My Two Cents for June 29th, 2013:
Don't Call Them Second City- This past Monday night the Chicago Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in the last four years when the defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. The way the Blackhawks won Game 6 was something of which legends are made with an ending to the game in which nobody would have predicted. Even if Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland never make it into the NHL Hall of Fame as players, they will still make their namesakes in the HOF as Stanley Cup heroes. Bickell and Bolland (forever to be known in the City of Boston as the "KIller B's") combined to score the two fasted goals in Stanley Cup Final's history that would lead to determining the champion, doing so in the final 76 seconds of Game 6. The disappointment for Boston was to be that close to forcing a seventh and deciding game and being seemingly in control of the game as time was starting to wind down. You however have to give full credit to the Blackhawks not only for what they accomplished throughout the season and in the playoffs, but how they accomplished it as well. The Blackhawks at one point back in the second round trailed the Detroit Red Wings three games to one before winning Game 5 at home. In Game 6 of this series they were within 20 minutes of elimination when things turned around in their favor. The huge Game 6 comeback in Detroit followed by a Game 7 Overtime victory (after being denied the game winning goal with under two minutes remaining in regulation) was the catalyst for Chicago's success going forward.
Against the defending and now former Champion Los Angeles Kings, the Blackhawks took the first two games at home before gaining a hard fought split in Southern California. Game 5 was also won in overtime as the Kings made the Blackhawks earn the Western Conference Crown. This is what galvanized Chicago going into the Stanley Cup finals. There was no deficit they could not overcome or conquer. They were not just Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, they were a complete team with a complete package. Many of the players that you do not hear as much about such as the Bickell's and Bolland's of the world were the one who did much of the heavy lifting throughout the entire post season. Kane was the assist leader in the post season for the Blackhawks with 19, while Bickell had 17. Patrick Sharp lead the Blackhawks in post season goals with 10 while Toews was held to three. Toews did get assist on 11 other goals, however it was the entire team that worked well as a unit all season long. Every single line the Blackhawks put out on the ice was a threat to score or at minimum wreak havoc for the opposition. As for goalie Corey Crawford, he followed Antti Niemi's lead with the team from three years earlier and gave Chicago quality starts in the net when it was most needed. This is what championship teams do. It is not about one player, it is about an entire team coming together being united on one and only one goal. The Blackhawks did this better than anybody else this season and that's why today they are standing atop the NHL mountain with the Stanley Cup in their possession for the summer.
As the offseason is now well underway and starting with Sunday's draft and free agency (July 5th), lots of movement will be going on. Players will be traded, free agents will be signed both from within organizations as well as from the outside. However in Chicago, unlike the purge they had after they won the Cup after the 2009-10 season, I have an idea that this time they are going to keep as much of that club together as they can. For one, it would simply be in their own best interest, and for another they have a team that if done right could be on top of Mt Stanley for a few years to come. Dynasties in the NHL are becoming more of a rarity, however Chicago could legitimately have a few years of a run left in them and it would not come as a surprise. Congrats the the Chicago Blackhawks on their winning the Stanley Cup and showing the NHL how a championship organization functions. The Chicago Blackhawks are now the gold standard in the NHL, bar none.
A Class Act- The Blackhawks not only won this season's Stanley Cup title, but likely the respect of many fans who's rooting interest is not even with the Blackhawks or any other Chicago based sports franchise. The Blackhawks franchise in Friday's edition of the Chicago Tribune took out a full page ad with an open letter to the Boston Bruins organization, fans and the City of Boston. The letter thanked the Bruins franchise and fans for the class they demonstrated thought the Stanley Cup series even after Blackhawks had won Game 6 and the Stanley Cup title. The letter also acknowledged the recent situations the City of Boston has had to deal with, and that the organization appreciated and supported the City of Boston as well. This was nothing short of a very solid and class move by the Blackhawks. Boston has been through a spring that it probably could not ever had imagined beforehand. Boston has rallied and is still dealing with those situations, but that clearly has not changed who Bostonian's are. As we saw in the Stanley Cup playoffs and even outside of the sports world, nobody is going to keep the City of Boston down and that they will emerge from this spring much stronger than when they came into it. The phrase "Boston Strong" is for real and forever.
NHL Draft: Sharks' Future Is On the Clock- The NHL draft which starts Sunday will without a single doubt be the biggest draft in the history of the San Jose Sharks franchise. This is for a few reasons. For starters and to state the obvious the Sharks are a team about to hit "flux" in a major way. With the contracts of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau running out after the 2013-14 season, the Sharks have do decide how the franchise is going to move going forward. The future is on the Sharks doorstep whether they want it there or not. Singing Logan Couture to a long term extension (and Couture agreeing to such an extension) means the Sharks are looking to Couture as the face of the franchise going forward. Couture is putting as much faith into the Sharks organization as they are in him. The Sharks will be looking to build a team around Couture. To do that, the Sharks have to find players that have speed, quicks, can handle the puck efficiently and have a better than average ability go get the puck into the net too. This will not be an easy undertaking for the Sharks organization, but it is a process that must begin and must begin now.
General Manager Doug Wilson, who has in the past traded away both draft choices and high caliber players from the minors in multiple unsuccessful bids to try and win a Stanley Cup, now must take care of this draft and re-stocking the farm system. Both Wilson and and Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke will be in New Jersey at the NHL draft site to find players that will fit the mold of a team that they want to build around Couture. In many ways Couture is already the prototype of player that can lead a team into deep post season runs. He will be the type of player that others want to follow (i.e.= a Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane type of player for example). Those players will be hard to find to be certain. The Sharks have eight picks in this draft, four of which are in the first two rounds. With the farm system in the shape that it's in, this draft will in many ways shape the Sharks future. If the Sharks have a poor draft or try to trade major parts of it away for one player who might get the Sharks over the proverbial hump, they will be just wasting their time and shouldn't bother. This time around, this draft is about a commitment to the future of the organization, not a quest for next season's "Quick fix". The Sharks team as it is right now does not need nearly as much fixing as does their farm system.
Both Wilson and Burke know that they cannot afford to screw this one up. They have to draft smart, draft solid and with they type of player that can get up to speed with the organization.The good news here is that this is reportedly a very deep draft which will give the Sharks a number of good options. Wilson and Burke need to make the right calls here, and they know it. Nobody is as concerned as how the Worcester Sharks do in the AHL as they are with how the players are developed. Obviously, if Worcester does well that boasts well for the San Jose Sharks. If Worcester though is missing the mark, chances are so are those who are supposed to be developing the players at that level. Also, it is up to the Sharks as an organization to define and bring about the types of players that can take this franchise to where they want to go (if the Stanley Cup here is the ultimate goal). Couture is the most successful draft choice they Sharks have ever made. Aside from a long term extension, if the Sharks want to reward Couture further, they owe it to him to draft responsibly here and start to assemble a team that they can build around him. Also, when Tomas Hertl arrives at the Sharks training camp in September, the time to get him going and develop him is immediately. This is the future of this franchise. If done right they Sharks could enjoy success in the future even after the days of Thornton and Marleau are done. If the Sharks don't succeed here, they are then with all do respect to their franchise the next Edmonton Oilers (not the one's who had Gretzky either).
What To Do With Martin Havlat- Martin Havlat came to the Sharks two years ago in a trade that send the disgruntled Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild. It's safe to say at this point though it is a bit of a surprise too that the Wild got the better of the exchange. I'm not saying the Sharks should have kept Heatley, he wasn't a fit period. However, for whatever reason it is clear that Havlat hasn't exactly worked out for the Sharks either. You could call this "Heatley's Revenge", or maybe more to the point "Milan Michalek's revenge". Now that Havlat has undergone major surgery described as "...a bi-lateral pelvic floor reconstruction", it's clear Havlat will never skate another shift for team teal. As things have worked out, perhaps he shouldn't either. The problem however for the Sharks now is that because Havlat underwent this procedure, the Sharks by league rule cannot buy out his contract. This means the Sharks now have a $5 Million dollar hit on their cap for the next two seasons from a player who may not even be able to even practice let alone play and be of any positive impact whatsoever.
So the question for the Sharks becomes what can they do to save the money from counting against their cap since they're is no way any other team with a sane General Manager would ever consider taking Havlat and his problems out of team teal's hands. A trade is not a possibility either because of a No Trade Clause in Havlat's contract, and the Sharks could not get a used puck bag for him at this point anyway. Since this and the witness protection program are not an option here, the Sharks need to find a way to get Havlat to agree to take a demotion. Havlat knows, and probably has known that he may not be able to function as a player at the NHL level any longer. Even if Havlat somehow makes a miraculous recovery in the same vain of let's say NFL running back Adrian Peterson did, if he had any value as a player it would be limited. Havlat is much closer to the end of his playing career than when it started and he knows it too. When your pelvic floor is reconstructed, you are not going to come out of that feeling like you are 18 again.
The Sharks should first do what will likely be nothing more than a mere formality and that is to put Havlat on waivers. Havlat will not be claimed, but that's to be expected. Once that's over and done with the Sharks just simply must ask Havlat not to report to camp. Havlat likely wont do that either and really doesn't need to, he's getting paid whether or not he plays anyway. Once Havlat is recovered he may go back to either Europe or even the KHL just to get his game back in order. If he appears in the NHL again, it will mostly likely be in another team's sweater. New Majority Owner Hasso Plattner cannot be thrilled about having to shell out $10 million to someone who's really not working for him, but his choices will be few. The most important thing for the Sharks is to get Havlat to a spot within the organization where his $10 million does not strike against the team's cap space.
The only good news for the Sharks on this front is that two years from now this Havlat episode will be over with anyway baring that he personally agrees with team to a buyout before that. Truthfully, the best thing here would be for Mr Plattner to meet with Havlat and his agent and workout a private agreement that is acceptable to all parties and the league.
Sharks Interested in Vincent Lecavalier- This past Thursday the Tampa Bay Lightning released franchise stalwart Vincent Lecavalier after 14 seasons making him a free agent. Fansided's Golden Gate Sports released a story today noting that team teal has interest in former Lighting's center. This was also reported by ESPN's man on the NHL, Pierre LeBrun. Lecavalier if he were to don a teal jersey would certainly be another well seasoned veteran that could help the Sharks and would provide another player with a better than average goal scoring touch. In his 14 year career, Lecavalier 383 goals and 874 career points. This is all well and good however there is also the issue with the salary cap. The Sharks in order to afford Lecavalier would have to clear significant cap space. Since it will be difficult to get Havlat off of the books any time soon, and the only other options involve players in the final year of contracts with no trade clauses. Truthfully, the odds of Lecavalier ending up in teal are pretty much slim and none. Wherever Lecavalier ends up he will still command some major money and not many teams right now can afford that type of a contact, let alone the Sharks. Though it's a nice thought to have a player of Lecavalier's experience (plus being a former teammate of the Sharks Dan Boyle), I just don't see this happening or at least how it would happen. If Havlat could be bought out, this might have been a possibility otherwise.*
Free Agency Day July 5th- Hockey's version of Independence Day, also known as free agency day will take place this coming Friday. This is the date that networks such as NHL network and TSN in Canada will go wall to wall with free agency signings. The Sharks in this offseason were probably only concerned with signing a handful of players, Raffi Torres who was scheduled to be UFA, Logan Couture to a long term deal, and players such as Andrew Desjardins, Jason Demers and James Sheppard. All of these players will be with team teal next season, with Torres and Couture committed beyond 2013-14. Last season Adam Burish was signed to a four year $18 million deal on the second day of the free agency market. Don't look for the Sharks to be too active on July 5th baring a major change in philosophy which is somewhat unlikely. The Sharks offices will be open on July 5th to officially sign Torres, Couture, Dejardins, Demers and Sheppard and maybe anyone else that is either extended or comes along. On July 6th, they'll be on vacation until September.
Fourth of July- If you are celebrating the 4th of July have a safe celebration and have fun celebrating America's 237th birthday. Give hockey the day off and enjoy family. That's really what it's all about...
...Just My Two Cents...
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