First off, I’d like to apologize for my sporadic coverage of day one of free agency. I just embarked on a month-long study abroad trip to Ireland. I can fight off jetlag, but the eight hour time difference made it extremely hard to cover what was going on throughout the day. Thanks to King Shark and Blue Line Boomer for their continued coverage.
I won’t bore you guys with rehashing the news of the past few days, but it’s certainly been a jumbled affair for the Sharks and Doug Wilson.
First off, Burish. I love and hate this signing for a multitude of reasons. Burish is a hard skating, heavy handed right winger. His point totals are pretty standard for a third liner (19P/6G/13A), but his shot oppression at even strength (26.0 shots average allowed per sixty minutes) makes him an attractive asset to the team.
Burish’s past experience playing with Antti Niemi gives me hope that their skills working together will pick up where they left off in 2010, when their Chicago Blackhawks went on to win the Stanley Cup. He also seems to have a knack for phenomenal quotes. His go-getter energy will hopefully stir the passive minds of the Shark locker room into grinding out wins and protecting leads. Burish is the exact kind of catalyst the team needs, and McClellan’s coaching will hopefully be able to keep it in balance.
I say “hopefully,” because I worry about McClellan using him properly. Burish will probably wind up taking either the third line center (which I had previously reserved for Gaustad, who re-signed with Nashville early yesterday) or right winger spot. McClellan has a history of struggling to keep his enforcers in check. Burish’s calm-natured attitude alleviates some of this concern, but I hope the heat of battle won’t get to his head.
Another concern I have with Burish is both his and Wilson’s want to improve the Sharks PK with his talents. On Dallas last season, he ranked sixth out of the six Dallas PK wingers in both shots allowed (53.5%) and goals against (8.92 average) on the penalty kill. To be fair, Burish ranked first in shots allowed the previous year with Dallas, but the drop of both his TOI and numbers this past year raise concern.
However, let us not forget about Dominic Moore. With a more stable and consistent line, along with more ice time, Burish may be able to find his groove once again. Will McClellan let Moore walk and build a line around Burish, or make him a winger on a line with Moore centering? There’s also the problem of Michal Handzus, whose lackluster play last season will probably cost him a spot on the team. This leaves three possible scenarios:
Option 1: Wilson gets rid of both. Handzus gets moved, Moore leaves, and Wilson has to fill two other slots around Burish.
Option 2: Wilson keeps both. Either Handzus or Moore centers a new line with Burish on the wing.
Option 3: Wilson keeps one. Burish plays with either Moore or Handzus centering, leaving Wilson to fill a gap on left wing.
I’d personally like to see option number three. While I’d love it even more if Daniel Winnik was included on that list, that’s no longer an option. A line should be built around Burish: The Sharks need a grind line to kill penalties, and players like Burish should be a priority for Wilson at the moment. With bottom-line players like Justin Abdelkader and Andrei Kostitsyn on the market, Wilson has a great opportunity to retool the third line this season with capable, proven penalty killers.
All in all, this is a good signing for the Sharks. While the four year contract may raise some eyebrows, Wilson wants to ensure that if Burish works in teal, he’ll stay that way for a few years to come. The 3rd line has been a revolving door the past few years, and hopefully Burish puts an end to the carousel.
Next, Wilson. What bothers me isn’t Wilson’s lack of moves, it’s the lack of moves in response to the moves of the Sharks’ rival teams. One thing I love about Wilson is his penchant for getting the job done when it comes to signing the players he wants. If Wilson wants something taken care of, he’ll see it through to the end. However, once his agenda is taken care of, he doesn’t take the time to review the trade made by other teams, and to assess how he will deal with the new additions to his rivals. I’ll be honest, players like Ray Whitney playing for Dallas and P.A. Parenteau playing for Colorado scare me. Part of me wants to feel assured that Wilson is aware of these issues and is just letting the dust settle before he makes another move. However, another part of me worries he is going to stand pat and wait until the trade deadline to make any more moves. I’m looking (read: hoping) for a big splash in the next few weeks.
This deal makes no sense for two reasons.
1. He isn’t worth it.
Still think Rick Nash is a good idea?
To make matters worse, Rick Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit carries all the way into 2018. While Thornton and Nash playing together would be a dream come true, Columbus Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson’s asking price of Couture, Pavelski, and Sharks prospects is just baffling. Dealing with Scott Howson is like trying to teach a giraffe algebra-it’s frustrating, pointless, and no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to win. Obviously Howson is trying to ensure his team will carry on without Nash in the future, but with players like Bobby Ryan on the market for half the price, he’s going to have a hard time securing his demands.
Trading away players like Pavelski, Couture, or Vlasic would make us a top-heavy team. As exemplified this past season in Anaheim with the Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line, this model simply doesn’t work. You need a second line to put up numbers. Depleting the Sharks’ second line would be a knife in the heart to this team and franchise.
2. Lack of prospects.
With Charlie Coyle gone to Minnesota for Burns and Michael Sgarbossa gone (along with McGinn) to Colorado for Winnik and Galiardi this past season, the idea of trading away yet another top prospect scares me. While Tomas Hertl may be a few years away from the NHL, the Sharks’ farm system is in a dearth for high-scoring forwards at the moment as a result of Wilson’s moves this past season. Any more tampering with the Worcester Sharks could catch up with the Sharks in a few years, and provide devastating results.
The idea of deconstructing this team to make room for a guy whose cap hit doubles the number of Sharks players who put up the same numbers baffles me. Unless Wilson can get this job done with only Clowe and Marleau on the table, it’s not worth the wager.
For now, I’m not worried about the Sharks. It’s only one day into free agency. Doug Wilson has plenty of time. However, he also needs to be aware of opportunities, both for himself and the other teams in the running for players this offseason.
101 days until hockey. Man, I can’t wait.
Blades of Teal ~ The Final Word On Sharks Hockey.