San Jose Sharks: Tuesday Hodgepodge of Activity Follows Key Win in Phoenix
The San Jose Sharks celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday by beating the division rival Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 in what was Patrick Marleau's 1,000th career game.
Despite mass speculation over the past several seasons, Marleau survived several trade rumors and significant predictions he would not be retained in free agency to become the first player ever to log 1,000 games in teal. Since entering the league in 1997-1998, Marleau has become the team's all-time leader in goals and assists while earning three all-star appearances on his way to this historic milestone.
Patty's Attitude Embodies the Sharks
While people have constantly called Marleau's heart and motivation into question, his nonchalant persona has come to embody the way the Sharks carry themselves as an organization.
From general manager Doug Wilson to head coach Todd McLellan, the Sharks have molded themselves as an organization that never gets too high after a win or too low after a loss. While this attitude has not resulted in the ultimate prize to date, it is a formula used by several highly successful franchises across several sports dating back decades.
Nobody has embodied this attitude more than Marleau, who served as Sharks' captain from 2004-2009. His 1,000 games with the same franchise are an accomplishment that should not go without acknowledgment and constitute a feat that may not soon be equaled.
Crazy Tuesday Follows Key Monday Win
Following the win over the Coyotes—which gave the Sharks a modest two-game win streak following their six-game losing streak and brought them back within one point of a playoff spot—Tuesday brought a bevy of activity for the Sharks.
The Sharks added two players to the fold—trading with the Atlanta Thrashers for Ben Eager and claiming Kyle Wellwood off waivers from the St. Louis Blues. They also lost gritty forward Scott Nichol for four games, as the NHL announced a suspension resulting from a high hit in the Phoenix game.
Losing Nichol Will Hurt
The loss of Nichol is a key one, coming at a terrible time for Team Teal.
Nichol provides key energy for the Sharks on their third and fourth lines and has been one of the top face-off winners since joining the team prior to last season. Coupled with the absence of Ryane Clowe, who remained out with a lower body injury for his second straight game in Phoenix, the loss of Nichol certainly does not bode well for the Sharks trying to extend their win streak and crawl back into the playoff picture.
But There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel
The Sharks did add some insurance, however, with the additions of Wellwood and particularly Eager. Wellwood had proven a serviceable player over five seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs but is likely to be no more than depth for the Sharks at center. Eager, however, could prove more valuable.
The move is a bit questionable, as it constitutes the latest chapter in a disturbing and thus far not-so-successful habit of the Sharks trying to add members of the Chicago Blackhawks team that ended the Sharks' Stanley Cup run last year. It started with a ploy by Doug Wilson to sign defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a restricted free-agent contract. While it may have cost the Blackhawks more than they would have liked to retain Hjalmarsson, it left the Sharks with a hole in their defense they still have yet to fill.
Another Antti Niemi Experiment?
The Sharks next decided to offer goaltender Antti Niemi a $2 million salary after the Blackhawks refused to pay him the $2.75 million he was awarded in arbitration. Niemi played fairly well in beating the Sharks in four straight games in the Western Conference Finals, but absent was the stellar defense of the Blackhawks all-star-studded blue line; he has struggled to a 10-13-4 mark with the Sharks this season, and ranks no better than 30th in goals against average and save percentage.
Reason To Hope for Better
Eager provided great support for the Blackhawks last year in their march to a Stanley Cup title, contributing with seven goals and 16 points. This year, with the Thrashers, he's on roughly the same pace, with three goals and 10 points after 48 games. He also ranks 21st in the league in penalty minutes, with 77 thus far.
The Sharks may well be guilty of over-investing in the cast of characters that did them in last spring, but of all the moves they have made (or tried to), this one might actually work out. While it does not do much to help their defensive deficiencies, Eager should bolster the toughness and grit of the forward core, especially in the absence of Nichol and Clowe. Eager could well carve out a key niche with the Sharks which could give them the fight they need to compete effectively as the playoffs approach.
Keep the Faith!