this Drew Doughty green-light hit on Taylor Hall. There is nothing that I don't adore about it.

Minnesota Wild: Patrick O'Sullivan(notes) sent down over the weekend. Bet the Kings are glad they got out from under that mess nice and early, eh?

Montreal Canadiens: Read between the lines on these Price quotes and you get the sense that he's a bit frustrated with the Habs' defensive strategy.

Nashville Predators: The Preds are lining up against bullying, which is a noble cause. But maybe you don't run Colin Wilson(notes) out there to say things like, "Through junior high, I was one of those people getting bullied. ... I was a smaller kid in the class." A fun and interesting fact: Colin Wilson is 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, and an elite athlete. Not one person has ever bullied Colin Wilson.

New Jersey Devils: Anssi Salmela(notes) was placed on waivers late last week, and cleared, but appeared to have gotten the message. Jacques Lemaire said the guy played his best game of the season on Saturday. The Devs still lost. It has definitely been a season.

New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro returned to the Islanders lineup on Saturday for the first time in five games, and made 40 saves against the Sabres. That's like 28.5 saves against a good NHL offense. Good work, Rick!

New York Rangers: The Rangers' offense has sputtered lately, netting just four goals in the last three games. Why, it's almost as if they're a team built around one offensive weapon who has been underperforming!

Ottawa Senators: The Senators say they are their own worst enemy. It's not true, though. It's actually the schedule-makers who gave them 82 games against NHL teams. Doesn't seem fair.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers practiced in Central Park ahead of Sunday's game with the Rangers. Only four of them were mugged.

Phoenix Coyotes: Glendale still doesn't have the money to complete its deal with the Coyotes' prospective new owner. Anyone wanna buy $125 million in bonds to help 'em out?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Derek Engelland really lit up Marc Savard on Saturday. Some Bruins fans disagreed, but this was a good clean hit. You can tell because no one on the Bruins attempted to murder him over it.

San Jose Sharks: They gave this goal to Joe Thornton(notes), denying Dany Heatley(notes) an eventual hat trick. I don't get it.

St. Louis Blues: "Call-ups are giving Blues a boost," says the headline. With about 92 percent of the team out for extended periods, I should certainly hope so.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Guy Boucher had to call a team meeting about how poorly the Bolts play against teams that are terrible. They're 7-4-3 in games against teams outside the Eastern Conference playoffs, and their last three losses were to New Jersey, New Jersey (again) and Carolina.

Toronto Maple Leafs: A thing I figured out about how bad Brett Lebda(notes) is:

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That's pretty astonishing.

Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin(notes) is on pace for 50 goals this season. He is currently nine goals away from his career high. That's pretty good!

Washington Capitals: Ted Leonsis ain't feelin' the Caps lately. "Our power play is contributing to our woes across the board," he wrote. "8% conversion of late. No productivity from our star players." Yeah, that'll be a problem.

Gold Star Award

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John Tavares(notes) had a natural hat trick to lead the Islanders past Buffalo. It was his second hattie of the year. Those two games account for a third of his goals this season.

Minus of the Weekend

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Tampa's special teams didn't do so well on Saturday. Four power-play goals allowed on five opportunities, and they also coughed up a shortie while going 0-fer on five man-up chances. That is bad.

Play of the Weekend

Lovin' this goal from BJ Crombeen. It perfectly highlights what the Shark's problem is this season. (Except in the game, obviously, since they won 4-2.)

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "jeffleafsfan91" wants to help his hometown team a bit with not one but TWO trades.

Tomas Kaberle(notes)

Nikolai Kulemin(notes)
Freddy Sjostrom

for

Michael Del Zotto(notes)
Chris Drury(notes)
Brian Boyle(notes)

Francois Beauchemin(notes)
Jesse Blacker(notes)
Brad Ross(notes)

for

Dany Heatley

I think that second one really works great.

This Weekend's Worst Guardian

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I hope one day authorities can apprehend The Canadien for stealing Cobra Commander's mask and Iron Man's literally-everything-else.

Signoff

I don't want to alarm you, but there may be a boogieman or boogieMEN in the house!

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can email him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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