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I'm so excited
A positive outlook for 2005-06
9/19/05 - by GJ Berg

"I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it
I'm 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 better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright I gotta wear shades, I gotta wear shades"
-- Timbuk3

When 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.

Learning 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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