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Rivet and Guerin
Cardiac surgery is pricy
2/27/07 - By Ken Smyth

The Sharks 4-4 road trip, aka Dismal-on-Ice, is finished with a trail of smashed furniture in hotels and locker rooms from St. Louis to Dallas. That's assuming Coach Ron Wilson shows a pulse. Then again, if his team had one they'd be leading the Western Conference instead of just sort of hanging around in fifth place. It also finished with Josh Gorges getting a ticket to Montreal and defenseman Craig Rivet coming to San Jose. The big question after that was what else GM Doug Wilson planned to do these before the trade deadline, and the answer was Bill Guerin.

Lowlight of the road trip was the scoreless streak. It should be possible for an NHL team, especially one that includes the previous Hart, Ross, and Rocket Richard trophy winners, to score a goal in 190 minutes. No matter who they playing against. Somebody should knock a puck towards the opponent's net enough times and enough ways to have it bounce around and fool the goalie. When that doesn't happen, something is really wrong. This Sharks' team is too talented to be using those old cliches about sixty-minute efforts and getting the job done in their own end.

Simply stated, the Sharkies needed a heart transplant. They had stars, they had role-players, but nobody who could scream and yell and turn publicly emotional after a bad loss. Nobody on the roster who'd turn the locker room water cooler into scrap metal after a stinker game, unless the cooler wore a Tuomo Ruutu jersey. There aren't many players who can add this to a team and they cost a bit at the trade deadline, look at how Atlanta just coughed up a middle first round pick (Glen Metropolit) to bring Keith Tkachuk over for a few months. Bringing in Bill Guerin is a stab at that direction, how much positive he brings for the playoffs depends on whether we're getting the New Jersey Guerin or the Dallas Stars Guerin.

The Sharks' finished last season losing four straight games to a (cliche alert!) harder-working Edmonton Oilers team. Still turns my stomach, both the loss and the cliche. Besides free-agent signings of Curtis Brown and Mike Grier, the big trade over the summer was defenseman Tom Preissing for Mark Bell. Between Bell's DUI arrest and lack of scoring that trade has been almost a total stinker. Maybe now the Sharks' are tough enough to push back in a physical playoff series.

A side effect of the Preissing trade was that it tied the Sharks' to a very young defense. The defense-by-committee of Matt Carle, Rob Davison, Josh Gorges, Douglas Murray, Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic can look solid one period and confused the next. If the Sharks' scored about thirty more goals, what was expected from Bell and Jonathan Cheechoo based on last season, that wouldn't be a big problem. But it is a problem, and the raised expectations from last year mean that somebody will pay with their job if this team doesn't make a strong playoff run. The Sharks looked like first-round playoff kill over the last few weeks and both Wilsons know what that means.

Why Josh Gorges? Good question, easy guess is that he was the deepest in the doghouse. The Sharks were 3-4 while Kyle McLaren was out, and Gorges picked up a +2 rating with significant ice time during that stretch. His stock went way down on the road trip. Over the last eight he was '4 and sat out the last three games as a healthy scratch. Why Craig Rivet? Alexei Zhitnik and Eric Brewer were off the table, and Sheldon Souray, if he's traded, should cost a core player or two unless Montreal GM Bob Gainey likes riding in a bulletproof car.

What's next? The Sharks' broadcasters mentioned after Monday's loss to the Ducks that the Sharks needed to look behind them as eighth place was closer than first in this conference. No kidding. Evgeni Nabokov stood tall with two good games in Washington and Chicago, but blew his latest chance to end the goalie platoon with a weak effort in Calgary. Either he or Vesa Toskala needs to show they can consistantly play at star level in tough games.

You pay to play!

We can argue about how much Doug paid to borrow a pair of players, but prices were bit steep this season. Atlanta coughed up former first rounders for Zhitnik and Tkachuk, the Islanders sent two formers plus their 2007 pick to Edmonton to borrow Ryan Smyth. Going back a few weeks, the Peter Forsberg deal set up sellers' market for 2007.

Nashville gave up two past and one future first-round picks plus a 2007 third rounder to get Forsberg from Philadelphia. He comes with a bad foot and becomes a free agent next July. Only way this makes sense is if Forsberg can score fifteen or twenty goals over the rest of the season or becomes a five bedroom house in the Cupertino school district. Even then he'd need marble counters. (Third way, for you conspiracy lovers, is that if Nashville doesn't go deep into the playoffs, the whole outfit may be packed up and shipped off. This way, Forsberg and the guys shipped off tho Philly are all off the books for the new owners.)

The one deal that really catches my eye is Nolan Schaeffer going to Pittsburgh for a low draft pick. Granted, there is no place for him up here and he's gone as a free agent come July, but right-gloved goalies are far between. They come in handy in shootouts and against Teemu Selanne.

Contact Ken at

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