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Monthly Archives: February 2008
Paring down goalie equipment seems to be the continuing story this season. We came into the season with the usual suspects whining about the goalies having an unfair advantage, and the GM’s meeting seems to have done nothing else but discuss the state of the gear.
Even former members in good standing of the "Goaltenders Union", Darryl Rheaugh and Brian Hayward, have said the goalie equipment needs to be cut down to size. Bet that makes them popular in the goalie’s corner of the locker room!
But before all those people who want to turn the tables and go after the guy *in* the mask with a chain saw, some things to think about:
1. The NHL doesn’t live in a vaccuum: I know this may come as a surprise to the GMs and various NHL columnists, but there’s a whole bunch of hockey out there that isn’t NHL. If the NHL cuts back on the gear to the point where a number of goalies decide that playing in Europe beats taking multiple bone bruises, the game *will* suffer. Oh, Europe will fall in line, just like university hockey and all the other ways to the NHL not in the system? Really? How about the World Junior champsionships, the World Hockey Championships, heck the Olympics? Do the NHL GMs still think the rest of the hockey world rolls over and pees for them? There’s peeing going on, that’s for sure, but I’m not seeing a lot of rolling over these days.
2. Who’s paying for this party? Okay, so you cut the pads down to 10 inches or some clever boy comes up with a way to wrap the leg pads around the shins, and they cut the glove size and the blocker size, etc. If the NHL does get their way and it somehow magically ripples through the hockey system, there’s a bunch of hockey equipment that suddenly is of no use. I guess the NHL GMs, and those ex-goalie color analysts all make enough money that if they have to swap out their kid’s equipment, hey no hassle. Maybe after changing the rules, they’ll switch their little goalies to center or something! But for real people, goalie gear is a serious expense, and even if the local league is helping to foot the bill, someone is going to have to pay for all that new equipment. Better get your PR people on this in advance, because the first tearful hockey mom on HNIC, and you all look like throughtless creeps.
3. "But it looked good in the photos": If you skate too close to the edge of biometric data (you’re doing biometric data, right? right?) someone at either end of the spectrum is going to get hurt, maybe because the pretection wasn’t big enough, maybe because someone forgot that as they cut the width and the height of the pads, maybe the ability to absorb shock goes down in a non-linear fashion (oops!). And since no one was thinking about sizing the equipment down, it works fine for adults, but the kids start getting linear fractures of their tibia. All I’m seeing are a bunch of people who are running like mad towards "we must make it harder for the goalies to tend goal", and not thinking about the consequences.
And that’s the thing–the GMs are running towards a "solution", not to original problem ("fans want more scoring–how do we get more scoring?), but to one of the contributing factors. Why aren’t we seeing any evidence that someone actually thought about this?
Sorry for the lack of posting, was off involved with Other Things and just didn’t get anything written in a timely manner. (hint: it’s all Apple’s fault).
I did want to talk about the last three games of the Sharks, though; this may surprise a few folks, but I found them to be the most encouraging sign yet that the Sharks are going to be a force in the playoffs.
(but first, a quick congratulations to Ron Wilson for 500 wins, and Jeremy Roenick for his 1300th. Awesome milestones!)
Game 1, Colorado. I get to use a phrase I haven’t used much this year: their goalie stole the game. the Sharks significantly outplayed Colorado on almost all fronts — and theodore just stoned everything. Some games, the Sharks run around with lots of energy but little precision, but here, not only should they have won, it shouldn’t have been close. I’m not into moral victories this season, but all things considered, this is a positive in my book, score notwithstanding.
then Game 2, Columbus. Sharks had a great first shift, then Columbus more or less took over the game — and Nabby stole this one. We really didn’t deserve any points, but for a team to be successful, when the team isn’t playing it’s best, you have to rely on your key players to make a win happen anyway.
And Game 3, Nashville…. The first line just walked in and took over. thornton, Michalek, Cheechoo. Where Nabokov put the team on his shoulders against Columbus, these three did here. It wasn’t even really close, although it was occasionally interesting. Nashville sure tried — but that line dominated and the rest of the team held their own.
In all of the games, the team really didn’t play their “A” game, and came out of the three games with four points, but did so in the right ways: hard, patient work, finding ways to win when everything isn’t clicking, and really playing the kind of hockey you need to play to win playoff games and series.
On top of that, some really positive signs:
Nabokov gave up a total of six goals in those three games, plus one empty-net. He’s shown, all of a sudden, an ability to stop penalty shots and shoot-outs, and the Sharks won their first shootout at home in two years.
Marleau was the top player against Columbus, and has been showing positive signs (negative: left the Nashville game after the 1st with a sore groin, but isn’t expected to miss time).
Cheechoo is now clearly playing like Cheechoo. He’s always been a 2nd half scorer, but more important, he looks confident that he’s healthy and he isn’t playing with a question mark. His hat trick against Columbus was three really gritty, grinding goals. He reminds me a lot of Phil Esposito when he’s playing well.
The Sharks grab Jody Shelley? I like it, even though it was Jody Shelley who convinced Wilson of the need to have someone like — Jody Shelley — on the roster in the first place with his attack on Brad Stuart. He brings a great attitude and work ethic, and he’s not a scary player on ice like Parker was (scary to his coach, not the other team…); his game is simple, sometimes awkward, but he can play on a line and be effective. And he brings that veteran “what it takes to win” attitude that Grier and Roenick bring, and I think it’s important you have that to help the young players mature into that kind of player. And it’s that kind of player that — bottom line — finds ways to win, which is in many ways more important than talent.
Oh, and by the way, the team is now > .500 at home. Something about going 8-3-1 at home since christmas.
The only real negative I see is that the Sharks still haven’t shown any real ability to beat Detroit or Anaheim reliably (or at all), and the playoffs for San jose go through one or both teams. Now, if they continue to build towards the playoffs like they seem to be this probably won’t be a problem, but they still have to prove it.
This is a team that took a while, but is putting the pieces together. Suddenly, I’m feeling much better about them. Even taking Marleau off the trade cart, although I still would like to see a bit more depth on defense; Semenov/Ozolinsh is an okay 7th D, a bit scary as a 6th D, and if you have to play both at the same time? but my first choice (Rob Blake; see my Jody Shelley comments) is injured, and while Brad Stuart is clearly available from LA, bringing him home is not really a smart idea now…