Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

What was all that about?

What was that Sharks press conference about yesterday?  I can’t begin to answer that.  I don’t blame them that Dreger blabbed the Stuart news before it started, but they weren’t even prepared to confirm that news.  So why did they meet with the press at all?

As the non-news trickled in, I thought maybe this was the owners’ attempt to quash those rude stories about them not being around or not knowing what was going on and nobody knowing who they were.  That works.

Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos explained that they don’t tell Doug Wilson what to do with the team, even if he does run the big ticket items by the owners.  I think that’s nice.  Busy-body owners only muddle things, and what is a General Manager for if you don’t let him manage?  They also mentioned that they are in this to win:

“Mission No. 1 around here is winning the Stanley Cup and that’s what this whole business is about,” Sclavos said. “We’ve been spending to the salary cap every year to put the best team on the ice that we think we can and in aggregate, the performance has been good.  -Working the Corners

Aggregate isn’t a word I use much but I like that idea- don’t go jumping off of bridges over one step back if you’ve made progress over several seasons.  While explaining that they’re not in it for the money, they mentioned that the organization isn’t in debt.  That’s fairly dazzling in this era of debt junkies. 

Both Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos said they are willing to finish in the red every season in order to field a competitive team, with Compton acknowledging losses reached $15 million last season. -Working the Corners

That reminds me of an old saying: a cattle ranch can make a small fortune, if you start with a large one.  I shrugged that off until I realized the CBA discussions are soon to get officially going.  If I were trying to campaign for the owners, I might have mentioned that loss earlier, a lot earlier.  I would have mentioned it well before the doomsaying pieces about greedy owner-created lockouts started coming.  Maybe it just took them this long to get the books sorted, but it registered on my paranoid politics meter.

Another bit of non-news that came out of the press availability was that Todd McLellan will be back as Head Coach.  I’ve complained that this took so long to confirm, but unless he was negotiating a new contract there really wasn’t anything to announce, was there?  You only announce new information.  Someone not being fired is not really news.

When Wilson talked with 95.7, he mentioned that Patrick Marleau was a very important part of the team, and he said that they need him to come back better.  That sounds like confirmation that he will be back.  Also called “an important part of this team” yesterday was Douglas Murray.

Signing Stuart for 3 years @ $3.6 million per is a strong hint that Murray will be moved this summer.  If Stuart makes a defenseman expendable, it makes most sense to move the more expensive of Demers and Murray.  Of course even with Stuart and Murray and Demers, the team isn’t overloaded with defensemen.  But they still probably need to spend something on a winger.  Wilson’s comments about Murray didn’t exactly contradict that:

“Douglas is an important part of this team,” Wilson said before getting into the injuries that slowed the defenseman down last season. “Last year, he fractured his larynx, then he pulled his groin—a big body like that. . . . When he was injured he was a little bit passive, he couldn’t get up on people.

“Stuey has that component. He’s a better skater a little bit,” Wilson added. “But Douglas Murray is a very competitive guy that a lot of top people don’t want to play against.”

Can he still keep up?

“If he’s healthy,” Wilson said. “That’s where the medical reports come in.” -Working the Corners

I got a little stuck on that last part.  On the one hand, “Stuey” seems capable of filling Murray’s role nicely, he may even be seen as an improvement.  On the other hand, you don’t say that a player’s health is going to be the difference between keeping him and not keeping him, not if you’re planning to trade him. Sure, there are disclosures to be made at some point, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you do, to the public no less.  “He can keep up if he’s healthy, which we aren’t sure about right now” isn’t a very good marketing slogan.

Is a deal all but done?  Or is moving Murray not one of Wilson’s priorities?  Murray would make a great seventh defenseman, and since Stuart is no spring chicken either, the Sharks will need a good one.  But what would that mean for the forwards?  Those wingers the team needs?  It would mean the team can’t add anyone expensive.  It would mean small moves only, which for Wilson is like standing pat.

What about those big changes promised?  Would not making big moves be a change?  Would the fans buy that?  I still believe this team that looked good on paper could be better than it was.  Give them time to show an aggregate performance and they might be great.  I know Galiardi gave the Sharks some grief when he was an Av.  Winnik performed very well for San Jose.  It seems like Wingels hardly got his feet wet in the NHL, he will be as good or better next season.  Yes, he’s a center but since when do the Sharks mind using centers on the wing?  Havlat could very well stay healthy, he didn’t go to the IIHF Championships this year.  Those four are birds in the hand.

Unless Wilson can bring in a player who acts like a catalyst, I don’t believe any move is likely to quickfire this team.  Last I heard, there are no Sharks pining for lost bffs, unless you count McGinn, but he and Couture weren’t linemates anyway. “The guy who knows how to play with underperformer X” isn’t demanding a trade from some other team. 

I think they need to make their own catalyst, but that takes time.  I don’t mean the big names need time.  They’ve had time, but not with this team.  For cohesion you need to read in 20 guys or more, not just your “core players.”  We don’t know what the next salary cap will be, what rule changes may be instituted.  Even if we count on the season starting on time, it seems like a perfect opportunity to focus on things like identity and over-arching philosophy.

Fans want it fixed, want the team winning, we want all the best players being their best.  Even in a perfect transition, that hardly ever happens.  Change is painfully gradual.  Past success might have slowed the process by masking persistent problems.  I don’t mean the Sharks should change nothing.  I hope there will be many changes in coaching philosophy, strategy, decision-making.  But until that is in place, it isn’t clear which players would help or hinder the team, so drastic moves are unnecessary and ill-advised.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: brad+stuart, daniel+winnik, doug+wilson, douglas+murray, kevin+compton, martin+havlat, nhl+cba, offseason, stratton+sclavos, tj+galiardi, todd+mclellan, trade

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net