Out on the ice, the best players in the NHL thrive under pressure. When the game is on the line and there is a rebound to bury while the goalie is pulled for an extra attacker, the best players in the world always tend to get the puck on their stick. They want the puck on their stick.
The top goaltenders of all time have the same instinct. A sweeping glove save or a diving desperation stop with time expiring.
Fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins should be familiar with this kind of killer instinct. On a nightly basis they get to watch one of the league's most coldhearted, ruthless finishers in Sidney Crosby. They also employ Marc-Andre Fleury, he of "the Save."
So it should come as no surprise that the man who runs the Penguins is a killer in his own right. 2013 will be remembered for a lot of things. One of the most memorable being that this was the year Ray Shero cemented himself as one of the best GMs in all of sports, and as a ruthless and efficient hunter near the trade deadline.
If a general manager can pull off one trade for a Marian Hossa type player to bolster Stanley Cup chances, that's fine and dandy, but it doesn't make him legendary. Making outstanding moves over and over again at the deadline and not losing a single deal does, and that's what Ray Shero does.
He knows his Penguins inside and out, and he knows exactly what to add to the mix to improve his team. Shero also has a tendency to not give up major prospects or roster players while adding. He first proved that in 2008 when he hijacked Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from the (then) Atlanta Thrashers for Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong and a first-round selection.
Hossa dominated throughout the playoffs in Pittsburgh, and even though they fell short of the Cup and lost him as a free agent to Detroit Red Wings, this was still a clear win for Shero.
He also added Hal Gill that year, and he was hard to play against during his time as a Penguin.
A year later he added Chris Kunitz a few weeks before the deadline, and he's currently setting career highs in everything while playing alongside Crosby and the aforementioned Dupuis. All he gave up in that deal was aging defender Ryan Whitney.
Shero stole another top-six forward near the deadline when he picked up James Neal from the Dallas Stars for Alex Goligoski. The fact that he also ended up with Matt Niskanen on top of the torrid goal scorer in this deal makes it all the sweeter.
2013 might end up being Shero's masterpiece, however.
Adding Brendan Morrow, Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen while only giving up Joe Morrow, one first-round selection, two second-round selections and a fifth-round pick is just over the top. Especially considering how late in the draft the first rounder is likely to be.
The Penguins were among the Stanley Cup favorites before they started wheeling and dealing. Then they managed to add Morrow, Iggy, Murray and Jokinen without losing a single roster player.
It's fair to say that Shero has managed this team into the odds-on favorite position to win it all with his incredible work around this deadline, and deadlines gone by.
No one in the NHL can match a healthy Penguins team line for line, and there are no discernible weaknesses on a squad that is full of attitude, clutch scorers and talent. And that is thanks in part to Shero and his apparent mutant power to steal players around the trade deadline.
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