On the latest road trip, the Sharks went 2-2. On the previous road trip, they went 1-1-3.
Those of you who see the glass as only half-full will tell me that is a .500 road record in February, better than half the teams in the NHL. However, I recognize that a glass that is half-full is also half-empty (and vice-versa).
Overtime losses mean nothing in the playoffs. Excluding all shootouts since they won't happen in the playoffs either, the Sharks are 14-11 on the road. That is not bad, but the following teams among those 14 legitimate wins are not likely to make the playoffs: Kings, Avalanche (twice), Lightning, Predators, Coyotes, Blues, and Senators.
In addition, the Stars (thrice), and Oilers are bubble teams. That's 12 of the 14 legit wins, leaving two of 25 games against quality foes in which San Jose has won on the road without a shootout—eight percent.
The reason the Sharks struggle against the better teams so much is you cannot get away with starting out in a big hole against good teams. This spells seven-game series after the first round (when they will face a bubble team that skated into the post-season) in which San Jose will have to win every home game to win the series or get one of their eight percent quality wins; with nine games, the odds of getting just one such win are 47.2 percent.
Fortunately, the Sharks have won 25 of their 29 home games that did not go to a shootout. But of those 25 games, six came against teams that are not going to make the playoffs (Blues, Kings, Islanders, Thrashers, Lightning, and Maple Leafs) and nine came against bubble teams (two against both the Blue Jackets and Ducks, and one more against the Oilers, Wild, Stars, Rangers, and Penguins).
That means only 10 of 14 non-shootout home wins were against the kinds of teams the Sharks will face after the first round. At that ratio, winning all 12 of their remaining home games in order to win the Stanley Cup is only a 1.8 percent chance.
That's why the Sharks need a trade. They have a 52.8 percent chance of losing all their road games after the first round and, if they do, only a 1.8 percent chance of winning all their home games. All because they do not play for 60 minutes away from the Shark Tank.
They need someone to hold them accountable. They need someone who can win a fight, instead of losing one as Jody Shelley always seems to do, sometimes giving momentum to the other team. They need an energy guy and a leader for both of the checking lines, and they currently have only Jeremy Roenick on the fourth.
So who should the Sharks acquire? They do not need a defenceman, because that would knock someone playing well out of the lineup.
Thus, the following is a list of forwards the Sharks should look at and some potential trades that would work; those at the bottom of the list I would support only because they might shake up the team without destroying its chemistry:
- Ian Laperriere is a 35-year old player on the worst team in the West in the last year of his contract. They will take almost anything for him, and the Sharks could give away any draft picks it takes. The obstacle for this trade is Laperriere's salary: according to Hockeybuzz.com, Ian's contract is $1.15 million, and the Sharks only have $24,166 in cap space. Even at the deadline, the Sharks would be responsible for over $250,000 of that money. Perhaps The Avs would take Shelley off our hands because he is a younger enforcer under contract next year. Or they might want Lukas Kaspar or Tomas Plihal; then the Sharks would only have to dump Claude Lemieux (let's face it, that experiment has not yielded results) to clear space.
- Toronto may be a willing partner, and they have two players of the appropriate age and style: Brad May and Jamal Mayers. May would come cheaply enough that the Sharks would only need to dump Lemieux, but would not add much but grit to the team. Mayers would cost a bit more in salary than Laperriere, and offer less; if there is a trade with Toronto, it would probably be for May.
- Atlanta does have Marty Reasoner, who is a good penalty killer over 30 with some scoring punch in the last year of his contract; he might not fit in the long-term plans of the Thrashers, and costs about the same as Laperriere. The Sharks could go in a different direction with their trade, adding scoring. If this is the decision, Atlanta is a good partner, as well: Jonathan Cheechoo, who has struggled to produce consistently, could be traded for Slava Kozlov, Atlanta's third best scorer. However, I would not do this, as Cheech is younger and better defensively; San Jose would also have to dump Lemieux to get under the cap.
- Steven Reinprecht is an energy guy and penalty killer who can provide secondary scoring and is good in the faceoff circle. He is also over 30 and in the last year of his contract; perhaps Phoenix would let him go. The Sharks would need to dump more salary to make it work; however, trading Cheechoo for Reinprecht does not make sense unless you are going to use that cap space for another trade, and I doubt the Coyotes would throw young enforcer Dan Carcillo in like they might in my dreams, even if we send picks their way. (Carcillo is my kind of player and a perfect fit for the team.) They might throw Todd Fedoruk in, but I would want a draft pick swap that favours the Sharks in this case.
- While Gary Roberts fits the Sharks' needs, his salary is too high to justify what the Sharks would have to give up. Mark Recchi does not add enough skill to make a difference at this stage of his career. But San Jose could look at Vaclav Prospal; similar to trading for Kozlov, this would require giving up Cheechoo and dumping Lemieux for a player that is more offence than defence.