Yearly Archives: 2008

– 30 –

My dad died today, quietly and not in pain. His body was just too frail to recover from the complications that set in with the triple-bypass. He had a feeling the end was near, I can’t tell you how many of his friends have told me in the last month that he felt he’d had a good life with no regrets, with his classic laugh and a smile. Fortunately for him, once the decline set in, it didn’t take long — as much as he loved life, he really hated doctors and hospitals, and being kept alive by machines was his real horror story, and we worked with the medical staff to accommodate him on that where we reasonably could. Everyone involved with Kaiser on this impressed the hell out of me, and have my thanks and respect.

I went down to help out the family when he went in for the tests and stayed around through the surgery, went down again in a hurry last week when things started to go the wrong way — and after coming up yesterday to get home for a bit, am headed down again tomorrow to help with the arrangements and to be there for the burial.

He went to Stanford (and hated when they changed their mascot to Cardinal, and never forgave them), drove a tank while helping to liberate Manilla, then spent significant time in Europe.

Dad was always a newspaperman, in the classic style, working for Stars and Stripes in Berlin during the airlift, and later as part of the first non-military-controlled paper for troops (which did not endear him to the establishment, something he loved doing…). Later on, he took over the family newspaper, until the industry changed enough that the town weekly basically went extinct — as I’ve said before, those of you who think the struggles of the newspapers is a new thing simply haven’t been paying attention; it’s been going on for 50 or more years, and this is just the latest phase.

Former board member and past president of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, active in historical preservation in orange county, later on in life a teacher — and proud to be seemingly the only liberal in the county, or so it seemed at times. Even more proud of his 50+ years together with my mom, and the times and travels they took together.

And so he’s written his final byline, and I speak for my entire family when I say we miss him but that we’re glad the suffering is done. It was a bit of a rough few days for all of us, but it’s starting to head back towards normal. Thanks to everyone who’ve popped in with kind words via email or twitter or IM or carrier pigeon; it’s nice to know people care, and it helps.

Burial is probably this weekend, and per his request will be private and family only; also per his request we’re planning a more public get together — including mariachis — for his extended (very extended) set of friends and compadres. If you know my dad and you’re hearing about this here, my apologies, it’s been a bit chaotic and we’re still digging through things to find contact info for everyone (and drop me a note if you need info to the wake).

Wherever he is, you can bet he’s making the local city council crazy, pounding away on a manual Royal typewriter, and playing catch with Pierre, his standard poodle that preceded him by a few years, and getting ready to watch the Lakers in the finals.

And over the next few weeks, life will start to return to normal, only quieter and a little less interesting for all of us that were influenced by him and proud to call him friend.

Rest in Peace, dad, you did good, and have earned the rest.

So what did the Dallas series prove to us about the Sharks?

A couple of quick musings on the Detroit/Dallas series. Dallas came out of the 4 overtime game with little rest, and proceeded to hand Detroit three games before getting their game back and making it a series.

Sound familiar? And both Mike Modano and Brendan Morrow were quoted in the press about how that overtime game took it out of them.

A lot of this is biology; it takes a certain amount of time to flush out the lactic acid and replace the glucogen. It doesn’t matter HOW GOOD your conditioning it, if you don’t have time to rest up, you simply can’t perform at a top level. Detroit only had 1 extra day of rest over Dallas, but that one extra day was enough for the legs to recover.

And it wasn’t until about game four that both teams got back to equivalent levels of physical exhaustion.

So it’s really safe to claim that even though San Jose beat Calgary in 7, Calgary making the series that tough was the key factor in losing to the Stars. And the Sharks series was a key factor in the Stars losing to the Wings.

That’s why killer instinct is so important. That’s why you need to put a team away and finish off a series when you can. It’s because a four game series gives you the ability to play full out in the next series, where a seven game series leaves you worn out and easy (easier) pickings in the next round.

And the Sharks lack of a killer instinct against Calgary cost them a chance at Detroit. And that lack of killer instinct (which fluttered in and out of view all season like a butterfly, kicked in hard for that 20 game run, and then wandered off again in search of nectar…) is what ultimately cost Wilson his job.

Crash Davis points out that the difference between a AAA catcher and a major league catcher is a hit a week. Figure out how to go 2-4 one game a week instead of 1-4, and you’re in the bigs. the problem is: it’s just not easy to DO. But the ones that make the majors are the ones that do find a way. Not the most talented guys — the ones that find a way to make it happen. Talent helps, but it’s not the prime determiner of success.

The same is true in hockey in its way.

An example I like to use is goaltending. Take a goalie that lets in four goals in a game. For each goal in isolation, you may look at it and go “man, I don’t know how he could have stopped it”.

But taken in the larger view, the top goalies will find a way to stop ONE of those pucks. or two. That’s what makes them the top goalies. It’s easy to look at any one goal and think “tough save” — but look at a series of them, and you start realizing that the goalie needs to make SOME of them, or they shouldn’t be your goalie.

Same for teams. You can look at the Sharks playoff run (and I have), and find reasons why, if a bounce went this way instead of that, if Pavelski didn’t blow a tire, if this penalty wasn’t called, if that penalty WAS called, the results could be very different.

All very true. And I did exactly that. but sitting back and thinking on it a bit more, and talking about it with others, I started to realize the same thing about the Sharks that I did about those goals: yeah, the breaks went against the team, but the team needed to find ways to win anyway in some of those games. And it only would have taken a game or two to fight beyond those bad breaks to change the calgary series or the dallas series, because they really were that close.

Good teams have three attributes taht are relevant here:

they make their own luck through hard work and execution. Many times “luck” is nothing more than battling to be in the place you know you need to be at the time you need to be there.

they don’t let a bad break beat them. They find a way to overcome it.

And where possible, the top teams — and just look at Detroit here — make sure that they’re not in a position where a bad break CAN beat them. If you’re up 2-3 goals and in the offensive zone, a bad break simply isn’t as damaging as if you’re protecting your own goal and thegame is tied late, or you’re only up one goal.

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s missing from the Sharks. they played too many games too close to the edge, and when you do that and the breaks go against you, you lose. That’s a lack of the killer instinct, it’s letting your victim get back up and take a swipe at your kidneys. If you do, sometimes they’ll connect, adn then you have problems.

That’s why Wilson got fired, he didn’t find the way to inject that killer instinct into the team. And that’s the primary job of the new coach (I wish him luck). And if you want to see it in action, watch the Red Wings.

So it’s no surprise that this is the team Doug Wilson is looking to for inspiration on taking the Sharks to the next level.

Conference Finals projections

Two for Elbowing: Conference Finals projections:

And Sharks/Dallas? Dallas deserves to move forward. Good luck to them.

1-3. Ouch. but still 7-5 for the playoffs. I still have time to screw that up.

And so I will.

And I went 1-1 in the conference finals, so I’m at 8-6 and guaranteed a winning record for the playoffs for the 2nd year in a row. Not too bad.

Okay, Okay. I’ve been under-estimating Detroit long enough. All year. I didn’t pick them that strong going into the season, I thought they were getting too old and the goaltending suspicious. In the playoffs, I kept assuming reality would kick in (forget that President’s trophy, it’s a mirage!).

Osgood has a rep for being the worst goalie to ever win a Stanley Cup (“oh, hell, I could have won a Cup goaltending for that team”. right. yeah.) — and may soon be the worst goalie to have TWO rings. He’s done nothing but impress me all season, and especially in the playoffs. Hasek has impressed me as well, because he’s finally learned a trick never before seen in his career: the ability to shut up and be a team player when he’s not the #1 dog in the locker room. Never figured I’d see that, either.

And now Frandsen is approved to start practicing.

I think this is going to be one hell of a series. I’m probably not going to want it to end. But ultimately, I think Detroit’s going to take it — and I’ll bet now that Pittsburgh will be in the finals again next year. here’s hoping they lose AGAIN to San Jose, otherwise, I expect the pens will win the Cup next year. tehy’re close.

but for now, no more disbelieving in Detroit. I think San Jose would have been a better match up against them than Dallas was, but I’m not convinced the Sharks would have won. Adn I don’t think Pittsburgh will win starting Saturday.

So, Detroit in 6. and I hope for a couple of good, long overtimes.