Welcome to San Jose Heater

First let me apologize for the delay of my posting this blog—I haven’t had a single free moment over the last three days. Anyway, let’s get to it:

“Sweet f***ing trade—” a common sentiment currently shared by most Sharks fans. Sure there are the worries about a cancer in the locker room, the large salary, and the loss of two players who are considered members of the team’s core. But the possibilities for the Sharks at this point in time are endless. DW has once again traded away good players and received a ‘star player’ in return. And seeing as this trade did not involve Marleau, I, for the first time this off season, am not afraid of the upcoming season, and this is why:

Management:

Patience is a virtue, and DW finally showed why he is still in control of this team. Murray had no choice but to trade his disgruntled star, and DW’s endurance and unwillingness to compromise really paid off in the end (this is the same deal Murray Scoffed off of the table in the beginning of the summer, at which point he expressed interest in Setoguchi and refused to even look at a proposition involving Cheechoo).

Another great aspect of this trade is that DW very successfully reduced this year’s actual payroll below the salary cap (with the projected full roster signed). However, an even bigger benefit is that he has officially relieved the organization of three back loaded contracts, leaving only Vlasic’s (meaning that despite Heatley’s massive contract, the organization is in good shape for a future salary cap reduction). The deal also leaves the Sharks with the resources available to re-sign players that will be free agents after this season, assuming Marleau takes a salary reduction with his new contract. Nabby’s future is currently financially irrelevant, but I cannot imagine the Sharks spending any more goal tending; they will in all likelihood go cheaper and make Nabby an offer around 4 or let him walk away.

Lines:

The most obvious set of combinations for the Sharks are as follows:

Heatley – Thornton – Setoguchi
Marleau – Pavelski – Clowe
McGinn – Mitchell – Hinote
Shelley – Nichol – Staubitz

Boyle – Vlasic
Blake – Huskins
Murray – Joslin
Dandenault
Nabokov
Griess

Granted, this leaves the Sharks with an amazing top six (with an absolutely overpowering first line) and an underpowered bottom line, but the offensive benefits would be enormous. The defense is undoubtedly weaker than last year, but that is to be expected. Nabakov, Blake, Boyle and Vlasic are proven and can keep points off of the board. The replacements for Ehrhoff and Luko are not going to destroy the team, and all in all, the defense didn’t make it for us in the post season— the Sharks couldn’t score and didn’t get the saves they needed. In perspective, the current defense is still stronger than many in the league, and it can always be strengthened during the season at a lower cost (through acquisitions, AHL’ers, etc.). But you simply cannot win, much less hold the Cup, if you cannot score (regardless of what the other team does), which is why the lack of production had to be the focus this offseason.

Another great option could leave the Sharks with two first scoring lines (but not as overwhelmingly superior) and would look like this:

Clowe – Thornton – Setoguchi
Marleau – Pavelski – Heatley

This would allow JT to keep his right hand shot and add some muscle to his line. With Clowe and Seto scrapping it out on the boards JT might actually have the space to make things happen (especially in the post season). This would also entirely prevent any team from effectively getting their top D match ups against any one line, while allowing the Sharks a line of speed and one of muscle (making them adaptable to nearly any situation). And it definitely doesn’t hurt that the “second” pairing would make the best goalies in the NHL look like amateurs—to quote a fan on the Sharks message board, “a line where Pavelski has the worst shot… is a line that can shoot.”
The only real negative I can find with the roster is what will happen when there are injuries. The current roster looks like it will leave the Sharks about $650K below the cap, which would actually prevent them from calling up the expensive prospects Petrecki and Couture.
Locker Cancer:

Fans really should not be worried? The last ‘ingrate’/‘troubled player’ DW signed was Jeremy Roenick. In this organization he reinvented himself and his reputation. He was treated and treated people with respect, earned the players trust, and even built strong friendships with Seto and the likes. He blossomed once again into a role model and used his years of wisdom to help the younger guys mature and polish their game.

The real point here is that the same can happen with Heatley. If given the opportunity, he unquestionably possesses the skill and ability to better himself and those around him. He too can become an ambassador of the sport, and I honestly believe that by the end of this season, his past will be forgotten.

Production:

Assuming no real drop in his production, Heatley will score 40 or more goals and tally 100 points. That is almost certainly as much, if not more than Cheech and Michalek would be able to combined had they stayed in SJ. Additionally, you must consider the extra production that his line mates will be able to achieve resulting from the attention any defense in the league will pay to Heatley. Finally, you must figure in the open roster spot—no matter who fills it, if they are an NHL caliber player, they will be somewhat productive. If you total all of these up, you have to figure the Sharks finish at least 20 goals and forty points ahead than if they had not made the move. And that’s not including the improvement generated by ridding the lower lines of Grier and Goc!

Penalty Killing:

This is definitely a much bigger concern than is the defense or any other aspect of the deal. It is very uncertain what the PK units will be and who they will consist of. McGinn does show some potential to step into that roll, and Heatley did some in Ottawa (and scored a few short handers while he was at it). Ortmeyer has stated that he wants to play physically and desires a spot on a PK unit. And if DW decides to bring him up, Frazier McLaren did some in Worcester.

Closing Thoughts:
The way to make a team better is to acquire exceptional players in exchange for good players. This is what DW did when he traded for Thornton, and in case you forgot, that is when the team skyrocketed in production. The defense was considered in the realm of superior when Boyle was acquired (I guess Campbell too), and it appears that DW has done it again. This makes the Sharks stronger, and in many ways, a more threatening team than last year. They are no longer the Spurs of hockey, in which every player is more or less fundamentally sound and maintains constant production. They are a team with tenacity; a team on which nearly every player and every line has the potential to hurt the opposition. They are the embodiment of the statement: “anything can happen in hockey.”

Finally, I want to say that I called it (sort of). I posted in early July that this was the trade to expect if Heatley was acquired (granted, I missed the draft picks). The only thing Wilson could do to improve upon the end result of this off season is to sign Owen Nolan (and of course, give him the ‘C’).

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~ by mitchsolomon on September 16, 2009.

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