The San Jose Sharks traded a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to the Edmonton Oilers for rugged forward Mike Brown Tuesday, October 22. This might seem not seem to be a significant move, but it may complete the puzzle of a team in transition.
The Sharks under general manager Doug Wilson have always been a skilled team. He sacrificed youth and speed for multiple players to add toughness either to back teammates or "get that five or six inches closer to the net" as coach Todd McLellan stated in the 2009 State of the Sharks event. When that did not work, he adapted.
San Jose is still making the transition from an offensive-zone team to an all-zone team. While always good defensively, the lack of team speed forced them to set up in inside the blue line to be successful. That began to change leading up to the NHL trade deadline last spring.
They are also in transition from an aging team to a young one. CSN California broadcaster Drew Remenda pointed out that 24-year old Logan Couture called some of his teammates "young guys" in a post-game interview. They have two prominent rookies and several that have dressed during the 2013-14 NHL season after coming into it with fewer than 10 games played: Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto, Freddie Hamilton, Bracken Kearns, Matt Pelech and Alex Stalock.
Dan Boyle is the only player to have seen his 35th birthday, and he was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Only six other players are over 30 years old, but 15 are younger than Brown, whose 28th birthday was this past summer. Wilson made clear what he thinks his newest forward brings to the table:
Mike plays a speed game and fits the 'Fast, Hard and Supportive' mantra that our team wants to play with. He is a player with tremendous character, knows the Western Conference well and brings a tough, physical ingredient to our line-up.
This may sound a lot like what Wilson said when the team signed Adam Burish in 2012. With him on injured reserve, Brown seems a slightly younger, slightly worse offensive player to take his place. He is a veteran of 289 NHL games, donning sweaters for the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs. He has just 26 points but 591 penalty minutes (zero and 19 in eight games during the 2013-14 NHL season), and can certainly give the team sandpaper while Raffi Torres is out.
It would not make sense for Wilson to trade a mid-round draft pick for a veteran to sit in the press box. His arrival and the ahead-of-schedule recovery of forward Martin Havlat combine to have quite an effect on the photo list of four other forwards fighting for a spot on San Jose's roster.