The Sharks had been on quite a fall, losing five straight games and tetering on the edge of playoff consideration. They were three games into a season long 8-game road trip, with Pittsburgh and Detroit on the horizon. The Sharks were aimlessly following the yellow brick road towards the playoffs, but the road was getting narrower and narrower, and the team was falling asleep in a field of flowers with the Emerald City within sight.
But then, Mr. Wizard showed up.
The Sharks needed a boost to their power play and they needed to solidify their blueline. KAZZAMM!!! Mr. Wizard gave them Brian Campbell. Since joining the Sharks, Campbell has two assists in three games and the Sharks have power play goals in three consecutive games.
The Sharks needed a veteran goaltender to back up the overworked Evgeni Nabokov. KAZZAMM!! Mr. Wizard gave them Brian Boucher. The very quiet signing of Boucher at the trade deadline did not have much fanfare, but Boucher made a huge impact in his debut in teal, getting the shutout Sunday against the St. Louis Blues to close out the road trip with the Sharks 5th straight victory.
What a difference a week makes in today's NHL. The Sharks were in danger of falling out of the top 8 in the Western Conference. They then took care of two of the top teams in the NHL by beating Pittsburgh and Detroit ON THE ROAD. I know that the Sharks have been quite the road warriors this year, in fact, their 22-8-3 road record is better than any other team's HOME record this year (that in it self should qulaify them for an instant playoff spot). The point is that San Jose has broken out of their slump in a big way, because Mr. Wizard decided to send some messages to his team.
Message #1 - "We want to win, and we want to win NOW." The Sharks gave up a very promising forward in Steve Bernier and a #1 draft pick to get Campbell. Brian may not be in San Jose next year if Mr. Wizard does not get him signed to an extension. Bernier and a first rounder is a heavy price to pay for renting a defenseman, but it showed that Mr. Wizard thinks he has the team to win the Cup this year.
Message #2 - "Patrick Marleau is important to this team." The Sharks Captain is playing his 10th season with San Jose and he is only 29. How many other 29-year olds can say they are playing their 10th season with their club and already have 523 points (229-294=523) in their NHL career? Marleau is a solid player having a tough year. It has been said that Marleau is not happy in San Jose, but he is a kid that was scoulded by his coach and given all the blame for last year's playoff exit. Mr. Wizard gave Marleau a huge vote of confidence.
Say what you want about Mr. Wizard, but he has not only showed the ability to bring big names to the Shark Tank (Selanne, Thornton, Rivet, Campbell), but he has also learned how to keep them in San Jose (Thornton, Rivet, Cheechoo, Michelek). Watch for the Sharks to make a huge push in the playoffs.
Thank you Mr. Wizard. Thank you Doug Wilson.