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Big moves to attain the Big Time
How is that for a statement folks?
7/9/08 - By Steve Flores

After making no major free-agent pickups the first day of opportunity, losing their prized offensive-defenseman Brian Campbell, amidst doubt, anger and disappointment by members of the fan base the Sharks then hit fifth gear and completely altered their franchise - both for the present and the future.

Often maligned for never entering into the fray of free-agent signings the Sharks once again began the free-agent season with absolutely no action. The first big news arrived a few hours into the day as the Chicago Blackhawk's announced the signing of Campbell to a $7.1 million 8 year deal.

Crazy, insane, ridiculous and great for Campbell.

Too match that would not have been good for the Sharks over the long term. Campbell is a very good offensive D-man but his skills in his own end are not as good as some other offensive D-men to be named later.

Sharks G.M. Doug Wilson later stated that he knew that they weren't going to be able to sign Campbell. That little tidbit was good to know as we now know the Sharks were pro-active in formulating another plan in regard to the roster makeup for 2008-09.

A couple days later the Sharks announced their first move as they signed veteran All-Star defender Rob Blake. Blake, although 38, still has a mighty shot from the point, still plays a solid physical game and should be thrilled and rejuvenated to rejoin the NHL after spending the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings (yeah that's a joke folks).

A day later word began to filter through that the Sharks were actually still in the hunt for Tampa Bay Lightning offensive D-man, Dan Boyle. The Boyle rumors had been rumbling for days, as it was a well known factoid that the Lightning needed to unload salary after signing a slew of new players to bolster there once great offense. Most experts felt that once the Sharks had signed Blake that they would be out of the Boyle sweepstakes.

Wrong!

The next day the Sharks announced that they had indeed brought in a natural replacement for Campbell; Boyle.

As good as Campbell is on offense, Boyle will drive the power play just as effectively and is better in his own zone than Campbell. He is three years older than Campbell but is still in his prime and ready to go. Boyle's contract is a 6 year term for $40 million which is less than Campbell's $56 million.

Boyle is also a straight shooter and a locker room leader. He was a fan favorite in Tampa and is spoken of highly by any who know the man. He has skills on the ice that very few have and any team that has him is fortunate.

As a price for acquiring Boyle, the Sharks did give a fair share to the Lightning. Gone are Matt Carle, top prospect Ty Wishart and a first round selection in the 2009 draft and a fourth rounder in the 2010 draft. The Sharks were also compelled to then trade veteran steady defender Craig Rivet to Buffalo to acquire a pair of second round draft picks in each of the next two drafts. This move was seemingly made to replenish some draft picks and cut some needed salary from the roster.

Is that a lot to give up? YES it is a lot to give up.

There is no disputing the fact that the Sharks dealt a great deal of their future to get Boyle. Carle still has that label of 'potential' tagged to his stick and Wishart has proven to be an even better player in the minors than anyone expected. Wishart's offensive numbers have improved far more than most experts thought possible. The loss of yet another first round selection is also a lot to lose.

Is it all worth it? That is a great question isn't it.

Fans are fickle, to say the least. Prior to making any moves at all, fans were clamoring for the Sharks to make a splash in free agency. In the aftermath there are still fans who believe that Sharks may have mortgaged too much of their future to acquire Boyle. From my point of view DW's moves were not only smart but necessary.

Professional sports teams exist (one hopes) with a goal of winning championships. Different franchises build in different ways. The Sharks built the nucleus of their team via the draft. After several years of laying the foundation the Sharks then began to make deals to bring in pieces that were needed to escalate the team to a higher level.

Joe Thornton was the first major piece of this transition.

Since that time DW has made several moves in attempts to provide the team aspects that he felt the team lacked. Mike Grier for penalty killing and leadership, Jeremy Roenick for leadership and intangibles that the Sharks have not been known for and Jody Shelley to provide some toughness that the Sharks were forever labeled as being without. Each season the Sharks have fallen short of expectations and each year DW has attempted to provide those missing components.

The hiring of new Head Coach Todd McLellan apparently means that the team is going to apply more responsibility on offense to its forwards. As we all know Ron Wilson's system required the forwards to place special emphasis on their defense. This, to some, me included, may have limited the player's opportunities on the offensive side of the game. McLellan's system will apparently place more responsibility on the forwards to score and will thus require the defense to step up and...well… play defense. Playing defense was something that the Sharks defensemen were not that great at the past few seasons.

Another major component of McLellan's game plan will be the power play. The loss of Campbell left the team without an elite performer to steer this vital aspect of the game: An imperative aspect of the game that the Sharks must do well at to achieve post season success.

The acquisitions of Boyle and Blake will allow the Sharks to have two shifts of power play guided by two elite drivers. Other than Campbell the Sharks have never had an elite power play pivot man. They now have two.

The Sharks were built to win with patience via the draft. Their time is now - Not 5 years from now. Patience is a virtue but it can also lead to never taking a chance when one is needed. The Sharks needed someone to make bold and courageous moves to allow the team to make a full and complete run now.

The time for the Sharks to win is here folks.

I realize many fans always look to the future. To continue to argue for the future while ignoring the present is not smart either. DW deserves credit for making these moves as the team now has a legitimate shot at Stanley Cup contention. Without these moves the team would be floundering as a 'good' team yet not a 'good enough' team to win it all. I applaud the man and the moves to make 2008-09 a hockey season to remember at the Tank.



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