Last summer I was baffled by Doug Wilson’s failure to sign the savior-like defenseman the team needed. The way I saw it, if he let Nabby go to clear cap space, he should have snapped up some fancy, preferably Czech, blueliner. You know, to make up for making some fans so very sad. I had Zbynek Michalek in mind, but there were others out there, like Hamhuis.
Michalek spent a good portion of this season injured and not playing for the Penguins. That could not have been anticipated. Hamhuis, likewise, sustained multiple concussions, though I don’t think anyone would argue he didn’t still help his team a lot. Also, he really really wanted to go to Vancouver.
Essentially, no one who was on my radar ended up rescuing or carrying any team to the Stanley Cup. Could Wilson have traded for someone else? Except for Meszaros, I don’t remember any defenseman moves that really knocked my socks off. Mesz was just slightly out of the Sharks’ price range last season, and if you are going to trade you need to be willing to give up something the other team wants. I won’t guess about whether Wilson could have gotten Meszaros before the Flyers did, but I can be sure that Holmgren is a very determined opponent in such deals.
In essence, I can’t point to any one thing Wilson did not do last year, but that he could have done, that hobbled the team this year. I don’t know everything but nothing glaring jumps out at me.
When news of the Wallin re-signing broke, I was able to come up with a lot of reasons why maybe Wallin was better than he seemed during the Spring of 2010. That turned out to be fairly accurate too. He was better this year than last.
Could Wilson have found someone marginally better still? Could the Sharks have used Braun, or Moore or even Petrecki? Maybe, but it seems like none of them were quite ready for prime time this season. Could Wilson have found someone marginally better than Wallin, who would sign for just one year? I don’t know, I sort of doubt it. The fact that he was already familiar with the team and the NHL added some value. And if no super savior was waiting in the wings, why not stick with the guy you already have?
Wilson conceded that maybe he should have picked up Eager, White and Wellwood sooner than he did, that the team could have used some shoring up earlier:
“In my own mind, I shouldn’t have waited until Jan. 17,” he said of the transactions that added Ian White, Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager to the lineup.
The Sharks were mired at the bottom of the Pacific Division at that point before reaching the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, a strenuous climb that both Wilson and coach Todd McLellan said may have come back to haunt San Jose in the playoffs. -Working the Corners
Maybe. Probably. But it seems that, rather than just being inattentive, he was hoping for more improvement from some of the younger players. He was hoping they might peak a little early. They didn’t.
The Sharks have a lot of UFAs this summer, so far unsigned. I think Wilson hopes, maybe believes with good reason, that the players he was waiting for are ready to out-do the players hired to carry the team through the wait.
Last summer I asked whether Wilson could in fact be working on a 2 year plan instead of a single go-for-bust season. Apparently this isn’t the done thing. A GM is always either going for broke, or overhauling the whole team (a rebuild) or just failing by having no clear plan at all. Obviously the Sharks were not in a rebuild mode, so they had to be going for broke or failing.
I’ll go out on a limb and disagree with these absolutes. Fate is, after all, what you make it.
Wilson doesn’t get a lot of love from the fan base for his drafting history. I can’t comment on that. I can’t even be sure that what I was seeing later in the year from the Worcester crew was for real. Did they look better because they were more rested, more eager, younger, than the opposition? I don’t know. But they looked pretty good to me.
I don’t think the high-end blueliner is in there. But with additional cap space and all of these guys to fill in around him, there may finally be some real room for a single big spend. If that happens, it will indeed look like last year’s plan was really just the preamble to this year’s plan. Or, as some might see it, the start of a two-year plan. Hell, it could even take three years. I see progress, I can wait.