| The view from 35,000
Time to look forward
4/18/04 - by Ken Smyth
So there I was, way out in
Taiwan, missing the Sharks' series-clincher over the St. Louis Blues. What a
game to miss. The hero, Mark Smith is one of those guys who plays hard and does
whatever the team asks him to do whenever they ask it of him. He just doesn't
get asked often enough. This season he's usually a healthy scratch if not
playing on a fourth line that sees limited ice time. Last season he was taking
one for the team, then another and another one after that as he filled with the
physical work after Owen Nolan was traded and Scott Thornton and Mike Ricci
Only 5-10, Smith was the man who went out and faced up to
some of the bigger defensemen in the league after they worked over Patrick
Marleau and Teemu Selanne. That's the sort of thing that earns you the respect
of your teammates even if you regularly get the stuffing knocked out of you.
Smith's ice time this year has been limited since the Sharks got
better up front and stayed fairly healthy. But he's still a good face off man,
notice how GM Doug Wilson seems to be collecting those, and is fast enough to
skate with almost anyone on the team. He's just the sort of player you like to
see coming up a hero in the playoffs.
It's time to look ahead.
Enabling you to follow your favorite team in any sport anywhere in the world is
one of the four insanely great uses of the internet, the other three are the
distribution of pornography, downloading of music files and conducting a 24/7
flea market. The Sharks are still not the big buzz. Darryl Sutter's Calgary
Flames are, and you've got to think that the NHL brass is cheering them on a
little behind the walls because a) it's a good story and b)a Calgary series win
sends the Vancouver Canucks home and eliminates a lot of stories mentioning
Todd Bertuzzi. (BTW: rumors have it that Bertuzzi is either hunting seals, or
trying out for the Raiders' defensive backfield.)
Conference is getting the most play (like, what else is new?) and if you're
salivating over first round upsets leading to a classic Toronto vs. Montreal
series you're a little ahead of things. Still, Eddie Belfour is hot in goal for
the leafs and that could carry them over a faster Ottawa team, and the Habs are
showing a lot more than was expected, by Toronto fans naturally, in push the
Bruins to game 7. That Philadelphia /New Jersey series looked like a grinding
one that would leave the winner too tired to play well in the next round but
the Flyers took the Devils down pretty easily. Last year's Anaheim/New Jersey
Stanley Cup final series convinced me that any team that eliminates the New
Jersey Devils before the finals should be given a $5 million salary credit by
whichever network is broadcasting the games and an extra first-round pick by
the NHL. The Devils are that boring.
The Sharks get a few days off to
heal Alyn McCauley and Scott Thornton. Their next opponent will be either
Colorado or Vancouver. Should Calgary win the series against Vancouver then the
Flames will play Detroit. I was really pulling for the Nashville Predators to
upset the mighty Red Wings and Tomas Vokoun stole a couple games for the Preds.
(I can't bait the Wings too much right now, I'm on Northwest Airlines between
Taipei and Tokyo and some Detroit fan might be looking over my shoulder!).
Vokoun was another hot goalie, though not hot enough.
Looking behind the Sharks at the St. Louis Blues, besides the
obvious joke about Mike Danton misinterpreting his coach's remarks to "go put a
hit on somebody", they looked old and tired. Like that grungy '75 Buick stuck
on your bumper down 101, they can do major damage in a collision but they need
an overhaul if they're going to compete. I'll admit that back in the bad old
days of the Sharks I looked at the Blues as a measuring stick, a "benchmark" as
business babble would call it.
The Brendan Shanahan-Tony Twist-Brett Hull-Curtis
Joseph version St. Louis Blues were a nasty team that was happy to trade
punches and power-plays with weaker opponents and on a given night could play
with anybody. Those Blues were a good basic, over five-hundred NHL team that
always made the playoffs. It seemed like the next step in evolution for the
The problem with the Blues, then and now, is that they don't
get past that level, even with a year or so of Mike Keenan to shake things up.
In the last twenty-five years they made the playoffs, certainly, but never made
it into the finals. Good players came and went: Doug Gilmour, some Sutter
brothers, even Wayne Gretzky himself; but not even a look across the ice at the
Stanley Cup. That's not an example we want the Sharks to follow. I'm not saying
this to rag on the Blues fans (twenty five straight years of buying playoff
tickets for zero Cups!) but some of them are wondering if it might have been a
good idea after all to move the franchise to Saskatoon back in the '70s..
Contact Ken at Kenin210@eudoramail.com
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