Wily Sharks vet leading the way

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

 SAN JOSE -- The deal was doomed from the start.

 Doomed, but at least discussed, which means the steps were being taken for Vincent Damphousse to say goodbye to the Silicon Valley.

  Good thing it didn't happen because it would have kept him away from his longest playoff run in more than a decade.

 "Yeah, that was brought up when we played Colorado," he admitted yesterday, not really wanting to broach the subject.

 At trade deadline 2003, Damphousse's tenure with the Sharks was on the verge of coming to a close.

 With their season a wash, the Sharks ended up trading away Owen Nolan, Bryan Marchment, Niklas Sundstrom and Marcus Ragnarsson and a deal was in place that would have sent the veteran centre to the Avalanche.

 However, the transaction fell apart for a couple of very obvious reasons. In order to waive his no-trade clause, Damphousse wanted another year's salary added to his contract. Then, the Avs wanted San Jose to pick up $1 million US of his $4-million US salary this season.

 Neither demand was met and after another deal discussed with Vancouver fell through, Damphousse didn't have to pack his bags.

 "I could have gone but it wasn't me making the decision. It was the San Jose Sharks deciding to keep me," he said. "I told them, 'If you want to keep me, I'll work hard and be happy to stay but if you don't want me, I don't want to stay.'

 "Basically, the ball was in their hands, their court.

 "It turned out well for me and I think it's turned out for them."

 You can't argue with that.

 Although there's plenty of mileage on the 36-year-old's legs, Damphousse has been the leading offensive catalyst for a club that advanced to the third round for the first time in franchise history.

 "Vinny has a real sense of urgency to his game right now in the sense of he believes we really have a good chance of winning the Stanley Cup," said Sharks head coach Ron Wilson yesterday.

 "Vinny really is motivated to play in every single game and that's a great motivator for everybody else on our team."

 Damphousse's actions speak even louder. He scored in five of the six games it took to dispatch the Avs and his 11 points leads all Sharks scorers.

 Damphousse has been to the final once before as part of the surprising run to glory generated by a young Montreal Canadiens squad in 1993.

 Damphousse has said this year's Sharks club reminds him of that upstart team but doesn't want to put expectations on his teammates yet.

 "It's a little too early to tell how this team will compare. It has a good mix of older players, younger players and great goaltending and you need that," he said. "We had a lot of guys who weren't known around the league much and a lot of guys that had better years after, like John Leclair and Eric Desjardins, and that was their breakthrough. I think our team has a lot of good, young players, coming into their own."

 And one wily vet who is proving he still has it, too.


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