Being a Sharks fan requires a tough stomach.
Every year, we watch our team fail when it should succeed. We follow every big trade Doug Wilson makes and consistently say 'Ah! We overpaid!' Sometimes those trades work(Thornton/Boyle), sometimes they don't(Campbell/Guerin/Heatley). We're hoping for the best with Havlat/Burns. We never land big free agents.
These predicaments aren't exclusive to the Sharks. Sometimes, you just have to pay a lot to get a lot back, a point Doug Wilson emphasized during an interview at the Young Stars tournament. You need to consitently develop quality players if you want to be a player in the trade market, and while developing elite talent may not be their specialty, the Sharks are very good at developing NHL-quality players. 4 of our top 6 forwards are home-grown, half of our defense is homegrown(with Doherty/Petrecki looking like they'll be a part of the big club sooner rather than later) and, for the first time since the 1990s, we aren't using home-grown goaltending from an organization with a stellar reputation for goaltender development.
The Sharks organization is very good at identifying NHL-quality talent.
But hindsight is a female dog.
I can't argue too much on recent draft picks. If there was any 'stretch' over the last handful of years, maybe it was drafting Setoguchi. Maybe. I still think that he's 40-goal/80pt talent if he can ever develop some consistency in his game.
But when your team doesn't succeed at the ultimate goal, someone is bound to look for the 'could-have-beens' and 'what-ifs'. I made that mistake last night.
2002 NHL draft - The Sharks didn't draft until round 2. At #52, the Sharks drafted the mighty Dan Spang on defense. Don't recognize that name? You shouldn't. He never made it to the Sharks. The next defenseman drafted? #54 to Chicago - Duncan Keith. Yeah, hindsight hurts pretty bad on that. No-name D-man vs Norris trophy winner. Whoopsies.
Every team misses from time to time, so I would let that one slide...Except for Doug Wilson's first draft as GM in 2003.
2003 NHL draft - The Sharks had the #6 overall pick and drafted Milan Michalek. Ok, at the time we needed an NHL-ready foward. I get that. And Milan had/has all the tools to be a quality player if he could stay healthy. But look at the guys who have had better careers drafted right after him.
#7 - Ryan Suter
#9 Dion Phaneuf
#11 - Jeff Carter
#13 - Dustin Brown
#14 - Brent Seabrook.
That's 3 top pair D-men, 2 top line forwards, 2 team captains. EH. I get the reasoning, I really do. This doesn't qualify as a full face-palm because Milan could have been very good if not for a slew of injuries. At Michalek's best, he was almost as good as Marleau. That said, few Sharks failed in the playoffs as much as Michalek.
BUT I get it. The potential was certainly there.
And then the Sharks did it. They traded away 3 picks to move up to #16. They drafted Steve Bernier, who ended up as trade bait in the Brian Campbell trade after underwhelming during his time as a Shark. He underwhelmed everywhere he went after that. Get the fail-train rolling...
#17 - Zach Parise
#18 - Eric Fehr
#19 - Ryan Getzlaf
#20 - Brent Burns
#21 - Mark Stuart
#23 - Ryan Kesler
#24 - Mike Richards
#28 - Corey Perry
Take a moment and think about that. That's a lot of Olympians right there. There's even an MVP.
Steve Bernier didn't come close to living up to his potential and was part of the Brian Campbell trade that led to one of the most underwhelming post-seasons in Sharks history. After not showing up to 3 of the 7 games against Calgary, the Sharks wimpered down to an 0-3 deficit against Dallas. They turned it on too late, and it was none other than Brian Campbell who took a stupid penalty that lead to Morrow's 4OT goal in game 6.
That was a terrible draft pick. New Jersey knew it, too. They traded away their next two draft picks to move up to grab Parise. But it gets even better!
At #43, the Sharks drafted Josh Hennessy...Who the hell is Josh Hennessy? #45 - Patrice Bergeron. The Canadian Joe Pavelski.
But that can happen to anyone, right?
The Sharks draft defenseman Matt Carle at #47. The next defenseman picked? #49 Shea Weber.
Yeah, Matt Carle was part of the trade for Dan Boyle. But when you consider that we could have also drafted his current partner(the best top-D pair in the entire league) Ryan Suter...Yeah. Hindsight hurts.
We picked Dan Spang, Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, and Matt Carle.
For those of us who have critisized the Sharks defense for years...We could have instead had Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, and either Brent Seabrook or Ryan Suter.
...And Patrice Bergeron.