Sunday, August 12, 2007

So long, Ek

The prince of offsides, the king of choke, the sultan of soft -- whatever you want to call him, he's former Shark Nils Ekman (his first name is actually Nisse -- who knew?) and according to various internet reports, he'll be playing for Khimik Mytischi (say that three times fast...okay, so it's not that hard) of the Russian Super League next year, fueling speculation that in Soviet Russia, "Ekman don't go offsides, offsides go Ekman" or something like that.

Now that I've ridiculed the guy enough, I have to say he isn't as bad as he's made out to be by the Sharks fanbase and San Jose media (then again, few players -- save for Mark Bell -- truly are). In fact, he had above-average footspeed and showed great hands during his tenure with the Sharks and it could be argued (by delusional fools) that he was somewhat responsible for Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo clicking. While that's far from the truth, on the nights that he did show up, he was able to make positive contributions to the team.

But that's the problem. He seldom showed up. Ekman had a penchant for staying as far away from the net as possible and rarely did the dirty work in the corners, forcing either Thornton or Cheechoo to dig out the puck. He also pulled tremendous disappearing acts in both the San Jose playoff runs he was involved in. But I will give the guy credit -- he was far more effective on the Thornton--Cheechoo line that Mark Bell was, for whatever it's worth and, to my knowledge, Ekman always employed a designated driver. That can't be said about his replacement, Bell.

Ekman was jettisonned from San Jose long before Bell's DUI, however, traded along with goaltending prospect Patrick Ehelechner to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Carolina's second-round draft pick, which the Pens acquired in the Mark Recchi trade deadline deal in '06, which was then traded along with the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round pick (acquired in the Vesa Toskala deal) on Draft Day 2007 for the St. Louis Blues' 9th overall pick, used to draft Logan Couture. Anyway, Ekman was reasonably effective during his tenure with the Penguins, even playing on Sidney Crosby's wing for a few games and scoring a natural hat trick against his other former team, Tampa Bay, but his time in black and yellow was cut short by a separated shoulder.

A UFA July 1st, there were message board rumblings that Ekman may return to Tealtown for his second tour of going offsides duty with the Sharks, but in the end, Russia came calling (because nobody else did) and it's there that the Swedish Mike Comrie will earn his (tax-free) salary, thankfully for Ekman, a world away from Chris Pronger. Good riddance, Ekman, and good luck (with removing the blueline).

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