How do Cup predictions look now?
Before the season, each writer on the ESPN.com NHL crew predicted which team would win the Stanley Cup. Now that the trade deadline has passed and a quarter of the regular season remains, they tell us if they want to change their minds.
@ESPN_Burnside: Sure, it's easy to point to the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers and say they're much closer to a Stanley Cup than they were a week ago. But only one team can say it got Martin Erat, and that team is the Phoenix Coyotes. Yes, Erat has only one NHL goal this season and is tied with new teammate netminder Mike Smith in that category, but I picked the Coyotes to win the Stanley Cup in September and it would be bad form to jump off the bandwagon now, wouldn't it? Seriously, though, I like the Erat addition and am guessing he is going to be a pleasant surprise after an ugly year or so that saw him ask out of Nashville and then Washington. I'm also confident Smith is going to go on the kind of tear we saw regularly when Phoenix advanced to the 2012 Western Conference finals, lifting the Coyotes to the second wild-card spot in the West. After that, well, we all know anything can happen, including a Stanley Cup parade in Arizona.
@CraigCustance: The Kings are my Stanley Cup pick, and I certainly believe they are a better team today than they were before the deadline in adding Marian Gaborik. He might not have been the first winger I would have added, though. I would be a little more excited about Matt Moulson or maybe even Mike Cammalleri as far as fit in L.A., but Gaborik is a pure goal scorer, which is something this roster just doesn't have. He didn't fit in Columbus and it will be interesting to see if he fits in under Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles, but for a short-term fix it might help ease the goal-scoring pressure on some of the other forwards. The Kings have definitely had problems scoring goals, but this is their time of year. As we grind down the stretch and the games get tighter, this is when the Kings excel. Their big, heavy game and outstanding goaltending typically thrive in the spring, and I don't see this year being any different.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: This is the first time all season I don't feel quite as confident about my September Cup pick, the defending champions from Chicago, and that's due in large part to the additions their rivals made over the past week. First, let me say I think the Hawks were wise to stand pat. They're the deepest team in the league, they added depth pieces in Peter Regin and Kris Versteeg earlier in the season, and I don't think they needed to do anything at the deadline. Still, the fact remains that their top Central Division rival, the St. Louis Blues, the team they'll likely have to go through in the second round of the playoffs, got much better with Ryan Miller and Steve Ott joining their side. Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks added a solid veteran defenseman in Stephane Robidas while the Los Angeles Kings added winger Marian Gaborik. The Hawks could see either of those teams in the conference finals. The path got tougher for the Blackhawks in that regard, particularly with the Blues, but I still think the Hawks have what it takes to go all the way again.
@KatieStrangESPN: One of the marks of a good team is not feeling compelled to mess with a good thing, and that is precisely the approach San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson took leading up to what was otherwise an action-packed trade deadline day on Wednesday. I will admit there were times when names like Callahan, St. Louis, Moulson, Vanek and Kesler were flying around and I was feeling a little unsettled about the Sharks' conspicuous silence. I was almost positive that Wilson would be waiting in the weeds, ready to pounce on Thomas Vanek as soon as the price dropped. Nope. Instead, Wilson stood pat with his Sharks squad, one I predicted to hoist the Cup before the season began. How do I feel about that now? Well, the competition remains pretty damn stiff in a ridiculously competitive Western Conference, and the top dogs did make moves to improve their respective teams. The Anaheim Ducks bolstered their blue line with veteran Stephane Robidas, the Los Angeles Kings added some offense with Marian Gaborik, and the St. Louis Blues solidified their goaltending with a deal to acquire Ryan Miller. None of these deals, however, put those teams out of San Jose's reach. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make, and Wilson served his team well by keeping his group intact rather than dismantling the core or mortgaging the future for some enticing rental player. Do I still like my pick? Yep, I'm sticking by it.