| I'm so excited
A positive outlook for 2005-06
by GJ Berg
"I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it
about to lose control and I think I like it" - The Pointer Sisters
Okay, so I'll apologize in advance to those still upset with the loss of last
season. (To appreciate the rest of this column, get past that and start anew.
If unable to, please come back when ready.) This article is an unabashed dose
of passion for hockey fans.
After dealing with the FUD (fear,
uncertainty, doom) many pundits laid on extra thick with all the business and
politics of the lost season, it's great to be talking hockey again.
There's a new attitude of excitement and anticipation at camp this year, unlike
any that I've experienced before.
For me personally, the thing I
missed most were the people. And I don't seem to be the only one. Ron Wilson
was quoted in recently saying he missed working with the players. Patrick
Marleau says he missed the fans. As players come on the ice for practice or
scrimmages at camp, they're all smiles. (And those faces still have an element
of satisfaction and happiness even through the exhaustion at the end of the
time on the ice.)
Right now all thirty NHL training camps seem to be
enjoying (or suffering) from an underlying euphoria of enthusiasm of coming
back together. Some pundits look very critically at the large number of teams
that have a very different roster expected for opening night 2005 than they had
at the last game of 2004.
There are dozens of players that have
retired since the Stanley Cup was skated around the ice in Tampa Bay. These
include (ex-Shark) Vincent Damphousse, Scott Stevens, Mark Messier, Ron
Francis, and Al McInnis. Some former teams will suffer greatly without their
skill and leadership.
With the business change of caps and free
agency, a number of players have changed addresses. Just some highlights in the
Western Conference: Chris Pronger now is an Oiler; Jeremy Roenick will get a
Hollywood tan skating with the Kings; Stanley Cup winning-goalie Nikolai
Khabibulin is now a Blackhawk; Teemu Selanne returns to Orange County with the
Mighty Ducks while his best friend Paul Kariya heads Nashville; Pierre Turgeon
joins the Avalanche; Curtis Joseph will be tending nets for the Coyotes; Chris
Osgood returns to 'tending for the Red Wings.
And there are a number
of new head coaches. In the West, Detroit, Colorado, Anaheim, Phoenix, and
Chicago have new guys at the helm.
"Things are going great, and they're only getting
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so
bright I gotta wear shades, I gotta wear shades" -- Timbuk3
the pucks drop October 5, 2005, all thirty teams will face a new paradigm of
rules and skills. The new rules and larger offensive areas mean that teams with
speed and puck control will be better able to succeed.
The Sharks have
an advantage of chemistry, with nineteen of the guys who ended the 2003-2004
season on the NHL roster returning (twenty, if you count Milan Michalek).
The returning Sharks already know Head Coach Ron Wilson's system, so
are ahead of many other teams' learning curves in that respect. The system is
based on puck control and speed.
With fitness an organizational
mantra, the Sharks are well positioned to have the strength and speed to
succeed. Contrast that to reports from other organizations with concerns about
players' health and/or even failing medical tests at camp.
from failure (exemplified by the 2002-2003 season) and success (Conference
Finals 2004), gives the Sharks a great starting point for the upcoming season.
Many discount the Sharks potential because of their lack of player
additions. But they have been tested in seasons past and surprised many. Other
than respect, there seems very little lacking for the men in teal to succeed in
the 2005-2006 season.
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