When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened — John M. Richardson, Jr., American University.
After two straight conference finals losses, a big move had to be made.
With Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture all under club control for at least the next two years, the offense is poised to remain high-octane for the foreseeable future. In net, Antti Niemi rolled 11’s in 2010-11, posting the league’s 11th best save percentage and 11th highest win total, and remains under contract for the next four seasons.
And then there’s the defense.
The lunch pail brigade that came to work every day last season managed to get the job done, albeit in the shadow of an offense comprised of seemingly 83 household names. Conversely, aside from Dan Boyle, even Sharks’ fans had trouble recognizing the names on the back of some of the defensive sweaters at the end of the year. Jason Demers was just 22 years old, Marc-Edwouard Vlasic 24. Douglas Murray was a shutdown defensemen toiling in standard obscurity. Ian White played for so many teams last year, he didn’t know which sweater to put on until he checked the lineup card. Niclas Wallin was advancing in years to the degree that he was beginning to forget his own last name. Kent Huskins’ career potential as cited by Faceoff.com was tersely described as “depth defenseman”.
Given the 1-2 defensive punch of division rival Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, along with Christian Ehrhoff/Alexander Edler of Vancouver, Nicklas Lidstrom/Niklas Kronwall of Detroit (note to Kronwall: grow a “c”), Brent Seabrook/Duncan Keith of Chicago, Shea Weber/Ryan Suter of Nashville, and other similarly-armed duos, Boyle/Vlasic just didn’t quite cut it. In a clear effort to ramp up the arms race and shore up the only significant area of relative mediocrity on the club, General Manager Doug Wilson swung a major trade, dealing right winger Devin Setoguchi, 2010 1st round selection Charlie Coyle and their 2011 first round pick (ultimately selecting Zack Phillips) to the Minnesota Wild for 26-year old All Star blueliner Brent Burns and a 2012 second-round pick.
“We understand his demeanor, the way he carries himself, the energy he brings to the rink, and obviously his hockey skills come into play,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “We were more sure of our opinion because of our past experience with him.” He also termed Burns a “hybrid” player, due to his 6’5″, 219-pound frame, ability to play with a physical edge, elite-level speed and terrific offensive sense. In addition, he is a converted right winger, always a plus when it comes to versatility, pinching, and coverage during roster emergencies.
Burns scored 17 goals last year for the Wild, ranking third amongst defenseman in the league. His 46 total points tied for 14th, ahead of Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Ryan Suter, and the “c”-less Niklas Kronwall, amongst others. He scored 15 goals for Minnesota in 2007-08, but had his next two seasons significantly reduced by concussions. Nevertheless, he’s generally been durable, as he’s logged 72 or more games played in five of his seven NHL seasons.
The jury is still out with respect to the defensive aspects of his game. He led the Wild in giveaways by a wide margin last season, and posted a -10 plus/ minus — tied for third worst on the team. However, he can do this:
Burns looks like he’s toying with Jason Jaffray in this fight. Maybe he feels sorry for him.
Segoguchi will no doubt be missed, as he tallied 31 goals and 65 points just three seasons ago. However, he has battled inconsistency throughout the early stages of his career, with his numbers regressing since then. More to the point, the Sharks had to deal from strength in order to shore up a weakness. This trade does just that, arguably for both teams.
Later in the day, the draft was held in the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Left without a first round pick, San Jose selected left winger Matt Niento (47th), defenseman Justin Sefton (89th), center Sean Kuraly (133rd), center Daniil Sobchenko (166th), defenseman Dylan Demelo (179th) and center Colin Blackwell (194th). But the Shark that jumped was newly-acquired Brent Burns, and with that, San Jose moved closer still to their first Stanley Cup. If and when eventually etched onto the Cup, even Niclas Wallin won’t be able to forget his own name
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.