Niemi Will Swim With The Sharks. Wilson Gets His Man


After the dust has settled from the Kovalchuk drama,  I’m turning my attention to a lesser written about story regarding the San Jose Sharks and former Stanley Cup winning goaltender Antti Niemi.  You might say that Doug Wilson, and ex-Blackhawk himself, played this out exactly the way he wanted.  Although, you might not want to admit it, it appears true.

About 30 days ago, Wilson knowing that the Hawks were in a bit of a salary cap pickle most likely wouldn’t be able to afford both Niemi and young defenseman Niklas Hjalmarrson, made an offer sheet to “Hammer”.  Thus forcing the Hawks to make a decision of their own.  Match the offer, or let Hammer walk away, and sign goaltender Antti Niemi instead.  Being a Blackhawks fan myself, my opinion on offer sheets is now tainted.  Call it dirty pool, making enemies or (Niemine’s), I personally think the offer sheet should be abolished.  It hasn’t worked quite well for the most part, and really and truly forces the hand of the team needing to match.  It also, throws a teams entire cap situation out the window, regardless if they are up against it or not.  Also, most of the time, the offer is to an unproven player who has potential that’s not yet realized. And may never be.

Dustin Penner is one example, and I think that Kevin Lowe from Edmonton really pissed off Brian Burke, then GM of the Anaheim Ducks, but it doesn’t take much to piss off Burkie anyway.  The move by Wilson might be seen as shrewd.  He knew that making the offer he’d either get a up and coming defenceman, or a very solid, although still developing goaltender.  Smart?  Maybe for Wilson, and for the Hawks.  However what about Niemi?

Allow me to explain.  Which would you rather do, keep a number a top defenceman who is only going to get better, or take a chance that a goaltender who has only one proven season, can repeat that performance?  Me?  I keep the defenceman.  Goalies can be found, developed and it’s apparently proven that since the lockout your netminder doesn’t have to play lights out for you to win you the Cup.  Look at some of the previous winners, and you’ll agree.  Sure Fluery from Pittsburgh is pretty solid, but he’s not great.  Chris Osgood?  A product of Detroit’s solid play.  Cam Ward?  Really?

Look at guys like Luongo, who can’t seem to get out of the conference semi-finals.  The list can go on.

My big question however in all this is, what was Niemi thinking?  The Blackhawks offered him a multi year deal for close to two million before and after his arbitration hearing.  The Hawks have a defence that is far superior to San Jose’s any day of the week.  He knows how they play and they know how he plays.  The Hawks and Niemi won a championship together.  Is Niemi going to feel comfortable knowing that his best defenceman is Dan Boyle?  Gone is Rob Blake, and his minutes haven’t been replaced.  Doug Murray?  He’s no Brent Seabrook, and I can’t name another defenceman right now on San Jose unless I go to their roster.

Doug Wilson may have strengthened his goaltending situation and layed the blame for San Jose’s inadequacy in the playoffs squarely on the head of Evgeni Nabokov instead of Joe Thornton and even Dany Heatley.  Having Niemi and Antero Niittymaki as your 1-A may prove vital and solid for the regular season.  That’s not enough.  And Niemi should know it.  He played last year, his first in the NHL, with a group of guys that went through a wall for him.  some of them even lost a mouthful of teeth.  One of the even game back to play with a fractured shoulder (Andrew Ladd).

San Jose has been known to disappear when the going gets tough.  I see no difference this year as the roster is mostly the same except for goaltending.  As much as I like Niemi and what he did for Chicago, he didn’t do it alone, and he may be left alone in San Jose.

Thanks for reading.

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