Monday, September 17, 2007

Ozolinsh's return

The Sharks welcomed back an old face Sunday. Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh arrived for a training camp tryout.

Ozolinsh, one of San Jose's first stars, was traded to Colorado in the deal that brought Owen Nolan to the Sharks in 1995. Ozolinsh then was an integral part of the Avalanche's 1996 Stanley Cup-winning team.

"This is a good opportunity for him and for us," said Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson. "We'll just see where it goes. We think it's well worth the time."
Ozolinsh played in just 21 games last season in New York, one of which I saw when the Rangers played here in Toronto.

To be fair, it was his first game back from injury, but boy, did he look lost. And perhaps that's the best way to describe Ozolinsh's recent history off the ice, where two years ago, he entered the NHL's substance abuse program. Seven months later, he pleaded guilty to drunk driving.

And, all along the way, injuries have dogged his attempted return.

What's really interesting about all of this, however, is that Sharks GM Doug Wilson apparently saw fit to mandate that Mark Bell be included as a throw-in in any deal involving former netminder Vesa Toskala, an arrangement only the Maple Leafs were willing to go along with. But if Bell was thrown overboard given his history, why then does a 35-year-old Ozolinsh with similar demons get this tryout?

San Jose was one of the quietest teams in the league this off-season when it came to player signings, something that had the fan base in fits, and over the past week, we've seen two over the hill former stars brought into the fold.

A strange strategy for a contender if I ever saw one. (That said, I don't have a problem with the Roenick move — only the fact that these are the only players to join the team.)
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4 Comments:

At 3:12 PM, September 17, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

What's really interesting about all of this, however, is that Sharks GM Doug Wilson apparently saw fit to mandate that Mark Bell be included as a throw-in in any deal involving former netminder Vesa Toskala, an arrangement only the Maple Leafs were willing to go along with. But if Bell was thrown overboard given his history, why then does a 35-year-old Ozolinsh with similar demons get this tryout?

Money. Fresh starts. Lack of jail time.

Bell wasn't shunned by SJ. They needed to rid themselves of him for their sake and for Bell's sake.

 
At 3:30 PM, September 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummm, Bell = several million commited to a drunk. Ozone = no commitment whatsoever to a drunk other than a practice jersey. That isn't hard to figure.

 
At 5:09 PM, September 17, 2007, Blogger mike said...

Ozo hasn't been in nearly as much trouble as Bell. He's older too which means that he should be wiser (no guarantee of course). His big worry is that he seems to have lost all instincts for the game of hockey...he was dreadful for the Rangers in his brief stints over two seasons.

 
At 1:51 AM, September 19, 2007, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

I spoke with Bell a handful of times last year. I think he made a mistake, and it was during one of his first days in San Jose. It was reported that he has not touched alcohol since then, and I think a lot of people online need ease off a little.

The Sharks focused more on locking up their core, a previous extension with Cheechoo was matched this offseason by signing Rivet, Thornton, Michalek and Marleau.

The loss of Hannan and Toskala will be a big adjustment, but really the only question marks are the backup goaltending position, the #6 defensive role, and possibly 1 or 2 slots up front (including one reserve). This is a deep team that needed very little tweaking.

Roenick dropped a spin-o-rama on Christain Ehrhoff in training camp, and took the puck to the net 3 other times in the only scrimmage I watched. I think the Sharks need him in more of a 2-way role than a goal scorer role the Kings and Coyotes needed from him. And if he garners the usual amount of media attention, this is a no brainer for Doug Wilson.

Two huge defenseman Alexei Semenov and Brad Norton, first round pick Ty Wishart, and a handful of prospects are making the competition for defense tight, but generating offense from the blueline was a problem. The regular season will be a prelude to the playoffs, and it is something he can adress if needed via a trade.

People are getting a little ahead of themselves with rumors of Eshche and Joseph. Sharks AHL goaltenders Dimitri Patzold and Thomas Greiss can step into the NHL right now, but can they be solid for 10-20 games and keep Nabokov fresh for the postseason.

About Ozolinsh, the Sharks are the perfect situation. He has a reputation here. When the Sharks made the playoffs with him and upset Detroit in 1994, downtown San Jose went crazy. They thought the Stanley Cup was coming here.

The training staff is solid, and downtown San Jose, I hate to say it, looked like a ghost town last Saturday night. I am not sure he can make the NHL club with the level of players that are competing, but he has more than earned an opportunity.

 

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