ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Twenty-one months ago, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson pulled the trigger on two blockbuster trades with the Minnesota Wild designed to get his team to the elusive promised land of the Stanley Cup finals.
As the teams meet Saturday for the first time this season, to this point the trades have worked out better for Minnesota. Hockey executives say trades should be judged by a team's overall record, not just an individual's statistics, but the Sharks come up short by either standard.
"If you look at this moment," ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose said, "you'd have to say Minnesota won."
In the first trade, Wilson sent Devin Setoguchi, highly regarded prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round draft choice to Minnesota for potentially dominating defenseman Brent Burns and a second-round pick. The next trade was a swap of high-priced forwards with salary-cap implications: Dany Heatley and three years of a contract that pays him $7.5 million annually to the Wild in exchange for Marty Havlat and four years of a contract that pays him $5 million annually.
In the two seasons before the trades, the Sharks had reached back-to-back Western Conference finals. Instead of taking that next step, however, San Jose has been sliding backward, eking into the 2012 postseason as a seventh seed and a first-round exit, now barely holding onto a playoff spot.
The Wild, on the other hand, is moving in the other direction. Though it did not reach the playoffs last season, bolstered by the offseason signing of free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, Minnesota leads the Northwest Division and is on a 13-5-1 run.
Beyond that, examining statistics of the individual players involved also shows that San Jose gave more than it got.
Heatley has 32 goals and 70 points in 111 games for Minnesota while the injury-riddled Havlat has 10 goals and 35 points in 61 games for San Jose. Removing health from the equation, Heatley's .63 points per game pace outdoes Havlat's .57 points per game.
Setoguchi was a streaky player in San Jose and continues to be for Minnesota, but the Sharks are catching him on a tear with six goals and eight points in the last five games. Overall, the one-time San Jose first-round draft pick has scored 30 goals and 56 points in 98 games for the Wild.
Comparing point production between Setoguchi and Burns, a defenseman until the past five games, is unfair, of course because of the positions they play. But Burns, who has 13 goals and 43 points in 92 games as a Shark, was expected to add another offensive dimension.
Team-wide goals have dropped -- from 248 the year before Burns arrived to 228 last season. And the Sharks are on pace for only 200 if this abbreviated season lasted 82 games.
Even though Burns has had success at forward with two goals and four assists, Melrose thinks that's somewhat offset by the change in position.
"I've always been of the belief that a defenseman is harder to find than a top line forward," the former NHL coach said. "This a guy that should be a very good number one or number two defenseman in the NHL. He hasn't been able to do that consistently."
And then there is Coyle -- the player Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher later called key to the deal. Though Coyle has played in only 18 NHL games, he has three goals and three assists while showing the ability to use his 6-foot-2, 210-pound size effectively.