Sharks win 4-3, but two points come with a price
At this point in the season, two points are two points. And since this recap is coming on Sunday morning as opposed to Saturday night, I'm switching gears rather quickly into what last night's gutty win against the Edmonton Oilers means for the San Jose Sharks.
Specifically, the blueline. And more specifically, how this will effect their success going forward.
Jason Demers was injured in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 20th, and has since been placed on the Injured Reserve. From what I can tell the Sharks haven't placed him on the LTIR, which means he could play on Tuesday. But with most injury reports speculating that he has an issue with his hand, possibly a tendon, it's probably safe to say he gets more games in the press box before coming back to play. I wouldn't expect him back before early December at the soonest.
Niclas Wallin and Kent Huskins were injured last night as well, with Wallin's looking to be the most serious of the two. In a collision near the end line Wallin crashed into the boards with what appeared to be his knee. He was helped off the ice, and a wheelchair was ushered into the locker room to help escort him to a local Edmonton hospital for tests. No updates outside of that, but the optics definitely did not look good-- I'd peg him for an early December return at the earliest as well.
However, there is a distinct potential that both individuals are out for a much longer extended period of time than just a few games. It would not be a surprise to see Demers and Wallin see very lengthy LTIR time in the near future, with Wallin's injury looking especially bad visually. More information will surface over the coming days, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.
In terms of the short term, there's a potential situation in play that will see the Sharks play without three of their opening night defenseman (Demers, Wallin, Huskins) over the coming days. That's a huge blow to the team's blueline depth, and one that sets up a situation where Derek Joslin, Justin Braun, and any combination of Mike Moore, Jay Leach, Nick Schaus, Matt Irwin, or any other Worcester player could be seeing regular NHL minutes for the time being. Justin Braun has looked good in his time up with the team, and could provide some of that offensive spark that has been missing from the blueline during the first twenty games of the year. Derek Joslin has also been serviceable, and the other potential call-ups have shown glimpses of potentially being able to take on shifts at the NHL level.
However, it wouldn't be a core that inspires a whole lot of confidence, especially with Marc-Edouard Vlasic struggling, Dan Boyle seeing an exorbitant amount of minutes, and the team's blueline already seen as the weak link in the roster. In short, it's a situation that will either see some unfamiliar names make huge steps in their professional career or lead the Sharks down a path of inconsistency and struggles unseen even this season. It's exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
Furthermore, this will set off trade speculation surrounding Sharks GM Doug Wilson's attempts to bring a defenseman in via trade. However, possibly even more so than last week, that discussion runs into a wide variety of factors getting in the way:
However, these home run deals are becoming much harder to come by, and by their very nature should be considered a product of luck just as much as a product of skill. Management teams across the country have become much more privy to the implications of the salary cap system, and are hoarding effective players because of it. Coupled with the fact that Wilson would not have the upper hand in negotiations right now as teams are fully aware that he is looking for an upgrade (most likely on the backend), as well as the fact that there aren't a whole lot of teams with an eye to the future beyond the 2010-2011 NHL season, and you run up against quite a few roadblocks preventing San Jose from acquiring a top three defenseman at a price that won't significantly hurt their forward group.
The Sharks need a top three defenseman in order to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders-- we touched upon it all summer, and the idea behind it is as true today as it ever was. There's no question on where I stand on the subject. And one has to think Wilson will eventually get San Jose the upgrade they need, or at the very least, exhaust all possible avenues trying to do so.
But in order for that to happen, he is going to need time. Time for teams to become sellers, time for the Sharks to improve which will increase his bargaining power, and time for players falling short of expectations to bolster their trade value.
>> Fear The Fin, "Is a trade on the horizon for the San Jose Sharks?"
Considering the current makeup of the standings, it's hard to envision a Western Conference team making an inter-Conference trade. If Wilson looks to the East, he runs into the same issues-- why move an effective top three defenseman for futures when the season still has sixty games remaining? There's no market for it right now.
Then one must consider Devin Setoguchi's trade value-- as we mentioned before, his stat line has regressed over the last three seasons, leading to a two goal output through 21 games this year. Not exactly quid pro quo material for a team looking to make an impact now. Coupled with his current stint in the press box with an undisclosed injury and you find yourself in a place where his value in a trade is non-existent.
So if futures and young talent is off the radar, who gets you a top three defenseman? Roster players. Just the type of individuals the Sharks can't afford to give up right now, especially when one considers that all the ones with market value right now are going to be even more important for the Sharks short and long term success from Tuesday nights game against Detroit to the final standings in April.
It's a tough situation for San Jose. And while one would be a fool to count Doug Wilson out in November, one must also be cognisant of the situation he is dealing with right now with other General Managers. His bargaining power non-existent, and his trade chips either underperforming or too essential to the team right now to even consider moving.
My guess is the kids take the minutes now before potential moves begin to emerge. Let's hope that by that time San Jose is playing with black chips, and not with fire.