The San Jose Sharks season, the 2019-20 version, is over in one sense. The team is not making the playoffs and without a playoff berth, there is no shot at a Stanley Cup. This is an unusual situation for Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.
Typically teams are grouped into two parts beginning this time of year: those who believe they have a shot at the Stanley Cup and those who have no shot. This latter group looks to the future.
The two groups create a trade market. Playoff hopefuls buy talent for this season from teams who sell talent in return for assets which may help in the future.
Doug Wilson and Trade Deadline Selling
The Sharks are sellers and there’s a lot of work being done to evaluate who is most likely leaving before the February 24 trade deadline. Which makes this a good time to look at the trade deadline history of Doug Wilson as a seller.
Wilson, who just received a vote of confidence from (rarely heard from) owner Hasso Plattner, has a history of making trades around the trade deadline. However, Wilson has only one experience being on the sell side in his 15 NHL seasons as a general manager. The remainder of the time, his team made the playoffs. The lone outlier occurred back in 2015 and the results were surprisingly modest.
During that time period in 2015, Wilson traded away James Sheppard, Freddie Hamilton, Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins. In return, the Sharks netted very little. A pair of low-end players, Karl Stollery and Ben Smith, plus a fourth-round draft pick. It wasn’t much, though the fourth-round pick turned into Noah Gregor. Gregor made his NHL debut with the Sharks earlier this season and he’ll likely get more ice time with the Sharks in the near future. All in all, though, it was a shockingly small return.
Other Relevant Trade Deadline Moves
One additional trade deadline stands out when Wilson did meaningful selling. This time, though, it came in a season the Sharks made the playoffs.
Many in Sharks Territory will recall the team trading two popular players in short order: Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray. These trades did not happen in a lost season. They happened in 2013, a year where the team went to the playoffs and won their opening round. The trades garnered the Sharks several high picks, including three second rounders. The Sharks also traded away Michal Handzus the same season.
A New Trade Era for Doug Wilson
The good news is the Sharks have been among the league’s better teams most every season for a decade and a half. As a result, there is only one season where Wilson’s Sharks were sellers at the trade deadline. But as a seller, the results were surprisingly modest. It doesn’t appear that season will serve as a guideline for this season’s moves.
This trade deadline is likely to be very different from any prior season in the Wilson era.
• Strange times as yet another former Sharks head coach found themselves coaching a division rival. Peter DeBoer is the new head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights. For many, the big surprise was not the hiring of DeBoer, but the firing of Gerard Gallant. Something doesn’t sit right about this, it is the second time Gallant took over a team, delivered substantially above expectations and got fired early in his term. Does he wear out his welcome quickly? DeBoer is a capable coach, and perhaps a change in leadership was needed. But in terms of style of play and getting more from less, Gallant delivered. As for whether the change is good for DeBoer and the Golden Knights, anything is possible. But it doesn’t appear Vegas has upgraded.
• Sharks players are going to pick out their own goal songs. The players seem excited about it. Given the team’s relative lack of chemistry, I’d be hesitant to individualize things further. But it probably falls under the category of an idea which makes no real difference. That said, marketing the Sharks isn’t so easy this season. Which leads to…
• Attendance at Sharks games has been modest this season and it is likely to decline following the All-Star Game. This is also the time of year season ticket renewals start. Season ticket holders will no doubt realize a growing gap between what they pay for tickets and the cost of tickets on the resale market. This gap makes season tickets less attractive. Will attendance be impacted if either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau were traded? If either player wants to get moved, the Sharks will accommodate the player. But from the business side, I’m guessing management prefers they stay.
• Marleau crossed the 1,700 games played mark in the Sharks recent win over the Dallas Stars. He is fifth all-time (now at 1703), and can pass Ron Francis and Jaromir Jagr if he plays all the team’s 32 remaining games. Only Mark Messier (1756) and Gordie Howe (1767, though he also played in the WHL) may be ahead of him by season’s end. No player has made it to 1,800 NHL games. Should Marleau play this season and next, he could be the first. Add in his 191 playoff games and he could cross the 2,000 mark for combined NHL regular season and playoff games. This is also something no one else has done. Messier is closest with 1,992. As of now, Marleau is six games from a combined 1,900, a mark only five others have reached. The aforementioned four, plus Chris Chelios.