| Sharks as clear as
Roster situation far from resolved
|7/13/09 - By Steve Flores -
At the end of the very disappointing first round
playoff exit a very frustrated and angry GM Doug Wilson stated that changes
were coming. The inference was that not only would there be changes, but these
changes would be 'big changes'. Thus far it has been confirmed by the Sharks
that Ryane Clowe has inked a four year deal at $3.5 Million for the first 3
seasons and $4 million for the final season. That cap hit breaks down to $3.625
per season. The team has also announced that they have re-signed defensemen
Kent Huskins and Rob Blake.
So, in retrospect the team has re-signed
three players. The team also announced that they would not be bringing back
Center Marcel Goc. Several other veterans such as Mike Grier, Claude Lemieux,
Travis Moen, Brian Boucher, Tomas Plihal, Tom Cavanagh, Lukas Kaspar and Alexei
Semenov were also allowed to test the waters of unrestricted free agency.
Interestingly only Boucher and Moen have thus far found a new home (in
Philadelphia & Montreal respectively).
For a couple months Wilson
has stated that he would be performing an autopsy on the club. He has stated
that he would be interviewing all players and coaches and would confer with the
powers that be in an attempt to chart a corrective course that would hopefully
steer this team past that which seems to inhibit their post-season success year
The challenge herein is that this team had the best
regular season record in the league yet fizzled, once again, this time in the
opening stanza of the playoffs. The hunt for the actual cause ('s) has been as
elusive as finding a proverbial Leprechaun.
Most pundits have had
difficulty putting a clear finger on exactly what the actual deficiencies are
in regard to the San Jose Sharks. With such cryptic, nebulous and foggy issues
at hand the answers have not come easily for Wilson and crew. The team seemed
to have everything required for on ice success. The autopsy would surely yield
an answer and in turn a new path that will lead to success.
we are two weeks into July and two weeks into 'Free Agent Frenzy 09' and the
Sharks have made 3 re-signings and released several third and fourth line
types, backups and role players. The top 2 lines remain intact and the defense
untouched. A deduction of these events would lead one to believe that Wilson
has concluded that the team's depth is an issue. Let me take a moment to stop
and state that I agree 100%.
Goc scored 2 goals a season ago and one
was an empty netter. Let's be honest guys and dolls Goc, Grier, Lemieux,
Plihal, Moen etc do not exactly strike fear into opposing defenses and their
numbers bear this fact out. The Sharks need more production from these lines.
For those of you that like to pick up the puck and run with it please
let me state that I am not expecting 1st or 2d line production, but more than 1
goal form a 3rd line center should be expected!
A quick look at the
current roster would show only two third and fourth line players currently
under contract: Jonathan Cheechoo and Jody Shelley. Cheechoo makes $3.5 Million
this year with a cap hit of $3 Million. He is oft injured and has looked
increasingly out of place since Head Coach Todd McLellan instituted more of a
fast paced Puck Possession style offense.
Under prior coach Ron Wilson the team played with more
of a setup style offense and a healthy Cheechoo could pick his spots as Joe
Thornton fed him pristine passes directly onto his tape. But now mix in a few
injuries, the fact that Cheechoo has never been a good skater and the fact that
Thornton is now more of a team of mobile performers on the power play and most
of Cheechoo's plusses have been negated. Cheechoo's lack of speed and skating
ability also makes him a liability on defense (see Anaheim series and awful
reaction penalties) and a guy who cannot fit into a motion offense. Rumors have
circulated that the Sharks were trying to deal him at the draft, but it doesn't
take a genius to figure out that his salary is a bit much to actually be moved.
Cheechoo's name has been emerging in unconfirmed trade rumors
throughout this past weekend.
Shelley may stick unless the brass feels
that the younger Brad Staubitz could take over the role as team tough guy.
Jamie McGinn may also find a full-time job with the team. Cheechoo's slide from
goal scoring grace has allowed for the emergence of Devin Setoguchi.
Setoguchi's was second on the team in goals scored this year with 34. It may
just be me but it often feels like the Sharks are often unable to get that 1
big goal in crucial situations. The Sharks are unable to score that goal-scorer
type goal that only a true sniper can unleash. A Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk
type. Yes those players are few and far between. Yes they hit hard at the cap
and yes they are a luxury. But, they are a force that changes a team that's
close to a team that can or will.
In any case the team is in salary
cap misery at this point (See NHLNUMBERS.COM) with $55,451 committed with a cap
of $56.8 million. The team is also short several signed roster positions with
Restricted Free Agents Torrey Mitchell and possible backup Goalkeeper Thomas
Greiss still to be signed. Assuming these two players will be signed the team
will still need 2 or 3 more forwards to fill out their 3rd and 4th lines.
Wilson always clings to a philosophy of patience and thus far it has led to
lots of regular season success at the Shark Tank.
Wilson has never
really made a splash in the annual 'Free Agent Frenzy'. He tends to make more
telling statements and deals at the trade deadline and he has inferred that
this 2009-2010 team may not be complete until then. That statement alone leaves
a lot of questions still to be answered. The roster needs to be filled yet the
team's cap is almost full.
The one thing that would seem to be a
necessity is the loosening of some cap space via a trade of one of the higher
end pieces. Milan Michalek's name has also come up in the rumor mill as
possible deal material. Michalek's cap hit is $3.5 this season. Defenseman
Christian Ehrhoff's cap hit is $3.15 this season and he too appears to be a
marketable trade option.
The biggest and most constant rumor in
regards to trade is, of course, Captain Patrick Marleau. Marleau has a cap hit
of $6.3 and he also has a 'No-Trade' clause in his contract. So, unless the
Captain is open to a deal he will still be here this season. It is also
important to note that this is the final year of Marleau's current contract and
he can leave as an 'Unrestricted Free-Agent' after the upcoming season
So, as you can see, there are lots of issues, decisions and
entanglements for Wilson to deal with before the 2009 season kicks off. I have
no doubt he will fill the roster (sometimes that doesn't happen - just ask the
Calgary Flames). But whether or not that roster will be enough to contend for a
Stanley Cup is dubious at best right now since we still don't know what that
roster will entail.
If the team loses one or more of the likes of
Marleau, Michalek, Cheechoo, Ehrhoff or some other key piece the team will
surely have a different look than the past 3 or 4 seasons. The one thing I am
sure of is that Wilson must clear salary space if he intends to fill out the
roster. If he is able to merely squeeze younger pieces in from Worcester or if
he is able to only sign lesser priced veterans then the odds are this team will
not contend for a higher goal. If Wilson proves to be the savvy, worldly and
astute GM that he has shown he can be then maybe, just maybe he will work deals
that manage to actually make the team stronger.
Unfortunately, at this
stage in the off-season we are still not able to see the results of Wilson 's
autopsy. None of us have a clue as to what the 2009 roster will look like.
Wilson has not done much speaking to the media and has stated that he feels
that it is more important for him and the team to go about their business
rather than share those plans with the media or the public at this time. This
is his right as the man in charge. Most Shark's just hope that he has a plan
and that the next version of the Sharks fares better than the last one or an
autopsy won't be required to know what happened to the mangled reputation of GM
Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
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