Going into the playoffs this year, all the talk was about how dominant the Central division was (outside of Columbus), and how it was certain that two of the four teams (still excluding Columbus) would meet up in the Western Conference Finals. Well, look who's laughing now. Not the Central division, that's for sure. And Sharks fans. Definitely not Sharks fans.
After the Los Angeles Kings swept the St. Louis Blues and the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators in five games, the Western Conference Finals became an all-Pacific Division Conference Finals, the first time it has happened since the Pacific Division was formed. The Pacific Division in the conference finals is not exactly a rare occurrence - 2009 was the only year since 2003 that did not have a Pacific Division team playing for the chance to play for the Cup - but it's still notable.
But the reason of this article is not to extol the virtues of playing in the Pacific Division, but rather to examine how those two Pacific Division teams built their rosters so that one of them will be playing for the Stanley Cup. For the past two years, I've been examining how the San Jose Sharks roster has come together, through draft picks, trades, and free agent signings. Due to the Sharks' unfortunate early exit from the playoffs, and because I'm actually fascinated by this sort of thing, I decided to branch out and do roster charts for the two teams that are where the Sharks have been the past two years.
Below are the charts for both the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes. Normally, I would pull the rosters off the official site rosters, but due to the "Black Ace" phenomenon, I decided to stick with only the players that have played in a playoff game. So sorry Jonathan Bernier and Jason LaBarbera, in the words of Heidi Klum, you are out.
The Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes illustrated the tale of two methods of building rosters. The Kings are firm believers in trade first, ask questions later. And once the questions are asked, the answer is always trade. The Coyotes, on the other hand, prefer to sign free agents or retain their original draft picks.
Here is a handy chart that breaks down the types of players that were used to make up the two rosters:
In contast, the Coyotes made 20 trades for their 23 man roster. They also only used 14 of their own draft picks and 21 draft picks in total. Their 15 free agents used is more than their original draft picks used. The Coyotes thus do not retain asset value - despite being an NHL team since 1979, Shane Doan is by far the earliest branch, going back to 1995. This probably is an effect of Gretzky's reign of terror and the ownership issues that have been going on for the past few years.
Breakdown of what picks the two teams used by round:
Original Draft Pick Breakdown
The first round is by far the most productive round for both teams, which is fairly predictable. However, while the second round the second-most productive for the Los Angeles Kings, the fourth round holds that distinction for the Phoenix Coyotes. The Kings also used two players from the 1967 expansion draft (Bob Wall from the Detroit Red Wings, and Gord Labossiere from the Montreal Canadiens), which ranks them as two of the first members of the Los Angeles Kings. While it's no Pat Falloon to Jamie McGinn/Galiardi and Winnik, it's still pretty cool to see the roster be connected to the very first days.
Out of their 20 trades, the Coyotes used 13 different trade partners, the most with the New York Rangers. The only other teams that the Coyotes traded with multiple times were the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Kings used 21 trade partners for their 42 trades, with the only NHL teams not included are the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks. Actually, both teams did not make any trades with the Sharks that contribute to the roster, which, as a Sharks fan, makes me feel a bit better inside. Contrary to popular opinion, the Flyers were not the team that contributed most to the Kings' roster via trade, although they are tied for second. The Kings' four trades with the Edmonton Oilers and the Detroit Red Wings give them the honor of the most traded-with teams.
In researching the teams, I came across a few players who I thought were notable for various reasons.
Player that Makes Ann Want to Kill Herself
Jeff Carter. When researching these charts, his branch alone took up two full pages in my handy-dandy notebook. The entire Phoenix Coyotes roster took three pages.
HM: Dustin Penner was close, but the fact that he branched off of an already-researched Jeff Carter branch (hello, Jari Kurri) made it easier to deal with.
Believe it or not (and you better believe it), S. Couturier (Sylvain, not Sean) was in Jeff Carter's branch.
When Push Comes to Shove
Konstantin Pushkarev (Kings). There's nothing really notable about him, just that I really like the name.
Orson Scott Card's Favorite Player
Enver Lisin (Coyotes). Enver Lisin, Ender Wiggin - it's close enough.
Something from Turtles
The Great One to the Pancake One
As mentioned before, Dustin Penner's branch can be traced back to the famous (or infamous, depending on whether or not you use "eh" in daily speech) Wayne Gretzky trade.
L'amour pour Lacroix
The Los Angeles Kings traded for Eric Lacroix twice in the pursuit of Jeff Carter.
Besides using the same coach and general manager that the Sharks used to use, the Los Angeles Kings used the most ex-Sharks on their roster: Tom Pressing, Marty McSorley, Doug Zmolek, and Brad Stuart. The Phoenix Coyotes only had two: Ray Whitney and Claude Lemieux.
What these two roster charts show is that there isn't one specific way to construct a solid playoff roster - you can hoard your assets and trade for Eric Lacroix twice, or you can rely on free agent signings and the Sharks' 2nd ever draft pick to tally almost a point per game. Or just that a hot goalie can overcome anything. But really, my main conclusion is that I really, really dislike both Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner.
As always, thanks to Pro Sports Transactions for the info.