Through countless interviews, public statements, and even this year's edition of the "State of the Sharks," Sharks' GM Doug Wilson has told the same story, changes will be made.
But what exactly does Wilson have in mind? Over the past few offseasons and trade deadlines, he got it done, acquiring the likes of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake for suspected talent and grabbing the "missing piece" at the trade deadline. Is he going to go for more experience this summer, or try to rebuild? Or should he simply leave the team as it is?
The rebuilding process seems like a foolish one to Wilson. He has publicly commended the Flyers and Penguins for their successful rebuild, but he has blocked himself from getting to that rebuilding stage until about 2011.
Wilson is doing his business like he's playing Dynasty Mode in NHL '09. As long as he gets the best players and fills the gaps with talent, it doesn't seem to matter to him that the Sharks will not have a first-round pick for a while, or that all of their prospects are getting shipped away.
So what approach should he take? The best option is nothing. Simply do nothing. Maybe try to grab a young backup for the aging Evgeni Nabokov, or try to get a player like Gaborik who seems to be cast away by teams, but drastically changing the team will be very ineffective in the long run.
No player will want to sign with the Sharks, if they know that the minute they under perform they will be traded.
Keep the core guys the same. The first two lines were lethal this year, regardless of what the playoffs showed. Sure they should have been more productive, but they were out matched, and coach McLellan did not have an answer for the Anaheim attack, and that comes with coaching experience.
The Sharks have 11 free agents as of right now: Mike Grier, Ryane Clowe, Torrey Mitchell, Marcel Goc, Travis Moen, Claude Lemieux, Rob Blake, Kent Huskins, Alexei Semenov, and Brian Boucher.
Grier and Moen are effectively the same type of player, so keep one and let the other go. Definitely keep Clowe and Mitchell, two guys who brought their "A" game every night (even though Mitchell only played three games in the playoffs all year).
Ditch Claude Lemieux, plain and simple. That kind of signing was a mistake by Wilson. Even though it fulfilled his experience requirement, Lemieux did nothing all year.
Rob Blake is a must re-sign, and almost will definitely return if they offer a deal. Blake said all year that he loved San Jose and loved winning and getting points on the board. The real leader on the team, Blake should be given the permanent "A" on his sweater, if Wilson does not resign Grier.
Huskins and Semenov are roughly the same position, and Wilson was pleased with Semenov's work this year, so he should be back in teal come October.
That leaves JR. Roenick struggled with injuries down the stretch and has yet to reveal to Wilson or the public if he will be returning as a player. He loves the Sharks, but he knows that his position on the ice is wearing out. Whatever his decision, do not be surprised to see him in some role in the Sharks' organization.
Wilson has the final call on this, but it would be a shame if he let his anger and frustration run his offseason business. If that happens, the Sharks could very well become a carbon copy of the Rangers, looking for old experienced players and sacrificing youth.
If Wilson does in fact keep his core guys, then he needs to do some internal motivation work. With that in mind, he needs to take some pressure off of the players.
He has been quoted as saying, "This is professional sports, winning is the only thing that matters." Sure that is true, but going for those wins proved to be costly for the Sharks down the stretch. The final three games were against teams who were already eliminated from the playoff race, so why go all out and try to win?
The Sharks had around nine starters injured in the last month, yet about all played those final two games. Why? The President's Trophy, a useless trophy that, in reality, means nothing. Rest, for guys like Marleau; Grier; and Clowe, would have been better for them rather than grinding it out in superfluous games.
Wilson needs to take it slow and let the team work together and make things right. No big changes, no added pressure, just simple motivation and encouragement.
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