Commentary

Last chance for eight contenders

The Flyers have filled their needs - what about the other top teams?

Originally Published: February 18, 2011
By Craig Button | Special to ESPN Insider

Every season reaches a point at which contending teams begin jockeying to find the magic elixir to inch past their nearest competitors. This is the final opportunity to give a team a boost: the trade deadline, where rumors are numerous and fans get excited about the possibilities for their teams.

There was no greater trade deadline deal than the New York Islanders trading for Butch Goring in 1980 and setting the course toward four consecutive Stanley Cups. I was in Dallas in 1999 when the Stars were faced with the deadline and what to do. We liked our team and felt we had everything in place to win the Cup. We added some depth and the players did the rest, emerging as champions.

While there are no guarantees after the deadline, leading up to it there is one guarantee: Teams will be watching their competitors closely and looking to make improvements that will allow them to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

I set out on my own journey to look at those teams who I feel have performed as serious Stanley Cup contenders to this point in the season.

Don't believe that simply making the playoffs gives a team a real chance to win the Cup. Since 1967, only two teams that finished outside of the top seven overall finishers at the conclusion of the regular season have won: the New Jersey Devils in 1995, in a shortened 48-game regular season, and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

I am not looking at specific players but rather at what element would make a team stronger. The fun is to leave it to the fans to discuss, debate, argue and even dream about what players would fit these holes.

Vancouver Canucks

Craig Button contributes regularly to ESPN Insider. Since 1988, Button has worked in the NHL as a scout and later as director of scouting with the Minnesota North Stars, becoming director of player personnel after the franchise relocated to Dallas. He later served as vice president and general manager of the Calgary Flames. He currently works as an analyst for the NHL Network.