Yesterday San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said that neither Dan Boyle nor Martin Havlat would be returning to the team next season. He also said Brent Burns would be going back to defense after playing forward for about a year and a half.
This is what might be the first in a list of moves to get, as what Wilson calls “a harder, younger, more aggressive team that will stay with it.” That also seems to be his motto moving forward, so it makes me wonder whether some of those who used to be untouchable are no longer safe. In my mind that includes both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, although I really hope that isn’t the case.
“And, I think to do that, you have to take one step backwards to be in a position to go two steps forward.”
That one step backward starts with Dan Boyle who had to know this was coming after a non-productive year for the veteran blue-liner. He finished the season with 12 goals and 24 assists, though he posted a team worst -8 for defensemen.
Unfortunately for him ever since the concussion he really wasn’t himself. Couple that with his age it’s clear the Sharks will need to look elsewhere for more of an offensive contribution. He was not the same defenseman from even a year ago, and the time has come for both sides to part ways. No disagreement there.
Another step in the right direction is the fact that Martin Havlat will not be returning next season. How he leaves is still up in the air, but most likely it will be by a compliance buyout. If that’s the case it wipes $5 million in cap space off the books for Wilson to use this offseason.
This too has become a forgone conclusion, especially since Havlat had a hard time seeing the ice during the season. This was even truer in the playoffs where he played just once in seven games.
Overall he has lived up to his reputation as an injury prone player appearing in just 127 out of a possible 212 games during his three-year stint with the Sharks. To his credit some of those games came this year where he was a healthy scratch though that is not much better considering his price tag.
Last but not least is the movement of Brent Burns from forward back to defense. This comes after he switched over to the wing full-time this season. He played there at the end of 2012, which was when this all started.
His movement back to the blue-line is probably tied to the loss of Dan Boyle. The San Jose Sharks will need someone else to quarterback their power play and Burns, with is offensive ability, will be able to do just that.
Still, I think this move is a bit rash considering how well he did as he finished with 48 points in 69 games (22 goals, 26 assists).
Yes, he was streaky, but there is none better than him on the forecheck and can wreak havoc on opposing defensemen. Perhaps Doug Wilson did not see enough of this, however, and figured it best to move their defenseman back to where he belonged on the blue-line. You can’t blame him though considering the price they are paying for Burns.
At the end of it all, the fact that the San Jose Sharks have lost four of their last five playoff series does play into this. Yes, they’ have reached the postseason, but this team has much higher expectations than that, to the point that anything less than a Stanley Cup is failing.