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)

Posted in Hockey and Other Sports

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!

Posted in Hockey and Other Sports

opening of training camp.

today was the first day of camp for the Sharks today, and I wandered down for a bit to take a look at what was going on.

you forget just how bloody big these guys are until you get close to them.

The practice seemed high tempo and spirited. I won’t pretend to have any deep insights for having watched cycling drills by half the team for about an hour. I’ll leave that to others… (grin)

I will say that the energy level seemed high, spirits were good but the players seemed very focussed and down to business. Very little horseplay and nobody seemed to be dogging it.

the “this seems, well, weird” moment: realizing that one of the coaches on the ice was Bryan marchment (along with Wayne thomas and Rob Zettler); it made me flash back to the old IHL and the Las Vegas Thunder, when we were down there for a couple of games, and ex-Shark Lyndon Byers was playing for them.

Byers was named assistant captain, and was asked to take a leadership role with the younger players. And he humorously mused about that in the newspaper with a “me? a role model?” quote.

I actually have a fondness for Marchment, as former readers of our Dallas Stars mailing list (now retired) might remember. For all his reputation and repeated suspensions (mostly earned, but towards the end, his reputation preceeded him at times), he actually could play some pretty good hockey.

The day San Jose traded for him, I stood up like many and had a big, noisy fit about on the list; I also have to admit that it took about two games watching him and isolating his game on the ice to realize what he brought to the sharks — above and beyond physical play and intimidation.

He was a good hockey player; and I admitted it. Dirty player? sometimes; so are lots of guys. Who’s a dirtier player, Marchment or Chelios? tough call. But mostly, I think Marchment’s game was not that he was trying to hurt guys, it was that he was playing the game his way, and simply didn’t worry about whether someone got hurt. That wasn’t his problem, his problem was getting the job done without getting himself hurt.

Of course, he did — I was watching the night he got concussed and went into convulsions on the ice. I don’t think I reacted as strongly to any on ice injury, other than perhaps Malarchuk (who was goalie for the Las Vegas Thunder when Lyndon Byers was the captain. small world — and the team had this young phenom named Bonk, who went on to become a first pick and a good, solid, third line center. For the record, at the time, I said he was a good mid-first round draft, not a top draft or top three. I guess for once I was right — and if he’d been drafted 12th or 15th, people would think Radek Bonk has had a good career; as a top draft, he’s been a big disappointment. be wary of getting what you ask for, and having to live up to it)

But I digress. Given camps are opening, I can. It means hockey isn’t far away, and the season tickets will be arriving any minute now… (seriously).

time to drop the puck!

Posted in Hockey and Other Sports

my thoughts on the Roenick signing

A few thoughts on the Roenick signing by the Sharks, from the guy who’s been standing here for the last few months saying “Jeremy. go home. it’s over”.

It is, but there are aspects of this deal I find intriguing. Roenick is playing for minimal money, so this doesn’t really cost the Sharks anything. He has things to prove (that it’s not over, for one), so I expect he’s going to work his butt off to earn that money. He has a significant milestone close, so that’s going to add to the motivation, but is also close enough that it won’t hang over his head or the team’s head long — and if it isn’t working out, once he passes it, makes it easier for everyone to call it if needed.

So the risk here is low. The important thing is to set the proper expectations. Given the low money value – that’s easy if you think it through.

If there was one thing missing from the team last year, it was an attitude of consistent grittiness, of not being pushed around. There were times when the Sharks were unstoppable, and there were times the team got too passive.

One thing Roenick is not: passive.

So the way to view this deal is see the contributions as off-ice. As a setter and teacher of attitudes, a locker room influence. Anything Roenick does ON the ice is a bonus; his primary job, in my mind, is teaching the kids how to play more like he does, to help draw out their potential.

At some level, I’m not expecting much out of this deal. He’s effectively replacing Mark Smith, and while I don’t think this is an upgrade off of Smith, it’s now downgrade, and he in-locker-room aspects can help this team. He’s also the kind of guy the local reporters are going to love to have around, and heck, that can’t hurt.

So I’ll give him a thumbs up for now, and we’ll see what happens. And, you know? it’s good to see him get a shot at his milestone. Let’s see how he returns the investment the Sharks are making in him.

(and I see the hand of Mike Ricci in this; since they played together last season).

Posted in Hockey and Other Sports

Moving into the offseason

well, it’s now the off-season. Time for all of us hockey geeks to take a breather, relax, and wait for something interesting to happen.

Not. they may not be playing, but it sure isn’t quiet or boring right now, is it?

Anyway, I’m starting to firm up my off-season plans. With any luck at all, here’s what you’ll see at Two for Elbowing during the offseason:

First — as previously threatened, I’m going to start my series of articles on what’s wrong with hockey. And also what’s right, because there’s a bunch of both. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers (or even all of the questions), but I do think what I have planned will be interesting and make folks think. And since (if you don’t read my personal blog) I’m leaving StrongMail friday, until I get a new job one of the things i plan on working on is my writing portfolio — and this is one big piece of that. So hopefully, you’ll find it worth reading.

Second — a project I’ve wanted to do for a long while: get my various collections online; Laurie and I own about 60 jerseys, almost a hundred pucks and probably a similar number of pins, we have about 450 volumes in our book collections (including all volumes of Trail of the Stanley Cup), and Laurie’s collection god knows how many program books, and I’ve been wanting to put some of the more historic highlights online for a while, whether it’s classic images of Peter Puck or our personal friend, Big Head Referee.

Maybe even some “can you name this poor schmuck” based on their program pictures. Wait until you see the one we found of Wayne Thomas — if I can find it again…

So hopefully hockey off-season will be anything but boring around this place…

Posted in Hockey and Other Sports