Three major additions. That’s all it takes to win over most of the fans that had their pitchforks at the end of last season. Apparently. After an offseason a year prior where the marquee signing was John Scott, Doug Wilson has seemingly gotten the message and this offseason is the product of that.
Fresh Faces in San Jose
Not only are the new guys surprising additions from a GM that has been historically gun shy at free agency, but they are former members of teams with playoff success.
The biggest hole in San Jose was the man in the crease. THW itself was engaged in the debate on which free agent netminder was best for the Sharks. And all of us missed the target. Martin Jones had already been moved once in the offseason from LA to Boston. Shrewd business practices and a gamble on a high price landed the former King in a teal sweater. Plus, he’s got over a decade left on his odometer.
Jones has just as much NHL experience as veteran Shark, Alex Stalock. Despite a record breaking debut into a starting role, Jones remains unproven. Where Sharks fans are looking optimistic is in his career in the minors. Stalock was inconsistent in the AHL while Jones displayed strong seasons the Manchester Monarchs.
On the other end of the age spectrum, there is Paul Martin. Reconnecting with Larry Robinson from his days as a Devil, Martin is a veteran defenseman with a winning pedigree. He enters this season as one of the few Sharks that has seen extended playoff action.
While he is in the twilight of his career, Martin recorded his highest goals for percentage since his Jersey days last season. His Corsi For has been over 50% 8 out of his 11 seasons as well. If he breaks even or plays anywhere near his usual self, he would upgrade the Sharks pitiful defense. Martin, in his prime, was a more refined and complete version of what Brent Burns is trying to be.
Another proven veteran. Joel Ward is the riskiest signing of the three. His experience is invaluable, yet his age may be an issue. Unlike Martin, who’s age is less of a problem for a defenseman, Ward may be losing his effectiveness. What Sharks fans need to do, is reevaluate where they see Ward contributing.
The former Capital is going to make an upgrade to the third line, but anything above that may be above his head. The top line needs Joe Thornton to have Pavelski and another shooter. Ward is strong, but the top line would suffer with him there. With a downward trending Patrick Marleau laboring on the second line, placing him next to Couture and Marleau will only make Couture regress.
The third line is where Ward should live, and he will thrive there.
Breaking Patterns of Failure
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The last few Sharks seasons have been just that: insanity. Top heavy forward units with mediocre goalies and questionable defensive pairings. GM Wilson has finally decided to change his process.
He has usually kept his hat out of the free agency frenzy, but this year was different. With three major holes to fill, Wilson reminded Sharks fans that he wants this team to win just as much as they do. He also reminded them of how the Sharks established that decade-long playoff streak. Wilson is blending a mixture of youthful exuberance and veteran kn0w-how.
Each signing has its risks, but to do anything but make these moves would have created another bottom-dwelling finish. The shouts for his head have died down, and for his and all of San Jose’s sake, let’s hope they stay quiet.