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