Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Timo Time Ends in San Jose

Blah... This is another post that I've been dreading writing... but the writing has been on the walls for a few weeks now.  As of Sunday, February 26th at around 6:00 pm Pacific, "Timo Time" has officially ended in San Jose.

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If you haven't already gathered from my previous Sharks posts, Timo Meier is (was) my favorite San Jose Shark.  I've followed him on our team for years, and last year I even went so far as to follow and watch his games as he played with Team Switzerland in the 2022 men's ice hockey world championships.

Timo is a heck of a hockey player- and Eliot and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play and grow through the years.  He was drafted 9th overall by the Sharks in 2015.  He's a home-grown talent that the organization has helped develop.  He also played for the San Jose Barracuda before getting the call up to play for the Sharks.

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Timo's done so much as a San Jose Shark.  Two things that always struck me were his work ethic and his humble attitude.  He's always working hard during the season and off-season to get stronger, faster and better.  During interviews, he will always bring the focus back to the team instead of any individual efforts on his part.  It probably doesn't need to be said, but it's easy to like a guy like that.

Meier's also a great asset to our team.  He's 6'1", 220 pounds and he's expected to score 35-40 goals a season.  He's the leading scorer on our power play unit.  He easily plows through defense and he's good on the puck.  The team can rely on him to make good decisions when he's on the ice.  He's also what our tv announcers like to call a "big body" who can take hits and dish them out.  He's a true power forward.

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There are so many stats I could talk about, but only a few really seem to matter at the moment.  This season, Timo has been the Sharks leading scorer and the person making the most plays towards the net.  In fact, he's second in the entire NHL for shots on goal (to David Pastrnak of Boston).  Last year, he was clocked in at the fastest speed at the time of the NHL All Star game.  (The players all wear trackers in their uniforms now.)  He's also one of two forwards in the entire league who have 30+ goals this season, and over 100 hits (Alex Ovechkin of Washington is the other).

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And finally, the stat that I can't seem to stop thinking about... this season, the Sharks have 179 goals so far, and 31 of those are from Timo.  He's produced 17% of our scoring, which might not seem like a lot, but he's ahead of everyone else by far.  This is worrisome to me.  Who the heck is going to go to the net and score for us now?

Honestly, it's no wonder that he was "the" top prospect in NHL trade rumors for the past few weeks.  We've heard that so many teams were interested in him: New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights.  One by one, the other teams have slowly been making trades- thus taking them off of the list of teams wanting Timo.  I've been praying that each of them would find someone else and leave Timo where he was... but I knew it was getting close to the wire.  The 2023 trade deadline is this Friday, March 3rd.  So we knew there was a good possibility that something was going to happen before then.

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Unfortunately for me, it was a long, dragged-out process.  News of the trade came out hours before either the Sharks or New Jersey Devils made it official.  (It was all over my Facebook newsfeed.)  Apparently, there was one player involved who was injured, so they had to iron out a few of the details before it was official.  But just after 6:00 PM, Eliot and I saw the official news posted on Facebook by the San Jose Sharks page.

I didn't really care about the details of the trade, but I suppose it matters what we got in exchange for what we lost.  The Sharks acquired a 2023 first-round draft pick, a conditional 2024 first-round draft pick, and four players from New Jersey in exchange for Timo Meier and four players.  I've never heard of a single one of these players other than Timo, but from what I hear, this is not what we "should" have gotten for him.  

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New Jersey fans were quick to tell us how good forward Fabian Zetterlund was.  And I heard some good things about defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin, but at the moment, the wound is too fresh and I don't really care.  All that resonates is that we lost Timo.

Most of the fans knew it was coming, but they're just as upset as I am.  The Sharks made a nice video tribute to say "thank you" to him.  I wanted to share it here, but they never added it to their YouTube channel.  (It's only on Facebook and Instagram.)  I admit that part of me hated watching it... because that made the whole thing real.

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I've gone through so many emotions since then.  I really wish that I could say I feel good about what we got for Timo, but I don't.  If you look at any hockey analysis, every single one will tell you that the Sharks lost the trade.  It's too early to tell how our draft picks will turn out... we won't have an answer on that for a few years.  And the guys we got could end up being good players and a great fit for San Jose.  But losing our top scoring player, and a fan favorite, feels like a major gut punch right now.

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I just don't understand the logic.  Well... I do, but I don't.  I get trading someone when their value is high.  You want to make sure that you get a return investment instead of him just walking and signing with another team during free agency.  Timo was pretty much the most talked about player at the trade deadline.  Rumors have been swirling for weeks.  He's a hell of a player, so of course everyone wants him.

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I guess that's where you lose me.  Everyone wants Timo on their team... so why didn't we?  Why didn't Mike Grier get him to sign an extension with the Sharks.  I mean, yeah, we stink right now.  Our "window" for going deep in the playoffs is non-existant at the moment.  It's going to be a few years before we do much of anything.  No one wants to call it a "rebuild" but let's call it what it is.  Timo is worth the money, but at the end of the day, the Sharks didn't want to commit to another huge contract.  We're already tight on money, so they didn't want to take him on.  I'm of the mind that he's a player we should have built the rest of our team around... but what do I know.

What I do know, is that the Sharks I first grew to love are gone.  And it's depressing.

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Ever since Joe Pavelski left and signed with the Dallas Stars, we've lost the magic that I felt.  We haven't been back to the playoffs.  We haven't had great regular seasons.  It feels like we lost the heart and soul of the Sharks.  That's not to say that the other guys aren't trying, because they are.  I just think they lost all of their long time leaders in Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.  And ever since then... we have been lost.

Which is another reason that I'm so upset about trading Timo.  I'm one of the fans who think losing Joe Pavelski is one of the reasons we're in the mess we're in.  He wanted a three year contract, and our former GM Doug Wilson wouldn't sign him to it.  He walked... and got that contract in Dallas. He's been lighting the lamp and scoring like no other.  In fact, Pavs was the Dallas representative to the All Star Game last year (along with Timo from the Sharks).  He's been doing great.  What I would give to have him back as a leader in our locker room and scoring all of those goals for us... 

As you know, I was also a bit crushed when we lost Brent Burns.  It's still hard to see him playing for another team, but at the end of the day, Brent wanted to go to a team that was going to make a run at the Stanley Cup.  He's closer to retirement, and he deserves the chance to go for it.  And I don't fault him for that one bit.  I'm glad that he and Joe Pavelski have that opportunity... even if losing them still stings a little bit.

But this one really hurts.  It wasn't Timo's choice to leave San Jose... and I think that is what really stings me the most.  Pavs and Burnzie left by choice.  Timo didn't.

I won't lie, I'm pretty devastated about it.  But there really isn't anything that I can do.

Unfortunately for Sharks fans, Timo is now a New Jersey Devil.

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So now that I've poured my heart out about the trade that took Timo away from us, I want to spend the rest of this post looking back at all of the fun memories we have.  I figure that today is a fitting day to tribute Meier on "Timo Tuesday", and it's the 28th.

I think my favorite memory was when he scored five goals against the LA Kings back in January of last year.  He put on one heck of a show.  Eliot and I sat in awe watching it all unfold on our television.  I only wish we could have been there in person to see it!

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Another one of my favorite memories was seeing Timo Meier and Joe Pavelski back together at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.  They took a photo together on media day and my heart exploded into a million little happy smiling hearts.  The next day, Timo and Joe sat next to each other during the Skills Competition.  Joe had his son Nate out on the ice with him, and it really warmed my heart to see them all together.  They picked up like no time had even passed.  It was clear how much more comfortable Timo was talking and laughing with Joe and Nate.  I really enjoyed seeing that.

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There have been so many moments, so many games where he's scored a goal that was a complete game changer.  My favorite was when he scored out of no where as the final seconds of the game ticked down during our game against Vegas.  Sharks fans hate the Golden Knights and this game was a huge one for us.  We had the opportunity to knock Vegas out of the playoffs, so the boys were ready to play the role of spoiler.  Timo had even spoken about how important the game was prior to it.

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So it was both fitting and absolutely incredible when Meier scored a goal to tie it up with less than a second left... literally... there were .9 seconds left.  That sent the game into overtime.  And we ended up winning the game in a shoot out!

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But it was Timo's reaction to his goal that was most memorable.  He was so pumped that he was basically taunting the Vegas fans by putting his hands on his ears as he skated over to our bench to celebrate.  (They had previously been booing him at the All Star game, so he obviously wasn't bothered by their reaction.)  The whole sequence of events was epic.  To Sharks fans, that game was basically the equivalent to our Stanley Cup playoff experience last year.  And it was amazing.

You don't hear it in the above clip since it's not our announcers, but I will never grow tired of hearing old video clips of San Jose Sharks tv announcer Randy Hahn yelling "It's Timo Time!" so many times the past few years.

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It's not a memory of him in teal, but I really did enjoy watching Timo play with his fellow Swiss countrymen during the 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation World Cup.  I got really into it, and I knew most of the guys names by the time they finally got knocked out of the tournament.  (I didn't know it at the time, but that apparently would be good since two of them also play for the New Jersey- the Devils have their own Swiss Army Knife of Swiss players!)  I also discovered that I really love watching games overseas.  The European fans get really into it with songs and cheers.

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It was fun to see him featured while the Sharks were overseas earlier this year.  During their time in Europe, they started out in Berlin, Germany.  Our San Jose Sharks tv announcers dubbed Timo a "media darling" due to him being able to speak to the local media in his native German.  (The part of Switzerland he's from speaks German- so he's fluent in that and English.)  Even though we had no idea what they were saying, it was clear everyone wanted to talk to him about playing a few games closer to home.

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He's also been in of plenty of the Sharks promotional videos.  I love when they film the guys during their "off days".  It's fun to see all of them hanging out and enjoying life outside of the rink.  He's also been in plenty of their funny skits with lip reading and trying to speak his language.  Another personal favorite is when they mic the players up during a game.  It's always fun to hear them on the bench and out on the ice.

On a personal note, our favorite memory was when we were able to meet Timo in person and get his autograph back during our trip to San Jose in October.  He was really nice, even though I was totally star struck at the time.  He signed my brand new jersey and the trading card Eliot gave him.  I asked if he'd take a photo with me and he said yes.  I still can't believe it even happened... thank goodness I have the photo!

He's made so many amazing plays this season.  It would be impossible to remember all of them, but I've cheered for every goal he's scored.  I think my favorite was back on February 7th.  During that game, he scored his 29th and 30th goals of the season... with the 30th one being a "Timo Time in Overtime" against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Unfortunately, we were robbed of our last memories of Timo wearing teal.  He's been out with an upper body injury and not playing recently.  Over these past few weeks, I've been watching his games more intently knowing this might be coming before the trade deadline.  I have been holding my breath for our trip out to San Jose, hoping that Eliot and I would be able to to see him play in person in teal while at the Shark Tank one more time... but it wasn't meant to be.

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Thankfully, we still saw him though.  If he wasn't able to play, I was really hoping we could at least see him during our trip.  And that part worked out perfectly.

Eliot and I went to the Sharks morning skate practice on Saturday.  We couldn't figure out where to go into their practice to watch (it was at Barracuda Ice and not their usual practice facility) so we went back outside.  The timing worked out really good.  Eliot and I ended up being outside of their parking lot when a lot of the guys were leaving practice.  We waved to them as they drove by.

While there, we got talking to the security guard.  He knows all of the guys cars, so he told us Timo was still there.  One by one, the guys kept coming out of practice and driving by.  Eliot and I were outside of the player's parking lot for over an hour, but he finally came out.  According to the security guy, Michael, he was the last player out that day.  I didn't recognize him from so far away, but Michael told us it was him.  Eliot and I waved as Timo drove towards us in his Mercedes hatchback.

Timo stopped just outside the gate where we were standing.  He rolled down his car window and we were able to get my puck signed (for my Timo Meier puck case) and another trading card (that I'm putting in my office).  He seemed a bit subdued, maybe even sad, but at the time I didn't think much of it.  He had just been at practice and he was injured- so presumably, he had probably been getting treatment for the injury.

We thanked him for stopping and the security guard said we'd travelled all the way from Maine to see him.  I said that was true... I'm so awkward.  But I wanted him to know how important seeing him was to us and how grateful we were.  Other than being in San Jose for Patrick Marleau's retirement ceremony, that was the main reason I wanted to go... I had a bad feeling that Timo would be leaving the Sharks soon and I really wanted to see him one last time.  Little did Eliot and I know that we'd probably be some of the last (if not the last) people in San Jose to get his autograph.

I really wish that I'd said more to him.  I'm sure he was going through a lot of emotions when we saw him.  I just wish now that I'd said something about how we'd be fans and still following him and his career to matter where he ended up.  Somehow, I hope that was conveyed to him.  I'm just so thankful that things worked out the way they did and that we were able to see him in San Jose one last time before the trade.

And it's not goodbye forever.  Eliot and I will still watch his games.  At this point, the Sharks remainder of the season looks so bleak that it will be nice to watch a team that's still in the running for the playoffs.  Plus, he's on the East Coast so games won't be as late.  We're looking forward to cheering for him and fellow former Sharks Joe Pavelski (Dallas Stars) and Brent Burns (Carolina Hurricanes) in the playoffs!

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We're also planning to go to Boston to see him play the Bruins on April 8th.  Through my tears Sunday night, I asked Eliot to check the schedule and the Devils are in town the same weekend we were already planning to be in Boston.  I decided then and there that we will be at that game no matter how much money I have to save up to go to it.  (The Bruins are #1 in the NHL so their tickets are really pricey right now.)  I'm looking forward to seeing him in Boston, even though he'll be in a Devils jersey.  Eliot and I will don our teal Sharks jerseys, and I'm definitely wearing my Meier #28 one.

Who knows what will happen in the future.  As of now, Timo hasn't signed on long term with the Devils.  They have him for the rest of this year, and then they can extend his contract in a new deal or he can be qualified at $10 million.  Daydreaming Melissa still hopes that he'll somehow make his way back to San Jose.  Realistic Melissa knows we don't have the money in our cap space to pay him... unless Mike Grier does serious work on the books.  Even then, we probably won't be cup contenders for another few years- so at least Timo has a chance to go win a cup somewhere.  I'm happy for that.

But going forward, things won't ever be the same, and I'm definitely mourning that loss.

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This one hurts a lot.  It's much more painful than losing Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns because they both left San Jose as a direct choice that they made.  Trading Timo to the Devils wasn't by his choice- he had no say in the matter- but he seems happy about it.  In his first interview as a Devil over Zoom, he was excited about the future and how he could contribute to their run towards the playoffs and Stanley Cup.  And for that, I'm truly happy and excited for him.  I would love to see him lift the cup someday!

So, my varying and changing feelings aside, Timo Meier is now a New Jersey Devil.

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To Mike Grier, I have a lot of questions, none of which I really want answered.  But I will do my best to attempt to trust your judgement while it feels like you blow up the team I know and love on our way to a slow and painful rebuild.  Hopefully a few years from now, the Sharks will be playoff contenders again and we will be singing your praises.

To New Jersey, please take good care of Timo- he really is a gem.

And to Timo... We wish you good luck in New Jersey!  All of Sharks Territory will miss you greatly.  Thank you for so many wonderful memories and "times" through the past seven years.  I'll be cheering for you wherever you end up, and Eliot and I will both be looking forward to many more "Timo Time"s in the future.  Until next (Timo) time...  °o°

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