San Jose Sharks Approaching Rough Waters (Part 3 of 3)

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(Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE)

For the first month of the Sharks’ offseason, the leadership among the forwards in San Jose has been micro analyzed and thrown on and off the trade block, only to be thrown back on again. As a result, San Jose Sharks’ fans are probably suffering from collective whiplash.

With the draft weekend producing multiple blockbusters over the last couple years, don’t think the bulldozing-wielding Doug Wilson won’t let one of his own pass him by in Philadelphia.

Oilers-Sharks Draft Night Forward Swap Potential

One possible scenario come draft night is for San Jose trading one of their many centers to a team holding one of the first five picks and is a few pieces away from completing a rebuild of their own.  Of the centers currently on the Sharks’ roster, Couture and Pavelski would be the only ones worthy of a top-5 selection in return without the pairing of an additional draft pick. Thornton and Marleau have age working against them so the thought is both would have to waive their NTC and be packaged with the No. 20 overall selection the Sharks currently hold. Plus, Edmonton has to have their seven-year rebuild click sometime right?

The last thing the Oilers need is another prospect to be relied on from their first NHL game, so stepping out of the No. 3 overall selection for an established and team-altering NHL veteran seems like a small price to pay for a team that hasn’t written the best formula for success via rebuild.

The ideal swap for the Oilers would be to land Joe Thornton, upon approval from Jumbo Joe, along with the Sharks’ 20th overall pick and return Sam Gagner and their No. 3 pick.

Would the return on Gagner be enough?

With the swap, the Sharks get younger all the way around, acquire a playmaking pivot who can play behind Couture and Pavelski. For Gagner, he gets the change of scenery he’s craved for some time. Doug Wilson makes his power move and could end up landing the draft’s best defenseman in Aaron Eckblad if he slips past Florida and Buffalo who hold the first two picks.

If this scenario plays out, expect Gagner to have a similar resurgence to what former Oiler teammate Andre Cogliano has experienced with Anaheim- reduced role with increased production and value.

The Oilers get what might be the first of the last dominoes to fall in their long chilly trek back to playoff hockey and a much-needed tutor for their young forwards, specifically Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who is still only 21 year old.

With the current roster, minus the newly-retired Ryan Smyth, the Oilers’ forwards average age is 25. And if there’s a quick fix for NHL wisdom in a young locker room, it’s Thornton. Plus, the lack of power play consistency year to year would evaporate with Jumbo Joe running the show.

Already the thought of Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall receiving passes from Thornton has turned into lofty expectations, perhaps the highest of the Oilers’ last five seasons where every year they’re on the brink of becoming NHL darlings once again. With Joe Thornton, Hall would easily become a 30-goal scorer for the first time in his NHL career and show off long stretches of real dominance and flash for the first time in his young career. Just slow down, though.  Oilers’ GM Craig MacTavish hasn’t shown great chutzpah before.

The State of the Sharks’ Forwards

As for the rest of the roster, depth is the most glaring weakness on the wings. If the Sharks choose to keep their centers, there are still moves to be made.  Clearly evidenced in the Kings series, the Sharks lack the ability to roll four lines with wingers that are all dangerous on the rush and can slow the opposition’s top-two lines enough.

Last July, the thought was free agent signee Tyler Kennedy would create plenty of headaches on a checking line with Andrew Desjardins and Adam Burish,  only played in 67 games and averaged 12:43 of ice time.

(Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports)

When speaking of UFA targets in 2014, one of the most underrated players in the league since his debut has been Radim Vrbata. He is as crafty offensively as he is underrated on defense. With the Coyotes, he has finished with fewer than 25 penalty minutes in every season in the desert. He probably reached his peak offensively, but can still tally 20 goals and has over 30 games of playoff experience.  He can also provide some added companionship to fellow Czech Tomas Hertl.

While the free agent pool isn’t as top-heavy as years past and with San Jose not in need of a big-fish grab on offense, the Sharks will be looking for experienced, two-way forwards who may make the difference in the development and length of the looming rebuild in San Jose. Ryan Jones, Daniel Winnik would be good, example-setting players for a team looking to skew itself a little younger and tougher.

The Two Teal Elephants in the Room

San Jose Sharks(Icon SMI)

But eventually, the question still remains what to do with Thornton and Marleau.

In reality, the Sharks are still not that far away from a deep playoff run. Thornton and Marleau can still carry an offense and rack up points. They can be shifted and paired with any line combination due to their skill level and they might even have to yield to another career season from Pavelski or the rapid uprise of Hertl. After all, Doug Wilson has said he wants to see the younger Sharks step forward as leaders and make the 2014-2015 Sharks “their team”.

The San Jose Sharks had a pretty significant slip-up in the postseason. It’s as if a teenager pulled a Ferris Bueller and skipped a week’s worth of school before finals. Do you punish the child harshly and send him to a boarding school for the next few years to shape up for what in reality will be water under the bridge in no time or do you dole out more enforcement in the rules and a second chance to prevent the same type of complacency?

Wilson is the parent, Marleau and Thornton the teenagers who still have all the talent. they just need the fire relit underneath them.