I was going to wait a couple of games into the homestand to decide about this, but I’ve seen enough.
As a friend of mine in Toronto is wont to say — time to throw the bomb in. Although in all honesty, I don’t think a bomb is necessary, just a couple of firecrackers.
This Sharks team is broken. It’s not talent. it’s not leadership, unless you honestly believe Gary Suter was the guy who kept everything together all last season (and if you do, I feel sorry for you). I don’t think they’ve tuned out Sutter, although honestly, I think that question is legitimately in play now.
But this team simply isn’t gelled, and by this time, it has to be. The chemistry is wrong. Not sour, just off. Each player seems to be trying — but it’s a team of individuals, not a team. Nobody’s playing in sync with anyone else, nobody seems to understand their assignments, or at least how to get where they ought to be when they ought to be there. Can an entire team catch the “annual vinnie damhphousse slup” flu? maybe they were on a disney cruise?
Whatever. Last year, the Sharks found a way to run the amp to 11 almost every night. This year, they seem to max out about 9.5. Which ain’t bad (you want bad? You want a team that’s told the coach to go to hell? tune into Calgary, folks, and remember the fond days of Jim Wiley. This is not a team that’s told Sutter to piss off, it’s just a team that’s lost and unsure of itself).
So I’m not calling for Lombardi To Do Something. I’ve had enough turkey for the holiday, thank you, I didn’t need another helping stuffed down my throat tonight.
What? Time for this team to get a kick in it’s chemistry. that means — trade. it’s a trade aimed at shaking things up and try to salvage this season. Could it backfire? Sure — but hell, we’re back in the cellar of the division, and you know what? We deserve to be. If you do nothing, and simply hope it fixes itself, will it? 1/4 of the season says no. So toss in a couple of firecrackers. And you do it realizing that it might not work, and it might well cause the team to implode. But the risk of not doing it is now worse than the risk of tinkering.
Who? I don’t think this will be solved by re-arranging the deck chairs on the fourth line. At the same time, though, this team doesn’t suck and doesn’t need to be rebuilt, just retooled and slapped around a bit. So I don’t trade my core group.
So who’s on my list? Two defensemen, three forwards:
o Bryan marchment: doubt Lombardi would do it, but he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season, and in all honestly, he seems a step slower and less effective this year.
o Marcus Ragnarsson: take his cousin Magnus, too. He’s looking older and less effective. Hannan is taking his spot in the depth chart, and I think Marcus is a clear candidate to have his deck chair re-arranged.
o Mark Smith: because I’m always expecting him to fall off the depth chart, and he’d make a useful piece to finish a deal.
o Nicklas Sundstrom: He’s a useful player, but doesn’t seem to have the snap he used to, and I just don’t see him as a core player into the future.
o Vinnie Damphousse: Patty Marleau has finished his growing up, and while Vinnie has taken his move to LW with charm and is playing well there, long-term, he’s expendable. And trading Vinnie would be making a major statement on the “we have to shake things up” meter.
What would be get back? I dunno. I don’t care. In some cases, probably kids or prospects. For Vinnie, something significant, I’d hope. If we could find a way to upgrade the top to forward lines, great. but this season is rapidly turning into a hash (Hockey Night in Canada tonight during pregame declared the Sharks a disaster, and nobody could figure out why. My thoughts exactly). So I’m more looking at reloading for next season and maybe shaking this team out of its funk, in that order. If we salvage this season, fine. If not, make sure you don’t screw up the future trying to fix this year….
A couple of other thoughts:
The Jeff Jillson Question: do we send him down? IMHO, no. Will he learn down there? I’m not convinced, and he’s not the problem. As bad as everyone is playing, I hate picking on him. On the other hand, another couple of brutal turnovers tonight. But riddle me this: Are those turnovers brutal because he’s botching the play, or are they brutal because he’s passing to where someone else on the team is SUPPOSED to be — but isn’t? Because the sharks were three or four feet slow on their assignments all night tonight, and one can only wonder whether the turnover was the fault of the passer, or the guy he’s supposed to be passing to being in na-na land and late to his assignment (again?) — Jillson, being less experienced, has to depend on other players supporting him more than a more experienced player, and if players simply aren’t, what’s he supposed to do? Rathje got hung out to dry any number of times tonight, too, once being completely left out with the recycling until he got the puck picked for a good scoring chance.
And no, I’m not saying Jillson is blameless. Far from it. But if Rathje’s getting racked up because he has nobody to pass to, or his outlet pass is three seconds behind where he’s supposed to be, what else can you expect from Jillson? He’s not nearly as good at Rathje under pressure yet…. So before we simply dump it all on Jillson’s shoulders, ask yourself if the guys who were supposed to be there to help out really were, or was Jillson hosed by sloppy, lazy play by his linemates?
(reality, IMHO, dictates “some of both”).
Other thought: Cheechoo and Lloyns. Remember them? Sent down for one game for conditioning and minutes? They still seem to be in Cleveland. Makes one go Humm. What might cause that? Laurie’s thought — Cheechoo didn’t take the demotion in a, well, team building way, and he’s now getting used to playing in the AHL, with Lloyns as collateral damage. It doesn’t hurt that Kraft hasn’t exactly made me scream ‘get him off the ice!”, anmd since he hasn’t earned any kind of demotion, the Sharks don’t need to be in a hurry. But other than taching someone a lesson in attitude, why are the sharks leaving them down there? (and if it was Lloyns, well, nobody would think twice if they left Lloyns down there and brought Cheechoo back up, especially with kraft playing pretty well. But leaving the pretty-boy high draft prospect would cause questions to be asked. So Lloyns basically plays the beard hiding an object lesson to Cheechoo here. Ohwell.
At least, that’s what we think…