Overhaul equates to early success
|11/8/09 - By Steve Flores -
Has anyone else out there noticed that the
2009-2010 Sharks are not the same as last year's version? I mean really! These
sharks are digging in the corners and playing more physically than all seasons
past. Not to diminish the physical side exhibited a season ago but these Sharks
are, to put it bluntly, doing all the dirty work.
Now suffering the
affects of five key missing players to injury, the Sharks have managed a 6-game
winning streak and have gutted and grinded out enough victories to again propel
them to the top of the Western Conference standings.
To their credit
the Sharks have achieved this early season success completely without having a
fully healthy roster for even a single contest.
overhaul orchestrated by GM Doug Wilson saw a large portion of the roster
turned over. The team started off with minimal chemistry. In fact the team has
slowly, yet steadily, begun to exhibit that all important chemistry over the
past couple of weeks. You can actually see the team getting better with each
Believe me they are not without warts as the teams overall
defense started out with more than their fair share of mistakes and mental
errors that resulted in some nasty guffaws.
Kent Huskins appeared
almost completely out of shape (both mentally and physically) from the get go.
His pairing with rookie Jason Demers looked rough early on but the two have
shown improvement in their own zone since the rough beginning. Demers has a
flair for the O-side of the game, but still has lapses in his own zone. He is a
rookie and this will probably happen all season. This is part of the learning
curve. Huskins decision making has gotten better and his strength and
conditioning seem to have improved immensely since the beginning of October.
The Sharks overall defense was and is considered to be their Achilles
heal and is the most likely aspect of the game where Wilson may attempt to
improve the club at the trade deadline. The team's third and fourth lines are a
vast improvement over the past few season's Scott Nichol has been particularly
stronger than anticipated and has yet to make any serious bonehead penalties of
Dan Boyle has been everywhere on the ice. He is a
pro's pro. His skating, offense and ability to control the flow of the game are
so pivotal to the Shark's success that fans of the team had better hope Boyle
doesn't fall victim to the team's current injury bug. Boyle is irreplaceable!
The Sharks are currently without Rob Blake, Devin
Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell (yes still), Ryan Vesce and Joe Pavelski. Yet they
still have managed to overcome and achieve.
Patrick Marleau has been
light's out. Marleau is skating like a man possessed. He is absolutely the best
two-way player on this team and his detractors have very little to say at this
point in time.
Joe Thornton is, well, Joe Thornton. He is the most
important cog on the team. Without Thornton the Sharks are a completely
different team. If you doubt this watch some replays of the 10 minutes that he
missed when he got his Chiclets knocked out last week. Without Joe (even on the
bench) the team's level of confidence takes an obvious slide. He is conspicuous
by any long absence and the team is simply not the same without him. He too has
his detractors and they, again, are pretty quiet at the moment.
Nabokov has been stellar. Nabby endured an off-season of critique and
soul-searching and has been as good as ever. He has kept them in games that
they truly should not have had a chance to win and he has made saves that
appear nightly on NHL On The Fly.
Lastly is the biggest off-season
acquisition; Dany Heatley. The Heater has 10 goals folks. He is a 'cherry
pickin', garbage finding goal scorer. He finds a way to score the types of
goals that the Sharks have never been able to get in the past. He is a solid
passer. He levies hits at certain opportune times and has been as good as his
reputation. To those of you that think he should do more of this or less of
that please realize that he has a role and an expectation on this team. His job
is to score goals. Drew Remenda called him "a luxury". I am not sure if I would
define him as such but a goal scorer he is with the instincts and nose for the
net that is innate in nature and rare indeed.
Major kudos to Todd
McLellan and his coaching staff. They have had to adjust and juggle and adapt
the team to its new personnel as well as dealing with all of its injuries. The
shuttle to and from Worcester must be understood as part of the living roster
and they have done exceptional work on preparing the team game in and game out.
We are only about a fifth into the season but these Sharks have earned
some respect for their efforts. There is a long way to go but the team is
finding its way with every game. The advances in the 'less sexy' aspects of the
game have given this team a dimension that some say is closer to the style
played in the post-season.
Let's face it folks each year they seem to
be missing something from a post-apocalyptical perspective. Currently they are
coming together in pretty much every aspect possible and if they are currently
missing anything look no further than the five injured gents. Their absence
seems to be the only thing missing at the moment.
Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
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