Since my better half is tired of hearing me whine about the Sharks' woes I'm going to follow her advice and put my two pennies on the blog table. This isn't an attempt to become a regular contributor, just an attempt to contribute.
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HEAD OF THE HOUSE
Since the only change to actually take place so far was the firing of Ron Wilson, I'll address the coaching issue first. Here it is: I'm not comfortable commenting on the merits of the mystery candidates because I don't know who they are or what they bring. The most I can hope for as a fan is that the new coach succeeds where Ron Wilson failed, which isn't too tall an order considering what Wilson accomplished with this team. Personally, I feel that Wilson was too smart for his own good. While he seemed great at recognizing players' strengths and weaknesses he treated them like so many chemicals in his private little science project by constantly changing line combinations. I think that was the biggest contributing factor to this team's "identity crisis".
The "soft" reputation the Sharks have won't be changed if we simply add an Orpik or a Vandermeer to the blueline or swap Shelley for a better pugilist, as much as I'd like to see it happen. I think it starts with the players knowing where they belong in the scheme of things and knowing their linemates well enough to go that extra mile when needed, whether it be in a scrum or a come-from-behind. I'd like to see the new coach establish some roles among the players instead of confusing them with "sniper tonight, grinder tomorrow". If Doug Wilson doesn't provide the hard hitter or young gun then the new coach needs to bring it out in what he's given. Come to think of it, that might be a tall order after all.
DOING THEIR HOMEWORK
Here are the players I'm conviced aren't going anywhere, barring trades.
Thornton - It's fun imagining what we could get in return and he shouldn't be above consideration if Wilson is serious about building the perfect house. He can be penciled in for 100 points per season but let's face it, the Stanley Cup isn't won in the regular season. Calgary fans who love the idea of Marleau and Iginla playing on the same line are onto something, why not imagine those two in teal? Won't happen, but I'd settle for nothing less.
Marleau - He'll stay because he's too expensive to trade for anything less than he's worth. Sartre has nothing on Marleau when it comes to being enigmatic. Marleau always seems to be on the verge of becoming the great player he was supposed to be. Instead he's still floating around "really good". If he had a better season he'd be a good trade option despite his 6.5 salary. Instead he had a horrible season and was the captain of a team that got kicked in the second round for the third straight year. I seriously doubt he could be moved by himself for what Wilson would find acceptable, which sucks because it means there's no room for Campbell, the best available puck-moving defenseman. And I just have to say this to the Marleau Fan Club: Send Cory Sarich a "thank you" card. His hit on our captain has clearly swelled your numbers.
Michalek - Wilson just signed him until 2014. Michalek's trade value may already be as high as it will ever get but trading him would require that Wilson admit he made a mistake, and Wilson's human. He's got a lot of promise but I'm afraid Michalek's going to become a 230lbs version of Martin Havlat, he breaks too easy and gets mesmerized by the puck on his stick. Could be packaged with Marleau and Vlasic for an elite winger, with Vlasic's hole filled by a Vandermeer or Orpik via free agency. It's possible but will remain just that. He stays.
Cheechoo - With the Maurice Richard trophy on his resume Cheechoo will stay and make another 3 mil, and he should.
Pavelski - Shouldn't be too expensive, would be a second line center on many teams, lots of promise. The clear no-brainer keeper.
Clowe - Like Pavelski he won't break the bank and he can play multiple roles.
Grier - It's hard not to like what Grier brings to the table. He thinks like a defenseman and plays hard most of the time. I just wish he would hit like he's capable of. Gotta say it: I'd trade him for Jamal Mayers. But he stays.
Mitchell - Fast and hungry, this kid annoys the living crap out of the elite oppostion he's so often assigned against. He lacks the poise of Curtis Brown but makes up for it with sheer energy. Hits harder than his size would indicate (a coach should be able to get this particular trait out of every player) and can score the occasional shorty. I can't tell if this kid is meant to do more, but he stays regardless.
Rissmiller - Cheap. His haters don't like admitting he was 1/3 of what was arguably our most consistent line.
Rivet - I don't know if it's true, but I would imagine that our younger defensemen look to Rivet as a mentor more than anyone else. I think he's our most valuable defenseman with Campbell likely to leave. He's too responsible to go for the big open ice hits on a regular basis and he's effective at roughing up opposing forwards. Every team should have a defenseman like Rivet and most of them do. He's stock but dependable.
Carle - Too expensive to move but he just might earn it next season.
Vlasic - Like Michalek he's a player who's value may be as high it's going to get. He's got a mean stick but no muscle behind it. I think he's going to fill out and get better over time, so I'm fine with him staying. Could be part two or three in a whopper of a trade, but he stays.
McLaren - Like Carle he's too expensive to be traded based on his performance. Unlike Carle, his style of play has seemed to make him an old man before his time. His knees are fragile and he seems lost not being able to play the way he's used to. But he'll make another 2.5 before he can play in the pool.
Ehrhoff - Wilson won't be able to sign Campbell so I think he'll re-sign Ehrhoff, especially since he doesn't like to fish in the free agent pool. Ehrhoff seems capable of developing in two different ways, offensively and defensively. He's more physical than people give him credit for and has the wheels to get the puck up ice in a hurry when he wants to. He stays.
Murray - What's not to like about Murray? Along with Clowe and Rivet he's the only consistent physical presence we have. He sent Davison to NY because he became more than just a physical presence and only costs .600 for another season. This guy came in so far under the radar it's ironic that he may be some of the best trade bait we have. He's not going anywhere though.
Campbell - As much as I'd like to see him stay I just don't think Wilson will pay. Wilson will make him an offer but he also set the table during the "State of the Sharks". He rightly said he didn't create a hole by trading Bernier and he called our 1st round pick a glorified 2nd. I think that's code for 'We didn't give up too much for his temporary services'. But I'm convinced that my math is correct when I say Pavelski + Campbell equals more than Marleau.
Ozolinsh - Plays old, is old. His head dekes were useless since he never moved his feet skating out of our end. He should retire and get paid baking turnovers.
ON THE FENCE
Given the fact that there are so many spots to fill I have no idea if these players will stay or go. Some GM's may be willing to pay for what they think these players can provide.
Brown - The guy's almost invisible until you see him break up the play you missed, and he can score important goals. Veteran presence, hope he stays.
Shelley - He's past his prime knuckle-throwing days and doesn't seem able to forecheck effectively anymore. Ryan is right - a younger, more dynamic tough guy like Boll is needed for the fourth line.
Goc - I thought this guy could be something really good, but he was scratched so much I'm assuming Ron Wilson saw something he didn't want on the ice.
Plihal - I liked what I saw from Plihal while he was up. He shouldn't be too expensive if Wilson decides to keep him. Like Goc, he can fill a hole.
Kaspar - Only saw him play for Worcester once this year and he didn't look too good, just like he didn't when playing in the NHL. He seems to do nothing but float.
Iggulden - Filler?
Mink - See above.
Semenov - I want to say he's leaving. The guy showed a desire to be here if only by dropping mitts when he didn't have to, but he still needs to go.
IT'S GETTING LATE
And I don't just mean it's past my bedtime. I'm beginning to wonder if a window of opportunity is closing on the Sharks. Doug Wilson was right when he said there are plenty of teams who wish they were in our position - and it's smart to try and build a house that's going last. But we only need a few key personnel changes to get over the hump and into the finals. Until Doug Wilson and company look past the rolling hills of the farm they've built and spend to win, I'm afraid we'll remain the perennial contenders other teams are jealous of, but only for so long if we're lucky.
If you actually read this, thanks and let me know if I'm completely off my rocker.
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