Training camp has started. Wait, that means hockey is right around the corner. Oh, thank God. I don't know if I can stomach any more baseball.
Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson is no stranger to the trade market, and today we're going to look in to whether this has been for the better of the team or not and what to look for as the season progresses. Wilson has long been willing to throw down and pay steep prices to acquire the player that he wants in the trade market. From Joe Thornton to Bill Guerin to Brian Campbell to Dan Boyle to Brent Burns to Marty Havlat, Wilson has made a habit of going after the big names. From a fan's perspective, it's good to know that your team's GM is willing to outbid the competition. I recently blogged about the mistake I made of looking back at the 2002 and 2003 drafts, which the Sharks botched. I've tried desperately to distract myself from the knowledge that we could have had Parise/Keith/Weber and more. In that process, I made another mistake...by looking at the Sharks history of trade partners and the results that came after the trades. Someone needs to identify and remove all the bad luck charms surrounding Doug Wilson. Am I the only one who sees the abnormal amount of trades that came back to not just bite us in the ass, but kick us in the ass?
In the 2003-2004 season, Doug Wilson traded Kiprusoff to Calgary for a 2nd round draft pick, which ended up being Vlasic. Considering that we enjoyed great goaltending from Nabokov for the better part of a decade and that Vlasic continues developing as an excellent top-4 defenseman makes me say 'Ok, that's...not a bad trade.' But guess who the Sharks played in the Conference Finals that season? It was none other than Kiprusoff who, after the series was tied 2-2, held the Sharks to 1 goal in the final 2 games of the Conference Finals. Sure, we barely beat a much weaker Flames team years later en-route to the heart-crushing flop against Dallas, but the Sharks were on the wrong end of the poetic justice storyline after the 2004 Conference Finals.
In 2008, the Sharks were in need of a puck-moving defenseman. The team was so strong, and it seemed like a quality offensive-defenseman was the missing piece to the puzzle. Doug Wilson found a trade partner in Buffalo, sending Steve Bernier(WE SHOULD HAVE DRAFTED ZACH PARISE, NOT STEVE BERNIER) and a 1st round pick(Which turned into my current man-crush Tyler Ennis) for Brian Campbell. On paper, this move made the Sharks look like the team to beat. On the ice in the playoffs was another story. Brian Campbell was underwhelming in the post-season, which was lost because so many others were pretty bad during the playoff run. In the 4th OT of Game 6 against the Stars, it was none other than Brian Campbell who took the penalty that lead to the series ending Morrow power-play goal. More on Campbell in a minute...
In 2009, Doug Wilson traded with Anaheim for Kent Huskins and Travis Moen. Oh, they both sucked for the Sharks. Granted, the team was awful as a whole in the playoffs...But we lost to...who was it...Anaheim. Oh. Maybe it would have been better to just let those two stay in Southern California.
In 2010, the Sharks dispatched of Colorado and Detroit en route to the Conference Finals against Chicago. To me, the story-line was Boyle vs Campbell. Brian Campbell enjoyed the matchup and hoisted the Cup as the 3rd D-man on the team behind Keith and Seabrook...both players that Wilson passed on in previous drafts. (DAN SPANG before DUNCAN KEITH. REALLY.) But in my mind, the depth of the defense in Chicago won them that Cup. Brian Campbell was a big part of that.
...I'm not bitter.
Prior to the 2010 season, the Sharks had salary-dumped Christian Ehrhoff to make room under the cap for Dany Heatley. I was all for this move, as I've never really liked Errorhoff and Dany Heatley seemed to just make so much sense. Healtey underwhelmed during his brief stint as a Shark. And in 2011, the Sharks matched up against Ehrhoff and the Canucks in the Conference Finals. Ehrhoff played well, Heatley did not.
And that doesn't finish the 2011 pain. I refused to watch a single minute of the finals. I couldn't stomach the Vancouver team, though I had all the respect in the world for 4,000 fans who made the journey from up North to come to game 4 of the Conference Finals in San Jose. I didn't want that team to win. On the other hand, I didn't want Boston to win because I have 0 respect for Boston fans. Not just Bruins fans, but just Boston fans in general. I know a few people who are Red Sox 'fans'. I know Patriots 'fans'. Boston is the hometown to the worst of the worst bandwagoners. The only legit fan of a Boston area team that I know is my sister, who has followed the Patriots since the Bledsoe days. Every other Boston 'fan', and I mean every single one, that I have met over the years have been bandwagoners. For that reason, I cannot find myself rooting for a team from Boston.
...That, and because it justifies the Joe Thornton trade for the Bruins. The money that would have been used for Thornton was spent on Chara, their Captain, one of the biggest reasons they won the Cup.
That's an impressive list of trades that just didn't not-quite-work.
The thing about those trades is that you could easily justify them at the time of the trades. And some of them almost worked. Brian Campbell wasn't the reason the entire team didn't show up for most of the Calgary series and the first 3 games of Dallas series. Bill Guerin was to the Penguins what we thought he was going to be for the Sharks. If Dany Heatley produced anything in the Conference Finals in either of the past two seasons, surely both series would have pushed 6-7 games and the Sharks may have even won that. Would the Sharks have beaten Philly in the finals 2 years ago? I would think so, and I wouldn't be alone. The televised theme of that series against Chicago was 'The winner of this series will probably win the Cup.'
Doug Wilson has again sought to improve his team via trades, acquiring Brent Burns and Martin Havlat for, and lets be honest here, our two most underachieving and defensively inconsistent forwards. I've always liked Havlat's game, and Burns certainly seems to be just the kind of player the Sharks have been missing, especially given how his shooting mentality fits perfect with the Sharks' goal of generating offense from the defense. Going in to this upcoming season, it's hard to pinpoint anyone in the top 6 forwards or top 4 D-men that can be considered a 'weak link'. The Sharks are primed to have 6 defensively sound forwards reach the 60pt mark(no other team can say that) with 2 of the top elite offensive-defensemen in the league, both paired with exceptionally solid defensive-minded partners. If Vlasic or Demers step up their game, the defense goes from 'upper-echelon' to 'elite'.
And we still have until the trade deadline to decide if we need more depth on the 3rd line. (Shane Doan anyone?)
All it takes is one Cup to justify everything.