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post If The Season Ended Today…

February 14th, 2010, 11:08 am

Filed under: blog — Written by Doug

If the regular season were to end today at the Olympic break and 62 game mark, the San Jose Sharks would once again be the #1 seed in the Western Conference, but not the President’s Trophy winner – that dubious distinction would go to the Washington Capitals. Capping off a 4-2 road trip that ended on with a particularly lame effort last night in Buffalo, here’s what else we’re left to ponder for two weeks.

If the season ended today:

The Sharks would likely field a 4th line of skilled players in the playoffs who will play the body, create actual scoring chances and threaten their opponents 3rd pairing with speed, unlike last years combo of Cheechoo, Grier and Shelley. This is good news and should help the Sharks get past their postseason blues.

Doug Wilson would be left with unfinished business. He still needs to address the lack of quality blueline depth and hopefully seeing Rob Blake’s dismal final three games of the road trip (-2 and two horrible penalties vs. Detroit that should have cost the Sharks the game, especially the one in OT), Doug Wilson must add another d-man who can play 20+ minutes and lessen the burden on the 40 year old Blake, who is really showing his immobility and age down the stretch. Trading Shelley helps and created a 750k cushion for either the permanent stay of Jamie McGinn or for Wilson to add someone of significance. I’m sure if something happens it will come out of nowhere, in typical Doug Wilson fashion – but watching Blake this last week confirmed my opinion – something MUST happen for the Sharks to beat Detroit or Chicago in May, or we’ll see more of Blake skating in cement as Kane and Datsyuk glide right around him.

The Sharks would draw Calgary in the first round, as the standings sit today. Could be worse (Detroit), could be better (Nashville). Calgary is a team in turmoil and they still haven’t found any rhythm since making major roster changes two weeks ago, losing three of their last four. The Flames are never an easy draw, but Brent Sutter has been a lousy playoff coach – with both his Devils teams losing in the first round his two years there. I feel confident we could beat Calgary in 5 or 6 max.

Some people say it’s to the Sharks advantage to finish 2nd and avoid the pressure of #1, but I say – Hell’s No. There is enough separation right now between Colorado at #6 with 76 points and the group clogged up for the final two spots (Detroit, Nashville, Dallas, Calgary, Anaheim and St. Louis) that the probability that Detroit will end up #7 is pretty damn high. Avoid the 2nd seed at all costs, or a date with Detroit awaits. I’ve championed the Curse of the Blackhawks all season, their dealings with Martin Havlat and RFA madness in the offseason created bad hockey karma and it will all come crumbling down around them when they draw Detroit in Round One. MAKE IT SO HOCKEY GODS! This is why San Jose must stay #1. It’s critical to our postseason success. All roads must go through Detroit – and it wouldn’t be a Cup run within having to beat the best – but let’s not have it be in the first round. We all know the ending to that fairy tale.

I'm a #7 seed waiting to happen. I can smell Huet from here!

I'm a #7 seed waiting to happen. I can smell Huet from here!

23 Comments to “If The Season Ended Today…”

  1. Adam says:

    Watching Blake this season and on this road trip in particular, I’m wondering if Wallin wasn’t brought in to replace some of his minutes in the top-4 as opposed to the 5th/6th d-man minutes. If not, that should really be a consideration instead of automatically going back to the Vlasic/Blake pairing when Vlasic returns.

    Blake should not be getting more ice time than Wallin at ES. And really, his idea of defence — hooking, cross-checking, slashing, and/or tackling the opposing forward in front of the net — is just playing with fire on the PK. Watching Blake play is “interesting” because it’s like he’s stuck in pre-lockout rules and just daring the refs to call him on it. Hopefully, these 2 weeks off will allow Wallin to get comfortable with the system and the coaching staff comfortable with using him more.

    He might not be flashy in any sort of way, but everyone keeps talking about him not making mistakes, which sounds like a big upgrade over Blake.

  2. Jerry says:

    If the season ended today, the Sharks would lose in the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs again. Good thing DW still has time to shop. Wishlist: (1) offensively savvy defenseman (Zidlicky or Tyutin), (1) shutdown defenseman with enforcer’s mindset (Hejda or Hnidy) and (1) gritty forward with heart and is a pain-in-the-ass to play against (Nolan, Clutterbuck or Torres).

  3. Tom says:

    Jerry. I can’t agrue with your list of players. But how would you propose we pay for such a wishlist without giving up several major assets? Other than Clowe and Huskins everyone is living up to or exceeding their contracts and aren’t sure how we could expect upgrades in those positions…

    I’m not being sarcastic here. I’m really not sure if DW can improve this team much…

  4. Jerry says:

    Glad you asked Tom. First of all, I don’t believe that “everyone is living up to or exceeding their contracts,” so we wouldn’t be giving up “major assets” in an effort to acquire what’s needed for a deep playoff run. In my opinion, DW should package Marc-Edouard Vlasic along with Ryane Clowe in a trade. Now before all of you Vlasic lovers get your jockstraps in a bunch, just hear me out.

    If the Sharks weren’t in such a must-win situation, they’d have the luxury to wait for Vlasic’s potential to develop. Vlasic is not ready for primetime. We’ve seen how he folds under pressure in the playoffs and he hasn’t exactly stepped up his game this year. If anything, he’s regressed.

    And let’s face the facts. Win or lose, it’s unlikely that DW can keep the team’s nucleus intact with so many UFAs and RFAs to contend with in the upcoming offseason. Therefore, the window of opportunity to win a championship is here and now. DW needs to go all in and use whatever means necessary to capture The Holy Grail.

    How does this sound to you?
    Clowe, Vlasic, Huskins and Joslin to Minnesota
    Zidlicky, Nolan, Hnidy and Clutterbuck to San Jose

    Zidlicky – offensively gifted d-man
    Nolan – grizzled vet who still has game and will give the Sharks toughness and swagger
    Hnidy – experienced and physical d-man who is not afraid to hit anyone or anything
    Clutterbuck – a Scottie Nichol-type wrecking ball who plays with reckless abandon

    Some might argue that this would be too many changes for the Sharks to integrate with only 20 games left in the regular season. Well, the 2001 Colorado Avalanche weren’t afraid to trade away Adam Deadmarsh and Aaron Miller for Rob Blake. And the Avs went on to win the Cup that year.

  5. Ruben says:

    Most the advanced metrics show Vlasic as a true #1 shutdown Dman…right now. I am no scout, but DW seems to also believe that he is a true #1 Dman. All this with grandpa Blake as his partner. The Sharks are waiting on his OFFENSIVE potential, he is already a top 15 shutdown Dman in the league. Trading him away would just hurt the team defensively, regardless of whether one likes how Vlasic actually gets the job done.

    I will admit that he has played awful in the playoffs. Nic Wallin has played pretty well in the playoffs. When the playoffs come around, I hope Vlasic is on the ice 22-25 minutes a game and Walline about 17-20. A player is a playoff choker until they are not (see Rodriguez, Alex and Elway, John for big time examples of this in other sports). Remember how Marc Andre Fluery was a playoff choker? I am more than happy to wait and see if this year is Vlasic’s coming out party in the playoffs.

    I would love Clutterbuck, and Nolan of course. Zidlicky is also very good, and maybe there is something to a Clowe/Zdlicky centered swap. But to not call Vlasic a major asset, or to think he isn’t more than living up to his contract is harsh, considering he plays the second most minutes on one of the top defensive teams in the league

    If the playoffs started today, the Sharks would have something like an 85% chance of moving to round two. Should they meet up with DET, I would give them a 50/50 chance of moving to the WCF. If they met up with CHI there, again I put odds at 50/50. I think they can take any team from the East, including WAS.

    What would I do to improve those chances? Call up Demers and sit Leach. Put Blake on the 3rd pairing with Huskins. Assuming everyone is healthy, go back to the original 1-2 lines (HTML, Manny on 2, Clowe on 3) and go with a 4th line of McGinn-Helminen (or Ferriero)-Mitchell, and down the stretch give that line 10-14 minutes a night to give them a chance to gel for the playoffs. Give Greiss half the starts coming out of the break, but then let Nabby play 9 out of the last 10 to get him in his rhythm. Cut down HTML to 16-17 min a night until the last couple of games, or theyll get gassed. And goddammit pray that DET is not our 1st round matchup, or that they get dumb enough to switch to Osgood because he is a “playoff performer.”

  6. Jerry says:

    Forget the metrics. What do your eyes tell you? Does Vlasic look like a #1 d-man of the shutdown variety? Vlasic is a smooth skater who isn’t a liability in the defensive zone. Otherwise, he seems to play at a level that’s just above a Kent Huskins in my opinion.

    When you think of the elite “shutdown d-man,” who comes to mind?
    Chris Pronger
    Zdeno Chara
    Shea Weber
    Dion Phaneuf
    Robyn Regehr

    What about the next best shutdown guys:
    Anton Volchenkov
    Chris Phillips
    Marc Staal
    Tim Gleason
    Brooks Orpik
    Barret Jackman
    Mattias Ohlund
    Willie Mitchell
    Zbynek Michalek
    Roman Hamrlik
    Jan Hejda
    Rob Scuderi

    The best shutdown d-men play with tremendous intensity, grit, intimidation and poise. And they love to hit people. Do any of those qualities sound like Vlasic to you? Especially when the stakes are raised, we’ve seen Vlasic shrink and cower down to the competition during the playoffs. So far, he’s shown nothing to make us think he’ll be any different this year. The Sharks don’t have time to wait for him to man up. Plus, if the Sharks trade Vlasic, they have guys in the system who are ready to take his place next year. Petrecki and Moore come to mind.

    • Mike says:

      I’d say Nik Lidstrom fits only one of your attributes- poise. And he has a hell of a lot of it. He’s not physically intimidating, doesn’t hit a lot, and doesn’t expend a ton on energy on the boards or in the corners. He just makes the right play every single goddamn time. While I wouldn’t put Vlasic even in the same room as Lidstrom, who is probably one of the best two or three defensemen ever, their styles are similar. Vlasic has a better GAON/60 than both Lidstrom and Rafalski, his QUALTEAM is much worse, though his QUALCOMP is worse as well.

      Also, the RATING stat does not take into account either quality of competition or quality of teammates- it merely measures the +/- different on the ice vs. off.

      • Jerry says:

        DUDE!?! You’re absolutely killing me, Mike. You did not just seriously compare Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Nicklas Lidstrom? As in, future Hall of Fame defenseman, Nicklas Lidstrom. Hold on a tick… you just made me vomit my hamburgees.

        OK, so they both play a subtle style of defense. But that’s irrelevant because Lidstrom dominates games with his poise, intelligence and skill. Can you say that about Vlasic? The mere mention of Vlasic in the same breath as Lidstrom is a complete insult to the 6-time Norris Trophy winner. And even though Lidstrom isn’t a physical player, he’s way tougher than Vlasic will ever be. Remember, Lidstrom only missed two games after having surgery to repair what was deemed a “nearly catastrophic testicle injury.” How many games has Vlasic missed with this little knee injury of his?

        Vlasic could not hold Lidstrom’s jock. Not now. Not ever.

        • Mike says:

          To say that I’m putting Vlasic in the same league as Lidstrom is to completely mischaracterize my position. I was rebutting your statement that “the best shutdown d-men play with tremendous intensity, grit, intimidation and poise.” Lidstrom, in my view, only fits one of those 4 characteristics.

          • Jerry says:

            Sorry I got all riled up about your post. I know where you’re coming from, but I’ve heard the Vlasic/Lidstrom comparison before and it’s always irked me. It’s like when people compared Harold Miner to Michael Jordan just because of their dunking abilities. It’s ridiculous.

            I break down the best d-men into three categories: all-purpose, defensive shutdown and offensively savvy. Obviously, Lidstrom is in the all-purpose category because, regardless of style, he does it all. Guys like Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara, Scott Niedermayer, Mike Green, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Dion Phaneuf and Shea Weber also have such excellent all-around ability. Then you’ve got defensive shutdown guys who don’t score points but play like pitbulls. Back in the day, Scott Stevens epitomized the shutdown d-man. Today, you’ve got Robyn Regehr, Brooks Orpik, Anton Volchenkov, Brent Seabrook, Toni Lydman, Willie Mitchell, Marc Staal, etc. Lastly, there are the blueliners who may not be as defensively stout, but add tremendous value through their offensive skill: Dan Boyle, Sergei Gonchar, Brian Rafalski, Tomas Kaberle, Mark Streit, Andrei Markov, etc.

            So where does Vlasic fit into the picture? If I were to make a comparison, Vlasic is like Nick Schultz right now with the upside of becoming Zbynek Michalek in the future.

          • Mike says:

            I know you intensely dislike Vlasic, but it’s not accurate to state he could “become” Zybnek Michalek. Vlasic is the better player now, and he was a better player last year. This year, Vlasic is over a half-goal better in GAON/60 than ZM while playing with worse teammates on a team that has given up roughly the same number of goals. Last year he was over a full goal better, though it’s murkier since PHX gave up so many more goals.

            Both years Vlasic also outscored Michalek, while playing about the same minutes on the PK, but also playing significant PP time, which ZM does not.

  7. Ruben says:

    I’m no scout, so I tend not to trust my eyes (or those of most fans) except for the most obvious things, especially if smarter hockey people have put together ways of measuring these guys that tend to remove personal bias.

    Those guys you mentioned are all awesome dmen. But physicality is but one way to play good defense. Regardless of what qualities they bring, what matters is how well they keep the puck out of the net, not how they do it. Vlasic keeps the puck out of the net better than all but a very small amount of dmen. That makes him a shutdown dman, and would make trading him a net negative.

  8. Tom says:

    Here’s the problem.

    That proposal doesn’t work in the cap. Sending 6.6m in cap and taking on 7.5 m in cap.

    I see DW making at most one move. We simply don’t have the availability for moves like that.

  9. Jerry says:

    OK, Ruben. I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. Since you’re so caught up on these “advanced metrics,” I thought I’d share this one from –

    If you believe these numbers, Vlasic is a better player than Dan Boyle. Sorry, pal. I’m going with my own two eyes on this one and say that’s totally bunk. But wait, these numbers also suggest that Kent Huskins is better than both of them. Wow!

    And Tom, as for the cap ramifications on the proposed deal with Minnesota, here are the salary figures I found via

    Vlasic $2.4M ($3.1M cap hit)
    Clowe $3.5M ($3.63M cap hit)
    Huskins $1.5M ($1.7M cap hit)
    Joslin $500K

    Zidlicky $3.5M ($3.35M cap hit)
    Nolan $2.75M
    Hnidy $750K
    Clutterbuck $623K ($726K cap hit)

    I don’t know whether you count cap hit or straight up salary when you trade a player. Either way, the Sharks would be shipping out a little more salary than they’re getting back based on the numbers I gathered. But that should still work since Minnesota is under the cap by more than $2M, so they can absorb it.

  10. Tom says:

    So my math was correct for the Minn side. I wasn’t including vlasic and Joslin doesn’t count on our cap.

    Personally I think this is just way too crazy of a change with 20 games left in the season. Do you really see DW pulling the trigger at this point in the season on an 8 player trade? I don’t think there is any chance.

  11. Jerry says:

    Even though it’d be the right thing to do, unfortunately, I do not foresee Doug Wilson pulling off such a deal because…
    a) He overvalues his own players, so he won’t see the need to make such bold moves.
    b) He doesn’t make trades if it’s possibly a win-win for both sides. He must be perceived as the unquestioned winner in the deal.
    c) Vlasic is his illegitimate son, so Wilson won’t trade him unless names like Crosby or Ovechkin are coming back to San Jose.

    Personally, I don’t see the risk or difficulty with integrating these new players because…
    a) To my knowledge, Todd Richards employs the same offense-oriented/fast-paced/aggressive philosophy that the Sharks employ. So the new players won’t have to learn a new system.
    b) Whereas Vlasic is mainly a stay-at-home d-man, Zidlicky would give the Sharks another d-man with offensive punch and can legitimately quarterback the power play so all the pressure isn’t squarely on Boyle. Also, Zidlicky will not get rattled under the playoff pressure like Vlasic has been prone to do.
    c) I’m not sure if it was his new contract or simply raised expectations of him becoming more of a scoring threat, but Clowe lost that heavy chip on his shoulder that made him such a tough, rugged power forward to contend with. Even at 38 years of age, Nolan is more of the player that the Sharks want Clowe to be. Since this will most likely be Nolan’s last chance at winning the Cup, you know he’ll give everything he’s got in the playoffs. The hope is that his toughness, swagger and sense of urgency will rub off on everyone else.
    d) Speaking of guys selling out and giving it their all, Clutterbuck would provide the Sharks with another Scottie Nichol-type grinder and Shane Hnidy is an intimidating d-man who will dish out big body checks – all very important qualities for a team in the playoffs.
    e) Even if the new players don’t pan out, the Sharks have lost nothing. Who’s been the Sharks’ MVPs this season? Not Vlasic. Not Clowe. Not Huskins. Not Joslin. And by clearing their salaries, the Sharks will have more cap flexibility to re-sign the likes of Marleau, Pavs, Seto, etc. in the offseason.

    I’m sure most of you will disagree, but I believe Wilson needs to roll the dice.

  12. Patrick says:

    For better or worse, hockey is a sport where playoff upsets happen routinely. The Sharks have been on the positive side of that, too, beating Detroit and St. Louis as an 8-seed, and Calgary as a 7-seed. Sure, it’s frustrating now to lose to the Ducks, or Dallas two years ago. But if you asked Sharks fans after last season what needed to be done to address their failures, most people would say Doug Wilson did an awesome job of making the necessary changes.

    Jerry, your arguments strike me as cherry-picking the most negative aspects of each player you’re talking about. For example, you focus over and over on Vlasic not showing up in the playoffs. But when you talk about Clowe sucking, no mention of the fact that he has been a consistent playoff performer.

    Anyway, Clowe’s stats compared to last year really aren’t that bad. I agree that he’s regressed a bit with his puck-possession game, but he still has been pretty solid. It’s not his fault he got signed to a bigger contract than he’s worth, but his play has been consistent.

    Vlasic may not be a big hitter, but he is a rock solid defenseman. He’s the best defensive player on one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, and that’s being paired all year with Old Man Blake. The fact that he didn’t “show up” in the playoffs when he was 20 and 21 years old really doesn’t bother me.

    In short, yes, I disagree with you. Strongly. But that’s the nice thing about taking your position: that insane trade is never going to happen, and there’s a good chance Sharks fans will again be disappointed with the playoff run. Then you can sit back and say “see, if they’d traded away all those guys like I said they should, they would have been better off!”

  13. Ruben says:

    The “Rating” stat is definitely one stat I use to compare players, but using that as an end all/be all is like using GAA solely when measuring goaltenders. Rating doesn’t capture who the players are matched up against, their linemates, etc. It is meant to be an equivalent +/- rating scaled to his teammates +/- when he is off the ice. It helps bad players on good teams, but not necessarily good players matched up against another team’s good players.

    Personally, I like Quality of Competition, GA (particularly for Dmen) and GF per 60min, Quality of teammates, and GVT. Vlasic scores well on what I like to think of as “defensive measures”, QUALCOMP and GA. Not so great when offense is included. So, the numbers do say that Vlasic IS a better defensive dman than Boyle. I actually think it is a close call as to who is better purely defensively, Huskins or Boyle.

    The kicker, of course, is offensive contribution. Boyle blows them both away. This is where I think Vlasic, if anything, has regressed in. But we weren’t talking about overall value, we are talking “shutdown” dmen. Phillips, Jackman, all those guys you mentioned are very good “shutdown dmen” with little offensive value. Vlasic is better than all of them and is only 22 and signed long term. If he even improves 15% offensively, he becomes almost ridiculously valuable.

  14. Jerry says:

    You guys are right. Vlasic and Clowe are AWESOME! Doug Wilson should just relax and enjoy the Olympics cuz his job is done. Nevermind the fact that we’re 1-3 against Chicago and 1-3 against Detroit this year. Insignificant details, right guys! Get that champagne on ice!

    • Patrick says:

      I think we all recognize the blueline is a weakness for the Sharks. I just don’t see how trading Vlasic, Huskins, Clowe and Joslin for Nolan, Clutterbuck, Zidlicky and Hnidy makes them a better team. Just because some people disagree, doesn’t mean you need to have a sarcastic meltdown…

      Trade Clowe (or Seto) for an above average defenseman and I’m all for it. Or pacakge Vlasic and Clowe for an awesome defenseman and I’m on board. I have no attachment to either of them if the Sharks can swing a good deal. But the Sharks are deep at forward (and have plenty of grit on the 3rd and 4th lines), so that’s what they should leverage in a trade.

      Trading Vlasic, Huskins and Joslin and getting back two gritty forwards and two defensemen just adds to their strength (forward depth) and does nothing to address their weakness.

      • Jerry says:

        When you say, “we all recognize the blueline is a weakness for the Sharks,” who’s “we?” Ruben thinks Vlasic is a #1 shutdown d-man. Mike compared Vlasic to Lidstrom. And despite this glaring deficiency, Wilson has addressed it with Jay Leach and Nic Wallin. (Insert Wallin track: “Ooooooo.”)

        Ross McKeon of Yahoo Sports went beyond calling the Sharks defense a weakness. He said it’s a “fatal flaw.” Fatal. Which, according to Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster, means “causing death; bringing ruin; causing failure.”

        Look, I’m not saying that my proposal is the absolute cure to all that ails the Sharks. Perhaps there’s an even better trade that Wilson can magically conjure. I’m just trying to provide a framework for what Wilson should aim to do by the deadline. Personally, I believe Nolan would be an upgrade over Clowe for the playoffs and Zidlicky would be an upgrade over Vlasic for the postseason as well. And as we all saw last year against the Ducks, pesky guys like Mike Brown make a difference even in limited minutes. That’s where a Clutterbuck comes in.

        We’re talking playoff hockey folks. A totally different animal than the regular season. And the Sharks aren’t exactly known for turning on the switch when the second season starts. Sure, upsets will happen. But shouldn’t they put themselves in the best position to avoid the upset? We already know this current roster boasts a shiny 1-3 record against the Hawks and Wings respectively. So if they’re gunning for the Cup (which is what this season’s all about, right?), doesn’t it make sense to bolster their line-up even with only 20 games left in the regular season? If you disagree with my idea, what trade(s) would you make?

        • Ruben says:

          Well, I do agree that the Shark’s weakness is defense. Despite my belief in Vlasic’s skills, things can be done to improve them there.

          Unfortunately, most of the solutions are ones the Sharks seem unwilling or unable to do. Blake should be on the 3rd pairing, probably with Demers (meaning Leach and perhaps Huskins are out). I would even think about sitting him a few games to keep him fresh, maybe put him on a 3 game a week max schedule for the last 20 games.

          As far as trades go, CapGeek says the Sharks can take on a prorated $1.2mil contract at this point in the season. I think Nolan would be an outstanding pickup. So why not:

          Huskins, Joslin, Staubitz
          Nolan, 5th rounder

          Nolan makes 2.7. Minus Huskin’s 1.7, that means the Sharks take on 1 mil in salary, under CapGeeks figure. Nolan is a FA, so Min would likely lose him for nothing. Instead they get a cheap young asset and a fighter who can actually play a little. Bring up Demers, and your lineup looks like:

          Clowe-Nichol-Nolan (mmmm, talk about a sandpaper line with some skill)
          McGinn-Mitchell-Ortemeyer (Offense? From the 4th line? I don’t believe it!)


          Does it “fix” the defense? A little, because you cut down on Blake’s minutes, making him more effective, while creating a true shutdown line with Vlasic and Wallin. Not only that, you open up more cap space for next year.

  15. Ruben says:

    A side thing that has bothered me… has anyone else noticed the return of the “doghouse” that was so prevalent in the Ron Wilson era? One of the big advantages that everyone loved last year was that TMac didn’t sit you for two periods if you made a bad turnover. But Seto, Demers, Vlasic, and even Greiss to an extent have rode the pine because of a few bad plays that mask their overall effectiveness. Demers, in particular, suffers from the unfortunate tendency to make very obvious mistakes even though he has actually been quite effective when out on the ice. Too bad, because the Sharks are much more dynamic when players like Seto and Demers are allowed to be creative.

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