Numerous teams have crossed the midway point in the 2011-12 season. Quickly, it's becoming evident which teams are contenders, which teams are on the fringe and which teams have little to play for during the final half of the year.
For a couple teams (Anaheim, Columbus), the playoffs have been out of reach for quite some time. These clubs are obvious sellers and with the trade deadline set for February 27th, 2012 the time to sell is quickly approaching. Which struggling club will pull the trigger first?
Honestly, I didn't expect the Anaheim Ducks to perform this poorly in 2011-12. I viewed them as a team with numerous offensive stars (Ryan, Perry, Getzlaf, Selanne) with a defense that can contribute to the offense as well (Visnovsky) and a goaltender that occasionally fringes on the boundaries of elite (Hiller). Their complete inability to find any form of success this year has surprised me. However, now that the season is mostly 50% completed the Ducks are in the basement of the West, sitting 14th with 26 points in 38 games it's time to look ahead to the future and start making moves that can help this club now that 2011-12 is a loss.
I expected Columbus to struggle this year even with their addition of Jeff Carter. My belief was mostly centered on the lack of trust I have in Steve Mason, who aside from an outstanding rookie year in 2008-09 has been average if not a bit below average since. Sure, you can attribute some of his poor statistics on the defense in front of him, but the fact remains that his GAA has been a 3.00 or higher for the last two and a half seasons. Like Anaheim, the curtain has already fell on the 2011-12 season and the goal now is to build and improve yourself for the future.
Clearly, both teams are in an ideal seller's position and both teams have already made it clear that they are willing to part with the majority of players on their roster.
Rumors out of Anaheim state that everyone is on the market except for Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Whether there is any merit behind that rumor is up for debate. Still, even if we assume those players won't be dealt, that leaves a wealth of talent left to be potentially traded in the big trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. These three are huge, high-quality players that have more than enough talent to transform a team on the fringe into a true contender.
In Columbus, the big question mark hangs over Rick Nash's availability. Will Nash waive his no-trade clause if asked to do so? I imagine Nash would enjoy joining a more competitive club that has a chance to win, but I imagine it'd take a massive offer for Columbus to consider dealing their long-term star.
Eventually, one of these teams will pull the trigger and make a big trade that could completely shake the NHL. It's any one's guess at this stage as to which team will make a big move first, but the key is that both teams need to make one.
Often, teams will wait too long when selling. I understand the theory of building interest and holding out for the best offer, but too often this strategy can come back to bite you. Waiting too long and entertaining too many offers can actually drive potential interest away and as a result actually weaken the market for your players. If you're still holding out for the perfect deal as the deadline approaches, teams will be forced to look other avenues or risk having the deadline pass empty handed.
As of the date of this article, there's roughly seven weeks until the 2012 NHL trade deadline comes and goes. Anaheim and Columbus are in unique positions where they shouldn't just make a big trade or two, but one where they need a total overhaul. The time is now to starting talking with other teams, inquiring about other players and looking past the 2011-12 season.