Monday, February 8, 2010

Dead Weight

I have stated many times on this space that when it comes to the San Jose Sharks, I am not an objective source, nor do I pretend to be. Having said that, being as objective as I possibly can be, I would contend that the Sharks are at worst the second best team in the National Hockey League. Watching the Toronto game, though, I came to a profound and worrying realization regarding San Jose.

If Jody Shelly, Brad Staubitz and Scott Nichol are all in the lineup for the Sharks, they will not win the Stanley Cup.

(In the Toronto game Dwight Helminen, who was in the Wallin deal and has struggled to crack the lineup of one of the worst teams in hockey, played in addition to those three. I would put him in there, but I am pretty sure that once Manny Malhotra is healthy, Helminen will be out of the lineup.)

I’m not saying that it weakens their chances. I am saying that with those three playing, it will not happen. It is too much dead weight to carry. All three bring little to the table, other than the occasional scrap in the case of Staubitz and Shelly, and the not-occasional-enough dumb penalty or turnover in the case of all three. You can win the cup with one guy who only fights, and with one guy who only does whatever it is that Scott Nichol supposedly does (go into the corner with his head down and sort of finish a check but not really do anything resembling an effective forecheck, or look like you are hustling a lot on defense, but only because you have to take six strides to get from the blue line to the red line and because you got beat in the first place…I guess), but not with three.

This isn’t to say that the Sharks can’t win the cup. They have plenty of guys who are capable of filling the third and fourth lines. Jamie McGinn, Logan Couture and Benn Ferierro all can bring secondary scoring, yet they sit in Worchester. Hell, even Ryan Vesche, Mike McCarthy, or Steve Zalewski could do what those three do, but with a bit more upside. The obvious counter that the Sharks need those guys to drop the gloves (Staubitz and Shelly anyways) doesn’t hold water either. Ryan Clowe and Douglas Murray are both capable, and have shown themselves willing to police the other team should they take liberties with the likes of Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau. The counter that they need those guys on the ice would be a fair, if debatable one, but still doesn’t excuse the presence of those two. Frazier McLaren scrapped in well over half of the games that he played in this year, but did so while being a capable power forward and NOT TAKING DUMB PENALTIES AND TURNING THE DAMN PUCK OVER. Yet for some reason, since Shelly has been healthy, McLaren has sat in favor of the worthless veteran.

(I wrote that I liked McLaren way more than Shelly when Shelly was hurt, and hoped that he had proven that Shelly wasn’t needed. It appeared to me, at least, that he had, but Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan thought otherwise, and I want to vomit…so there you go)

Ultimately, one of these guys has to go. Personally I would dump all three and call up McLaren, Couture and McGinn, but that isn’t going to happen. Instead I would settle for one being replaced which alone, in my mind would make the Sharks the favorites that they should be. If I had to chose one, it would be Nichol, because Staubitz and Shelly at least fight, which does have an effect on the team (knowing that someone has their back, and getting them charged up after a scrap), while Nichol is, as far as I can tell, completely worthless. Unfortunately, Scott has compromising pictures of everyone involved with the Sharks, including every fan but me or something, because people seem to think he doesn’t suck (and don’t give me this “he is a hustle guy” crap…you know who else hustles? 99.9% of the players in the NHL. You don’t have to mention it, though, because they actually have skills you can talk about instead).

Between Staubitz and Shelly, then, I would have to go with Shelly to get the axe from the lineup. Really, it is pretty much a tossup, but Staubitz, while far from a consistent player, shows flashes of belonging in the NHL and can play the point in a pinch (although if he has to, the Sharks are in trouble). For Shelly, aside from dropping the mitts, the only thing I have ever heard for him is that he is a good guy in the dressing room. Fantastic. 2 counters to that. First of all, he can be as good a guy as he wants in the room as a healthy scratch. Let’s try that. Second, I would say the same thing that I said regarding hustle. Thornton is great in the room. He is also great on the ice though, unlike Shelly. As such, we tend to focus on his leading the league in assists, where as with Shelly we have to waste time pretending that if he wasn’t there being so likable, the Sharks might actually win fewer hockey games.

I know this sounds angry and bitter for a fan whose team is on top of the Western Conference and is playing pretty well, but this really bothers me. People talk about how the Sharks haven’t won in the playoffs because they choke, or because guys like Marleau and Thornton aren’t ‘playoff guys.’ The same people seem to think that we need to change what has been the best team in the league over the last season and a half because they played six bad games at the worst possible time and ran into a hot goaltender. I don’t buy that. Hockey is hockey, be it in October or May and the Sharks are a good enough team to win sixteen games without losing four of seven. I am convinced of that. Sure, they can tinker to make the team better (the Wallin trade making it so that they don’t have to dress two rookie defensemen at once, or Jay Leach at all being a good example), but there is no reason to do anything drastic.

The problem is, this year is the last chance. Nabby, Marleau, Blake, Malhotra, Ortmeyer and the three guys I just destroyed are all UFAs. Pavelski and Setto are RFAs, and will almost certainly demand raises. That means to be under cap, the Sharks are almost certainly going to look a little bit different next year (especially since none of the contracts coming off are bad deals). I really believe that this team is good enough to at least win the Western Conference, probably the cup, and they have an arsenal of young talent that can help them get there by filling out the third and fourth line. The problem is, you can’t win the cup with three players that don’t contribute. One? Yes. Two? Probably. Anything more? No way. I would hate to see the last chance ruined by playing guys like Shelly, Staubitz and Nichol for their faux toughness and grit over more capable pieces that can get this team where it wants to be.


Scott Nichol said...

First of all, FUCK YOU.
I have skills, i just choose not to use them. wanna know why? because i'm a fuckin team player. put the team before myself. I don't want to be out there showing up joe thornton or pat marleau... psh 38 goals... i scored 43 in peewee b. so suck on that. as for a hart trophy... i won the coaches award 17 straight times. try finding that on Joe thornton's resume. One time i played goalie just to see how it feels. I won. know why i won? because i'm scott fuckin nichol. I make shit happen out there. i'm really really good... i swear.I don't need Dany heatley. that guy is a turn over king.

Dany Heatley said...

Scott Nichol, who the fuck are you? 3 goals in 59 games? are you kidding me? Try being a team player and putting your ass on a plane to Worchester.