| Of Coaches and
The team we expected finally
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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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