As trade deadline approaches, Sharks are buyers


As trade deadline approaches, Sharks are buyers

Silly season begins now in the National Hockey League, with less than four weeks before the trade deadline and half the teams still unsure if they are buyers or sellers.

This internal debate does not concern you, for your team, the San Jose Sharks, are buyers. They have to be, because any reasoned analysis of them as they are and what they should be to be a Stanley Cup contender indicates a significant gap.

In short, Doug Wilson has to do some deals, and not the Ben Eager spackle-and-paint jobs of the last few years. In fact, he needs to hit either a home run or a couple of multiple-RBI doubles to get the Sharks to the place where they can look at Chicago, Vancouver and Detroit square in the eye, let alone Boston or the New York Rangers.

But in doing so, one must identify the sellers, and there arent that many committed sellers yet, so inventory is not yet where it will be by February 27. To know the sellers, you must consult the Imperative of 96 chart.

Ninety-six is the magic number to get into the playoffs; no team has ever reached 96 and missed the postseason, and the closest anyone ever has is 2007, when Colorado finished with 95. San Jose in on pace to finish with 106, with the sixth-best absolute record, and Minnesota, currently eighth, is on pace to finish with 90.

So you go to the chart below, to see what teams have to perform superhuman feats to get to 96, and go from there.

Team Games Remaining Record Points Detroit 31 34-16-1 69 Vancouver 32 31-15-4 66 Sharks 34 28-14-6 62 Nashville 31 31-16-4 66 St. Louis 33 29-13-7 65 Chicago 31 29-15-7 65 Los Angeles 31 25-16-10 60 Minnesota 32 24-19-7 55 Dallas 33 26-21-2 54 Colorado 30 26-24-2 54 Calgary 31 23-22-6 52 Phoenix 31 22-21-8 52 Anaheim 32 19-24-7 45 Edmonton 32 19-26-5 43 Columbus 31 13-32-6 32

NY Rangers 33 32-12-5 69 Boston 34 32-14-2 66 Florida 33 23-15-11 57 Philadelphia 33 29-14-6 64 Pittsburgh 31 29-18-4 62 Ottawa 29 27-20-6 60 Toronto 31 26-19-6 58 New Jersey 33 27-19-3 57 Washington 32 26-20-4 56 Winnipeg 31 23-22-6 52 Tampa Bay 33 22-23-4 48 Buffalo 31 21-25-6 48 NY Islanders 33 20-22-7 47 Montreal 32 19-22-9 47 Carolina 30 18-25-9 45
In fact, what you see is that the Imperative of 96 almost doesnt apply that youre really looking at an imperative of closer to 92. Still, you can see that for some teams, such an achievement will almost certainly be beyond their gifts.

In the East, that means Winnipeg and below, even if the number to reach really is 92. In the West, even Minnesota should be out of the playoffs by typical Western standards, but the Wild and Dallas Stars are probably still in play, this taking appealing confections like Brenden Morrow temporarily off the shelf.

In two weeks, though, that may well change, and at that point general managers talking to coaches and other general managers become general managers talking to owners about the hard cost of buying or selling.

And thats when you can narrow the list of candidates.

Next, you have to think of what the Sharks need most, and that is clearly second- and third-line scoring help. That Jamie McGinn didn't become the fourth Shark to reach double-digits in goals until January 31 is typically the mark of a poor team. The Sharks are not that (and McGinn gets full marks for being that guy, given his previous career arc), so this is clearly the need, barring further injury.

Then you have to go down the list of scoring wingers with consumable or rental contracts, and you may as well shoot high -- like Corey Perry of Anaheim (1 year after this at 4.875M), Derek Roy of Buffalo (1 year, 5.5M), Morrow of Dallas (if it gets to that, 1 year at 4.1M), Joe Thornton's pal Ales Hemsky of Edmonton (unrestricted free agent) Patrik Elias (1 year, 5M) and Zach Parise of New Jersey (UFA), Jarome Iginla of Calgary (1 year, 7M) or Shane Doan of Phoenix (UFA). All those, though, come with considerable baggage for their old teams, and they would want an enormous price in exchange.

Of the 10 core Sharks, the one that Doug Wilson would have to put in such a deal is almost certainly Joe Pavelski, because you can't put Thomas Greiss, Jason Demers and two draft picks and pile them high enough to make any of the above five. Perry, if you could get him, would probably take all that plus Pavelski, which makes him cost-prohibitive, if he were available at all.

Plus, you're working against other teams that have more pieces to offer, so the price for any of those would be necessarily higher in any kind of bidding war. Plus, each of them has their own kind of baggage -- Doan, for example, wants to stay in Phoenix and would only consider a deal if the Coyotes were sure to move back to Canada, which can't be known until the summer, and Iginla, Morrow and Elias are among those with either limited or full no-trade or no-movement contracts. Those can be waived, but it typically means paying the player to waive the clause.

So if you're dead-set on keeping Pavelski, you're looking at the second-level scorer or veteran presence that will allow you to maintain your core. Tuomo Ruutu of Minnesota comes to mind, as do Milan Hejduk of Colorado, Vinny Prospal of Columbus, Michael Ryder of Dallas, Ryan Smyth of Edmonton, Andrei Kostitsyn of Montreal, Ray Whitney of Phoenix, Dominic Moore of Tampa Bay or Andrew Ladd of Winnipeg. Hejduk, Smyth, Whitney and Ladd also have various no-trade clauses to navigate.

Me, I'd get Wilson and Joe Nieuwendyk, the Dallas GM, liquored up (a prodigious financial feat in and of itself) and aim high, for Loui Eriksson, knowing I'd probably have to be willing to settle for Morrow and his concussion issue. If I were Wilson, even an inebriated one, I'd probably decide Iginla was too pricey in terms of what you'd have to lose, Parise's injury history would be a concern for the cost, and the Ducks would never deal Perry within their division and probably not their conference.

And no, Jeff Carter is completely off the board, because he has 10 years left at 5.272M per, plus a full no-trade through 2015 and a modified one until 2022. That's not a contract, that's a Turkish prison sentence.

Anyway, that's your guide for the moment. The names will change, but the dynamics won't. The Sharks' window with the ThorntonMarleauBoyle class is going to start closing after this, so February is going to be a huge month in the life of the franchise. Fortunately for San Jose's interests,. Wilson has plenty of cellphone life, and tequila, to make something big happen, because small isn't going to get it done.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time


A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman


Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

Officials are a pet cause of mine, since they are uniquely hired and set up for daily failure as a condition of having the job at all. They are given a supervisory role against a group of mesomorphs running, jumping, colliding and athletick-ing all over the place, only so that they can interpret a rulebook written in Cambodian script in such a way that he or she angers everyone involved, and is supported by none of the people who gave him the rulebook to defend.

But sometimes, despite all this, officials need to be left alone to apply common sense in direct defiance of the dictates of the bloated swine who made the rulebook a tool of the socially ignorant.

And no, I am not talking about Doc Rivers snapping like a stretched bobblehead the other night after Ken Mauer tossed him from the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game for being geographically inappropriate with fellow official Lauren Holtkamp (he crossed the midcourt line, and curb your dirty minds). Screw him. He had it coming.

No, this is about Frank Schneider, who refereed the otherwise unremarkable Paris Saint Germain-Angers match in Ligue 1, the top division of French soccer, and felt compelled to yellow-card PSG goalscorer Edinson Cavani for doing this.

For you link-averse weenies, Cavani scored a goal and then took off his shirt to reveal an undershirt that read “ACE FUERZA” in support of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, the team involved in the plane wreck that killed 77 of 81 passengers, including all but a few of the team’s players and staff en route to the championship match of the Copa Sudamericana in Colombia against Atletico Nacional.

It was a thoughtful gesture, one we want our athletes to produce to show that they are not just mercenaries with expensively shod feet. It was a credit to Cavani, who is Uruguayan and who knew none of the players involved. He did it to be a human being.

And Schneider knew that. But the rules say he had to give Cavani a yellow card for removing his shirt as an act of celebration or in this case, sympathy, and if Schneider had ignored it, his supervisors would have punished him knowing full well that ignoring it was exactly the correct and decent thing to do.

This right here is one more reason why people hate officials, even more than they used to. They are not allowed to apply their own common sense to a situation that demands it, and if honoring fellow athletes who died in an accident doesn’t demand the common sense of saying, “Heartwarming thought there, Scooter. You’re a good lad. Run and frolic with the other woodland creatures, unconcerned with any notion of punitive action.”

Maybe Schneider walked up to him as he presented the card and said, “Listen, this is crap. You know it and I know it, and I will back your play in the game report, but I have to do this. Please find it in your heart to forgive my bureaucratic obligations.”

That’s not the zenith of understanding as we would wish it, but it would be a way to try and shield Cavani from the withered arm of the law.

Or maybe Schneider said, “I give this card to you in my role as a strident and iron-willed defender of mindless regulations. I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid wolf.”

I don’t know. All I know is, Schneider ends up looking stupid for carding Cavani for supporting his soccer-playing brethren, and officials across the globe cry out as one, “You put him in a ridiculous position, you suit-wearing filth. Where is your compassion? Where is your dignity? Why can’t we line up in an orderly fashion and kick you squarely in the groin 30 to 70 times?”

And a decent human instinct is stamped out as though it were caught stealing office supplies.

You can extend this lesson as far as you wish, including the No Fun League’s old-white-guys fetishistic ban on post-touchdown self-expression, but right here is where that sort of mockable nonsense starts. People died, some of them soccer players. A fellow soccer player honored them on the field of play without disrupting the game itself. He was sanctioned. This is idiocy.

But Doc Rivers getting flipped in Brooklyn? Sorry. There’s only so far we can go with this, and in this case, well, to quote the old philosopher, “Nice tantrum, Glenn.”