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On its face, the Sharks moving Jason Demers for Brenden Dillon is your standard cat-and-dog trade -- two mid-level defensemen who do not necessarily impact their teams in any major way. Certainly that’s how San Jose and Dallas viewed them.
But what if, in some weird time-warped notion six months out of phase, this is the start of Doug Wilson shaking up a stale room? What if this is not where the movement ends, but where it begins? What if this is the “rebuild,” done incrementally but still in motion?
Now that would be something, and something is needed badly right now.
San Jose is a miserable (for them) 10-9-0-3, below Calgary and Winnipeg in the current Western Conference standings. Since the end of October, they are 4-5-0-2, with losses to Florida twice, Buffalo twice and Columbus. The have already completed 40 percent of their road schedule, and while a quick look at the standings would indicate that they are a very good road team, in reality they are closer to the middle of the pack. Their defense is lower-third, they are sub-mediocre in 5x5 situations, and they are barely over break-even in faceoffs.
In short, they do not resemble the Sharks of regular seasons past, and since the regular season is what we know they know how to do, this cannot be called a good start by any means.
So the Demers-Dillon deal is, in and of itself, mostly new-face-for-old. Dillon is slightly younger and two-third cheaper - so the Sharks had to throw in a third-round draft choice in 2016 - and is a restricted free agent this coming year while Demers is a UFA after 2016.
But the future is now for San Jose, more than for Dallas. The Stars are sixth in the slightly less imposing Central Division (12th overall), and probably need Demers more to help stabilize what is a younger group that has 31-year-old Trevor Daley, 29-year-old Alex Goligoski and 27-year-old Jordie Benn to go with a raft of younger players.
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The Sharks, though, need to skew younger and more athletic. Their window has already begun to close, and to the extent that Dillon gives them something different, the deal will help.
But only to an extent. If this is where the movement ends, then this will be neither remembered nor praised (or lamented) as an important day in Sharks history. This can no longer be a patient franchise, and though the temptation to do something really big and/or stupid (like, say, making a coaching change, which would be insane) must be growing, they had the chance to do those things in the summer and never came close to anything.
So the Demers/Dillon deal will either be the start of more movement that changes the team’s current predicament and atmosphere, or we will answer the question, “Where were you when Jason Demers was traded?” with an honest and forthright “He was traded? I wondered why I hadn’t seen him lately. Thought it must have been some sort of phony-baloney lower-body injury.”