As trade deadline approaches, Sharks are buyers

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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.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

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AP

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.