Wheelin' And Dealin'

Okay. Time to sort through what went down today:
  • The big'n was sending Steve Bernier and next year's first round draft pick to Buffalo in exchange for defenseman Brian Campbell and the Sabres' seventh round pick in next year's draft.

  • Rob Davison was sent to the Islanders in exchange for their seventh round pick in next year's draft.

  • Goalie Brian Boucher was signed out of the minors.
Let's do these in reverse order, thus starting with the Boucher deal. Boucher is another of a lengthy list of first round draft picks whose play at the NHL level has shown no reason why he was selected so high. .897 career save percentage and a 2.79 GAA does not Hockey Hall of Fame material make. Last year he bounced around between Chicago, Columbus, and Philadelphia's AHL team which is where he's spent all of this year. So why sign him?

While it's relatively safe to assume that eventually either Thomas Griess or Dimitri Patzold will emerge as the regular backup goaltender (is "regular backup" an oxymoron? But I digress) for Los Tiburones, in the here and now it's obvious neither Ron nor Doug Wilson have any confidence in either one of them to so much as spell Evgeni Nabokov. Boucher is decidedly average, but he is a known average, for lack of a better way to put it. You'll never see him in the net against an Ottawa or Detroit, but he could well see some action down the stretch against weaker offensive teams so Nabokov can get some time off before the post-season starts. Boucher also offers at this point in time better insurance than Griess or Patzold, in case Nabokov gets hurt, that the team won't immediately collapse. When viewed in this light, the signing makes sense.

Next up, trading Davison for pretty much nothing unless the upcoming draft is unbelievably loaded with talent. Davison is a below average defenseman and hardly anything worth writing home about when on the wing, so sending him somewhere where he might actually play once in a while and getting at least something in return is understandable. No player does his team any good when he's a semi-permanent fixture in the press box.

Last but most definitely not least, the big'n. At first glance, it's easy to react with, "But our defense is fine -- it's our offense that's the problem! Sure, Campbell's got mad skills. We need scoring, though! What's the deal?"

The deal is Campbell excels at what the Sharks defense this year has not: getting the puck out of the zone while maintaining control. How many "okay, we've got the puck -- let's just throw it on out there and see what happens" clearing attempts have we seen this year? Answer: so many it happens with sickening regularity. Campbell's presence will hopefully if not put a complete end to this at least sharply curtail this failure to execute the fundamentals. As has been noted, far too often this year the Sharks forwards and defense have played like they're in different rinks. Passes from behind the blueline connect with nothing but the stick of an opposing player, while the forward's idea of supporting the defense consists of shouting encouraging words while skating around aimlessly looking for some unoccupied place on the ice to go hang out in while watching the action. To the apparent astonishment and amazement of all, it hasn't worked very well.

One player can't change everything, or cover for everyone. Christian Ehrhoff has to start making accurate plays with the puck when it's in his control (and I use the term "puck control" in relation to Ehrhoff so loosely it rattles). The Sharks need Ryan Clowe to come back at full strength, and in the meanwhile someone's going to have to step it up to replace Bernier's grit and competitiveness. Finally, at some point in time Patrick Marleau needs to stop going out there for some twenty plus shifts a game yet never seeing a minute of action. Oh, he's on the ice all right. But he's not in action. Pantomime, maybe. Action? Don't push it.

So are the Sharks a better team at the end of today than they were at the beginning? Yes. Is it good enough to compete with Anaheim and Dallas and Detroit for the right to represent the Western Conference in this year's Stanley Cup finals?

Well, that's up to the mean in the teal sweaters, now isn't it.