Windows matter. Not the ones you roll down to blast your favorite Jurassic 5 song in the summer, but the ones that dictate your opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. The “window” is what brings you the Martin St. Louis trade, the Ryan Miller deal, and the Jarome Iginla acquisition last year. Your window can either open with a bang or come quietly through years of rebuilding, but it always seems to close right as you get your best team together. A team like the Avalanche just saw their Nathan McKinnon-sized window shoot open last year, while the Sharks have seemed to have theirs close every year since 2010. The window is simple, “Can you win before your franchise players become shells of their former selves forcing you to begin the long arduous rebuilding process?” The San Jose Sharks’ window, however, is not as easy to wrap one’s head around.
Blowing it Up and Starting the Sharks Rebuild Means Moving on Without Thornton and Marleau
The Sharks have a great team lead by two dynamic players. This much has been true for quite some time, but the debate now is which two dynamic players should be leading this organization going forward. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been San Jose’s unequivocal stars taking them into battle and leading them as far as they can each year. Both are on the wrong side of 30 (34 to be exact) and depending on who you ask, General Custer had better luck leading men into battle than these two. Thornton and Marleau are still searching for a Stanley Cup in San Jose and never quite getting there has unfairly earned them the titles of “guys who can’t win the big one.” It clearly takes a very specific and special type of player to win the Stanley Cup and these two just don’t have “it.”
Two guys who might have “it” are Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, and many are clamoring for them to be the new faces of the Sharks. Both on the good side of 30 (Pavelski, 29 and Couture, 25 respectively) and both are definite, proven winners. Now, a normal person might ask, “How can two players be winners and two be losers if they’re on the same team?” That would be a very valid question, but “normal” people evidently aren’t Sharks fans, or at least not vocal ones, because a shakeup must be made. If you make your way over to Capgeek.com you’ll see all four players are locked up at fair deals through the 2016-17 season (Thornton and Marleau come off the books then, Pavelski and Couture come off after 2018-19). So, why the sudden need to trade them? Simply put, the Sharks’ window is closing. In 2017, Thornton and Marleau will both be 37 years old, the torch will have long been passed to Couture and Pavelski, and nothing will be guaranteed in regards to what they will have left in the tank. The desire for fans to get a good return on these two players while they can is admirable, albeit foolish.
Thornton and Marleau carry cap hits of $6.75 and $6.66 million a season, which is deserving for how well they’ve played as of late, but the key words there are “as of late.” No team is going to trade a young, top prospect or a skilled, youthful player to take on the salary of a 34-year-old, no matter how good that player is (remember this when the Leafs trade Nazem Kadri for Thornton in a week). The teams that would gladly take Thornton or Marleau are the teams the Sharks are not going to want to trade them to. For example, St. Louis, Anaheim, and Boston would all die to acquire one of those two, which should be a clear red flag to management. Why are you thinking about trading players that Stanley Cup caliber teams want? San Jose is hypothetically trading away what they would kill to be buyers on. All the Sharks would get out of a deal for either Thornton or Marleau is cap relief and a less talented team than before they were dealt. San Jose, please listen to me, you already have a great team.
You have a roster loaded with talent with the only glaring weakness being the need for a second puck-moving defenseman, *cough* Anton Stralman *cough.* You have a lineup that features Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and, oh yeah, up-and-coming superstar Tomas Hertl. Do not blow this up. Look at the 2012-13 New York Rangers. They kept Brad Richards for an extra year, and he rewarded them by being the team’s leading scorer in the regular season. They plugged in smart, skilled depth players that surrounded their big money guys and even made a deadline deal for another veteran scorer. Their reward? The Stanley Cup Final. Your window won’t be closed by 2015. In fact, it will have barely begun to shut at all. Buy-out Martin Havlat, try to sign Stralman, and give it one last run. If that doesn’t work? Blow it up.
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