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What You See is What You Get
No Short Term Changes for Sharks - Will it work?
3/14/04 - by Ken Smyth

Let the other teams do the serious bulking up with questionable roster supplements, the Sharks will go for some organic fiber and some chocolate milk. That's the message that General Manager Doug Wilson sent out with the Sharks' (near lack of) activity at the NHL trade deadline. Wasn't Curtis Brown a producer on a Thelonius Monk album some time back?

Brown is a decent hockey player, he's certainly not afraid to throw a check in the offensive zone, but he lacks the speed that Marco Sturm provided and that will cost the Sharks of one of their biggest advantages over the tail end of this season. Earlier a team facing the Sharks needed to defend against pairs of fast forwards on two different lines: Sturm and Patrick Marleau on one line, Nils Ekman and Alexander Korolyuk on another.

It's conceivable that the opposing coach could cover one pair or the other with a checking line, but it was very hard to cover both effectively. The match-ups are much simpler now. This may not make a huge difference in the grab and pull hockey that constitutes the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it could make the difference in the Sharks winning the division ahead of a surging Dallas team.

Brad Boyes (Jeff Jillson, too) is with his third organization in about a year. This leaves the Owen Nolan trade one-year-later as Brown, Alyn McCauley, and winger Steve Bernier; obtained with the extra first-round pick after a trade-up. Bernier, who is still in juniors, is doing well and could be a reason the Sharks' didn't mind shuffling Boyes. Boyes is probably tired of the "top prospect" title in front of his name. Besides that, people start to wonder about a first-round pick getting traded that many times in a short while, remember Jayson More? At least Boston is closer to home.

It's clear now that Doug Wilson is satisfied that this team can go a few rounds into the playoffs without more help, and isn't willing to jeopardize chemistry, increase payroll, or disturb long term development plans for a quick fix now. Whether this long-term confidence will be justified in the next six to eight weeks is anybody's guess, but there will be a lot of finger pointing should the Sharks be a first round casualty in the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Meanwhile on the ice, the Sharks are 3-3 over the last six games. You can point the finger at injuries to key players (Mike Ricci, Kyle McLaren) or going up against some very motivated upper level opponents (Dallas, Colorado, Vancouver), but what few people want to think about is inconsistent play on the part of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby's been letting in some soft goals over the last two weeks, going back to the third period of the Pittsburgh game.

Until then, his play was one of the Sharks' strengths this season. Last night, against the Islanders, the Sharks looked to be picking the Isles (and goaltender Rick DiPietro) apart with a 4-1 lead in the second period. Cliff Ronning put two past Nabokov in slightly over a minute and a half; the second on a 2-on-1 that Nabokov grossly misplayed. Nabby proceeded to give more unwarranted excitement with on several easy shots that bounced off him. He recovered later in the second period with some great saves; but by then the game was 4-3 and a nail-biter.

The Islanders were hungry after five games winless and came out with a lot more physical presence (read as banging people around) in the third period. Will Vesa Toskala get the start on Saturday?

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