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What exactly is wrong with the Sharks?
The answer: Nothing is wrong with them
2/7/06 - By Steve Flores

This is the Sharks; inconsistent and often ranging from very effective to truly awful. With half the roster enrolled with 1st and 2nd year players the team is playing about as well as a team can play with this much youth. The Sharks roster isn't exactly filled with a veritable 'who's who' of the hockey world. The team is so thin in terms of veteran blue liners that it seemed almost comical to expect them to do any more than they have done thus far. Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan are the two most experienced defensemen on the roster and neither guy is even 30 years of age.

The Sharks have 3 name players: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov. Jonathan Cheechoo has carved out 30 plus goals thanks to playing along side Thornton but other than these 4 the Sharks are loaded with youthful wingers and 3rd and 4th line grinders. No slight on them as they are all NHL caliber, however for most of the roster their best years are yet to come.

Youth must learn to play at this level. History shows that rookies usually do not excel at a Gretzky-like level. Rookies take time to mature into the pro game. Rookies who have the virtue of joining the roster of a championship level franchise (I.E Detroit, Edmonton of the 80's, NY Isles of the late 70's early 80's) tend to develop a bit faster as they have a lot more to work with. When a team's roster is absolutely laden with 50% rookies and a lot of good (not great) veterans the team tends to be poor to average. These Sharks have actually done better than most teams have done with similar rosters, historically speaking of course.

The Sharks ebb and flow from win streak to losing streak. Upon getting Thornton they got the usual post trade 'bump' in their play, but have since bounced between win and loss streaks without any visibly apparent reason. The losses then begin to mount exponentially and the team looks lost and almost uninterested during these bad spells.

This is a sign of inexperience.

Defense has been prone to so many letdowns that people have begun to call for the head of rookie Christian Ehrhoff.

This Cracks me up.

Ehrhoff is a rookie. He is also the 7th defenseman and gets, by far, the least amount of ice time of any defenseman. Yet he has become 'the reason' that this team is struggling on defense.

Let's not stop here though as he is not the single reason for the downfall in the eyes of some Sharks fans. The other reason in no particular order, are Evgeni Nabokov, Niko Dimitrakos and Head Coach Ron Wilson.

For those of you with a solid knowledge of hockey it is a well understood truism that learning to play defense in the NHL takes years. Becoming a skilled defender at this level takes time and patience. Ehrhoff hasn't played half a season in the NHL. Ehrhoff has speed and skill but he is young and has made his fair share of mistakes but he is not the single reason the defense hasn't performed well. A number of players make errors on a nightly basis. Ehrhoff has simply become the scapegoat of the minions.

With the youth and game inexperience present on the Sharks blue line it tends to make the goalies job a lot more difficult. I am not for one moment going to sit here and tell you Nabokov has been as sharp as he has been in past seasons, but most of his woes are do to the fact that his blue line corps is so green folks.

Lastly Ron Wilson has been taking a major hit from the fan base that is often chomping at the bit for his head. As a matter of fact if the Sharks power play were even half has heated as the 'fire the coach' talk amongst fans, the Sharks wouldn't have nearly as many troubles on the ice.

I, for one, have not seen any problems with the coaching this season. I am not privy to the locker room nor do I have any insight into what exactly he may be doing wrong or ineffectively.

Wilson is coaching.

He shifts lines, he benches players; he tries to invigorate players by placing them in situations where they can succeed. Dimitrakos is a case in point. The young Massachusetts born winger has not been the same player he was last season. He has suffered that dreaded and clichéd sophomore jinx that many pro athletes face. But Dimitrakos has skill. He has fast hands, strong wrists and, as witnessed a season ago, a pretty decent idea of what it takes to score goals.

Unfortunately the 2005-06 Dimitrakos has been unable to finish, has missed numerous one-timers, has constantly turned the puck over and has committed bone-head penalties left and right.

Yet Wilson knows what kind of player the 2d year player can be when he is on his game. After benching Dimitrakos Wilson will put him on a line with Marleau in an attempt to jar him from his misfortune. It may not work to the desires of all parties but Wilson is doing his best to stir the fire that once existed in Niko's belly.

Coaches receive too much credit when a team win's and too much blame when a team is down. I have seen Wilson attempting to coach while allowing the Sharks to play a game that is not as restrictive as some other teams.

The Sharks are a team of youth. They are an exceptionally skilled group of young players who often look poetic in their passing and skating. The team is allowed to play a relatively wide open style of hockey which is the style that plays to the strength of the team's roster. Wilson emphasizes this type of play and short of actually lacing them up himself I see nothing much else he can do to better the results.

Pro sports and success are about talent and teamwork. This young Sharks team definitely has talent; young talent. However, this team is not ready for prime time and blaming a handful of people for the woes of the many is not only wrong but it is a useless endeavor. For the 2005-06 San Jose Sharks to actually qualify for the playoffs it would require at least a player or two to be acquired via trade. As is presently assembled these Sharks are on track to be a pretty good team down the line. The question now is whether the fans are willing to accept reality or continue to point fingers and believe that this team is more than it really is.


Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com



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