NHL Trades: Slumping San Jose vs. Minnesota Wild Paints Unexpected Picture

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIDecember 6, 2011

The Minnesota Wild are winning no matter who is net
The Minnesota Wild are winning no matter who is netHarry How/Getty Images

Over the summer, the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks made three trades.

The first was the blockbuster deal that sent young top-six forward Devin Setoguchi, top forward prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick to the Wild for All-Star defenceman Brent Burns. The second of note sent Dany Heatley to Minnesota for Martin Havlat.

The final trade involved a player who has yet to contribute while he recovers from injury for a future draft pick, making that trade impossible to grade for either side. But while it is too soon to accurately judge which team came out ahead in the trade, early returns are not good for San Jose.

First, after the changes, the Wild are on pace to finish 25 points ahead of last season while the Sharks project to finish just short of last season. While the trades did not generate the entire roster shift for the teams, they do represent the bulk of the changes.

And while points are not a good measure when one team traded a forward for a defenceman, the play seems to favour the Wild, too.

The play of Setoguchi and Heatley is a great factor in the team's turnaround while combining for more than a point per game. They have been among the team's two best forwards.

By contrast, Burns has been a disappointment.

He has four goals and four assists, and is a plus-seven in 23 games, but he has missed many assignments as has the entire unit outside of Marc-Edouard Vlasic. An argument could be made that Burns is not even the third-best Sharks defenceman.

Meanwhile, Havlat has been inconsistent. After missing the first three games, he has 11 points, giving both him and Burns a combined 19 to the former Sharks' 30.

Considering the trade heavily favours the Wild in the long-term, it is time for the Sharks to get more immediate impact. Watch for Burns to have a multi-point game.

Of course, points will be hard to come by with Minnesota. They give up the second-fewest goals per game and are ranked 11th in penalty killing.

In contrast, the Sharks rank ninth in goals against despite ranking dead last in penalty killing because they stay out of the penalty box.

It is time that the Sharks' cheerleading section to accept it. Stop telling us the Sharks have killed 11 of their last 12 or whatever because once you are this far into the season, that is the streak and not the trend.

The Sharks' penalty killing rate goes up a few percent and places in the league rank, then has one bad game and is right back to where they were. Talk to us when they sustain high kill rates for a month and the season rank breaks out of the bottom third of the NHL.

Fortunately for San Jose, Minnesota is 23rd on the power play and 24th in scoring. San Jose is fourth and 13th, respectively, after struggling to light the lamp recently (10 goals in the last five games).

Up until this season, this matchup has always favoured the Sharks, but the margin has grown slim. San Jose better have a better game than they did against Florida on Saturday.

For only the eighth time this season, the Sharks scored first. For the first time, they lost when it happened.

Still, the Sharks went into their best period all year up 2-1. They were being outshot 12-8, even with a distinctive edge in the faceoff circle, so one had to figure that would change.

One would be wrong. The Sharks gave up three goals in the second without scoring, running their middle frame scoring to 7-1 in favour of the opponent while dropping three of four games.

With the shot total at 27-17 in favor of Florida, and the Sharks making three more trips to the box than their guests, the third period was more for pride than anything else.

Both teams had a goal and the score was sealed at 5-3, Sharks losing.

What went wrong for the Sharks?

They were slower than the Panthers all game. Not just on their skates, but with their reactions, passing game and, most all, the decision-making.

This was evident in the puck possession stats.

San Jose won two faceoffs for every one they lost, but gave it away or had it taken from them all but two of those possessions. They missed the net twice as often and blocked only one more shot despite allowing nine more on net.

Unacceptable for a contending team, and they know it.


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