| Feeder Fodder
Getting defensive & schedule musings
12/2/07 - By Mike Lee
So it's been a while since
I've posted anything outside of game reports, so I thought I'd jot down some
quick views on a couple of topics. I'll start with the state of the Sharks at
the quarter pole. After 24 games, the Sharks are only 4 points out of the lead
for the Pacific Division, but surprisingly sit in 9th place in the Western
Conference. If you had told me that the Sharks would be looking up at
Minnesota, Dallas, St Louis, Chicago and Nashville in the standings at this
point in the season, I'd have told that you were mad.
So the Minnesota
and Dallas part isn't that big a surprise, but the fact that the Sharks trail
the Blues, Blackhawks and Predators is a bit if a mystery to me. Then again it
doesn't. All you need to do is look back to the trade deadline last season to
see where the Sharks weakness was. Sharks GM Doug Wilson made it a priority
last Spring to land a solid defenseman.
He did that when he acquired
Craig Rivet from Montreal , but at the time, he also had Scott Hannan in his
defensive corps. San Jose was able to re-sign Rivet over the Summer, but they
also lost Hannan to free agency. So the net-net of it all is that the Sharks
are essentially in the same place they were last Spring.
that Hannan is a better skater, so they downgraded to some degree with the
blueline swap. There's no arguing Rivet's value in the locker room, and guys
like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Carle have an extra year of experience under
their belts, but when it comes to putting up a shutdown type defense out on the
ice, they still lack one, even two pieces to the puzzle.
Sharks have allowed the 3rd fewest number of goals in the entire NHL (54),
averaging 2.25 per game, but their 2.63 goals per game on offense ranks 19th in
the league. The focus on team defense is something the Sharks have focused on
this season, but in contrast, the absence of any offense is meaningless.
They've yet to lose a game in overtime, but are 1-4 in the shootout this
Hard to win games without scoring more than the opposition.
Robert Lang's goal last Spring changed the complexion of the team overnight. An
emphasis on defense isn't a bad thing, so long as you don't lose sight of the
One or two shutdown defenders accomplish two things. It
preserves the focus on defense, and allows your forwards to focus on putting
the puck in the net. Time to go fishing for those defenders.
The NHL Board of Governors decision last week to
change the layout of the NHL schedule is yet another indication that the league
is actually paying attention. Yes, there are plenty of things the NHL can do
better, but it's important to understand that organization like the NHL don't
move with the nimbleness of a Silicon Valley startup.
The league is still very much run by a group of owners
who are set in the ways of the old guard. The lockout, continued revenue
decline and too many missteps to name isn't something you turn around in a day.
You can't turn an ocean liner on a dime, so why would it be possible to turn a
professional sports league around? You don't.
The fact that more
Eastern Conference teams will be coming to San Jose is a big win for Sharks
fans. It's also a big win for the Sharks, because it means that games are more
likely to be sold out.
Seeing the same teams 4 or 5 times a year was
getting just plain old. Seeing teams like Toronto and Boston once every 4 years
was ridiculous. The fact that the Sharks have feasted on Eastern Conference
opponents the last couple of years is the bigger benefit.
it's a small step, it's a step in the right direction. On to the national TV
deal with ESPN.
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