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.
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Monthly Archives: May 2007
â€œFrankly, I live in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and itâ€™s tough for all the clubs to get media attention, particularly when theyâ€™re having tough years on the ice. Thereâ€™s some real downside to having multiple teams in one market,â€ Bettman said Monday in his state-of-the-union address.
My spin: Is Gary Bettman that afraid of the Toronto Maple Leafs? Do the Leafs have that much power that they can veto a second team coming to Southern Ontario?
Hey, Maybe he’s just speaking reality. Look at the challenges that go in in various sports where there are two teams in a market. One team ends up dominant over the others, whether it’s in TV ratings (and access), newspaper coverage, fan mindset. Look at the challenges of, say, TV in Los Angeles, where there are two baseball, two basketball and two hockey teams (and no football!), all trying to get onto two cable stations and the same sports pages. Here in the Bay area, the Giants outdraw and out-TV the A’s by a wide margin, have access to a much more powerful radio station, and generally take priority on the sports pages (despite, of course, looking at which team’s won more world series and pennants in the last 20 years).
Look at how the Devils and the Islanders play second and third fiddle to the Rangers, even when the Rangers suck.
It’s not JUST about fans. It’s about corporate money, it’s about sponsors, it’s about media. And if you look at multi-team markets in all sports, all around the continent, there are challenges. If you were to, say, move a team into Kitchener or some place outside of the Leaf’s no-go zone, you still have to deal with getting them on cable and CBC (and let’s not forget, it’s the Toronto Sports Network for a reason, and the CBC in the new TV contract had to actually and formally admit that Ottawa existed and ought to be on TV once in a while. Imagine if you added a third team to the mix!).
Now, in reality, the demand for hockey — and NHL hockey — in Ontario is amazing. the prices that the Leafs can charge are abusive, well beyond insane. But putting another team in there, as opposed to putting a team back in, say, Winnipeg?
You KNOW the entire region is going to support a team in Winnipeg. You can bet that fans will support another team in Ontario, but will the media? TV? sponsors and corporate? And at what price tickets? Guess right, and the new Winnipeg Jets succeeds wildly. Guess wrong? and you have hockey’s LA Clippers.
Now, I think a team in Ontario could work. but I don’t think it’s a no-brainer, and I don’t think people reacting to all of this are thinking through all of the business complications, just looking at being able to buy tickets that don’t cost as much as they do for the Leafs games. If only it were that simple…
There are so many bombshells here it’s hard to tell where to start – obviously monitoring the player reps email activities within their NHLPA accounts is suspect, but accessing Trent Klatt’s outside, personal email clearly crosses the line. Note also how Saskin and Kim were aware of the snooping scandal that brought down Hewlett-Packard chairwoman Patricia Dunn – they halted their activities for a while, but resumed when the heat started rising again.
What interests me here is how the NHLPA’s IT group seems to have helped this “Big Brother” program along. According to the report Kim used Klatt’s NHLPA password to access the outside personal account – presumably Kim got that password through shoddy security policies, or someone in IT provided it to him (unless of course it was “pass”, in which case, shame on you Trent Klatt). Then there’s the point about providing the details of what was supposedly a “secret ballot” to end the 2004-5 lockout and ratify the new CBA. It would appear that there’s at least one bad apple within the NHLPA IT department…
When not blogging here as the Forechecker, my mild-mannered alter ego works in IT. I sure as heck know I’m not going to look favorably on any resumes coming across my desk that list network security for the NHLPA as working experience!
I spent a decade in IT, too — and to be honest? It’s not necessarily that simple. First, I’m sure the union’s IT world is pretty small, because it’s a fairly small organization. they probably don’t HAVE a network security guy. And ultimately, IT reports up to management, and if management says to do something; you either do it, or you get out.
And no, I’m not defending the IT people there, merely pointing out this can be a really rough situation if you get a lot of pressure from above. Let’s keep the focus on who was CALLING the shots here. The involvement of IT speaks more to the abuse of the power of Saskin and his team than failings within the IT organization.
But this sucks. If it wasn’t clear before that Saskin had to be put down, it is now. I hope Saskin isn’t stupid enough to force a big fight over the compensation issue (reports like this will hopefully scare him off from that) — because what the NHLPA needs to do is focus on rebuilding and moving forward, not on this.
And that would, I hope, include looking at how to enable IT to not feel it has to get involved in things it knows is wrong.
easier said than done, of course. Espoecially in small shops.
Two for Elbowing: Third round predictions…:
So, I’m 9 for 12 for the playoffs, my best run in years.
The two conference finals:
Anaheim/Detroit: Anaheim in 5.
Ottawa/Buffalo: I’ll pick Buffalo in 7. (now, watch Ottawa sweep…)
And, because I didn’t believe in Ottawa quite enough, I went 1 for 2, and 10 for 14 so far in the playoffs (too bad I didn’t have money down this year…)
In the final?
Ottawa in 5. I think they’re playing better right now. but there are so many wildcards, you could flip coins and get it right. Guigere outplaying Emery? Or will Emery start getting recognition for how well he’s played? Wlll Pronger be the good witch or the bad witch? will he focus his game or go *pop* again? The ducks are doing a “win it for Teemu”, which, if Teemu plays well, could make this interesting.
I think it’s going to be a fun series, no matter what. Either team could win it in five, but I think it’s Ottawa’s year.
My conn-smyth candidates: Alfreddson if Ottawa wins, Guigiere if Anaheim wins.
Some might think that Doug Wilson’s reaction (as I’ve pointed to this week) might be a bit — extreme. It’s not like the Sharks missed the playoffs, after all.
But the reality is, this was the year this team was aimed at; last year, “the kids got good experience” was good enough, this year, the expectation was for all the pieces to be there and click. Now, that didn’t happen — Mark Bell just never came close to what he was expected to be, not in any remote way, and I think the team spent a lot of time trying to fill that hole, never completely successfully.
But, also realize this: In the mid-90′s expansion, the Sharks showed up, then a year later, the Senators and Tampa. Then a bit after that, Anaheim and Florida.
Tampa’s won a cup. Anaheim and Florida have been to the finals. This year, the Senators and Anaheim are going to the finals, and one of them will win a cup.
San Jose is the only one of the teams from this round of expansion that haven’t made the cup finals.
That has to hurt, and cause heartburn. And it has to hurt even more that it’s two teams from that expansion period fighting it out this year… And I’m convinced Wilson believes the western team should ahve been the Sharks, and while we saw the Wing’s ability to make game 6 VERY interesting and the series a lot closer than maybe we expected, ultimately, Wilson’s convinced it’s waht the Sharks did NOT do, not what the Wings did.
And in that context, his reaction makes sense….
News – Sharks GM Looks Back On Playoff Exit – Forward To 07-08 – San Jose Sharks:
Most injuries are revealed when the playoffs conclude, as what happened with Marleauâ€™s shoulder, but others that came to light were sports hernias with Guerin, Smith, Vesa Toskala and Jonathan Cheechoo (a double).
â€œVesa could have played,â€ said Wilson. â€œ(With Cheechoo), they were shocked he was still playing. It is a simple procedure to fix.â€
TOUGH YEAR FOR BELL
Wilson did discuss the difficult season for Mark Bell who was talented offseason pickup, who then had some off-ice issues and then found himself a healthy scratch in the playoffs.
â€œMark got off on the wrong foot,â€ said Wilson. â€œHe didnâ€™t play the way he wanted and we didnâ€™t get what we wanted for him. Weâ€™re looking forward to getting back the hockey player he was before. I think he can be a really good hockey player (for us).â€
San Jose Mercury News – Sharks GM won’t guarantee coach’s return:
General manager Doug Wilson needed two weeks to calm down after the San Jose Sharks’ second-round exit from the playoffs, and he’s still not ready to make any quick decisions on the futures of his players and coaches.
Saying he’s “frustrated and disappointed” with the end of an otherwise successful season, Doug Wilson plans to decide by next week whether coach Ron Wilson will return to San Jose next season.
The general manager was at times both blunt and evasive Monday in a wide-ranging interview, his first since San Jose was eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in six games two weeks ago.
Nice to see Doug Wilson isn’t standing firm.
Now, if he cares about what my suggestions are, they’re here:
Actually, we seem pretty close overall.
A couple of other comments:
The Sharks’ postseason collapse included Ron Wilson’s thinly veiled scolding for captain Patrick Marleau, who struggled throughout the Detroit series despite a reputation for strong postseason play. Marleau’s leadership skills are questioned repeatedly by fans who don’t see how the taciturn son of a Saskatchewan farmer can be an effective captain.
“I trust that dressing room,” Doug Wilson said. “I don’t micromanage. There will be conversations that will take place. We’ll handle it.”
the only difference between Patrick Marleau and Steve Yzerman is that Yzerman won a Cup, and that shut up the critics. Otherwise, they’re the same style of captain. Ditto, say, Trevor Linden or in Ottawa, Alfreddson. Now, that’s not saying that Marleau is going to match any of those guys in terms of success as a captain, but I will note that Alfredsson has JUST this year beaten the critics and made carried his team to the conference finals, and he’s got about a full season of games more than Marleau has.
Steve Yzerman joined the wings in 83-84, became captain in 86, and the wings didn’t make it to the cup final until 1994-95 and didn’t win the cup until 2 years later; that’s 862 games before they made the final, and about 1000 games before Yzerman finally won a Cup. In other words — Marleau’s not exactly doing badly compared to similar captains with similar styles and similar criticisms. Trevor Linden, FWIW, had the fastest track to the Cup final of all of these guys, getting there in about 550 games.
So, my suggestion to fans ripping Marleau: chill.
Doug Wilson understands fans’ concerns that the Sharks are turning into the West Coast version of the Ottawa Senators, who struggled through years of regular-season successes and playoff failures before finally breaking through to the Stanley Cup finals this year. The Sharks blew leads in three of their losses to Detroit, including a pair of two-goal margins.
You know what? If we’re the West’s “Ottawa”, that’s not bad. After all, their captain stepped it up this year and carried them into the final this year — and Marleau seems to be following that development path pretty well so far. What we don’t want to be is Buffalo, who (again) didn’t get the job done and now has the unfortunate job of figuring out what players they can afford to sign and how to reload around them. Buffalo’s key shot was this year, and now the chances they keep both Drury and Briere are pretty small, and they don’t have the track record of Detroit as far as reloading in place. The Sharks, thanks to smart budgeting and planning, aren’t at that point and look to have a couple more years with the core of the team together. We’re not worrying about how to keep Marleau and Thornton, we’re worrying about what to do to Mark Bell.
Oh, sorry. WITH Mark Bell, not TO. Freudian slip there.
The Pronger hit — and the commentary and responses by various people and fans — really sums up all that’s wrong with hockey today. Good to the NHL for giving Pronger a game off. Bad to the NHL because if they really want this crap to stop, one game suspensions won’t cut it. More importantly, ad-hoc suspensions won’t cut it, players have to know before they do what Pronger did that the suspension will be coming, so they don’t put themselves in a position to be suspended in the first place.
One person I’ll cut some slack to is Brian Burke — because while he espoused a very strong line that the suspension was undeserved (and likely believes it to some degree or another, given how old-school he is and his team is), that set of quotes he gave was one of the most beautiful pieces of spinning the situation you’ll ever see. He not only backed his team (as you’d expect him to), he put the team in a position of not only having to beat the Wings, but the league and the refs, too — and that’s a wonderful rallying point for the team to motivate around. That’s a master at work — and a great reminder that anything anyone in a position of authority needs to have their words taken with a grain of salt, because if they’re saying it in public, there’s likely some hidden agenda. In this case, the hidden agenda was giving his team even more reason to spank the Wings.
And so they did. Anyone else looking forward to seeing this series go 7 games? And do you doubt that it will? the only problem is one we worried about from early in the season: that whoever comes out of the west will be exhausted and beat up, and easy fodder for whatever eastern team makes the cup final.
Given that Ottawa will likely put away Buffalo in game 5, and be able to rest up and have fun watching the Wings and Ducks beat the crap out of each other for another few days and show up to the cup final with no rest time — this scnario is coming true, and seems to benefit another Cup out east…
And I say again, watching the Wings, even losing to the Ducks tonight, I feel less pissed off at the Sharks for going out in the last round to them. I think given the Wings lost both Yzerman and Shanahan many of us just believed they’d fade, and now they’re proving us all very, very wrong. more power to them. I still think the Ducks will prevail, but barely.
And that’s assuming Pronger doesn’t go sideways again… This suspension is the dark side of Chris Pronger, and Sharks fans have seen this before. He’s got a temper,and you can get under his skin. In many cases, what he does is turn this around and focus his energy on kicking his opponent’s butt. but if he gets frustrated, he more or less goes berserker, and then he can be his own team’s worst enemy. San Jose fans don’t call him Big Whiney Defenseman for nothing, and we’ve seen both aspects of Pronger over the years. If he can be channeled properly, he’s one hell of a player. If he goes sideways, he can make his team self-destruct. Just ask the Oilers… or the Blues.
So it’ll be interesting to see which Pronger shows up in the next game…
(linked to: list of player’s under contract next year and free agents, plus salary…)
Okay, let me say this right up front. Watching the Wings/Ducks game last night where the Wings beat the Ducks — it made me feel somewhat less irritated at the Sharks going down to Detroit. frankly, if the Wings somehow take down the Ducks in this series, we’ll have to stand back and ask how much of the Sharks loss was Detroit forcing the issue.
But now, having said that…
It’s a few days past the disaster of the second round, and it’s time to take a look at what the Sharks need and how to get there. Unlike last year, I don’t think we can look at it as a learning experience and give the kids a year to grow up. While I think we have some kids who can still grow up and take bigger roles — there’s more here than just a season’s experience.
I think there are two weaknesses to the Sharks team:
1) Until they brought in Bill Guerin, nobody (not one player) had a Stanley Cup ring. No Vinnie Damhousse, no Bob Errey, no veteran to help the players understand what it takes to go deep into the playoffs and make a run. And when we went deep into the playoffs and made a run, I think the team hit the pressure from the other team, backed up and played tentative, especially on the blueline. Detroit turned the knob to 11; San Jose could only find 10. That was really the difference in the series.
2) Our blueline isn’t offensive enough, and when we got on the power play, we simply went into the peripheral and passed it around. No pressure on the slot, no shots from the point. People can point to the Sharks regular season power play as being 2nd in the league, but we have to remember that Wilson had to tinker with it a lot, it was always going hot and cold, and we spent a LOT of time with forwards at the points to compensate.
That second issue leads to a more general question: for all the Sharks ability to develop goaltenders (and we need to see whether that continues now that Strelow has passed on), when was the last time the Sharks developed and offensive defenseman? Sandis Ozolinsh? Andrei Zyuzin? And was Sandis developed so much as a team taught to keep an eye on his back as he randomly did things? (Sandis is a classic example of the kind of player that will generate scoring chances on the ice, you just don’t know which goal they’ll be on in any given shift… and you hope you end up with more offensive than defensive). We’ve had a number of defensemen come up with offensive potential, from Brad Stuart to Mark-Andre Fleury, and they all seem to somehow turn into conservative, stay at home, offensively-passive Dmen.
I find this strange given that the Sharks GM is — Doug Wilson — except that as GM, he’s not strapping on skates and coaching and teaching the kids, Maybe he should.
Instead, at the NHL level, our defensemen are under the care of Rob Zettler. And no offense to Rob, but his forte in the NHL wasn’t shots from the point on the power play.
A huge start at fixing this problem is Craig Rivet; he is my #1 off-season priority, and he needs to be re-signed and kept in San Jose. But I also think we need to consider adding, or replacing, coaching at the AHL and NHL level with some coaching talent that can help develop blueliners offensively — especially given we have Matt Carle and Vlasic needing this tutelage. Rivet can be part of that, but maybe it’s time for Doug to strap them on and coach, too. Or bring in someone new instead of Zettler.
Beyond that, I don’t support changes to coaching or management. I frankly think most of the criticism of Ron Wilson is from fans and media looking for a story to talk about; I don’t buy into it, especially after watching game 1 of Ducks/Wings.
On the other hand, I think we need to make some changes to the team chemistry; It’s just not what we need to take the next step.
So here are my thoughts:
(Murray), TBD, TBD
For the right price:
Needs to be traded:
Needs to be signed:
Needs to be bought out:
If you look at the untouchables, this is a team that’s not far from “done” — I show two roster spots (both 2nd line) up front, two defensive spots, two “black aces” and the backup goalie being question marks. One of those D spots is reserved for Craig Rivet.
On top of that, while I’ve placed Marleau in the “right price” category, my preference is to keep him, and I don’t expect him to be traded. But I think at this point you have to at least ask the question and see what the value is. but in reality, he’ll be the center of the second line.
Griess will step in as backup goalie. That leaves — the 6th defenseman, the third player on Marleau’s line as unknowns, and two pressbox guys. One of those will likely be Setoguchi.
Of the free agents — Rivet, Guerin, Hannan, Davison, et all: love Hannan, but he’s too much like McLaren and will demand too much money. Davison and Murray are variations of the same player: stay at home, physical, really slow, but fi they catch you, you know it. We need to rethink our defense more towards offense and speed, and we don’t need both (or perhaps either, but Murray’s under contract). Ditto Mark Smith — love his grit, but I think it’s time to move on.
Rivet is the only free agent I feel we need to sign, assuming we can. Guerin? If he wants to stay, and if someone can convince me that next season will be more effective for him, sure.
But — look at the roster. See the big, hulking, smoking hole that screwed over the Sharks plans? No? Think back a year; what did the Sharks do? Sign Mark Bell. And they thought, and I’ll be the first to note I agreed with them, that this was a wonderful idea and fixed our needs on the 2nd line.
Then Bell got the DUI, which is still ongoing, came into camp with a bad groin, and the BEST one could say was that towards the end of the season when he finally seemed to get healthy, he improved enough (but — mostly as a third/fourth line banger! not 2nd liner) to turn his season into merely an unmitigated disaster instead of painfully embarassing. I don’t want to hear how he’ll turn it around next year, I don’t want to hear how badly he feels about this. I don’t want to hear how next year will be different. I want to hear that his contract’s been bought out and he won’t be allowed in the locker room in san jose, ever again. The Mark Bell era is so over.
But much of what the Sharks tried to “fix” all season was that hole in the roster where Mark Bell was supposed to be; let’s not blow off the fact that both Wilson’s fought this disaster all season, and never quite sealed it; even bringing in Guerin (and I think Guerin deserves more credit than he’s gotten here, for helping guys like Bernier and Rissmuller take their game to a more consistent and physical level, if not for his scoresheet performance) didn’t quite do it.
So we need to go out into the market and look for a 2nd liner, preferably impact, VERY preferably with a cup ring or three. Proven leadership. Scoring. I’m thinking Briere or Drury or Ryan Smith. It’s why I’m willing to consider trading Marleau and/or Rissmuller if we can bring back the right player as part of a package. Hint: Jeff Friesen is NOT what I consider the right player, not any more. So don’t go there, folks.
It’s also time to trade Toskala; one year left on the contract, Nabokov (love him or hate him, or it seems, simply not quite trust him) is the #1, and deserves to be. I can’t see going into another season with the rotation in goal, and I think we need to free up that asset and turn it into other things. We have holes we need to fill, and Toskala’s got a good value to trade with.
Overall — not much broken. But we’re far from “stay the course”. We still need to solve the “mark bell” problem, we need to sign Rivet, and we have one other defenseman position to deal with — and I think we need to seriously consider bringing in one or more folks who’ve “been there” and can wear their Stanley Cup rings into the locker room every day
And that’s probably enough for Doug Wilson to think about this offseason…