Monday, February 27, 2012

San Jose Sharks: Emotions Aside, Galiardi and Winnik Make Team Stronger

It was quite an emotional day in San Jose on Monday.  The Sharks were still in the air flying home from one of the worst road stretches in recent memory not knowing what trade deadline deals were ongoing for the team, Rick Nash-related or not.

It turned out that Jamie McGinn was the odd man out, but not in a Nash deal.  McGinn had been traded to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for left wingers T.J. Galiardi and Daniel Winnik.

The initial reactions were that San Jose would be losing Logan Couture's best friend and a much-improved player this season.  McGinn was also developing as a winger, understanding his role as a part-time offensive player and full-time gritty worksman with the potential to become much more.

However, we all knew how long we had been waiting for some fire to appear under McGinn.  The fans had been waiting for it and the franchise had been waiting for it.  This season, his long-awaited play and potential finally came to fruition, and the front office took full advantage of it.

GM Doug Wilson pulled the rabbit out of the hat on this one.  Last offseason, if the Sharks had made this same trade, we would have wondered what in the world the Avs were thinking and how in the world Wilson pulled it off.  Now, it appears the Avs were the ones reaching for McGinn based on a down year Galiardi and a much-improved year for McGinn.

Those two occurrences led to this trade, and Wilson played the Avs like a fiddle.

McGinn is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, after the Sharks signed him to a one-year contract last offseason in one last desperate attempt to find out what kind of potential he really had.  The Sharks saw that potential in 12 goals, 12 assists and all-around gritty play on the ice this season, and he was getting to where the franchise expected him to be.

But was this three-fourths of the season the best we will ever see McGinn?  Was this season the peak of his career?

It is hard to see McGinn not blossoming into something more, but how much more productive will he really be five years down the road?

San Jose was not convinced of that, and they got the best possible players in return for a decent third line player they would have had to overpay next offseason to re-sign with the team based on his improved stat totals this season.

Make no mistake, Galiardi and Winnik are no slouches, either.

Looking back at the first round of the 2010 Western Conference playoffs between the Avalanche and Sharks, it appeared that Matt Duchene and Galiardi were the two players Colorado could build a pretty strong franchise around.  Galiardi was pesky, very quick and could also add in some offense when called upon.  Eight goals and six assists through 55 games while getting heated with his head coach was enough to stop that discussion.

He was clearly at odds with Avs' head coach Joe Sacco this season and needed a fresh start.  San Jose is a nice place to do that in, and a coach like Todd McLellan can do wonders with a talent like Galiardi.

While Galiardi may be the biggest piece of this deal, at least in the long-term, Winnik can produce now and fills every need McGinn left behind, if not more.

Winnik vastly improves the constantly sour penalty kill, keeping players like Couture and Pavelski off the ice, and he provides grit on the third and fourth lines.  McGinn provided grit and a decent penalty kill, but Winnik does that consistently with a little more production behind it.


Winnik will make a strong third or fourth line centre, or even winger, and Galiardi will fill McGinn's role on the third line.  The trade has the potential to knock Torrey Mitchell down from the third line to fourth, as well.

So while the initial reaction was to wonder why Wilson would trade such an improved young player, the trade clearly makes this team so much more well-rounded, deeper and productive heading into the playoff push.  McGinn alone was not going to do that.

Wilson knew that McGinn was going to be a restricted free agent at season's end, so getting players relatively the same age with relatively the same projected talent was key in this deal, and debating whether he was worth another experimental contract was not worth it either.

In reality, Galiardi and Winnik's ceilings are so much more higher than McGinn's, and the Avs will find that out in the near future.

For now, Wilson came through in the clutch, despite not landing Nash, who would appear to be a large target of his this offseason.  So once again, another trade deadline has come and gone, and the Sharks are improved heading into their playoff push.


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