Next week will be a busy one for Sharks fans as they will be able to tune into OLN on Thursday for the NHL Awards show and the NHL entry Draft on Saturday.
Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson will not tip his hand often and the normally straight-forward executive is making no secret that the less people know about the Sharks plans, the better.
“This is one time of year I’ll be dishonest, but I’ll be honest in my dishonesty,” joked the Sharks General Manager.
He did say that there are draft changes that are noticeable across the league.
“A big physical defenseman that can’t skate, a forward who has to cheat, they might slide down further now,” said Wilson.
This year’s Entry Draft, which will be held in Vancouver, may not have the top end players of previous seasons, but that does not mean players cannot be found.
“I think it’s a good draft,” said Wilson. “There probably is not an Ovechkin or Crosby, but there are really good players.”
Like many drafts, the payoff may not be immediate, but Sharks fans reflecting back on the 2003 Entry Draft will see some strong results. Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier and Matt Carle all made their postseason debuts this year.
“The only reason we were able to make the trade (for Joe Thornton
) was because we had Milan, Steve and Matt able to fill those spots,” said Wilson.
The Sharks will stick with their usual draft day stance of taking the best available player since it can be tough to predict what the team will need by the time the player is ready.
“We’ll take the same approach,” said Wilson. “You almost always go with the best player. The decision to draft Milan was influenced by how ready he was to play in the NHL.”
The Sharks have moved up in two of the past three first rounds to grab Bernier and Devin Setoguchi.
“Our scouts have been unbelievable at zeroing in on the players we want and forecasting when the might go,” said Wilson. “You don’t want to overspend in moving up for a player, but you don’t want to walk away saying ‘We should have gotten that guy.’
“With Bernier, we felt we had to get in front of Colorado, so we moved up to Boston’s pick,” said Wilson. “We felt there were three other teams trying to get to Setoguchi. It is just as important sometimes to move out of a pick.”
The Sharks have eight picks (20th-will move up to 19 if Edmonton wins the Stanley Cup, 53rd, 85th (for Philadelphia), 108th (from Tampa Bay), 113th, 143rd, 173rd (with an option for 171 from Colorado), 202nd (from Anaheim, 203rd.
Under Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke’s guidance the Sharks have also moved down in the past.
In addition to looking forward to the business at hand, Wilson has had time to digest the 2006 playoffs that ended all too soon.
“A lot of good things happened during the season,” said Wilson. “I’m pleased what we accomplished in the first year of the cap, but there is still work to be done. We didn’t win the Cup, so it is not a great year.”
Many look to specific moments of the Edmonton series as the deciding factor, but Wilson looks back further than that.
“That 10-game losing streak, as much as anything, may have cost us a chance at the Cup,” said Wilson. “At some point, you work so hard digging out of the hole, that you empty the tank. We can’t afford the same start we’ve had the last two years.”
Wilson is happy the Sharks younger players gained some valuable experience, but doesn’t feel that inexperience was an excuse for not raising the Cup.
“Under the new rules, young players can dominate in the playoffs like Ward and Staal are for Carolina,” said Wilson.
When training camp rolls around this fall, fans will be able to see if Devin Setoguchi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
are on the same schedule as Bernier and Carle.
“Nobody will be given a job,” said Wilson. “Devin was really good this year. He was cut by the World Junior team, but so were Cheechoo and Hannan. He had a good training camp, and we brought him in to watch the playoffs.”
With the season long over for San Jose, Wilson acknowledged several injuries that hampered Team Teal. It was common knowledge that Alyn McCauley’s knee was hurting him, but after surgery, it was impressive that he played at all.
“He had surgery and it is impressive that he played just as it was in 2004 when he played basically with one arm,” said Wilson. “(Team Doctor Arthur) Ting said when he looked at it, he was amazed he could play. There were bone chips in the cyst. Cheechoo had a bad sprain on his right wrist most of the playoffs and at times you could see it. Scott Hannan broke his foot in Game 3 in Edmonton and will be in a boot for a couple more weeks. I think everyone saw Rissmiller walking around with the boot for his broken foot. And Mark Smith had surgery for a shoulder separation. It happened in a game and he came back and played.”
There has been much speculation about what San Jose will do with their two goaltenders as both Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala have proven that they are number one netminders.
“Out staff has created a problem everyone would love to have,” said Wilson. “We have two guys that are number ones. Nabby’s body of works speaks for itself and Toskala has proven himself this year and two years ago when he got us going.”
Alyn McCauley is the Sharks only unrestricted free agent and the team has to make a decision whether to pick up the team option on power forward Scott Thornton by June 20th.