Since beating the Boston Bruins on the road last week, prompting me to declare the San Jose Sharks ready to win the Stanley Cup, they have once again given way to the team that I am always nervous about going into the playoffs.
That win has been the only one in a seven game stretch in which the Sharks are 1-2-4. And do not tell me about them getting a point in four of five road games; remember, the goal is winning the Stanley Cup, and overtime losses are just losses after Easter.
They have surrendered the first goal in six of those seven games. They have squandered a third period lead in three of those seven games. They have committed more penalties than their opponents in four straight games.
The one in particular that bothers me is showing up late. How can you not be ready when the puck drops? You have the best team in the NHL, and are the odds-on favourite to win Lord Stanley's Cup playing teams that may be playoff bound—how can that NOT have you jazzed as soon as the puck drops?
Jeremy Roenick is what this team needs. He may not score anymore, but he could always be counted on to light the fire. Claude Lemieux has been unable to get his passion to spread through the team, perhaps because he has yet to get a single point in 10 games. JR might not score much, but this team has seen him score big goals for them and may get behind him and respond to him more readily.
If Roenick does not return soon by next week's road trip, the Sharks need to make a trade to get things going. They play three home games against two bubble teams and one of the worst teams in hockey this week. If they do not win them all, there is a huge problem.
But after that, they close the month with four road games against three playoff teams in six days. Just 1-1-4 so far this month, they will be lucky to finish February .500 and they will be lucky to still be in first in the conference, as one of those road games is against Detroit who is now just one point back (but two games behind in baseball terms, as they have played three more).
If I could suggest a trade, it would be great if we could get someone to take solid but overpaid Kyle McLaren off our hands along with a draft pick, but we would have to clear cap space to do pay the player we get in return. Any trade with McLaren would have to involve another player if it would bring San Jose help right now.
The next most logical trade candidate is Jonathan Cheechoo. It seems clear that Cheech is not going to return to his goal scoring form. He has been one of the league's three best goal scorers after the All Star break in the post-lockout era, but most of that came in his Richard Trophy season. He did finally score against New Jersey, but he is young enough and with a small enough contract ($3 million per year) to make him desirable enough for others.
I like Cheechoo. He always plays hard, and he is good defensively. But he is clearly not the scorer we paid him to be and we need someone on that third line who will put the puck in the net, because right now we only have two lines that can do that.
In return, we need a player with some fire. Even if he is old, since our goal is to win now. Someone like Sean Avery, but a little more evolved. I will be looking at candidates whose teams may be willing to move them in the coming two weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
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