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The spectre of John Gruden
Darryl Sutter alive and well these days
5/10/04 - by Steve Flores

Don't know about you folks but for me this round of the playoffs has an eerie John Gruden feel to it. No, not the John Gruden of the New Jersey variety! Yeah the John Gruden that left the Raiders and came back to California to kick their butts in the Super Bowl.

Lest we all forget that the Sharks management essentially laid blame for the team's collapse a season ago on Darryl Sutter and then G.M. Dean Lombardi. Well, lo and behold - He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

I want to be really careful with my words here though. This is not an article intending to rip Shark's management or to say that current Sharks headmaster Ron Wilson is of a lesser ilk than Sutter. Quite the contrary as I love the style that Wilson has unleashed. I actually feel that the Wilson style better suits the team's strengths and allows them to use their speed and passing skills to a much higher degree.

Wilson has been awesome. Current G.M. Doug Wilson has brought in quality role players of solid character and has enhanced the Shark's current style to level beyond everyone's expectations.

But despite all the kudos I still am almost stunned by the irony of the Sutter return to the Tank to slay those that told him he wasn't doing well enough in his role as head coach and thus was discarded.

It's Shakespearean to say the least.

I find it bizarre to look at him work the bench with a certain savoir-faire that we all were privy to in years past, when he was the leader of team teal.

I refuse to go into the many positive attributes that Sutter brings as a coach. I have laid them out so many times in print that many of you feel I am a member of his own personal cheerleading staff. But all of it is true.

The man coaches a gritty, hard-nosed style of the game that are still trademarks of the now Wilson-led Sharks. Wilson himself has admitted that the current team still has Sutter's marks all over it. Not unlike the markings left on a certain NFL team from Oakland when their flaxen haired coach was sent packing to Tampa Bay only to return that same year and deal them the deadliest of blows.

Game one of the Western Conference Finals saw the Sharks take 52 shots on goal and showed far more skill and athleticism than the Sutter lead Calgary Flames. Yet despite the overpowering Sharks efforts the boys never had a lead and never looked to be in control. The Flames always looked like they had a little more grit and a little more je nais cest quoi!

Again this is not to demean the Shark's efforts as they obviously played their hearts out. At this point though it looks as if the cards of Tarot may be leaning towards the aura and grit of their former coach and his new group of disciples. Let's just hope that John Gruden is nowhere to be found.

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