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CSI: San Jose

The lockers are cleaned and the injuries have been revealed and the whole San Jose Sharks meltdown still stinks to high heaven. Some panic-attack fans and media are in "Trade Patrick Marleau/Fire Ron Wilson/The sky is falling" mode, but those extreme tactics probably won't be taken by GM Doug Wilson.

So, what the hell happened and what will happen in the off-season? Let's review.

Patrick Marleau: So the captain had a separated shoulder since mid-February. I'm not in the "it heals after three weeks" boat; while separated shoulders can get back to normal after a few weeks for most mere mortals, we're not taking the rigors of NHL hockey bashing our shoulders. Marleau wasn't 100% at the end of the season, looked pretty good but still not all there against Nashville, then looked awful against Detroit. Maybe something popped his shoulder against Detroit, maybe not. Bottom line is he didn't go into the boards as hard as he did during the first 2/3 of the season, his stickhandling ability was consistently inconsistent, and he didn't shoot nearly as much as he normally did. That's fine and that goes with the injury. However, brain farts about playing out of position don't. Owning up to this in the media is good on Marleau's part, and it's good that he's not blaming the injury for that, but he's got to consider why his defensive game dropped off.

Trade him? If I'm Doug Wilson, I would say 99% no, but I'd be curious to see if you could get a #1 defenseman in his prime. The ONLY way I'd trade Marleau is if that was possible and you knew you had a good chance of wooing Scott Gomez or Chris Drury to replace him. Otherwise, I'd absolutely keep him.

Ron Wilson: When Wilson gets his team to play his system at 100%, the Sharks proved they could roll over anyone. Problem is motivation, and the question boils down to whether or not that responsibility lies more on the bench or behind the bench. I'd keep Ron for now, but if the Sharks show the same inconsistent play that plagued this season by Christmas 2007, I'd be silently sending out feelers to see who's available. Maybe they could get Mark Messier's DNA and splice it into Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.

The goaltending: While the platoon system worked for most of the season, both goalies demonstrated over the past two seasons that they can take the #1 position and run with it. So, now you have a dilemma. It's obvious there are holes to fill in the team and the goaltending is a significant trade asset. Do you try and move Evgeni Nabokov (consider his no-trade clause) and his locked-in high salary or do you try and move Vesa Toskala knowing that he could ask for Nabokov's or more when he becomes a free agent at the end of the 07-08 season? There's no easy answer to that one because so many factors are involved, including the fact that most teams that need goaltending don't have a lot of tradeable assets that the Sharks need.

Scott Hannan: It's reported that Hannan wants Chris Phillips-type money around $3.5 million. Unfortunately, Hannan's not as good as Phillips. Sure, Hannan's a great shut down guy, but he has a huge tendency to turn over the puck in the neutral zone and isn't as consistent as Phillips. If you take Hannan's salary and combine that with other cap space on a #1 defenseman, that'd be my first choice. Which leads to...

The power play: All of the elements are there. The problem is that the Sharks have a one-trick pony power play. It's really effective when a healthy Patrick Marleau is running the point. However, when Marleau can't shoot, stickhandle, or keep the puck in as well like we saw down the stretch, it turns to inconsistent Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Carle, or (shudder) Kyle McLaren. Now, Ehrhoff may be reaching his peak as a 35-40 point guy, and Matt Carle should only get better, but it'd sure be nice to try and get a true power play specialist out there. The big-money free agent options? Sheldon Souray and Brian Rafalski. Neither are natural leaders in the Scott Niedermayer mold, but that can be addressed elsewhere. The only way I think something like that would be possible is if the Sharks clear cap space by trading Nabokov.

Secondary scoring: Steve Bernier, what happened to you? Joe Pavelski, will you get better or drop off? A big part of the Sharks success next season will be if Steve Bernier, who never recovered from lost conditioning due to a foot problem, and Joe Pavelski can prove to be true second-line scoring forwards or if they are a pair of flash-in-the-pans. In the on-deck circle, highly touted Devin Setoguchi, who may become the next contestant in the "Find a winger for Patrick Marleau" game. Between Bernier, Pavelski, and Setoguchi, if just ONE of them can put up a fairly consistent 20-goal/60-point effort next season riding next to Marleau, the Sharks will be in much better shape.

Mark Bell: Holy jebus, did Mark Bell suck. Well, that's not totally true. He was decent in October and decent for the last four weeks or so of the season. In fact, when the Bill Guerin/Bell/Marleau line came together, we saw glimpses of the Bell the Sharks thought they'd be getting -- hard hitting, strong on the boards, and perched in the slot. Ron Wilson has defended Bell to some extent by saying that he's had hip/back/groin problems all season, and if that's true, that may explain why Bell looked slow and awkward all the time. So, if that was the case, maybe there's hope that an extended recovery period followed by a rigorous conditioning/power skating program could give the Sharks a player similar to the 25 goal/60 point guy they saw in Chicago. Honestly, I watched Bell quite a bit in Chicago and he didn't look anywhere near as inept or confused as he did in a Sharks jersey. Perhaps health, confidence, and conditioning can help him put this season (and his DUI) behind him. Otherwise, he's a black hole of $2.5 million in cap space.

Defense: It's obvious that the Sharks philosophy of hoping that youth would overcome and prevail was flawed. The deer-in-the-headlights look of Matt Carle from the second half of the season onward showed the problems involved with putting a lot of your eggs in one basket. Re-signing Craig Rivet and his right-handed shot would be a good idea, but it depends on how much money he'd want. $3 mil might be too rich for the Sharks' blood.

Leadership: Does Patrick Marleau deserve the captaincy? Maybe, but maybe not. He wouldn't be the first captain to disappear in a playoff series (hello Ottawa fans and Daniel Alfredsson), and there's no reason why he couldn't redeem himself later (hello again, Daniel Alfredsson). Just because you're quiet doesn't mean that you can't lead -- ask Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman about that. On the other hand, some players aren't meant to be captain, like Mike Modano and Brian Leetch. Still, leadership is a group thing, and even Mark Messier had his lieutenants in Leetch, Adam Graves, and Mike Richter. The problem may lie in the fact that both Joe Thornton or Marleau are fairly laid back, happy-go-lucky guys. A player like Mike Grier certainly is a boost in the leadership department, but signing a veteran player who's won at least one Stanley Cup, even as a third liner, could prove to be a calming influence to a team that seems to panic in the face of adversity.

For fans who think the team should be blown up and put back together, take a deep breath and try to be as objective as possible. So many of the elements are in place, and there are moveable assets and some cap flexibility (minus the Vladimir Malakhov cap hit, the Sharks finished the season with about $3.5 million available). Doug Wilson's priorities should be a power-play specialist defenseman and a veteran who has Cups on his resume.