| Exciting but inconsistent
Evolution in progress
11/3/05 - by
After an 18 month lockout, a myriad of rule
changes, a record breaking number of roster changes the early result is a far
more exciting and very inconsistent level of on-ice play and the San Jose
Sharks are a poster child of this performance. The early season play of the
Sharks has been both exciting and exacerbating. The Sharks have showed great
resolve, speed, agility and heroics both in goal and even on offense at times.
However the team is basically at .500 after exhibiting far too many bouts of
defensive lapses and periods where cohesive scoring units are all but myth.
Much has been written in the local media regarding the Sharks inconsistency on
the power play and lack of quality scoring chances but the fact remains that
the Sharks goals allowed totals are staggeringly poor. The team has scored
several fewer goals than they have allowed and find themselves mid-pack in the
Western Division. The team does deserve kudos for their fighting, never-say-die
efforts and some of their wins have been as dramatic as any non-playoff wins
could be, yet their lack of consistency on defense could be their Achilles heal
come playoff time.
The Sharks failed to make any moves in the just concluded off-season and
received some level of heat from fans and the media alike. The team has spun
the lack of any noteworthy player acquisition as 'no big deal'. The team has
stated countless times that G.M. Doug Wilson has remained on course with the
team that has been built by Sharks management over the past few years. The team
has made statements to the affect that the younger players currently waiting
in-the-wings were more than ready to step in replace the Mike Rathje's, the
Mike Ricci's, the Vincent Damphousse's. But, it's double speak really.
Wilson, a former All-Star caliber NHL Defenseman would be the first to tell you
that defenders take far longer to reach a level of NHL maturity than any other
position on a pro hockey roster. To play at a top level on defense in the NHL
has more nuance and subtlety to it than any position on the ice. It's no secret
folks. To expect Tom Preissing or Rob Davison to step in be effective is almost
ludicrous. I hate pointing fingers but Davison has had so many defensive lapses
in the early going that my hair is wearing very thin in the spots where I keep
The losses of Ricci and Damphousse seem to have left a veteran leadership void
that no one is truly able to step up and fill. This is not to say that the
Sharks are doing everything wrong as the team is still quite youthful with many
positives clearly being exhibited early in this season.
Some development that has happened on the plus side is pure beauty, however and
should be noted. Captain Patrick Marleau has obviously taken the next step
towards NHL stardom. Marleau's game is sheer beauty and the definition of
skill, brains and brawn. He is playing under control and with a confidence that
can only be exhibited by someone who 'get's it'. He is checking hard, playing
under control, using his speed and puck handling skills like the best in the
league. He gets his line mates involved, has been solid on the kill and is
simply a force to be reckoned with.
Jonathan Cheechoo has a knack for scoring the big goal and being in the right
place at the right time. The term Johnny-on-the spot could easily be stretched
to the formal Jonathan-on-the spot in the case of Mr. Cheechoo. Rookie net
minder Nolan Schaefer has done a yeoman's job in the nets. He has kept them in
games despite his penchant for allowing some of the most hair raising rebounds
this side of a Golden State Warriors game.
I would like to give one more kudos to Kyle McLaren. Scott Hannan gets all the
press and the invites to Team Canada's National Team tryouts but McLaren is the
heart and soul of San Jose's defense. He works tirelessly night in and night
out using his body, stick and brains to hold the Sharks defense together. The
guy is the best defender on this team and deserves to be acknowledged for it.
The Sharks are young, exciting and still in a learning process regarding the
NHL's new style of play. I just hope that the team learns some consistency from
those on the team that are currently providing that each night, otherwise the
playoffs could be a mirage at season's end.
Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
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