| Defensive help on the
After 40 games, it's time to recognize
It appears that it took a six game-losing streak
and hitting rock-bottom in the Pacific Division for Sharks General Manager Doug
Wilson to figure out that his defense has some holes. If you believe the
rumors, hes made inquiries with Toronto regarding Francois
Beauchemins services. If we know anything about Wilson, there are always
more irons in the fore. Question is, what would he have to give up to bolster
Wilson is in the precarious position that desperation
creates when your team underachieves. The perennial playoff participant is on
the outside looking in at the seasons halfway point and trade suitors are
well aware of the defensive issues that his current roster presents.
The defense has been so bad in fact, that its affected the offense. His
big line players have had to focus so much attention on plugging holes in the
blueline that its taken away from their offensive numbers. Patrick
Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi are a
combined -64 plus-minus rating.
So not only are they not producing
offensively, their defense isnt preventing other teams from scoring
either. It wouldnt matter is the second and third lines were picking up
the slack in terms of goal scoring, but that hasnt been the case.
The first thing Wilson needs to do to solve his scoring ills is to let
his forwards focus on what they do best. That requires that they need not have
to worry about stopping the opposition.
Ottawa defenseman Chris
Phillips is another name being thrown into the mix. The NHLs first
overall draft pick in 1996 would bring more veteran leadership to the blueline.
Perhaps too much experience.
Phillips is playing in his 13th NHL
season and isnt regarded as an exceptional skater. Hes a solid stay
at home guy that wears an A for the Senators, but it looks as if Ottawa may be
willing to part with the blueliner. The Senators dont have the Sharks
depth, but his -20 plus-minus is a concern. He cant play defense by
himself, but its not like that statistic is that bad for no reason.
If the Sharks do add Phillips, hed share the team lead for worst
plus-minus on the team.
Phillips also provides no offensive upside.
Hes assisted on 3 goals for the Senators this season, one coming on the
power play. Not that the Sharks need an offensive defenseman, but its
always something to consider.
Wilson has been trying to find that
defensive answer for the past two season, adding Kent Huskins and Niklas
Wallin, but neither has given the Sharks a go-to guy to act as the stopper that
the Sharks so desperately need.
Beauchemin is better skater than
Phillips, but his contract creates a slightly higher cap hit. He also has one
more year remaining on his contract. Bringing Phillips into the fold means
adding a defenseman that youll probably lose at the end of the year and
hes 2 years older than Beauchemin.
If teams like the St Louis
Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets were to continue fail in their pursuit of the
playoffs, they could become sellers. A player like Barrett Jackman would be
another possibility. His contract is in the same vicinity as Beauchemins
and hes a year younger.
Fedor Tyutin would be a cheaper option, but the Blue
Jackets would probably be less eager to move the defenseman because of his age
(27). He also comes at more attractive price tag at $2.9 million per over the
next two seasons.
Grabbing any of these players means that he has to
give something up. Thats where things get interesting. Teams like the
Blues and Blue Jackets are more interested in building with younger players
that they can grow. Devin Setoguchi is the name that everyone is interested in.
Wilson is hand cuffed to some degree, because hes mortgaged the
Sharks development system in the past by giving up top draft picks. If the
Sharks were to falter, those picks become even more valuable because of the
fact theyll be at the beginning of the line, rather than the end.
The worst case scenario is that they give up a pick for a player and
they still dont qualify for the playoffs. Losing a top 10 pick is just
bad business in the grand scheme of things. Thats the kind of move that
sets a franchise back multiple seasons because of the value that a top level
draft pick can bring.
And thats a mistake the Sharks cant
afford to make.
One thing is clear though. Wilson needs to do
something. He indicated earlier this week that head coach Todd McLellan is
safe, but anyone elses job is fair game. Hopefully Wilson lands the
defensive help his team needs, so that McLellan can get back to implementing
the offensive style of play hes more comfortable coaching.
would be nice to see this team be able to work in that mode, rather than having
to worry about if theyre capable of keeping the puck out of their own
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