Fake Trades and Real Problems

Cheechew and a few of my other friends are off frolicking around Cabo San Lucas for a mutual friend's wedding. I, unfortunately, can't go due to financial limitations (that, and I'm still crying about Jeremy Roenick's retirement). However, I planned on pranking one of them with text messages of a fake Milan Michalek trade (the dude has a serious man crush on Michalek). I even told Cheechew that I would make it realistic, so nothing nutty like Michalek for Evgeni Malkin.

This morning, I started looking at the Sharks roster and comparing it to other rosters thanks to the good folks at NHL Numbers. The fake trade had to make sense, both from a cap perspective and a hockey perspective.

After scanning up and down the Sharks roster looking at what they need and what was available, I kept thinking the same thing -- on paper, the team is strong. If everyone lives up to even just 75% of their potential, they have a strong foundation for success. You can't predict injuries and you can assume that there will be slumps, but by and large, it's a little absurd to think that every healthy player will just plain suck all at once

Consider the forwards, as scoring seemed to be the problem during the tail end of the season and the Anaheim series. I've talked about how I thought Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton shouldered too much of the blame during the first-round Anaheim loss, and the second-line disappearance held equal amounts of blame -- and Mclellan should get blame too for the way he handled the injury situation. So, without making any assumptions about line combinations and assuming that the scoring forwards stay in tact for opening night, here's what I concluded:

Devin Setoguchi should be good for 25-35 goals.
Ryane Clowe should be good for 25-35 goals.
Milan Michalek should be good for 20-30 goals.
Jonathan Cheechoo should be good for 20-30 goals.
Torrey Mitchell should be good for 15-20 goals.

I know Cheechoo has become a bit of a running joke in the NHL but one has to look at his injury history over the past two years to examine why he hasn't lived up to his potential. Yeah, he's no Pavel Bure, but part of his game has been using the strength of his core/legs to get into open spots or maneuver around defensemen. With the number of groin injuries he's had, it's no wonder why he hasn't been able to be as effective in sliding into open ice or fighting through checkers.

His hands and shot are still there. If you look at a sample of his (admittedly few) goals from last season, you'll see that he can still stickhandle, still deke, and still shoot. It's the lower half of his body that hasn't been working with him. That, and playing with Marcel "Not Adam Oates" Goc for most of the season.

Assuming Cheechoo is healthy and gets to play in some scoring capacity, I think 20 goals is a minimum for him.

Anyways, I'm looking at this list of secondary scoring and recalling the Sharks woes against Anaheim. I had a brief flashback to Todd Mclellan speaking at the State of the Sharks event, where he talked about how when the team was riddled with injuries in January/February, they essentially had to change their playing style to accommodate. By the time the playoffs had come, not only were some key guys (Marleau, Thornton) still hurt, they hadn't been able to return back to the style that worked so well for them.

That, and in case you forgot, some dudes named Pronger and Niedermayer were really, really, really, really good at playing defense. (Enjoying those cheesesteaks, Mrs. Pronger?)

Jeremy Roenick recently spoke of how he told Doug Wilson that he felt that only tweaking was necessary, the the bulk of the pieces were in place. I've stepped back from the Sharks just a tad this summer to focus on other things, so perhaps that little bit of distance has provided some more objectivity (or false hope, depending on what you believe). This is the first time I've really examined the roster in about six weeks and I have a hard time pinpointing any specific problems other than shit happens. Let's not forget that the Ducks took Cup-finalist Detroit to a few minutes of Game 7 overtime -- and that's with an injured Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.

I know some people are still calling for the entire team to be nuked. I understand that frustration but I don't think things are as dire as the naysayers are making it out to be. Don't forget, the Big Scary Evil Red Wings got bounced from the first round a few times during their era of pseudo-dynasty.

Shit happens. 30 teams start the season, 16 teams qualify for the playoffs, but only one can win. I don't think that means it's the end of the world; sometimes, there are things you can't control (injuries, bounces) and sometimes you just have to learn from your mistakes (young player maturity, rookie coach mistakes).

Oh, and for that fake trade? I came up with Michalek/4th round pick to Buffalo for checking center Adam Mair/1st round pick -- essentially, a salary dump and a replenishing of high draft picks, since Wilson's depleted the system. He fell for it.

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