Search This Site
Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
Support This Site
If you found this page interesting, please consider clicking through this ad and buying something.
If you do, Amazon will pay me a small percentage of the price. You don't spend any more on the item, and the money helps pay for the site and the more people who do this the more time I'll be able to spend on the site improving it and adding content.
More to Read
- Some Thoughts on Lightroom Keywords
- How not to be a doofus with a camera
- Beyond 'Vacation Snaps'
- A teachable moment (or why I love birding, even when I make a fool of myself)
- Sherman, set the wayback machine to…
- An audience of one....
- Talking about 'Stuff'
- What I do for a living…
- 50 reasons Why I Haven’t Been Blogging
Want more? Try this list...
New on the Blog
- The Raffi Torres Hit
- Back from Yosemite
- 2013 playoffs, round 2
- Fuji X100s Review – Fallin’in Love All Over Again
- If you give them an easy out, they’ll take it.
- Another reason Don Cherry should retire (or be retired…)
- Yosemite Bird Photography Workshop openings
- 30 Days Of Sexism
- 2013 playoff predictions
- Calaveras Eagles Nest 2013
Rent Gear at Borrowlenses
Don't buy that gear before trying it out! Renting a lens you're considering buying is a great investment in saving yourself from buyer's remorse!
And if it's a piece or gear you aren't going to use constantly, renting it when you need it is a great way to save money, and I highly recommend Borrowlenses as a place to rent high quality, well-maintained gear.
Category Archives: Sports – Hockey
You’re probably well aware that concussions have become something of an epidemic in the NHL over the past few years. It’s not like nobody’s talking about it. But just recently, the epidemic has taken a nasty turn, targeting star players with sudden aplomb. It’s almost as though the brains of NHL superstars need a tough guy. It’s not just Sidney Crosby anymore. The injury list is littered with big names.
Suddenly, it seems, concussion talk is everywhere around hockey. I’ve been having multiple discussions with people I know about it.
Crosby works his butt off to come back, takes another hit, and is out again. Suddenly, nobody really knows when or how he’ll be back. Or what’ll happen after the next hit. The ghost of Eric Lindros hovers over the league’s move visible player.
And now Pronger goes down. And stays down. Pronger, whether you love him or hate him (probably, both), never stays down.
This is mid-December. NHL playoffs generally stretch until nearly the end of June. So in the opinion of the two specialists who examined Pronger this week – and diagnosed him with “severe” post-concussion symptoms – they do not believe his condition will appreciably improve enough in the next six months to permit him to play again this season.
This is not a new problem. Just ask Eric Lindros. Or Brett. Or Nick Kypreos. Or Jay More. Pat LaFontaine. Paul Kariya. Wanye Primeau. Fenando Prisani. Adam Deadmarsh. Scott Stevens. The list goes on, and on and on. I first wrote about concussions back in 2003. I’ve written about it on and off since (2004, 2004, 2005,2007, 2009, 2009, 2011 ). I remember going all the way back to the Cow Palace years and talking to the Sharks medical staff about concussions, back when everyone was first trying to get a handle on all of this.
We’re going to continue to write about it into the future, because injuries are part of the game, and given that the core of the game of hockey is the physical (and violent) collision, injuries are not going to stop unless we fundamentally change the game. Which means to fix this, it has to stop being hockey.
But what’s happening now is I’m having conversations with other fans that are some variation of “I’m uncomfortable being a fan of a sport where player’s health and life are damaged for my enjoyment”. It’s a question I’ve struggled with myself. Along with the uncomfortable question of just how you stop injuries to the head when you allow two players to drop gloves and pound each other in the face. Fighting is an elephant in this particular sitting room, and one that has to be grappled with as part of the solution — and I say that as someone who enjoys a good fight during a game.
Even the most passionate hockey fan would be hard-pressed to remember a time when so many stars were out with concussions. It’s almost as if the scrambled brain epidemic is getting worse, even though body checking is seemingly at an all-time low.
I’ve always been of the opinion that virtually nothing can be done to combat concussions. Nothing, that is, outside of banning body-checking altogether. It’s simply impossible to avoid violent collisions in a game played at such a high speed.
And this has become a hot button within the media, bringing it a lot of visibility and commentary.
That is, in fact, part of the problem.
Let me rephrase that.
This is a complex issue. There is no “concussion problem”. There are lots of problems that end up causing or caused by concussions. And there are “problems” that get raised as part of this that actually make it a lot harder to see the real problems.
One of those “problems” is simply the media making this a high profile issue. It creates a perception that things are a lot worse now than they have been in the past. It gives something Mike Milbury to rant about. It generates headlines. Sometimes, those headlines get in the way of seeing what’s really happening.
Roy Macgregor, I think, gets to a core part of the current “problem” with the media frenzy going on:
It matters not how concussions are happening – head shots, fights, accidents with sticks and pucks, running into one’s own teammate – they have become an increasingly polarizing issue in today’s hockey. There are as many sick of the issue as there are those wanting the issue addressed – even the media has started sniping among themselves – with the only sure truth being that concussions aren’t going to go away even if they cease to be mentioned. They are, sadly, increasing – or, at the very least, the recording of them has.
“Maybe now it’s everybody is more careful with the head injuries,” suggests Boston captain Zdeno Chara, himself out with a knee injury.
“It’s more serious and nobody wants to risk it, so everybody is taking time to make sure they are good before they play again.”
It’s unclear that there are more concussions in hockey today than there were last year or three years ago.
But a lot of things have changed. Our understanding of concussions and the long term health implications is increasing. Some of the recent brain studies, including those of Derek Boogard, that show significant brain trauma, is bringing home the fact that there are problems here that in the past were mostly ignored. It’s not a new problem, some of the NFL brain studies are showing this same brain damage in players going back into the 70′s. I expect if you did brain studies of some of the physical players and fighters of the 60′s and 70′s NHL, you’d find the same.
The NHL has a long history of “shake it off, get back out there”. Hockey players have a high tolerance of pain, and traditionally play though injuries almost beyond comprehension. Even five years ago there was still a culture of “just got my bell rung” and players got back out there.
The league has made huge changes in the last two or three years. The rules for checking players for concussion have become a lot more stringent. Our understanding of concussions in general has gone up massively. Players have been educated on concussions, and, frankly, probably scared by what’s going on enough to stop doing the macho thing and playing through these “bell ringing” incidents that even a couple of years ago they would have ignored.
So the number of RECOGNIZED and REPORTED concussions is going way up. This isn’t necessarily that there are more concussions, but they’re being more reliably diagnosed, and the league is more careful about tracking them, and giving players less leeway to come back from them early or ignore them and play through them.
So some of the spike is better diagnosis, and better treatment, and better understanding. And the media looks at raw numbers and turns that into a crisis, which makes it harder to see the real problem behind it.
Because, don’t for a second think I’m using this as a way of saying there’s no problem here.
It’s a problem without simple solutions. I think the league has gotten serious about understanding it and solving it to the degree it can. I wish it’d hit this point of urgency five years ago, but I have no issue with the league’s response now (and honestly, five years ago, I don’t think concussions were well enough understood to do some of the things that are being done today — but I do think we could be farther along the path towards solutions than we are).
There’s been work done on improving the safety of the arena — such as the rounded glass installed this year to deal with hits like those that injured Max Pacioretty. The arenas that had the immobile seamless glass have been upgraded to use more flexible (and much safer) boards and glass — anyone remember when that glass was first installed and Mike Modano had his head smushed into it, going out for a significant time with a concussion?
Research has shown hockey helmets actually don’t help much with concussions, and work has been going on to improve head protection. New style helmets are coming onto the market that improve on this problem. Other hockey gear has evolved over the years from being protective to being an effective weapon against other players, especially changes to elbow and shoulder pads, which have added hard shells and rubber knobs that can be used against a player in a check (I once saw Marty McSorley with his shirt off; his shoulder pads were little more than a couple of slabs of leather — he had traps to die for. Today’s shoulder pads look like something stolen from a bad japanese Manga movie). The league has been working to replace this gear with less damaging hardware, elbow pads without hard caps and less — offensive — shoulder pads. Those safety changes have to get the approval of the players union as well; let’s not forget the players union is the group that has stonewalled mandatory visors choosing “personal choice” over “let’s try not to lose too many eyes” — right, mattias Ohlund and Brian McCabe and Jamal Mayers? — so getting safer gear into the game takes longer than we might hope).
And the rule changes. Rule 48. The OHL just banned hits to the head. There were calls for the NHL to do the same. It didn’t — and they were right to take a more specific approach (but I’ll leave arguing this point to a different article, later); the players are getting it; retraining them takes time (and some will never learn, and as they become problems for the team, they’ll find their careers ending — but if Matt Cooke can figure it out, pretty much anyone can). It’ll take some time to see just how effective these changes are in reducing concussions. It seems to me that it is — but the problem right now is that this real reduction is obscured by the increased recognition and reporting, so it’s hard to see what the difference is. We’re judging numbers based on two very different standards, and trying to make comparisons.
My gut tells me the league is on the right track and making progress; I do think there’s a lot of work to do. I disagree with the view above that nothing can be done here. Lots has been done, is being done, and there’s lots more to do. That’s a defeatist attitude, and probably the most important change being made right now is educating the players and helping them really understand concussions, both to get it through their occasionally thick skulls that making hits that cause concussions is a stupid and dangerous thing — but even more so teaching players that ignoring concussions or playing through them is even MORE stupid. Retraining the league and players that it’s okay to say “I can’t go” isn’t sissifying the game, it’s protecting the future health of the player.
The league can only do so much to stop concussions if the players don’t take them seriously. The big change going on in the league now is that education process; getting the players to understand and accept that they don’t have to “skate it off” when “they got their bell rung”. As this change in attitude gets ingrained in the players, when the players really learn it’s not okay to headhunt — that’s when concussion numbers will realy go down. That process is ongoing, and I think we’re starting to see the effects — the early effect is MORE concussions being reported and MORE man-days lost to them and MORE headlines bemoaning the concussion crisis. But players moving into a situation where they’re safer, and where they’ll be healthier in the future for understanding this now.
Right now, there’s a lot of noise about concussions. That’s good — that’s driving awareness, and that is, if nothing else, motivation to the league to keep looking for ways to make this problem better and the game safer for the players. the tradeoff there is that hockey is inherently a physical and violent sport, and injuries are inevitable — the only way to take injuries out of the game is to ruin it.
That is not, under any circumstance, an excuse to ignore injuries or to think you don’t NEED to find ways to make the game safer. The league has a difficult set of compromises to make on this, and right now, I think they’re doing an overall good job.
We also need to remember that some of this noise is because we’re making progress – because lots of what used to be swept under the rug is now visible for all to see. And that’s the first step in removing move of it to the dust bin of history where it belongs. And this process is not something solved by snap decisions; it’s going to take time, and research, and commitment. which right now, the league seems to be committed to.
And ultimately, I think it means the end of fighting in the game, because at some point we are going to have to come to grips with the reality that we can’t say it’s unacceptable to target the head of a hockey player — unless you take your gloves off for a fight.
But that’s an argument for another article at another time….
And GM Doug Wilson, who never comments directly on any kind of speculation, still managed to make it crystal clear that he supports his coach.
“We believe in this group and we believe in this staff,” Wilson said. “We look forward to this team playing up to its capabilities.”
If you watched the game Tuesday, you undoubtedly heard the pointed criticism of the Sharks by the Versus analyst tandem of Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Some of their comments about the Sharks’ lack of energy also are rehashed in the print/web story.
When asked about the criticism, several Sharks were careful to say that didn’t want to respond to things that they didn’t actually hear. (And frankly, that’s very smart of them.) But they disagreed with the idea that lack of effort has been the Sharks problem of late.
“I know how hard we’re trying out there,” Logan Couture said.
Thornton and Clowe added that they try not to listen to the chattering on television.
Based on having watched the Sharks forever, and how Doug Wilson GMs this team, when Wilson says this, what he really means is “it’s time for you guys to get your act together, or I’ll get it together for you”. The Sharks are starting a 6 game homestand (they won tonight, playing occasionally inconsistently but putting it all together to finish strong and winning going away). My bet: if they aren’t at least 4-2 on this homestand, Doug Wilson shakes up the roster and makes a trade in early January.
And probably should, if they don’t shake out of this — whatever it is. I agree with the team about how hard they’re trying. What they aren’t doing is playing smart. What they aren’t doing is sweating the details. That shows most visibly in the penalty kill, which is ludicrously bad given the talent here. And the penalty kill is 90% hard work, and 20% sweating the details. They’re two steps out of place, they’re one step late, they’re missing an assignment — all things that happen once in a while, but not things that should happen constantly.
It’s as if for some reason their heads aren’t consistently in the game. concentration lapses more than lapses of effort. There’s no real excuse for it past the first ten games of the season. By then they should know each other.
The last couple of games looked like they were finding it, but it wasn’t there consistently. Tonight, they got it in the third period and finally got the motor running on all cylinders. The question is, will they keep it going next game? One period is a good start, and got them a good win. But the lack of consistency is making this team both fascinating to watch and immensely frustrating to figure out.
And Wilson’s public show of support is really an indication his patience is wearing thin.
This is not a coaching problem. This is not an effort problem. This is not a conditioning problem. This is a problem of focus and concentration. And those are things only the players themselves can solve, individually.
It’s opening night for the Sharks. I haven’t talked much about hockey leading up to the start of the season, mostly because I’ve had other priorities. Didn’t get to camp, watched some pre-season, but I won’t pretend to have studied the league or am remotely qualified to play pundit right now.
So, surprisingly, I won’t for the most part.
The big question if you’re a sharks fan is whether or not the Sharks are better this season, because last season wasn’t quite good enough. I think so, but the difference between where they were and where they need to go is more attitude and experience and chemistry (as well as luck and whether they stay healthy) that it is about “better players” — and so it’s really hard to judge until we see how the season plays out. In any event, this isn’t a question that’ll be answered in October or December, but in March and April.
But I like the moves Wilson has made. More importantly, I like the fact that he wasn’t afraid to make moves, wasn’t tentative, and didn’t make minor tweaks and hope for major improvements. I really like the Burns acquisition, not just because I really like Burns, but because it’ll help keep Boyle from wearing out.
I think the west is shaping up to be a three and a half team race: I will stand up and say the Sharks should win the west and the sharks should go to the stanley cup final. I think Vancouver will fight them hard for this; I always think Detroit will have to be reckoned with, and the LA Kings worry me. There are another five or six teams a step behind that make the west very competitive, and any one of them can get on a streak and knock off the favorite. It’s going to be lots of good hockey.
In the east, I don’t know the teams as well, but what I’ve seen of Pittsburgh impresses me. Boston is going to have to fight through the Cup Hangover problem, and I’m not sure they can repeat. The Rangers may well be turning into a good team, finally. And Washington has scary talent but hasn’t shown my much yet. I think Philly picking up Bryzgalov solves their big problem, at least this year, and they’ll make some noise. But I’ll pick the Penguins coming out of the east, and it’ll either be Pittsburgh or Philly winning the eastern conference.
A few other non-game notes on hockey this year.
I’m loving what I’m seeing out of Shanahan and the changes in rules and rule enforcement so far. I was a big proponent of “first, double the length of all suspensions” to get the attention of the players. He hasn’t done that, but the new suspensions are a good step in that direction. I see that this new direction has already pissed off Mickey Redmond and Don Cherry, and to me, that means the league is definitely doing the right thing; will it have the willpower to keep at it? I think it has, and I think this means we finally have a generational shift in power among the hockey governors that understand that Don Cherry hockey is not going to drive this sport into the future. Let’s hope the luddites don’t drag it back again.
• • •
Oh, a quick open letter to a man I respect greatly for what he does, when he doesn’t piss me off for what he is:
Dear Don: Please. Retire. It’s time. you’re embarrassing yourself. More importantly, you’re now embarrassing the game and the players you pretend to respect. So let them ride you off into the sunset in glory instead of disgrace, because if you don’t, you’re going to end up saying something that will taint your legacy forever, and I don’t want to see that.
But you won’t, so the circus on hockey night in canada will continue until you finally say the one thing you shouldn’t, and you leave on someone else’s terms with ridicule. Which is a shame.
• • •
With the opening of the season, a few reading suggestions
- Kukla’s Corner is the best place to get a wide view of hockey and the league, with writers on each team and on many subjects around the sport. It’s a great place to get a broad survey of what’s going on without having to track down 93 different news feeds. It’s also where Laurie is writing on goalies this season.
- If you are a Sharks fan, you should be reading Working the Corners, the blog of beat writer David Pollak (and his trusted sidekick backup writer Mark Emmons). David knows and loves the game, knows the Sharks, and has created a nice dialog with the fans here on his blog and gets beyond the 300 words a night summaries we used to live with back in the “old days” of traditional newspapering.
- Tom Benjamin has been writing about hockey online longer than Laurie and I have, which says something. He knows the game very well and reading his blog will make you think about the game and teach you about it. It matters not one bit that I disagree with him on many of his opinions, his views are still something you ought to be paying attention to and then making up your own mind about. It looks like he’s starting the season in good form as he takes apart Cherry’s fighting rant better than I could. Read him, he will teach you.
• • •
A couple of words on the off-season. The hockey world lost some people in tragic ways with Derek Boogard and Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, and before that Tom Cavanagh’s suicide. It’s brought to the surface some issues that have been around for a while but can now no longer ignored or swept back under the carpet the way Don Cherry tried to with his bullshit. The information about the analysis of former player Rick Martin’s brain, which showed clear signs of CTE makes it clear this is not a new problem for the league (and is not a problem specific to hockey, either, since football and boxing also have this issue to deal with, and when baseball takes a close look at catchers, I’ll bet you’ll find some of them, will suffer from it as well).
In the Don Cherry world, hockey players are gladiators and fight the glorious fight for our entertainment — and when they can’t, they go offstage and get replaced by a new gladiator.
In my world, I have real problems enjoying a sport that leaves those entertaining me this damaged; it’s tough enough to see what ex-players deal with in terms or orthopedic challenges later in life, but now we’re talking about damage to the brain; permanent damage that affects their lives and how they interact with life.
I first wrote about concussion issues in the NHL back in 2003 and I’ve talked about it a number of times since. It’s a bit sad that it’s taken the league eight years to get this serious about dealing with head injuries, but I also understand that the medical science of understanding all of this is just catching up to the problem as well.
And it looks like the league really is taking this seriously, and I hope they find some solutions. The changes I see this year are a good start. It’s going to take the players some time to retrain themselves, so I hope the league keeps it up and doesn’t back off under the inevitable whining of the Cherry Cabal.
I struggled during the off-season with the idea of being entertained by people who will end up like Derek Boogard and Wade Belak; whether it was Jay More or Paul Kariya or Sydney Crosby or Nick Kypreos, watching these players struggle simply to have a life while fighting to recover from serious concussions made me wonder whether I wanted to continue as a fan of the sport. I now think the league is on the right track — I won’t pretend we have all of the answers, but we seem to have started, and are helping the players learn and understand. I watched an interview with Matt Cooke on the TV last night, and Cooke has been the poster child of “what we don’t want in the league” for years — and he honestly sounded like he understands and gets that it’s time to change his game. time will tell, but if it got through to him, I think the league will sort this all out.
This isn’t something simplistic “fix it now” solutions is going to solve. It doesn’t help to “fix” the game by screwing it up. Those people are just as wrong as the “leave it alone” crew. I feel like the league now has the right people and the commitment to figure it out, and I think the tragedies of the last year has the players attention. It’s sad that we needed to lose some good people to get this kind of focus on the problem, but in reality, that’s human nature. I do hope the league keeps pushing on this and figures out how to keep the game what it is — while making it as safe as possible for the people who entertain us by playing it.
• • •
One final note; as I’ve mentioned a few times, Laurie and I gave up our season tickets after 20 years; a combination of wanting to back off and go to fewer games and not wanting the hassle of syndicating them. We’ve talked a few times about it to make sure we had no regrets, and we don’t. Going to the arena 35-37 times a year was turning into an obligation, not an entertainment. Tonight we’ll be sitting on the couch watching — the last opening night we missed was season 1, because we didn’t convert to full season until year 2.
A lot of hockey — we’re well over 700 games attended in the last 20 years, when you count in road trips and our jaunts through the WHL and BCJHL and the year with the Spiders where we did 30 Sharks games and 35 Spiders games in one season (THAT was a lot of hockey).
It’s definitely nice that the season is firing up. I’m ready for some hockey. But I also find it nice that I’ll be watching it from the couch and not worrying about the drive and parking and turning 3 hours of hockey into six hours of expedition. We’re talking over what games we want to see this year. Still not decided, but we probably won’t actually get to the arena until January. Or maybe sooner — we’ll see how it goes. But definitely, just because we’re not butts in seats 35 nights a year doesn’t mean we’re not as interested as we were. it’s still the sport that we love…
So, shall we drop the puck already?
Some unexpected news this week in the sports world hit our email when the ECHL announced that they were adding a team starting next year in San Francisco, to be known as the San Francisco Bulls. They’ll be playing in the Cow Palace, which is actually in Daly City. Jon Swenson at Sharkspage has the background on all of this.
This seems to be the new home of the long-hibernating Reno team last seen as the Renegades of the WCHL, a league that has since merged into the ECHL. This will be the first return of hockey to the Cow Palace since the San Francisco Spiders played there in their one season of existence in 1995-1996.
To Laurie and myself, trying to move hockey back into the Cow Palace seems a curious choice. We are probably the two people who’ve watched more hockey in the Cow Palace than anyone alive, having not only been original Sharks season ticket holders for both of the seasons the Sharks played there, but on staff with the Spiders as their Webmasters, and as most of the Spiders home games that year. Laurie, in fact, likely has the largest file of Spiders photos in existence, not that anyone cares or wants them, since she was doing a lot of the photography for the web site.
This is a tough venue in a tough market. Our motto back when we were working with the Spiders was “It’s a pit, but it’s OUR pit”, which kinda sums up the Cow Palace. The sight lines are tough, the building is — it has character — the location is tough with bad transit options and parking is expensive in comparison to the expected ticket prices, and the food will suck (I guarantee it). On warm days, the building tends to have an — ambience — to it because of its agricultural heritage.
We remember the place fondly, but I don’t think we’d be in a hurry to put a team in there. Thinking about it, though, there aren’t many options available.
The ECHL has wanted to go back to Reno for a while, but it seems the Renegades bankruptcy has made getting a venue there tough. Other than the Cow Palace, the only options are Oakland (sharing with the Warriors) or Sacramento (sharing with the Kings), both venues being too big and expensive for ECHL, assuming either is interested in having a second tenant. And the Arco Arena also sucks for hockey.
Fresno has two arenas, the old Selland arena downtown, and the newer Savemart arena. The latter’s not a bad place for hockey and has nice sight lines. The ECHL was there previously with the Falcons, but the Falcons left Savemart and moved back to Selland, then failed. Selland is in a bad part of town and not a good facility; it’s unclear if Savemart got tired of the team or too expensive (I’m guessing the latter), but it just looks like Fresno can’t support an ECHL team in this economy.
One other arena option is in Long Beach, where the IHL and later the ECHL had the Ice Dogs. It’s actually a rather nice facility, but hockey never drew well there. We had some minor involvement with the old IHL Ice Dogs as well, hosting their web site for a friend who ran it, and Laurie did some photography down there when we took in games in that facility.
So maybe San Francisco is the best of a set of bad options for minor league hockey here on the west coast. I do wish them luck.
Minor league sports is a tough sell here in the Bay Area. The San Jose Giants have made it work, but the team is going to find it difficult to get media coverage; with two MLB teams, two NFL teams, an NHL team and two NBA teams in the greater bay area, plus Stanford and Cal as Div I college and the Earthquakes in soccer, there isn’t going to be much interest in covering a minor hockey team here. The Spiders fought hard for any coverage at all, and things haven’t exactly gotten better in the print media world in the last 15 years. Broadcast media is even worse, and it took the Spiders half a season to even get a radio outlet for games, and that outlet was one step above broadcasting using a walkie-talkie out of someone’s basement.
For this to work, the team is going to have to work hard at marketing and be willing to spend to get noticed, because there isn’t going to be a lot of cooperation in the media with free publicity. With the Spiders, we found if we could get people to a game or two, they tended to come back; getting them to that first game without massive ticket giveaways was tough, and if you give away too many tickets, you set the expectation that you don’t need to buy seats, you just wait for the next free giveaway. it’s a tough dance; the Spiders ownership ended up not having the commitment to invest in the team to make it work; when attendance didn’t thrive early, instead of investing more into marketing, they started cutting losses, and that put the team into a death spiral. The new owners are going to have to be willing to lose money to start, work hard to attract their audience, and expect it to take 2-3 years to build that audience to make it profitable.
It’s a down economy, but in the last 15 years since the Spiders the Sharks have done a nice job of building a grass roots hockey community; there are lots of people playing hockey in the Bay Area, and if the Bulls market and create a family atmosphere, they can draw off of that. Tying into the youth and amateur leagues gives them a hook into a market the Spiders didn’t have. That’s certainly one thing I’d focus on if I were involved here.
Even then, I’m not convinced this market can support a minor hockey team. The Sharks were never happy with the Spiders showing up, and I can’t see that they’ll be thrilled with the Bulls, so I tend to think it’ll be tough for them to get any kind of player affiliation with an NHL team, and they can’t expect any marketing cross-promotion or help from the Sharks (if I were the Sharks, though, I’d want to see this as an opportunity, a place to stick kids in the system where they’re easy to watch and coach, and a way to help foster the fan base by creating a new price point for fans priced out of the NHL in a way that’ll generate interest over the long term).
I hope the Bulls succeed. You can bet we’ll show up for a game or two (at least), just to see how it looks. Maybe we’ll be able to get our original seats back again for the third team at the old “Palais du Boeff”. In any event, this is an interesting experiment, one we’re going to watch and see what happens.
No, I did not see the Dany Heatley trade coming. I was at dinner with friends (at Tigelleria, in fact, with a nice Italian Barolo and a charcuterie plate) when my phone bleeped, and it was a pair of text messages telling me about the trade.
Am I surprised at the trade? Yes, but no. Setoguchi was clearly my disappointing player, but Heatley was a guy that was generally criticized for his play, and while it came out he was playing hurt — many including myself still seemed to feel there was a piece of him missing from the equation. My gut told me Seto was gone, but it also told me if there was another player likely to move, it would be Heatley. I wasn’t sure the contract was moveable, and I didn’t think Wilson would move BOTH. But Wilson is never shy and shaking it up when he thinks it’s warranted, or being timid at doing so.
Heatley reminds me in a way of Todd Elik from the Sharks past, another player that seemed to move to a number of teams around the league in his career, adn consistently seemed to have strong years with a new team followed by declining numbers and criticism. It just seems some players need the “got to prove them wrong” edge, and as they settle into a team and get comfortable, lose it and fade a bit, even though they don’t recognize that as happening. And for those players, it just looks like changing teams every 2-4 years may be the best thing for their careers and production.
Look at Heatley’s past, and that seems to have happened. Look at his Sharks numbers, and it seems to roughly fit that mold, too. if I can see this trend, one can only assume Doug Wilson does, too. Havlat, coming to the Sharks in return, is the same age and has a self-admitted motivation problem playing for a team that isn’t making the playoffs; that’s what drives him, and so playing on a rebuilding team like the Wild was tough for him.
So this is a place where two teams trade their “problems” for each other, solve issues with the team (the Wild were like 26th in scoring, with setoguchi gone, the sharks top six forwards were pretty slow) and this seems like a trade that honestly benefits both players as well. hard to see a loser here, and I like havlat as a fit with the Sharks.
I was a strong critic of the Heatley deal before it happened. Heatley convinced me otherwise after he got here, and I have zero criticism of him and his time in San Jose. And yet, I’m not surprised he’s moving again, and I don’t think this’ll be his final stop in the NHL. Some players just seem to have a career like that. I wihs him well, except when the Sharks are in town.
Seto and Heatley in Minnesota should definitely improve their scoring. I’m guessing they’re not a playoff team, but they’re definitely better. and Burns and Havlat here? Burns is a nice addition, and Havlat, if not an improvement, at least leaves the forwards at par with what we had before.
So no complaints here.
With the draft happening over the weekend, now’s a good time to close out last season and take a final look at hockey for a while. At least until free agency, which will happen at the end of this week.
To close out my playoff predictions, I picked the Canucks, so I missed on the final round. Still, I was 11-4 in picking the playoffs, which is pretty good if you ask me. I’ll take it.
I don’t talk much about the draft, because I don’t get a chance to see the prospects and I therefore think critiquing the choices is a silly thing to do. I’ll leave it to the experts.
The Sharks highlight during the draft wasn’t their drafting — a few days before the draft, Setoguchi signs a three year deal at about $3m a year, which I thought was a fair deal for both sides. And then suddenly finds himself a Minnesota Wild when Wilson trades him (and a prospect and a draft pick) for Brent Burns. At first glance this looks like a sign and trade, but Wilson has said that wasn’t true, and he’s typically a straight shooter. I believe him when he says the deal didn’t happen until after the signing — but that ignores the reality that the deal Setoguchi signed was an easy deal to build into a trade, and Wilson clearly was willing to trade him; once Seto was signed, I’m not surprised there were phone calls inquiring about him.
Without actually saying “I called it”, I did speculate on the Sharks deciding to shake up the forward lines, and that I felt Setoguchi was the player most likely not to be a Shark from the top six forwards come camp:
If there’s a top 6 shakeup on the sharks, I would be picking him as the player to shake up, if I could. I certainly would be trying to sign him for a shorter deal for not so much money with incentives.
And as it turns out, that’s what happened. Brent Burns? Very nice pickup. Physical, and he’s the kind of player Wilson finds that makes you go “how did he do that?” — in one transaction, he brings in depth to fill out our blueline, replaces Pavelski on the power play point to allow him to play forward, gets Pavelski off the third line and back in the top six forwards, and adds some nice physical play. And he does it with a player that has one year left on his contract, but seems very signable by the Sharks, not someone likely to jump to free agency.
When pavelski is a third liner, you have forward depth to spare, so using it makes sense. I really like this deal on all levels, even though we lose a good prospect n it. It’ll be good for Setoguchi as well, I think.
So, Wallin, Nichols, Mayers and Setoguchi out, and it’s not July 1. Burns in on the blueline. Desjardins filling in Nicholl’s role. Pavelski slipping into the top six forwards, so there are a couple of 3/4 line forward spots at grabs, and a lot of good talent that played part time last season taht can fill it in, like Mike Moore. Still some work to do on blueline depth, but the team could open camp tomorrow and I think it’s a better team.
Elsewhere in the league?
It’s great to see Winnipeg back, and that they’re the Jets again. Now the hard part starts, which is making money in Winnipeg. I feel pretty good about that happening, though.
And while it won’t happen this season, Atlanta -> Winnipeg means realignment. The rumors have the league looking at a four division, two conference format, with Columbus and Detroit going east and divisions organized around timezones. I’ve been a strong critic of Detroit going back to the east (because it makes the west look even more like a poor cousin to the eastern conference), but I like this rumored realignment a lot, because th schedule gets re-aligned as well, and the plan is to have everyone play a home and home against every team outside their division. I’ve wanted that for a long time, and if they bring that in instead of the current schedule, they have my support.
The realignment rumors also indicate they’re looking at doing first round playoffs in-division, then reseed within the conference for later rounds. I like that as well, so here’s hoping it all comes through.
Drew Remenda gives his view of re-alignment on the Sharks blog. I like it with one exception. That is that he has two 8 team divisions in the east and two 7 team divisions in the west, and I’d prefer the conferences to be 15-15, which means one team needs to move west. And that means either detroit or columbus, but that admittedly screws that team a bit, so it probably shouldn’t happen. But I’d rather the conferences be balanced if possible (and if the league eventually does expand to 32 teams, which I don’t expect for at least five years, it reduces the probability of needing major realignment again. So maybe we go with drew’s idea, but I’d still like to find one team to move west… although I can see why neither of the logical suspects would like that idea much.
One last item I had flagged to mention: the league is tweaking rule 48, the hit to the head rule. I thought it was a good first try at controlling this problem, but also didn’t go far enough — but how to handle this without removing the physicality from the game is a complex dance and not easily resolved (blanket bans to hits to the head won’t work, not at the NHL level). The previous rule made it illegal to hit to the head on a lateral or blind side hit; that restriction is deleted, and so now any hit where the head is targetted and the principal point of contact is now going to be illegal. You NHL players that roll around the ice with your elbows up, get ready to sit. At first thought, I think this is an appropriate change, but until we see how it’s enforced and whether the players pay attention, I need to reserve judgement.
Also changed for next year is rule 41, the boarding rule, making it clear that players need to protect a defenseless player and avoid or minimize a hit against one. That’s true both along the boards and in an icing situation, and makes illegal a few hits from last season that weren’t illegal (but should have been), so I like this cahnge as well.
So barring a major free agency surprise by the Sharks or a big trade, that’s probably about it until camp opens. The Sharks seem well down the path I wanted to see towards being a bit different and a bit better going into next season; the Jets are back in town (san jose arena music folks, haul out that dusty copy of West Side Story!), and the league is grappling with the hits to the head and pushing the rule forward since it clearly didn’t fully protect players last year. And we’ll see how that goes.
So, when does the puck drop? Can’t wait!
Game 7. Stanley Cup final. 60 minutes of hockey left in the season, plus maybe some overtime.
After this, both teams go golfing, but one goes with a smile.
I’ve really enjoyed this series. Both are really good teams. The Canucks problems in Boston are curious, but I don’t read too much into the blowout factor. Game 7 is too close to call. Clearly, Vancouver has the advantage since Boston has yet to win on the road either, but I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable putting money on that. I do hope the good Luongo shows up instead of the Boston Luongo, or it could get ugly. If Luongo is off his game, the team seems to fall apart in front of him.
Tim Thomas wins the Conn Smythe even if he loses game 7 5-0. Start engraving.
When I think about Luongo right now, two names come to mind.
First is Evgeny Nabokov, the goalie the Sharks thought would take them to the promised land, but who simply never quite seemed up to that last step up to the podium. Having watched Nabby play for a number of years, and then watched a season of Niemi after he and the Sharks figured out how to play together, you can see the difference. When I watch Luongo in the playoffs, I see more Nabokov than Niemi. And on every whiteboard in every opposing locker room next year will be the words “shoot high glove”. It’ll be curious to see how Luongo solves that little weak spot. Um, big weak spot.
But I also think about Chris Osgood, because he’s a goalie with 2 Cup Rings and a long, successful career where fans and media continue to argue he isn’t really a Hall of Fame goalie, because he played behind a really good team and it wasn’t really that Osgood was THAT good. I’ve come to believe that Osgood is a Hall of Famer and is being disrepected a bit, but I also understand where this criticism comes from. I can’t see those REd Wing teams winning the cups with andre racicot in goal, though.
But that’s a legitimate question for Luongo, too, because his performance in the playoffs makes me wonder about the Olympic gold. Just how much of that was Luongo? And how much of that was the team in front of him? And that’s not a comfortable question for Canucks fans, because unlike the Sharks with Nabby, the Canucks have Luongo tied up for a good while and he’s not going anywhere. Schneider probably is, though, since he could be a starter elsewhere.
It’s clear, however, that even if he wins game 7, Luongo won’t put the critics to bed; nor should they. And Luongo has to stop and figure out how he is going to do that, or he’s likely to become the next Chris Osgood, no matter how many rings he wins. If he does.
Right now, if I were a Canuck fan, I would not be comfortable about game 7 — or the long term sustained success with this team fronting Luongo.
My head and sympathies are with the Canucks, since they’re at home and they win at home.
My heart is clearly with Boston and Thomas now. If Vancouver wins game 7, it’ll feel like they cheated the Bruins, because they haven’t shown themselves to a a better team, much less a dominant one. For me, a perfect ending here is Thomas winning, 1-0, in overtime. Because the series is that close, but ultimately, Thomas really deserves the victory and series.
After game 2 I expect lots of folks in vancouver were planning a parade. Now, after game 4, at best Canucks fans are nervous, and should be.
Boston fans need to remember, though, that until the Bruins win a game in Vancouver — break serve — they won’t win the cup. And they haven’t. home team wins all four games, and if that continues, vancouver takes it.
I think it’s been some great hockey. Boston right now looks to me to have the distinct edge because it seems to have dug in and found that extra level; it’s turned the knob to freaking twelve; that and Tim Thomas, who is just unbelievable right now.
My biggest worry for the Canucks: Luongo. I’m watching him, and the Bruins have him figured out and are in his head. He needs to find a way to get back on his game or it will be over.
My thought on Luongo having watched the last four games is a simple two words, Vancouver fans: Evgeny Nabokov.
Can’t wait for game 5…
Did you pick Raffi Torres for game winning goal?
Nope. Neither did I. but how often do the experts point out that the top lines tend to neutralize each other and it’s a role player that steps up? Anyone want on the Raffi Torres for Conn-Smythe bandwagon?
No, me, neither. Laurie and I talked about that tonight (I categorically refuse to worry about Conn-Smythe until final round, because it’s silly speculation earlier (and will change). But now? surprisingly, we agree 100%. If Boston wins this series, it has to be Thomas. If Vancouver does, it’s either Kesler or Luongo, and we both add in Bieksa as a possible candidate.
By the way, on the close call that led to the goal, two different camera angles showed me the linesman made the right call. In one angle, you could clearly see him dragging the skate and the skate was vibrating, showing that it was in contact with the ice and not raised going across the line. In another angle, you could compare when it crossed the blue line with the puck, and the puck entered the zone JUST ahead of the skate by maybe a couple of inches, but it was there. Very difficult to get right with multiple angles in slowmo with repeated viewings, and the linesman had the angle to get it right on the spot in real time with no second chance. well done.
Well done, both teams. A great play and a timely goal and Thomas had no chance, and hopefully the entire series will be this completive and close.
Going into game 1 was Bettman’s annual “state of the game” talk, which is fascinating reading. League revenues break $3 billion, and the cap is going up (again) because the league continues to grow. George Malik has the details, and they’re fun to read.
Colin Campbell is stepping down as czar of discipline and Brendan Shanahan will don the hair shirt in his place. My sympathies to Shanahan. If you read around the press and net the commentary on this change, watching all of the people with axes to grind at Campbell throwing sparks is a good indication of just how much fun Shanahan will have stepping into those shoes.
My take on Campbell: he did a very solid and fair job in a role that’s guaranteed that no matter what you do, people will gripe. He had a strong vision of how discipline should be managed and he was very consistent within that vision. There are many who disagreed with that vision, but in my view, most of the complaints aimed at him were more about people not agreeing with decisions (and therefore they’re wrong).
My one complaint about Campbell was that I felt suspensions needed to be longer to be a true deterrent (there are other changes to the system I’d like to see, for instance, teams shouldn’t be allowed to replace a suspended player on the roster but be forced to play with that slot empty for the duration — but that’s a Board of Governors and rules committee decision, not something Campbell could mandate), and from Bettman’s talk today, it seems clear that’s on the docket. Otherwise? whlie I didn’t always agree with the suspensions, I got to be pretty good about guessing how long they’d be.
I think Campbell did a yeoman’s job in a thankless position, and maybe some day I’ll get to buy him a beer and thank him.Everyone else should, too. I’m sure glad I don’t have that job, I’d probably have gone postal on a GM more than once…
Mostly, the state of the league speech is of course merely an excuse for everyone who hates bettman and the league to spin everything he says negative. It’s really rather sad, especially some of the canadian press (yes, I’ve been bashing the canadian press pretty heavily recently. for good reason). they have growing revenues, attendance is up, ratings are up. a nice new TV contract with great exposure — and if the league had done what the “experts” had demanded and gone back to ESPN, it wouldn’t have been remotely this much money or exposure. Is everything perfect? Of course not. name a three billion dollar company with 30 organizations that is? Some are always going to be stronger than others; some things are always going to need fixing. It’s interesting that the two leagues that seem most stable and in the best shape right now are the NHL and MLB, both places with long-term commissioners that are generally disliked by fans and media; probably because both aren’t afraid to make tough decisions rather than popular ones. And while I’m a bettman fan and not a selig fan, I do have to admit that MLB had done well overall with him as commissioner.
But let’s enjoy watching the media spin all this to crap and not worry about the facts backing them up. Remember, good news doesn’t sell newspapers or drive pageviews, which is what’s really important.
Want to toss a quick congrats to Winnpeg for getting a team back. It won’t be mentioned, of course, that it was fundamental financial chances that Bettman pushed for — and yes, the shut down fans hate him for drove a lot of this — that make going back to Winnipeg possible. I remember when the Jets left, handing out blue ribbons around san jose arena and pinning one on Greg Jamison, even though it was clear it was too late to save the team. That the league can go back there is awesome.
I feel bad for the fans in atlanta. Unfortunately, as Winnipeg can attest, having fans isn’t enough, you also need owners, and if you don’t have enough, or the right ones, then all the fans in the city won’t be enough. This wasn’t a failure of the city, but of the ownership. and I don’t know that Atlanta will get a third chance to make it work for a good while. which is sad.
Next up in the franchise merry go round (let us not forget, Phoenix is not fully fixed, but seems under control; and the islanders are still in various troubles, although they’ve finally agreed to a vote on possible funding for the arena deal; it’s far from a guarantee it’ll succeed) is, I’m guessing, Kansas City. expect to see chatter pick up about that location again.
But you know what? No matter what some like to say, the league’s doing pretty well and the hockey is pretty damn good. There are problems in the league but there are probelms in every pro sports league, if only because when you have 30 owners some are going to be better than others and some will be more successful than others, and the commissioner can’t dictate, he has to create consensus. and if bettman does nothing else well, it’s his ability to get 30 competitive owners to work together well enough to let the league succeed. That’s pretty good, IMHO.
What really matters, though, is that game 1 rocked, and game 2 should, too. I just wish they weren’t in June (but I understand why….) — looking forward to saturday to see how these two teams adjust to each other.
And here we are in the finals. 28 teams are golfing, two are playing. And it’s June. At least four, any maybe as many as seven, games of hockey left. I’m already kind of missing the game since there are nights when I can’t stick a game into the background while I work.
Round 3, Boston vs. Vancouver. This should be a great series. Sedins vs. Chara. Thomas vs. Luongo. Some nice stories and challenges here. And the Cup has a chance to return to Canada for the first time in a while. I’m disappointed (but honestly, not surprised) that San Jose isn’t in the finals, but if any team was going to get past the Sharks, it was the Canucks. (side note: there were only two teams in the west that could really beat the Sharks, the Canucks and the Sharks.)
I’ve had a pretty good playoff run myself: Picked the east, missed the west, so I’m 11-3. I guessed wrong on Boston in the first round, Washington in the second round (who didn’t? Other than Yzerman) and San Jose in the third. One wrong, one implosion, and one flukey goal off a stanchion (but the Sharks shouldn’t have let themselves get to that point). I’ll take it.
If you think I’m NOT going to pick Vancouver, you’re crazy. the Bruins are going to have trouble controlling the Sedin twins. The big piece that worries me with Boston is Thomas, and whether he can out-duel Luongo. I think that’s a very distinct possibility. He could steal this series. If he does, that’ll be awesome.
But I expect that the Canucks will win out in six, and take the Cup back to Canada. And if they do, they’ll have well earned it and deserve it. And if Boston somehow takes it instead, just hand Thomas the Conn-Smyte and all of the Canadian press can go spend a couple of months writing articles blaming Bettman for it somehow….
I’m really looking forward to this series. There’s been a lot of great hockey in these playoffs (too bad some parts of the Canadian hockey press seems to be blacked out from those broadcasts and are instead writing about stuff they think sucks and the whole Winnipeg cluster. Guys, there’ll be plenty of time for that in the offseason, how about the hockey?) and I expect this series to be pretty epic.
Can’t wait. but honestly, I’m ready for a bit of a break, too. But camps open not too far away, right?
Go Canucks Go!
Even more musings about the end of the Sharks season.
First, Dave Pollak has the full list of sharks injuries. Joe Thornton not only played with a separated shoulder (surgery evaluation to come later when the swelling goes down), but Robidas separated the end of one finger from the rest of his hand an d he’s been playing with it since. The wimp. he’s scheduled to get it wired back together now.
Clowe didn’t have a concussion, he also had a separated shoulder. Demers, high ankle sprain. Heatley a broken hand from the regular season (explains why he couldn’t score) and a high ankle injury earlier in the playoffs (explains why he looked slow). the wimp.
There were knees, skate cuts, broken noses, ankles. The surgery count stands at two, with three more under evaluation.
Gotta love hockey players, the wimps.
Notably absent on the list from my expectations was Setoguchi, now a restricted free agent. I’m really tempted to make him my whipping boy but if you look at his numbers (18 games, 10 points), that’s actually not bad. His -7 is weak, but that’s true of a number of sharks I have no intention of yelling at. So I’ll give him 2/3 of a pass, but to be honest, I thought his performance in the playoffs was substandard, and ditto for various parts of the regular season. There’s a fine line between streaky and “oh, c’mon and get it going”, and right now, Setoguchi’s career path seems closer to Jonathan Cheechoo than Ryan Clowe. If there’s a top 6 shakeup on the sharks, I would be picking him as the player to shake up, if I could. I certainly would be trying to sign him for a shorter deal for not so much money with incentives.
If your interested in the free agent list, Pollak has it as well.
(Eleven players who saw action in the post-season have contracts that are about to expire. Restricted free agents are Setoguchi, Benn Ferriero, Jamie McGinn, and Andrew Desjardins. The unrestricteds are Nichol, Wellwood, Ben Eager, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, Niclas Wallin and Kent Huskins.)
Setoguchi is the only restricted I’m on the fence over. If someone wants to sign him off our hands, I’ll take the compensation.
Unrestricted? I’ll bring back Nichol happily, and Ian White (who impressed me beyond expectations). I like Wallin for what he is as well.
Wellwood? He showed more than I expected, but… I think there’s a reason why he’s bounced around a lot, and he’s smallish, and he tends to fade as he settles into a team. The name Todd Elik comes to mind. Sign him for black ace money on a one year with incentives and let him earn playing time? sure. anything more than that? No thanks.
Jamal Mayers? another black ace candidate at best. Love his character, wouldn’t mind having that in the locker room. Is there room on the roster for him, given the depth in Worcester and what some of the younger players have shown? I doubt it. His depth chart is fading to black.
Kent Huskins? thanks, Kent. write if you get work.
Ben Eager? Well, that’s — complicated. Brings an awful lot to the table, including, it seems a tendency to let his intention to make a difference in the game get the better of his hockey judgement. Can that be better controlled? Well, Steve Downie is a strong indication that answer is yes. If the Sharks think they can work with him on this, then definitely, he has a spot on the 4th line. But if he’s too much of a loose cannon.. Well, both raffi Torres and Steve Downie are going to be on the free agent market in some way… But I lean towards keeping Eager, with questions I don’t know enough to answer.
Ferriero, Mcginn, Desjardins — Mcginn is on my 4th line. Ferriero and Desjardins probably make my team at least as black aces and playing some 3rd/4th line time. maybe earn more. Braun makes this team next year. I wouldn’t mind seeing Mike Moore on the blueline instead of huskins.
If you think about it, the whipping boys of the last couple of seasons have been Marleau (“at times enigmatic” to quote myself), Thornton (“too easy going”), Heatley, and probably Vlasic. And those were merely our #1, #2 and #4 scorers, and Vlasic was third in blueline scoring and second in blueline +/-. I think they all proved themselves out this year. Not sure who the new whipping boys will be moving forward. Actually, I do. Probably Thornton, Heatley and Marleau, no matter what they do. Me, I guess I nominated Seto for that role.
All in all, I give the team a B, but this team should have been able to get a better grade than that, so it’s good, but underperforming. And it’ll be interesting to see how wilson figures out how to solve that. I sure don’t have an obvious answer.
Over the last seven seasons, the Sharks have one of the best overall records in the NHL; the only team with more regular season victories in the league is Detroit. They’ve won the presidents trophy, won their division five times, have made the playoffs six straight years and 12 of the last 14. Gone to the conference finals two straight years and three times total, and only been eliminated in the first round four times, and only once since 2000.
If you step back from being elminated this season — those are some damn impressive numbers. Yet, I think many sharks fans feel disappointed because the team hasn’t gone to the cup finals or won a cup. Now, in reality, in the last 15 years (30 teams playing) only 16 different teams have made the cup finals and of that 9 of them only made it once. Detroit has been there 6 times and New Jersey 4. So half the league hasn’t made the league finals in a decade and a half. In the last 15 years, only 9 different teams have one the cup.
I feel the same way, by the way. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t. The cup finals were very attainable this year, and the team didn’t get there. Not because of the fluke goal, but because the team allowed themselves to be in a position where the fluke goal eliminated them. That situation was avoidable, but they didn’t.
But objectively, there are easily 25 teams in the league that would do almost anything to have the success of the Sharks. Consistently good, consistently competitive, consistently in the playoffs, and consistently going fairly deep into the playoffs. Most teams don’t get that far, and the Sharks show no signs that they’re going to fade.
Yet it’s not good enough, and shouldn’t be.
And so here’s a question for Sharks fans that I’ve been pondering.
What would you be willing to accept to make the Cup finals? If you were told the Sharks would win a Stanley Cup — guaranteed — next season, but in return, they’d have to miss the playoffs for three seasons after that, would you take that bargain? Five seasons missing the playoffs?
What Devil’s bargain do you make to get to the Cup? Or are you willing to step back, realize what is going on here is pretty good, keep things the way they are, and support the team as they continue to try to push to that next level, but without guarantees?
Honestly, if you could guarantee a Cup, I would in fact take a couple of seasons out of the playoffs for that. Two or three. Five? I don’t think so. I’ve done my time with an expansion team, I’m not looking forward to doing it again. But I’d make the sacrifice of a sucky team for a couple of seasons to get over the top. Would you?
And think hard about that question as the pundits go out and start calling for the sharks to do something drastic to get over the hump. Or when you do. And realize that when Doug Wilson and his team have to make that decision, there won’t be a guarantee.
And remember that 27 teams were sitting at home watching the Sharks play the Canucks and wishing that was them this week.
Every year, 30 teams open camp in august trying to win the cup, and 29 of them fail. That’s why they want them so badly. I’m not for a minute suggest we should settle for what we’ve got with the sharks and not strive for that next level — but realize exactly what we’re asking for, and how hard it is to get there. In 15 years, half the league’s never been able to.
And so what the Sharks have accomplished needs to be remembered and not discounted, and we have to realize that every step that needs to be taken is infinitely harder than the step just accomplished. And no matter how hard the team tries, it might not succeed.
But try it must, and will.
I must admit I’m not happy writing the word “postmortem”. But here we are.
The injury reports are coming in. So far, to the surprise of nobody, Thornton played tonight with a separated shoulder. Can we please put the soft reputation to bed once and for all? What a warrior.
Also, Ryan Clowe played hurt the entire season, and I’ve heard intimations surgery will be necessary but no details yet.
I’m waiting to hear how Heatley was hurt; I’m guessing a pretty bad groin given his lack of power and speed. He gutted it through, too. and I’m wondering whether Setoguchi was playing hurt. I’m sure there are others, but those seemed obviously dinged to me.
We got a “let the boys play” reffing game tonight, especially late and in overtime. The good news is that neither team abused that and focused on playing hockey, but both teams benefitted from non-calls. People who want to whine about the missed icing call that led to the 20 minute goal and overtime should go look at the tape of the Ian White blatant trip that stopped a clear scoring chance that was building. The sharks really benefitted from the reffing tonight, to be honest, and they had opportunities to prevent that goal. Calls happen. Good teams rise to them.
The fact is, the sharks did not deserve to win this series but did deserve to win this game — and didn’t. Luongo was insanely good most of the game, especially early on those first power plays, and gave the Canucks the chance to win. The Sharks had clear chances to win this game, and didn’t. And ultimately it was lost by a faceoff loss, bad coverate that led to the game tying goal, and a bad bounce. None of that involves refs.
And if the sharks took care of their business better, this game would have been over before the canucks got the bounce. So it goes.
The primary cause of the loss of this series was — the Detroit Red Wings. This sharks team was worn out and tired, and the Canucks were a little fresher and a little better.
So the Sharks fall short again, and congrats to the Canucks. If there’s any team i’m not unhappy to lose to, it’s them. they’re damn good.
So, now what?
well, frist up, the offseason.
I expect changes in the team and organization after this loss. This is not a team that you can look at and say “if we keep it together, we’ll be better next year” — there are some fundamental issues that (as good as this team is, and it’s one of four left playing!) aren’t going to be solved without changes.
The thing most disturbing to me is consistency. This team plays amazingly well with its back against the wall; it doesn’t play that well consistently until its back is against the wall. It squeaked out of the detroit series that way, it’s now going home to golf on a crazy bounce with Vancouver. Say what you will, that has to be fixed. The main difference between the sharks and canucks (or the sharks and the wings) is that consistency. Some might call it killer instinct, but more, it’s mental toughness. This year’s team is a lot tougher mentaly than last year’s — but not tough enough, and that won’t change by giving them another year to mature.
So expect some restructuring.
Players on my keeper list: Boyle, Demers, Murray, Thornton, Marleau, Heatley, Clowe, Couture, Pavelski, Niemi. That’s a pretty damn deep list if you think about it.
Guys I like (but if we need to, we need to): Vlasic, White, Mitchell, Nitymaki.
Guys I’m on the fence over: Setoguchi, Wallin.
Guys to look to upgrade: Huskins, Mayers.
Also on my keeper list: doug wilson and coach McLellan. I’ll leave the staff to those two to sort out, but these are the guys I want defining this team. This team is VERY close. It’s not there, but it’s very close. We don’t need to blow up,we just need to find the next piece or two.
I read a suggestion today that the sharks should go after Raffi Torres, if only to put him in a position where he can’t hurt sharks any more. I like the idea, and not just for that. He plays like a bastard, but this team could use a bastard on the third line.
Close, but no cigar. Good, but not good enough. Not a situation where I would stand pat and expect it to get better next year. Improve the core and character, but don’t massively restructure.
Trade one of the big players? I think it’s possible. I have a hard time seeing how that makes us better, it just makes us different. Is that a good thing? I’m unconvinced. But if you only swap the depth players, can you really make a change that matters? That’s the challenge for Wilson.
So now, if you don’t mind, I’m going ot go off and root for the canucks. I like the team and the players and the organization, and if the team that beats the sharks wins the cup, that removes a bit of the sting….
The plot so far: I went 7-1 in the first round. And in the second round….
I picked Washington and Boston. Got the Bruins, I still have no idea how the Caps blew that series. Fro that matter, I bet the Caps have no idea how they blew that series, but perhaps we should just plan on not ever betting against an Yzerman team, even if he’s not in detroit. I will give full kudos to St. Louis and Roloson. They really deserved to move on, and Washington did not.
Boy, I’ll bet in January a lot of people were looking forward to a Pittsburgh and Washignton eastern final. Well, that’s why we play the games…
And in the West, I picked Vancouver and San Jose (in 7!) — and we have Vancouver and San Jose. Oh ye of little faith, it’s not the first team to three wins, its the first to four. Although honestly, the San jose andwings deserved one or two overtimes just to extend the season a bit. it was that tight a series, both teams deserved to win.
But only one could, and the Sharks did it.
So I’m 10-2 for the playoffs so far. By far, my best playoff call ever. so far.
So now what?
In the east, having just said not to bet against Yzerman, I will. Boston in 6, on the back of Tim Thomas. I just think the Bruins are a better team. and if Tampa again proves me wrong, that’s awesome. But I expect the Bruins to win through.
And in the west…. wow.
I’m not sure who I prefer between San Jose and Vancouver, to be honest. So I’m going to pick the Sharks in 7, but I’m hoping it’s another barn burner of a series like San Jose and Detroit was. I think Luongo and Niemi cancel each other out in terms of shut-down capability, and so it’s going to come down to 2nd and third lines and how well san jose can contain the Sedins.
So. Boston in 6. San Jose in 7. And I honestly feel I could be wrong in both series and not feel bad about it.
I can’t speak to much in tonight’s game because, honestly, I only saw the first period before we went out to dinner with a friend. We did, however, after taking a vote, pull out a phone and tie it to NHL.com for updates every 15 minutes. I have the game on PVR, but right now I’ll probably look forward, not bad. (for what it’s worth, the restaurant is one we go to about once a quarter, Tigelleria. And it’s awesome. It’s usually worth about $125 a person with wine and tips, and I consider it a great value. The duck breast and carrot soups tonight were out of this world. And we still spent significantly less than our former seats would have cost us to sit in tonight…)
And I’m going to be in Yosemite for game 1 and I may or may not be back from that trip to see game 2. I am, shall we say, crushed.
Not. Which is not to say I’m not interested. And won’t be watching closely when I’m in town or grabbing scores when I can. Just taht right now, hockey is not the do-or-die priority of my life. I know. Sacrilege. Given how many years I’ve missed the Yosemite dogwood blooming for the sharks, I hope they understand…..
So now there are four teams left — and all are awesome. The hockey has been awesome. The fan response has been awesome. And have you noticed how the canadian hockey writers, especially out of Toronto, are trying to talk about possible lockouts and seeing what negative things they can write rather than actually accept that maybe the hockey right now is pretty damn good? It’s too damn bad those folks are unable to just enjoy the sport for what it is, and instead try to revel in negativity. Perhaps that’s a reason why the rest of us should stop reading them….
Dear hockey writers: there’s plenty of time in the offseason for you to complain about everything you don’t like about hockey. How about, right now, shutting up and enjoying the damned sport for a few weeks? Nah. never happen, because then, the fans might focus on how good things are right now instead of paying attention to you, as we all know the center of the universe ought to be the toronto hockey writers. and larry brooks. always larry brooks, who’s an honorary ontario hockey whiner…
onward to some damn good hockey, with or without the hockey press! actually, preferably without….
Round one is done, and how did I do on picks?
In the west, I picked Vancouver in 5, San Jose in 6, Detroit in 6, and Nashville in 6.
In the west, I picked Caps in 5, Flyers in 5, Montreal in 7, Tampa in 6.
So I went seven for 8. the only series I missed was Montreal/Boston, which I picked to go 7, and it was decided in overtime in game 7.
Excuse me for saying this, but that’s pretty darn good picking. So I guess I’ll go 1-3 in round 2, just to even it up again…
In the West, we have:
San Jose and Detroit. Detroit really worries me; the goaltending’s been good, they are mature, crafty and know how to win in key, high stress games. San Jose has shown they’ve finally grown up and seem to have that same ability, but the goaltending’s been less reliable (but Niemi rose to the occasion) and they still are less proven than Detroit. I think it’ll be a hell of a series, and I’ll take San Jose in 7. Very evenly matched, should be a lot of fun. Definitely not easy.
Nashville and Vancouver. I have to congratulate Nashville for getting to the 2nd round. That’s a great progression for them that they’ve earned. But Vancouver is playing really well, and I just can’t see Nashville beating them. As I said earlier, any of the three big teams (San jose, Vancouver, detroit) could come out of the west and I’d not be surprised, and all three are in the second round. nashville is a team moving forward and getting better, but they’re not in that league yet.
San Jose has the hardest progression out of the west, too, because they had to beat the Kings, which was far from easy, and then detroit, and then Vancouver. That’s going to be tough sledding. I think they can. I’m not convinced they will, and if they don’t, I doubt it’ll be San jose’s fault. but we’ll see. I’m still picking them until someone beats them. Unfortunately, both Detroit and Vancouver could.
Over in the east….
Tampa/Washington: I really like the Caps here. Tampa has some nice game to them, but I don’t think they can beat Washington. Caps in 6.
Philly/Boston: going to be a bruiser series. I’m going to pick Boston mostly because of the Tim Thomas factor, because I’m not really sure philly’s goaltending is going to be what they need. And Philly knows that. Again, their goalie situation is chaos, because the flyers simply odn’t seem capable of building and maintaining a solid goaltending system or developing their own goalies without breaking them. Boston in 7.
I’m REALLY hoping boston/philly goes 7, because I expect the Sharks will need a few days of rest if they beat detroit and need to face vancouver. Otherwise, going in against the canucks tired worries me. I expect Vancouver ot finish their series first and be able to sit an extra day or two.
LA really impressed me. If they can keep the team intact (or mostly) and players mature as expected, they’re going to become a western power. Teemu Selanne really impressed me, and the Ducks impressed me more than I expected. I’m not sure they’ll be able to stay as good next year, though. Has anyone noticed how important Ryan Smith is to the Kings? Ever wonder if Edmonton wishes they still had him? And anyone wonder why anyone bothers to let Dustin Penner out of the press box, because he showed a few flashes of good hockey, but mostly, he left me wondering why anyone handed him a uniform. Slow and plodding and not very physical, with no real offense. He’s way too expensive to be a 4th liner or a pylon.
On to round 2. and I’m glad we aren’t doing playoff tickets; we both wondered if we’d hit a point where we wished we were at games. Maybe in the cup finals if San Jose gets there, but right now, sitting at home means not missing some of this hockey to get ready to go to games — and in my case, allows me more to be a hockey fan again and not mentally turn into a sharks fan. Much as I enjoy rooting for the sharks, I find I’m more able to just sit back and enjoy good hockey — and boy, has there been a lot of good hockey (although if you’re a canadian hockey writer, maybe you’re unable to actually see it, from some of the crap being written… fortunately, I can ignore all of that…)