Marco Sturm was drafted by the Sharks with their first round selection in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He grew up with the organization as they transitioned from a mid-90's Cinderella story to a perennial playoff entrant, winning over the hearts and minds of the Sharks faithful with his lightning quick skating stride, affable personality, stellar work ethic, and ability to kill penalties.
As the years went by his scoring touch improved until he was consistently in the running for Sharks leading goal scorer, cementing himself as a fan favorite that the fanbase could be proud of. In many ways he was on the path to becoming revered in the way Patrick Marleau is today-- a homegrown, down to earth, goofy, and talented player who working-class fans can easily identify with.
Today however, Sturm's legacy in San Jose is more of what he did for the team in his departure rather than what he did when he was here. On November 30, 2005 Sturm was traded with Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau to the Boston Bruins in exchange for all-star centerman Joe Thornton, a player whose skill set and presence on the ice instantly made him the face of the franchise. It was the definition of the deals Doug Wilson has become famous for-- non-existent rumors, a favorable return, and yet another piece that put the organization one step closer to the Stanley Cup.
After leaving the Sharks Sturm continued to put up respectable numbers in Boston, scoring 27 goals twice and potting 22 in 2009-2010. But with chronic knee ailments keeping him out of action for the majority of the 08-09 and 10-11 seasons, and injuries a career-long concern, Sturm bounced around the League last year in an attempt to stick. Stints in Los Angeles and Washington were disappointing affairs. Sturm never looked quite right, and at the age of 32, it remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to make an impact in the NHL club ever again.
The Vancouver Canucks rolled the dice this offseason when they gave Sturm a one-year $2.5 MM deal. The injuries will always be a concern, especially for a player whose skating ability is one of his most attractive assets. But if Sturm can shake his knee issues, there's no doubt he's an impact top-six player who can play the toughs and come out on top:
Marco Sturm's 3 Previous Non-Injured Seasons*
|Year||GP ||Goals ||Points ||Qualcomp ||+/- on60 ||Corsi Rel ||PK TOI ||PP TOI
*Team Rank is in parentheses. Advanced statistics from the 2006-2007 season are not available on Behind The Net.
As we can see here, Sturm's career in Boston was a very good one according to the advanced metrics. He consistently led the team in goal scoring, saw tough quality of competition, did an excellent job of ending up in the black at evens, pushed the play in the right direction, and logged significant minutes on both the penalty kill and the power play. The only legitimate concern with Sturm is his health, and judging by his performance last season with the Kings and Capitals, those concerns are definitely warranted.
He has missed the majority of two seasons in a five year span, didn't look completely healthy last season, and will be turning 33 a few days before training camp begins. I thought Sturm was going to be an impact player last season when he joined the Kings, proving that my forecasting abilities are shaky at best.
But whether it be nostalgia, blind faith, or a realization that Sturm won't have to carry the load on a very talented Canucks team, you just get the feeling his signing could turn out to be one of the steals of the summer. It comes with a lot of risks of course, but a one-year contract for an excellent-when-healthy forward is a risk that a team like Vancouver can be willing to take.
Although Sturm was an excellent player in San Jose, there is no doubt the Sharks made the right decision when they sent Sturm to Boston in exchange for Joe Thornton back in 2005. Thornton is one of the game's best players, the current Captain of the team, and has put up point totals that eclipse anything Sturm could ever hope to obtain.
But Sturm still holds a special place in the heart of many Sharks fans, especially those who can recall his breathtaking skating ability and penchant for timely goals. He'll always be remembered with fondness in San Jose, a class professional who deserves everything he has achieved.
Here's to a rebound year from one of the best Germans to ever play the game.