2014 Stanley Cup Final: How The Columbus Blue Jackets Helped Create Two Stanley Cup Finalists

Paul Bereswill

The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have a lot of former Blue Jackets on their roster.

When the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers take the ice for Game One, there will be six former Columbus Blue Jackets playing for their respective teams. Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, Rick Nash, Anton Stralman, Jeff Carter, and Marian Gaborik all suited up for Columbus once, as did John Moore who will likely return from suspension in Game Two.

Looking at the names listed above, there are five players capable of being top-six forwards, a solid defensive pairing, and a spark plug grinder in Dorsett. Each player has contributed in their own way to their team's success, helping them advance through the playoffs all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Here's how:

11/3/11- Anton Stralman signs with the New York Rangers- Anton Stralman was traded from the Calgary Flames to the Blue Jackets right before the start of the 2009 season. Stralman played two seasons in Ohio, quietly helping solidify the bottom defensive pairing. The Swedish defenseman did not see a lot of playing time, nor was he asked to come back following the 2010-2011 campaign. After signing a tryout deal and failing to make the New Jersey Devils, the Rangers took a flyer on Stralman, and the rest is history.

Now Stralman is a second pairing defenseman for the Rangers alongside Marc Staal, posting terrific possession numbers and being known as one of the better defensive defensemen in the NHL. Stralman is due for a major pay raise this off-season, while the Blue Jackets will be looking for another defenseman themselves. Had the Blue Jackets re-signed Stralman, or known his potential, the Rangers would be without their arguably third best defenseman.

2/23/12- Blue Jackets trade Jeff Carter to the Kings for Jack Johnson and a first round pick- Arguably the biggest move for the Kings on this list; the trade for Carter propelled the Kings to win the 2012 Stanley Cup, and certainly helped them reach the 2014 Final.

Columbus had just traded for Carter in the previous off-season, but it was no secret that he had little to no interest in playing for the Jackets. After a few months of awkward and unsuccessful play, they decided enough was enough and dealt the Canadian winger to Los Angeles, where he would team up with Mike Richards once again.

Another potential bonus here for the Kings was that they traded Johnson, leading them to enhance their puck possession play on defense, as well as giving Drew Doughty greater responsibility overall.

7/24/12- Blue Jackets trade Rick Nash to the Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first round pick- Nash had wanted out of Columbus for a while, and General Manager Scott Howson took his time in dealing the best player in Blue Jackets history -- though it was also no secret that the Rangers were the only team in the running to get Columbus' captain.

When it came to putting together the pieces for the trade, many believed it would take at least one of Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, or Chris Kreider to get Howson to pull the trigger. Howson eventually blinked and received none of them, instead taking the Rangers' depth away and a first round pick. While the lack of depth hurt the Rangers in the 2013 season, Nash provided the Blueshirts with some hope offensively now that the team finally had a top-line scorer.

Rick Nash has not been great at all offensively this post-season, but the former Blue Jacket has been excellent in all other areas of the ice, including penalty killing, which will need to show against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. The Blue Jackets added depth resulted in the Rangers loss of depth, which led directly to ...

4/3/13- Blue Jackets trade Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore to the Rangers for Marian Gaborik- There were a couple of extra minor parts in the trade, but the important pieces are all listed. Rangers President Glen Sather essentially said to the Blue Jackets, "anything you can do I can do better," as he traded a scorer in distress for depth. Gaborik was not fitting in John Tortorella's system, so the Rangers shocked the hockey world and dealt one of their best scorers in what looked like a "sell" move at the time.

The trade was not a sell move at all, though, as Sather realized the importance of replenishing the team's depth. The Rangers were too top heavy in scoring, similar to the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, and the Gaborik trade alleviated that. Even Sather himself couldn't have predicted at the time how perfectly the trade would pan out for the Rangers.

Brassard centers the best third line in hockey, resurrecting the career of left winger Benoit Pouliot, and igniting the talent in Mats Zuccarello. Dorsett has fit on the fourth line playing with Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle as the grinder, keeping his cool the majority of the time, and playing in all types of situations. Thanks to Dorsett being able to avoid being a negative, the Rangers rarely have had to change their lineup. Moore hasn't reached his full potential yet, but is still a young defenseman working on his offense; which allowed the Rangers to trade Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators for Kevin Klein.

An aspect of the deal that isn't talked about is that the Rangers also managed to shed salary in the Gaborik trade, which would lead into their ability to keep Brad Richards for another season, sign Dan Girardi to an extension, and trade for Martin St. Louis.

So what ended up happening to Marian Gaborik, you ask?

3/5/14- Columbus Blue Jackets trade Marian Gaborik to the Los Angeles Kings for Matt Frattin and picks- The final trade in this list could be the most significant one to this current season, as the former Ranger was dealt to their current opponent. Gaborik scored only nine goals in his Blue Jackets career, struggling with injuries. With the Slovakian winger set for free agency following the season, the Blue Jackets traded Gaborik for a young forward and draft picks, giving the Kings the scorer they needed, ala Jeff Carter in 2012.

While the Blue Jackets play a defensive game, the Kings open up their offense, not ignoring possession play, but allowing players to play quickly end to end. Gaborik fits perfectly in the Kings system, using his legs to his advantage in racing down the ice and scoring goals from all angles. Gaborik leads the NHL with 12 goals this post-season, three more than he scored in his entire Blue Jackets career.

For Blue Jackets fans, it may be difficult to watch the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals without wondering "what if" about some of the most important players on both teams. The upside for fans is that the Blue Jackets themselves returned to the playoffs this season, thanks in part to Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Johnson, who were all acquired in the deals listed above.

Perhaps one day those players will help Columbus advance further than the First Round, but for now it's all about the former Blue Jackets on two different teams.

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