| Is what you see really what you
Players need to return to their comfort
|1/31/10 - By Steve Flores -
Well we have arrived at the theoretical midpoint of
the 2010-2011 NHL Season and the San Jose Sharks are sitting in a tie for the
final playoff position in the Western Conference. They are, in fact, tied at
six games over .500 with Chicago, Minnesota and Colorado and only one win
better than Los Angeles. Numbers determine the post-season qualifiers and the
Sharks may well get into the Stanley Cup party, but will it really matter?
Let's face it folks the Sharks have been mediocre at best all season
long. They have beaten some of the leagues better teams (I.E. Detroit and
Philadelphia) but they have also lost to the likes of New Jersey, Edmonton and
the New York Islanders - and lost badly.
The team seems to have very
little heart, as full 60-minute efforts have been fewer and farther between
than in recent seasons past.
Ryane Clowe, one of the few nightly
mercenaries on this team, even spoke out in harsh terms in regards to the less
than yeoman-like efforts of some of his teammates after a recent loss.
Local media, fans and coaches and team management have all chimed in on
attempts to explain the less than stellar play of the team.
is primarily the same as last season with the exception of Evgeni Nabokov and
Rob Blake. Although the goaltending has not been stellar it has not been
atrocious either. Antero Nittymaki played very well out of the gate and then
was pulled by Head Coach Todd McLellan in what has appeared to be a two-fold
move. The Sharks seemed to find it very important to instill more confidence in
Antti Niemi - so much so that he has played considerably more than Nittymaki
despite Nittymaki's better start. Niemi, had early troubles with rebound
control and thus a wane in mental strength. Nittymaki is currently nursing an
injury yet Niemi has been the primary goaltender for well over a month now.
Analysis of the team's issues always comes back to their defensive
core. Dan Boyle is an All-Star. Doug Murray is a physical force and can alter
the way a team plays against the Sharks - especially in front of the goal
keeper. Marc-Eduouard Vlasic is an NHL caliber player and Jason Demers is still
young. I am not going to sit here and rip Kent Huskins or Nicolas Wallin. I
believe that both men play hard. The fact of the matter is that this part of
the Sharks roster does not hold up to many other NHL franchises. Only Boyle is
adept at moving the puck and the team's speed on the blue line is no longer
The Sharks top players do not have the numbers that the fans
and the players themselves are used to seeing. Word is that Joe Thornton has
been asked, once again, to alter his game to suit the needs of the team. He
tries to play more in front of the net and he is more active defensively. On
paper I guess that seems to be the very 'team like' thing to do. But is it
really helping the team? The team's results would say otherwise.
Patrick Marleau has a decent number of goals this year and does have spurts of
hustle but he too often seems lost and his turnovers have been many in the
Dany Heatley is a guy that finds ways to put garbage into
the back of the net. He is also doing a lot of banging on defense this year.
But his goal totals are down. He is paid to score. If he's not scoring then the
part of the game that makes him special isn't happening. If it isn't happening
then the Sharks are playing without a lot of their teeth.
Again, I am just speculating but the lack of allowing
Thornton to roam and control and concentrate on offense seems to be the problem
with the Big Three.
The team lack of heart goes deeper and I have no
answer for a seeming lack of desire. The one thing I know is that they have
been made to look very poor on many nights by many teams - both good and bad
alike. This is undisputable.
GM Doug Wilson has made a couple moves in
an attempt to add some third line depth for the\ team and they did win 4 of
their last 5 prior to the All-Star break.
They also turned in one of,
if not their best performance of the season with a win over Vancouver on
January 20th in British Columbia. The win was well earned and they were the
better team that night.
In any case the team has seen solid play from
rookie Logan Couture. They have had a few injuries here and there but should be
relatively healthy as the final 32 games get under way.
have been an enigma for years to their fans and the media alike. This current
group is no different. Well, ok they are different in the fact that they
usually don't frustrate everyone until the post season.
This year they
have been perplexing from day one and may not even reach the playoffs.
I imagine that if they do qualify for the post season that they may well
surprise. I say this because they are going to have to rise to a level that
they haven't come close to approaching in their first 50 games. If they can
raise their game to a much higher level down the stretch and actually qualify
then I would assume that they would be real contenders for more than just
The Sharks are used to their reputation as underachievers
let's just hope that they find a way to reverse this trend and catch lightning
in a bottle so that they have a post-season that has more success than they
have had in the regular season. There are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes to
contend with between now and then however.
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