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Of Coaches and Men
The team we expected finally arrives
3/12/08 - By Steve Flores

Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you the 2007-2008 San Jose Sharks! Yes folks it is March 11th but 'the real Sharks' didn't show up until February 21st - the start of their franchise record 9-game winning streak. At the risk of a clichés driven nightmare the team that is currently taking the ice is night and day from the team that we watched up to that point. The team that has taken the ice since late February is exciting, driven, effective, efficient, fun, hard-nosed and flat out the team that many of us thought we would be getting all season long.

Suddenly Jonathan Cheechoo is healthy and scoring goals, team Captain Patrick Marleau seems reborn and trade deadline acquisition Brian Campbell is driving the bus like Mario Andretti. BR>
Some of the reasons for the change are explainable and some may never be cleared up. But before we get into that let's all give a hand to the Sharks coaching staff. Yes guys and dolls credit where credit is due.

First of all it was apparent to Head Coach Ron Wilson early on that the team was not going to be able to score an abundance of goals as readily as everyone had thought and or hoped. Cheechoo's health was not there throughout the early and midpoints of the season and Marleau was simply non-existent in the offensive part of the game.

With these two key cogs out of whack Wilson and his coaches (Tim Hunter and former Sharks defenseman Rob Zettler) decided that they better switch tactics quickly if they were going to stay afloat in the Pacific Division. The result was a team keyed on a more defensive style of play. A style that made the teams forwards that much more accountable for their efforts in their own end.

Was this an exciting tactic for fans? Uh NOOO!

Was it a fun brand of hockey to watch for fans? Well for most of us NO, but I realize some folks enjoy watching slow, plodding play so I tip my hat to those fans. None of this is a revelation. Wilson had already decided, prior to the season, that the team needed to be stronger defensively - yet no one conceived it would need to go to the levels that it reached.

Wilson's coaching led to a team that has been at or near the top of the league in (fewest) goals allowed and penalty killing efficiency.

The Sharks have played in a lot of low-scoring one or two goal deciding affairs all season long.

The lack of offensive game plan was fueled simply by the fact that the coaching staff seemed to have deemed that the forwards concentrate as much - if not more - on their defensive efforts as much as their goal scoring attempts.

This decision frustrated a lot of fans - including myself. But, in retrospect I must admit that Wilson made the right call. The games were not exciting. The games were often not fun to watch. But his job as coach is to find a way to win. His decision kept the Sharks afloat and in the race.

With his decision made the team actually showed no signs of offensive life until Cheechoo finally became healthy for the first time all year about a month ago. Add in Campbells' energy, style and abilities and throw in a lil energized Captain Marleau and all of a sudden you have a team that is ready to help Joe Thornton, Evgeni Nabokov, a rookie named Torrey Mitchell and the handful of other players that have given 110% all season.

The beauty of the current change in fortunes is that the team should now be even better defensively than ever before. A season of defensive emphasis should carry on down the stretch and into the post-season.

It's still a long way to the Stanley Cup Finals ladies and germs but at this moment in time the Sharks are on their game. They are playing a brand that many of us felt they were capable of all season - with the bonus of being stronger in their own end than we had ever envisioned. So kudos to all involved and let's ride the wave onto a possibly well-earned set of playoff successes. If nothing else they will win or lose like the team that we thought we would have and they will perform with no excuses as the Sharks of 2007-08.

Contact Steve at


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