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February 10, 2012 | 4:08pm ET
Minor moves leave major marks
 Championship teams have always added an extra piece to put them over the top.

NEW YORK, NY -- Putting together the puzzle pieces of a Stanley Cup winning franchise is no small task for NHL general managers.

Rosters require tweaking, and with the trade deadline approaching, the past few Stanley Cup champions may shed some light on the importance of mid-season acquisitions.

In 2007, the Anaheim Ducks combined strong veteran talent with the future of their franchise. The team shored up their toughness early in the season by adding fan-favorite tough guy George Parros, who went on to lead the team in penalty minutes at the end of the season. Parros became a nice complimentary piece on a team that dominated during the regular season.

"He's got intensity and character, and is obviously highly intelligent," said Brian Burke, the Ducks' Executive Vice President and GM, at the time of the deal.

Another important acquisition for the team, was veteran Brad May.

May joined the Ducks on February 27th, right before the deadline. His strong character and presence in the locker-room helped guide the team towards their ultimate goal. He did, however, almost hurt the team when he was involved in an incident with Kim Johnsson that resulted in a three-game suspension.

While the Ducks stayed away from major moves, the trades they did make created an incredible amount of depth for the team. They were able to put together a roster that had talent, grit and hockey intelligence from top to bottom.

The very next season, the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings kept their roster intact for the most part. The only real trade they made was the acquisition of defenseman Brad Stuart. He paired with Niklas Kronwall to make up the Wings second pair, and was an integral part of the team's success.

The Red Wings have always been an exception to the rule in the NHL, so it should come as no surprise that the team's depth was already in place. They were lucky enough to lack major holes, and only needed the one in-season move.

Conversely, just a season later, the Pittsburgh Penguins used their GM's trade acumen to overcome that final hurdle and lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in over 15 years.

Chris Kunitz has become an integral part of the Pittsburgh Penguins success over the past few years. He had a pedigree of success being a member of the Stanley Cup winning Ducks just a few seasons before, and brought that winning culture to a young locker room.

Kunitz was essential for adding much needed secondary scoring behind the team's marquee players. Kunitz was not a rental deal, because he had three years left on his contract the day they acquired him.

"I've watched him forever and Dan Bylsma coached him [in the AHL] and played with him," Ray Shero told ESPN. "He's a guy that can play with good players. He's got the speed, the hockey sense, the hands. We really like him."

Another major deal that came down at the wire, was the Penguins bringing in the veteran fire-power of Bill Guerin. Guerin enjoyed a multitude of success with Pittsburgh in the final two seasons of his NHL career, and was a fundamental cog in the Pittsburgh Penguins machine.

"I just go in and be myself. I've always been a vocal guy, not afraid to say anything. You just play it by ear. They get you for a specific reason," Guerin explained on TSN at the time of the deal. "The best thing you can do is be yourself and support the leadership they have there."

Interestingly, the Chicago Blackhawks made no trades that impacted the team's post-season success. Smaller trades acquiring players such as, Johnsson, Nick Leddy, and Nick Boynton were completed, but none of those players had a major impact in the playoffs.

Last season, the Boston Bruins were a team struggling to score consistently every night. On the back-end, they were elite. They needed offensive depth however, and GM Peter Chiarelli made sure his team would have all the weapons they needed before heading into battle.

The first domino to fall was the procurement of forward Chris Kelly. Kelly came over from Ottawa for a second round pick, a small price to pay for the impact he would have in the Stanley Cup playoffs, notching 13 points. Chiarelli was far from finished however, and would add Rich Peverly just a few days later. Peverly brought a strong two-way presence to the line-up, and added some offensive fire power in a complimentary role.

Finally the last piece to put into place, was another puck-moving defenseman. And while Tomas Kaberle struggled during his time in Boston, the end result was a Stanley Cup Championship; a trade that Chiarelli would make 10 times out of 10.

"I looked at the two deals tied together and how they have improved our team," Chiarelli elucidated about the trades. "We felt that we needed a player like Tomas, a player with good vision, a good skater, can quarterback a power play, has played many, many games in the league. Very smart, heavy player, can skate. ... It was an important piece for us to get, and obviously we had to pay a price."

While most team's stay away from big name deals and blockbuster trades, adding depth to your roster could be important for a Stanley Cup run. These smaller deals do not often interfere with a team's locker-room chemistry.

Big ticket rentals often fail, leaving a team damaged for the future. The Penguins acquisition of Marian Hossa, for example, led them as far as the Finals, but no further than that. Fortunately for them, the rental did not come at the cost of forcing the team into mediocrity. They were able to rebound quickly and win the Stanley Cup the next season.

With the ultimate goal of a adding a ring to each player's finger in mind, trades must be approached with great trepidation. But just a few small modifications may, but a team over the top.

Patrick Kearns is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the New York Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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