Kukla's Korner Hockey
by pcoffey on 05/25/11 at 12:25 PM ET
In case you missed the announcement yesterday, we are pleased to welcome Phil Coffey to KK as a special blogger. Phil is well connected throughout the hockey community and his insight is most welcomed.
So, now what?
That’s the question being bandied about by the San Jose Sharks and their fans after another disappointing end to a season that held such promise.
Losing in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals to the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks might be of some consolation to other teams, but not in San Jose. Not when a Sharks team built to win now failed to grasp the last rung of the ladder into the Stanley Cup Final.
But back to the original question, namely now what?
In the instant analysis that follows, there will be calls for dynamite.
Ship out Joe Thornton!
Ship out Dany Heatley!
Ship out Patrick Marleau!
Ship ‘em all out and start from scratch!
As you can see, knee-jerk reactions following a playoff loss are rarely logical, much less smart.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” coach Todd McLellan said of breaking up the Sharks. “We have some very talented players that are under contract. We have a real strong core. We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. We’ve grown as a team.
“In my opinion, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be an elite team again next year, as we were the last three, four, five years. We expect to be there. That’s the standard we live by.”
Still, for GM Doug Wilson, the team’s direction for 2011-12 and beyond is a very important question he will ponder in the coming weeks.
Will he agree with McLellan that this particular group of players has more to give, or is a different approach mandated by another season that fell short.
Does the core of Thornton, Heatley, Marleau and Joe Pavelski—all signed for the next three seasons at big bucks—have the moxie to overcome this disappointment and take another kick at the can?
If Wilson believes the core is strong, then his off-season becomes one of picking and choosing from his own unrestricted free agents—defensemen Ian White and Niklas Wallin top that list—and re-sign his restricted free agents—Devin Setoguchi, Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn being the top names here.
If breaking up the team is Wilson’s ultimate decision, then he has a busy summer ahead trying to find the right deals for some pretty high-priced players. And as we all know in today’s salary-cap world, dealing a big-earner is a lot easier said than done, especially if one is looking for an equitable return on investment.
Heatley is on the books for $7.5 million in 2011-12, Thornton will make $7 million, Marleau $6.9 million and Pavelski $4 million. That’s a lot of scratch for four players and defenseman Dan Boyle will earn $6.7 million. The Sharks will likely have to do some pruning to be cap compliant for next season in any event and a couple moves to get the restricted free agents under contract will see the inevitable changes that all teams face.
How big and widespread those changes will be is now at the top of Wilson’s agenda.
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