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Monthly Archives: April 2004
Surprisingly easy win against an Avs team that looks unready and undisciplined.
The quote you didn’t see in the papers after that game from tony granato:
We’re gonna need a bigger boat!
Now, having said that, nobody should expect future games to be easy, but if the Avs can’t figure out the sharks speed, this series is over. Ron wilson did a strange thing — he put the team’s fourth line (Todd harvey and Mark Smith) to the task of checking the Forsberg line, and they made Forsberg absolutely miserable all night. Not something I would have expected.
Frankly, I think splitting Sakic and Forsberg and putting Selanne up with Sakic only makes the Sharks job easier, since Selanne will drag Sakic down with him. given a choice between one solid scoring line and two mediocre ones, Granato chose two. We thank him.
The nasty, undisciplined play by the Avs late was onacceptable. I hope Steve Moore called Boughner on the phone after the game to ask “what the hell weree you thinking”, but I guess it’s okay if it happens to the other team….
So, how’d I do?
Tampa/NY Isles – me: Tampa/5 real: tampa/5
Boston/Montreal – me: Boston/6 real: Montreal/7
Philly/NJ – Me: NJ/6 real: Philly/5
Toronto/Ottawa – Me: Toronto/6 real: Toronto/7
Detroit/Nashville – Me: Detroit/5 real: Detroit/6
San Jose/St. Louis – Me: SJ/6 real: SJ/5
Vancouver/Calgary – Me: Van/5 real: Cal/7
Colorado/Dallas – Me: Dallas/6 real: Col/5
4 of 8. The only two I missed badly on were Philly/NJ (Brodeur just wasn’t sharp) and Colorado/Dallas (Dallas wasn’t as good as I expected)
On to the 2nd round…
SJ/Colorado: two guarantees: if the Avs lose a series in the playoffs, aeberscher will get blamed by a lot of fans and pundits; also, if the Avs do lose — it won’t be his fault. He’s not Roy, but he’s pretty darn good. Dangerous team, but I’m just not that worried. The Sharks match up well, and if they can contain Forsberg and Sakic (easier said than done), it’s a fairly easy victory. I don’t expect it to be quite that easy, but I still expect the sharks to get it done: Sharks in 6.
Detroit/Calgary: I think Detroit is beatable here. Older and slower, and Legace/Joseph just isn’t making me think they’ll stone teams. On the other side, Calgary is young, fast, Iginla has shown up and taken control, Kiprusoff is showing an ability to play up to pressure, and the Flames may well just skate the Wings into the offseason; you can’t hit what you can’t catch (ask Dallas Drake…). Flames in 6
Tampa/Montreal: Theodore? Or Khabibulin? St. Louis? or Koivu. May be the most fun of the 2nd round. The Lightning have been pretty much ignored by both ESPN/ABC and CBC, so most fans don’t have a clue what they’re bringing to this series. I think Theodore is the better goalie — but I’m not sure it’s enough to win the series. Tampa in 6
Philly/Toronto: My heart says Toronto, my head says Philly. But my head says Philly every year, and every year, they find a way to screw it up and go out earlier than they should. This year, it’s Belfour/Esche — and Esche is impressive, but Belfour is unconscious — Ottawa wins that series handily if it wasn’t the Eagle stoning (and Lalime showing his true colors in that game 7 implosion. The earlier games was the illusion, folks, time to try something else, and it’s not Prusek). I’ll go with Belfour here, and expect Philly to find some way to lose again. Leafs in 5.
And I sure would love to see a Sharks/Flames western final. Wouldn’t that be fun? Nabokov/Kiprusoff for the west?
Frank Catalano went to the Nebula Awards in Seattle, and talks about some of the things that happened.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about decisions past, present and future recently. A couple of those major decisions were quitting my writing not-quite-a-career, and later, deciding to resign from SFWA after years of involvement. Between Frank and Teresa’s post on Avenue Victor Hugoand the closing of Other Change of Hobbit, it’s really stirred up a bunch of memories.
The decision to stop writing was really pretty simple, actually — I felt I was a mid-list type of writer, working in a field where the mid-list was starting to be decimated, both by centralized chain buying that didn’t have room for the non-blockbuster writer, and by the encroachment of the sharecrop
environments such as Star Trek and Star Wars. Both of those worries have come true to a good degree, I think, and I don’t think the kind of writing I was interested in doing matches well with the market as it stands today, and I just wasn’t interested writing other people’s stories. What made the decision really easy were two other factors: first, I had another option (computers) that I enjoyed at least as much as writing, and which paid a hell of a lot better, and I’m all for having fun AND making money; second, it turns out that I wasn’t nearly as interested in being a writer as proving I could be a writer, so once I got the full SFWA membership, I lost a lot of motivation (object lesson: set your goals appropriately, just in case you reach them…).
I honestly don’t miss writing; I was always someone who enjoyed having written more than the act of writing, and my other things in my life keep me happy. Deciding to simplify and focus was easy.
Leaving SFWA was more problematic, even having decided to stop writing. It’s not something I’ve talked about to many folks, but I guess it’s time. I managed the Nebula Awards for a good number of years for SFWA, and it’s something I take pride in how well it ran — when I picked it up, the awards were in the latest in an continuing series of crises and political fights, and interest within the organization was low. My main goal was stability, to simply make the damned things work and work in a way that people would be willing to get back involved in the process — what I think I’m most proud of is that every year I managed the awards, membership participation went up. To me, that means I was doing something right.
Even when I gave up the awards, and I’d cut back on my writing, i still felt that I wanted to be a part of the organization, to find ways to pay forward into the author community that’d given me so much. But SFWA has had problems trying to decide what it wanted to be, a social organization, a support organization, or a professional organization (SFWA, for reasons I’ve never quite figured out, decided it couldn’t be more than one type of organization, and perhaps it was right…).
So eventually I got involved in some of the arguments, and over time, I decided that SFWA was headed in the wrong direction, so (being someone who believes in doing, not whining), I declared candidacy for office for an upcoming election, with a platform of trying to drive to conclusion some of the continuing fights going on within SFWA, and to try to move it in directions I felt it needed to go.
Some members supported me, some didn’t. One who didn’t was Damon Knight, who happened to be founder of SFWA. I found it troubling to be in conflict with him over future directions of SFWA (although to be honest, Damon and I didn’t always see eye to eye (I got the impression I rubbed him the wrong way at times — that, of course, was unprecedented, given my quiet, docile personality); but even when I disagreed with him, I strongly respected his opinion. Now, I was on the wrong side of that opinion, and it bothered me.
But it also made me think, and realize that, given I’d already chosen to retire from active writing, that maybe I shouldn’t be actively driving the future direction of SFWA; II was, after all, a self-described passenger now. I also realized that as long as I was a member of SFWA, I’d be unable to not get involved in the fights over what SFWA wanted to be when it grew up — that’s just not me.
So I cancelled my candidacy and resigned from SFWA. It’s all Damon’s fault — and I wish I’d been able to thank him for making the decision necessary. Because in retrospect, he was right; SFWA moved on without me and is doing pretty well from what I see from the outside, I got out of the way, and most important, I got to pull a lot of conflict (even if the arguing and fighting was mostly done with interesting people in interesting ways) and time committments out of my life, and realize that SFWA was part of my past, not my future. So everyone ended up winning.
It was hard to convince myself it was time to move on — but once I did, I realized it was the right thing to do, and I haven’t regretted it. Except, on a social level, where I ended up losing coontact with a bunch of really great people, folks who’d helped me get my writing career started, and were a great help and resource as I was figuring all that stuff out.
So I don’t miss SFWA, and SFWA doesn’t miss me, but I sometimes miss the people that made SFWA SFWA, even if they were ones I tended to fight with. It is, for the most part, a great bunch of folks, and very open to people that could, potentially, take their jobs — but they made you welcome anyway. I’m proud of my time there, and the work I did supporting the organization; and in a funny way, I’m just as proud to realize in retrospect that I also served SFWA as well as myself by choosing to resign.
I’ve heard some of the rumors about my resignation, some were rather amusing, in fact. At the time, I mostly wanted it all to move on and both myself and SFWA to focus on other things, I didn’t want to become more of a distraction than I’d become with my candidacy. But now, I think, it’s safe to talk about, and I’m comfortable with my decisions — Damon and I didn’t agree on what SFWA ought to be, and given he founded it, I wouldn’t go against his vision, even if I disagreed with it. And perhaps he was right; SFWA certainly went in a different direction than I wanted it to — and I can’t complain about the results. It’s a time when I’m happy to be proven wrong, because it doesn’t matter who’s right, as long as the organization moves forward in productive ways…
some thoughts on the Sharks-Blues series (â€¦And I Guess Thatâ€™s Why They Call Them â€œThe Bluesâ€)
some thoughts after the Sharks/Blues series:
Overall, I think the better team won. The Sharks don’t necessarily have the most talented players — but in aggregate, it’s a very talented team. Chris Osgood continues to show that his Stanley Cup ring was because he played behind a team so dominant that all it needed was pretty good goaltending, and that more or less sums up Chris Osgood: he’s pretty good, but not a franchise goalie.
Chris Pronger can be a dominant force, but — much of the time, he’s at best a mixed blessing. I felt he played very conservatively much of the time, where he was very slow to enter the offensive zone, very quick to back out and defend — he wasn’t so much playing defense as free safety, and that seriously limited his effectiveness. Since the Blues were depending on him to eat so many minutes — he focussed mostly on eating minutes, not on impacting the game. If the team wants to use Pronger properly, he needs his minutes cut so he can be more active and dominating — I don’t think he was all that well used in this series, because he couldn’t waste energy on significant plays or physical work, he acted like he was tired and had to save his energy for staying on the ice.
In that case, the lack of depth on the Blues is a serious weakness. I’ll take the Sharks top four in a minute over the Blues top four, and this is, as much as anything, a great example that hockey is a game of teams, where individuals can’t win games without a solid support crew with them.
Here’s what I saw in St. Louis — I give them credit for really trying — but I didn’t see a team that was selling out to win. If you use the “Spinal Tap” scale, they played at 10.25 tonight, not 11. There were a couple of exceptions (Mellanby, Sillinger), but from watching them, I saw a team (especially in the early part of the third, before they rallied for one last try) that looked tired, and seemed to be thinking that even if they won tonight, they weren’t going to win three.
If you’re wondering what I think was missing — think about every shift Todd Harvey and Mark Smith got tonight. Now, ask yourself who on the Blues played like that. It’s a short list.
That said, I think the sharks brought their A- game, and the blues their A game. And it wasn’t enough. But I think it ties back into my thoughts on attitudes and excuses. If the fortunes were reversed, do you for a minute doubt that everyone in teal would be on the ice blocking things with any body part necessary? So why weren’t the blues? The Blues were serious and desperate tonihgt, but could have been even more desperate; but they weren’t.
major credit to the blues: they knew how to beat the sharks, forcing them out of their gameplan and making them grind and dump instead of fly and wheel — but they couldn’t sustain that kind of play, and the sharks were able to at least hold their own playing the Blue’s game, until they won momentum back; as long as the Sharks could skate, they skated around the Blues. Dallas Drake and his line were mostly ineffectual, except in game 3, mostly, I think, because you can’t hit what you can’t catch, and Drake was having trouble catching anything.
I was most impressed with Sillinger and Mellanby; they both played like there was no tomorrow, every game. Without them, this would have been a shorter and more embarassing series. If I’m the Blues GM, I worry a lot the next few weeks if I want to build a team around a 30 minute a night defenseman with such a short fuse and an inability to avoid stupid retaliation/temper penalties; I’ve never been a fan of Tkachuk, and I wonder where Dougie Weight was most of the time. And I have to find a goaltender, the one they have isn’t the answer.
This, by the way, is the difference between the high-priced player and the star, and the star and the legend. A lot of it comes down to coaching and the attitudes brought from above, too.
Think about the Blues: been in the playoffs for 25+ years straight, and what have they accomplished? Could it perhaps be because, at the core of their attitude, they and their coaches have accepted excuses for losing? If the ref is “out to get you”, it’s out of your control, right?
Those tiny, subtle aspects of motivation and attitude are the difference between teams that win and teams that are winners. And where that separates out is at crunch time.
my favorite example of this is the SF. giants. Remember back when they really, really sucked, and were playing in Candlestick? And everyone hated it, and whined and moaned and talked about how terrible the place was? Then they hired a guy named Roger Craig to manage, and he forbid the players from talking about how they hated the park, and pointed out that opposing teams hated coming and playing there MORE THAN THE GIANTS did — and that the Giants ought to use that advantage. And under Craig, they did. Instead of “god, it’s cold, it’s windy, this place sucks”, it became “you have to beat us AND our ballpark. Bring a parka!”
From discussions on TSN, Joel Quenneville got fired because, ultimately, he didn’t hold his elite players responsible for stupid penalties and bad attitudes (but he did his 2nd tier and depth players). You see that in the team now: guys like Weight and Tkachuk and especially Pronger eating huge minutes, but taking stupid penalties at key times and whining about things instead of rising to the challenge and finding ways to win.
Unfortunately — if you depend on Pronger to play 28 minutes a game, and your replacement is Eric Weinrich (no offense to Weinrich), it’d take a really strong, self-confident coach to tell whineyboy to sit on the bench and watch the rest of the game. But do you think for a second that Wilson would hesitate? I don’t. If ANY shark pulled the kind of stunts pronger’s pulled this series, they’d be watching Todd Harvey skate their shifts; every shark knows that, too — so it doesn’t cross their mind to try.
With the Sharks, it doesn’t matter what happens in a game, it’s just part of the challenge that’s needed to win. With the Blues, if things don’t go their way, the frustration and excuses start, and as a team, they’ve already explained the loss as out of their control, and once you start excusing losses instead of challenging yourself to win, you allow losing to be an option. Elite teams never let it be an option. If you listen to the Blues, when they lose, that’s, well, it happens. When you listen to the Sharks, when they lose, it’s — hey, this is the playoffs. you just suck it up and find a way.
that’s why these teams, which are actually fairly closely matched (IMHO) are 3-1 sharks, and 2 and 7 seeds.
That is, ultimately, what makes Mark messier Mark Messier: there are no excuses. There are only barriers to be knocked down. And winners knock them down, they don’t complain about their existance.
One of the things I’ve been watching all season is how the blues team chemistry would work out. If you look at Keith Tkachuk’s history, wherever he’s gone, teams have had a tendency to be underperform expectations. He’s a hugely talented, powerful and important player — but he’s also a loose cannon on the ice, and there are always questions of team chemistry in the locker room (especially in Phoenix, where he and roenick were, well, always in competition for first to the hydrant). On the other hand, I’ve always been impressed with Dougie Weight, both as a huge talent and as a good chemistry guy and a postive team player. Then you have Pronger, a million dollar talent with a nickel brain — and Al MacInnis, one of the true class players. So I was curious from pre-season how the chemistry would go here, whether MacInnis and Weight would override the chaos and negative aspects and control the outbursts of guys like Tkachuk and Pronger.
and once MacInnis went down — it was all over. he was, I think, the only guy on the team, including the coach (previous and current) that could (and would) tell Pronger to sit down, shut up, and play hockey. And the chaos of Tkachuk and Pronger ended up winning the fight here — and as you see from the results from this series, costing them the playoffs. A good argument could be made that if Tkachuk and Pronger weren’t taking penalties that were completely unnecessary, this series could well be 3-1 Blues. Just think about the key goals scored JUST on (or after) Pronger penalties.
And even Weight has bought into the “we can’t win when the refs are against us”, which shows you how insidious these attitudes are and why coaches like Sutter and Wilson are such bastards about any hint of them in their players. If you allow for any doubt — these attitudes will kill you.
And that’s why the Blues are going down, and why I was convinced from game 2 it’d happen. Because it was clear in game 2 that they were letting outside factors give them excuses, not challenges. And the Sharks take on challenges, they don’t make excuses. And even when the Sharks lost game 3, it was clear to me the Blues couldn’t sustain the kind of play needed to beat the sharks. They had *A* game in them; but not a series. They were already making excuses for a series loss in game 2, and once you convince yourself you can’t win — you’ve lost.
This series could well be a 7 game, pick-em series. But it’s not even close, because the Blues early on they wouldn’t win it. And if you asked each athlete in the blues locker room, they’d all deny that and believe what they say — but listen to what they say and think about what it implies about their attitudes underneath, and you hear a team that’s accepting of losses. And a team that WANTs to win will never win out against a team that HAS TO.
The overall attitude of that locker room is one writing the exit speech, not one denying they might exit.
And with the attitude the Sharks have — they won’t be beaten until they meet a better team that also has the same tough-nosed attitude about winning. So they have a chance to dance for a while…
How about Marcel Goc? first NHL game, and I thought he handled himself really well. Very good ice and peripheral vision, good speed, not afraid to wheel a bit, seemed very mature for the situation. I’m impressed.
I want Scott Parker in a game, though. he’s earned it.
As to our second round opponent: I don’t care. Bring whoever on.
(from the St. Louis view, see Jeff Gordon
I’ll go on record and take San Jose. I’d love to see either San Jose and Ottawa or Tampa in the final.
the safe pick is detroit/NJ, but while I won’t be at all suprised to see the Devils come out of the east, I just can’t see Detroit making it out alive. Any of six teams could make the finals and not suprise me in the west…
A few quick notes on team and league awards, here at the end of the season.
San Jose Sharks:
MVP: Patrick Marleau. No, CAPTAIN Patrick Marleau. While this year’s team was really an ensemble piece, if you have to choose one guy, it’s an easy choice. Mike Rathje is my second choice.
Rookie of the year: Tom Preissing. rookie defenseman. Undrafted, free agent rookie defenseman; and he made it look easy. Very impressive.
Most improved: you could consider Marleau, actually. But going into the season, most of us were hoping for an improvement from Jonathan Cheechoo — to maybe 15 goals or so. yeah, right. Cheechoo almost singlehandledly replaced Owen Nolan in production AND in the physical factor. And I think he still has a noticable upside. Second choice: Alexander Korolyuk, who had a lot to prove (starting with “is he really an NHL-caliber top six forward?”), and who did so after a rough start. But once he started believing in himself, it was fun to watch.
Top defenseman: Mike Rathje: 28 minutes a night, against the other team’s top offensive lines every night, every shift, every game — and go look at his +-. He may not be flashy, but he gets the job done wonderfully.
MVP: Kiprusoff in Calgary, St. Louis in Tampa, Klatt in LA, Turco in Dallas. Tough call; I’ll take Kiprusoff. Without him, calgary isn’t in the playoffs.
Rookie of the year: Raycroft in Boston or Michael Ryder in Montreal. Trent Hunter a distant third. This one is easy: Raycroft, both for his contribution to the success of the Bruins, and to the difficulty of the position he’s doing it in; if he takes the Bruins deep, it’ll be the first rookie goalie to do that since some guy named, um, Dryden.
Best Defenseman: Mike Rathje, Zdeno Chara in Ottawa, Nik Lidstrom in Detroit. I’m partial: I’ll give it to Rathje, not that he’ll win it.
Coach of the year: lots of candidates: my three favorites: Ron wilson in san jose, darryl sutter in calgary, andy murray in LA. and I’ll choose Murray, because he had a team where his first line started the season injured and stayed injured, and his team racked up more days lost to injuries than some divisions — and he held it together and kept them in the playoff race until the very end, when I think most people wouldn’t have blinked if the team called it early and mentally packed it in. His job was maybe the toughest.
Best goaltender: Kiprusoff, Marty Turco, Martin Brodeur, Ed Belfour. And I’ll give the nod to Marty Turco, and hope he doesn’t prove it in a playoff round against the sharks this year…
I love Tampa, I’m rooting to see St. Louis in the finals. But I’m not convinced it’ll happen. the East is a conference of question marks. How badly hurt is Joe Thornton? What’s up with Lalime’s knee and Belfour’s back?
If everyone is healthy, I’d call this a four team race: New Jersey, Toronto, Ottawa and Boston, with Tampa as the dark horse. With Brodeur healthy and questions on the other teams, you have to see the Devils as the favorites here — if Philly doesn’t take them our or wear them out. But I don’t think it’ll happen.
Tampa/NY Islanders: we see if Tampa is for real, but the Islanders can’t go deep into these playoffs. Tampa in 5.
Boston/Montreal: this series I’m going to watch, it ought to be mucho fun. If Thornton can play and be close to 100%, it’ll be Boston in 5. If not, I’ll choose Boston in 7. But Montreal should make it interesting.
Philadelphia/New Jersey: I just don’t think Philly can do it. they keep finding ways to not win playoff series, and I still don’t really trust their goaltending (again/still). the devils have some issues (paging Scott Stevens…) — but they have Martin Brodeur. I’ll take Brodeur for 200, please: Devils in 6.
Toronto/Ottawa: the best series in the first round not involving the sharks and us having tickets. These teams are well-matched, playing for bragging rights in canada, and plain and simple, don’t like each other. Both have significant injuries to contend with — but unless Belfour’s back causes problems, I think the Leafs will prevail here. Toronto in 6.
I think any of six teams can make it to the cup finals this year — the West is that strong and well-matched. Should be some great hockey.
As a san jose fan, the teams that worry me most are Dallas (which has had the sharks number all year) and Detroit (because they are, well, detroit). I think all of the playoff teams are capable — but also vulnerable. No team is a lock this year, which makes life interesting.
Detroit/Nashville: Detroit has looked old and tired to me. that makes them only moderately dangerous. They run the risks of injuries and long series. If they can’t knock off Nashville in 4 or 5 games, it’s possible Nashville could take them out, but more likely, they’ll leave enough on the ice in the first round to not survive late into the playoffs. What Detroit needs for success more than anything else is rest. Any teams that deny them that with long, tough games and long, tough series puts Detroit into trouble in later rounds. But Detroit is also capable of handling that and going all the way, too. Detroit in 5.
San Jose/St. Louis: Rather evenly matched. I much prefer Nabokov to Osgood, and I don’t think the blues are as strong a team as they have been (especially without MacInnis). I don’t think it’ll be easy; but I think the blues go out again in the first round, as tradition demands. Sharks in 6.
Vancouver/Calgary: Vancouver should win this series, but without Bertuzzi, it’s been an interesting run. I like Cloutier, but Kiprusoff can simply make the other team irrelevant. If he gets on a roll, watch out. Vancouver in 5, it Kiprusoff doesn’t take the series away from them.
Colorado/Dallas: I’m just not impressed with Colorado, the team chemistry is off. But like Detroit, that only makes them seriously dangerous. Aeberscher is for real, but Turco is a much better goalie, and has something to prove to his teammates to make up for the suspension. I’ll take turco over Sakic and Forsberg. Dallas in 6.
As to who goes out of the West to the finals: my heart say San jose, my head says Detroit, and my thoughts say Dallas will have some serious say in it somewhere.