Once Again, The Voice of Reason

Just decided I’d post Pollack’s new article. As always, it is the sanest thing I have read this week. And if you want a laugh, read the comments under his article.

Nothing imminent on the trade front — and some advice for the Sharks from Detroit

Posted by David Pollak on July 31st, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Categorized as General, Hockey, NHL, Sharks, Sports

There’s enough smoke out there — the ongoing Dany Heatley saga, the latest rumors surrounding Phil Kessel — that I figured MAYBE there was a fire someplace.

So I called Doug Wilson — realizing full well that he would not say, “Yep, we’re trying hard to land that forward from Boston” as we know his policy when it comes to talking about another team’s players. He got back to me today and we agreed you could boil his response down to six words: Anything is possible, nothing is imminent.

We didn’t define imminent, but I think it’s safe to say those reports that something big is about to break are at the very least, premature.

To recap, Wilson has made a couple things clear. One, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle aren’t going anywhere. And, two, the GM sees no need to rush into roster changes beyond the third- and fourth-line alterations already made. What still matters most is how this team will perform in the playoffs and he sees that giving him until the 2010 trade deadline to get his roster lined up just so.

Beyond that? Well, though Wilson won’t spell out the extent of what he has in mind, he has suggested to at least a couple of us in the media that we talk with Jimmy Devellano, longtime hockey executive with the Detroit Red Wings with a previous tour of duty in the front office of the New York Islanders back in the Mike Bossy era.

I reached Devellano on Thursday and he pretty much re-created the Las Vegas conversation he said he had in late June with Wilson and Sharks CEO Greg Jamison.

“We were at the NHL awards and had a drink together,” Devellano said. “I initiated it.”

Devellano said he advised Wilson and Jamison to resist the temptation to break up the team.

“Just tweak it,” Devellano said he told the Sharks brass. “You’re a team that‘s been pretty successful over the years. Maybe there’s a player that can’t get it done, but the one thing you can’t afford to do is just break it up completely. My advice is just to hang tough. See if you can’t add a player here or there. You might have to eliminate a guy. But don’t break it up.”

Devellano, 66, has the credentials when it comes to advising teams dealing with playoff frustration. In 1978, the Islanders were conference champs and failed to win a playoff series; the following year, the Islanders were Presidents’ Trophy winners, won one round, then were upset by the rival Rangers; the year after that, the Islanders won the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cups.

“There were a lot of screams on Long Island: Fire the coach, fire Al Arbour. The team isn’t tough enough. The team isn’t this, the team isn’t that. What GM Bill Torrey did—he didn’t fire the coach. He tweaked the team – he traded Mike Kaszycki for tough guy Gordon Lane. It was a small deal really, but it turned out to be important.”

With Detroit, Devellano also saw the Red Wings win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2005-06, then get ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Three other times in the past 15 years, Detroit entered the playoffs as conference or division champs, then failed to win a single playoff series.

For the most part, Detroit stayed with its game plan. One season, Devellano said, they did revamp things by going out and signing big-name free agents Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille after season-ticket renewals plunged. But with today’s CBA and salary cap, that kind of move isn’t really an option.

At one point, Devellano said, the Red Wings did consider trading their captain, Steve Yzerman, to Ottawa. The deal never happened because Detroit didn’t think it was getting fair value in return. Instead, Coach Scott Bowman ended up convincing Yzerman that he needed to take care of things in his own end even if it meant sacrificing offensive numbers.

That does have bearing for the Sharks today as they deal with pressure to trade key players, Devellano said.

“OK, get rid of them,” Devellano said. “But you better be sure you’ve got someone as good or better coming back. They may not be perfect, but they’re still pretty good players. You don’t finish in first overall if they’re bad players.”

Devellano said fans and the teams themselves are too quick to dismiss the significance of winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

“When you win the Presidents Trophy, there’s not enough credit given to the team. That’s league-wide,” he said… “I guess that’s because we give so much attention to winning the Stanley Cup. But it’s not accurate and it’s not fair. The team that finished at the top of the league is a pretty good hockey team. (Stuff) can happen in the playoffs. A lot of (stuff) can happen.”

Devellano said he knows that Wilson and the Sharks are feeling a lot of pressure because of past playoff failures. That doesn’t change his basic advice:

“See if you can’t add a player here or there. You might have to eliminate a guy. . . . But stay the course. Don’t be ripping the guts of the team out. It wasn’t an accident to win the Presidents’ Trophy. We had a good team in Detroit and you finished ahead of us.”

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~ by mitchsolomon on August 1, 2009.

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