Looking at Sharks 2009

So the dust is settling, and the new sharks roster is taking shape, and I’m finally back at a point in my life where blogging seems not only possible, but interesting. Been an interesting three months.

So now we can start to look at the Sharks for 2008-2009 and see if this is a better team. Is it?

First, coaching: I like the hiring of McLellan, but it’s not without risks. Sometimes a really top-notch assistant coach is — a top-notch assistant coach. He could be the next Bruce Boudreau or John Anderson, but he could also be Dave Lewis or Wayne Cashman, two guys who tried to make the leap to NHL coach and found out they made damn good assistant coaches. Or he could be Kevin Constantine, who’s a pretty damn good coach, just not at the NHL level.

So the move is not without risk, but the Sharks aren’t afraid of taking risks, and I think this one makes sense. I’m a lot happier with the idea of bringing in a new voice that has some ability to relate to younger kids than to bring in a “safe” retread who overplays veterans and doesn’t grow his players. I think it’s a good hiring, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he fills out his assistants.

A while back, I wrote about what I thought should be (or would be) changed in the roster offseason. A few highlights and lowlights:

Two for Elbowing: Picking up pieces and an update on Michalek – The San Jose Mercury News Sharks Hockey Blog -:

the Sharks are a damn good team, but it’s clear changes need to be made for the team to get better.

I’d like to see Nabokov backed off to 60-65 games next year (his going to the world championships notwithstanding). Rest him a bit more, keep him a bit fresher.

If that means bringing back Boucher, or someone else, so be it.

And so it is.

Core group (do not touch under penalty of death):


Not coming back:

Curtis Brown (Sorry, Brownie, but I think it’s time).

All of which happened. I honestly felt a top six forward would go — I’m happy that McLellan and Wilson think this group can be kept together and improved without being swapped around.

Players I expect back, but which aren’t “no trade under any cirucmstance” types (as part of the right deal? sure):

Tomas Plihal
Patrick Rissmiller
Jody Shelley
Marcel Goc

I want to see come back:

Jeremy Roenick

Rissmiller was allowed to leave, Shelley is back, as far as I can tell, Plihal and Goc are still unsigned. Plihal will be, Goc, not so sure. If of this crew we lose Rissmiller (like him, replaceable) and Goc (like him, somewhat disappointing), I don’t think the sharks miss a beat. No game changers.

So where does this put the Sharks?

Shelley-Plihal (probably)-Mitchell

and two black aces to be named. Goc maybe one of them.

It’s kinda hard to complain about this roster, especially if they play to potential. So I won’t. you can see why Rissmiller wasn’t kept, when guys like Setoguchi and MItchell and Plihal are having to fight for third line time?

Now the fun begins. The Defense was the thin spot on depth last year. I thought going into the season it was good enough. I was wrong. This year, it’s looking a lot different:

Core group (do not touch under penalty of death):

Douglas Murray (what an improvement this year!)

Matt Carle (struggled at times, but seems to be growing into it; I’d hate to give up too soon)

M-E Vlasic (wow; at his age?)

Craig Rivet

I’d like to see back:

Brian Campbell (but not for Phaneuf money; if someone wants to pay him that, be my guest. he’s missing that “punk brat” aspect to his game, which keeps him a rung below Phaneuf on the ladder. But $25m over 5 years? sure. Just not $30 over 5.

hint: I expect Campbell to stay. He seems happy. He likes playing 30 minutes a game. Why screw it up?

Not coming back:

Sandis Ozolinsh: thanks, Sandis. for everything.

Alexei Semenov: ditto. Neither of these are NHL caliber in today’s NHL.

Kyle McLaren: love his guts and drive, but his knees are problematic. I think it’s time to consider an upgrade.

So one of my “untouchables” goes away in Matt Carle, but we’re getting (if rumors are true) Dan Boyle in return. We lose Brian Campbell, but for the money he’s getting, I hope Chicago enjoys his play. Carle was a lot more expendable to me than Vlasic, so I’m happy.

So our D now looks like:

Rob Blake-Dan Boyle
Murray-lukowich (rumored coming from tampa)


Again, not much to complain about here. Blake/Boyle/Lukowich instead of Campbell/Carle and either Semenov or Ozolinsh? It’s a more veteran crew, but I like what Blake brings to the team in intrinsics, even if we’re giving up some youth to get it (indirectly, because losing Campbell makes bringing Blake in and getting Boyle possible — although I get the impression Wilson was going to bring Blake in anyway).

This is a team that’s now completely oriented towards the next two season. Yeah, after that we’ll have to see about bringing youth in and reloading, but that’s wilson’s problem later. This team needed to be about “NOW OR ELSE”, and now it truly is.

In retrospect, two problems last year:

no backup goalie to take the load off of Nabby and limit his playing time a bit. I don’t think this really hurt the sharks, but I don’t want my goalie playing that many games.

The defense was too young and too thin; trying to patch in with Semenov and Ozolinsh was the red flag, and that proved to be true.

One thing I can guarantee: Doug Wilson will do something completely different than this, and when he does, I’ll go “wow, I never would have thought of that” and like it. Whcih is why he’s GM, and I’m a blogger…

Well actually, Wilson’s done pretty much what I expected; couldn’t re-sign Campbell, went and got Boyle. I have to admit that Rob Blake was one of the guys I thought would be great on the Sharks — only I never thought he’d leave the Kings, so I didn’t really consider it an option. Fortunately, Wilson did, and Lombardi (if you ask me) mis-stepped here. but more on that later. But thanks, Dean. I expect Detroit will send you flowers for helping us (not).

I can’t see how Wilson could have handled this better, given things not under his control (campbell couldn’t be forced back without seriously overpaying him, which the Sharks don’t do). I’m really happy they didn’t move Marleau, I’m really happy they didn’t make any “make a splash” moves at the draft and overpaying to do so. It’s all a very solid, methodical, well-thought out strategy.

So far, a great offseason. And what it ends up doing is sending a big message to the players: no excuses. Now, it’s up to the players.

Can’t wait for camp.