Shark Notes - 100 point edition

- With a 2-1 OT win against Dallas on Sunday the Sharks reached 100 points for the first time in franchise history. San Jose needs to win the last three games to tie the 2001-2002 franchise best mark of 44 wins.

- Very few NHL writers make me laugh. Ray Ratto is the exception: And the award goes to - ESPN. Ray also delivers one of the best breakdowns of the upcoming postseason I have read to date: No better, worse than rest of West - SF Chronicle. Ratto says San Jose may only be average against the boards, but Ricci and Thornton have been phenomenal at digging the puck out for Cheechoo.

- Speaking of Cheechoo, who is currently tied for the Sharks lead with 28 goals, is any other second year player from Moose Factory this hot heading into the playoffs? In the last 10 games he has 9 goals and 3 assists.

The AP has a nice article about Cheechoo, Cheechoo travels a long road.

One detail about Cheechoo that impressed me came from this column by David Pollak in the SJ Mercury, Full speed ahead for Cheechoo. When you have to travel south to play hockey in Canada, then you are old school even at age 23.

- At the start of the season I said the Sharks would fight for the last playoff spot in the Pacific. I felt the Sharks would need Marleau and Sturm to improve on their career bests last year in order to stem the loss of Nolan and Selanne. Finally, I thought the Sharks should start Nabokov, Toskala, and Kiprusoff in that order. Rwil should then sit whoever struggles, Nabokov included.

- As it turns out, Nils Ekman comes out of relative obscurity from the Tampa Bay and NY Rangers organizations to score 51 points in 79 games. Alexander Korolyuk comes back from a year in Russia [AK Bars Kazan] to notch 18 goals in an injury-shortened 60 games. Together with both on the K-M-E line is Alyn McCauley, who started his breakout last season with 10 points in 16 games after being part of the trade that sent Nolan to Toronto.

Add Marleau's hot streak to the success of the Cheechoo and Ekman lines and you have 3 legitimate scoring lines. An opposing team can shutdown one or two, but few have been able to shut down all three. Add that to a solid defense and 2 playoff goaltenders, and a 100 point season does not seem like it should be a surprise.

- One drastic step the Sharks should consider in the playoffs: double-shift Marleau on the first and fourth lines, and call up Christian Ehrhoff as a 7th defenseman. It will force Marleau to start dominating playoff games, and help a weak power play.

- ESPN will drop NHL2Night next season - LA Times. Boooooo.

- The Forecaster picks San Jose coach Ron Wilson over Calgary coach Ron Sutter for coach of the year. Calgary Herald writer George Johnson adds much more to the background of both coaching performances, but does not pick a winner: Different styles lead Sutter, Wilson to same place.

- March Madness on ice. Denver will play Minnesota Duluth noon [ET] on Thursday April 8th. Maine will play Boston College at 6PM [ET] later that day broadcast on ESPN2. The Championship will be April 8th at 7PM [ET] live on ESPN. Thanks to Elizabeth for the heads up.

Michigan lost in a tough 3-2 OT game against Boston College on Sunday.

- [Update: email from Greg] Glenn Dickey finds his own column boring in todays SF Chronicle:
Who cares?: The Sharks are breezing to the NHL's Pacific Division title. Yawn.
Always funny when Dickey wastes precious column space to tell us how much he dislikes hockey. But please, give us your profound insight into the Terrel Owens sharpie incident.

Moron, retire already and take Radnich with you.


Miikka Kiprusoff returns, Sharks win 3-2

Miikka Kiprusoff returns as the Sharks play the Flames

Former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff returned to San Jose for an exciting 3-2 loss on Thursday night.

After giving up two goals late in the third period to tie the game, the Sharks came back to win on a late Damphousse goal with 23 seconds left.

Alexander Korolyuk crosses the blue line
Ekman on a faceoff in the Calgary zone Calgary captain Jerome Iginla
Sharks goal called off because the net was knocked off

Here you can see the puck cross the line before the Calgary defenseman intentionally knocks the net off its moorings. A penalty was called, but the goal was not allowed. The Sharks did not convert on the power play.

Brad Stuart vs Shean Donovan

Thanks to long time season ticket holders Trish and Jack for the tickets.


Bertuzzi redux - NHL trying to shake goon image part 2

Read part one of this rant first.

ABC analyst and former coach Barry Melrose delivered what should be the final word on the Bertuzzi incident and NHL-bashing.

This reponse was given during intermission of last week's NHL on ABC broadcast.
Look, what Todd Bertuzzi did was wrong. The suspension is right. The NHL acted properly, they acted swiftly, they acted aggressively.

But also, why are we always punished as a league when something like this happens? So many things in other leagues happen and reporters come out and say it is just a part of the game, they were just playing physical.

It happens in hockey, and people who don't know hockey, don't like hockey, don't watch hockey come out of the woodwork and they attack our sport, and they attack our players. I will match our players with any other players in any other sport any day of the week.

And I guarantee your mother would want you to marry a hockey player than anybody else.
-Barry Melrose
I contacted both Barry and ABC about posting this, if either have a problem I will remove it.

To get off this subject slightly, I have to commend ABC for their NHL coverage. Barry Melrose's impassioned response above was given after John Saunders showed video of the Moore-Naslund hit, video of the Bertuzzi-Moore hit, statements from Ray Ferraro, Avalanche coach Tony Granato, Vancouver coach Marc Crawford and GM Brian Burke, Avalanche players Teemu Selanne, Joe Sakic, and Derek Morris among others.

In a span of under 10 minutes, a casual fan would have the complete context of the incident, the players and coaches involved responding to the incident, Bertuzzi's apology, and Barry Melrose's clear take on media bashing the NHL out of proportion to other sports. All of that in one segment.

The next week Saunders and Melrose delivered another segment detailing the state of the USA hockey program. American born players Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk talked about the impact of the 1980 Olympic victory, the 1986 USA World Cup, and the 2004 USA World Junior Championship.

[more info: World Cup of Hockey 2004, and 2005 World Junior Championships].

Interspersed with videos, the two players talked about what each event meant to them and to USA hockey in general. Saunders concluded that hockey was flourishing "in pockets" in the United States, and Melrose agreed. The future of the sport depends on increasing exposure in non-traditional hockey markets.

Two thumbs up for ABC's NHL programming.


Bertuzzi redux - NHL trying to shake goon image part 1

I was going to go into detail about the recent Belak, Oliwa, and Darryl Sutter suspensions, but the title of this article [NHL trying to shake goon-on-ice image] struck a chord. One local writer, two local radio announcers, and a few national writers have recently said they do not watch the NHL because of its excessive violence.

Bench clearing brawl in baseball? No problem. Throwing a bat at a pitcher? No problem. A player not only threatening a coach [NFL] but actually choking him [NBA]? No problem.

To be honest, I see the recent backlash against the NHL as individuals trying to justify their dislike of the sport. Unlike Canada, many in the U.S. grow up with no exposure to the game. Being forced to cover a major professional league that you have no interest in has led to an avalanche of criticism each time the league suffers a setback.

A fine example of opportunistic NHL bashing last week from Time magazine: A brutal attack seems to be the only hockey anyone is watching - by JOEL STEIN.
But the NHL, despite an influx of European players, is still a sport born of parts of Canada that most people don't own enough Gore-Tex to visit. It's full of mafioso laws about protection and honor. And while it would seem sensible for the NHL to eliminate fighting altogether, it can't.
It is hard to write an article that leaves the reader significantly less informed than when he started, but Joel accomplishes that and more. This characterization of those who like hockey demonstrates a cro-magnon grasp of the sport and the Canadian people. He follows that up with an equally laughable prediction.
It's what happens in a game that is frustrated and allows the frustration to get turned to violence. You should have seen the last days of roller derby.
Instead of an angry or witty response to this drivel, I will post ESPN/ABC analyst and former coach Barry Melrose's reponse during intermission on last Saturdays ABC broadcast. He deals with the recent NHL bashing better than anyone else I have heard to date.

Look for that next post.


NHL Notes - radio edition

- HockeyBird pulls an interview with former Thrashers announcer and radio personality Scott Farrell. I used to listen to him on one of his long canceled shows 10 years ago. It is hard to believe his voice is still functioning.

It may sound like he is gargling with gravel in his mouth on the air, but the man picks Detroit, San Jose and possibly Colorado coming out of the West. Visit Real Radio [7-12AM] to catch his live morning broadcast and sandwich of the week photos.

- TheFourthPeriod.com also has a new radio program. Upcoming guests on TFP show are Iain McIntyre of the Vancouver Sun and Darcy Henton of the Canadian Press.

- Also on HockeyBird [they are on a roll], Atlanta hockey fans have created a pretty solid broadcast called Thrasher Fan Faceoff available on Broadcast Monsters. HB regular Brian Leeds made an appearance on the last show. I do not advocate wiffleball bat violence, but I can sympathize after hearing their take on non-hockey sports writers criticizing the league over Bertuzzi-gate.

[Update: Not sure if the Thrasher Fan faceoff is still on this site, but here is the show mentioned above. Another Faceoff show and TFP looks like they have been added to Broadcast Monsters.]

- Probably the largest hockey presence on the airwaves would have to be the Fan590 in Toronto. Listen to the broadcast for a bizarro world where hockey news actually leads a major market broadcast. I am not kidding! The hosts do not even brag about how few fans the sport has, or how you can cover sports only attending 4 hockey games in 3 years! [That was a jab at a local sports writer, the sports radio guys here never watch hockey.]

- Last but not least is the official radio show from the league, NHL Live. This is the one general broadcast I catch on a semi-regular basis. Scroll down to see an archived interview with Sharks forward Niko Dimitrakos. He talks about the rough start at home, figuring out Doug Wilson's game plan, having two #1 goalies, and even a little world cup soccer.


Capitals Fans unhappy

Capital Fans bag on head attempt

I can sympathize with Capitals fans after losing Gonchar, Lang, Nylander, Carter, Jagr, and Bondra, but this is the worst attempt at a bag-on-head I have ever seen.

The guy on the right looks like he grabbed a deformed shopping bag.


I told you so

Every so often I write a column for another website. I planned on doing it a little more this season, but have not been able to.

Now that all of the hockey world seems to be lining up perfectly with my commentary, I thought it was high time to write a new column and take credit for my genius: I told you so :: What do Californians know about hockey?

I talked about Igor Larionov's reaction to the Miracle on Ice movie, San Jose's trade for forward Curtis Brown, and why Todd Bertuzzi deserves to sit in a corner facing the wall.



Sharks trade Boyes for checking center Curtis Brown in 3 team deal

San Jose Sharks trade for Sabres forward Curtis Brown

San Jose traded rookie Brad Boyes for Curtis Brown in a three team deal at the trade deadline. GM Doug Wilson traded Boyes to Boston for Jillson, then traded Jillson and a 9th round 2005 draft pick to Buffalo for 3rd line checking center Brown and defenseman Andy Delmore. Delmore was sent to the Bruins for future considerations.

TSN says in a scouting report about Curtis Brown:
Sees the whole ice, has good hockey sense and rarely makes a mistake in his own zone. Is a good face-off man and owns an underrated setup game.
The trade deadline ends in one hour at 12 noon.

[Note: My past roundup of all the San Jose Sharks trade rumors can be found here.]

[Update: The Boston Bruins are reporting they got Brad Boyes and Andy Delmore from the Sharks for Jillson and future considerations. Nothing yet reported from either the Sharks or the Sabres. Developing...]

[Update2: The Sharks are reporting they made 2 deadline trades with Boston. The first sent Boyes to the B's for Jillson. Then the Sharks delt Jillson and a 2005 9th round pick to Buffalo for Brown and defenseman Andy Delmore. San Jose then sent Delmore to Boston for future considerations. It looks like no Miroslav Satan for San Jose.]

[Update3: Complete trade deadline analysis from The Hockey News and Forecaster.]

Roster Upheaval - Sturm out for season, Zalesak and Boyes called up, trade deadline looms at 12 noon

Only last week I mentioned the Sharks had 3 solid scoring lines, with either Damphousse or Ricci centering a fourth line with Niko Dimitrakos. Picking up a player at the deadline would have been nice, but not necessary. What a difference a weekend makes.

On Friday, Marco Sturm crashed into the boards trying to beat Adam Foote for a puck and suffered a dislocated ankle. The Sharks revised that report and added that he had a fractured fibula and will be lost for the season. In addition to losing Sturm, the Sharks were routed by the Avalanche 5-1. So much for being tied for second place in the Western Conference.

In a nationally televised broadcast on Sunday, the Sharks faced the division rival Dallas Stars. Riding a 7 game home unbeated streak [6-0-1], the Stars were making a determined effort to catch up to the Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division.

Although ESPN announcers Gary Thorne and John Davidson mentioned Marco Sturm's ankle injury over a dozen times, injuries to Kyle McLaren [laceration] and Mike Ricci [shoulder] were only mentioned once. Marco Sturm is a valuable scoring threat, but in my opinion the loss of defenseman Kyle McLaren is much more of an issue when facing Dallas.

Sharks coach Ron Wilson called up 3 Cleveland Barons to help fill in for injured players: defenseman Jim Fahey, AHL leading scorer Miroslav Zalesak, and AHL fourth leading scorer Brad Boyes.

Boyes and Zalesak created a nice scoring chance for Patrick Marleau, Fahey dropped the gloves and lost a tough fight against Steve Ott. Marty Turco ended up shutting out the Sharks with 22 saves, closing the lead in the Pacific to 2 points.

Another result of the Stars game was almost an exact replay of the Sturm injury. Fighting for a loose puck behind the net, Brenden Morrow pressed his stick under Tom Priessing's skates sending him crashing into the boards. The injury to Preissing does not look severe. It remains to be seen if he will miss any ice time. Mark Smith earns major kudos for pummeling Morrow directly after the questionable play.

Where does that leave San Jose? After being blown out twice by Conference rivals Colorado and Dallas, after losing Sturm for the season and Ricci/McLaren for an extended period, the Sharks are almost forced to add a player or two at the deadline. Unfortunately for San Jose, Colorado gets even tougher to play with the addition of agitating forward Matthew Barnaby. Dallas adds more firepower with the addition of forward Valeri Bure and defenseman Chris Therien.

The trade deadline at 12 noon today places Sharks GM Doug Wilson firmly behind the 8 ball.

A trade is not necessary to make the playoffs. But for the Sharks to make it past the second round, farther than any team in the past, San Jose is going to need some help.

[Update: Did I mention that Todd Bertuzzi is a dirty player?]

[Update2: Chi and Pollak at the Merc suggest that Rucinsky, McEachern, Sanderson and Messier are all trade options. Offensive defenseman Dick Tarnstrom is my sleeper pick.]


Contact Notes

If you sent me an email over the weekend, please hit the contact form again. My email server crashed and I lost all the messages. If you have a question regarding the Sharks organization, please contact the team via their contact form. I can answer most comments, but usually I forward questions about the team to that form on the official website.

I respond to all email but occasionally a few messages are returned as undeliverable. Thanks for taking the time to send in your thoughts.


Trade Bonanza

The National Hockey League entered the twilight zone yesterday as GMs started trading anything that was not nailed down. If you were away, or sick like me, this is what you missed in the last 24 hours:

TOR - Leetch for PP.
SAN - Marshall for 5th.
EDM - Nedved/Markkanen for PP.
BOS - Gonchar for Morrisonn, 1st, 2nd.
MTL - Kovalev for Balej, 2nd.

PP = prospects and picks

Add this to the earlier trades of Sydor to Tampa Bay, Bondra to Ottawa, Zhamnov-Burke to Philadelphia, and Sullivan to Nashville and it looks like most of the damage is being done in the Eastern Conference. The only problem with my hypothesis is Detroit trading for the NHL's second highest scorer Robert Lang.

On paper, I would have to say advantage Bruins. They have a solid defensive core with Raycroft and Potvin in net. The forwards are built for the playoffs and Gonchar will only ensure they are fed a healthy dose of tape-to-tape passes.

Ottawa and Montreal are used to rolling over teams in the regular season, but I have concerns about both in a tight checking 7 game playoff series against Boston or Toronto. Haul out the body bags if Toronto faces Ottawa again.

It is hard to call Tampa Bay an underdog leading the East in points, but right now I would call them mini-Boston. They added puck moving defenseman Sydor before the deadline, have two strong goalies in net, more speed than size up front, but enough grit to bang out the close games needed to advance. They also have the best name in hockey, Nikolai Khabibulin.

Jason Marshall traded to the San Jose SharksSan Jose traded a 5th round pick in 2004 for Minnesota Wild veteran defenseman Jason Marshall. Not a blockbuster deal, but a practical one. He is a right-handed shot, with 1 goal and 1 assist in 15 playoff games for Minnesota last season. 5 through 8 on the defensive depth chart in San Jose are all filled by players with less than 2 years in the league. Nice to have a vet to fall back on.

I like this move, but the big hurdle on the Sharks playoff horizon will be Detroit. With Lang, and Hatcher and Joseph returning from injuries, they could have the most dominate lineup in the league.

Trading for New York Rangers forward Martin Rucinsky, Pittsburgh offensive-defenseman Dick Tarnstrom, or Anaheim's Samuel "Jackson" Pahlsson would make me more confident about the Sharks chances.

[Update: Barons acquire Marshall - Clevelandbarons.net]


Hockey Hall of Fame photographer Lew Portnoy

One of the many photographers who has his work in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lew Portnoy captured the "missing years" of the NHL after the first major expansion. He photographed split second action with perfect exposure and a rare creativity.

On his website lpphoto.com, Lew Portnoy lists the St Louis Blues, NHL, ATP, CBS Sports, LPGA, PGA, Olympics and NBC among his photography clients.

Visit his three NHL galleries [gallery1, gallery2, gallery3], and three NHL goaltender galleries [gallery1, gallery2, gallery3] for a glimpse of NHL history. There are even a few Oakland Seals pictures for the old school Bay Area hockey fan.


Shark Notes - trade deadline edition

- There is a well practiced formula for writing about the Sharks "renaissance" this season.

For example:
By constantly moving, Sharks barely missed a beat - Sportsline.
Sharks starting to believe - Globe and Mail.

A lot of respect is rightfully given to GM Doug Wilson and coach Ron Wilson, but something is missing.

I could only find one non-local writer, Tim Panaccio - Changes get results for first-place Sharks, who acknowledges the talent drafted and developed by former GM Dean Lombardi. Tim's columns are well worth a read, especially when he covers San Jose.

[and now, time for the trade rumors]

- The Detroit News speculates there is a Sharks interest in Rucinsky or Brunette after losing out on Zhamnov.

- The Ottawa Sun speculates there is a Sharks interest in Matt Barnaby.

- The Toronto Star speculates the Sharks are not interested in anyone?

- Sportsline speculates the Sharks are interested in Chris Simon, Berard or Karpovtsev.

- Sharkspage speculates there is interest in Pittsburgh offensive defenseman Dick Tarnstrom, but that might just be fan interest.

- Interesting report from TSN floats the possibility of Colorado trading Derek Morris for Sergei Gonchar. It would be hard for Washington to do better than this.

- Kyle Woodlief reports on some late changing issues effecting his latest draft rankings, Ch-ch-ch-changes in the draft ranking.

- Nice to see the Stanley Cup is getting a little sun.