Yearly Archives: 2007

2007-08 NHL season predictions

Time for me to make a fool of myself, although we won’t have firm evidence for at least a few weeks…. Time for me to predict the season.

First, the western conference:

None of last year’s playoff teams really got worse, and this is going to make the west a tough conference again. I’m predicting 95 points to make the playoffs at all.

Division winners:

Central: Detroit (and most points in the west, and president’s trophy)
Pacific: San Jose (2nd seed)
Northwest: Vancouver (third seed)

is it possible for only one team in the central to make the playoffs? Probably not. St. Louis is better, but not a playoff team. Chicago is better, too, but not this year. Nashville, I worry that the ownership issues will get in the way. And I’m not convinced Columbus is good. But changes are, one other team will put it together and make a late spot. Since I’m rooting ofr them, I’ll choose the Blues in 8th.

4th seed: Anaheim
5th: Dallas
6th: Colorado
7th: Los Angeles
8th: St. Louis

Right now, who comes out of the west is a pick’em among Detroit, San Jose, and Anaheim. It depends entirely on who gets lucky and who stays healthy and who avoids the traps each team has:

Detroit: will hasek stay healthy? If not….

San jose: will they work out the consistency problems? Will Navokov perform to expectations? Will Cheechoo bounce back?

Anaheim: Guigiere? and when will Niedermeyer come back? Selanne too, probably.

I have an issue about players who sit out until mid-season or later and then roll in for the playoffs; Forsberg made it work, and I expect Niedermeyer will do something similar. If Selanne doesn’t retire, he’ll come back later, too; I’m guessing both will rejoin Anaheim at some point, or they’d have formally hung it up. And they’ll be fresh for the playoffs, and taht’s scary.

Now, I don’t think this is fair for the fans or the game, but it’s legal, and if you’re good enough, you obviously can get away with it. I hope the practice doesn’t expand, but you can see advantages for teams, too — salary cap savings and better play in the playoffs when others are tired. Now, should this be changed? Can it? I think it’s something the league needs to think about and monitor. I’m torn, personally. maybe there’s some date beyond which if you aren’t on the roster, you have to clear waivers to join in? Or maybe if a team and player can actually pull this off, we should congratulate them.

but I don’t think the fans are getting a fair shake. And I worry we’ll start seeing older, key players turn this into the hockey equivalent of the designated hitter. And how do you explain it to that player who spent four months busting his butt for the team, to be dropped from the lineup when the stud decides he’s ready to play?

urgh. It’s always something…

Anyway, eastern conference:

Atlantic: Pittsburgh
Northeast: Ottawa (2nd)
Southeast: Washington (3rd)

again, it turns into a crapshoot quickly. I like what the capitals have done — and they play in a pretty weak conference. It’ll help, but they’ll be a lot better, too. No gimmee.

I’m guessing 90 points to make the playoffs.

4th seed: Buffalo — they won’t suck as much as some buffalo fans worry.
5th seed: NY Rangers
6th seed: New Jersey
7th seed: Boston
8th seed: Carolina

I like the Senators to come out of the east this year, personally. But Ottawa or the Rangers might make it intersting. I keep waiting for Martin Brodeur to get hurt or get human, but it may not matter, the rest of the team isn’t as impressive as it has been.

And right now, if I had to bet, I’d bet the Sharks to take the cup. It’s what I do. But there are easily six teams that can take it depending on luck and happenstance, and I wouldn’t be disappointed. Much.

Team looking forward to full-strength Rivet

San Jose Mercury News – Team looking forward to full-strength Rivet:

His illness was mentioned in passing after he was traded to the Sharks in February because the illness had forced him to miss his last nine games with the Montreal Canadiens.

But once he got to San Jose? Rivet played and the assumption was he had recovered.

Not so.

“I was never healthy, not in the slightest,” Rivet said. “As time went on, it just got a little worse and worse. The energy level and strength wasn’t there. It took a lot out of me.”

Rivet, a steadying influence on a young defense, still showed the Sharks enough to be rewarded with a four-year, $14 million contract. Now that he has finally gotten past the sickness, Rivet is eager to demonstrate his full capabilities.

“When I first got here, I jumped right into the fire and tried to do the best I could to help the team compete,” Rivet said. “But now I feel great and I’m looking forward to starting the season healthy.”

Rivet is a vocal, assertive presence on the ice – a good thing for the Sharks, who are still youthful on defense with
regulars such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Christian Ehrhoff and Matt Carle.

I seem to be the only person not worried about the Sharks blueline this year. Not taking anything away from Scott Hannan, but in the context of the Sharks, replacing him with Rivet is an upgrade.

No, Rivet is not as strong defensively but the Sharks weakness on the defense last season, and in past seasons, was the lack of offense from the blueline, to the point that Patrick Marleau spent power play time there last year.

I will happily give up some “stay at home” minutes for an upgraded power play, and that’s what we’ve done. Hannan and McLaren play very similar styles, solid shut-down guys. Given the rest of our talent on the blueline, we really didn’t need both; McLaren brings more size and physical play, but I won’t call him the “better” guy — very closely matched, actually.

Rivet should also be a useful advisor to the kids on how to grow their offensive potential — no offense to Robb Zettler or anyone else on the Sharks, but until you get to Doug Wilson himself, it’s hard to find someone in the organization who knows how to score from the blueline to coach the kids — and I think that’s shown in past season. Rivet is going to be a help for guys like Carle and Vlasic.

With Davison as the 6th defenseman, I think we’ll be fine. I can think of a lot of teams wishing they were worried about someone like Davison being their 6th Dman; as long as Vlasic and Carle play decently, we’ll be fine. If they don’t, Hannan wouldn’t be the solution anyway.

throw in Doug Murray as a 7th guy, and wild card Sandis “Sandis! No!” Ozolinsh — who knows what’s going to happen there, but make him your 8th guy and go for a ride.. That’s not a bad group to open the season with, and if Davison and Murray don’t prove up to the task the Sharks have cap space to go get someone to fill in the gap.

The big knock on both: foot speed, but Davison makes up for it with some ability to predict the play, and Murray makes up for it with an immense physical presence — don’t ever get near him with your head down, not even in a restaurant). Either one could be a 12 minute a night guy, and I noticed the Sharks working with Davison on penalty kill in pre-season. If the Sharks helped him gain half a step, he’ll be fine.

I know some fans argued the sharks needed to get someone in the off-season (I was a bit surprised they didn’t go for Souray, but then, lots of teams didn’t, and he signed later than expected, for less than expected, with an unexpected team, so something seems to have scared teams off that the press didn’t know about (wow. unprecedented). Maybe his agent had bad breath or something…). That goes against the general philosophy of the Sharks, though, which is to grow from within. Your prospects need to know they have a legitimate chance to make the team, and you don’t do that if you’re constantly going over them by bringing in outsiders to fill the roster.

So instead, if you have someone you think can do it — let them play, but maintain the ability to be flexible based on how things work out. Davison and Murray both have done the black aces thing, without complaint, without whining. Reward them and see what happens. If it works, great. If not, the Sharks have options — AND it means everyone down in Worchester hoping to make the team will feel they have a real chance to do so, and that makes them better, more motivated players. Compare that to a team like the Leafs, where prospects pretty much can guess their best shot at an NHL job is as part of a trade to another team…

So for me, I’m headed into the season very happy. Now, all the Sharks need to do is execute to potential and stay healthy…

update: I realize I wrote the above while completely forgetting about Alexei Semenov. He’s starting the season on the IR with a funky back, but that’s another piece to the depth puzzle that gives the Sharks more options.. (hat tip: Sharkspage)

And the sharks exit the preseason undefeated

and nobody really cares. which is great.

First chance to see the team in person — once again, I miss most of training camp (only about 2 hours on the first day, before we headed out of town to Oregon) and most of the pre-season games. One thing I always tried to do at Apple was schedule some flex time so I could visit training camp, and one thing that always happened was something that came up and kept me from going. It became sort of a running joke after a while — so what do I do? Two years in a row, I schedule my own conflicts instead. go figure…

Doesn’t really matter.

The Sharks looked pretty good. They more or less manhandled the Flames, until they decided to ramp it down and coast. the game wasn’t nearly as close as the stats might indicate, the Sharks got bored as much as anything.

They did look pretty good to me overall, though. Setoguchi saw limited time, but impressed. Roenick didn’t see limited time, and looks, well, old and slow, and took a number of “old and slow” penalties. But then, Mark Smith, who signed in Calgary just before the game and is basically the roster spot that went to Roenick, didn’t impress, either.

I would not want to have been wearing a flames jersey within sight of Keenan after that performance.

Davison looks to be the 6th defenseman for now, with Murray 7th. I expect once Sandis is released from substance abuse, he’ll be signed to some minimal contract as an 8th Dman and we’ll see what happens. It may be a pity signing, or simply the Sharks giving an old friend a chance — but what’s wrong with that? Don’t forget that Sandis was Doug wilson’s partner in the first season before Sandis hurt his knee, and so there’s a lot of “more than pure hockey” going on here. And the Sharks have a soft spot for Sandis, and have a history of reclamation projects, both well-known and not so. Some worked out okay, some (Link Gaetz) didn’t, and some (Brant Mhyres, anyone?) were, well, reclamation projects.

Sandis’s problems started with the Sharks, a kid a bit too young, with too many responsibilities, acclimation problems, a bit shy and nerdy, frankly. He also was sort of a real-life lab experiement that helped the Sharks understand what it took to bring in european talent successfully for both the player and the team, and the team has strongly benefitted from that; perhaps just for that reason, the Sharks will give Sandis a shot, giving both sides some closure. And Sandis is still well-loved in San Jose.

(Sandis, by the way, has a really funky record on his resume: he scored the first goal in San Francisco Spiders history, as he was holding out at the time and signed a deal with the IHL team; then he went off and rejoined the Sharks, and if I remember properly, THEN went and scored the first goal of the season for San Jose, too…)

I’m probably the only person in the universe NOT particularly worried about San Jose’s defense. Yes, we lost Hannan, but to me, Hannan and McLaren were very similar players, and the entire defensive corps was way too “stay at home”; swapping out Hannan for Rivet, which is effectively what we did, improves the power play a LOT and increases the blueline offensive capability. Yes, we lose some defensive-defense, but we have plenty to spare, I think.

And Rivet can teach Carle and Plasic how to play as an offensive defenseman, a benefit we need. Honestly, Robb Zettler teaching offensive defense? Not gonna happen…

I think Davison and Murray as a time-sharing combo is a perfectly acceptable 6th dman. As long as Vlasic doesn’t have a bad year, we’ll be fine. And if Sandis brings something to the table, that’s a benefit. But I’m not sure I want Sandis to teach the kids how to play…

I will admit — I really like the new home jersey, and I wasn’t sure I would. I still am not sure about the logo redo (wasn’t broken, why fix it?) but it’s no worse than the old one, merely different. It’ll probably grow on me. But the epaulets instead of those black underarms? That looks pretty nice, actually, and I thought the orange highlights addded to the look, didn’t clutter it. So it gets a thumbs up for me.

Other changes in the arena — the new video board absolutely rocks. Absolutely. well done. As someone sitting near me said last night, “I found myself watching the board, even when the Sharks were in our end of the ice!” True enough, and we’re three rows off the glass. THAT good. A nice thing is that it’s a purely software/video scoreboard now, so it’s got a lot more flexibility for different events.

And they finally redid the sound system, which has sucked since the building opened. We can actually — god help us — hear what is being said over the PA in section 127 now, unmuffled and without legibility problems. Well done. So THAT is what Joe Eich sounds like…

They also replaced the boards a wrap-around system similar to those seen in newer building (gah, that building’s over a decade old; I remmber it as a hole in the ground); The effect is pretty nice.

And a minor thing I noticed — they’ve retuned the lights. In previous years, some of the lights were turned off for hockey games because they caused bad shadows or glare; everything got re-aimed and now all of them are used in games; it makes it brighter in there (about an F/stop, I’m guessing); add in the light from the boards (it’s no longer dark, even with the lights off) and it’s a much brighter building.

One thing the sharks didn’t do (oh well) was theatrical lighting like GM place does. If you want to know why that’s a nice thing to have? just think about the 20 minute delay before the first game in London…. Shuttered lights avoid that but allow you to dim them for effect, something vancouver uses to good impact.

And now it’s time to drop the puck!