To anyone who’s been following this offseason with any degree of interest, it’s been abundantly clear that the Sharks have not acquired anyone to replace Patrick Marleau. A tidbit from Paul Gackle of the Mercury News sheds some light on this, as he reports on the Sharks’ current desire to internally fill this role:
When Wilson asked Meier at Sharks development camp this week whether he needed to find another left winger to fill Marleau’s spot on the roster, the 20-year-old forward responded by saying: “I’m ready.”
Sounds like just another prospect having confidence in himself, right? You wouldn’t be wrong, as these players only get this far by backing themselves to the hilt, but it is interesting that Wilson posed the question to Meier, given that players typically (and rightly) have close to zero say in this matter.
One could be inclined to dismiss it as a friendly query, but Hockey Operations Director Doug Wilson Jr. confirmed to Gackle the integrity of Meier and Wilson’s exchange and made it clear that if San Jose were to replace Marleau’s 27 goals, they would have to do so through prospects like Meier, Kevin Labanc, and Danny O’Regan.
“We talked to [the prospects] about it. They know there aren’t many guys in this league of their age who get to play with centers like Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney,” director of hockey operations Doug Wilson Jr. said. “It’s really on them. They know the opportunity is there, and if it’s not them, it’s going to be someone else.”
It’s evident that this is going to be the long-term strategy in San Jose if the team wants to stay competitive. The team doesn’t really have the depth or the assets to burn in a deal for Matt Duchene, plus they’re likely (and rightly) not going to offer $9.8M and four firsts for Leon Draisaitl. The trade market is pretty barren save for a Hail-Mary John Tavares trade possibility, but that’ll cost even more and isn’t something worth banking on.
Speculation aside, it makes no sense to not try out what they have at this point. Labanc, O’Regan, and Meier are three of the most promising prospects the team has had since Logan Couture was lighting up the OHL, and one has to hope that this will translate to the big club at some stage. Meier, in particular, was an elite shot generator last year, and while his shot selection could be improved, shooting at a league-average clip while maintaining his shot generation pace and receiving top-line minutes could easily see him crack 30 goals.
It is interesting to note the tidbit at the end, where Wilson Jr. doesn’t rule out other acquisitions by trade if the prospects fail to pan out. That isn’t really surprising, given that the team has to stay competitive and make the playoffs to maintain a decent profit line and attendance base. But it’s fairly clear, both from Gackle’s report and the lack of offseason activity we’ve seen, that the Sharks intend on having their top prospects fill the role that Marleau vacated. Wilson and Burke have done an excellent job replenishing the formerly-barren prospect pipeline, and a pool that once had Matt Nieto as the top offensive prospect now boasts Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Danny O’Regan, Josh Norris, Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor, and Adam Helewka.
Now’s the time to see if any of that pays off.