| Chomping out of the
A good start will help on and off the
by Derick Bellamy
Ok, where were we? It will be nearly
seventeen months since the Sharks hit the ice for a meaningful hockey game.
All I can say is it's about PUCKING time! Due to the lockout, most have
forgotten about this game. The great thing about it is with the A's and Giants
not playing in baseball's playoffs, the 49ers and Raiders off to dismal starts,
and the Warriors beginning in November, Team Teal will be the spotlight on the
sports pages and newscasts everywhere. The time is now to get the entire Bay
Area crazy for pucks.
The head start from the NBA is critical. After the Warriors hot finish and the
then uncertainty of the NHL's future, many left the support of the NHL and the
Sharks and headed up I-880 for a sudden surging basketball team. With the
month head start, the Sharks not only get to bring back the dual sports fan,
but open up to the casual fan with reduced ticket prices to watch the great
sport of hockey. What will help is something that is a rarity in the history
of the Sharks -- a great start in October.
Team Teal has traditionally started slow in October. In their entire
existence, San Jose is 2-9-2 all time on Opening Night, with the two wins
coming on home ice. A slow start could ultimately kill the Sharks at the gate
especially with only three home games in the first month of the season. But in
the new NHL, things are changing faster than you can say Niko Dimitrakos five
The league is now making the game faster and more skillful and attempting to
reduce the amount of obstruction for to enhance the offense, which has
drastically fallen within the last decade. Gone are any form of interference
as the league has stated (once again for the tenth season in a row) that the
referees are being told to call anything and everything. This is to eventually
create more scoring chances, which should lead to more scoring since the
goaltenders no longer look like they borrow equipment from lacrosse
With the Sharks in general, they look to be in the perfect spot to take
advantage of the new rules. Speed is the key and with Patrick Marleau, Marco
Sturm, and Milan Michalek likely making up the top line, defensemen will for
sure be burned now that two-line passes are allowed. Skill and agility is the
key for the second line of Alyn McCauley and Nils Ekman. They may not get the
ooooh's and aaaahhh's from the crowd like their first line teammates, but are
still able to silence opponents. Alexander Korolyuk might be missed for a bit
but Niko Dimitrakos, Marcel Goc, or Josh Langfeld can be a replacement minus
the fancy dancing and passing.
The grit line may have lost its heart with Mike Ricci now in Phoenix, but Wayne
Primeau's play with or without the puck may improve this line. Scott Thornton
was getting rave reviews by Sharks brass on his conditioning and may contribute
in his mighty ways. Fan favorite Jonathan Cheechoo has suddenly become a
serious threat on a line that is usually asked to score a timely goal. The
Cheechoo train did that and then some in 2003-04 and is ready to take the next
step to stardom. If the fourth line were a jigsaw puzzle, it would be a number
of interlocking pieces that fit together no matter what pieces are put in
place. Scott Parker has leaned down and improved his skating and Mark Smith
still provides the grittiness that this club once depended on.
The defensive core, while losing a couple of its veteran defensemen, is young,
agile, and will make you pay if you even attempt to try to create a scoring
chance. Anchoring the core are Scott Hannan, Brad Stuart and Kyle McLaren.
Hannan has shown he is one of the best young defensemen in the league and
international play. Stuart has shown he can play on both ends of the ice to
provide the defense and offense from the blue line. He may not thump like
McLaren, but gets the job done to prevent the puck from going in. McLaren,
when not using Sharks television commentator Drew Remenda as his personal body
checking rag doll, is known to continuously thump and bump to fire up his
teammates and the fans. The remaining defensemen will be strong, young, and
know they must go all out or else. Rob Davison has shown that he might be a
younger McLaren waiting in the wings. Christain Ehrhoff could be the offensive
threat at the blue line that has sorely been missed since Sandis Ozolinsh was
traded ten years ago. Tom Preissing had a breakthrough year by quietly getting
the job done, with strong defensive play.
Goaltending has changed drastically since 2003-04. This season, goalies will
have streamlined gear, smaller pads to open up more areas for opponents to find
bigger holes to score upon. Many have said that the duo of Evgeni Nabokov and
Vesa Toskala will likely be the least effected by the changes. These goalies
were good before, and while every goalie will have to adapt, these two could be
denying the opponents all season long.
San Jose did not make a splash in the free agency market, which caused the
media to forget about this team and look at the movers and shakers in the NHL.
The catch for not going after any free agents could expose the lack of depth in
the minor league system that is a cause for concern. In the end, anything less
than a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals will not be tolerated. They lost
momentum thanks to that darn lockout, but when this team starts winning fans
will be back and hopefully the dreams of Lord Stanley taking up residence in
Teal Town, anything is possible.
My Prediction: Sharks win the Pacific Division as a #2 seed, and will win the
West by defeating Edmonton, Colorado, and Calgary. The Sharks will take care
of the upstart Eastern Conference champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games.
Let's hope I'm right!
Time for a Challenge -- Step it up Fellow Sharks Fans
I want to issue a challenge to my friends and fellow fans of Team Teal. During
the Conference Finals the team asked fans to wear teal throughout to games.
However, I was disappointed to see the lack of participation and to see fans in
Philadelphia and in particular, Calgary, and nearly 100% participation in
wearing their team's colors. So I want to see EVERYONE in teal. Make it an
ocean of teal, and make it a tough place for opponents to play in. Remember
the old slogan: BE REAL, BE TEAL!
Until next time CHOMP TO THE CUP in 2006!
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