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Finally the season starts
Like what you see?
10/16/08 - By Ken Smyth

What's not to like about the all skating, all shooting, all scoring, all Todd McLellan San Jose Sharks? Wait till they lose a couple and somebody on LGS will tell you,count on it! For now the team offense looks entirely different than the programmed and somewhat boring scheme of last season. Opposing defensemen need to work to cover these guys, they can't just stand on the board side of the left face-off circle and have Joe Thornton obligingly stand next to them. Will the league figure it out in a week or two?

Still there's a lot to enjoy right now:

1) Rob Blake looking like the old Rob Blake we saw before he went to the Avalanche, not the old, old Rob Blake who played last season for the Kings. With that shot from the point it's easy to see how Luc Robitaille got all those goals off rebounds and deflections. Is Jonathan Cheechoo paying attention? The Sharks annual search for a power-play quarterback is done for this season.

2) McLellan using Brian Boucher in the nets for the third game of the season. Not a secret that Evgeni Nabokov likes to work all the games but Boucher is a quality backup and would be a starter on about ten teams in the league. Also, McLellan is showing that the coach is the boss like it or not.

3) Ducks winless so far, too bad it won't last until April. Conspiracy theorists will see this as proof of Brian Burke's secret plan to take the Maple Leafs' job a few months early. I see it as proof that hooking and interference are the two calls the refs were told to work on this season, and that these guys are starting to look really old. Even the ones who aren't.

4)A picture in the Merc of Patrick Marleau actually smiling. Marleau and Cheechoo have five goals between them, and it's still mid-October didn't that take until Christmas last season.

5)All the adulation, if you are coach Todd McLellan. Unquestionably the most successful Bay Area pro coach. All right, that's an easy one.

As for the rest of the league:

Suave, sexy, probably wrong choice to win 2009 Stanley Cup- Montreal Canadiens. (not the Sharks this time??) It's no secret that the Canadiens' mystique and tradition transcends common sense. They're also playing in a division with Ottawa imploding, Buffalo and Boston playing so-so, and Toronto playing "so-what- let's look ahead to that #1 draft pick".

Barring something totally unexpected Montreal will be one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference and we'll hear their "Les Canadiens Sont La" song all over the place. Meanwhile hockey writers all over the place are totally in the tank. But can the Habs get past three rounds of playoffs, facing at least two Atlantic Division teams, to get to the finals?

Could be surprisingly good teams: East- New York Rangers, West- Phoenix Coyotes Both teams added offense, both teams have good goaltending. Rangers dumped old guys and goons, Coyotes played together under Wayne one more year and everybody seems to be on same page. Both teams are crossing their fingers on their defense coming together, especially Phoenix who traded their best defenseman (Keith Ballard) to get Olli Jokinen. How will Jokinen and Nikolai Zherdev do on teams that actually have a chance to win something?

Could be surprisingly bad teams: East-Boston Bruins, West- Calgary Flames Anybody figure out just what the Bruins are trying to do? They can't score, can't move the puck and are small up front. They get banged out of the playoffs and don't do much about it. Outside of Zdeno Chara (okay for you sentimentalists, Marco Sturm), who on this team is really good?

Calgary wasn't able to goon the Sharks out of the first round, lost Stephane Yelle, Alex Tanguay, and Kristian Huselius from last season, replacing them with Mike Cammallei, Todd Bertuzzi, and Rene Borque. If Dion Phaneuf of Jarome Iginla get hurt or Mikka Kiprusoff is off form this will be a long season for coach Mike Keenan, or maybe an unexpectedly short one.

First coach fired- Denis Savard, Blackhawks. The payoff for the coaches-fired-trifecta will be pretty good this year. Alain Vigneault of Vancouver was and still is the 7/2 favorite. Savard was part of the crowd at 20/1. John Stevens of Philadelphia (5/1) needs be watchful, this is an even numbered year. See, there IS a logical plan to the way the Flyers choose personnel. And for those of you who asked, the Where Will Mats Sundin play pool is cancelled with all bets returned because unless you're a Leafs fan/hater (or both) it was becoming too boring

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