Happy American Independence day! (and a few days late, Canada Day, aka hockey player independence day..
I wanted to makeÂ a couple of comments on the Sharks off-season so far. Back in may. Since then, Huskins, Clowe and Blake are signed. Semenov, Lemieux, Goc, Plihal and Grier are moving on. Of those, I had Goc and Plihal on my roster, but both of them no higher than Black Aces — so for the most part Doug Wilson and I are on the same page. Well, I’m on the same page with Wilson, let’s be real here…
Where he and I disagree slightly: I called for the trade of Thornton and defended Nabokov; Wilson made Thornton and Boyle untouchable, and Marleau and Nabokov visibly in the “tradeable” pile. Craig Button was on NHL Home Ice after the Sharks went out of the playoffs and more or less mirrored Wilson’s idea here on Thornton; it’s the support crew around Thornton that needs to help him get the job done because he’s being mobbed.
Intellectually, I can agree with that; emotionally, I still feel like both Thornton and Marleau (and Nabokov, for that matter) look to me like they aren’t taking it up that one final notch in the playoffs. That’s probably because that notch is in use much of the season as well, not because they aren’t using it.
All in all, I’m happy with the off-season so far. Wilson didn’t do anything dramatic at the draft — but didn’t make any stupid grandstanding moves, either. Ditto free agent day; he focussed on keeping the players he wanted here in San Jose, and got Huskins and Clowe signed, and worked out a deal with Rob Blake. All great signings for the team. Wilson’s made it clear that July 1 is the day GMs will definitely overpay because of the way the market is structured, and he’s right. Unlike some fans, I’m not interested in watching GM’s “make a splash”, I want a better hockey team. Patience is a good thing many times.
The Sharks pursuit of Gustavsson (“the monster”) is fascinating. I don’t think they’ll get him, but it’s clearly a shot over the bow at Nabokov. Greiss is probably the backup in San Jose this fall (Boucher was a real trooper, but solid backups are fairly easy to find, and it’s time to let a kid step up) — but Laurie and I aren’t convinced about him. We’ll see.
Free agent day in general? I was fascinated by how many players moved around and how they shifted. There was a real levelling of talent across the league, as players moved to “less good” teams to clear cap space or to keep their salaries at par, while top tier teams worked the cap and ended up with “not quite as good, but cheaper” talent. Parity kicks in hard core; unless you are a fan of a dynasty (and more specifically, a dynasty that involves your team — yes, talking about you, Red Wings fans) this is good for the league. Lots of solid, competitive hockey, and teams in the chase most of the season. It only sucks if you somehow believe your team should be awarded the Cup on opening night adn the rest of the season is a formality.
Detroit has some serious challenges; they lost a lot of talent in free agency. OTOH, they have a lot of talent in the minors, for all some pundits are pointing and declaring it’s over, come next April, we’ll likely be talking about 2-3 Red Wings who ahve stepped in from the AHL and are surprising the crap out of everyone. Except, of course, the Detroit organization.
Big winners? I really like what Burke is doing in Toronto. And Dean Lombardi has the Kings moving in the right direction.
Losers? I don’t understand the Brashear contract. I do understand the Hossa contract in Chicago, but I think they’ll regret it down the road. These decade-long contracts get scary and limit your options, and you just have to hope you guess right. Gaborik is another one: I wouldn’t have gone beyond two years in the deal, not because he’s not good, but because he’s never healthy.
The biggest loser this off-season is Dany Heatley, though. More on that in another post.