The San Jose Sharks stumbled to the end of March. They were out of the Western Conference playoff picture, so when GM Doug Wilson was offered what is likely to be two second-round picks for blue-line mainstay Douglas Murray, he took it.
That move shook the team up, and it began to play with more urgency. Even so, Wilson appeared to be continuing to sell, shipping off forwards Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe for more draft picks even though the return was not as impressive.
No matter, the team kept winning. With the Sharks squarely back in the playoff picture after a five-game winning streak, Wilson used a late pick to acquire a depth defenseman and a third-round selection acquired in an above trade to acquire a checking-line forward.
In other words, the team replaced Murray with Scott Hannan on the blue line and now has Raffi Torres instead of Handzus and Clowe. That is a downgrade in both places, but might be a better fit for San Jose.
For instance, if Hannan were as good as Murray, he would not have cost so much more. But while part of the reason trading him helped the team get going was mental, they are also clearly a better team with better puck-movers like Jason Demers and Matt Tennyson at the bottom of the blue line.
Likewise, Clowe is a better player than Torres even without considering the loss of Handzus. But because he was struggling and the Sharks were lacking in speed that the new players have that the former lacked, the Sharks should be better after the trade.
Still, any improvement is slight. Their recent winning streak (seven) is largely because they get the matchups they want at home, where they have only one regulation loss all season (14-1-4). Unless they can win on the road, they are not much of a threat to upset higher seeds in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ultimately, the Sharks are a team with an exceptional goalie that is wearing down because they lack depth at that position. They were so thin at forward that they needed to borrow Brent Burns from their one deep unit, leaving them short on scoring from the blue line.
If they could not overcome the obstacles to win a title in previous seasons when they had more depth, the outlook for them doing it to capture the 2013 Stanley Cup is not promising. In what is likely to be the final playoff run of this core, they will do well to advance to the second round in a competitive Western Conference.