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 sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.