The San Jose Sharks continue to be in the news even during the usual lull between the end of the season and the draft. Four team stories unrelated to the NHL awards show surfaced in the hours surrounding the event Tuesday, June 24.
The photo list includes all five news stories and the Pacific Daylight Time they were reported. The second story is from David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News and the fourth is the event results themselves previously covered on Examiner.com, while the other three stories are from CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz.
The first story went into detail about San Jose's position for the NHL draft that begins Friday. Quotes from general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke made it clear how much they are committed to the draft-and-develop philosophy.
Both look at the 2014 NHL draft as at least above average, and both see 2015 as a bountiful year. Wilson called having the appropriate seven picks this year—but an extra selection in the second and sixth rounds with none in the fourth or seventh rounds—as well as nine picks next summer "planned out in advance" before concluding:
We think our organization does a really good job of drafting and developing. If we didn’t think we did, we’d probably go into this phase a little bit more concerned, but most of our quality guys that we like, the way they play and the character that they have, have been homegrown people.
Could that have been a shot at Joe Thornton, drafted by the Boston Bruins and acquired in a trade? Probably not anymore than it would be at Raffi Torres, who Wilson has said in the past fits the style the team wants to play. After all, he did say "most of our quality guys" and there may be as many as 10 players on San Jose's active roster this fall acquired in a trade or free agency.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are probably the untouchable three Sharks that will be wearing letters on their sweaters. All are deserving new captains even if only one officially holds the position. (Do not be surprised if there is a rotation like Patrick Marleau went through in the first season he became captain, but do not expect it either.)
All three were team picks: Pavelski in the seventh round of 2003, Vlasic in the second round of 2005 and Couture eighth overall in 2007. Finally, all three are under 30 when the new contract year begins and may not have even peaked yet.
Contrast that to Thornton—a full five years older than Pavelski, the oldest of the homegrown crop Wilson referred to in the above quote. While the current captain's game has not fallen, it will during the three years of his new contract and he bears some responsibility for the team failing to close out a 3-0 series lead under his captaincy.
Just over two hours later, Pollack mentioned potential of a Thornton trade to six teams the very reliable Pierre LeBrun reported were interested in the center's services. Certainly he is one of the veterans Wilson was referring to that he told, "San Jose may not be a good fit for them as the team takes on step backward now to take two steps forward in the future." However, he also said that teams in a rebuild do not have to rush things.
The next piece by Kurz came out just before the NHL awards, stemming in part from an interview Marleau had on the red carpet. It seemed the lifetime Shark did not see things as badly as Wilson, saying the leadership issues were not a big deal. He did accept some things needed to change that were not revealed until the team failed, and he was clearly eager to prove to everyone that he can be part of a Stanley Cup championship the only place he has called home as an adult:
It's going to (stink) having to go through all the 82 games to get to the playoffs, to get to that point to actually do something about it.
Just as the NHL awards concluded without a San Jose winner, Kurz wrote that Pavelski was at least able to earn a second-team All-Star selection. The versatile 41-goal scorer played all three forward positions during the season and even was on the blue line on the power play, but was selected as the second left wing behind Jamie Benn and even finished seventh in the Hart Trophy voting for most valuable player.
He may be the kind of player the Sharks want to take over, but Wilson might as well make the best of the marriage to Thornton and Marleau he signed into when he gave them no-movement clauses. It does not appear either will offer him a divorce, even if he refuses to upgrade the parts around them.