Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
New: For Your Consideration
I'm thrilled to announce that I've launched a project I've been working on for the last couple of months. For Your Consideration is my attempt to re-think how we interact with information on the Internet.
My goal of For Your Consideration is to slow down, focus on good and interesting things, give them context. It is one posting per day, seven days a week.
Find out more in the FYC Manifesto. Help me get the word out. Tell your friends about it. Encourage people to try it and follow FYC. When you see interesting content on FYC, share it with your friends.
The Gear Bag
You’ll want this
More to Explore
While you're here, check out more of my work. Here are some of my most popular articles:
- Some Thoughts on Lightroom Keywords
- More than you want to know about backups (the 2013 edition)
- Should you consider upgrading your home network to a NAS?
- How not to be a doofus with a camera
- Getting started in bird photography: Choose Your Weapons
- Getting going in Photography on the Cheap
Free to download Wallpapers
New on the Blog
Search This Site
Monthly Archives: January 2003
This URL might seem strange, but — Cecil Rospaw is actually my father. My family’s traditional name is Von Rospach, which traces back a few generations to the Alsace region of France (or Germany, depending on who took it over last). In WW II, having a German surname became politically difficult, so the name was americanized. when I graduated from high school, I decided to return to the family’s true name, and became a Von Rospach again…
Fortunately, not yet posthumous. More stuff than you probably remotely want to know about me….
(Originally written in January, 2001 as part of my annual review to myself.
Updated January, 2003 where I felt if needed to be)
To figure out where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve were. If you don’t, you run the risk of circling back and revisiting places you’d rather not be. But to explain where I’ve been, I also have to revisit some of those areas, and to be honest, I don’t want to — I’m shaped by my past, but my past isn’t something I really enjoy wandering in, so you’ll have to excuse me if I skip stuff and give short shrift to other.
For instance, high school. I was two people in high school —
There was a public me, who was involved in, well, pretty damn much everything; athletics (I played what I could, I managed what I couldn’t, and I more or less lived in the gyms, and graduated with three varsity basketball, two varsity football and one or two varsity baseball letters, all as manager. I also swam, did some water polo (including goalie), wrestled a little, racquetball, and bike racing. Of these, the only ones I was remotely good at were racquetball and my cycling, which ended when I wracked my knees in a crash. After that, I slowed down significantly, becoming, well, a bit of a slug, something I’m today trying to fix, slowly by surely), drama (some acting, more tech), speech and debate (almost going to state finals once), school journalism (sports editor, duh), photography — even in high school I dabbled in lots of stuff, because I was interested in lots of stuff, a habit that continues today (but which is a double-edged banana, since if you play with too many toys, you never get good enough with any toy to master it.
But there was a private me as well, which few saw (including my parent, who were amazed when I leveled with them a few years ago, and I’m not sure they really believe me) — high school was a brutally unhappy time that led to three suicide attempts, two of them serious; it was a time when I learned to manipulate the jock culture to skate through school, leaving me completely unready for a college environment I couldn’t manipulate, and, of course, girls, a subject I flunked horribly and which it took me a long time to finally get my act together on. Compound that with having very close friends killed in auto accidents both my sophomore and junior year (both alcohol related, of course). Given that I was intermittently suicidal for two and a half years and depressed when I wasn’t — you get the idea that high school really sucked (and mom was surprised when I tried to bail on graduation…. I lost that fight). I can honestly say that it’s because of three teachers who figured it out and cared, and a couple of dear friends who also figured it out and intervened — that I’m here at all. About a decade ago, I went back and tracked them all down to say thank you, and was able to find all but one — the girl who was (platonically) key to keeping me sane enough to stay alive until I found myself again. To her, I’m eternally grateful, wherever she is. (if I were a christian who believed that my god intervenes in mundane affairs and all life is controlled by that being, I’d declare her to be an angel. But I’m not, and I believe in being responsible for my own actions, even the stupid ones, and not relying on letting someone else take the responsibility or blame, she’s instead a very caring person who’s debt I’ll never repay, no matter how much I pay forward against the balance….)
So you’ll excuse me if I leave my high school days where they belong, dead and buried — other than to say it left me with a strong interest in exploring everything, a strong belief the special people can make a big difference, a huge debt (my life!) I’ve tried to pay forward in reward to people who did the same to me, an ability to study organizations and figure out how to take advantage of the politics of them, a love of sports and the whole jock environment and bad knees…
I entered college in 1977, completely unprepared. I wandered looking for a reason to be there, finally ended up in theater, joined the debate team. Did badly at everything. Then in 1978, looking for an easy way to avoid math — I found a class in something called “introduction to basic programming”. Love at first sight, to put it mildly. It also led to me being kicked out of school for bad grades, so I ended up at a 2 year to get things back under control, but I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and life finally had a purpose.
Around then I discovered there was a group of people who were using the school systems to (gasp) communicate, not just use them for homework. The main computer was a CDC Cyber, and it connected all of the campuses of the CSU system. Someone had written an e-mail program in APL, there was actually a real-time chat system called (amazingly) $talk, and someone else had written (in fortran!) a program where you could leave messages for others to read and reply to called the Latrine Wall (what do you want to do? #1(read) or #2(write)?) I had no clue at the time, and neither did any of the people doing this, but they’d independently invented the BBS system. Over time, I took over running the Latrine wall, and added new versions for other topics (my primary interest being SF), then rewrote the code so a single program could (gasp) handle different topics from a single program (um, it was 1978. I was writing in fortran. CDC fortran, on a Cyber with 6 bit bytes and 60 bit words, and lower case too 12 bits… and I’m doing text hacking…)
The CSU group topped out about 200-250 people. Over time, it developed a strong, if distributed culture. There were parties, there were romances. There were fights. We wasted an enormous amount of time in chat and e-mail and on the boards. The admins wanted us dead, but had trouble keeping up with us (after a while, they gave up). And then I got introduced to the Arpanet, and SF-Lovers.
My first e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org. You weren’t just talking around the state — my god, there were even thousands of folks out there. Absolute heaven.
By this point, I’d figured out enough about my head to actually be able to date without self-destructing (or wishing I would). The first woman I ever got truly serious about I met over $talk, taking her out after she’d flunked a final and needed to be distracted — I was at CSU Fullerton (aka the Fullerton University Center of Knowledge, as we called it until our debate coaches noticed…), she was at CSU Long Beach, and she got dragged to Disneyland (where I was working at the time…). I mention that only because I just got a card from her and her husband, and they’re about to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary — he was a close friend of mine, and I stepped out of the picture to let them figure all of this out. I’m thrilled to know it was the right decision, too — and the synchronicity of it is that he, unless he’s changed jobs without me knowing it, designs rides for Disney… (Jon and Karyn, congrats!)
My first professional programming job was in 1979, programming fortran on a data general Nova. By late 1980, I was working full time with computers, had quit Disney (1976-1980), left school (with 60 units left for a BSCS, 45 of them general ed), and had firmly entrenched computers in my life…
In early 1980, although through the computers, I met the woman who’d become my first wife, a marriage which lasted four years and proved mostly that (a) we’d married the wrong person, (b) I wasn’t nearly emotionally ready to be married, and (c) slow engagements are a damn good thing. We moved from the LA area to the San Francisco bay area in 1982, and divorced in 1984. And that’s all I plan on saying about my first wife, since she was a good person, simply the wrong one, and despite that, she was the person who finally helped me grow up and be able to deal with life for real. We parted, if not friends, friendly, and I believe in letting her enjoy her life without being reminded of my continued existance… (we have, actually, talked a few times, but don’t try to keep in touch. Why should we?)
During this time I’d switched to the Arpanet (later known as this beast called the Internet), discovered Usenet (I’m honestly not sure when, but by January 1983, I’d already attached my then-company’s minicomputer to it via uucp), and on usenet in the comics groups, I met the person who would become my second (and final) wife — Laurie, who happened to be at Purdue at the time. When she graduated, she took the bold step of moving west, waited patiently for me to get my head together enough to try it again, and we were married in 1987, so we’re a few years behind Jon and Karyn, but chasing them…
Even then, computer (and long distance) romances were unusual — our life once made the Washington post in a feature, and again somewhere else I no longer remember. Now, of course, this stuff is almost routine, but back then, people thought we were crazy, but Laurie and I had something most relationships didn’t to build on — we talked, no, communicated. A lot. About everything. Enough to piss off more than one uucp admin around the country for running up their phone bills (people who know today’s internet only won’t understand that. I’ll explain some day) — and it built a strong enough relationship to make it all work (it didn’t help that on our first meeting, we were rather taken with each other as well, when I roadtripped through Purdue on a weekend during a business trip..)
And since then, life’s been pretty damn good. Laurie helped me finish the job of getting my life together, and it’s sometimes been interesting, sometimes stressful, but it’s never once been something I’ve had second thoughts about.
And hopefully, this gives a little glimpse into why I’m me — the sports interest that led to hockeyfanz.com (although how an LA bike and beach bum ended up a hockey fan is another story…), the interest in computers and more specifically the net, my committment to paying forward into the net and making it a better place, of trying to be there for people when they need me, of finding causes that deserve a piece of me and finding a way of giving it.
I’m now at the point in my life where almost half of it has been attached to the Internet in its various forms, and I’ll make no bones of the fact that the net has always been a significant part of my life (sometimes, the primary focus). And while more than once I’ve been told to get a life, those folks don’t have a clue. I have one, a pretty damn good one (and a better one than I had back when I was desperately trying to be normal…) — virtual communities really aren’t virtual. They’re just enabled differently. And getting a life has nothing to do with computers. computers don’t have lives — people do. Or don’t. And whether a person has a life has nothing to do with whether they’re on a computer or not…
And I wouldn’t have it any other way…
Some (hopefully short) notes on things I’m interested in, or involved with, so if you seem we walking down the street, you can walk up and say “compadre! I’m involved in that, too!” (or run off and look for a hiding place, if you prefer…)
With computers and the net (can they even be separated any more?), my main interest is in working with and building communities (on-line communities aren’t virtual, they’re just enabled differently…)– which is something I’ve been doing going back to about 1979, although it wasn’t until three or four years ago I put a name on it. Although I’ve been involved in USENET and mailing lists for most of that time, USENET is dead (although the body is so big and decentralized there’s no brain to recognize the body is rotting), and I’ve come to the realization that mailing lists suck as a community tool — it’s just that until the last couple of years, there weren’t any alternatives, or they sucked even worse. Those tools are just now maturing, and I’m now starting to investigate them seriously. The biggest problem (and it’s NOT a problem, really) is that people are conditioned to and comfortable with lists, and they tend to think they work at this stuff. If they’re happy, I don’t plan on screwing it up but I think over time, most of the community aspects of mailing lists will move to other formats, primarily on the web.
Laurie and I have no kids (by choice), but instead, have our birds and cats. Currently we’re blessed with three canaries, two cockatiels and Tatiana, an umbrella cockatoo (practically speaking, a four year old with an air horn and a claw hammer…). We’re currently working on adopting in a pair of rescued cockatiels, and that should happen in the next week or so.
One of our cats is a feral rescue, the other adopted out of the local humane society. One is an extremely reserved, intelligent cat, the other is a brainless, golden-retriever-esque bundle of happy energy. I’ve never been a cat person — never — and I’ve always, always wanted a dog in the house (but free time and logistics have always gotten in the way). I now have one, too, but it’s stuck inside the body of a tiny calico cat…
The cockatoo is our kid — as I like to joke, we name our vet as “pediatrician” on our tax forms. Cockatoos are highly social, intelligent animals with a definite personality, a strong intellect and a stubborn personality. Developmentally, they ARE about the same as a three or four year old. Old enough to get in amazing trouble, almost old enough to know they shouldn’t, but more than willing to do it anyway. And unlike many birds that are kept as pets, cockatoos (who’s nickname is “love sponge”) are very demanding of your time. Just like, oh, a 3-4 year old…
The cats live in the back of the house, the birds in the front, and they mix only under supervision, cages notwithstanding. One of our cats has learned that the birds are offlimits, but the retriever-cat hasn’t figured it out yet.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve gotten involved in astronomy, since a friend has access to the telescope on Fremont Peak. A year ago we bought our first telescope, which we’ve only had time to use about four times, but now that some of the worst of the tech development is winding down, I hope that’ll change for the better.
When I hit 40 and decided middle age wasn’t all that bad (I had my midlife crisis at 25, in all honesty, and it’s been gravy since…), I’ve started rediscovering things I did earlier in life that had fallen by the wayside. I bought a bike, and have used it sparingly. I’ve been slowly building a woodshop in the garage 9at least the parts there’s room for tools in). I’ve been getting involved in gardening again fairly seriously, and dabbling with my needlepoint again. And Laurie’s been trying to teach me to identify birds when we birdwatch, but I’m pretty rotten at it still.
Even though I no longer write SF, I still read some, but I’m pretty disgusted with the field and the quality of writing. Much of my reading has shifted to other areas, including mysteries, but in all honesty I read very little fiction any more. Instead, I’ve started reading a lot more history and non-fiction, and have gotten rather interested in Roman Britain and World War II military history, especially naval warfare, double-especially submarine warfare. Why? Hell if I know… but it’s fascinating stuff.
And I’m a science and tech nut — part of my training to be a science fiction writer, I browse what’s happening in the sciences with the enthusiasm of an omnivore in a spring meadow… I’m not trying to be an expert in anything, but I enjoy learning and studying pretty much everything…
The life cycle of a coach.
If you are a disciplinarian coach, (what I call a “bad cop” coach), you get hired by a team who has players who are consistently underperforming, don’t show a strong committment to the game, float, phone things in, or generally just don’t look like they care much about playing the game. As a “tough” coach, you put in tough practices, yell a lot, skate them until they puke, and generally drill marshall them to their potential. Initially, players tend to respond to this, because they know they were slacking off.
Eventually, though, players get tired of being yelled at, and being treated like children who can’t run their own lives (even though under their previous coach, they proved they couldn’t). the coach starts making them crazy. they start tuning him out. Play gets erratic, team ethics fade, and players start looking uncaring, distracted, and generally grumpy and pissed. nobody smiles any more, or laughs. players arrive at the last second for practice and leave as quickly as possible after, because being there is No Fun At All.
Eventually, the team stops winning. The coach tries to fix it, and can’t. Eventually, the GM fixes it by firing the coach, which is generally a player’s coach, since right now, the players hate everyone, starting with themselves, the coach, the gm, and the ice guys. they also hate the game and play like it.
The player’s coach (aka “the good cop”) laughs a lot, tells stupid jokes, puts shaving cream in guy’s skates just before practice (and punishes them for being late), and generally acts like a clown. his job it to get players to stop hating the game again, while still teaching them how to play it to win.
For a while, it works. Players appreciate “a friend” as opposed to that last SOB they were playing for. They respond, play well, smile a lot, show up early, practice late, hang around the locker room, and turn into a team. Eventually, however, they start getting comfortable and complacent. A guy will miss a practice. He’ll cut 10 minutes off his bike time. He’ll stay out a little late. He and his linemates will sneak out after curfew to a strip club and get into a fight.
Eventually, everyone gets too happy, too soft, complacent. they start underperforming, discipline goes down. Everyone looks like they’re spending too much time partying and too little time practicing. The team stops winning, because it’s game has lost all discipline.
And the GM looks around and realizes it’s time to make a change, so he pulls out the rolodex, and starts looking up names filed under “bad cop”……
I like the McLaren trade. I think it works for everyone.
San Jose drops most of Sundstrom’s salary and uses him to turn Jillson into a finished player overnight.
Montreal gets depth at forward (and I think Sundstrom gets a fresh start, which he seems to need. How he’ll do will have to wait for 15 games…), and gets rid of about $2million US in salary they can use for something else, instead of paying way too much for an increasingly unhappy backup goalie.
Boston gets the goalie they wanted (who is thrilled to be able to play again), and a top prospect for a guy who told them to go to hell.
Hard to find a loser in this deal, IMHO, player or team. Montreal’s success here depends on what they do with the money they won’t pay hackett, but even cutting costs in today’s NHL isn’t a bad idea…
This is the kind of trade I like. Everyone feels they benefitted in some way. It may be more fun for fans to feel like they ripped off some other team, but it just doesn’t happen all that often.
How does a coach go from being coach of a division winning team to unemployed? Since most fans have no connection inside of a team, firings many times seem sudden and arbitrary. Sometimes they are. But most times, if you know how to find it, there’s a history that builds up over time that — in retrospect — that clearly points to the inevitable…
I’ve been arguing with myself whether to post this or not. I’m still of mixed minds, but I think it’s got value.
I just didn’t think Sutter was the problem. So his firing came as a major surprise to me. But I was at the point where I felt something had to happen, and said so. I just didn’t think it’d be the coach.
But after talking to a lot of people (see footnote1) and trying to get to the reality of the situation, I’ve come to realize that it was time for Darryl Sutter to move on, and I think the only person who realized that was GM Dean Lombardi.
How does a coach go from being coach of a division winning team to unemployed? Since most fans have no connection inside of a team, firings many times seem sudden and arbitrary. Sometimes they are. But most times, if you know how to find it, there’s a history that builds up over time that — in retrospect — that clearly points to the inevitable.
Coaches have a shelf life. With few exceptions (Scotty Bowman being the primary one in hockey, and HE was fired more than once) coaches only last a few years before they lose their effectiveness with a team. When you hit that point as a coach, you’ve hit the expiration date on the “use by” tag. That was, ultimately, why Sutter was fired. The team was hearing, but not listening. Playing hard as individuals, but not together as a team. And Sutter couldn’t fix it.
That, essentially, was Sutter’s problem. Sutter has a distinct personality and coaching style. He’s a strict disciplinarian, sometimes abrupt, sometimes crude, sometimes bordering on abusive. This is not a criticism — it’s a fact of life in coaching and the NHL. you don’t get there without a few choice cuss words.
Sutter had a specific style in the game he coached and the way he coached. It’s an effective style, but it has limited flexibility, both strategically and personally. Sutter is — Sutter. The problem with this — and the reason most coaches have a limited shelf life — is that if you have someone saying the same things to you day after day, over time, you tend to tune it out. For some coaches, the only way to break through this is by getting louder, which works for a while, but ultimately, they hit a point where you can’t turn up the volume knob any further.
The seeds of this firing go back a number of seasons. In my discussions, it became clear that there were warning signs going back a number of years. Sutter brings many strengths to the game as coach: he’s a pretty strong tactical coach, good at line matching, and brings the legendary Sutter work ethic and discipline. He doesn’t expect anything more out of his players than he expects out of himself — but being a Sutter, he expects a lot of himself.
Not all players can handle the demands of playing for a Sutter, but those who do come out of it better men. But one spot where I think Sutter’s weaknesses are a potential problem is his dealing with young players. Sutter doesn’t seem to see teaching as a big part of his job, and in today’s NHL, that simply isn’t true. He also isn’t at his best interacting with the younger players.
If you look through the Sharks years with Sutter, you see a string of struggles by their younger players. Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, Shawn Heins, Alex Korolyuk. Youngsters with various levels of potential, who tended to show intriguing results as a rookie, and then ran into a sophomore slump. But kids have sophomore slumps — so you don’t think about it much.
But maybe we should have. As part of my looking around the firing, I ran into an interesting set of rumors that all dovetailed together. Multiple stories of youngsters expected to be adult veterans, yelled at in practices, thrown into situations they couldn’t handle with little support system from the sharks staff. Two different sources told me that the mysterious replacement of Sutter’s assistant coaches Paul Baxter and Bob Berry was forced on Sutter by Lombardi in an attempt to bring in people more able to relate with the younger players. They were replaced by Cap Raeder and Lorne Molleken, and then later, Raeder went back to the east coach where he works the college scouting circuit, and was replaced Rich Preston.
One source told me quite explicitly that the reason Patrick Marleau developed into the player he’s shown himself to be this year is because of Lorne Molleken, not Sutter. I’ve heard from friends of two players who’s attitude towards Sutter can only be described as “angry and bitter” over how they were treated as a 1st and 2nd year player. Sutter, from everything I’ve heard, wasn’t trying to destroy the kids, but the kids might not agree. What he saw as tough love and acting like a professional, the kids saw more as thrown into the pool with a cement lifesaver.
And at the same time — these same players recognize how much they learned from Sutter, and as far as I can tell, to a man, would play for him again. When Al Sims was fired in San Jose, I heard rumors of players wandering the halls under the arena singing “Ding, Dong! the Witch is Dead”. Not here. Most players were stunned and hurt that Sutter was fired, even those who also felt he didn’t handle their development well.
That’s why this firing defies easy explanation. This team hadn’t quit on Sutter (as Calgary did to Gilbert) — but it wasn’t really listening to him or playing the game he asked them to play. They didn’t always like playing for him — but they respected him and wanted to win for him. It seems weird, but more correctly, the relationship between Sutter, his coaches, and the players was a very complex one, in a business where fans love to try to simplify things.
While hints of impending doom rattle back through the years as far back as 1999, Sutter’s firing really seems to have taken tangible form last season. It became clear last summer that some kind of fight was going on inside the Sharks. I never quite figured out what was going on, but things were leaking out that some people wanted Sutter fired, other people wanted Lombardi fired, there seemed to be people who wanted everyone fired, and for a while, it wasn’t sure who might get contracts and who didn’t. Lombardi sold his house, officially to simplify life (and I still can’t decide whether to believe him or not — but I tend to think it’s true; at the same time, it also made it easier for him to walk away if he didn’t get what he wanted to stay). Lombardi eventually got a multi-year deal, Sutter a one year. The one year deal raised eyebrows, too.
I now think I have a feel for what went down. It has to be remembered the Sharks faded towards the end of last season, playing just over .500 for the last 20 games. At the time, some folks on the Sharks list felt the team was tuning Sutter out and called for his replacement. Most of us, of course, pointed out that Sutter won the division, and that any thought of firing him was lunacy.
It turns out that same fight went on inside the Sharks. In one corner, advocating replacing Sutter during the summer, is Dean Lombardi. He saw the team tuning sutter out. he saw the team coasting and sputtering. He saw a growing conflict with his coach over certain players and how they were used (or not): two that seem to be points of contention are Alexander Korolyuk and Shawn Heins, but they’re mere shadows of the fight to come.
(Shawn Heins played 17 games in 2001-2. Korolyuk played 32. Heins never saw enough playing time for me to ever decide how good a player he is, but it seemed clear Sutter didn’t think much of him; Korolyuk showed flashes of brilliance, and flashes that made you want to strangle him. In both cases, however, Dean Lombardi seemed convinced about the quality of the player to keep them — even as his coach insisted on not playing them. I could never figure out the logic of this. In reality, it seems to be a fundamental disconnect between coach and GM — Lombardi clearly felt they ought to be played. In Heins’ case, Sutter just didn’t. In Korky’s — he did, and Korolyuk couldn’t find consistency to suit Sutter or the fans. Did Korolyuk fail? Or did Sutter not create an environment he could succeed in? I know the answer I had last season and the one I have now are very different…..)
In the other corner seems to be Greg Jamison as president and speaking for the ownership group. His response seems to be the quite logical “are you crazy? he just won the division! Our fans will kill us! worse, the marketing department will!” — and if you think about it, it’s really hard to argue with that. While some fans were seeing the sputter and fade, most were seeing that division banner and playoff run. Not bringing back Sutter would have been suicide.
I get indications this fight between Lombardi and upper management got pretty, well, intense. And when it was over, Sutter got a one year deal. Effectively, double-secret probation.
Which seems to have pissed Sutter off in a major way. Among other things, he is a man with great self-confidence and pride. I think he seriously considered telling the Sharks to stuff it and keep their contract, but his ties to San Jose (his family has really settled in san Jose) and a feeling that things weren’t finished, and the reasoning that winning would be the best proof/revenge, he accepted the one year deal.
And that sets us up to this final season. The Sharks are division winners, pundits are picking them for the cup final, everything thinks life is great and a parade is just a matter of time. But in the meantime, Gary Suter retires, Stephanne Matteau moves on, Korolyuk heads off to Russia, Nabokov holds out, Stuart holds out, Nick Sundstrom screws up his visa stuff and misses camp…
And let’s not forget that along the way last season, a number of players picked up injuries, and not all of them were 100% coming into this season: Stuart (who’s still not 100%), thornton, and as far as I can tell, Nolan’s NEVER 100% any more, between his back, his groin, and his wrist. So the team that started last season on a roll and carried it through the playoffs came into this season missing some guys, with some guys hobbled, and with a feeling of “we’re division champs, and we’re off to win the cup”. No matter how hard they tried, a little bit of complacency snuck into the off season, and this team simply wasn’t ready for the start of the season.
The one player who’s loss can’t be minimized in all of this is Gary Suter. Not just for the 20 minutes a night he played, and his power play and quarterbacking. his loss forced Sutter into a position he’s not comfortable with: depending on younger players on the blueline — his senior guys were Rags and Rat now, which meant Stuart and Hannan had to pick up a lot of the slack, and Jeff Jillson was expected to be ready to contribute to the team.
That seems to be the final conflict: Jeff Jillson. Darryl Sutter believed he wasn’t ready for the NHL. Dean Lombardi was convinced he was. When Lombardi refused to listen to Sutter about Jillson, Sutter seems to have basically thrown Jillson into the deep end and let him struggle to prove a point. I’ve heard from multiple sources that Sutter was brutal to Jillson in practices. Part of this seems to have been an attempt to force Lombardi to send Jillson down to Cleveland, but I also think Jillson ended up taking some of the frustration that seemed to be going on between Sutter and Lombardi. It wasn’t long before Jillson’s confidence was shattered and his play erratic. Still, Lombardi wouldn’t send the poor kid down — to a good degree, there was a battle of the stubborns with Jillson as the pawn.
So the season opens with two sets of conflicts: the team is flat, it’s missing key guys, other guys are hurt, and it starts badly. Parallel to this, there’s the fight going on over Jillson, and that leaked out all over the players — they couldn’t miss it; hell, they couldn’t hide from it. Jillson was falling apart, and the players weren’t happy, with themselves, with their play, or what was happening.
Finally, sundstrom gets his visa, Stuart signs (but isn’t healthy), nabokov signs (but isn’t godlike). Sutter gets all his guys back, gets a few games to get everything together — and the Sharks still suck. You could see it in their play, it wasn’t coming together. they’d have a good game, then two bad ones, then a so-so one, then…. God knew what team would show up every night, but nobody else did.
I’ve heard rumors that “something” happened on that last road trip before the firing, probably in Pittsburgh, perhaps in Philly. What it is, I don’t know, but I have indications it involved Jillson. If it did happen, I don’t know what, I don’t know who was involved, but it doesn’t seem to have been the team in general (it clearly wasn’t a mutiny or any other kind of team thing) — if it happened at all. But that seems to have been the final catalyst. The Sharks finished out that road trip with a great game against the Blues, a rotten game against the Predators, and came home and stank up the joint against the coyotes. I wrote my “something has to happen” piece, and at the time I was writing that, Lombardi was calling up Jamison and saying “NOW can I fire him?” — and Jamison looked at the first 1/4 of the season and called the ownership group.
Did Lombardi set Sutter up to fire him? In all honesty, I can’t find any indication of it. Lombardi’s off-season was a typical off-season. he treated the unsigned free agents the way he always did. The injuries were out of his control, and it’s not Lombardi’s responsibility to keep the players from getting complacent (it’s partly the coach, it’s mostly the players).
If Lombardi did anything to set this up, it’s that he was convinced that Jillson was ready, and wouldn’t listen to Sutter when Sutter said he wasn’t. (note for the record: within two weeks of Ron Wilson coming on board, Jillson was quietly sent to Cleveland to recuperate and get his confidence back. To me, this is an indication of just how bad the relationship between Sutter and Lombardi had gotten: Sutter was right here, but Lombardi wasn’t listening. But if, as I think likely, Sutter had similar refrains about other kids in his preference for a veteran team, you can’t blame Lombardi for eventually tuning that refrain out, the way the players ended up tuning out Sutter, too).
To me, though, this indication that GM and Coach had hit a point where the relationship wasn’t functioning is the key indication it was time for Sutter to be replaced. If the coach and GM can’t communicate about players, you have a real problem. In this case, Jillson got stuck in the middle, and I can only hope it doesn’t screw up his development.
So my bottom line is that it was time for Sutter to be replaced — but this is about as close to a classic “no fault divorce” as you’ll ever find. I can’t find a villain anywhere in the story. Sutter did great things for the organization, and deserves every accolade he can get for that. it just — stopped working.
And if you look at other NHL teams who’s gone from doormats to champions, perhaps that’s inevitable. Bob Gainey built the Stars, but needed Ken Hitchcock to make them Cup Champions. We forget, but Scotty Bowman didn’t build the Red Wings, Jacques Demers and then Bryan Murray did, and Bowman came in to finish. In Quebec/Colorado, Dave Chambers and Pierre Page built it — and Marc Crawford finished it.
Do teams hit a point where you have to change voices to read a new level? It sure seems so to me. It’s really hard to blame Sutter for having a “use by” label on his forehead — but every coach does. His just came up a bit earlier than we expected.
(footnote 1: In the years we’ve been season ticket holders with the Sharks and running our mail lists, we’ve gotten to know any number of people, players, staffers, relatives, fans. This year, the list has both people close to the Sutters and close to a number of players. They don’t talk about it on the list, generally, but some of them were willing to discuss some of what they were hearing and seeing. I try to not abuse these relationships (“Hey, jake! long time no talk! What’s the poop on the sutter firing?”), but sometimes you talk, and sometimes you listen, and I can’t help but try to put things together, because I want to understand. Some guys grew up wanting to be a pro athlete? Me, I figured out early on I wa at best a mediocre one, so I grew up wanting to be the GM…)
well, we survived macworld. My mysterious project that I still can’t talk about (hopefully, soon, and then I’ll even be able to explain why I can’t explain) performed pretty well, although things were quite chaotic.
I’m starting to get comfortable with the Xserves and with sendmail 8.12. The Xserves are starting to kick some butt — I’m seeing 4X-5X performance pretty easily, and at times, as much as 8X my old E-250. Solid, stable, fast as blazes, and inexpensive.
8.12′s sub-queues are interesting, but they take some getting used to. I found out (the hard way) that you really can’t take 8.11 configurations and use them, you have to re-architect. Maybe small or average sites will do okay, but mine don’t qualify. So it’s been a re-thinking for me. I’m starting to settle in and get a feel for how to tune the beasts, and it seems nice and stable.
As to the Expo itself — I found it quite impressive. I think some folks haven’t figured out that Apple isn’t trying to take out Microsoft any more (the “great satan” thing was a Mike Spindler fantasy, folks, and one of the most incompetent business strategies I’ve ever seen) — but instead, a realization that Apple is better off not dependent on Microsoft, like it really was with IE. Not being the Great Satan doesn’t imply they’re our close ally. I found it significant, for instance, that microsoft was very missing from the keynote, unlike previous years. I also find it interesting that Microsoft is heavily pushing it’s “open” office format, while Steve just kinda tossed off XML, open file formats as a minor aside.
I love Safari. Already my primary browser. Perfect? no. But pretty darn good, and will improve. I love the bookmarking. So clean. And while I got used to tabs when I switched to Mozilla a couple of months ago — and I hope safari gets tabs at some point — I think most folks screaming for them should try out snapbacks. Snapbacks do 95% of what I used tabs for in pratice: I can get along without tabs quite nicely. (another standard chuqui rant: try not to think about a particular function, but what task you’re trying to accomplish. In some ways, snapbacks are BETTER and more efficient with screen real estate than tabs…)
I’ve seen a couple of mac rumor sites “take credit” for the ‘reversal’ of the rumors of the iLife stuff being kept free (except for iDVD). All I can say is, some folks take themselves way too seriously, and ought to get a life.
It was the kind of expo that makes me glad I’ve hung around Apple all these years. it’s still a company that believes in making a difference, not just a profit.