Sharks: Blood In The Water?
Not long ago, Twitter, Facebook and other venues were fin deep in the rumor that the team was preparing to part ways with their captain and best forward Joe Thornton. As of now Joe is still a member of the Teel Tanklords. This is of course subject to change, but possibly not until the NHL and NHLPA finally finish wrangling over the collective bargaining agreement.
Was this dangling of Thornton a sign of things to come? Or was it pure imagination on someone’s part that was simply too juicy for everyone else to leave alone? With the moves they’ve made over the summer so far, anything is possible. The additions of Brad Stuart, Adam Burish and Tim Kennedy don’t exactly scream “loading for a cup run”, even if they aren’t a capitulation. But the truth is the team probably needs to be broken up.
This past spring they were knocked out of the playoffs by the St Louis Blues in five short games. The two previous seasons ended in the Western Conference Finals. Joe Thornton is 33. Patrick Marleau will be 33 on the day the current CBA officially expires. Those are your two best forwards, your two biggest impact players. Dan Boyle is 36, he’s the best defenseman. After Boyle the blueline doesn’t have a single other top paring defenseman. Vlasic, Burns and now Stuart are all 3-5 guys depending on the coach and the system. Niemi was dragged to a Stanley Cup by the Chicago Blackhawks, and followed it up the next season with an 18 game run where he turned in a .896 sv%.
If you can find a reason to hope this team is still a contender in five years, you’re doing something that I can’t. Unfortunately, a look at the roster shows that no movement clauses look like they were spread out with the t-shirt cannon. Four forwards and two defensemen have some form of movement limiting clause. Worse still, the team doesn’t have a single player on the roster on an entry level contract. This means there’s no banner of hope to waive if and when they can convince one of the guys that needs to be moved to go, that whatever hope is to be had, will be entirely based on the return.
Digging deep it is possible to find hope. Not much of it, but some. Marleau, Thornton, and Boyle if they could all be traded the Sharks would be just a few hundred thousand under the cap with seventeen contracts signed if they took only prospects and picks in return. While that’s unlikely, if they do move those three the team gains an extraordinary amount of flexibility to pursue free agents in 2014. They would also have plenty of room to develop and retain young talent. Given what is said of their prospect pool, getting a hold of those prospects in the first place is something someone needs to pay attention to.
It is abundantly clear the San Jose Sharks need to do something other than fiddle while the house burns down. It remains to be seen if anyone in the front office has the stones and sense to do it and do it right.
@PuckSage Is it October yet?