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Lemieux no gimmick
Reasons for having the veteran in teal
1/19/08 - By Ken Smyth

Time to look ahead, not what's behind, but first some congratulations to Coach Todd McLellan. Not just for the All-Star game honors. He's passed his first coaching challenge in Survivor- Be An NHL Coach by shaking the Sharks' millionaire talent up and pulling the team out of a stale/lazy streak, something that Ron Wilson didn't always manage to do last season.

After the team was dismantled in Calgary, McLellan showed the whip with an off-day practice. They responded with victories in Edmonton and Vancouver and then in two periods completely blew Tampa Bay out of what was a close game at the the end of one at the Tank. McLellan also showed a fairly good (for a rookie coach) Darryl Sutter/Andy Murray/Barry Trotz bitter beer face during the Calgary rout, not to be confused with a Ken Hitchcock get-me-a-doughnut look.

All things considered, this comes at a very good time not only because Detroit is on the schedule this Saturday. A team with this talent should be ready to play every game and be able to kick the NY Islanders apart the way they did the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coach McLellan and GM Doug Wilson are serious about winning the cup this year and they're making notes when the team looks soft against a poor opponent. Like Santa before Christmas, but being naughty might be a point in someones' favor.

With the trade deadline coming around in a few weeks, Wilson wants to know where he stands. Conventional wisdom says the Sharks may be shopping for a proven 3-4 defenseman, some sandpaper for the third line and some salary cap breathing room. (Note that my accuracy on trade predictions is awful, especially with Doug Wilson. Wilson usually does something entirely opposite or unexpected and accomplishes the same purpose.)

Also to consider is the little experiment in Worcester. Don't think for a minute that the Claude Lemeiux is there as a favor for an old-timer or a publicity gimmick for Worcester. Lemeiux not only won four Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy, he made opponents (especially Detroit) curse his every minute of ice time.

During the pre game warm-up he'd be putting a few words in somebody's ear, after the puck dropped it was usually an elbow. Nobody on the Sharks is that kind of player. Jody Shelley is a policeman, but Claude Lemieux is an agitator and sometimes an assassin.

Last April 15th in Calgary (remember?), Sharks captain Patrick Marleau was first battered by Dion Phaneuf and then left bloody by Cory Sarich. A Claude Lemieux on the ice would've made Phaneuf (or Flames' captain Jarome Iginla) pay a price for that first hit, or more likely completely discourage it, and also score a goal.

Wilson's bringing him back in Worcester is another message that the Sharks are serious about the playoffs this season. If he can perform at an NHL level (so far, so good from most reports) and get through waivers he could get some ice time here. All of which makes the trade deadline interesting.

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