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Sharks turn up the Heat
Dany Heatley finally a Shark
9/15/09 - By Steve Flores -

Shark's fans had been clamoring for that assumed 'big change' ever since Sharks GM Doug Wilson angrily promised that the 2009-2010 team would have a different look. Up until about 14 days ago Wilson biggest changes had been that he had all but eliminated most of the team's third and fourth lines from this past season. At that point the basic core of the team still remained basically untouched. Then, finally, Wilson pulled the ole salary dumparoo and shipped Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Luckowich to the Vancouver Canucks for a couple of prospects. That move freed up enough salary for the Sharks to re-sign Torrey Mitchell and Brad Staubitz. That domino obviously then led to the reeling in of this summer's biggest fish; Heatley.

For those of you that followed the ever changing litany of rumors that circulated throughout the past few months regarding where Heatley would wind up was unlike anything I have ever witnessed.

It all started when the Ottawa Senators agreed to deal Heatley to Edmonton only to have the deal deep-sixed by Heatley and his no trade clause. From that point on the rumors had him going to San Jose , the New York Rangers, Buffalo , St.Louis, Columbus , Minnesota , Chicago etc etc. I mean nearly every team in the league was rumored to be his destination and so many names were attached to these rumors that it led to a level of near hockey insanity.

Most of the rumors were easy to ignore as they were too ludicrous to even consider as possible. Without rehashing the mundane I will jump ahead to state that on the Shark end it was the name of former Captain Patrick Marleau that was prevalent in the trade scenario rumblings.

The Marleau rumors were never grounded in fact as Wilson has stated that he would never ask a player (with a no trade or movement clause) to waive that right. Wilson has stated that to maintain integrity in his position and to assure players that he is a man of his word that the no-trade clause cannot be attacked or amended. Ask Dan Boyle how he felt when the Tampa Bay Lightning asked him for a list of team's that he was willing to be dealt to just weeks after signing a contract that included that same no-trade clause! I took Wilson at his word and never expected him to deal Marleau. But with that said fans and media-types alike are apt to ignore certain statements in lieu of the ever more provocative level of excitement that rumors can generate. Let's face it we all love a good hot story!

In an ideal world a San Jose Sharks club with both Marleau and Heatley is a truly imposing force to put on the ice on any given night. Throw in Joe Thornton, Boyle, Devin Setoguchi, Ryan Clowe, and Joe Pavelski and this Shark's the team is amazingly loaded at the top end.

Throughout the summer Wilson has been very mum on his moves or lack thereof. He kept his moves and thoughts close to the vest and he wielded his GM sword in a very calculated and controlled manner.

The end of season frustration vented by Wilson along with some firm comments made about the efforts presented in the playoffs led everyone to believe that the team would be making some major changes to more than just the third and fourth lines. Most fans were expecting that some of the top 6 might see their heads rolling down Santa Clara Street . On Saturday Wilson and Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray finally struck a deal that sent Milan Michalek and his world of potential along with perennially injured Jonathan Cheechoo east for Heatley. The trade also involved a swap of a couple of draft picks.

Throughout the summer Wilson was very mum on his plan for changes or lack thereof. He kept his moves and thoughts close to the vest and he wielded his GM sword in a very calculated and controlled manner. Wilson deserves credit, once again, for showing superior skill as a GM. His patience and game plan paid off in a game of chicken that didn't play into the hand or conventional wisdom that said he would have to deal Marleau if he had any inkling of acquiring Heatley.

Heatley has been one of the NHL's top three goal scorers over the past 7 seasons. He is 28 years old and in his prime. He is the first true world-class sniper that the Sharks have ever had. He will play alongside Thornton and the great unwashed will be clamoring for 50 or 60 lamplighters from one of the league's top Left Wings.

The team and its fan base will miss Cheechoo. He has the heart of a Lion and always played hard when he was called upon. He, however, has been injury prone and his poor skating abilities in a Todd McLellan system became a liability. Cheechoo was great in the more set-up offense of Ron Wilson. The system used in his 56 goal season was one where Cheechoo found his spots and Thornton put the puck on his blade like a master craftsman.

The Sharks don't play that set-up style any longer. Motion, speed and continued aggression are now the name of the game.

Cheechoo was also susceptible to poorly made decisions in his transition game. In one particular game in the Anaheim series he lost the puck up high in the offensive zone. Once the Duck's player began his skating up ice Cheechoo reacted by spinning and swinging his stick low. The result was a poorly timed tripping penalty that could be seen coming from a thousand miles away. Everyone makes mistakes but Cheechoo's defensive miscues are a direct cause of his lack of speed and poor skating. The Shark's current game is simply not a game that's fit for the one time Richard Trophy winner. Michalek was the more difficult player to give up. He has the entire skill set. He is big, fast, young and skilled. He is solid at both ends of the ice and he hasn't reached his peak. He tends to ebb and flow but he is only 24 years old. He has 40-goal potential and is a solid teammate. He will only get better. But in order to get one must give.

Heatley is a prized bull. He has the innate ability to score at will. He is a closer with world class level skills and those do not come around very often. I have heard a few folks complaining that his salary is too high. He does make a lot of money. So what! Many people make a lot of money. The Sharks management spends the money and thus this isn't a concern for the fans. The only issue at hand for the fans is whether this guy can help this team get over the hump and into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Heatley has been there before and in that final he watched the Ducks hoist the cup. In this regard he probably has as healthy a dislike of Anaheim as most Sharks fans have. Look at that - something in common with Heatley already!

The bottom line is the Sharks have a sexy roster. They have a team that New York and Los Angeles would clamor for. They are loaded with All-Star caliber names and they have an exciting offensive scheme from which to work with.

I am not sure if they can win a championship. I am not sure that they won't either. No one knows. There are two things that I do know however - they WILL have a chance at that elusive title and they WILL be the most exciting show on ice. And the nice thing about this is that neither of these concepts is based on rumor or innuendo.


Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com

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