Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BCP Draft Series: Shark Hunting

I really don’t like San Jose Shark fans. Amazingly, this distaste has nothing to do with their obscenely warm seaside climate, the economic might of Silicon Valley, or the fact that they traded 3 spare parts for Joe Thornton. No, it has everything to do with the sickening waves of entitlement they push onto the rest of the league.
Spend 5 minutes talking to any Sharks fan, and they’ll invariably jump into some variation of “boo hoo, we have such a great core but can never win in the playoffs!” Try listening to that, first as a Leaf fan, and secondly as a student of even the most rudimentary mathematics. When only 16 out of 30 teams even make the playoffs each year, the perennial bridesmaids shouldn't get to whine.
Since 1997 the Sharks have only missed qualifying for the post season once, in 2002-2003. During that stretch they’ve compiled 6 divisional championships and one President's Trophy (2009). When you consider the changes throughout the league since '97, in and out of the dead puck era and through the lockout, the consistency shown by the Sharks is remarkable.
That’s why as a Leafs fan it’s painful listening to the San Jose media bemoan the accomplishments of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and other core players that have come and gone. I can imagine that for a sports athlete being unceremoniously labelled as a playoff “choker” is up there with tearing your ACL/MCL in terms of pain.
The interesting consequence of this regular season consistency is that fans are pushing the team and ownership towards moving a new direction and breaking up the core group. Players like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have been absolute stalwarts in recent years, but of course are yet to get over the proverbial “hump”.
Elliot Friedman mentioned on the FAN590 today that Sharks GM Doug Wilson is looking to make some noise this offseason, potentially at the draft. With the team struggling to end the season, and an early exit in round 1 of the playoffs, Mr. Wilson may feel under the gun in California.  Additionally, it was mentioned that the last time the Sharks missed the playoffs season ticket sales dropped dramatically.

Marleau in particular could be a real asset for Toronto’s forward corps bringing an element of size and an ability to play both down the middle and on the wing. His reputation has taken a bit of a hit the past few seasons, but his recent stats show no real signs of slowing down. During the past 4 years he’s averaged 37.2 goals per season. 5 of the past 7 seasons he’s broken the 70 point plateau, an impressive mark of consistency.
At the age of 32 it could be argued that Maleau doesn’t fit with the core players on Toronto. It’s a valid point, given the age of Grabovski, Kessel, and Phaneuf. However, 32 still likely affords Marleau 2 or 3 seasons of high level production. Add to that his elite skating ability and Marleau has the ability to be an effective top six player into his mid 30s.
His contract is probably a bit high given his production, a plumb $6.9M this coming year and next. However when you look at the term (2 years) and the fact you’ll have a motivated player showcasing himself for possibly his last big pay day, it seems reasonable.

Whether or not Burke kicks the tires on Marleau will be dependent on a number of factors come draft day. How serious is our interest in Bobby Ryan (or has his relationship with Carlyle take us entirely out of the running)?  How many of our bad contracts does Burke think he can shed? Does a Luongo trade preclude us from taking on another big money contract? Is San Jose serious about breaking up its core?
We’ve been in the market for a big, talented centre since our Swedish Superstar moved onto greener pastures... errr Vancouver. 2012 Draft Day in Pittsburgh seems as good a day as any to go Shark Hunting, and reel in Mr. Marleau.

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