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Feeder Fodder
Searching for a complete turnaround
3/2/04 - by Mike Lee

March is upon us and the Sharks are atop the Pacific Division standings, clinging to a six point lead. Had I made that prediction in September, I would have been the laughing stock of the Bay Area and the village idiot all round into one big homer of a fool. Did anybody really believe Doug Wilson when he made all those bold statements last May? Did anyone think that Sharks playoff ticket invoices would be delivered by the hockey gods as Winter began to fizzle? I sure as heck didn't.

I still don't think the Sharks have enough to win a Stanley Cup, but it doesn't really matter. Regardless of how the Sharks play from here on out, I'm calling this season a bona fide success. The Sharks could lose every game from here on out this season, and I'd still be satisfied.

Even with 32 wins the Sharks have racked up this season, most people still have questions about what this team is capable of. Just attend any weekday game and you'll see what I'm talking about. The Sharks have sold out five games this season, so the faithful don't seem to be quite ready to believe just yet.

Checkout the remainder of the schedule and it's easy to get an uneasy feeling. Three more dates with the Dallas Stars, who the Sharks have never played well, remain on the schedule. Four more dates with the Los Angeles Kings could turn the fortunes of both teams in a flurry. That's a potential 28 point swing for the Sharks if the puck bounces funny in those seven games. A six point lead is not insurmountable.

The Sharks went 4-9-0-3 in Mach last season and only had to face the Stars twice. Different Sharks team this year. Hopefully that corresponds to a better March record this year.

Pigs seen flying down Santa Clara Street

The Sharks have made several good moves in the past year, but none can top their decision to freeze first round playoff ticket prices for season ticket holders. Round 1 tickets for the faithful fans who decided to stick with the team this season will cost the same as regular season tickets.

Sharks President Greg Jamison indicated that several factors went into the decision, such as the economic woes the valley has had to endure over the past two years. It's easy enough to see that the Sharks need to keep a firm grasp on the loyalists who decided to stick it out one more year. Their season ticket base eroded substantially last Summer, but the team's play hasn't been enough to attract those folks back to big dollar commitments.

If the Sharks can get lock up a playoff spot and get through the first two rounds, those folks will flock back to the Tank next season. Anything less and Jamison will have to think of something else.

To trade or not to trade

Sharks GM Doug Wilson has kept to the course thus far and refrained from trying to bolster his roster via trade even though the Sharks are poised to secure a playoff spot. He's indicated that there's no real reason to toy with his roster, because the team is performing.

There's no doubt that change can disrupt the chemistry of a locker room, but can the Sharks be assured that the status quo doesn't fall into a complacency rut that ends up hurting them in the long run? A little edge can be good for a team. Guys like Scott Thornton play their best when they're in bad moods.

Another thing to consider is the stamina of some of the Sharks younger players. Tom Preissing and Christian Ehrhoff have never played in more than 60 games in a season. There's no telling how well they'll hold up over the final month of the season and into the playoffs.

I'm not suggesting that the Sharks should trade either of these guys, but a defensive insurance policy could help the Sharks advance in the playoffs. There no substitute for experience in the NHL's second season.

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