Apr 27, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward (42) celebrates on the ice after the Capitals
The San Jose Sharks have been a franchise suffering from an identity crisis following their crushing defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Rather than trying to improve the team, general manager Doug Wilson decided to embark on a rebuild that would incorporate younger players into the organization.
However, the younger players weren’t ready for full-time action and the team didn’t have the requisite depth to compete in the highly competitive Western Conference. The results spoke for themselves as San Jose missed the postseason for the first time in 11 seasons. Many were left questioning whether should remain on board, but he did. The frustration continued to mount as the Sharks were fairly quiet at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, a draft that saw many goaltenders and key players change teams.
There didn’t appear to be a plan in place for what is the biggest offseason of Wilson’s tenure in San Jose.
Last week, the script changed completely and in a matter of just four days. First, Wilson was aggressive in acquiring Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins for a 2016 first-round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly. This was a bold move by Wilson, investing a future asset in Jones who has appeared in only 34 NHL games. However, this was a necessary move as the Sharks desperately needed a number one netminder, and Jones is just 25-years-old. He can grow into the job alongside some of the other young players and has the size and look of a bonafide NHL goalie.
More from Editorials
- Korenar deserves a chance at the NHL level
- Three prospects the Sharks should consider drafting
- Red hot Couture provides a much needed boost
- Is it reasonable for the Sharks to fire Doug Wilson?
- NHL misses golden opportunity with Tahoe games
The next order of business was reinforcing the unit in front of Jones, and that’s exactly what Wilson did in signing free agent defenseman Paul Martin to a four-year deal. Martin is a solid, stay-at-home type who can play in multiple situations. Also, Martin logs a ton of minutes on the penalty kill, which should bolster a unit that ranked 25th a season ago.
The final piece of the puzzle was adding to their forward depth, and Wilson decided that Joel Ward would be that guy, signing the free agent to a three-year deal. In a span of those four days last week, Wilson turned this franchise from a transitioning one to a contending one once again.
As Scott Burnside of ESPN writes, the Sharks’ moves have “emphatically put an end to any ‘rebuild’ discussion in San Jose and replaced it once again with ‘contender’ discussion.”
The moves to bring in Martin and Ward, both 34, indicate the shift back to contender status. Last year, Wilson would’ve balked at the idea of bringing in two 34-year-olds who would be taking away minutes from their younger players. However, by signing both, Wilson is going for it once again this season as the Sharks now don’t own a 2016 first-round pick.
Now the term for Martin and Ward might be a little steep, the price on the free-agent market is often so, but both still have reasonable cap hits. San Jose was obviously missing leadership and depth and both of these signings address those key areas. Wilson has now established a balanced team that has plenty of veterans, but also some talented younger players that will be counted upon heavily.
But most importantly, all the talk of rebuilding is over and the ways of winning should once again dominate the conversation around the Sharks. As Wilson himself put it, “The transition is over…now it’s time to win.”