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Mid-Season Observations
Some points to be made about the 2009-10 campaign
1/5/10 - By Paul Krill

With the Sharks halfway there to the real season - the playoffs - I thought I'd offer some observations about how things have gone - so far - in the regular season.

* When the Sharks made Thomas Greiss their backup goalie for this season, I was a bit nervous. I didn't recall him having all that much success when he was in San Jose before and Brian Boucher, last year's backup, was mostly superb. But Greiss has been great as a backup and at an economical salary cap hit of only $550,000, according to The Hockey News. His outstanding performance on New Year's Eve, for instance, when he kept the Coyotes off the scoreboard in the first and third periods and then again in his first-ever NHL shootout, deserves a standing ovation.

* Speaking of shootouts, which I still don't like all that much, coach Todd McLellan's strategy of letting the other team go first, like he did in the December 28 game against Phoenix, clearly looks like the right move. It puts the pressure on the opposing team and gives the home team last-ups, like in baseball. It was a different story in the New Year's Eve game, when the Coyotes went first at home. Fans in Phoenix (OK, Glendale, Ariz.) had to sweat watching the Sharks get the final chance to win several times before Ryane Clowe finished the job and sent the crowd home disappointed.

* Also on the subject of goaltenders, Evgeni Nabokov has been stellar as the starter. Following last season's playoff debacle, Dan Boyle at the State of the Sharks event said the goaltending needed to get better and it most certainly has.

* The recent trend in which the Sharks seem to be spending most of the night in their own end has let up a bit lately. Let's hope things keep moving in the Sharks' direction on this issue.

* Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the Dany Heatley trade has been Patrick Marleau. Opposing teams must have their hands full keeping an eye on Heatley, thus freeing up the always-talented Marleau to have perhaps his best season ever. Who'd have thought Marleau would have more goals than Heatley at this point?

* And speaking of Marleau, I hope I'm not the only one sick to death of sports writers talking about Marleau being "stripped of the C" as if it was some sort of almighty shame, like he was drummed out of the corps or something. I don't think the captaincy is really all that big a deal. Isn't the captain mostly responsible just for arguing bad calls with the officials and taking the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, for the lucky captain whose team wins the Big Trophy?

* We've seen several of these 1,000-game celebrations at The Tank, honoring players who played a good deal of their games for other teams. Next season, Marleau can become the first player to play all 1,000 of his games as a Shark. Let's hope team management ensures that this happens.

* While we can take pride in the number of Sharks selected to play in the Olympics - seven as of this writing with Joe Pavelski likely to make it eight - I am concerned that the Olympics might put a crimp in the Sharks' chances to win the Stanley Cup. We have to keep our fingers crossed that no Shark gets injured in the Vancouver tournament, particularly when playing against another Shark.

* This one is a little bit off topic but allow me to digress. With San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco fighting about where the A's might play baseball for the next 40 years, we have to wonder how much we Sharks fans have played an inadvertent role in this by selling out the Shark Tank year after year and crowning San Jose as fabulous market for major-league sports. We're not a San Francisco suburb anymore and the Sharks and Sharks fans have done more to prove that than anyone.

Well, that's about it. It seems like just yesterday that the Sharks were embarrassingly eliminated from last year's playoffs but it's now the halfway point of the season after that disappointment. Onward to April, May and June, where we can hope for a much better fate for the Sharks.

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