| You can call me Mr.
Owner for a day
It wouldn't be the official end of the Sharks
season, without some prognostication on what the Sharks need to do to address
their playoff failures. Rather than tell you what went wrong, I'm going to play
virtual owner, and tell you what Sharks owner Hasso Plattner should do to
address another miserable end to a Sharks season.
First, notice that
I'm playing the role of owner, and not General Manager. The foreshadowing here
has to be killing you with suspense. I'm putting myself in Plattner's
Birkenstocks because the first move I make if I'm him is to relieve General
Manager Doug Wilson of his duties.
Wilson is the man that runs the
show, and has done so for the last 11 years. Since he was hired in 2003,
Wilson's teams have won ten playoff series and have reached the Conference
Finals twice. They've also lost ten series', three of those in the first round.
Most teams would kill for the chance to qualify for the playoffs ten years in a
row, but when you're expected to compete year in and year out, you'd think one
of those teams would have at least reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
I've said on numerous occasions in the past, Wilson has assembled a team in his
own likeness. Wilson was a proven hockey talent that never got it done when it
mattered most. He played for some pretty decent Chicago Blackhawk teams that
had the ability to win. Sound familiar?
The issue with Wilson is that
he's committed his franchise to a number of big money contracts on guys that
have never performed in the playoffs, even though they've had multiple cracks
at it. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have been given ample opportunity (not
to mention a supporting cast) to win it all, but year after year they wither
under the pressure of the playoffs.
As the owner, I can't get rid of
Thornton or Marleau if I wanted to because of the contracts that Wilson signed
those player to. Both received three year extensions during the season along
with "no move" clauses. I could give them away I suppose, but even then, both
players have the ability to reject any attempt to relocate them.
same goes for Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic (the one piece worth keeping),
Brad Stuart, and Martin Havlat. Burns wasn't the driving force he needed to be
in the playoffs, Stuart's age was evident on the ice, and Havlat sat for 5
games, then reminded us all of how atrocious his contract is.
gets to take credit for the Havlat contract abomination that thankfully only
has one more year remaining. San Jose will shell out $6 million next season on
the Czech forward, then wait to see how long he lasts before landing on the
injured reserve. To prove that I'm not all gloom and doom, the Sharks get a
bonus in that they'll only incur $5 million in cap obligations as those numbers
are averaged out over the life of the contract. Glass half full people.
My next action as owner is to get rid of Todd McLellan. The Sharks
bench boss did little to incite any motivation in his team, and from
appearances, it seems he's lost his locker room as well. McLellan made
reference to the fact that he warned his players of an impending resurgence by
the Kings after Game 3, but nobody seemed to listen.
If you can't
motivate the troops to win one of four games against the team that bounced you
from the playoffs the prior season, then you really have no shot at succeeding.
Given the Sharks track record, failure is something San Jose needed to overcome
at all costs. McLellan's even keeled approach to everything is perfectly suited
for a team that consists of self-starters. That team doesn't exist in San Jose.
A team's that's beating a division leader one day and losing to a
cellar dweller is all you need to know about that team's motivation. The Sharks
consistently dropped games to teams that were destined for top 5 in the draft
order after beating front running teams. The lack of inspirational consistency
is a trademark of this club.
McLellan's tactical approach to games has
become so predictable that it's no wonder that teams like Calgary, Buffalo and
Carolina had their way with the Sharks this season. Dump and chase, cycle the
puck, turn it over, repeat. If I could draw up a way to defend that approach.
The power play went from bad to worse as the season progressed, which
falls entirely on McLellan's shoulders. The Kings had little to do but sit back
and let Jonathan Quick knock down long range shots (assuming San Jose actually
shot the puck). San Jose's miserable playoff run came to a halt with a thud
after the special teams fail to convert on their final 15 power play chances of
The one thing the Sharks did well was draw penalties.
In fact nobody drew more in the first round of the playoffs collectively in the
NHL. Not converting those chances is what cost the Sharks, but what did you
expect from a team that ranked 20th in the league?
How did the Kings
fare in that statistic? The league 27th ranked power play during the regular
season scored 6 goals on 24 chances in the 7 games with San Jose. 25% of their
chances found the back of the net (6th best in the playoffs). San Jose's
conversion rate was exactly half that (12.5%).
If they gave points for
the distance the puck travels on the man-advantage, the Sharks would have
multiple Stanley Cup Championships. The purpose of the power play is to kill
the opposition, not the clock.
And who do I replace McLellan with? Is
Jurgen Klinsmann available?
When it comes to personnel decisions,
there really isn't much room for me to navigate as the owner of the Sharks. I
shouldn't have to worry about this to begin with, but given that I've just
fired my General Manager, and I don't trust that anyone in the organization is
capable of making worthwhile personnel decisions, I'm forced to decide on which
players stay and which go.
The obvious departures start with Dan
Boyle. Boyle will still command big dollars, but I have to react with my brain,
not my heart. There's no doubt Boyle has lost a step, and I can't lean on the
power play quarterback line of thinking (the power play speaks for itself), so
I'm not shelling out millions of dollars for a guy that might do the job on
Scott Hannan is another defenseman that I need to make a
decision on. Like Stuart, Hannan has seen his better days in the NHL, but $1
million, he's a relative bargain. He held the bulk of the defensive
responsibility once Vlasic went down in Game 5. If I can sign him for the same
salary, he's a keeper.
James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels are both
restricted free agents, so I essentially have them by the balls. They will
re-sign and like it. Sheppard finally started to show signs of life. Wingels
needs to step into a bigger role next season, perhaps alongside Joe Pavelski.
Jason Demers is a coin toss. He's also a restricted free agent, and I
don't have many options on the blueline. There's nary a player in the farm
system ready to make the jump full time to the NHL, so Demers has me by the
Mike Brown should be resigned around the $800k mark. Bracken
Kearns is unrestricted and should be allowed to walk.
Where I'm really
stuck between a rock and a hard place is in net. Antti Niemi is my starter, but
Alex Stalock is an unrestricted free agent. Stalock proved that he's a bona
fide NHL prospect that will be starting in the NHL someday. Not sure how easy
it will be for me to move Niemi , who has one year left on his contract that
will fetch $3.8 million next season. If I can trade Niemi this summer, I do so
and hand the reigns over to Stalock.
I'm stuck with Adam Burish and
nobody will touch Tyler Kennedy's $2.35 million contract, so he's not going
anywhere. So from a roster perspective, I'm pretty much stuck with a majority
of the underachievers next season.
I have to wait another season
before I can free up money and roster space to actually start building. I'm
stuck with Burns, Thornton and Marleau until 2017 with $19 million+ being
consumed in cap space until then.
The beauty of purging Wilson and
McLellan is that at least I won't need to pay them. Both will likely be
snatched up, freeing me from any contract obligations, unless they choose to
take a year off from work and milk my coffers while they sit on the coach for a
year or two. That seems unlikely for McLellan. He wants to coach, so he'll jump
at an opportunity (Vancouver would be a likely destination).
than a shake-up at the top, my options are limited. I keep hearing that I also
own a minor league team in Massachusetts. I'm having problems grasping this
since I've never heard of them. Maybe that has something to do with the fact
that they're perpetually irrelevant. The only traces of them are these airline
expense reports I keep having to sign. Why so many? Do I at least get to keep
the frequent flyer miles?
OK, that's the story. Well, there is one
more thing. Bratwurst. Why can't you find a good Bratwurst inside the arena? I
love Bratwurst. People will be more inclined to buy beer if there are
Bratwurst. I'm German, I know these things. I'm still trying to get over the
fact that Americans will pay $10 for a beer! We drink that shit like water back
home. You people are crazy. Crazy I tell you.
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