Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thus Spoketh Pimpathustra

“In the midst of chaos, 

there is also opportunity” 

-Sun Tzu

If you know hockey, which is sort of implied since you are reading this, then you know these two guys above are : Joe "Fatbutt" Thornton and Patrick "Gutless" Marleau. The two faces of the Sharks franchise, the former and the current (for now) captain, these two have been the only constants through all the playoff disappointments in the past 9 seasons, since the mini "rebuild" that brought Joe Thornton to the Sharks. 
Ever since these two have been together, they have been considered "the backbone" of the Sharks. Every year since these two have been together, the Sharks thought they were " a tweak or two" away from winning the holly grail. So, since that yea,r every year "lesser" players have come and gone, and some even left AND came back, assistant coaches and head coaches have been fired and hired, and many other teams have won lord Stanley's cup, but these two went untouched despite the repeated deplorable performances and broken hearts they left behind.
But then came the Year of the Lord 2014, when the Sharks have sunk to the lowest levels of playoff embarrassment in their entire existence, and their fearless and perfectly tanned leader , Doug Wilson, declared war on the country club environment  ... himself put in place so efficiently  and fought so hard to maintain. He event went as far as mentioning the word "rebuild" a time or two, and admitted to the possibility of the Sharks needing to take " a step back" before becoming the formidable force that will win everything forever. Naturally, everybody assumes he talks about his, possibly former, protegees, so,  numerous "improvement scenarios" have popped all over the place,  scenarios that would have the Sharks ship those two out of San Jose, and,  naturally, some  people have asked : " what would the Pimp do".
Well I have long since held belief the Sharks org is rotten to the core so my changes are a bit deeper than expelling the losing duo so there it goes:

I would have started with firing the GM and the head coach (along with his ball boy) but mr Plattner decided against that so I am not going to waste bits on it.


 # 1 on the "To Do" list: Bolster the scouting corps both minor and pro. 
That means Burke and Ferguson have got to go along with most of their men. The sharks need to go back to scouting in Europe and expand their radar to include more teams in more of the minor leagues of the frozen north.  I would try to pry Finley from Detroit and make him the scouting boss and bring his own people on board , maybe he can get Vari to create a European scouting group for the Sharks. The Sharks need to start scouting and drafting size, skating and hands before character and family oriented values. At the draft, for the next few years, i want to hear of the Sharks draftees that are big and fast with  amazing snap shot but  need some work on their anger management , rather than what good kids their were and how close they are to their moms. 

#2 Development. 
It is no secret the Sharks development team is not a star churning machine. For the most part it seems the Sharks youth that succeed, do so after they were wiped clean of what they've learned under Sommer, who tends to be a great developer of fringe third line grinders and at most second pairing D-men. On top of that he has never really made a good push to win the Calder cup. while somehow managing to be the longest tenure coach in AHL with a single team. I guess that is a record of sorts a record that reflects the failures of the big club. Regardless, he and most of his staff, possibly including Schwab who has not impressed as a teacher for the young Sharks goalies (the demise of a hugely talented kid like Sateri under his direct watch speaks volumes). My coaching choice would be prying rob Zettler from the Crunch. it's a pipe dream because he would need a lot of convincing so why not give the helm to a young blood like Knoblauch . Also, as goaltending coach in the minors they could get Verner from the Petes, he's relatively young and hungry. Either way they have to completely turn the development program around

#3 Reinforce the coaching. 
Yes, I know , the Todd is here to stay, for another year at least but he needs help. Paper boy is not what this team needs and Todd needs help with in game adjusting and ice-time distribution.  He also needs help with the goaltending decisions. I don;t care if Wayne Thomas stays or goes as long as he is relieved of his duties involving the goaltending. He is and always was terrible. Let this go, Mr Thomas and bring someone competent to take charge of the goalies , both in scouting. coaching etc. There are many names out there but I am not sure the ones I like are available. I will revisit this particular subject soon, I hope, but the Sharks need a top notch goaltending coach ... badly 

#4 Goaltending itself.
Those who know me also know I was never a fan of Niemi. Yes he has some strengths and, overall, he is not a awful goalie  (as in" I have seen worse in NHL)  but he never struck me as the sort of goalie to shoulder a team when it needs it. And I absolutely hate his style and his basic technical holes. Long story short , I never wanted him as a Shark and I will not cry when he is gone, the sooner the better. Now he has one year left in his contract so he might not be moved but the Sharks should not wait for the "best possible deal" to move him, but rather just get him out the door whenever a decent deal shows up. the reasoning behind it goes like this: I could not bear to watch him another season in teal :). 
I kid I kid but if they actually do go the rebuild way then he could be used as a piece of a trade with one of the "Big Two" to bring a young goalie with potential back, among other things. Some people are talking about bringing Rinne from Nashville. I would say a loud YES to that, if he is fully healed .. but if he is healed then why would the  Preds let him go?  The only reason I can think of is Money, as they have always operated under a budget tighter than other teams. So yes if a deal can be worked out, sure, why not Rinne. But I would rather think of a young talent, like Vasilevski, for example. Yzerman would love to get his hands on either Marleau or Thornton and if a deal with Tampa is to be made, Vasilevski should be one of the pieces coming back. 
And let's make this clear, Stalock is not the future of the Sharks net and the deal he just signed is stupid. If he is to be backup another year he is about 500K overpaid next year but if they think of him as the potential #1 then two years is too short of a contract as my friend Nola from the Sharks board correctly pointed out. 

#5 Defense Defense Defense
 The Sharks need it. They needs speed and mobility, they need size , they need smarts. With Burns moving back to D, according to the fearless GM, there will be some size added, and some offensive potential , but I am not so sure about defensive smarts. Star defensemen are hard to find and elite ones are near impossible but that is what the sharks need to get and one of the big Two should be used as the centerpiece of a trade that would bring such a defenseman to the Sharks. I could make a few suggestions but I really have no idea why would the   respective teams trade the players I have in mind and I do not want to give you , reader, more reasons to ridicule me, so I will not give names but I re-iterate the need for a top end D-man, preferably young.

#6 Attitude. 
This one speaks for itself and this one clearly says both "leaders" , the only two who were there for all the Sharks failure of the last decade, need to go. they might not go at the same time but within the next year they both have to go. As long as both or even just one of them is still around, the Sharks will not be able to find a different identity, their "new leaders" will not be able to impose their leadership because these two are too big and imposing figures to allow for the change to happen.  If i were to pick one to go first I would choose Marleau because keeping Thornton longer would give them more depth at center and I am a very big on that.
but, again, they both need to go and , along with Niemi and by possibly dispatching the likes of Stuart, the Sharks could improve their goaltending and defense significantly while getting some potential upfront as well. Assuming Doug doesn't botches the trades .. which is entirely possible .. or some would say a certainty. 

So there you have it  .. this is what I would do. Or part of it. 

Of course Doug thought better nd started his rebuild by ... letting the color commentator go. Way to go mr Wilson, you have your priorities straight.

That being said, I wish you all the best Mr Remenda. while I did not agree with you on many occasions, you have been part of my "Sharks family " for longer than I can remember. Thank you for the good times as well as making the best out of the not so good ones, and all the drinking games your, quite colorful, commentating has generated. Despite all the vitriol I threw at your "teal colored" opinions, you were entertaining and one of the best at it . Thank you very much and all the best to you and your family!

PS .. someone proofread this for me hahaha

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Payback ... is a loving mistress

The Time Has Come

 ... for me to assume the, oh so familiar, "I am sorry" stance for not keeping my word about this blog. 
I had all the good intentions but ... you know the drill.

However, Playoffs hockey is back, so I am taking this opportunity to do two things : do a postmortem to the regular season, and lay down the expectations for the playoffs.
For the most part, the Sharks have had a decent season by almost any standards. They overcame a series of long term injuries while finishing in 6th place in the league.
However, as usual, the season showed some weaknesses. Some of them we already know or expected : spottiness in performance level among their "leaders", an alarming weakening of Niemi's goaltending, a rather pathetic Power Play, but I have spotted, more often than before, a rather weak match-up game played by the coach. 
More than that I have seen him being completely baffled by the opposition and at a total loss on what to do about it. And there there is a goalie game which the coach is still completely lost in and the rather weird reward/punishment system that may have cost the Sharks a few points down the road.
I am hoping the coach will get a grip on all that for the upcoming series against the LA Kings, because we all know what Sutter and his goons will bring with them in the series and if coach  Mclellan doesn't get his ducks in order , the Sharks fans will wonder WTH happened in a little over a week from tomorrow.
I will not give grades for the players performance during the season but I will name a few that impressed and a few that left me wanting for more:
Impressed by : virtually all rookies plus Vlasic Pavelski  and Sheppard 
Performed more or less as expected : Burns, Marleau, Hannan, Braun, Havlat ( considering what he went through)
Disappointed, more or less, by everybody else but with emphasis on  Thornton ( drop off in goals scored, even though it was never his strength, is not excusable, plus I questioned his efforts too many nights),  Niemi (numbers paint most of the picture but not all of it. His overall game has changed and not for the better and those who read my blog in the past already know I never liked his game), Couture ( he was spottier than Marleau ), Stuart ( maybe i expected waay to much of him) and Irwin ( the guy just doesn't improve fast enough).

With that out of the way, let's talk about the series that starts tomorrow.
i need to address the elephant in the room : who should start in net. The only logical answer is : the starter, Niemi. Yes I am not a fan and yes I have always supported the rookies, but if this team is to have a chance at challenging for the Cup they need the starter because it is more likely Niemi does a repeat job of being average enough to backstop the Sharks to a Cup the way he did  for Chicago, than it is for Stalock to take the world by storm and shock everybody with a playoffs for the ages.. 
Not only that, but Niemi is better suited for the type of game LA will bring. sure, there is the argument that Stalock is not a known commodity to the  opposition, being a rookie and all, and that his puck handling can help the D and even the offense but I have a sneaky suspicion he won't have the chance to do that much. Not only that, but Sutter's strategy will not change no  matter who is in net and they are suffocating enough not to be afraid of a couple long goalie passes here and there.
So start Niemi and if he blows it up in the first game you go to the rookie and say : "you want a starting job next year: get me this win".

Goaltending has an enormous importance in this series but so does physicality. In this world of increased frowning upon even the world "physicality", let alone the actual implementation of it in the game, the Kings will have it and will dish it out every chance they have.  Many so called "pacifist hockey experts" say that you beat a team like that with "skill" and "finesse" and a bunch of other things pulled out of the PETA school of thought. The reality is, it is a long series and if you let the Kings beat up on your from the get go , they will have you down and out long before your skill can reign supreme. Because, you see, the Kings are quite skilled themselves. 
So to beat them you have to be close to matching them in the body blow department. And by that I don't mean run around like idiots trying to deliver ridiculous hits that can lead to injuries and suspensions. No, what I do mean is finish your checks, be hard on the stick and harder on the skates. Push them before they push you and you might have a chance to tone them down.

Other than that, the Sharks need the leaders to lead when necessary not when they feel like it ( aka it doesn't matter if Marleau scores a hat trick in a 6-1 blowout if he doesn't get squat in a 1-0 loss in game 7) the rookies need to push themselves beyond any level they have pushed to during the regular season, Stalock needs to be ready to step in and save the day if asked to do so, Havlat needs to stay healthy and show everybody he can still be a factor and Torres need to be allowed to play his game.
If all that happens, and they can keep it u for more than two series, the Sharks get their payback and win this series and can have a good chance at, FINALLY at least play in the finals.
And Win It ALL

Because, as you will see in the included picture, I did pick them to win .

That is it for today but I hope I will write something after every game the Sharks play and/or whenever I get the chance to talk about the other series.

Have a great Stanley Cup Playoffs everybody and GO SHARKS!