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Six Reasons to Believe
and who you can blame if they fail
4/8/08 - By Ken Smyth

Want some reasons to believe the Sharks will do well in the playoffs this year? Here's six of them. Also, to be fair to those typically jaded, snarky, negative Bay Area sports fans I've added six places to point the finger. You'll want to get in place early on that, if the Sharks do a first or second round fold-up the crowd will get big, loud, and demanding; sort of like a San Francisco protest march but with better spelling.

Reasons to Believe

1) Bryan Campbell - Bryan Campbell is dropped into the lineup at the trade deadline. Instantly the Sharks became a real hockey team instead of a couple dozen guys who rode to the rink on the same bus. They come back after giving up bad goals, they hold leads late in games, they looking like they know what they're doing 90% of the time. Being a teammate of Campbell must be the hockey version of club-hopping with Mystery. (Yes, Brian's magic didn't work in Buffalo, but neither did Scotty Bowman's)

2) Evgeni Nabokov - Career season and it looks like he wants to prove something judging by that All-Star game performance. Now with Brian Boucher as a comfortable and confident back-up he should be ready for the playoffs; lets just pretend that third period in Phoenix never happened. Seeing old teammate Mikka Kiprusoff in the opposite net ought to give him a bit of incentive, too.

3) The Nashville Predators - Look at the record: a first round series win against Nashville must be a total brain-fart that dooms a team in the next round. Is it too many pitchers of Yazoo and plates of Whitt's barbecue? Everyone expects the Preds to be extra physical this year as that's all they have left. Whatever, it's the Red Wings problem.

4) The Marleau Trade - Right at the deadline, the Sharks' gave up Patrick Marleau, highly paid but poorly performing big center for Patrick Marleau the offensive center/defensive left wing with hockey smarts, good wheels, and a quick shot. You might have missed it, they wear the same number and the facial resemblance is remarkable. Having this new guy let Joe Pavelski break out as well, an added bonus. The new Marleau still needs to tighten up the "D" a bit (that Brenden Morrow goal in Dallas looked BAD!) and remember to use his size but overall he's a big improvement. Will the old one show up in the playoffs? If we're lucky he'll be restricted to taking your $20 if you park next to the Water Works building.

5) Jeremy Roenick - You hated seeing this guy at the peak of his career. He'd kill your team with a goal from out of nowhere and then yap about it afterwards. You didn't mind seeing him embarrassed in 1998 when he guaranteed a win in the Olympics and instead got accused of trashing the room in Nagano. So when he drifted in to training camp after bad seasons with LA and then Phoenix it was hard for most Sharks fans to feel much sympathy.

The old has-been earned a spot on the team as a third-line player but then came out as a clutch goal scorer on the ice and a motivator off of it. Never mind that the wheels are not what they were, he can put on a clinic of stealing pucks and that nasty shot at bad angles is as quick as ever. Whether he's up on the top line with Joe Thornton scoring or down with the grinders he's always on his game. Expect his old coach Mike Keenan to send somebody to show the love.

6) Jody Shelley - Another guy we used to hate, mostly for his pounding of Brad Stuart. Outside of that there was no need to get passionate about him or any other Columbus Blue Jacket. (Judging by attendance, many people in Ohio feel the same way.) Previous Sharks enforcers tended to be too used up, too small, too slow, or just too bat-shit crazy to be regular players. Shelley quickly worked himself into a 3rd/4th line spot and given a chance to play he's not a bad hockey player.

The Sharks reputation as a soft team needed to be corrected, and that's where Shelley, and to a lesser extent Douglas Murray come in. Thanks to last Sunday, he now holds the Sharks' record for penalty minutes in a single game; though Mark Bell's record for a weekend is still intact.

Reasons to Worry

1) Ron Wilson - Seriously, I expected him to go earlier in the season. Not for any great malfeasance or incompetence but just because firing the coach is the way management shakes up a team going stale; and for quite a while the Sharks were month old doughnuts.

Firing a coach helps shallow fans, especially season ticket holders and corporate box buyers, believe Management Is Doing Something, it says so right here in the Idiot's Guide to Running a Team. (I've got the John York Commemorative Edition). All it does is put off meaningful changes, but that's hard to prove.

Unless the old coach is Scotty Bowman or the new one is Al Sims a coach won't be too much dumber than the one he replaces, and if the team starts playing better for whatever reason the general manager and new coach can look like a genius. Major downside is if nothing changes and the team stays in their funk then management looks like fools. For a great example search "Ottawa Senators choke"

Wilson makes a lot of people angry by juggling lines, benching some guys for long periods and looking really nervous when he's being interviewed one-on-one before a game. Characteristics you'll now find in almost all NHL coaches. This year he has a great team (so "they" say) and another big fade in the playoffs could mean somebody else behind the bench next season. Don't believe that? Hey, who'd have thunk you'd see Mike Montgomery wearing Cal Blue? Bet the Old Blue alums love that!

2) Joe Thornton - You know what the Boston people said when they traded him- he disappears in the playoffs. Of course, after they traded him their whole team disappeared from the playoffs for two years until this season. Still, that rap will carry on until Joe lifts a Cup someplace as lots of people in Boston know little more than how to write.

3) Arena Management - The Sharks evil money-grubbing side. Why Wednesday and Thursday back-to-back? Keeping weekends free for some all-important Amway Dealers On-Ice show? If the team loses Thursday you guys will be the blame!

4) The Oven - is the team not baked enough? Maybe it's burned on the bottom. Oven too cold? Oven too hot? Ron Wilson's metaphor on when a team is ready to win a Stanley Cup was a little too much. On the other hand, my wife got a very good deal trading my birthday cake for two Hostess twinkies, four eggs and draft rights to a bag of flour.

5) "they" - They say this will be the Sharks year to win the Stanley Cup. You know, "they", the ones who say stuff like that. "They say that Marleau will be traded for Sundin,", "They say Montreal will finish eleventh in the Eastern Conference." Amazing how supposedly smart people take good information and get it wrong all the time. Good thing "they" stick to sports and don't run a country or banks or important stuff like that!

6) One of us - name TBD- That's right: one of us, you or me, will cost the Sharks a big game, maybe a series. We'll wear the teal jersey instead of the white one, wash the car before the game, and invite their sister even though they always lose when she is at a game. You know what it is- so STOP!


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