Goodbyes tend to be hard.
There is something about a reneged commitment that instantly creates a mixture of awkwardness and tension amongst two once-agreeable parties.
This off-season, Bay Area hockey fans were forced to say sayonara to several signature players who grew up within the Sharks organization and captured their hearts with a season or two of amazing play.
In my mind, giving these guys the old heave-ho couldn’t have happened a minute sooner. It will be strange seeing these guys don colors other than teal, but hey, that’s the business of sports.
As many know, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
If this is true, then peddling Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and Christian Ehrhoff onto the ice for another season, hoping in vein that this is the year that they finally prove all of the critics wrong would be absolutely mental.
Who am I to argue with a mind like Einstein’s?
Like all Sharks fans, I fully appreciated the accomplishments that these guys brought to the ice over the years. However, I just couldn’t stand another year of inconsistent play by veterans who were still fighting to live up to draft day potential.
When push comes to shove, I personally have no problems turning a shoulder to these guys when they come marching back to the tank this winter. This is saying a lot, considering Michalek won two grand for me in an in-stadium contest by scoring a power play goal in the second period, on my birthday nonetheless.
In the 2003 draft, Milan was selected 6th overall, but unlike some of his other draft class brethren, he has yet to mature into full fruition.
The Sharks passed on Dion Phaneuf, Zach Parise, and Ryan Getzlaf in picking Michalek, and actually looked over Parise and Getzlaf a second time in picking Steve Bernier 16th. Despite sporadic success, Michalek has struggled to even come close to his first round hype.
A 66-point season in 2006-07 would spark a nice contract extension for Milan, but since then, there seemed to be an immediate fall-off where rising potential was anxiously expected.
Michalek could only supply secondary scoring support in spurts and it was becoming an arduously repetitive story to even the most devout fan.
Milan never seemed to fit in with Todd McLellan’s new high-tempo offense anyways and it was time for him to go.
Then there was Cheechoo.
His Maurice Richard Trophy season accompanied with a name that was extremely fun to cheer (CHEEEECHOOOOOOO!), allowed Jonathan to gain several apologetic hearts amongst the Teal Faithful.
Sympathetic Cheechoo supporters tend to forget that he averaged a pedestrian .42 points per game the two years before he topped the league in goals.
After the NHL changed their rules to benefit the playmakers, Cheechoo’s 2005-06 season led us to believe that in this “new” NHL, his speed and scoring touch would be a keg we could tap for several years to come.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be only a pony keg.
After averaging 1.1 points per game in 2005-06, the Cheechoo train steadily declined in speed until it once again reached a cruising pace of .43 points per game last year.
Sorry Jonathan, but this is a pace that only a grandma in a Buick can get behind, and since I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted you gone before the beginning of last year, I am extremely happy that we finally found you a suitor this off-season.
Unlike some of the others who have recently departed, Ehrhoff was actually a player who still seemed to have a little left in his tank.
Production-wise, Christian had a banner year last season, collecting career highs in assists (34) and points (42).
But an offensive defensemen is something the Sharks currently have an excess of and Ehrhoff’s defense didn’t exactly leave a sweet taste in the mouths of his supporters. He ranked dead last amongst his fellow defensemen in +/- last year with a minus-12, which was the worst of his career.
While I’ll usually take improved production over a fluctuating +/- stat any day of the week, the lost of Ehrhoff is a blow the Sharks blue line should have minimal problems sustaining.
Thankfully, the addition of Dany Heatley will be the elixir that cures any mending hearts still lingering around the Bay.
The not-so-direct trade of Ehrhoff, Michalek, and Cheechoo for Heatley should be a transaction that gets Sharks fans jumping out of their seats like “Rock in Roll Part II” was just cued by the HP Pavilion’s goal song coordinator.
This hasn’t been the case with many followers.
Heatley’s decrease in production last year and his constant issues within NHL organizations have concerned some that we are latching onto a falling star.
Don’t be so quick to knock this powder keg of potential.
When the former Calder Trophy winner plays in at least 32 games, he has only dipped below the one point per game line twice. Once was his rookie year with the Atlanta Thrashers and the other was last year with the Senators.
The turmoil between Heatley and the Ottawa organization reached a boiling point early last season and it started to seep into his play on the ice. His statistical hiccup is merely a bump in the road that can quickly be smoothed over with a little change of scenery.
If Heatley can perform like he did a season after beseechingly leaving his first NHL organization, Sharks fans will quickly forget whom we even gave up for this promising player.
Back-to-back 100-point seasons may be a little far fetched, but Heatley returning to a point per game producer is almost a shoe-in. The Sharks haven’t seen multiple point per game scorers in almost half a decade, and this addition of Heatley increases that possibility instantly.
But, if Dany Drama can’t quickly get his head on straight, it shouldn’t be long before I turn my shoulder on him as well.
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