With one accidentally-placed knee, Ales Hemsky just changed Doug Wilsons next five weeks.
When Hemsky collided knee-to-knee with San Jose defenseman Brent Burns Monday night in Edmonton, the Sharks general manager went from peddling goaltenders for the missing piece of the grand puzzle to peddling goaltenders and more for a replacement on defense and special teams.
In short, unless the news on Burns is good (and he returns to San Jose Wednesday to be examined by team doctors, orthopedists and capologists, just in case), Wilson gets to reorient himself to a radically different world than the one he faced a week ago.
Plus, we get another glimpse of his poker skills, and eventually whether his hole cards had faces on them or the numbers 7 and 2.
Here, first, are your various scenarii:
- Martin Havlat, Ryane Clowe and Burns are all cleared within the next week or two, in which case Wilson could do as little as nothing. Nothing is unlikely, since he claims to have more goaltenders than he could use if he was running a second franchise, and who couldnt use a little good-natured roster depth? Still, skipping the Feb. 27 deal date is a possibility.
- Havlat and Clowe are back, but Burns is out, forcing Wilson to use whatever chips he has on a puck-carrying top-pair defenseman who can help run a power play and kill penalties. There arent many of those creatures on the market, so some improvisationoverpaying would have to result.
- Havlat is back but struggles as he has before his injury, Burns returns but Clowe doesnt, in which case Wilsons new priority is a disturbing forward who will invade the opponents crease, be something of a cop on the beat and still get 10 goals in the last two months. Again, those may grow on trees, but trees native to North America or Europe.
One thing we probably wont learn is Burns prognosis before the All-Star break. Wilson will either get a glowing report which he will cheerfully share with the nation at large, or he will get some form of bad news, in which case he will say that Burns is day-to-day, the catch-all phrase that covers anything from a week to were screwed. Wilson is not averse to the odd whopper to keep information from the general managing public, which puts him in a tie with 29 other guys.
So if he isnt betrayed by Twitter, or an agent with a gift for blab, or a family member who wants to share, he can keep this sufficiently hush-hush for enough time to cover himself until the deadline. It must be said, though, that if he starts casting among other teams for a Burns type, they will cheerfully share that knowledge, because nothing drives a conversation quite like a time constraint.
But this will allow a glimpse of Doug Wilsons gift for tactical prevarication. Maybe hell slip us a safe word as a tell -- maybe something from the George Carlin Words You Cant Say On Television Collection. Because if the news on Burns andor Clowe and Havlat is bad, hell be using all seven of them, loudly and repeatedly.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.