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Thinking forward
It's not too early to plan for 2006-07
5/23/06 - By Steve Flores

With the curtain drawn rather early for San Jose Sharks fans I think it's a great time to sit back and fantasize a little about the next NHL season. Yeah I know the playoffs are still rolling along, but the Sharks are done and although we will still watch the rest of the way we all know that our interest has waned, as the local team is kaput.

Fans and media alike have all sounded off on the reasons the team failed to advance beyond the second round. After all the Sharks got through the first round as the highest remaining seed in the Western Conference.

Big deal that was huh?!!!?

In actuality this newborn NHL season really didn't have that big a gap between the top and bottom seeds (especially in the west). The Sharks were battered physically (just like the prior playoff to Calgary) and out-experienced by the Edmonton Boilers.

The Boilers are a hungry group of veterans who play very well as a team. The Sharks youth showed mightily in the second round and the Oiler's excelled at exploiting that chink in the fin. It's all water under the bridge now but as I see it, the team is only game experience and a couple of players away from taking the next step.

The Sharks are loaded with youthful skill and GM Doug Wilson will be patient enough to allow proper cultivation of his young players to ensure that they mature into quality NHL performers.

With that said the Sharks are said to be between 7 and 9 million below next year's salary cap. Ville Nieminen must be re-signed. The guy plays hard every night and is a pest extraordinaire for all opposing teams. I know this is fact, as I always hated watching the Sharks when they had to lace em up against this guy. Better to play with him than against him. He is grit personified.

The other free agents that the Sharks have are expendable. I am not getting into the name game, as we know whom these free agent guys are. Good soldiers one and all but their time in the tank is probably up.

The Sharks need a veteran Defender and a number one line Left Wing. How is that for succinct and to the point. Names are getting bandied about all over the place - right wings, centers, trade the goalie etc, etc, etc blah, blah, blah.

How's the name Ed Jovanovski grab ya?

Jovo cop is the heart and soul of the Vancouver Canucks. Spend a few days in British Columbia during hockey season and see for yourself. Jovanovski is a tough veteran. He has playoff experience, he has grit, is a character guy, he knows how to play in both zones and yes folks he is a free agent!

Earlier in the season there were rumblings in the V-town media that the Canucks would not be able to re-sign their best defender. Since the season's conclusion Canuck's GM Dave Nonis has fired head coach Marc Crawford. Rumor is that more heads will roll. Speculation runs the gamut in Vancouver; from the likelihood of public enemy #1 Todd Bertuzzi being dealt to Team Captain Markus Naslund being shipped to some other hockey city. So who knows what may happen in Vancouver.

All I know is Jovo is slated to be a free agent and he seems a perfect fit for the Sharks needs on defense.

The upcoming free agent market is loaded with defensemen with the likes of Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Bryan McCabe amongst others all becoming available. Each would bring improving skill to the Sharks defensive corps.

Chara and Redden are #1 power play line regulars in Ottawa and although it will be expensive to reel them both back in I am expecting the Senators to find a way to do just that. After all they have one of the league's most potent power plays and I don't see them giving up on it anytime soon.

Many will say that the Sharks do not have a quality quarterback on the point for their power play and they would be correct. However they do have Matt Carle and Christian Ehrhoff both of whom are on their way to becoming quality power play d-men. Time and experience is once again their only roadblocks. Wilson knows this and patience he will have.

Jovo gives the Sharks all the other intangibles that the youth presently does not; leadership, experience and a calming solid presence mixed with grit and a desire to win.

On the Left Wing front I am not thrilled with the lot of the Group III Free-Agent names available Martin Straka, Geoff Sanderson, Jeff Friesen etc.

Once again my path leads back to Ottawa and the possibility that perhaps Martin Havlat could be pried away.

Reportedly available earlier this season Havlat suffered an early season injury and returned to have a pretty good stretch run with 16 points in 18 games. The Czech Left Winger would be a great fit on the #1 line with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.

The maligned Nils Ekman is a gamer who has been forced to play above board. Ekman is not a #1 line guy and would be a far better fit on the Sharks third line.

I know fans love to say "get rid of him' or 'trade him' but he is better than that. The guy is a good skater with offensive skills, he is just not right for a top line on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Havlat is that kind of talent. Havlat is fast, offensive and has a bit of a nasty streak in him.

Of course this is all fantasy and I have no idea whether or not Havlat can be had, but one can sit here and dream ya know.

Anyway regardless of what happens I am pretty sure something will develop, as Wilson is a truly bright guy who decided to sit still once and watched the error of his ways. Knowing how much the Sharks developed and how close to taking the next step they are will be inspiration enough for Wilson to make the right moves to get San Jose over that last possible hurdle.

Contact Steve at

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