Here is my rebuttal;
Sharks Stanley Cup Recipe (10-11)
Haha true Randy, I have been spending a lot of time surfing the beaches of southern California lately, but my suggestions are not without extensive thought.
Trading Jumbo for Backes
● A solid 50 point scorer.
● A natural tone setter, Backes was 5th in the NHL last year with 266 hits.
● His competitive nature and desire to step up against the best players in the league is something the Sharks could have used in the conference finals. Note the damage Bolland caused against Thorntons line. Backes thrives on those situations and is far more ferocious and skilled. He's the power forward we need. Backes will give the Sharks the grit and tenacity that they have lacked since the Ricci years.
● Certainly a player of Thornton's caliber is valuable, the Sharks would/could acquire TJ Oshie and/or multiple high picks as a replacement. With TJ Oshie the Sharks would gain 2 consistent 50 pt scorers, effectively increasing the team's depth. Dead line trades such as Campbell and Guerin always leave the Sharks lacking high picks lately, a trade like this would benefit the future of the organization. Not to mention the additional cap space it would leave the Sharks with, which could be applied down the season towards opportunity's that may arise.
● Being the last year of Thorntons contract a trade for Mikko Koivu or Shane Doan would also be ideal, but Backes' traits are the elemental ingredient to a lethal post season Sharks.
As we all know, the Sharks seem to be fine in the post season until things get physical; against Edmonton it was the hit on Michalek that served as the turning point. The following year against Dallas, again, Michalek was the target of a devastating blow by Brenden Morrow, which left us without a top three forward in a grueling OT loss.
Randy Carlyle's physical style had the Sharks fall quickly against the 8th seeded Ducks in 08-09. And most recently, the Sharks dropped a 2-0 lead against Chicago immediately after they began throwing their weight around in the second period of game four. All this talk about how the Sharks need to respond and match physicality is enough, it's high time that they start initiating it. Backes brings exactly that, night in and night out.
Though Thonton has gradually been learning what it takes to win in the post season, it's a little late. Other than his hit on Holmstrom, after the whistle, he simply hasn't been the power forward that the Sharks need him to be. Watching the post season one sees some hideous goals (which are quite beautiful to me personally), body's flailing, defenseman collapsing, goalies sprawling and players struggling over every inch in front of the net.
● Thornton spends way to much time behind the net, away from the grit it takes to score those goals. A guy his size needs to utilize it by establishing a net presence. No need to explain to Sharks fans how effective guys like Byfuglien and Ryan Smyth are. No wonder Boston eagerly dumped their 1st overall pick/captain for Marco Sturm, an underdeveloped Brad Stuart and WAYNE PRIMEAU!
● Thornton is second lowest in shots taken out of the top 50 point scorers in the NHL (09-10). Second only to Nik Antropov who had 4 more goals than Thornton (was anyone as disturbed by those two assists against Philly as I was?).
● And you're right Randy, if the post season ceased to exist I would not suggest making drastic changes to the consistent regular season Western Conference champs, but come post season, change is required. Jumbo went from being the Sharks highest point scorer to fifth in the post season.
● Most concerning he went from being a plus 17 over the span of 79 games in the regular season to a -11 in only 15 playoff games! This is more worrying taking into account that the Sharks actually had a winning record in the post season (8-7).
● Thorntons high assist totals come at a high cost as well, year after year he's among the top ten in the NHL giveaways/turnovers category. And this seems especially counterproductive to McLellans puck possession style.
● Through the neutral zone, when he can get three full strides, Thornton has an ability to generate a fair amount of speed, but lacks the quickness to compete against the young quicker forwards of today's NHL. As a first line center, and spending most his time deep in the oppositions zone (mostly behind the net) his back check becomes a matter of concern. His post seasons plus/minus was a representation of this.
Thornton possesses a magnitude of skills and attributes that make him one of the most dynamic players in the game today, but his skill sets are no longer what the Sharks need come the post season. He is also a phenomenal person off the ice and to wish him farewell is tough, but as a Sharks fan of 20 years their is nothing I want more than to have Lord Stanley's Cup raised at the Tank.
Utilize our Youth
My next suggestions are ones that address a systemic problem within the Sharks organization that has been taking place over the past half decade. The Sharks organization tends to babysit our young players for too long.
● With the evolving rules of the NHL slanting towards offensive play, the new game rewards brute speed and youth.
● The past two Stanley Cups were raised by 22 year old captains, and the Sharks need to take note of this and began utilizing their youth more effectively. Give them more experience and responsibility. That is not to say that the Sharks should toss them into the NHL prematurely which may result into a Pat Falloon syndrome, but do not babysit our drafts until they become stale. Have faith in our organization, development programs, scouts and give our young players quality NHL ice time.
● Do not be so quick to reward and punish either. Since Ron Wilson's tenure with the Sharks it seems as if we have adopted his style of being overly sensitive to players, in the sense that we are quick to reward and also to punish. After a brief stint with the Sharks last season, Demers displayed his poise with the puck, a skill not found easily among young players and posted high offensive numbers. Just as quickly, he was tossed back down to Worcester for a failure to prove defensive responsibility. We then brought him back after game 4 against Detroit for the remainder of the post season, which was detrimental against a much faster, younger Chicago team, where that extra set of forward legs would have been useful (instead of double shifting members our already fatigued, injured and older first line). Now if Demers had the experience in the NHL up to the post season we would not have required 2 D-men for one position.
● 07' 1st rounder Logan Couture is a natural goal scorer and we waited until the post season to give him a real opportunity. Had he had a bit more experience as a center in the NHL I feel like the game winning goal in game four of the conference finals could have been avoided (when he lost the puck to Bolland behind the net)/bad body positioning). Not to mention his knack for scoring would have been useful on the failed post season power play line, had he had the experience during the regular season.
● I'm not saying that Couture is Stamkos, but it took Stamkos half a season to heat up and adapt to the much higher paced NHL. The same goes for San Jose's Devin Setoguchi, whose sophomore season proved to be much more effective. I personally felt that we should have been playing Logan the way we did this last season back in 08-09, and last season should have been his first full season. Stick with him and let him know that he has a spot, so they aren't so nervous to make a single mistake, and play them during the season so they can make the mistakes there and not in the playoffs.
● Though the competition between our young players is healthy, when developing our drafts it is equally important to stick with them and give them comfort in playing their game. Just look at how many different defensive rookies we have seen throughout last season (Demers, Leach, Joslin), it would be nice to decide who we want to develop most and which players attributes are best suited to the team at hand, and then give them the experience they deserve.
● The same point is to be made about playing Nick Petrecki. His hard hitting, shut down style is something the Sharks could use this coming season. He possess a heavy point shot which the Sharks need to address, their lack of a blue liner who can really crank the puck is of major concern with the retirement of Blake. Also without Blake, who actually failed at doing this, it is even of greater concern of who our shut down defense man is going to be this year, someone who can deal with net present pesterers like Dustin Byfuglien, who with ease, purchased prime real estate in front Nabokov throughout all four final Sharks games of last season. With proper development and experience Petrecki may serve this purpose.
More Directly, Sheldon Souray could handle this task.
● A heavy shot, aggressive play, solid first pass, swift puck movement, and ability to generate both goals and assists consistently, he more than fulfills voids left on the Sharks back end this coming season.
● By offering Wallin, Huskins and Mitchell the Sharks don't take on any more cap.
● They rid themselves of the overpaid Wallin contract, which has left many Sharks fans perplexed.
● With Huskins gone the Sharks blue line has another available spot for another promising youngster like Demers or Joslin.
● It would be difficult to say goodbye to Mitchell, his hard work ethic, ability to win pucks in the boards and speed would be most missed, but again Mcginn has the potential to fill this spot, if he hasn't already. Also the Sharks tend to always have an abundance of centers, and Mitchell's defensive skills always seem to be at question.
● Would actually prefer to see Marc Staal signed especially for the future of the organization but this seems more feasible at the moment especially with Doug Wilsons ability to swoop up disgruntled players.
Greatest Captain of All-Time - Owen Nolan
Signing Nolan is a no brainer. His willing to do whatever it takes to be effective, high level of competitiveness, and with a giant chip on his shoulder he posses all the traits that the Sharks require to raise the cup. And we all know his return home would rejuvenate his career (not that its even required). Its difficult to choose a favorite Nolan moment amongst so many like the called shot, check on Belfour, and many more, but hands down, the most crucial; he Captained the the only Sharks team to dismantle Sharks all time arch nemesis, Chris Pronger. How did he bring down the President Trophy Blues? Single handed, he carried the Sharks on his back. The Sharks do not posses that player right now, and my best guess (yes I am already making predictions) is Philly is making a sophomore visit to the Finals, so the Sharks may need that Pronger formula again.
For a lack of time to jot down all my reasons why we should dump McLellan I have not included it, but will do so in the near future. In the mean time, here are my forward line combos this next season, if no changes are made to the current roster other than the inking of Owen Nolan.
LW, C, RW
Marleau Couture Heatley
Mitchell Pavelski Setoguchi
Clowe Thornton Nolan
McGinn Nichol Mayers