SAN JOSE- Thus far this offseason the San Jose Sharks have been deservedly mocked and criticized for a number of moves. Whether it’s their on ice transactions in signing enforcers Mike Brown and John Scott, their GM Doug Wilson using the word “rebuild”, or their business moves of both adding ice girls and letting go beloved color commentator Drew Remenda, the Sharks have been making few fans this offseason.
Coming off the franchise’s worst ever first round playoff collapse, blowing a 3-0 lead against the LA Kings, you would think bringing in fans would be a priority.
All that said, while none of the aforementioned moves make much sense at all, trading either of their longest tenured super stars in Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau would take the cake.
Moving out either player would make no sense, none, zippo, zero, zilch, nada, well, you get the point.
Before anyone calls me a fan boy or a homer, there are numerous practical reasons for not moving either player. And as many of my consistent readers know, I’m not a Patrick Marleau fan, his style of play often drives me up the wall.
That said, Thornton and Marleau are simply too valuable to give up, particularly when you consider both possess full no movement clauses in their contracts.
Due to having those clauses, there is no way, shape, or form that the Sharks could get near full value back in terms of players and or draft choices because the trading destinations are limited to whichever contending teams that they would agree to play for. Thornton, Marleau, and the teams interested in acquiring them would have the upper hand in any negotiations.
Furthermore while Thornton and Marleau will be 35 this upcoming season, they are still as dominant as ever. Marleau had yet another 30 goal season and Thornton finished second in the league in assists behind only Sidney Crosby, yeah, that Sidney Crosby.
If real life was like the NHL ’14 video game, sure, trading either Thornton or Marleau for younger, better stars like Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, or Steven Stamkos would make the Sharks better. In real life though, that’s never going to happen.
And for fans of Team Teal that constantly criticizing Thornton and Marleau for not outplaying their star counterparts, please, give it a rest. These two are some of the best the NHL has to offer. All Star games, individual trophies and nominations, gold medals with Team Canada, elite playoff points per game rates, two-way play, they have it all.
Plus, last I checked, none of the other stars in the league are beating Kopitar, Kane, and Toews either. Their clubs have accounted for four out of the last five Stanley Cup championships, and the last two seasons the only teams to beat them in the playoffs have been each other.
Now because Chicago and LA (the only two teams clearly better than the Sharks) have star players that are younger and slightly better than Thornton and Marleau, that means that it is all the more important for the Sharks to overcome that difference with a stronger bottom six and better depth defensemen.
Only problem is over the last few seasons, the Sharks have also had less depth at both forward and defense than that of the Blackhawks and Kings. And in this case, the difference between their role players and that of the Kings/Hawks is much greater than the difference in skill guys.
Because of their advanced age, Thornton and Marleau need more help than Toews, Kane and Kopitar but their GM and coaching staff has given them less help.
The Sharks weren’t going to win the Stanley Cup with Brad Stuart playing top-4 minutes last year, Antti Niemi struggling, and James Sheppard getting smoked in the face-off circle on the third line. San Jose had clear cut obvious problems at the lower parts of the lineup and all casual fans want to do is blame Thornton and Marleau.
Unfortunately you can probably blame the stupid and actually wrong “your best players have to be better than their best players” cliché. No, no, the proper notion is that your best players have to be your best players. They don’t necessarily have to be better than the opponents best as long as your depth guys can outshine the opponents’ depth.
Did Thornton and Marleau play well the last three games against the Kings? Of course they didn’t. They could have played a lot better, but even great players have 2-3 games (even in the playoffs) where they are just slightly off their game. But if you are going to bank on a player turning his game around, it is much more likely for stars like Marleau or Thornton to get it back then to see improvements out of guys like Stuart, Sheppard, or Niemi.
With some better depth performances the Sharks are right on the cusp of winning that elusive Stanley Cup. Trading away the top players for less than they’re worth right now would be a brutal mistake.
As always, for more on the Sharks, follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch
(And for the record, I’m a big fan of Sheppard as a winger, just not at the center position.)