When San Jose GM Doug Wilson acquired Martin Havlat and Brent Burns this summer, everyone around the league knew he meant serious business when it came to winning – and winning now. Will the moves pay off? The Sharks sure hope so.
Amongst a bevy of transactions, Havlat and Burns were the two marquee additions that the Sharks made in the off-season. They came over in separate trades with Minnesota and bring some more balance (and depth) to the Sharks’ lineup.
Havlat, who was acquired in a straight-up deal for Dany Heatley, has only played in three of the team’s seven games thus far. The team is 3-0 in those contests and the Czech Republic native has three assists. His new teammates like what they’ve seen from him.
“We got Havlat because of his speed,” said Ryane Clowe, Havlat’s line-mate. “Obviously Heatley had a big shot and good offensive instincts, but so does Havlat. He’s shifty, good with the puck, sneaky – he’s more of a playmaker for us than a shooter. More than anything he brings speed on the wing. Last year we went through a lot of wingers, so it’s nice to have him there.”
Havlat is currently on a line with Clowe and Logan Couture. The trio all bring a little different to the table, but has the potential to be a potent two-way line.
Burns has left a nice first impression on the Sharks, too, more so from his presence than production. The Ajax, Ont., native has three points in seven games, but is viewed as the piece the team was missing last spring.
“Everyone knows the offensive part of the game that he brings,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “Defensively I think he’s a big guy. We needed that last year. We got a little bigger and stronger back there. He brings that part of the game that we really needed last year.”
Even with Burns on board, Boyle is still averaging over 26 minutes a night (just like last season). However, as the season goes along and the grind begins, Burns’ ability to log more minutes should help the 35-year-old Boyle.
“In time I think the ice time will be balanced or evened out a little more,” Boyle said. “We’re here to win hockey games, and on any given night he’s one of those guys that can get up into the 30-minute area.”
Havlat and Burns weren’t the only important off-season additions, though. Center Michal Handzus was signed to bring stability to the third line, while defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Colin White add depth to a blue line that was thin a year ago. Numerous Sharks players, including Couture, believe those depth pick-ups will make a difference.
“It’s a little different this year. Our back end has so much depth,” Couture said. “We’ve got so many guys that can go into the lineup on any night and play well. That’s something we didn’t have last year.”
The Sharks are under pressure to win a Stanley Cup, and their window to do so is seemingly closing. Many pundits have pegged this club as a favorite to come out of the Western Conference. The team hopes the off-season maneuvering from the front office will make a difference when push comes to shove.
“We’ve probably gotten better after all the moves,” forward Joe Pavelski said. “Those guys are starting to learn, starting to gel and play their game within our structure. It’s really starting to show.”
Pavelski and company have won three straight games – all on the road – and are displaying signs of their true potential. But in the Bay Area, it doesn’t matter what happens in October. As everyone knows, after years of falling short of their ultimate goal, it’s all about whether the Sharks can get over that hump when the postseason comes around.
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