By Mary Walsh
What are the Sharks doing? This is a question that came up over and over on Twitter today, from near and far. Today the team made three announcements. The first announcement was that the Sharks are holding auditions for women to join their co-ed ice crew, and they will wear short tops and tights. Men’s auditions tba. Second, the Sharks signed 31 year old left wing John Scott. Third, they traded a 2015 3rd round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for 23 year old left wing Tye McGinn.
The team’s activity at the draft and on the first day of free agency seemed consistent with General Manager Doug Wilson’s promise that he was not going to make any big moves that would cost picks, prospects, or young players. He used his picks, trading them only for more picks.
He signed Taylor Fedun, a 26-year old free agent defenseman from the Oilers system on the first day of free agency. He signed him to a low-risk two-way, one year contract at a modest salary. Fedun spent last season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, scoring 38 points in 65 games. Fedun has played 4 NHL games. He played four seasons with Princeton University, finishing with 68 points in 127 games, and receiving collegiate honors.
All seemed to be going as promised. On the second day of free agency, the gloves came off.
The ice crew is not exactly an addition, though broadcasting public tryouts for it is new. Additionally, while the ice cleaners of the past all wore simple pants and shirt, the female crew members will now wear a sort of midriff-baring modified jersey and tights, while the men will wear a style-coordinated version of what they have always worn: top and pants. The team is not calling these female crew members ice girls, but few teams do. While that news was sinking in, the Scott signing was announced.
The last GM to acquire Scott is now out of a job, after he put together a team that broke records with its awfulness. On a team that performed as badly as last season’s Sabres, Scott averaged 6:45 of ice time and managed to rack up 125 penalty minutes (25 minors, 5 majors, 4 misconducts) in 56 games. He had one goal, his first since 2009. Scoring is not what Doug Wilson expects Scott to do.
“John brings a physical, no-nonsense element to our lineup,” said Wilson. “As we integrate more younger players to our team, John’s presence alone can act as a deterrent and help keep teams and opposing players honest.”
Wilson has brought other players to the team over the last two seasons, advertising their toughness, grit, energy, or combination of those. Raffi Torres, Adam Burish and Mike Brown all got introductions of that sort. Unlike those players, the 6’8″, 259 pound Scott has not demonstrated a lot of versatility in his game. He is unlikely to surprise the team with a multi-point game just back from injury, or a timely goal, or bursts of speed at just the right moment. It is hard to say how his fighting ability will help the team, since few players will engage him. In any case, he is now a Shark. It may be safe to say that this dwarfs recent roster moves in shock value.
Tye McGinn is an interesting acquisition. Younger brother of former Shark Jamie McGinn, Tye has spent his professional career with the Flyers organization. Early last season, while the Flyers were flatlining in the starting gate, while captain Claude Giroux couldn’t score a goal to save his life, McGinn was given a chance with the big club. He scored three goals in his first two games of the season, all in losing efforts to Vancouver and Detroit. Like his brother Jamie, he seems to have a knack for performing well when everyone else is reeling. After that, he went pointless for four games before being sent back to the AHL for most of the season. The Flyers’ rationale for this is unclear, in view of the players who were put in the lineup in his place. Zac Rinaldo, penalty-taker of some repute, was probably the most productive of them. What a struggling team does might not be a model anyone should follow.
Of McGinn, the Sharks’ news release said:
“Tye is a hardworking player who plays an honest game,” said Wilson. “We’re excited to add him to our group of young forwards.”
McGinn could be a very good addition to the Sharks, if they can instill the confidence and structure he needs. He has speed and grit and has shown flashes of skill. Despite playing only 18 games a season in the NHL, his shooting percentage went up significantly from season one to season two. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he had 33 shots and 3 goals. Last season, he took 19 shots and scored four goals. He also cut down on his penalty minutes by a large margin, going from 19 to 4. The addition of John Scott makes me wonder if the Sharks care about minimizing penalties, but fans might. McGinn is a bit of a dark horse, but he is still young enough to grow into a bright spot.
These moves still do not answer the question “what are the Sharks doing?” They do, however, open up a host of possibilities. The team appears to be determined to change its image, every which way it can. Who knows, they may move after all, to Seattle or parts unknown. Maybe it’s time for the NHL to go south of the border.