| Overhaul keeps SJ in the thick
Wilson makes good on his off-season
Funny what winning a President's Trophy and then
losing in the first round of the playoffs will do to a roster. If you asked
general managers around the league if they'd want last season's Sharks team to
take a crack at winning a Stanley Cup, it would be hard to find one that would
turn you down. That's where expectations come into play, and in San Jose, those
expectations have never been higher.
With each playoff disappointment,
has come modifications to the lineup in order to find those last remaining
pieces to the puzzle. The real wheeling and dealing began when the Sharks
shipped Owen Nolan to Toronto in 2003 for Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and a first
round draft pick.
Since then, the Sharks have gone about the business
of trying to build through addition and subtraction of players. From Miikka
Kiprusoff, to Curtis Joseph, to Craig Rivet, players have come and gone. Sharks
General Manager Doug Wilson pulled off a coup when he acquired Joe Thornton in
November of 2005, then essentially opened up his checkbook when he acquired Dan
Boyle last summer to add the offensive defenseman he long coveted.
While all of those deals were significant in the grand scheme of things,
nothing compares to the magnitude of activity that has transpired over the past
Whole sale changes to a roster are typically associated
with rebuilding in professional sports. An organization cleaning house rarely
equates to a championship mentality immediately, but somehow Wilson has pulled
He retains the core set of superstars that he needs to get
over the playoff hump in Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov, and
Rob Blake, while also holding on to the younger players that can make a
difference in Ryane Clowe, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell and Marc-Edouard
Gone are the mid-tier performers that never realized their
potential. In trading Christian Ehrhoff, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Milan Michalek,
Wilson purged more than $10 million in salary, while losing little in terms of
Wilson also eliminated 3rd and 4th line guys that did
little to seize their opportunities as role players. Marcel Goc, Lukas Kaspar,
Tomas Plihal and Alexei Semenov will all don new uniforms this season, freeing
up multiple roster spots in San Jose.
The Sharks did lose some veteran leadership with the
retirement of Jeremy Roenick and the decision not to re-sign Mike Grier, but
Wilson backfilled those spots by bringing in Scott Nichol and re-signing Kent
Huskins. Right winger Jed Ortmeyer will also bring some experience and grit to
the right side of the offense.
Oh, and with all of those changes, the
Sharks managed to land an All-Star caliber forward, who has multiple 50-goal
season under his belt. Wilson vowed that he would take a long hard look at this
roster after the Duck debacle last spring, and true to his word, he not only
looked, but he acted.
Dany Heatley is the cherry on top of a roster
overhaul sundae, and Wilson whipped out his masterpiece without losing Marleau
along the way. Keeping Marleau was the key to differentiating this off-season
as rebuilding vs. tooling up for a playoff run.
Rumors swirled for
months that the forward was being shopped by Wilson, and an ESPN report last
Thursday suggested that Marleau's tenure in San Jose had come to an end. That
report turned out to be false, but it was fueled more by the fact that San Jose
was about to land Heatley and less about getting rid of Marleau.
exchanged emails with John Buccigross, the ESPN anchor / reporter, who reported
the deal that was supposed to ship Marleau to Los Angeles in a three-team
transaction that had Alexander Frolov and Jarret Stoll heading to Ottawa, and
Heatley coming to San Jose.
I asked him how the report evolved and if
his sources may have twisted things as the deal was evolving.
"I got a
text from someone very close to the situation on Thursday," Buccigross
responded. "This was pretty much a lock source so I knew, without question,
that Heatley would be a Shark. I tweeted and Facebooked that info. I sent a
text out to a mutually exclusive source who has been 100% on for me."
"That source then forwarded an email to me from a high level front office
member that spelled out the trade," he added. "I double checked with this very
good source to make sure this was accurate and the source said, "absolutely."
Additionally, the trade made sense to me in terms of what the three teams were
getting. I thought it made sense for each team."
The deal turned out
to be partially accurate. Heatley would in fact be a Shark, but the Kings had
no involvement in the end. If they were involved in preliminary discussions is
something we'll never know.
The biggest loser in that exchange may be
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi. The initial report brought two of his
players into the mix, who could potentially question if they were ever really
part of any proposal. While that's all now history, it's a cloud that could
potentially hang over Lombardi as he tries to motivate his young upstart
When I asked Buccigross if he suspected any gamesmanship by
the source, his answer was direct.
"My immediate source would not do
that," said the hockey pundit. "But, the secondary source? The front office
source? I suppose that is possible."
In any case, Buccigross is the
guy that stuck his neck out to report the information, and he's taking the heat
for the way it played out. That's unfortunate, given his track record. You
don't work for ESPN by making things up.
Now the Sharks have 8 months
to put it altogether, because Wilson has given them the pieces to make a real
run for a Cup. Failure might mean a real house-cleaning next year.
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