This time last week, we figured we were counting down to something, even if we weren’t quite sure what. Well, the deadline has come and gone, and we were right. That was… something.
A week ago, it looked like we could be in for a deadline that would shake things up as far as the top contenders were concerned. Instead, while we saw plenty of deals over the course of a busy 72 hours or so, it’s fair to say that the Earth didn’t exactly shift beneath the road to the Stanley Cup.
The biggest-impact players on the block didn't go anywhere, as Joe Sakic and the Avalanche decided to wait until the summer to break up their flailing core. Other big names, like Patrick Sharp, Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata, also stayed put for various reasons. Most of the top contenders chose to tinker rather than bring in major reinforcements. And the two best players who did move ended up going to the teams that were already sitting at one and two in our power rankings.
So was it all just a big waste of time? Not quite. For one, the Capitals' grip on overall-favourite status got a lot tighter, and barring some sort of late-season slump we can pretty much pencil them into the top spot for the rest of the year. The Wild made it clear that they're all-in to emerge from the Western Conference. And even the Senators signaled that they're serious about emerging from the Atlantic, recognizing that there may never be a clearer path through the division than the one in front of them right now.
But we didn't get the sort of seismic change we might have seen if, say, the Rangers had landed Kevin Shattenkirk or a team like the Canadiens had pulled the trigger on Matt Duchene. Time will tell if those teams end up regretting their cautious approach, although history tells us that big deadline moves can backfire at least as often as they work.
So sure, the balance of power shifted, even if only slightly and mostly in the direction of the teams who already had it. Now we find out how much any of it ends up mattering.
Meanwhile, a contender that's been in and out of the top five all season has caught fire and shot up the rankings. That could end up being more important than any of the deals that did or didn’t get made last week. More on that in the next section.
Road to the CupThe five teams that look like they're headed towards Stanley Cup–favourite status.
5. San Jose Sharks (38-19-7, +26 true goals differential*): They came out of last night's showdown in Minnesota with a regulation loss, the first time in eight games they haven't managed a point.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (40-16-8, +43): When they're healthy, the Penguins still seem like they have as good a shot as anyone to win it all. But right now, Kris Letang is hurt, and this didn't sound good.