Kukla's Korner


Word from the Coast

As though you hadn’t heard enough introductions of late to the newly acquired Cheechoo and Michalek, perhaps one more wouldn’t hurt, with a familiar face.

From Mike Chen, an introduction. No, two.

Meet Milan Michalek: he’s big, fast, and gifted, so how the hell could the Sharks trade a young guy like that? Well, the problem is that he doesn’t always use all of his natural tools. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a floater——he’s defensively responsible and works hard (yes, Cory Clouston, he moves his feet). It’s just that he’s got this extra gear to go with his soft hands but he doesn’t always use it. Hopefully, that’s a function of age (he’s only 24) and perhaps with one or two more years of maturity, he’ll finally put it all together. If he does, he’s got the skill and work ethic to be a 70-80 point two-way threat.

In the meantime, he’s a lock for 50 points and he can play both special teams. Michalek spent time playing with both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and his best stretch was probably the second half of the post-lockout year when Marleau and Michalek played speed demon up and down the ice. His style never really meshed with Thornton, though he still put up his share of points worthy of a second-tier forward, so it remains to be seen how he’ll do with Jason Spezza. His speed has surprisingly held up despite devastating knee injuries to start his career, so any Sens fans worried about that can rest easy as Michalek has been pretty sturdy for several seasons.

It’s important to erase any expectations of Jonathan Cheechoo, good or bad. The guy hasn’t been able to score regularly over the past two years due to major abdominal surgery (summer 2008) and a whole grab bag of injuries, including the dreaded groin injury. If he’s healthy, he deserves to be watched with a clean slate. With that in mind, the first thing you’ll notice about Cheechoo—regardless of his health—is that the dude works hard. He busts his ass and he’s feisty; he doesn’t necessarily have a mean streak in him but he’s not afraid of the dirty spots on the ice and he’ll do what his coach tells him. So he’s got the foundation to be a strong role player and a good locker room guy. That’s why Sharks fans took to him, even before his 50-goal year, and they’ll surely give him a rousing ovation on December 1st when Ottawa comes to town.

As for his upside, well, it’s literally all in his upside. From the waist up, Cheechoo can be incredible. He’s still got soft hands for deking and the ability to spot loose pucks, along with a wicked one-timer and a hard slap shot. From the waist down, those core injuries have slowed his ability to get into open ice for one-timers or to drive the net for rebounds. If he’s fully recovered from his bevy of injuries, all he needs is a reasonable passer for a 25-goal year. Remember, the guy scored 28 goals with Mike Ricci as his center.

He’s a really good guy, too. Soft-spoken, humble, and a hard worker (quintessential Canadian, eh?), he’s what you want both on and off the ice. If he doesn’t have his core strength back, he’ll be a grinder with a dozen goals; if he’s healthy, 25 goals is a starting point and 35 goals is a reasonable top end.

Not the shabbiest of options, right? Cheechoo was once Heatley in those years gone by with his Rocket Richard season, and Michalek sounds like another Vermette with more upside. No, you won’t foam at the mouth quite yet, but maybe this is finally karma catching up to Ottawa for being able to dump Yashin in exchange for Muckalt, Chara, and Spezza. Probably not what you wanted to hear, granted, but with training camp underway and pre-season games coming up this week, the search for chemistry can begin anew.

That, and any time you see Heatley miss a shot or waiting in the slot with his stick reeled back, which I suggest to Mike Chen is a good possibility, you can enjoy the pain.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

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

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