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Hockey hodge podge
And other league musings
12/6/06 - By Steve Flores

Here we are basically a quarter of the way into the NHL season and the San Jose Sharks have truly become one of the league's top teams. The Sharks are 20-8 as I write and are second in the Pacific Division and ranked 4th overall in the Western Conference. This is however where the facts tend to drive me batty.

It's that 4th thing that has a hold on me.

The Sharks have obviously been one of the leagues top 3 teams all season - Anaheim and Buffalo being the other two- yet because of the NHL's playoff structure the Sharks would be seeded behind the 3 divisional winners come playoff time. This may or may not cause them a shot at a championship at season's end, but it may cause their road to be more difficult. You see the 4th seeded team opens up against the 5th seeded team. Presently that 5th team just happens to be the team with the 3rd best record in the West, the Dallas Stars. Yes, the Stars just happen to play in the Pacific division also and could open up against the Sharks in round one of your Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hardly seems right does it ?!?!!????

Every time I think of this it kinda drives me into a small tiff, but hey what can one person do. This is the way the league structures its post season and the fact that the conference's three best teams happen to play in the same division is just the luck of the draw. Doesn't mean I have to like it though.

On the face of the situation one could look and say that its unfair that one of these two quality teams would be eliminated in the opening round.

However, there is reason to be more optimistic. That optimism is of course property of the team that actually emerges victorious upon completion of that opening round series. The team that wins that puppy should emerge with a world of confidence and be as well prepared as any to finish off a run for the whole burrito.

The Sharks are capable of winning the division as well as the title. Should they fail to find a way to reel the Ducks in for that division crown should in no way diminish the team's chances nor lessen the fans hopes for a title.

As I said if they open against a team of Dallas' caliber and exit the winner then the world is their possible oyster. The season that has past and that yet to come could and should be the most interesting in San Jose Sharks history. Stay tuned folks.

Some other interesting happenings around the league this week found that the league's owners were once again unable to agree upon a new system of scheduling for next season and beyond.

Some teams like the current system where the bulk of the games are against divisional opponents. Presently Western and Eastern teams see each other an average of once every three of four seasons. The arguments for and against depend on geography.

Western teams have traditionally had to travel far more than Eastern teams and thus the divisional setup was thought to cut on travel mileage and expense. The Eastern teams have no desire to spend more time and money on travel and have always enjoyed this luxury.

Several alternate plans were tabled at the recent meeting yet none was able to reach a majority vote for change.

Fans want to see players from all around the league and have made themselves heard, yet obviously not loud enough as the old-boy network of the NHL continues to clank along without regard for the desires of the paying customer.

From the Home Office

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently held a larger than usual press conference to announce that NHL teams will be wearing newly designed uniforms beginning with the start of the 2007-08 season. The new uniforms will be officially unveiled at this year's All-Star Game in Dallas in February.

The new design will be a more streamlined, form-fitting look than the present jerseys. Despite the leagues attempts to spin their opinion that the jerseys are a more modern, space-age design that the players love - rumor has it that the players aren't in love with the change.

A season ago I recall Team Canada practicing with a version of the Reebok jersey for a few shifts and then being advised that they had done their part and quote 'get changed out of those things' per their coaching staff. Sounds like they were really excited by the changes doesn't it?

The other issue I have with this now established decision to change is what I call 'the corporatization' of the league. The rumor is that all of the teams will use the same template. Meaning that all of the jersey designs, color swatches, piping etc will be exactly the same for each franchise. The only difference in jerseys would be the color schemes. Gee that sounds like a lot of fun huh. Nothing like having no originality in the league at all.

Owners and management types seem to think this is a plus as it makes quality control easier or some other possible lame idea. In any case if these rumblings are true it all boils down to a league that signed a contract with Reebok to make changes that no one will like except the owners and Reebok. Hopefully the changes will hit the NHL in the pocketbook and they will be compelled to listen to its players and its fans - something they never do unless it affects their wallets.

A few quick hits

Bobby Clarke gone, Bobby Clarke returns.

Ted Nolan takes over a rather dysfunctional New York Islander team and has them playing hockey. This in and of itself is worthy of making him a coach of the year candidate yet again.

Patrick Marleau is ranked 14th in the conference in All-Star voting. What a joke.

For you Nabokov basher out their here is a stat for you: The Sharks have scored 57 goals in games started by Toskala and 28 by Nabokov.

The Minnesota Wild are a very effective hockey team, I however find them amazingly boring and actually almost doze off when I watch them play. I guess slow, methodic hockey with an emphasis on defense is a smart way to play but boy is it awful to watch as a fan.

The Sharks have 7 games left with Anaheim. This season could be the start of a true rivalry that could be the best the NHL has to offer over the next several seasons.

Until later, later folks!


Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com


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