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Home inspiration
Maybe Canadian TV will inspire them
12/6/08 - By Ken Smyth

Remember seasons past when we were all wondering just what moves the San Jose Sharks would make to keep from dropping out of the playoffs? This year finds the Sharks doing great, and so far all the questions are answered.

The Sharks are past their first big injury (Evgeni Nabokov) and the top two lines are productive to the point that there is little chatter about Jonathan Cheechoo being hurt or Milan Michalek being missing-in-action. Compare that to the Patrick Marleau discussions about a year ago, when it was all about who he'd be traded for, not if or when. Marleau is off to a career year, as they say in baseball. Funny how simple it seems to tailor the play to the talents of the best players.

One of the things you notice sitting in cheap seats is that the Sharks' forwards no longer immediately clear the offensive zone once the other defense gets the puck- they can forecheck deep and grab turnovers. This is an immediate benefit of the improved defense, both personnel and tactics.

Ron Wilson had the defensemen mostly staying in their lanes and dropping back towards their own blueline with the forwards falling back into center ice; Todd McLellan's Sharks drop one d'man back and have one d'man plus a forward go at the puck carrier before he crosses his own blue line. The Sharks' top forwards are fast enough to get back on defense if the opponent is delayed a stride and quick enough to go back on offense if he coughs up the puck at his own blue line.

Finally ending the young defenseman auditions of the past seasons meant that Rob Davison, and Matt Carle went and Christian Ehrhoff, Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic stayed. (Maybe stayed is the wrong word for Ehrhoff. He's about 50% quicker with his passes with a made a big improvement in his overall play.) The trades for veterans Brad Lukowich, and Dan Boyle, and signing Rob Blake are all paying off.

Let's see this Sharks' team win a Stanley Cup or three before we start crowning them as a dynasty. Let's see them win a Conference Final. Not to be negative, but most of the season is still ahead. Want some snarky questions? You need to look elsewhere in the NHL.

What's eating the Dallas Stars, and would it like a helping of Anaheim Duck for dessert?

Is the Tampa Bay Lightning management totally clueless and if so, just how much will they offer to Mats Sundin?

Did Joel Quennville take the Chicago Blackhawks' coaching job because it was a real opportunity or because the very talented, very undisciplined Hawks are a good excuse to drink heavily?

Is Wayne Gretzky is getting better as a coach? Last Saturday he put a goalie on the bench after two shots, as a player it usually took him four.

Which is a worse pick-up line? "Can I sit here a minute, I think I going to throw up!" or "Can I buy you a drink? I'm Sean Avery." (Seriously- The Avery sideshow is a great geek act but it's a distraction- take a look at the Stars' injured list and you see the names Jere Lehtinen, Brendan Morrow, Sergei Zubov and Steve Ott)

Ron Wilson gives the Leafs a day off from practice after they gave up five goals to the Sharks. Did the team need a rest or did Ron just have a good tee time at Mountain Shadows or Raven?? (Next night the Leafs give up six to the Phoenix Coyotes- new GM Brian Burke will be busy in January)

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