San Jose's Josh Thomson wins Strikeforce World Lightweight title after 5-round war with Gilbert Melendez

Strikeforce San Jose Josh Thomson Lightweight Champion
Strikeforce San Jose Josh Thomson Gilbert Melendez
San Jose Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight Championship

Strikeforce's second promotion in 2008 featured a compelling main event matchup between two of the top lightweights in the Bay Area, Gilbert Melendez (14-2) and Josh Thomson (15-2). The fight two years in the making lived up to expectations, and it was Thomson who provided relentless pressure, agile movement and pinpoint strikes to emerge with the Strikeforce World Lightweight Championship after a grueling 5-round affair. San Jose's Bobby Southworth (9-5) defended his Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight Championship against Anthony Ruiz (20-11) in a departure from the main theme of the night, a theme of several quality local fighters run into a buzzsaw against stiff competition. A secondary theme of the night was to only partially put stock into the predictions and analysis of the mainstream MMA "experts" who, including this site, got a majority of this card wrong.

Josh Thomson vs Gilbert Melendez was the fight many came to see. The loyalties of the crowd were divided, but there were strong contingents for each with one group wearing "got punk?" tshirts and holding signs, and another larger group chanting Gil-bert, Gil-bert, Gil-bert. Thomson took a long stroll into the cage, and bowed to the crowd to acknowledge a hostile chorus of boo's with a smile. Gilbert sprinted down the runway, and he looked like focused and intense during the pre-fight instructions. Melendez was a heavy favorite heading into the main event. Many cited his big right hand, high work rate, and solid ground game as reasons he would emerge with a win. Thomson acknowledged that he was less than 100% after a shoulder injury suffered early in the year, and he would have to create distance, land heavy kicks and punches, and jump on Melendez if he was stunned or hurt. Thomson also acknowledged in an interview this week that his time wrestling at Stanford did not influence him much as a fighter, but he should have his takedown defense and his Javier Mendez inspired gameplan tested by the former San Francisco State wrestler Gilbert Melendez. Melendez, who touted his high school wrestling at Santa Ana high school, told the Orange County Register that he was disillusioned with his college wrestling team which eventually resulted in his move to train at Fairtex and the Cesar Gracie Academy.

Title IV has eviscerated many college wrestling programs in California (Berkeley, Chico State, Claremont, De Anza, Diablo Valley College, Foothill, San Francisco City, San Jose City, San Jose State, College of San Mateo, Santa Barbara, UCLA...), as many as 81 have been eliminated or closed down since the law was enacted. The regimented environment and lack of adaptation is not always a good breeding ground for a mixed martial artist, but in an interesting parallel professional MMA provides another level of competition for college wrestlers and serves as a career opportunity that may help spur growth in each sport.

First round Melendez-Thomson, Josh Thomston is very quick on his feet early. Short choppy steps keep him away from Gilbert's right, and he his moving his head very well. Melendez forces Thomson up against the cage, but a hard knee by Thomson allows him to break free. Thomson scores a single leg takedown, and maneuvers him up against the cage. After trying to gain Melendez's back, Melendez spins into him and scores a reversal. Pinned up against the cage, Thomson smiles at the HDnet cameras displaying a message printed on his mouthguard. It draws the ire of the entire section I was in, and several comments unpublishable here. The second round Josh Thomson starts strong with three BasRutten-esque liver kicks. The kicks slow Melendez, and force him to drop his right arm down to guard against kicks to the body. Thomson normally uses his front/push kick to create space, but he lands a hard kick to the head of Melendez that draws a loud reaction from the crowd. Melendez grabs onto a body lock to recover. Both fighters unload a flurry of strikes, but Thomson lands 5 punches cleanly to only 2 that land through arms and gloves. Melendez goes for a takedown and Thomson answers with an explosive sprawl, forcing him down into the mat. Melendez, still appearing hurt by kicks early in the round, moves around the ring to regroup. Thomson lands a hard knee, and a spinning back kick (CungLe-esque?) drawing another loud reaction from the crowd.

Josh Thomson starts the third round with a furious attack. Not the pace or the power of the varies strikes, but the accuracy and the way he is stringing together combinations. A knee may be followed by a 2-punch combination, a front kick with a right cross, a fake knee followed by a superman punch. He is also quicker to initiate action, forcing Melendez to react to his offense and forcing him into his gameplan. Melendez comes over the top with a right hand that backs off Thomson. Melendez trying to pressure Thomson, but he ends up trying to defend a single leg up against the cage. Thomson tries for his back, but falls over the top of him at the end of the round. Round 4 it is Gilbert Melendez who opens with a 4-punch flurry, and the crowd tries to rally behind him. Thomson spins to his left, and follows with a knee and a straight left to free himself. Inside low kick, front kick, front kick, front kick, Thomson is piling up the strikes. Conditioning in the final two championship rounds will be key, usually that is a Melendez strength but the offense from Thomson has slowed him down considerably. Combined with the footwork and head movement from Thomson, and the slow hand speed of Melendez, and the odds are stack up against the favorite from San Francisco. Thomson is hammering Melendez right elbow, but he winces after one kick and a slight limp is noticable after. Melendez is stalking Thomson, but the front kick is preventing him from coming inside and turning this into a grappling match. Thomson scores another double leg takedown, and instantly transitions into side mount. He attempts a rear naked choke, but the second attempt is sunk in deep with a body lock applying more pressure to the throat of Melendez. Thomson tries to stretch him out and finish the choke with Herb Dean hovering overhead, but Melendez breaks free.

The fifth and final round starts with a loud cheer from the crowd. Thomson pins Melendez up against the cage, and levers him to the mat. Melendez works to his feet on a failed RNC attept, and he has a bounce in his step. He knows he is behind on the scorecards with 3:30 remaining, and he tries to close off the cage but he can not catch the much quicker Thomson. Thomson lands a knee and a left that draw another loud reaction from the crowd. Both fighters have their mouths open breathing heavy, they are both leaving it all in the cage. Melendez tries to chase him down as the time winds down, but Thomson cycles around the cage until the final horn blares.

The San Jose native Josh Thomson earned a unanimous 5-round decision win for the Strikeforce World Lightweight Championship, with the judges cards reading 50-45, 50-45, 50-45. Compuscore stats via HDnet Fights showed Thomston landed 131 of 192 strike attempts (61%) to Gilbert Melendez's 66-275 (24%). Thomson also recorded 6 takedowns and 1 submission attempt. It was a career win for Thomson, whose dominant performance should move him into the top-10. The reason many local mma fans and media are very high on Thomson is that he has shown promise in so many different areas, if he can put it all together like he did against Melendez he can be a top 5 lightweight deserving a shot against the best in the division. Thomson has to develop a little more of a killer instinct and finish opponents after he has them hurt instead of giving them a chance to get back into a fight. Of his 15 MMA wins, Thomson only has 3 KO's (Adam Lynn, Gerald Strebendt, Jason Abajian) to go along with 8 submissions. For Gilbert Melendez, the loss to Thomson after an earlier loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida at the New Year's Eve Yarennoka event in Japan cloud his future short term. Thomson mentioned the possibility that he would like Strikeforce to bring in a top-10 fighter for him to face as a future opponent, but a rematch with Melendez would also be a big draw. Either way the outcome of the fight creates a little more drama for Strikeforce and the division, which is always a good thing.

The second most anticipated fight of the evening was an HDnet feature between Fresno's Billy Evangelista (7-0, 4KOs) vs Westminster CA native Nam Phan (14-5, 6KOs, 4subs). Evangelista dismantled local MMA instructor Clint Coronel on the Strikeforce Playboy Mansion card in Septembder, and KO's TUF veteran Marlon Sims in the third round on the Shamrock-Le undercard. Nam Phan is a name fighter in California who has run up impressive 3-1 and 6-0 records on smaller Palace Fighting Championship and King of the Cage cards in California. Phan has a 3-0 record as a professional boxer and a solid submission game, but in steps up in competition in the WEC, K-1 and Strikeforce Phan is 0-4 prompting many to suggest that he should drop down a weight class.

Phan tries to establish the tempo of the fight early with several combinations, but when Evangelista initiates a clinch the size disparity between the two fighters became apparent. Evangelista scores a takedown, and works Phan up against the cage and drops him shortly after he regains his feet. Dominant position by Evangelista with solid ground and pound. Phan starts round two stringing together more combinations. He is loading up on the right hand, and keeping his center of gravity low to prevent a takedown. A looping right by Phan staggers Evangelista back against the cage. Two combinations and a long right from outside find their mark. The Fresno Muay Thai specialist is showing very little movement on his feet. When he tries to come forward he eats a hard knee to the jaw. Phan sprawls with urgency this time as Evangelista tries to take him to the mat. A hard shot by Phan ejects Evangelista's mouthpiece, and he is dominanting the AKA fighter on his feet in the second round. Evangelista finishes the round battling to take Phan to the mat, but a large cut opens up on his head turning his platinum blond hair bright red.

The third and final round would not end without controversy. Evangelista misses with a high kick, and Phan responds with 2 combinations and a knee that splits the guard and lands flush. Evangelista is unsteady on his feet, and Phan is trying to connect with bombs from outside. Extended work against the cage earns Evangelista a takedown, but he does little with it and the referee stands them up. The final left of back-to-back combinations wobble Evangelista again and draw a large reaction from the crowd. The referees awarded Billy Evangelista a controversial split decision win (29-28, 29-28, 28-29). Compustrike stats via HDnet have Billy Evangelista landing 100-159 strikes (63%) to Phan's 70-162 (43%), with 4 takedown attempts to 0 in favor of the Fresno fighter. Sharkspage had the fight 29-28 Phan, as he clearly was the more dominant fighter in the final 2 rounds. Takedowns should be taken into consideration, but also you have to judge what you do with the takedown. Same goes for strikes, piling up the numbers is effective but command of the cage, effective power strikes, and the number of times a fighter is visibly hurt also play a factor.

On the rest of the card San Jose Bobby Southworth (9-5) defended his Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight Championship against Anthony Ruiz (20-11) with a 5 round unanimous decision win. It was a technical fight, but with a considerable amount of time spent grappling for position fans in attendance were very vocal with their calls for more action. Southworth mentioned he would like to face a bigger name in the post fight press conference, and recently signed Renato "Babalu" Sobral would make for a solid matchup on a future Strikeforce card. Miesha Tate (2-1) dismantled San Jose native Elaina Maxwell (2-3) earning a 3 round unanimous decision in an undercard match at 147 pounds. Sherdog tabbed Maxwell as a heavy favorite prior to the fight. Tate came seconds within an armbar submission in the first round, but Maxwell came close to her own armbar as the horn signaled the end of the third round. Miesha Tate controlled the majority of the pace and the tempo, and scored one of the many minor upsets of the night.

Chuck Norris World Combat League and kickboxing standout Raymond Daniels (0-1), he of the blistering airborne spinning backkicks, ran smack into the realization that kickboxing does not always translate well to mixed martial arts in the form of Jeremiah Metcalf (9-4). Daniels entered the ring with flash, performed a little breakdancing as the flames popped on the entrance runway. Once the bell rang, Metcalf took him directly to the mat. Daniels tried to hold on to a guillotine choke, but eventually Metcalf gains a dominant position and starts unloading with his ground and pound. Daniels very ineffective off his back. More of the same in the second round, as Metcalf eventually takes him down and works Daniels into a rear naked choke. He earns a RNC submission 59 seconds into the second round. Metcalf was a solid opponent, a very difficult draw for a fighter's mixed martial arts debut. If Raymond Daniels is brought along slowly, given some time to train and round out his game, his flamboyant personality and style would be a asset for Strikeforce. Daniels was the overwhelming fan favorite for the fight inside HP Pavilion.

San Jose native and Cung Le trained Anthony Figueroa (4-3) was given a chance to avenge a prior loss to San Francisco's Chris Cariaso (7-1) on the Shamrock-Baroni undercard. Sharkspage and MMA Junkie tabbed Figueroa as a fighter to look out for on the undercard. Cariaso scored an early takedown, and controlled his center of gravity and positioning to dominant Figueroa on the ground. Cariaso tried for a deep kimura attempt on the left arm, but Figueroa spun into the attempt and escaped. Cariaso tried to sink in a choke at the end of the first, but Figueroa finished the round landing a hard knee for his best strike of the round. Chris Cariaso started round 2 with a dominant position, and another kimura attempt this time on the right arm. Cariaso works into position, and submits Anthony Figueroa with a rear naked choke 4:34 into the second round. Also on the undercard, heavy fan favorite and Fremont Jose Palacios (3-1) lost a 3 round decision to Pacifica's Bobby Stack (5-1). San Jose's Alvin Cacdac (4-4) was immediately taken down by "Cowboy Karate" specialist Bryan Caraway (9-2). Caraway worked on a rear naked choke, and submitted Cacdac 1:39 into the first to silence a number of Cacdac supporters in the crowd. In the final swing bout which took place after the Melendez-Thomson and Phan-Evangelista bouts, San Jose's Jesse Gillespie (1-2) ran into a buzzsaw named Eric Lawson (6-2). Most of the fans and media had cleared out of HP Pavilion after the main event, save for a small group of Gillespie supporters who moved up to ringside. Lawson came into the fight with a Carlos Condit-esque snarl, and he opened up a cut on the head of Gillespie and finished the fight with a RNC 1:03 into the first round. Not a local-friendly card.

A photo gallery taken with a backup camera/lens is available here. More information on the event is available from strikeforceusa.net and hdnetfights.com. The main event should be featured on an upcoming episode of Strikeforce on NBC, more details will be posted in the future.

STRIKEFORCE 10 Melendez vs Thomson final results
June 27th, 2008
HP Pavilion, San Jose
Attendance: 7,488

Alexandre Trivino d. Eric Jacob
Submission (Armbar), 1-0:37

Jorge Interiano d. Travis Johnson
TKO (Doctor Stoppage), 2-3:00

Cyrillo Padhillo d. Jesse Jones
Decision (Unanimous), 3-3:00

Brian Caraway d. Alvin Cacdac
Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), 1-1:39

Bobby Stack d. Jose Palacios
Decision (Unanimous), 3-3:00

Chris Cariaso d. Anthony Figueroa
Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), 2-4:34

Jeremiah Metcalf d. Raymond Daniels
Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), 2-0:59

Miesha Tate d. Elaina Maxwell
Decision (Unanimous), 3-3:00

Bobby Southworth d. Anthony Ruiz
Decision (Unanimous), 5-5:00

Billy Evangelista d. Nam Phan
Decision (Unanimous), 3-5:00

Josh Thomson d. Gilbert Melendez
Decision (Unanimous), 5-5:00

Eric Lawson d. Jesse Gillespie
Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), 1-1:03

[Update] More notes from the event: Met Ron Kruck of Inside MMA at the prefight weigh-ins, and another Inside MMA staffer agreed that San Francisco's Darren Uyenoyama earned fight of the night honors in a decision loss to Hideo Tokoro on the recent Dream 4 card from Japan. HDnetfight's and Pancrase legend Bas Rutten was also calling the fights cageside. San Francisco Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Luke Stewart (5-1) agreed to fight three seperate opponents, but Shonie Carter pulled out with a hand injury, Joe Riggs was not cleared to fight because of an alleged prescription medication use, and late replacement Drew 'Nightrider' Fickett was pulled because of a conflict with a MFC fight July 25th in Edmonton. Also via a flyer left outside of the arena, Drew Fickett is scheduled to face Antonio McKee August 2nd at the Shooto Japan Scion Battleground event at San Francisco's Fort Mason Pavilion. Several other local fighters are slated to appear including Andrew Valladerez, Jose Palacios, and Borntofight kickboxing champ Roger Agtrap. More information is available at going.com.

MMA Junkie's Dann Stupp reported on the event live from San Jose, filing live play-by-play results, an event recap, and a look back at Strikeforce LHW champion Bobby Southworth's legacy. Sherdog.com posted an event recap, Thomson Takes Strikeforce Title in San Jose, and a solid photo gallery from photographer Dave Mandel. MMArated.com's Ariel Helwani also reported live from the event, with a post-fight interview with Josh Thomson, an event recap, and an interview with future Strikeforce featured fighter Kazuo Misaki. An earlier MMArated interview with Strikeforce ring girl Nicole Craner is also worth a view.

The San Jose Mercury News also featured the Strikeforce event front and center with a headline photo and article on the top of the sports page Satuday: Thomson takes Strikeforce title from Melendez. Aron Glatzer reported on Thomson overcoming a shoulder injury to win the title and his intimate knowledge of sparring partner Gilbert Melendez. A multimedia slideshow of the event from the Mercury News is available here.

[Update2] Thomson ditches life in fast lane for Strikeforce win - Josh Gross for Sports Illustrated.

Having stayed dry since January, Thomson now owns a meaningful title and is tremendous position to capitalize. Next on Thomson's plate could be a challenge against the Dream lightweight tournament winner -- Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Eddie Alvarez or Caol Uno -- said Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker.

Like UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn, who underwent a similar awakening, Thomson will go as far as he allows his talent to take him. Said a beaming Mendez: "This is the best Josh Thomson I've ever seen."

[Update3] Strikeforce Review: Thomson takes title - MMAweekly.com.


Battle of the Bay Area tonight as San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez faces off against San Jose's Josh Thomson for the Strikeforce Lightweight Title

Strikeforce MMA Playboy Mansion
Strikeforce MMA Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez

San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez has a tough title defense tonight at HP Pavilion against San Jose's Josh Thomson in a long awaited Bay Area matchup. Top-ranked Melendez (5th Sherdog, 6th MMA Weekly, #3 Inside MMA) tore through the competition earning 13 straight wins in the WEC, Pride, and Strikeforce, before suffering a smothering loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida in Japan on New Year's Eve. Gilbert Melendez rebounded with a decisive second round stoppage of Gabe Lemley on the Shamrock-Le undercard. He will meet San Jose based American Kickboxing Academy standout Josh Thomson, a former Stanford University NCAA Division 1 wrestler, kickboxer, and a PrideFC/UFC/Strikeforce MMA veteran.

HDnetFight's "Melendez vs Thomson Unfiltered" half-hour preview show is available for online viewing here. It gives an exclusive behind the scenes look into the training of each fighter at the Cesar Gracie and American Kickboxing Academies, and interviews several figures that were important in the development of each fighter.

Sherdog's Bay Area correspondent Danny Acosta profiled a day in the gym for Gilbert Melendez, and in a Sherdog interview with Brian Knapp Josh Thomson admitted his is going into the event at less than 100% 5 months after serious shoulder surgery. MMAjunkie.com's Dann Stupp is reporting on the event live from San Jose, and he promptly broke news of two stories including the failure of the California State Athletic Commission to clear Joe Riggs to fight due to a prescription medication, and the cancellation of late replacement Drew Fickett due to a prior fight obligation with MFC July 25th in Alberta. They were scheduled to face 5-1 San Francisco Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Luke Stewart.

Also scheduled on the Friday fight card is a solid matchup between Nam Phan (14-4) vs Billy Evangelista (6-0), The Ultimate Fighter reality show alumni Bobby Southworth in a Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight title defense, San Jose's own Elaina Maxwell and Anthony Figueroa, and standout World Combat League talent Raymond Daniels. Daniels has blindingly quick strikes from all angles, and has knocked out several competitors with airborne spinning back kicks to the liver. How well that transitions to MMA remains to be seen, but based on his speed, athleticism and power, many are tabbing Daniels as a star to look out for in the future. For more information visit strikeforceusa.net or hdnetfights.com. The main event fights are scheduled to air tonight on HDnet live at 7:30PM.

June 27th, 2008
HP Pavilion, San Jose

Strikeforce World Lightweight Championship
Gilbert Melendez (14-1) vs Josh Thomson (14-2) 5x5
Nam Phan (14-4) vs Billy Evangelista (6-0) 3x5

Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight Championship
Bobby Southworth (8-5) vs Anthony Ruiz (20-10) 5x5
Elaina Maxwell (2-2) vs Miesha Tate (1-1) 3x3
Raymond Daniels (0-0) vs Jeremiah Metcalf (8-4) 3x3
Anthony Figueroa (4-2) vs Chris Cariasco (6-1) 3x3
Jose Palacios (3-0) vs Bobby Stack (4-1) 3x3

[Update] Coker, Strikeforce ready for Melendez vs. Thomson - MMArated.com via Fox Sports.

[Update2] Undefeated Kickboxing Phenom to Make MMA Debut at 'Melendez vs. Thomson' - Strikforceusa.net.

Following a spectacular, undefeated run in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League, 28-year-old kickboxing superstar, Raymond “The Real Deal” Daniels (0-0), will make his long-awaited mixed martial arts (MMA) debut when he takes on Jeremiah Metcalf (8-4) in a middleweight (185 lb. limit) battle at Strikeforce’s “Melendez vs. Thomson” mega-card at HP Pavilion on Friday.

Already being hailed as the second coming of Strikeforce World Middleweight Champion, Cung Le, Daniels, recognized as the number one Sport Karate fighter in the world, holds a 6th degree black belt in Kenpo and Shotokan Karate as well as a 5th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He packs a thrilling, dynamic fighting style that is strikingly similar to Le, also a guru of traditional martial arts...

The career path of Daniels, thus far, mimics that of Le, who crossed over to the world of mixed martial arts in 2006 after running to a perfect 16-0 record in the sport of professional kickboxing. Despite the parallels that can be drawn to the Strikeforce world middleweight champion, though, Daniels is quick to point out that he is his own man and is determined to carve out a unique legacy in the martial arts fight world.

Max Giese: 2008 NHL Entry Draft review part-II: San Jose Sharks draft review

2008 NHL Entry Draft NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

The San Jose Sharks concluded the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with Director of Scouting Tim Burke and Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson leading the push to make seven selections, trading up to get three of them. Despite entering the draft with no selections until the end of the fourth round (117th overall), Doug Wilson managed to work the Sharks to the top of the third and fourth rounds without mortgaging the team's draft options in coming seasons.

The Sharks traded up three times this year to acquire their first three draft picks in center Justin Daniels, defenseman Samuel Groulx, and goaltender Harri Sateri. They didn't trade down to make any picks, and sacrificed multiple selections in the 2009 draft to acquire players in 2008.

To San Jose: 62nd overall (Justin Daniels)
To Tampa Bay: 117th overall, 147th overall, and a third round selection in 2009

To San Jose: 92nd overall (Samuel Groulx)
To Los Angeles: Fourth round selection in 2009 and a fifth rounder in 2010.

To San Jose: 106th overall (Harri Sateri)
To Nashville: 207th overall and Toronto's 4th rounder in 2009.

The Daniels Twins:
For the first time in franchise history the San Jose Sharks selected twin brothers in Justin and Drew Daniels of Queens New York. Both played their minor hockey this season in Conneticut and both are Northeastern recruits that are scheduled to begin their collegiate careers in the fall of 2009. Before playing for the Northeastern Huskies they will play in the USHL for the Sioux City Musketeers. Justin was drafted fourth overall by the Musketeers in the USHL Entry Draft, Drew followed being selected in the second round. The Sharks have done an excellent job of drafting and developing talent out of the Eastern United States Prep Hockey scene, and the Daniels twins could continue that success.

Sharks director of scouting Tim Burke on the twins "They are natural hockey players with strong hockey sense. They do a lot of things well and the upside is their bodies are going to get stronger and they’re built well physically."

An NHL scout that agreed to an interview with Sharkspage in return of remaining anonymous said "They have some synergy playing with one another and it's their puck skills and ability to make plays in tight spaces that stand out most. Their lack of strength isn't an issue because they have the height and it's easier to put on weight than it is to add inches. They are tall and skinny, but will bulk up when they go to Sioux City and Northeastern and get into the weight room. Their development path of going to the USHL and then playing for Northeastern is absolutely a great development path for them."

Northeastern Huskies assistant coach and head recruiter Gene Reilly told Sharkspage "They compliment each other really well and both are very creative players with great hockey sense. They are both excited about being drafted by the Sharks and so are their parents. They both realize how unique this all is. The twins are fun to be around and they like to push each other and challenge each other on everything, they are very competitive. If they could someday they'll probably live in the same house or at least buy the house next door."

Gene Reilly on their development path "They need to compete at a higher level of play and they will next-year in the USHL. That league will challenge them more, especially lines one-through-four where as in prep school they where only challenged by the top-two lines. They both need to get quicker and that will come with technical work on their skating and through the pace of the USHL. They need to learn how to properly give checks, roll-off checks, and improve their agility. But, they are both smart enough that they will figure it out quickly. They will only be taking a few community college classes and this will be their first year of focusing soley on total hockey. Their weight is coming and part of them going to the USHL for a year is so they can add that physical stature to play in the NCAA. They both have the tremendous work-ethics and brilliant hockey minds to get it done."

Justin Daniels 62nd overall, center, 6-2, 156 pounds, Kent High
25gp, 17g, 37a, 54pts, 10pims

Sharks Eastern United States Scout Jack Gardiner on Justin "He's a good skater and a very tough kid. He's an excellent playmaker and goal scorer with a tremendous shot."

McKeen's Hockey Eastern United States Scout Vincent Mantolbano had this to say about Justin "He has the combination of hands, speed, and offensive ability. He has a long stride and the ability to take the puck in the defensive zone and quickly turn up ice with it. He cycles the puck very well and showed good hands in tight and ability to play through traffic. When he has the puck, he really can control the play and the pace".

One NHL scout told Sharkspage "His puck skills are exeptional, he has the great stick and great hockey sense to create plays in traffic. What separates him from his brother Drew is the assertiveness he displays on the ice."

Northeastern Huskies assistant coach Gene Reilly on Justin "He's more cerebral, he likes to go east to west, stall and delay to make plays. Justin has the vision, skill, and I think the courage to make it in the NHL. What separates him from his brother is his creativity."

Drew Daniels 194th overall, RW, 6-1 158, Kent High
25gp, 12g, 35a, 47pts, 14pims

Vincent Montalbano of McKeen's shared his thoughts on Daniel "A solid all-around player, who is more of a playmaker. He has a quick shot and showed good poise with the puck. He's a solid player who is a few notches below his brother in terms of offensive talent, but he does own a quick shot. He needs to get stronger on his skates and is only average playing in traffic."

Tim Burke on Drew "We had everyone in seeing the twins at different times of the year. It wasn’t so much trying to get both of them together, but the other one was still there and we figured it was good value so we took them both. We think that they’ve been growing the last few years and getting a lot stronger and they’re skilled players."

The NHL scout from outside of the Sharks organization told Sharkspage "Not a whole lot separates Drew from Justin, especially not four rounds of separation worth. They are very similar packages, but it's that assertiveness that Drew lacks compared to Justin. A lot of that probably has do to with the position's they play. Justin is a center and is naturally more involved with the game while Drew could let the game come to him more on the wing."

Gene Reilly on Drew "He's more physical and that's probably why is on the wing. Drew gets very underestimated and is a great hockey player in his own right. Drew has some special attributes himself and is not far off of Justin".

Demers on Defense:
They are not related and their styles of play are polar opposites, but the Sharks selected two defenseman on day 2 with the last name Demers in Julien Demers from Ottawa and Jason Demers from Victoriaville. Julien is the next in line of players selected by the Sharks out of the Ottawa 67 franchise in the Ontario Hockey League, while Jason Demers has been passed up in the two previous drafts and is one of the oldest player selected in this year's draft.

Julien Demers 146th overall, D, 6-foot-0 215 pounds, Ottawa OHL
65gp, 5g, 28a, 33pts, 94pims

Tim Burke on Julien Demers "He's a real physical and tough kid with a good blend to his game. He needs some work to refine what kind of player he’s going to be. He's got some offense and some physicality, but we need to get him focused on a type of role."

Saginaw Spirits scout and Director of scouting for McKeen's Hockey David Burstyn summed up Demers as "a swift skater with massive size making him a very interesting project".

Kitchener Rangers and Red Line Report's Michigan based scout Ed Roberts on Julien Demers "I've only seen him three times this year, but he does nothing for me. He has good size at 6-foot-2 215 pounds, but he still needs to fill out and get stronger. Not very involved enough for me in his own end. Not an offensive player or real puck mover. When I scouted him three years ago for the OHL Draft (since he is a late 89) I thought he was a very raw player who had some tools, but I think he has less upside now than I did then. I just don't see him translating because he really doesn't have any pro-calibre strengths".

Jason Demers 186th overall, D, 6-foot-1 185 pounds, Victoriaville QMJHL
67gp, 9g, 55a, 64pts, 91pims

Tim Burke on Jason Demers "We had him at training camp last year and he played really well, but we would have had to commit to a three year deal at the time. He went back to juniors and we had people watch him and it was a consensus that this was a player we had to try and draft. We got to a point in the draft where we didn’t want to risk it and we new a lot about him from training camp."

McKeen's QMJHL scout Grant McCagg shared his thoughts on Jason Demers "I liked him as a late pick and at the least he will be running the Worcester Sharks power play in the near future. He's an exceptional passer and while he's not overly big, he improved his defensive play this year."

The next Toskala or Kipprusoff? Finnish goaltender Harri Sateri
No one does a better job drafting and developing goaltenders than the San Jose Sharks and they may have uncovered another gem in Finish netminder Harri Sateri. He was impressive this year at the World Junior Championships where he outperformed Tampa Bay first rounder Riku Helenius and won the starting job. His athleticism, lateral movement, and reactionary quickness are expentional. He anticipates the play well and has a calm demeanor, but he will need a lot of work on the technical aspects of the position. Sateri is a phenomenal skater for a goaltender and is now the second best goaltending prospect in the Sharks system behind only Thomas Greiss.

Harri Sateri 106th overall, G, 6-foot-1 190 pounds, Taparra Finland
34gp, 2.99GAA, .907SV%

Tim Burke on Sateri "It was kind of a surprise because he was rated really high and we really liked him at the World Junior Tourney. We saw him during the year also and we didn’t think he was going to be there so we had to do some things to get another pick."

Pittsburgh Penguins Czech Scout Robert Neuhauser had this to say on the new Sharks goaltending prospect "He's a smallish butterfly goaltender that relies on his quickness and athleticism to make up for his lack of size."

A two-way forward and a shut-down defenseman, Samuel Groulx and Tommy Wingels
The Sharks traded up to acquire the 92nd overall pick of the 2008 draft and selected Samuel Groulx of the Quebec Remparts. He models his game after current Shark Marc-Edouard Vlasic and projects as a similar stay at home type of defenseman. In the sixth round the Sharks selected Tommy Wingels, a two-way forward who blossomed offensively this year as a freshman in the CCHA.

Samuel Groulx 92nd overall, D, 6-foot-2 165 pounds, Quebec QMJHL
70gp, 5g, 20a, 25pts, 100pims

Tim Burke on Groulx "He's a very good shutdown defensemen and is conscientious at his game. We feal his offense is starting to come around. He has an edge to him when he plays and he’s not a crazy player, but he makes you pay."

McKeen's QMJHL scout Grant McCagg on Groulx "He's skinny and skates funny, but he has some smarts and I know of at least one other NHL team that was hot for him at the draft."

Tommy Wingels 177th overall, C, 6-foot-0 193 pounds, Miami Ohio NCAA
41gp, 14g, 15a, 29pts, 22pims

Tim Burke on Wingels “He really came on in the NCAA tourney. We looked at him last year in the USHL, but were worried about his offense. He got into college in his first year and answered the offense question and he’s a competitor. We got him in the right spot."

Sharkspage's Max Giese scouted Tommy Wingels and filed this report for McKeen's Hockey "Astute two-way player and a strong shot blocker that can take it the other way for a breakaway. Forechecks hard, will finish his checks but can also use his long reach to clog the outlet lanes, will back check and overall works hard without the puck. Has a nose for the net but lacks a good shot. His shot lacks both accuracy and velocity but he can be effective thanks to his instincts around the net. Scores his goals by battling right on the goalmouth, has the awareness to stay there for rebounds instead of skating by the net as so many young players do. Average passer, can make a nice give and go work but other than that he lacks in the way of creativity, vision."

[Update] San Jose Sharks radio broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky posted a video recap of the first day of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with general manager Doug Wilson here. The Sharks full 2008 NHL Draft Center is available here.

[Update2] Real work begins now for NHL draft picks - CP via Sporting News.

Many NHL squads selected players this weekend that will become mainstays on their rosters down the road. However, it's important to remember that the road is likely to be long and winding for most of the young men called to the stage at Scotiabank Place. Very few will be ready to make an impact next season.

"That's the thing about hockey -- it's really a four year process of development," said Shane Malloy, who scouts junior players on a freelance basis. "It's really good for the fans to understand that you have to be patient with these kids. It's so difficult, especially for defencemen, to play at the pro level.

[Update3] Summer Training Pays Off: Justin and Drew Daniels Drafted By San Jose Sharks, BlueStreak Sports Training and Athletic Republic congratulate Kent School graduates on becoming the fourth set of twins selected in the history of the NHL Entry Draft - PRweb.

Fargo, ND (PRWEB) June 27, 2008 -- It certainly looks like twins Justin and Drew Daniels will remain teammates for quite some time. Not only were they drafted by the San Jose Sharks in rounds three and seven, respectively, in the NHL Entry Draft last weekend, but they are scheduled to begin their post-high school careers with the United States Hockey League's Sioux City Musketeers this fall, before moving on to play for Northeastern University in the fall of 2009.

Unlike their counterparts in basketball and football, NHL draftees are nowhere near being on the verge of stardom and wealth. Indeed, the typical NHL draftee is three to five years away from making an NHL roster. What lies between the euphoria of being drafted by an NHL team and actually making the roster is simply a lot of hard work.

Justin and Drew know first hand the type of hard work it will take for them to continue along their chosen career path. They spent 12 weeks last summer training at BlueStreak Sports Training in Stamford, Connecticut, driving 45 minutes from their home in Suffern, New York, five days a week to push themselves past their limits with Hockey Treadmill, plyometric, upper and lower body power, synthetic ice and on-ice training drills. Aside from a mid-July trip to the Sharks' draftee camp, their plans for this summer are much the same.

BlueStreak Sports Training's website is available here.

[Update4] David Pollak notes in today's Mercury News that Trent Yawney should receive "strong consideration" as one of Todd McLellan's assistants with Rob Zettler and Tim Hunter moving to Toronto, San Jose might hire a goaltending coach, and that Lukas Kaspar, Mike Morris, Riley Armstrong and defenseman Brad Staubitz were tendered qualifying offers, and Dan Spang and Jonathan Tremblay were not tendered qualifying offers.

[Update5] Did Your Team Draft Well? You’ll Know in Half a Decade - NYT Slapshots blog.

2008 NHL Entry Draft review part-I: Flurry of NHL trades on day 1, Sharks draft seven prospects on day 2

2008 NHL Entry Draft photo press row XM Home ice

The first day of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was punctuated by 13 trades and a defensive-heavy top 5. First overall selection Steven Stamkos preceeded a massive offseason overhaul of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have been hyping the talented center from Ontario on seenstamkos.com for several weeks prior to the draft. The future face of the Tampa Bay Lightning will play alongside the current face of the franchise Vinny Lecavalier, who is working on a 9-year $77-million contract extension. The addition of Barry Melrose as head coach and the approval of the brash Oren Koules-led ownership group could bring showtime to southwest Florida.

Southeastern Florida saw the exodus Olli Jokinen on the first day of the draft. The Florida Panthers traded their long-time captain to Phoenix to shore up their defense with rugged blueliners Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard, as well as adding a 2nd round draft pick (49th overall). Florida traded up with Phoenix to nab smooth skating 6-foot-3, 194 pound defenseman Colby Robak from the WHL. Without a first round selection, the Panthers also selected the top-rated European goaltender Jacob Markstrom with the first pick in the second round. Negative email campaigns aside, Jokinen adds leadership and offensive creativity to a young Coyotes lineup that has not seen the playoffs since being waxed by the San Jose Sharks in 2002.


- St Louis Blues trade a 2008 fourth-round pick to the Nashville Predators for goaltender Chris Mason. Mason registered a 18-22-6 record, 2.90GAA, and 898SV% in 51 games played for the Preds this season. His departure makes room for Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne. Mason is expected to battle with veteran Manny Legace for starts in St Louis, with talented prospects Marek Schwarz and 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop developing at the AHL level. Reports have Hannu Toivonen going back to Finland, possibly with Tampere.

- The Los Angeles Kings traded forward Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames for the 17th overall pick in 2008, and a second round draft pick in 2009. The diminutive Cammalleri scored 182 points in 224 games played for the Kings in three post-lockout seasons.

- Olli Jokinen traded to the Phoenix Coyotoes, Florida Panthers recieve defenseman Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard, and 49th overall pick in 2008.

- The Calgary Flames traded forward Alex Tanguay and a fifth round 2008 draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for the 25th overall first round selection in 2008 and a second-round draft pick in 2009. The Flames selected 6-foot-3, 197 pound center Greg Nemisz from the OHL. NHL Central Scouting calls Nemisz a power forward type player who likes to set up in front of the net. Tanguay scored 18 goals and 40 assists in 78 games played for the Calgary Flames this season, with 4 assists in a first round playoff series loss to the San Jose Sharks. Tanguay's $5.25-million salary and power play production may be replaced by the more affordable Mike Cammalleri ($3.35-million).

- The Columbus Blue Jackets took a flyer on Russian sniper Nikita Filatov with the sixth overall selection in 2008, and then traded their 19th overall selection to the Philadelphia Flyers for 6-foot-2, 200-pound R.J. Umberger and the 118th pick overall in 2008. Filatov's offensive potential is off the charts, and in Umberger the Blue Jackets add a top-6 forward with a physical element. The Flyers drafted 6-foot-2, 190 pound Italian defenseman Luca Sbisa at 19.

The Sharks stared at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft without a selection in the first three rounds. A first round selection went to the Buffalo Sabres along with power forward Steve Bernier in the Brian Campbell trade, a second round pick went to the Washington Capitals in a 2007 draft day deal that saw the Sharks move up to select hard hitting Boston College defenseman Nick Petrecki (2008 NCAA Champions), the Sharks third round selection was lost in a 2007 trade deal that allowed them to move up and select center Logan Couture. Unless the Sharks packaged a player like the Toskala-Bell trade to Toronto for a first round pick in 2007, or unless they mortgaged their future in upcoming drafts, San Jose was going to have to do its draft damage in the later rounds.


- Tampa Bay Lightning trade their 3rd round 2008 draft pick (62nd overall) to the San Jose Sharks for a 2008 fourth round (117th overall) and fifth round (147th overall) selections, and a 2009 third round pick.

- The Los Angeles Kings traded a fourth round selection (via Tampa Bay, 92nd overall) to the San Jose Sharks for 2009 fourth round and 2010 fifth round selections.

- The Nashville Predators traded their 4th round selection (106th overall) to the San Jose Sharks for 2008 seventh round (207th overall) and 2009 fourth round selections (via Toronto).

- C Justin Daniels, 3rd round (62nd overall), 6-foot-1, 155 pounds, Kent School, HS-Connecticut. The San Jose Sharks have a strong concentration of eyeballs scouting hockey in the Northeast, and they have a history trading up in the draft or going off the board to make sure they get the player they want. Justin Daniels was selected with the first pick in the third round. The New York native and die hard Rangers fan was ranked as the 100th overall North American skater available in the final NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings, and scored 17 goals and 37 assists in 25 games played for Kent High School in the USHSE. Kent hockey coach Matt Herr described vision and teamwork as two strengths of Justin Daniels and his twin brother Drew, and noted that both were working on improving their strength and conditioning (an area where the Sharks strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Potenza is considered one of the best in the NHL). Vincent Montalbano of McKeen's Hockey interviewed Justin Daniels in March where he described his game as poised and relaxed.

- D Samuel Groulx, 4th round (92nd overall), 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, Quebec Remparts - QMJHL. San Jose had the first crack at the fourth round, and they selected Quebec Remparts and 2007-08 QMJHL All-Rookie defenseman Samuel Groulx. His listed favorite player is San Jose Sharks 2nd year defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but his favorite team is the Ottawa Senators. San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke called Groulx as "shutdown" defenseman, one who is aware in his own zone and one who plays with an edge. Groulx was listed as the 76th best North American skater by the Central Scouting Service, and the 141st ranked prospect overall by the ISS. "Samuel was often used on both the power-play and penalty kill units, showing good puck movement from the point and good body position in front of the net to prevent the opposition from gathering rebounds" NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said on the league's draft website. Groulx told David Pollak of the Mercury News that he met Marc-Edouard Vlasic at a 2006 Quebec Remparts training camp, and that he admires the way he plays the game.

- G Harri Sateri, 4th round (106th overall), 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Tappara - Finland Jr. League. After the Sharks success with Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala, I asked one hockey official in Finland why his countrymen make such good netminders. He said Finns are quiet and a little crazy, perfect for goaltenders. Sateri was ranked as the 2nd-highest rated European goaltending prospect by the Central Scouting Service, the 7th overall ranked goaltender by the ISS, 34th overall the Hockey News, overall 57th by TSN, and the 88th overall prospect by McKeen's Hockey. One head NHL scout told McKeen's that Sateri's stock dropped a little this season due to inconsistency. Another scout noted his butterfly style, above-average lateral movement, and his competitive nature. San Jose's Director of Scouting Tim Burke liked what he saw of Sateri at the World Junior Championships, and said the Sharks had to work the system to obtain another pick when he was still available in the middle of the fourth round. Mike Morreale of NHL.com reported that Sateri interviewed with 22 of 30 NHL teams before the draft, and that Sateri pointed to his quickness, stickwork and positive attitude as strengths of his game. In an interview on the NHL Network broadcast, Sateri said that he believes it will not be long until he is the NHL. The TSN analysts dropped a Goaltending Factory reference regarding San Jose. That actually came from an East Bay journalist several years ago who described San Jose as a factory churning out quality goaltenders. It was shortened by this blog as the Goaltending Factory, and it seems to have stuck.

- D Julien Demers, 5th round (146th overall), 6-foot, 220 pounds, Ottawa 67's - OHL. The Sharks dipped into the familiar Ottawa 67's and Brian Kilrea pool selection defenseman Julien Demers with the 146th overall selection in the fifth round. The Sharks note that Demers represented teh Eastern Conference in the 2008 OHL Allstar Game, and that he finished his season as the top scoring defenseman, fifth overall, with 5 goals and 28 assists in 65 games played (94 PIMs). San Jose general manager Doug Wilson played with the 67's under Kilrea before moving on to the NHL and winning a Norris Trophy in 1982. Julien Demers was unfortunately shown on the TSN broadcast in a camera shot of players nervously waiting for their draft selection. When they cut to him for a post-selection interview, he said he was nervous with his friends and family in attendance, but that everyone was happy after his name was called. He noted the depth of defense in San Jose, and the number of hard workers on the roster. With Douglas Murray, Christian Ehrhoff, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Matt Carle expected to be roster players, Ty Wishart and Nick Petrecki as blue chip defenseman in the pipeline, Julien Demers will have plenty of time to develop and refine his physical game. Douglas Murray could serve as a perfect mould, a player who intelligently uses size and positioning to shut down opponents and paste them into the boards. More on Demers from NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards and Ottawa 67's head coach Brian Kilrea is available here.

- C Tommy Wingels, 6th round (177th overall), 6-foot, 185 pounds, Miami-Ohio University - CCHA. The Sharks selected freshman center Tommy Wingles in the sixth round. Tim Burke described Wingels as a player who came on during the NCAA Tournament, one who needed to develope his offense a little more but played well with 14 goals and 15 assists in his first season. Miami is a solid NCAA program, and they ooze talent to the point that even their ACHA D2 club program is one of the best in the country. The official Miami Redhawks website note the Wilmette, Illinois natives goal in the opening game of the NCAA Regionals against Air Force that helped put them into the finals. Where were the Regionals held, Worcester's DCU Center, home of the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks.

- D Jason Demers, 7th round (186th overall), 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Victoriaville Tigres - QMJHL. Jason Demers was selected with the first of two San Jose Sharks picks in the seventh and final round. Demers, no relation to Julien Demers, scored 9 goals and 55 assists in 67 games played for Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. San Jose's Director of Scouting Tim Burke noted that they had him in training camp last year, and that Demers played well. The Quebec Suburban notes that Jason Demers of Dorval won the Dodge Cup midget espoir championship as a member of the Lac St. Louis Tigers in 2003-04. The consensus for the Sharks 2008 draft is selecting talented players that may have fallen to later rounds, and drafting longer term prospects who can develop over time within the organization. Jason Demers appears to fit into the latter category.

- RW Drew Daniels, 7th round (194th overall), 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, Kent School - HS-Connecticut. As the final few selections of 2008 scrolled down on the draft ticker, Justin Daniels twin brother Drew and Matt Carle's brother David were two prospects people speculated the Sharks would move on. The Sharks opted to unite the twin brothers, and Tim Burke noted that it does not matter where either was drafted only that they are in the same organization. They will continue their development together at Northeastern. Max Giese will have more on each of the Daniels brothers in an upcoming post.

Sources: San Jose Sharks, Dan Rusanowsky, McKeen's Hockey, International Scouting Service, NHL Central Scouting Bureau, DudesonHockey.com.

The video clip at the top of this post from the Phoenix Coyotes shows a Darren Pang interview with first round selection (28th overall) Viktor Tikonov. Tikonov is the son of former Sharks assistant coach Vasily Tikhonov (along with assistant coach and current TV analyst Drew Remenda), and the grandson of legendary Central Red Army and Russian national team head coach Viktor Tikhonov. It surprised a lot of the hockey media that the younger Viktor Tikhonov spoke perfect English, but later in interviews and news reports the Los Gatos native described playing pickup hockey at Sharks Ice in San Jose and growing up as a typical Californian. ESPN's Scott Burnside had a look at several contradictions in the young hockey career of Tikonov, mentioning his junior playing days with the Santa Clara Blackhawks, and his move back to Russia to relearn the culture and develop his game on a vastly different stage.

The younger brother of San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle, David Carle, withdrew from the NHL draft after a heart condition was discovered during pre-draft medical testing in Minnesota. The Tampa Bay Lightning selected him anyways with the 203rd selection in the final seventh round. The Anchorage Daily News' Doyle Woody, who just won an award for his minor league hockey coverage, reported that new Lightning owner Oren Koules said of the selection "The kid worked his whole life to be drafted in the NHL, and I didn't see a reason he shouldn't be". Doyle notes that the younger Carle will retain his scholarship with the University of Denver, where his brother won a national championship, and that he will work with the hockey team in some capacity next season. Sharkspage's Max Giese wrote about David Carle after a Mid-Western Elite League exhibition tournament in 2006.

The Mr Irrelevant title, given to the player selected last in the Entry Draft, goes this year to center Jesper Samuelsson who played for Timra in Sweden. He was selected with the 30th pick in the seventh round (211th overall) by the reigning Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, who had success drafting Henrik Zetterberg with the 210th overall pick in the 1999 entry draft. Zetterberg earned the Stanley Cup series winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. That pick appears to have worked out for the Red Wings.

Note: Sharkspage contributor and McKeen's Hockey Midwestern scout Max Giese has a much more in-depth draft review coming up later today. A short Strikeforce Friday night MMA preview and media recap also will be posted shortly.

[Update] Sharks Conclude 2008 Draft with Seven Picks, Sharks Move Up In 3rd, 4th and 5th Rounds To Select Targeted Prospects - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] NHL draft, day 2: Sharks spring into action - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog for the SJ Mercury News.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks announce schedule matrix

The Worcester Sharks today announced their opponents for the 2008-2009 AHL regular season. The American Hockey League plays a divisional heavy, unbalanced schedule. That schedule will be released some time in August.

The WorSharks will play 56 divisional games, playing the Lowell Devils (NJ), Portland Pirates (Buffalo), Providence Bruins (Boston), and Springfield Falcons (Edmonton) ten times each. They will also play the Manchester Monarchs (LA) and Hartford Wolf Pack (NY Rangers) eight times each.

Added to the schedule are twenty games against East Division opponents. The WorSharks will play the Albany River Rats (Carolina), the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders), and Norfolk Admirals (TB) four times each, while adding the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh), the Philadelphia Phantoms (Philadelphia), Hershey Bears (Washington), and the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa) for two games each.

The WorSharks will play just two Western Conference opponents, the Houston Aeros (Minnesota) and San Antonio Rampage (Phoenix) twice each.

Games will be evenly split home and away.

The matrix is nearly identical to last season, with the loss of two games against Manchester and the addition of Binghamton being the only changes.


Sharks re-sign Joe Pavelski, Brian Boucher and Jeremy Roenick, conference call transcripts from Doug Wilson, Joe Pavelski, Brian Boucher

San Jose Sharks NHL photo Joe Pavelski
San Jose Sharks NHL goaltender photo Brian Boucher

The Sharks announced a trio of player signings earlier today. Group II restricted free agent center Joe Pavelski signed a 2-year contract, and Group III unrestricted free agents Brian Boucher and Jeremy Roenick each agreed to a 1-year deals. Terms of the contracts were not released in the afternoon conference call with reporters as per team policy.

Second year center Joe Pavelski set career regular season highs in goals (19), assists (21) and points (40), and emerged as a playoff scoring threat with 5 goals, 9 points, and 3 game winning goals. Backup goaltender Brian Boucher only saw 5 regular season appearances and 3 starts, but he provided a veteran option in goal while registering a 3-1-1 record, 1.76GAA, .932SV% with one shutout. Doug Wilson mentioned a larger role for Boucher next season, and the NHL veteran cited the quality of the team and the city as two of the reasons he returned to the Sharks. High profile center Jeremy Roenick contributed 14 goals and 33 points this season, with 10 game winning goals and 3 shootout deciding tallies. Roenick expressed a desire to return for another season earlier this summer at the State of the Sharks team conference with fans.

The Sharks hold exclusive negotiating rights with unrestricted free agents Brian Campbell, Patrick Rissmiller, Jody Shelley, Curtis Brown and Tomas Plihal until July 1st. Unsigned restricted free agents from last year's roster include Ryane Clowe, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, and Lukas Kaspar. Free Agency begins on July 1st, and the first possible day for training camp to start is September 19th.

Partial conference call transcript from general manager Doug Wilson:

"We have some outstanding young goalies in the pipeline, and they need to play. We are at the point with Brian that we worked very hard to get the right guy. We were complimented that he wanted to come back and be a part of this team. We have the best goalie tandem in the league. The leadership he showed in the room, how he played, bottom line he got it done on the ice. I am very impressed that Brian wanted to come back and continue this."

"Joe (Pavelski) did have a strong year last year. He's won national championship and came from a program where he did all things when he was there. He played on both ends of the rink, he is a big time player, we think he is right on track. I am not going to limit my expectations of him, I think he can be a heck of a player. He wants the puck on his stick, he wants to be on the ice when the game is on the line. He certainly gained respect in that dressing room as the year went on. For him to step up and get this deal done for us at this time, that tells you a lot about Joe. He is also getting married, so he had some other stuff to handle. I am glad he stepped up right now."

"Our discussions with Brian (Campbell) are ongoing. I wanted to share that with everybody, and that is how we will proceed."

"Jeremy and I have talked about (his coming back) a year ago. Lets see how this works out, and I can't give him enough credit what he did last year. It is one thing for a guy to say I want to play, and it is another thing to put the work in and get to the fitness level he got to, but he went and did it. You could see he was excited about playing the game at that level, and he was committed to wanting to win. We talked shortly after the year was over, after the trainers and the medical guys sat him down, and we said it is going to have to be the same guidelines. You are going to have to play hard, you are going to have to do the things you did this year. Not only what he did on the ice, but he took some younger guys under his wing and had a huge impact on them..."

"(Joe Pavelski's contract) is a deal that works for everybody. I think that is where the deal fell. He knows under this CBA you can not be overly creative with options and bonuses. He knows he has another level to his game, and so do we. We think it is a fair deal at this point for both parties. We got it done pretty quickly."

"The two of them had a great relationship (Nabokov and Boucher). I think they have great respect for each other, and obviously he went 3-1-1 with us. I think his save percentage is over 930, so he got it done on the ice. That is how you really command respect from your teammates. He and Nabber worked really well together. I don't think you will see Nabber playing the same number of games as he did last year. When you have to guys like this it enables the goal of being healhty and rested come playoff time. When you have two guys like this, knock on wood, that should take place."

"We are looking at everything (free agents). Obviously we can not comment on other teams because they are other team's property until July 1st. We are looking to take care of our own business, but yeah we have mapped out all sorts of options with players that could be available. We are prepared, we also look at potential trades, there are many ways to acquire players. Draft, trade, free agency, we have explored all routes in the past and we will do so moving forward. A lot of those discussions take place when you have all the GM's together in the same building at the draft. It escalates some of those conversations."

"I don't think we have to free up any money (by trading Patrick Marleau). I don't know where that perception is coming from. We have always positioned ourselves to have the pieces we want. Players we have we are trying to keep and add to that. Yes there are a lot of teams calling and asking about a lot of our players, and we take it as a great compliment. You should be worried when they don't call and they don't like our players. We leave it at that. I take every phone call that comes from every GM. You learn from what they ask about. Having said that, we think we have a pretty good hockey team with the players we have, with the experience they have over the last few years, with the new coach. With that, some of these players will have to re-earn their equity. We may adjust how we play a little bit. Patrick Marleau, I am not sure why he gets asked about more than any of our other guys, because I get calls from other GMs about 10-12 of our players..."

"We have sent out qualifying offers for the (RFA's) you talked about (Clowe, Ehrhoff, Goc). Do we have ongoing negotiations, yes. Are we making progress, yes we are... I am getting very close in talks with two of the three (free agents Curtis Brown, Patrick Rissmiller, and Jody Shelley). I am getting very close with Jody Shelley. Jody obviously brings a certain element when you are playing in this division and in this conference. He played well, and certainly fufilled his physical role. You have a tough team, but he also showed that he was capable of playing in situations that impressed a lot of people. We are close on Shelley, and I will talk to the other two in the next few days. I got back really yesterday. I am scheduled to have more conversations, and we will have more decisions before July 1st."

Partial conference call transcript from center Joe Pavelski:

"Last week (Todd McLellan) contacted me, we had a great conversation. He told me what to expect. A litte bit more offensively, defense still has to be there. He talked more about the team, and how bad we are going to want to win. What are we going to do to win. Are we going to be ready and compete every day. He has those expectations. He didn't really say we are going to be playing here with that. You don't really expect a coach to come out and say that because it is a game of hockey, and there are so many reads over the course of a season anything can happen. So we are going to train hard over summer, come into camp in good shape ready to go, and pretty much the whole team is going to have that attitude coming back in."

"I think last year was interesting. I think it goes all the way back to the previous year. I got off to a pretty good start and then kind of hit a wall, had a little injury. Didn't finish the way I wanted to finish. I think any hockey player wants to finish with his best at the end of the year. Going into (last summer) that was a big thing for me, to get stronger and be able to last the whole season. That is important. I came in, started off kind of slow. It was around 8-10 minutes of ice time a night for awhile. Towards the end of the season, the last 20-25 games I started playing on a bit of a roll and was able to produce more point wise, play a little more. But I think the whole team kind of stepped it up at the end of the year too. Guys are feeding off each other. I am satisfied how I kind of came around at the end of the year, and I think it is a good stepping stone for next year..."

"It is important this summer to continue to grow with my skating ability, protecting the puck, and a lot of that comes from just getting stronger. As you get older, you learn a lot more how you can pick your spots on the ice. Strength is a big one for me, that will kind of lead into every aspect of my game."

"The date of the wedding is July 12th..."

"I took a lot from (Jeremy Roenick) last year. He was really good with me, and he was really good with a lot of young guys. He showed us the way and told us how it used to be back in his days, and how it has got to be in today's game. He showed us those things. I think guys felt comfortable around him, he challenged us, but he was honest too. We took that in stride, and we got better as the year went on. Having him around, because he was retired a year ago. He came to the Sharks organization knowing he would have a chance to win a Stanley Cup. The expectations are right there. We have a few changes, but the same core group of guys will be back. He sees that, and it is exciting to be around. He brought the energy, and I think he will expect that from us and we will expect that from him and more."

Partial conference call transcript from goaltender Brian Boucher:

"I really have not talked about (expectations of playing time) with anybody. Obviously coming back I hope to play a little more than the combined backups did last year. That is a lot of games for Nabby to play. I think is a matter of what the coaching staff wants to do..."

"I think before July 1st I am not able to speak to any other team. My only other place I was looking was potentially Europe, mainly Russia. That was the only other area I was looking at. At the end of the day, I think San Jose was probably the best place for me family-wise. That is why I ended up here, and there was a great experience last year. That is one of the reasons I want to go back there. There were a lot of great people, and I wanted to be a part of that again. With the team we have, I think we have a great chance to win. Every goaltender wants to be on a winning team, and hopefully we can do that next year."

"For me personally, going down to Philadelphia (AHL) last year I played 42 games up until the trade deadline. I think it was good for me to be able to get my game back. I had not been able to play a lot the last couple of years, and I think maybe as an athlete it is not other people second guess you it was second guessing myself... You want to rely on past experiences but you need to play. By playing last year in the minors I was able to get my confidence back. I think I was well prepared coming to San Jose to do a good job. Things went pretty well in my starts. The team we had too, it is not really hard to play behind those guys. It was really enjoyable playing behind them. Getting my game back in order and stepping into a good situation, it made for a good fit. Hopefully we can continue that next season."

"Any goaltender would love to play more. I think Nabby would like to play all 82, who knows. The fact of the matter was that I was very fortunate to be back in the National Hockey League and have an opportunity with a great team. Beggars can't be chosers. You earn your playing time. I don't expect anyone to hand anything to me. If I have to work to get more games, than hopefully thats what I can do. I would like to play more than once every 20 games. We will see how it plays out. With the new coaches and new people to impress, hopefully I can do a job for them and give Nabby the amount of rest needed to keep him sharp all day long."

[Update] Sharks sign Pavelski, Roenick and Boucher - TSN.

[Update2] The Associated Press via Sportsnet.ca reports that Pavelski's 2-year contract is worth a total of $3.275 million, Jeremy Roenick's 1-year deal was signed for $1.1 million. According to the Mercury News' David Pollak, Brian Boucher's 2008-09 compensation will be $650,000. Rough blog estimates have the Sharks committed to just under $43 million in salary next season with key players left to sign. Reports have the 2008-09 NHL salary cap rising to $56.7 million based on increased revenues, with a salary floor of $40.7 million.

Todd McLellan reportedly will hire Trent Yawney as assistant coach, Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler to follow Ron Wilson to Toronto

The Globe and Mail's Tim Wharnsby reported over the weekend that new Sharks head coach Todd McLellan is expected to bring in his former WHL Saskatoon Blades teammate Trent Yawney as an assistant coach. Yawney coached the AHL Norfolk Admirals for five seasons before registering a 33-55-15 record over two seasons as the Chicago Blackhawks head coach from 2005-07. Yawney earned AHL coach of the year honors in 2004, and lead his club to five straight playoff appearances. In a 12-year career as an NHL defenseman, Yawney scored 27 goals and 102 assists in 593 games played for Chicago, Calgary, and St Louis. David Pollak of the Mercury News notes that former Sharks and current front office members Mike Ricci and Bryan Marchment might be among the candidates for assistant coaches as well.

Former San Jose Sharks assistant coaches Rob Zettler and Tim Hunter are reportedly following former head coach Ron Wilson to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hunter served alongside Wilson for six years as a Sharks assistant coach primarily working with forwards, and became one of the first professional coaches to be certified by the Positive Coaching Alliance. Rob Zettler was an original Shark, spending two years playing for San Jose during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

[Update] Pavelski enjoys trip back home - Scott Williams for the Wausau Daily Herald.

The former Stevens Point Area Senior High athlete has been able to fit one cure for any potential bouts of homesickness in with his Advanced Hockey School -- a youth hockey camp Pavelski conducts at Ice Hawks Arena in June each of the last three years.

The week-long camp enables Pavelski an opportunity to teach and help young hockey players in the area as they climb through the youth ranks -- something not available to him growing up. Perhaps even more important, the camp also offers him a chance to give something back to a community that supported him throughout his development into an NHL-caliber player.

[Update2] Barry Melrose Named Head Coach of Tampa Bay Lightning Veteran NHL Player, Coach Becomes 6th Head Coach in Lightning History - Tampabaylightning.com.

[Update3] The Sharks announced that an October 5th preseason game will be held at the E-Center in Salt Lake City:


SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose Sharks announced that they will be playing a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings at the E-Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 5.

The E-Center was the host venue for the Ice Hockey Championships at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and is also the home of the Utah Grizzlies of the East Coast Hockey League. The game will be the seventh and final game of the 2008 preseason for the Sharks.

Former Sharks marketing manager Kirk Berridge launches fanmedianetwork.com, holds casting call for video reporters

Former Sharks and 49ers marketing manager Kirk Berridge recently launched fanmedianetwork.com, a web site designed to encorporate fan reporting, photography and video coverage into local sports coverage. The website is holding a casting call for fan video reporters to file segments on their teams, with KTVU sports broadcaster Mark Ibanez and former 49er J.J. Stokes serving as casting call judges. Details and guidelines for submitting a video report are available here.

It is an interesting concept. Informative and professionally done video segments covering local sports teams can build an audience, and build an audience quickly the more specialized and more niche the content, but there would be a lot of resistance from teams and sports media for any fans trying to do this on their own. Working with fanmedianetwork.com could bypass a lot of the initial hurdles, and allowed talented personalities to rise to the forefront quickly.

Here is the full press release:


San Ramon, CA – Fan Media Network, an independent news and entertainment media company featuring fan reporting for sports, has an open casting call for local sports fans to become fan video reporters and cover the professional and college sports teams in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was announced today.

Local sports fans now have the opportunity to upload video reports on their favorite Bay Area sports teams to www.fanmedianetwork.com. All editorial, technical and casting call requirements are listed on the website. Fans will join the Fan Media Network panel of judges, including Bay Area sportscaster Mark Ibanez and former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver JJ Stokes, to vote online and help determine the fan video reporters for each of the Bay Area teams.

Call it American Idol meets YouTube meets MySpace for sports.

"In sports, the fans are the ones who drive the values, but you don't see them in the media. We want to enable talented, knowledgeable fans to report on their teams as professional media," Fan Media Network founder and CEO Kirk Berridge said. "American Idol demonstrated there are some talented people in this country, YouTube let us distribute videos and MySpace gave us a place to connect with others but mainly around music. There is nothing like this for sports. Fan Media Network does this for sports."

"The movement of citizen journalism is intriguing and I am curious as a judge and as a member of the media to see what kind of talent is out there for sports fans who think they can report on their favorite teams," said Ibanez, who in 29 years at KTVU is the longest tenured sports reporter and anchor in the Bay Area. "Fan Media Network is taking a professional and organized approach to helping fans produce video reports. At KTVU, we get a lot of feedback from our viewers on their perspective as fans and this gives them a chance at sports reporting."

About Fan Media Network
Fan Media Network is an independent news & entertainment media company featuring fan reporting for sports. Similar to ESPN, but the reporters are fans - talented, knowledgeable, articulate fans that are provided organization, direction and tools so they come off as professional.


G.J. Berg: A week around the hockey world

While rumors have been swirling around the Sharks and league leading up to the draft, they are so fluid and frequent that it is not worthwhile to summarize them on a weekly basis. I'd recommend Spector's Hockey to keep up on all the rumors. He also does a good job of summarizing re-signings and trades.

News of the week

Dallas officials recommend closure and demolition of old Stars venue, Reunion Arena.

NHL Goalie Equipment committee recommends changes, which are approved by the Board of Governors.

NHL Board of Governors approves sales of Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

NHL Board of Governors make some rule changes for next season, including faceoffs, icing.

Toronto Maple Leafs suspend hiring of General Manager (until next year).

NHL and IIHF to meet in July to discuss possible new transfer agreement.

Transactions, milestones

Ex-Flyer Miroslav Dvorak dies at 56.

Ray Getliffe, dies at 94. Second oldest (living) NHL alumnus. Gave Maurice Richard his nickname of Rocket. Won two Stanley Cups.

Ottawa Senators introduce Hartsburg as new head coach.

Carolina Hurricanes extend arena lease until 2025.

Florida Panthers introduce DeBoer as newhead coach.

Former Shark prospect Johan Hedberg re-signed in Atlanta.

Atlanta Thrashers introduce John Anderson (from AHL Chicago) as new head coach.

Draft rumors again focus on Patrick Marleau, report of Brian Campbell ruling out a return to San Jose erroneous

San Jose Sharks free agent defenseman Brian Campbell

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft begin a few minutes ago, but the days leading up to the opening bell featured a significant amount of draft speculation including the San Jose Sharks. The Columbus Blue Jackets have been banging the drum for a trade to acquire Sharks captain Patrick Marleau since early June, allegedly for a combination of one of their 2 first round draft picks (6th overall, 19th overall) right wing Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche or Stefan Legein.

A full comparison between Marleau and Zherdev was made here, but the bottom line is that the Sharks consider Patrick Marleau a cornerstone of their franchise. After a slow start in the regular season, Marleau got hot during the stretch run and continued his annual playoff production against Calgary and Dallas. Many consider Marleau on the cusp of becoming one of the NHL's game breaking players, and the Sharks could very well believe new head coach Todd McLellan is the catalyst to push him over the top. Marleau's $12.6-million contract over two seasons is a considerable investment in his future, but look for the Sharks to retain his services when his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1st.

San Jose is a fairly straightforward organization. A deal for Marleau would have to be on the Joe Thornton side of lopsided in order for general manager Doug Wilson to pull the trigger. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch takes one more crack at the Marleau to Columbus rumor today. Edward Fraser of The Hockey News believes that trading Marleau would be a mistake, noting the Sharks already have a stocked development system and the loss of Marleau would significantly impact the team's leadership. Tim Wharnsby of the Globe and Mail notes an existing personal relationship between new head coach Todd McLellan and Patrick Marleau, and believes that the Sharks do not having the scoring depth to overcome his loss. Former coach Ron Wilson moved Marleau from center to left wing last season, and it allowed him to use his size, speed and positioning more to create offensively. Chuq Von Rospach believes the situation with Marleau will center around coach Todd McLellan, whether he believes Marleau can lead this team to a Stanley Cup or not.

Another name from the Sharks roster was brought up earlier this week by TSN's Darren Dreger in Jonathan Cheechoo. Earlier this season rumors surrounding Cheechoo and his lack of production appeared often in the Canadian press. One the ice it looked like Jonathan still had the deadly accurate release and howitzer shot, but he was struggling to skate to open spaces in front of the net. It was something linemate Joe Thornton mentioned in the locker room after one game, and a look back at Cheechoo's 56 goals in 2005-06 made it clear that Cheechoo was still in the process of recovering from offseason double hernia. Mike Chen notes that Cheechoo is locked in for several seasons at an affordable price, and his shot on the power play and presence in front of the net should make a trade very unlikely.

One report from the blog of Bruce Garrioch resulted in an immediate denial from San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. According to Garrioch, defenseman Brian Campbell was going to test the free agent waters and not return to the San Jose Sharks. San Jose's lone beat writer, David Pollak of the Mercury News, disputed that report with a comment from Doug Wilson that the Sharks and Campbell's Ottawa-based agent Larry Kelly were holding long scheduled talks Thursday and Friday night. Later Pollak quoted Doug Wilson on the statement that Brian Campbell would not return as 'Tremendously False'.

In a short SJsharks.com interview today with radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky on the floor of Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Doug Wilson noted that he was unaware of how the Campbell negotiations have been publicized due to the time spent in the Sharks draft bunker. He also said there are decisions to be made, but there should be news on the Brian Campbell front next week. A report by Darren Dreger on TSN noted that Doug Wilson sent a memo to all 29 GM's in the NHL about the possiblity of acquiring exclusive negotiating rights to Campbell prior to his free agency on July 1st. TSN's Bob McKenzie also noted a Sharks as a "leading contender" for Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina, whose no-trade clause expired today. The Sharks tried to acquire him in a trade deadline deal earlier this year but Kubina allegedly veto'd the move.

[Update] Campbell knows about a long wait, Former 67's star was drafted 156th overall in 1997 - Ottawa Sun.

Max Giese: 2008 Mock San Jose Sharks Draft

With general manager Doug Wilson at the helm, the possibility of multiple draft-day deals this afternoon is not out of the question. The 2008 NHL Entry Draft is stacked with talent and it would be shocking to see the Sharks remain on the outside looking in. After trades for Brian Campbell and the rights to move up and select Logan Couture and Nick Petrecki in the 2007 draft, the Sharks do not own a selection until the fourth round this year. A blockbuster trade, moving a young talent or a prospect could all be in play on a very tumultous draft day. The Sharks could also make very minor tweaks and still have the team primed for new head coach Todd McLellan's first season.

McKeen Hockey's Mid-Western United States scout Max Giese previews the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with a mock draft run through from the Sharks perspective, and notes three prospects San Jose might want to trade up for in each of the first three rounds.

4th round - 117th overall
San Jose Selects: C Nathan Condon, Waseau West USHSW

It is believed the Sharks have been high on Condon all-year, and they have sent multiple scouts specifically to view him. Condon is their type of player, one who is skilled, heady, and a leader on the ice. He just needs to add strength and get an opportunity to prove himself at a higher level of play.

5th round - 146th overall (from Montreal)
San Jose Selects: D Max Nicastro, Chicago Steel USHL

The Sharks have historically coveted prospects that are going on to play at a major Hockey East program. Nicastro is committed to Boston University. He is a strong, tough, and mobile defenseman with an intriguingly raw upside. He is also a California home grown product, and is the type of project on the back-end the Sharks like to take chances on.

5th round - 147th overall
San Jose Selects: D Philip Larsen, Denmark

Not afraid to venture into non-traditional hockey markets in the past, the Sharks wouldn't hesitate to take this talented two-way defenseman from Denmark. He is internationally experienced and more than held his own against the best Team Canada had to offer at this years World Junior Championships, while receiving a lot of minutes in all situations.

6th round - 177th overall
San Jose Selects: D Julien Demers, Ottawa 67s

If Ottawa 67's coach Brian Killrea likes you, than it seems so do the Sharks. Demers is a physical monster on the back-end with great mobility, although he is not an intuitive player and will need to learn how to play a structured defensive game to take his development further.

7th round - 186th overall (from New York Islanders)
San Jose Selects: RW Toni Ritter, Germany

Ritter is a big power forward that is strong in front of the opponent's net and would thrive in the North American game. He has the demeanor of a future pro, and Sharks' European Scout Karel Masopust has likely seen a lot of him.

7th round - 194th overall (from Buffalo)
San Jose Selects: D Lee Moffie, Avon USHSE

A protoytpical Sharks selection, Moffie is an Eastern Prep player that is on his way to a major NCAA program in the University of Michigan. Moffie is big, mobile, and has skill on both sides of the puck. He will need to work on his decision making.

7th round - 207th overall
San Jose Selects: C Mike Cichy, Tri-City Storm USHL

Maybe the next Joe Pavelski? Cichy is an undersized center that lacks speed, but more than makes up for it with his great head for the game and a high skill level. He led his team in scoring this year and is committed to a great program in the University of North Dakota.

Trade-up Targets

1st round - D Codey Goloubef, Wisconsin Badgers
Deceptively skilled, fluidly mobile, and as savvy as they come, Goloubef is mature beyond his years and only needs to add strength. He is very similar to other defenseman the Sharks have drafted in the past such as Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

2nd round - RW Jimmy Hayes, Lincoln Stars USHL
Committed to Boston College, Hayes is a great kid off the ice and a promising force on the ice. He is a big man that plays a big man's game in front of the opponent's net. He is the type of power forward the Sharks' covet.

3rd round - D David Carle, Shattuck St. Mary's
The younger brother of San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle, David plays a similar game as a mobile two-way defenseman who moves the puck very well. He also defends his own zone astutely thanks to strong positioning.

[Update] Max Giese: Sharks Top 20 Prospect Report, spring 2008 - Sharkspage.

The San Jose Sharks 26th overall selection in the first round was traded to Buffalo along with forward Steve Bernier for offensive-defensmean Brian Campbell and a 7th round draft pick. The Sharks second round draft pick will go to the Washington Capitals after a trade that sent the Capitals 2007 first round draft pick (defenseman - Nick Petrecki) to San Jose for second round picks in 2007 and 2008. The Sharks third round draft pick in 2008 was traded to St Louis along with a 2007 first round draft pick (C - Lars Eller), for the right to select center Logan Couture from the OHL Ottawa 67's 9th overall. The Sharks picked up a 5th round selection in 2008 via Montreal (Rivet-Gorges trade), a 7th round pick in the aforementioned Bernier-Campbell trade, and a 7th round pick from the NY Islanders in the trade for defenseman Rob Davison.

[Update2] Sharks draft-day trade history - SJ Mercury News.

[Update3] The improbable tale of a California dude named Viktor Tikhonov - Globe and Mail.

Perhaps the most compelling and unusual story of the NHL entry draft is unfolding on a Friday afternoon, at a downtown restaurant, as Viktor Tikhonov, the 20-year-old grandson of the legendary Russian hockey coach, is talking about his goals and dreams, in fluent English, without a trace of an accent.

Or if there is an accent, it tends to be from Northern California, falling somewhere between Stanford undergrad and radical surfer dude. This is because the younger Tikhonov, despite his surname and hockey pedigree, is about as American as apple pie. He didn't set foot in Russia until he turned 15, and he entered the country for the first time on an American passport. He grew up in the Silicon Valley, where his father, Vasily, worked as an assistant coach and then on the player development side for the San Jose Sharks.

[Update4] The Chicago Sun Times notes that the Blackhawks will focus on defensemen during this year's draft. With the eleventh selection in the first round, Chicago will have to select a defenseman a little furthur down on the draft board. As part of this blog's participation with blogburst suntimes.com also published Max Giese's look at the top 10 defenseman available in 2008.


Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard to lead Chicago boxer David Diaz into the ring for his title fight with Manny Pacquiao

According to a report on 15rounds.com, Chicago Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard is a huge boxing fan. So much so, he will give final instructions to Chicago native David Diaz (37-1, 17KOs) prior to his WBC lightweight title fight with one of the pound for pound greats Manny Pacquiao (46-3-2, 35KOs) in their much anticipated June 28th matchup at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Last month, Denis Savard joined heavyweight challenger Fres Oquendo, Diaz and Pacquiao to sign autographs for fans following a press conference in Chicago promoting the fight. In a dairy entry posted on the Chicago Sun Times website, Diaz said the workout session and press conference was evenly divided between the rabid Filipino fan base rooting for Pacquiao, and the local Chicagoans who came out to support his title effort. Diaz also noted that Savard tried to sign him to the Blackhawks after an "open workout" two months prior, and that the youth movement in Chicago will pay dividends for the upcoming season.

Manny Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach, last seen on this blog in a photo with my brother Mike, was in action last night on ESPN's Wednesday Night Fights live from Sacramento. Roach-trained Roger Gonzalez (27-2, 18 KOs) was knocked out in the 10th round of his main event fight by super featherweight Cornelius Lock (18-3-1, 11 KOs). On the undercard, Sacramento-area native and 2004 U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo (18-1, 13KOs) earned a unanimous 8-round decision win over Cristian Favela (15-16-4, 9KOs). Escobedo is promoted by Oscar de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, and has developed a blossoming latin fan base. A replay of the event is available for a limited time on ESPN360.com.

[Update] NHL's top rookie Kane credits Toews for big season, Gives thanks to Sharp too - Chicago Tribune.

GJ Berg: 2008 NHL Entry Draft Links and news

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft will be held June 20-21, in Ottawa, Canada, hosted by the Ottawa Senators.

Friday, June 20, the draft will start with round one. (4pm PT)

Saturday, June 21, the draft will conclude with rounds two to seven. (6:30am PT)

Television/Satellite Radio Coverage

XM will be covering many aspects live (channel 204 - NHL Home Ice).

Versus network will be showing the first round from 4-7pm PT.

The NHL Network (US) will be broadcasting the remaining rounds starting at 6:30am PT Saturday. NHL Network will also have various "On the Fly" shows previewing/reviewing the draft on Friday (evening) and Saturday; and will also be repeating the draft Saturday afternoon/night.

Reference Links

NHL Entry Draft HQ on nhl.com, which includes the Central Scouting Service final rankings of the top prospects.

Full order of selection (as of 6/11/08), rounds 1-7. (As of 6/19, Sharks have picks in the following rounds: Fourth, 2 Fifths, Sixth, 3 Sevenths)

TSN Draft Centre

Kukla's Korner draft central

The Hockey News Draft Center

Sports Net.ca main page with draft information.

ESPN NHL main page with draft information.

Prospect Information

Kyle Woodlief for USA Today previews top forwards (with links to other positions).

College Hockey News draft preview.

USCHO draft preview.

Background articles

Looking at the history of New England players who have been drafted, including Jeremy Roenick.

An introduction to the world of player agents and what prospects might face.

On family members being drafted, i.e., brother/son/nephew of NHL players.

Looking at the interview process that potential dratees go through (at the combine and/or before the draft).

Interview with NHL's head of Central Scouting, EJ McGuire.

CP's Pierre LeBrun thinks that what the Los Angeles Kings do with the 2nd overall pick will affect a lot of what happens at the draft.

Defensemen could be in the draft spotlight, especially in the first round.

Montreal Canadiens picking late in the draft does not mean that there's no hope for a NHL career.

Hockey's Future mock draft.

SI's Muir's mock draft.

USCHO mock draft.

Shark-specific draft articles

Sharks talk about drafting in the fourth round.

New England Hockey Journal on the Sharks' penchant for drafting/acquiring New England players. (They're the tops in the league.)

Sharks' head scout, Tim Burke, talks about the effort that goes into the draft, especially drafting "late".

[Update] Mercury News article on possible trades to move up and addresses some rumors. Merc looks at the organizational history of wheeling and dealing at the trade.

[Update 2] Brian Campbell talks about being drafted in 1997 (same year at JT, Marleau) in the 6th round, and the slow route to the NHL.

[Update 3] Rusanowsky previews draft. Rusanowsky interviews DW, previewing the draft.

[Update 4] Hockey's Future draft preview for Sharks


Max Giese: 2008 NHL Draft Rankings - Top 10 Goaltenders

Tri City Americans goaltender Chet Pickard 2008 NHL draft

After a weak goaltending class last season, the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is blessed with plenty of talent between the pipes. There is no Marc-Andre Fleury available, but there could be as many as four goaltenders selected in the first round. There are athletic goaltenders with good size and technique available this year, several are expected to go early in the first few rounds. For more draft information the NHL created a solid online guide at nhlentrydraft2008.com, and the host city Ottawa Senators offer a comprehensive resource online at ottawasenators.com.

In the third of a series of draft related posts, McKeen Hockey's Mid-Western United States scout Max Giese provides his thoughts on McKeen's top 10 ranked goaltenders, and tabs sleeper selections and those whose stock may have dropped.

1. Chet Pickard, G, 6-2 210, Tri-City Americans WHL
A big goaltender who is very gifted athletically, Pickard reminds some of Carey Price because of his physical gifts and calm demeanor.

2. Jacob Markstrom, G, 6-3 180, Brynas Sweden
An athletic butterfly goaltender with good size and composure, Markstrom is not as refined as Pickard but his upside is just as high.

3. Thomas McCollum, G, 6-2 205, Guelph Storm OHL
His big and athletic frame covers the majority of the net, but he may lack the mental componet to be a legitimate number one at the NHL level.

4. Jake Allen, G, 6-1 175, St. John's Fog Devils QMJHL
Allen backed-up San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Pielmeier most of the year in St. John's, but he blossomed at the spring U-18's and has the reputation of a big game goaltender.

5. Michael Hutchinson, G, 6-2 185, Barrie Colts OHL
His unorthodox style, impressive physical tools, and tremendous puck handling ability has some scouts seeing shades of Marty Turco in him.

6. Jacob DeSerres, G, 6-1 195, Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
Many believe he outperformed teammate and Tampa Bay first-rounder Riku Helenius this season, and that he is a stand-up goaltender with decent size.

7. Peter Delmas, G, 6-2 170, Lewiston Maneiacs QMJHL
Not the goaltender that will wow you with great athleticism or quickness, Delmas is a technically sound butterfly goaltender.

8. Kevin Poulin, G, 6-2 210, Victoriaville QMJHL
His good size, dexterity, and butterfly technique are the positives, but he is very inconsistent and is easily shaken off of his game.

9. Braden Holtby, G, 6-1 205, Saskatoon Blades WHL
A healthy-sized goaltender with decent athleticism and endearing competitiveness. Holtby didn't progress much this season and struggles to find the puck in traffic.

10. Chris Carrozzi, G, 6-3 185, Mississauga OHL
A big goaltender that is fundamentally sound and fairly athletic, Carrozzi would be more highly regarded if his rebound control and composure improved.

Similar to San Jose Sharks 2007 third round selection Tyson Sexsmith, Spokane Chiefs Dustin Tokarski is a big game goaltender that may be underrated at draft day because of the strong team he played behind. He simply can not be rattled, and his lateral movement is top notch, however he does lack prototypical size. Harri Sateri is the next big thing to come out of Finland, and he deserves a look as high as the second round at this year's draft. Sateri's a decent sized goaltender with good composure and above-average athleticism, although he has the troubling habit of letting in the weak goal at inopportune times.

Coming into the 2008 season it was believed that there were two elite goaltending prospects available in the QMJHL. One was the Swiss import Robert Mayer, who enamoured scouts with his flashy athleticism. The other was Kevin Poulin, a prototypical big butterfly goaltender from Quebec. Both suffered through up and down seasons, and each should be considered a long shot for the first round.

[Update] 2008 NHL mock draft - ESPN.

Chet Pickard, G, Tri-City (WHL)
The sun is setting for Chris Osgood, and Dominik Hasek is done. With returning and emerging talent in all other positions, Detroit GM Ken Holland, a former WHL goaltender, goes for what he knows. The goaltending nominees for the second and third rounds include Jake Allen, who starred for the Canadian gold medalists at the under-18s. Dustin Tokarski of Memorial Cup champion Spokane is a fan favorite, but scouts don't think so highly of him. The Wings, of course, might go with the best Swede available.

[Update2] Trade talks share the stage with draft prospects as NHL GMs head to Ottawa - Canadian Press.

[Update3] The Toronto Sun's Mike Ziesberger notes that the Patrick Marleau trade rumors that are starting to circle the web are originating out of Ottawa, not San Jose. Sharks captain Patrick Marleau and Floridia Panthers captain Olli Jokinen are two of the most oft-mentioned names. The Flordia Sun-Sentinel's Steve Gorten spoke with Jokinen's agent Mark Gandler, who said regarding the originating story from Darren Dreger that no one from TSN contacted him or Jokinen. Gorten also reports that Olli has not asked for a trade, but constant trade rumors may have worn on him and he may be delt prior to Sunday.


Max Giese: 2008 NHL Draft Rankings - Top 10 Forwards

While the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa June 20–21st is deep with quality defensive prospects, the crop of available forwards includes several potential impact NHL players. Steven Stamkos is the consensus first overall draft selection, with either Danish standout Mikkel Boedker or Russian sniper Nikita Filatov sneaking into the top five. The talent drop off after the first three forwards is considerable, but there are several prospects available later in the first round who will be able to contribute at the NHL level.

In the second of a series of draft related posts, McKeen Hockey's Mid-Western United States scout Max Giese provides his thoughts on McKeen's top 10 ranked forwards, and tabs sleeper selections and those whose stock may have dropped with recent play.

1. Steven Stamkos, C, 6-0 175, Sarnia Sting OHL
Clearly the best player available this year, Stamkos reminds many of Steve Yzerman and is a phenom with amazing speed and scoring ability that draws multiple checkers to him every shift.

2. Mikkel Boedker, RW, 5-11 200, Kitchener Rangers OHL
A creative play maker that can also be a sniper, Boedker is a dynamic talent because of his ability to execute at super sonic speeds.

3. Nikita Filatov, LW, 6-0 171, CSKA 2 Russia
Filatov is a game breaking offensive threat, an excellent skater with speed and acceleration and one who competes hard every shift.

4. Cody Hodgson, C, 5-11 183, Brampton Battallion OHL
Character centerman that lacks breakway speed, but has outstanding hands, a bullet shot, and a brilliant playmaker's touch.

5. Josh Bailey, C, 6-0 192, Windsor Spitfires OHL
Bailey needs to improve on his acceleration, but his hockey sense is off the charts. He can dangle the puck with the best of them, while bringing a mature two-way game to the rink.

6. Colin Wilson, C, 6-1 200, Boston University NCAA
A late riser thanks to a strong combine performance, Wilson is a complete two-way player, although one who lacks explosiveness.

7. Nicolas Deschamps, LW, 6-0 182, Chicoutimi QMJHL
An aggressive player that projects as a combative two-way forward, a future NHL second liner.

8. Kyle Beach, LW, 6-2 202, Everett Silvertips WHL
The drafts biggest hot-head and top agitator, Beach can be a dominant power forward. He has soft hands when he is not going off the deep-end, at times takes stupid penalties.

9. Zach Boychuk, RW, 5-9 170, Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL
A smaller winger, Boychuk's also a game breaker with breathtaking acceleration and a great shot.

10. Mattias Tedenby, LW, 5-8 159, HV 71 Sweden
Will be a fan favorite. He is the most entertaining player to watch available this year, and has shades of Saku Koivu in his style of play.

Shattuck St. Mary's center Derek Stepan is not as highly regarded as teammate David Toews, but he is the better prospect of the two and will be a steal if he falls past the second round. Stepan is an agressive puck handler, with an NHL release and blossoming two-way game. While he is not a great skater, Stepan is heading to the University of Wisconsin next fall. Lincoln Stars forward Jimmy Hayes is a big man that plays a big man's game in front of the opponent's net. He has tremendous upside and is also a great person off the ice. He is headed to Boston College next fall.

Mikhail Stefanovich is a forward from Belerus that crossed the pond to play in North America this season. Scouts projected him as a top ten pick, but after a sub-par season where he was tagged as "lazy" Stefanovich would be a reach to be selected in the first round. Russia's Kirill Petrov is seen as a top ten talent by certain scouts, but he will fall on draft day because of his horrible interviews at the NHL combine. Also due to the fact that Petrov's made it quite clear he is comfortable playing several more years in Russia before coming to the NHL.

[Update] Burke Readies for the Draft, Round One of the NHL Entry Draft Airs Friday at 4:00 PM PST on Versus - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Filatov up next in NHL Russian revolution - NHL.com.

Filatov, who interviewed with 24 of the 30 NHL teams during the 2008 NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto last month, takes great pride in playing both ends of the ice. "I like to play in any situation -- defense, shorthanded and on the power play," he said. "The most important thing on special teams is being able to skate very hard and I feel I have the energy and drive to do that. I know I have to grow up and get bigger and stronger, but I don't think that will be a problem because I know how to do it and I'll work hard at it." He captained Russia to a silver medal at the 2008 Under-18 World Championships, leading the team with nine points, including two shorthanded goals, and was named to the tournament All-Star team.

[Update3] 2008 NHL Draft: Final Rankings free preview - McKeen's Hockey.


David Beckham draws largest crowd ever for an Earthquakes game, 39,872 watch Edson Buddle score a hat trick as Galaxy powers past San Jose 3-0

San Jose Earthquakes vs Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer
Los Angeles Galaxy starting 11
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham

Saturday night Bay Area soccer witnessed another milestone. The David Beckham show traveled to McAfee Coliseum in Oakland where the Los Angeles Galaxy downed the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 in front of the largest home crowd in team history. 39,872 fans watched Los Angeles forward Edson Buddle bury three goals, narrowly missing a fourth on a rocket of a shot just outside the post late in the second half.

A sea of white #23 Galaxy jerseys turned out to see former English captain, and former Manchester United and Real Madrid star David Beckham. Beckham picked his spots down the right side, with an economy of effort and pinpoint service in front of the net. The boisterous supporters section behind the Quakes goal had many anti-Beckham themed chants to reenforce the notion that Los Angeles was playing in enemy Northern California territory.

Edson Buddle opened the scoring for the Galaxy in the sixth minute. A touch lob by Beckham was headed by Josh Tudela back to Buddle. The New York born 7-year MLS veteran blistered a volley past an outstretched Joe Cannon. A long centering pass from the left wing by Galaxy defender Ante Jazic was met by a beautiful header by Edson Buddle to notch his second goal of the game in the 63rd minute. Another drive down the left side, this time by Los Angeles rookie defender Mike Randolph, resulted in dangerous ball lofted in front of goal. Buddle gained position on Earthquakes defender Ryan Cochrnae, and drilled a header high in the corner for his third goal of the game, eigth of the season. Buddle missed a fourth goal on a hard shot that sailed wide, after he was sprung by a Beckham through ball in the final minutes.

San Jose's Ryan Johnson and late sub (51st minute) Shea Salinas provided the bulk of the quality scoring chances for the Earthquakes. Cochrane sprung Salinas in the 65th minute with a long ball that split the defense. A touch by Salinas deflected the ball wide left, and he collapsed on top of an opponent in frustration. Johnson had several good looks with the ball, but lacked enough support to provide sustained pressure against the top team in the Western Conference.

Edson Buddle's 3 goals gave him 8 on the season, which brought him within 1 of teammate and former Quakes captain Landon Donovan (9) for the MLS scoring lead. The Galaxy were playing without Donovan and striker Carlos Ruiz, who were absent for their countries World Cup Qualifiers. Donvan scored a goal, and Houston's Brian Ching registered a hat trick in an 8-0 USMNT drubbing of Barbados. Ruiz scored 4 goals in a 6-0 Guatemala win over St Lucia. The Earthquakes were without stiker Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) and midfielder Ivan Guerrero (Honduras) for World Cup Qualifying, and Nick Garcia (MCL) and James Riley (suspension). MLSnet.com posted a full update of MLS World Cup Qualifying performances.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. The Quakes face Real Salt Lake on the road Wednesday at 6PM (CSNW), and return home against the Colorado Rapids July 12th for a 1PM afternoon game at Buck Shaw Stadium.

[Update] The media turnout for the game was as impressive as the fan turnout with a enormous number of Spanish language outlets, Playboy Magazine joining the SJ Mercury News and SF Chronicle, as well as MLSnet.com and Centerlinesoccer.com providing coverage online to name a few.

Soccer by Ives had two contributors in attendance on Saturday night, Nathan Henderson-James and Kevin Matthiessen. Henderson-James noted the logjam up top with Edson Buddle playing behind Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz, and describes the specifics of "Galaxy Battered Fan Syndrome". Matthiessen was not high on the on the field action, instead giving props to the tailgating at McAfee Coliseum which is not allowed at their Santa Clara home venue. The sheer crush of fans in the concourse, outside the stadium, and on the surrounding highways added to the somewhat carnival affair.

[Update2] Jeff Marcus wrote an interesting post on MLS fan supporter organizations on the NY Times goal blog. Audio interview clips from MLS commissioner Don Garber detail how supporter organizations played key roles in the Philadelphia and San Jose franchises, and how next year's expansion Seattle Sounders (including minority owner Drew Carey) demanded an intergral role for their supporter organization.

Garber also discussed the atmosphere many supporter organizations create in European football stadiums. Toronto FC fans have quickly developed a reputation as the loudest and most enthusiastic supporters in the league. This video of soccer chants from ESPN details several of Toronto's in-game celebrations. Not bad, but fans of the San Jose Earthquakes are developing a boisterous reputation of their own.

The San Jose Ultras debuted in 2003, but had to be separated by several sections from the long time San Jose Casbah supporters. The chants are not always appropriate, but many are very entertaining. During a recent ESPN broadcast of a Houston-Earthquakes game at Buck Shaw stadium, the commentators repeatedly mentioned the loud and enthusiastic crowd. This Gooo-San Jose chant with video and photos was taken during the Santa Clara home opener May 3rd. This NSFW Beckham chant was taken Saturday night in Oakland, even a few of the Galaxy forwards laughed when the end zone crowd sang it. It is a short clip so it was looped.

[Update3] Centerlinesoccer.com's Jay Hipps posted a match report from the game, as well as a San Jose based international roundup and a Quakes/Galaxy press-wrap with audio clips from San Jose head coach Frank Yallop, and Los Angeles striker Edson Buddle and midfielder David Beckham.

[Update4] The Los Angeles Daily News picked up Sharks AP reporter Greg Beacham's recap of the game. Beacham noted it was the second hat trick for Edson Buddle in less than 4 weeks, and quoted David Beckham on the quality depth on the Los Angeles Galaxy roster.

[Update5] The LA Galaxy's youtube video channel is available here.

Interview with Centerlinesoccer.com and Soccer Silicon Valley's Jay Hipps

2008 San Jose Earthquakes starting squad vs Los Angeles

Centerlinesoccer.com managing editor and Soccer Silicon Valley co-founder Jay Hipps answered a few questions about obstacles the expansion San Jose Earthquakes needs to overcome short-term, describes the Earthquakes style of offense, notes a possible scouting option when the transfer window opens in July, and details the current status of the proposed 18,000 seat soccer-specific stadium in San Jose.

[Q] As an expansion team, the Earthquakes have played very tight defensively. Injuries and national team qualifying obligations have limited San Jose's options. What injuries or absences do the Earthquakes have to overcome short term, and which players on the roster will need to step up?

[JH] Short term, the team is without Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) and Ivan Guerrero (Honduras) for World Cup qualifying, and Nick Garcia is out until next weekend (probably) with a sprained MCL. Peguero Jean Philippe, who the club took on loan from Brondby, a Danish club, re- injured his right knee and is out for the rest of the year. James Riley is out this week because of a red card suspension. Gavin Glinton is coming off sports hernia surgery but should be available this weekend.

As far as who needs to step up, the great thing about an expansion team is that there's an opportunity for everybody to step up. There are no well-defined roles on the team because they're just getting to know each other; no one is entrenched at a certain spot. (Only four players have started every match: Joe Cannon, Ramiro Corrales, Jason Hernandez, and Ned Grabavoy). In terms of overcoming the short-term absences, John Cunliffe looked pretty good partnering with Ryan Johnson at forward last week, so he'll be getting another start. The big challenge this week will be faced by Adam Smarte, a developmental squad player who is expected to fill in at right back for Riley. Smarte played as a forward in college (UC Santa Cruz) but has been playing right back in reserve team matches. The consensus is that he's fast but there's not much else that anyone knows about him.

[Q] The Quakes have struggled offensively with the lowest goal total in the MLS at this point in the season. How would you describe the Quakes offensive attack in general? Have there been any reports on players the Earthquakes are scouting, and what is the time frame for bringing in a player later in the season?

[JH] The most obvious answer about the Quakes' attack is that it goes through Ronnie O'Brien, but that's not the whole story. They do rely on O'Brien a lot, and his right foot a lot, and his crosses and free kicks are always a threat. That said, Grabavoy has four assists from his attacking midfield position, already surpassing his career best season. As for characterizing their attack, they pretty much have to scrap and work hard to generate offense, but things are starting to click a bit more with Johnson's emergence at forward.

They've been auditioning a lot of guys and scouting more. They're pretty mum about the guys they're scouting, for obvious reasons, but one name that has been mentioned is Darren Huckerby, who was just dropped by Norwich City. Toronto would have to pass on him for the Quakes to get him, though. They've had Rolando Fonseca and Steve Marlet in on trial, among others. No one will know who they pick until the transfer window opens in July.

I think their biggest need is just time, to be honest. It takes a while for a team to jell and we're starting to see it happen now.

[Q] What is the current status of the plan to build a soccer specific stadium in San Jose, and what major dates or city council meetings loom on the horizon?

[JH] Lew Wolff & co. are supposed to conclude the negotiations for the Airport West land by the end of the month, I believe. The zoning switch for the iStar property, which would provide an estimated $80M for the stadium construction, is likely to be considered by the City Council next spring. I'm actually not sure what sort of studies and things have to take place before they break ground on anything.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer a few questions, and soccer fans in the Bay Area owe Soccer Silicon Valley a debt for their tireless efforts to help Major League Soccer return to San Jose.

Centerlinesoccer.com is an excellent resource for local soccer coverage, with contributions from former ESPN, Boston Globe and Dallas Morning News writer Jeff Carlisle, ESPN.com and Soccer America contributor Joe Santos, International Sports Images president and former Earthquakes and CyberRays team photographer John Todd, and video segments produced by Embele Awipi and Harvey Ranola. Three time MLS Cup winning assistant coach Tim Hanley (Earthquakes 2001, 2003, Dynamo 2006), and Jay Hipps also will contribute regularly on their individual CLS blogs.

Jay notes that Center Line Soccer will continue its audio, video, Spanish language, match report, and interview coverage of the Quakes this season, and that senior writer Jeff Carlisle will continue blogging while in China covering soccer during the Olympics.

Max Giese: 2008 NHL Draft Rankings - Top 10 Defenseman

The crop of blue chip defensive prospects available in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft are what make this draft class stand out from previous years. Expect defenseman to outnumber the selections of other positions nearly 3-to-1 in the first few rounds. This is the best draft class for defenseman in several years, and it is likely that 4 out of the first 5 selections will be defenders. There is a consensus group of four defenseman available this year that are seen as head and shoulders above the rest. Other defenseman should challenge for a spot in the top ten, and 6-foot-7 Tyler Myers may have the most pure upside of the second-tier group of defenseman available.

In the first of a series of draft related posts, McKeen Hockey's Mid-Western United States scout Max Giese provides his thoughts on McKeen's top 10 ranked defenseman, and tabs sleeper selections and those whose stock may have dropped with recent play.

1. Zach Bogosian, D, 6-2 200, Peterborough Petes, OHL
He's a big, mean, and athletic horse with a little bit of Dion Phaneuf in him. He projects as the most dominant two-way defenseman available this year.

2. Alex Pietrangelo, D, 6-3 200, Niagara Icedogs, OHL
Some scouts see him as Chris Pronger without the mean streak. He is a big, fluid skating defenseman that plays a complete two-way game.

3. Drew Doughty, D, 6-0 201, Guelph Storm, OHL
He's not the biggest or fastest, but no other defenseman available has as much upside as Doughty.

4. Luke Schenn, D, 6-2 215, Kelowna Rockets, WHL
An Adam Foote clone, Schenn is a prototypical shut-down defenseman with exceptional hockey sense and physicality, but only modest offensive upside.

5. Erik Karlsson, D, 5-11 165, Frolunda, Sweden
A darkhorse that emerged at this springs U-18's as a bonfafide first-rounder, Karlson is a skilled and scrappy defenseman that reminds some of Niklas Kronwall.

6. Colten Teubert, D, 6-3 187, Regina Pats, WHL
The type of defenseman opponents hate to play against, Teubert isn't the most intuitive offensive threat but he is big and mean.

7. John Carlson, D, 6-2 215, Indiana Ice, USHL
A big defenseman with dynamic offensive ability and one of the drafts best shots. Carlson needs to refine his defensive play.

8. Tyler Cuma, D, 6-1 181, Ottawa 67s, OHL
A converted forward with great character and mobility. Cuma isn't a home-run pick, but is as safe as they come.

9. Tyler Myers, D, 6-7 205, Kelowna Rockets WHL
This giant skates remarkably well for a player of his size and while he's raw, all the tools are here to become a dominant defenseman.

10. Jake Gardiner, D, 6-1 173, Minnetonka USHSW
One of the best pure skaters available in the draft and his offensive game is outstanding, although his defensive game needs lots of work.

Two of the defensive sleepers in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft are travelling in similar development paths. Wisconsin Badger defenseman Cody Goloubef hails from Canada and shares the sleeper spotlight with Wisconsin Badger recruit and fellow Canadian Patrick Wiercioch. Goloubef shined this season as a freshman in the WCHA, and is a steady two-way defenseman with an underrated skill-set. Wiercioch is one of the youngest players eligible for this years draft, and he will develop considerable size once he physically matures. While with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, Wiercioch displayed hints of the complete package and would make him a shrewd selection in the second-round.

Oshawa Generals defenseman Michael Del Zotto began the season as a potential top five pick. His offensive upside is enticing and a blistering point shot has some scouts seeing shades of Bryan McCabe, but his defensive game is full of holes and his pivots are terribly slow. Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman Yann Sauve is another defenseman heavily hyped as a potential top ten pick coming into the year, only to finish as a probable second rounder. Sauve stock dropped because of a questionable hockey IQ and at times error-prone play with the puck. That said, Yann Sauve is a big defenseman that moves well and can be effective when he simplifies his game.

[Update] The new NHL Network Online video portal has an entire draft channel in the leadup to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft June 20–21th at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. The draft channel features individual Gatorade combine features on several prospects including Danish standout Mikkel Boedker, Tyler Cuma, Luke Schenn, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo and Steven Stamkos among many others. Tell them Sharkspage sent you.

[Update2] USA Hockey: Gavin Hartzog Interview - McKeen's Hockey.


Evgeni Nabokov finished second to Martin Brodeur in Vezina voting, rest of NHL scratches its collective head

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov robbed in Vezina voting
Evgeni Nabokov Stanley Cup Playoffs Calgary Flames
2008 Vezina Trophy voting Evgeni Nabokov Martin Brodeur

In a decision predicted several months earlier on this blog, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur (44-27-6, 2.17GAA, .920SV%, 4SO, 77GP) was awarded his fourth Vezina Trophy (2003, 2004, 2007, 2008) during the NHL Awards banquet in Toronto on Thursday. Half of the 30 general managers in the NHL gave Brodeur their first place vote, and he finished with a razor thin 113-106 lead over second placed Evgeni Nabokov (46-21-8, 2.14GAA, .910SV%, 6SO, 77GP). Nabokov earned 13 first place votes, and Henrik Lundqvist and Miikka Kiprusoff were tied with 1 first place vote apiece.

Martin Brodeur helped changed the face of modern goaltending in the NHL, becoming the youngest goaltender to reach the 500th win plateau on November 17th, 2007 with a 6-2 win over Philadelphia. This year Brodeur registered his seventh 40+ win season, and passed George Hainsworth and Terry Sawchuk for 2nd all-time in most minutes played and shutouts according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger. The Montreal-born goaltender has consistently given the New Jersey Devils an opportunity to win night in and night out over the course of his 14 year NHL career.

Giving the award to Martin Brodeur, no harm no foul, a tough toss-up decision? Not even close. Evgeni Nabokov had his first unfettered opportunity this season to play without co-#1's Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala looking over his shoulder pads. How did Nabokov respond? He started the first 43 games of the season for San Jose, provided solid leadership along with Joe Thornton during a rocky start, and at times seemed generally disturbed that he was not given the opportunity to start all 82 games.

The league office failed to give Nabokov the memo during the NHL Allstar Game Skills Competition that he was only there as decorative flourish. He charged out of his net to smother several trick shot opportunities. A day later, the focused and combative Nabokov shutout the Eastern Conference in the second period, becoming the first ASG goaltender to register a shutout period since 2002. After the second of two highlight reel saves on Ilya Kovalchuk, Nabokov left the star power forward collapsed on the ice and talking to himself.

One hitch in Nabokov's Vezina-worthy season may have occured at the start of a grueling 8-game February road trip. San Jose looked lethargic and lifeless in back-to-back home losses against Calgary and Edmonton. They carried that uninspired play on the road against the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils. It was the biggest East Coast media stage in the National Hockey League, with what had to be a number of general manager eyeballs looking on, and the Sharks were outworked and outscored 9-5 en route to a 5-game losing streak.

The turnaround was as sudden as it was remarkable. A 2-goal third period against Philadelphia, and an overtime shootout win at Pittsburgh preceeded the trade deadline acquisition of offensive-defenseman Brian Campbell. With Campbell in tow, the goals and the wins piled up at an incredible pace. The Sharks won 11 straight games, and finished with a 20-game point streak before two throwaway losses at Los Angeles and Dallas.

Vezina Trophy voting takes place at the end of the regular season, but Nabokov tried to buoy a wildly turbulent Sharks team in the postseason. A 2-0 shutout win in the second game against Calgary in the Western Conference Quarterfinals witnessed a jaw dropping Nabokov robbery of former Sharks captain Owen Nolan. A hard pass hit a wide open Nolan in the slot. Nabokov exploded from the post to his left, and blindly stuck out his glove to stop a high shot he did not see coming. Nabokov faced off against Dallas goaltender Marty Turco in the Western Conference Semifinals like two protagonists in a spaghetti western. After spotting the Stars a 3-0 series lead after two overtime losses, the Sharks stormed back with back-to-back wins to make it a competitive series. Game 6 of the Dallas-SJ series was one for the ages. The 4 overtime classic saw each goaltender trade saves until the wee hours of the Dallas morning, but a game saving Nabokov stop on Brad Richards at the end of the first overtime left many speechless. Again, he exploded to his left and picked the puck out of the air after it had partially crossed the goal line. The entire puck needs to cross the goal line. After video review, save Nabokov.

The postseason ended abrubptly after two rounds for the San Jose Sharks, who were favored by many to make a long playoff run. Evgeni Nabokov was on the first plane to Canada to represent Team Russia for the 2008 IIHF World Championship. Nabokov earned five straight wins, including two shutouts and a 5-4 win over Team Canada's Allstar lineup. Russia earned its first World Championship gold medal in 15 years.

Brodeur is a legend who registered a stellar performance, but the strength of conference/division, and the consistent dominance Evgeni Nabokov displayed throughout the year should have put him on another level. Reputation, a lack of exposure, and the paucity of media coverage on the West Coast had as much to do with the Vezina Trophy voting this season as wins, GAA, and save percentage.

[Update] Brodeur a deserving Vezina Trophy winner - Ken Campbell's THN.com blog.

But here's where the case for Marty gets its legs: Brodeur faced 2,089 shots this season, 200 more than either Nabokov or Lundqvist faced. One of the enduring myths about Brodeur is that he benefits by playing for a defensive team that doesn’t give up many shots, but the fact is Brodeur faced the fourth-most shots of any goalie in the league this season and has faced the second-most shots each of the previous two seasons.

In fact, the Devils were outshot in 35 games this season, which brings me to my next point: If you base a goalie's worth on stealing games in which his team has been outshot, then Lundqvist should be your man. The Rangers were outshot in just 18 games this season and they had a 9-3-6 record for a .667 points percentage. The Devils were 18-13-4 (.571) and the Sharks were 10-9-2 (.524) in games in which they were outshot.

Also, since the goaltender has the most important position in the shootout, that has to be taken into account and Brodeur was by far the best in that category. This season, the Devils were 8-4 in shootouts with a .744 save percentage, compared to 6-6 and .550 for the Sharks and 6-7 and .690 for the Rangers.

Shootouts were an area where Brodeur has a clear edge, but the shot totals for each netminder are misleading. San Jose piled up shots on goal this season, several times outshooting teams with a near 2-to-1 margin. The problem is, many of the shots were from the perimeter without bodies or traffic in front of the net. The goaltender had a clear lane to make the save. It is a factor that should be thrown into the mix, but not one that should be weighted heavily over any other.

[Update2] Brodeur Clinches Vezina Trophy - Stan Fischler for MSG.

If the Maven had a vote –- I did not –- I would have picked Brodeur and for a very simple reason: he started the season with a no-name defense that included the likes of Mike Mottau and Sheldon Brookbank; plus, his forwards found it extremely difficult to score goals. Despite opening the campaign with nine-straight road games, the Devils soon became competitive and, somehow, actually managed to finish the season AHEAD of the Rangers, although they lost seven straight to the Blueshirts.

Fischler also notes a mini-feud between first place winner Martin Brodeur and third placed Henrik Lundqvist. Brodeur noted Lundqvist's weird style in a much publicized Sports Illustrated article, but both goaltenders expressed mutual respect for each other during the awards ceremony.

Fischler mentions New Jersey's difficulty scoring goals this season. A popular misconception is that the Sharks were the run-and-gun team many saw with Brian Campbell all season long. For much of the year, San Jose had to grind out 1-goal games with a suffocating defense and solid 2-way play.

Another interesting statistic, the New York Rangers finished with 199 goals against this season, New Jersey 197, San Jose 193. Considering San Jose had to face division rivals Dallas and Anaheim 8 times a year, and cup winning Detroit 4 times, those figures are all the more impressive.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks fans furious over Vezina vote, Brodeur win - Yahoo Puckdaddy.

[Update4] The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle discussed the Vezina selection here, and pointed to this quality of shot statistical breakdown from San Francisco's Gabe Desjardin. Very interesting, although I think you have to weigh entire season including the stretch run in order to draw any conclusions. More from James Mirtle, and stats from me in the comments, is available here.

[Update5] No Borscht for You! Nabokov snubbed in Vezina race - Mike Lee for TheFeeder.com.

Then again, perhaps Nabokov has grown accustomed to the disappointment of finishing second. Since winning the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 2001, Nabokov has been bounced from the playoffs in the 1st round once (2001 vs St Louis), the 2nd round four times (2002 vs Colorado, 2006 vs Edmonton, 2007 vs Detroit, and 2008 vs Dallas) and the 3rd round once (2004 vs Calgary).

Playoff exits do not imbue a sense of greatness in the legacy of any player, much less a goaltender. Leave a decision to a bunch of general managers who may have seen Nabokov play once or twice in a season at best, then it simply comes down to a popularity contest. Until Nabokov gets over the Stanley Cup hump, he'll have to settle for second best if his performance is marginally better than a guy like Brodeur.


Post-press conference transcript of Todd McLellan's chat with reporters

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan Thursday press conference transcript

Here is a partial post-press conference transcript of new San Jose Sharks Todd McLellan's question and answer session with reporters:

"You map out where you want to be at certain stages of your career. I feel right now I am ready to make the jump. I am as full of assistant coaching experience as you can get in this league, but timing is perfect with a class organization like this."

"I like the fact that there is a strong foundation here. There are some other positions that are open right now in the league that maybe don't have a Joe Thornton or a Patrick Marleau down the middle, or a Nabokov in goal. I think that is a real strong foundation. I do believe players are extremely hungry here right now. I think it is my job to give them some guidance and leadership to get them over the hump. I beleive we will have a very captive audience. I look forward to being a part of that. I expect them to respond to that and have some responsibility in that success as well."

"(Winning a championship" is special. It doesn't matter where you win. I don't think that people, fans, or even the players sometimes understand how hard it is to win. How right everything has to go with regards to injuries, calls, your opponents. It is hard to win. So when you do it, you have to enjoy the moment. Is it any more difficult in the National Hockey League than it is anywhere else? I think each league has its own challenges. I think in juniors you ahve a rotation of your top players in and out of the lineup every year. You lose them as they graduate. At the minor/pro level, you have to win two different ways. You have to win championships, but you also have to win through development. Roy Sommer and his group in Worcester do a tremendous job of that. At the National Hockey League level flat out winning is the ability to hoist the cup. I also believe that organizations are at different stages of success and winning. This one is at that final stage. They ahve to move on and graduate, and I hope we can make that happen."

"Naturally that puck possession theme or theory is going to come out, but I think that is kind of a fallacy. I would like to see a strong puck pursuit game. I would like to see us have a strong puck recovery game. If you look at what the Detroit Red Wings did, they have that label but they gave up the puack as much as any other team in the league. But they were prepared to go get it again and to compete for it. We are going to be fast. I would like to encorporate the defense more into the offense a little bit more, get them active. Obviously 216 goals last year was not good enough, so the offense has to come up a little bit more. But that isn't done without being responsible on the other side of the ice. Everybody will be held accountable for their actions. Players will learn what they receive."

"You obviously like to have the puck. There is no doubt about it. Whenever you have the puck you are on offense. I am a big believer in that. But there are times and situations in a game where you just can't continue you have to give it up. But if you give it up with a plan, if you give it up to a certain spot where you know you can go and get it again, where work is efficient as opposed to giving it up period. Now you waste a lot of time, effort and energy defending. I guess that is the best way I can explain (a puck pursuit strategy)."

"I have had a chance to talk with Nabby this morning, prior to the press conference just to wish him luck at the awards tonight. It was a very good conversation. Nabby and I have one thing in common, and that would be our experience in Cleveland, and our connection to Jock Callender, a very good man there. We spent a little time talking about him so it's ironic how small the hockey world is and how many connections different people from different worlds have. I wished him well, and I think he is a person I am very anxious to meet."

"That is what excites and challenges me. The opportunity to take the team beyond where it is right now. It won't be easy. There is going to be many ups and downs throughout the year. There is going to be frustrations on my behalf, frustrations on the players behalf, but if we are prepared to be in it for the long haul. I really believe you win the Stanley Cup day one in training camp. You don't neccessarily win it when you begin the playoffs. You have to build that foundation from day 1. We talking about being a championship team from day one, and we will work on it throughout the whole journey."

"I don't know if I am Mr. Power Play, in Detroit Listrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, they are Mr. Power Play in Detroit. My job is to give them the foundation, something that they can work around. We did not get in the way of their creativity in Detroit. We had some principals that we put in place that they are a must I believe on the power play. We will implement them here. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Pavelski, Campbell, those are tremendous players with a lot of skill. Sometimes as a coach you can get in their way and hamper what they do out there. Principles will be very important, they will be expected to outwork the penalty kill night in and night out. We will see where that takes us."

"This will be a busy week for us. Initially my goal will be to take care of my family. Make sure my children are taken care of well so I can take care of what needs to be done with the draft coming up, with free agency coming up. Doug and I have not really had an opportunity to get into that at all. Obviously the remaining staff members have to be put in place, the next couple of weeks we will get all of that done and we will be a real unified group when the season starts."

[Update] New San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan gave an informative interview Thursday with KNBR 680AM host and burgeoning hockey fan Ralph Barbieri. McLellan talked about a shoulder injury that cut short his playing career with the New York Islanders, a call from Sharks GM Doug Wilson at 6AM the day after winning a Stanley Cup as a Detroit Red Wings assistant coach, the importance of a sense of family within the organization, that Ron Wilson did not neccessarily fail but that the same message may have been no longer heard, that he will bring in a fresh perspective and get them working hard, that there is pressure on the San Jose Sharks to win and he would not shy away from it, that experience was a weakness of San Jose's during the Detroit-Sharks playoff series of 2007, that his role as an "offensive guru" is focused on inspiring confidence and performance in his players, and that there is not a quick fix for the Sharks problems but the pieces are already in place for a solution.


San Jose Sharks name Todd McLellan head coach at Thursday press conference

new San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan
San Jose Sharks EVP and General Manager Doug Wilson
San Jose Sharks press conference Bay Area media

San Jose Sharks EVP and General Manager Doug Wilson and CEO and President Greg Jamison announced the hiring of Stanley Cup winning Detroit Red Wings assitant coach Todd McLellan during a press conference this afternoon. McLellan becomes the seventh coach in San Jose Sharks franchise history. As an assistant coach with Detroit, the Red Wings won the President's trophy in 2005-06 and 2007-08, and finished second in 2006-07. McLellan spent four seasons with the AHL Houston Aeros, earning a Calder Cup Championship in 2003, and registered a 43-32-7 record as head coach of the IHL's Cleveland Lumberjacks in 2000-01. The Melville, Saskatchewan native earned WHL coach of the year honors in 2000, and has never missed the playoffs in 14 years behind the bench as a head coach or assitant coach.

A partial transcript of new San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan comments during Thursday's press conference:

"This is a special opportunity, there are only 30 of these positions available in the world. I feel very fortunate to be involved with one of if not the top organizations in the National Hockey League. I am very excited about it. There are some very good things that have happened here in the San Jose Sharks organization. You don't win close to 50 games a year by accident. There is an incredible amount of skill on this hockey team. If you combine the skill with the will, good things can happen. We look forward to doing that."

"It is my job as the coach to push this team, push them hard. Push them outside their comfort zone, and get them doing things that they may not be comforable doing but while I am doing that make sure they enjoy the process. That is the only way championship teams evolve. I look forward to that opportunity and can not wait for it to start."

"It's a very good feeling, from the first moment Doug (Wilson) called to the moment he offered the job, I felt comfortable. I think the Sharks have done a tremendous job. You don't get that close to 50 wins for a number of years in a row without a lot of talent. It's a matter of getting over the hump. There are some real parallels between the Wings and the Sharks."

"It's my job as a coach to push this team, to push them hard, to push them outside their comfort zone and get them to do some things that they're not comfortable doing, butwhile I'm doing that, I will make sure they enjoy the process, and that's the only way championship teams evolve."

"I had a chance to talk to Nabby this morning. I called him prior to the press conference to wish him luck at the awards tonight. It was a very good conversation. Nabby and I have one thing in common and that would be our experience in Cleveland and our connection to Jock Callander. I wished him well and that’s one person I’m very anxiously awaiting to meet."

"I like the fact that there is a strong foundation here. There are some other positions that are open in the League that don’t have a Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton down the middle or Nabokov in goal. I do believe that the players here are extremely hungry right now and I think it’s my job to give them some guidance and leadership to get them over the hump."

"There is an incredible amount of skill on this hockey team, and if you combine the skill with the will, a lot of good things can happen.” "

[Update] A note from Versus: The NHL awards show will air live on Versus from 4-5:30PM (PT). San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the goaltender judged best in his position by all 30 NHL general managers.

HDnet special on San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez vs San Jose's Josh Thomson debuts Friday

Gilbert Melendez Josh Thomson Strikeforce HDnet

Following on the heels of the Cung Le vs Frank Shamrock all-SJ superfight, San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez (14-1) will face off against San Jose's Josh Thomson (14-2) for Strikeforce's Lightweight Championship in a long awaited matchup June 27th at HP Pavilion. Top-ranked Melendez (5th Sherdog, 6th MMA Weekly, #3 Inside MMA) tore through the competition earning 13 straight wins in the WEC, Pride, and Strikeforce, before suffering a smothering loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida in Japan on New Year's Eve. Gilbert Melendez rebounded with a decisive second round stoppage of Gabe Lemley on the Shamrock-Le undercard. He will meet San Jose based American Kickboxing Academy standout Josh Thomson, a former Stanford University NCAA Division 1 wrestler, kickboxer, and a PrideFC/UFC/Strikeforce MMA veteran.

According to a report on MMAontap.com, HDnet will air a behind-the-scenes 30 minute special on the Melendez-Thomson fight June 13th at 9PM (PT). "Unfiltered: Melendez vs. Thomson" will feature an inside look at Melendez's Fairtex training camp, heavily influenced by Muay Thai champion Jongsanan Fairtex and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jake Shields. Thomson's American Kickboxing Academy training should feature legendary MMA trainer Bob Cook and BJJ black belt David Camarillo, and also includes a segment filmed inside Cung Le's Martial Arts Academy according to a source at HDnet.

More information is available via hdnetfights.com and strikeforceusa.net.

[Update] HDNet to preview "Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson" - MMAjunkie.com.

HDNet, the all-high-definition cable station that is home to a growing amount of MMA content, has produced a preview show for the June 27 "Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson" event. The 30-minute show, "Unfiltered: Melendez vs. Thomson" debuts this Friday, June 13, at midnight ET (9 p.m. PT) on HDNet.

The upcoming Strikeforce event features a headline fight between Strikeforce world lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson. The June 27 event takes place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., and airs live on HDNet.

Back in February, HDNet and Strikeforce announced a three-event deal. The June 27 event will be the second of the three events to air live on the channel, which is owned by Mark Cuban.


San Jose Sharks hire Detroit's Todd McLellan as new head coach, press conference Thursday

The San Jose Sharks sent out an announcement a few minutes ago that a new head coach has been selected by general manager and EVP Doug Wilson. The new coach will be named and introduced to the public during a press conference tomorrow at 11AM (PT).

The press conference will be streamed live on sjsharks.com and broadcast live on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area.

[Update] Helene St James of the Detroit Free Press reports that Detroit Red Wings assitant coach Todd McLellan will be named as the new head coach in San Jose tomorrow. After two days of interviews earlier this week in San Jose, McLellan reportedly agreed to a three year deal and cancelled an interview later this week in Atlanta. Thanks to Paul Kukla and Bill Houlihan of Kukla's Korner for the link.

[Update2] Sharks to name McLellan as new head coach - TSN.

[Update3] New SJ coach: Detroit assistant Todd McLellan - David Pollak for the San Jose Mercury News.

[Update4] Sharks To Name Todd McLellan Head Coach, Former Red Wings Assistant To Become 7th Head Coach in Team History - SJsharks.com.

"Todd McLellan has an excellent track record and has had success at every level of coaching in his career," said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. "He comes from one of the top organizations in all of sports and has been exposed to some of the brightest hockey minds in the game including Jim Devallano, Ken Holland, Scotty Bowman, Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock, along with Jacques Lemaire, to name just a few. We feel that Todd is an excellent fit for our hockey team"...

One of McLellan’s key responsibilities was working with the Red Wings power play, which finished third in the NHL in 2007-08 (20.7%) and first in 2005-06 (22.1%). "It's a very good feeling," said McLellan. "From the first moment Doug called to the moment he offered the job, I felt comfortable. I think the Sharks have done a tremendous job. You don’t get that close to 50 wins for a number of years in a row without a lot of talent. It's a matter of getting over the hump. There are some real parallels between the Wings and the Sharks."

G.J. Berg: A week around the hockey world

For the readers of Sharkspage G.J. Berg will occasionally summarize interesting hockey stories, transactions, and Sharks coverage available online:


- NHL GMs met (at game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals) and discussed a few topics including no touch icing, injury disclosure, intigator rule and lack of NHL-IIHF transfer agreement. No agreements were reached or decisions made. There will be additional meetings this summer.

- NHL Detroit Red Wings win their fourth Stanley Cup in eleven years in six games.

- AHL Chicago Wolves win their second Calder Cup in six games.

- NHL Anaheim Ducks annouces affiliation with AHL Iowa Stars. The Anaheim Ducks also announced an affiliation with the nearby Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL in late May.

- NHL Buffalo Sabres announces affiliation with AHL Portland.

- NHL Dallas Stars announces affiliation with AHL Austin (to begin play 09-10).

- Nashville minority owner Boot DelBaggio files for chapter 11 bankruptcy after multiple lawsuits filed. (He'll have to sell his share of the team to at least pay part of his debts.)

- CBC loses rights to "The Hockey Theme" they've used since 1968 after failing to negotiate a new license and after fallout from 2004 lawsuit (still unresolved). CTV (corporate parent of TSN and RDS) buys the full rights to the song. CBC announces contest for new theme.


- Carolina Hurricanes Glen Wesley retires.

- Vancouver Cancuks Trevor Linden retires.

- Detroit Redwings Dominc Hasek retires.

- Dallas Stars Mattias Norstrom retires.

- Tampa Bay Lightning fire head coach John Tortorella.

- Los Angeles Kings fire coach Marc Crawford.

- Toronto Maple Leafs annouce hiring of Ron Wilson as head coach.

- Minnesota Wild acquire Marc-Andre Bergeron from Anaheim for 3rd round pick.


- Dimitri Patzold has signed two-year deal to play in Russia for Vityaz Podolsk Chekhov.

- Sharks offer Timo Pielmeier and Tyson Sexsmith qualifying offers to retain their rights. James DeLory's rights are not retained (he'll head back to the NHL entry draft).

- Goaltending prospect Timo Pielmeir was traded in the QMJHL to the Shawinigan Cataractes.

- Sharks coaching search continues. Detroit Red Wings assistant Todd McLellan was apparently in SJ Sunday 6/8. San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson talked to Mike Milbury. San Jose has also apparently talked with Peter DeBoer, John Quenneville and John Tortorella.


Transcript of Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson's initial press conference

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala

A partial transcript of Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson's press conference with the media to announce his hiring earlier today:

"This is an unbelievable day for me. The last couple of weeks have been very exciting. Obviously when you lose your job in this league you often wonder if you will get another opportunity. The furthest thing from my mind at any point in my hockey career ever was to have the opportunity to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, with their incredible history."

"I have coached three teams in the National Hockey League, and kind of start underneath the radar and work our way up. I feel I have accomplished those things. I belief a team in transition will need a lot of work. It is going to require a lot of energy and attention to detail, but I am the happiest person in the National Hockey League today. I am fulfilling a dream, kind of completing the circle. When I was growing up in Fort Erie, I dreamed about playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs as long as I can remember. Dave Keon was my hero, Johnny Bower another. I lived and died with the Maple Leafs through the 60's. Eventually I got an opportunity to actually play with the Leafs, and wear #14 my hero's jersey. Today to come back and be a part of the Maple Leafs is basically a dream that I never thought I would get to experience. We are going to have a lot of work ahead of us, this is an interesting project."

"I know one of your questions may be 'why did it take so long'. Well, when you have gone throught the roller coaster that I have been through over the last month you want to make sure to take the emotions out of the decision making process, and make your decision with your head. I think I have been able to do that, slow things down and see a clearer picture. I have had some interesting meetings obviously with Cliff, with Mr Tannenbaum and Mr Peddie as well. I think in talking with my friends around the league, they thought I would be a good fit with Toronto. I decided to make the decision that I would accept their offer. Once again, we are going to have a good time, we are going to get to know each other. There will be good days, more good days than bad days I hope, but you guys know I wear my heart on my sleeve. Occasionally we are going to have some duels, but that is the fun part of it."

"I think in today's NHL you have to be very patient. You see the top teams in the league, and I would like to think I come from one of them in San Jose, every year we were incorporating 3 or 4 rookies into our lineup. The job of the head coach in the National Hockey League today, there is a good part of development involved. You don't have the luxury in the salary cap era of putting guys in the minor leagues for 2 or 3 years for seasoning. You have to do that along with your staff at the NHL level. I am really looking forward to it. I understand the cubbard might be a little bare from a younger players stand point right now, but that is going to improve in the years to come. I look forward to helping, and that is the bottom line in this business with winning and the Stanley Cup. I really get pleasure out of helping young players fulfill their potential. So I am looking forward to meeting the players that are here now, and meeting the players who will be here in the future as well."

"To me (coming to a team with an interim GM) is irrelevant. It is putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Anyone here who has played and who has done puzzles knows there is no exact way to do it. You don't have to have X piece first. I think this job is to assemble the best possible team in any order, at the end of the day the best possible team on and off the ice as well. I think that is what management intends to do."

"No I am not worried (about a new GM wanting a different coach) at all. I have worked with 4 general managers up to this point. I think when Cliff did his homework he talked to the 4 guys I worked with, and I don't believe I have had a problem with any one of them. Whoever comes in here as a general manager, I am pretty confident I will be able to get along with, and I am pretty confident he will be able to see and understand what I can do to help this team as a coach."

"No (I have no involvement in who the next general manager will be). I can go upstairs and bring my contract down and show you. No, there is nothing at all like that. I work for Cliff right now, and I enjoy that. Whether it is for 2 weeks or 5 years, I get to pick a brilliant hockey mind. I plan on doing that. I look forward to this challenge."

"I can't really say what (my expectations) are right now. I don't really know the team very well. My expectations are to put in a defensive system. The one guy I know better than anyone else is obviously Vesa Toskala. I really liked him as a goalie. We had a situation in San Jose where you can only play 1 goalie, you can't have 2 great ones. So we ended up trading Vesa to the Leafs. It starts in goal and you have a great goaltender. I think from watching the Leafs you need a little more structure defensively, and you need to do a better job killing penalties. I guess Cliff would look at my track record and see I do have the numbers to back that up. Defensively, special teams, I think I can make a difference here."

"In today's NHL (a turnaround) can happen in a hurry. The Philadelphia Flyers finished dead last last season and had a remarkable turnaround. I am not saying we are going to be the Philadelphia Flyers, but it does not take as long in the new NHL to turn things around."

"I have talked, if you know my background one of my mentors is Pat Quinn. Before Pat got the job here in Toronto, we had him on board as kind of a mentor in Washington for George and I as we went to the Finals. I have talked with Pat about what it is like to coach here. I have become friends over the years with Paul Maurice. I have tried to lend Paul some support this season when things were going tough. In those conversations you have a general feel for what the market is like. I have talked to other coaches who know me, and they think I can handle the team and the whole atmosphere as well as anybody. I might be as qualified as anyone to handle a situation like this. I don't really have problems sitting down and talking with people, I just expect and open and honest back and forth conversation. Hopefully we can have that."

"Maybe I can make a difference (on the perceived negative media environment in Toronto). I did bring, because I am viewed sometimes, here is my Canadian passport by the way, my American passport is in the other pocket. Surprise, surprise, surprise. I was born in Windsor. Fortunately Richard Peddie was also born in Windsor, at Grace Hospital the very same hospital. We talked about that at our first meeting. I grew up in Fort Erie. That was where I played my minor hockey until 13 years old. Then I moved away. My dad, during those 13 years he played with the Buffalo Bisons in the American League. When he retired from playing, that is when we moved to the States. To make a long story short, Canada did not have national teams back in the day. I was playing for Providence college and had an opportunity to play in the World Championships for Bob Johnson in 1975. All I had to do was become an American citizen. When you are 18 years old, you don't see the difference. What the heck, I get to travel to the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, and the World Championships were in Germany that year. So I took the opportunity, and it was a great opportunity for me. Without USA Hockey providing that experience, I would not be here today. You guys have seen and heard from Brett Hull a similar type of experience. In Brett's case, unfortunately Team Canada turned their back on him. In my case, there was no Team Canada. Canada did not participate in the Olympics or the World Championships, so to benifit my hockey career I made that decision.

"(Keeping San Jose Sharks assistant head coach Tim Hunter) is a possibility. There is a process San Jose is going through, an interview process. I know Tim Hunter is viewed favorably by Doug Wilson, and he should be. Tim has worked with me for 10 years. Those are things that we will sort out in the next couple of weeks. We don't have any games for awhile, so my assistants don't really need to be in place. Hopefully I can get that all cleared away, because the program I want to put in place involves a lot of development in the summertime. But I do have, I am not going to share it with you, a plan A and a plan B and probably a little bit of plan C depending on who may be available."

"We may have to take a step back in order to go ahead. I am just part of the whole process. It is hard for me to answer the questions about who is on the farm team, who is going to be drafted, free agents to be signed, that is stuff that is going to transpire over the next couple of weeks. I don't care who the players are going to be, I wanted and I told Doug this when I left San Jose, is the people I am going to be working with and for. Right now that is Cliff Fletcher. I could not be working for anyone with a better reputation in this game. Cliff will do the right thing moving forward, and have the right team in place, and I am talking about a management team which would include general managers, assitant general mangers and include coaches. He will have the right team in place."

"I am sure Cliff will want to hear my ideas (on the current roster). I can aprise him of my general knowledge of the team as it was last year. I don't have much information on the Marlies, or know any of those players, but the players on the Leafs I would like to think I am fairly well schooled on who plays well and what the strengths and weaknesses are for a lot of the players. One of the things when you are a West Coast team, and I have been there the last 5 seasons. A lot of games are on, you watch a lot of hockey. We play at 7:30 on the west coast, 10:30 your time. So I get to watch a lot of hockey games. I am not just saying this, but I loved listening and watching the Leafs a lot because I loved listening to Joe Bowen calling the game, and Hockey Night in Canada with Bob Cole. As a hockey fan, they made watching the game exciting. Maybe to a point where you get fooled, thinking as an outsider that the Leafs are a lot better. I enjoyed watching that, and I want to be a part of it. I want to make this team better. I am not going to say in a few years it will be 1967 all over again, but you do forget with Pat Quinn here the Maple Leafs came very close to going all the way, a bounce here or a bounce there. As a coach, I have learned you have to put yourself in a position to knock on the door. If we can be knocking on the door in two years, it would be a tremendous accomplishment. Then we just have to knock the door down."

"... I told you I love Vesa Toskala. He has been of my favorite goalies I have ever had. I am lucky enough that I have had along the way some pretty great goaltenders. Olie Kolzig won a Vezina trophy playing for me in Washington. I truely believe that Evgeni Nabokov will win the Vezina trophy this year. I used to flip a coin as to who would be playing, Vesa Toskala or Evgeni Nabokov. That is the truth, they can vouch for that. I think when you look at Kaberle in particular, he is a very coveted defenseman, and Pavel Kubina. Kubina almost became a San Jose Shark, and if he had I might not be the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That might have been one of the missing pieces to the puzzle in San Jose. A little more veteran presence and leadership on our defense."

"... Do I think Mark Bell can help? That is hard to say, Mark has gone through a ton in the last couple of years. Obviously he ran into problems before we ever really got to know him in San Jose. It made that year difficult. That is hard to say. That is something we have to sit down with Mark Bell and see where he is. I have coached a lot of guys, and Mark has paid the price and shown remorse, paying his debt to society if you will. He has been a true professional. At some point, I may be able to finish moving from out in San Jose, be able to sit down with Mark and have a long talk with him to see where he is at in his life and his career. He has to worry about his life first, not Mark Bell the hockey player."

"I can tell you right now I believe the Western Conference is better. The top four teams in the National Hockey League are in the West. A lot of that has to do with goaltending and defenseman. The bigger robust guys on defense are in Detroit, Dallas, Anaheim, and to a lesser extent San Jose. That is why the power is right now in the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference for me means better travel, more quality practices. If you are going to go young, you need quality practices if you can get those. The Eastern Conference is so much easier, although the schedule will be different moving forward. I am still not sure what it is going to be. We have to play everybody at least once. Travel for some Eastern teams will go up, but it is so much easier to coach in the Eastern Conference it is ridiculous."

"I've had maybe the youngest defense in the league the last three years, both in terms of games played and age... 18 year old defenseman can play in this league, if you surround them with the right veterans who can be mentors... It's a little easier to develop young people in San Jose when you have 1 beat writer and 1 television camera 1 day a month. It is more difficult with the media environment you have here."

"Actually you would be shocked (about my relationship with Patrick Marleau). The message Patty left me on my phone when I was released has expired on my phone, but he thanked me for everything I did for him, than helping him grow more as a person than a hockey player, and that he would play for me anytime, anyplace. Yes we had a difficult spring last year, Patrick struggled in the playoffs. I might have overreacted, I certainly did, but we patched that up in a hurry. Patty's struggles this year had as much to do, I think Patty worried all year about a carryover. I kept reassuring him that nothing was going to happen, and Doug (Wilson) did the same thing. His name was in every internet column, I don't know so much that Patty read those things but his wife certainly did, and it affected his play. Once the trade deadline went passed, Patty probably played the best I have ever seen him as a Shark. In the playoffs, a lot of people have told me they have never seen Patty compete like that. In leaving, and I have said this, I would love to coach Patrick Marleau again. We have had our differences. I have had differences at some point with every player you coach along the way. At the end of the day when you close the door, you hope everything is ok. Patty is a great player, and he going to continue to improve and become a great leader in San Jose."

"(Our cycle down low in San Jose) was a result of the players you have. I think that is what you have to do as a coach. I don't have the Ron Wilson style of play. You have to look at your talent and build a system up the ice, on your strengths. In San Jose, we had a big physical team up front and a smaller defense that we tried to protect. How do you protect a smaller defense? You forecheck like madmen, and don't let them in your end. Towards the end when we picked up Brian Campbell this past year, you saw our game completely evolve in 20 games from a dump it in forecheck to more of a puck possession more of a Detroit type game. You try to do that in a short period of time, Detroit has been perfecting their game for 15 years. We were trying to do it in 2 months and it might have cost us."

A thorough review of Ron Wilson's tenure in San Jose, and thoughts on his firing are available on this Sharkspage post: San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson fired after four and a half seasons behind the bench. Video of Ron Wilson's press conference today with the Toronto Maple Leafs is available via TSN here. The full press conference video is available on mapleleafs.com.

Lance Hornby reports that Ron Wilson signed a 4-year $6.5 million contract, the highest contract ever for a Toronto Maple Leafs head coach. The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger asked Joe Thornton to list 5 things Toronto Maple Leafs players can expect from the former Sharks head coach: a large dose of X's and O's, video, instruction, motivation, and a keen wit with the players and media.

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star believes that good coaches can not overcome lousy, overpaid players, and notes that interim Toronto general manager Cliff Fletcher has contradicted himself on several recent decisions. David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail writes that change may start in Toronto with a buyout of veteran forward Darcy Tucker. The National Post's Joe O'Connor adds to the speculation that the hiring of Ron Wilson may lead to the hiring of his Providence College teammate and current Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke.

[Update] Los Angeles Kings head coach Marc Crawford was fired Tuesday. Rich Hammond of the LA Daily News has a crush of updates on his blog at Inside the Kings, including the team press release, an interview with general manager Dean Lombardi, notes on Lombardi's conference call with reporters, an interview with former Kings coach Marc Crawford, and an open forum so fans can express their thoughts.

San Jose coaching rumors heat up around Detroit assistant coach Todd McLellan, Kitchener's Peter DeBoer, and former Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella

TSN's Darren Dreger reported that Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Todd McLellan will interview for the Sharks coaching position in San Jose today, before heading to Atlanta for an interview with Thrashers general manager Don Waddell. McLellan, who was responsible for the Detroit forwards and power play, finished his third year as a Red Wings assitant coach with an NHL Stanley Cup Championship. McLellan coached the AHL Houston Aeros to an AHL Calder Cup Championship in 2003, and was named 2000 WHL coach of the year with Swift Current. Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland cited McLellan's preperation and ability to instill work ethic as two reasons for McLellan's sucess in Detroit.

Darren Dreger also noted that OHL Kitchener Rangers head coach and GM Peter DeBoer may be a frontrunner for the vacant coaching position in San Jose. DeBoer coached the Kitchener Rangers from 2001-08, finishing first in the OHL with a Memorial Cup Championship in 2003, and finishing first again in 2007-08 while losing in the Memorial Cup Final 4-1 to the Spokane Chiefs. DeBoer was named OHL coach of the year in 1999 and 2000, and was an assitant coach for the 2005 Team Canada World Junior Championship team that won a gold medal. He is under contract with the Kitchener Rangers until the 2009-10 season, but has a 30-day window after the end of the OHL season to purue other coaching opportunities. The Ottawa Senators interviewed DeBoer for their vacant head coaching position last Wednesday. TSN reports that Bob Hartley, Craig Hartsburg and John Tortorella are also possibilities to fill the Ottawa position.

Last week there were reports that the San Jose Sharks asked permission to speak with former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach John Tortorella. Tortorella lead the Lightning to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2004, and was awarded the Jack Adams award as the NHL's top coach as a result. The Boston, Massachusetts native finished with a 239-222-36-38 record in 6 and a half seasons behind the bench in Tampa Bay. Tortorella is animated and outspoken, and has a reputation for lighting a fire under a team. In a press conference announcing his release, Lightning general manager Jay Feaster noted that Tortorella changed the culture during his tenure in Tampa Bay. "This was a country club, a retirement home. It was a place players came to retire, they just forgot to tell us they were doing it, John came in and changed the culture, changed the way we do business, and the attitude. And in so doing, he raised expectations" Feaster said. John Tortorella most recently lead the U.S. Men's National team to a sixth round finish in 2008 IIHF World Championships.

Former San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson is holding a press conference at 10AM today (live on the NHL Network) to announce his acceptance of the head coaching position in Toronto. Wilson said that former assistant coach Tim Hunter is being interviewed and viewed favorably by San Jose, and that he has several weeks to determine his assistant coaches with the Maple Leafs.

[Update] Possible candidates to lead Thrashers - Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

[Update2] Assistant Hunter interested in being Sharks' coach, feels ready to step up - San Jose Mercury News.


Report notes the signing of San Jose free agent goaltender Dimitri Patzold with Vityaz Podolsk Chekhov of the new Continental Hockey League

San Jose Sharks goaltender Dimitri Patzold

Globe and Mail and AOL Fanhouse blogger James Mirtle recently noted the free agent signing of San Jose Sharks reserve goaltender Dimitri Patzold by Vityaz Podolsk Chekhov of the Continental Hockey League (formerly a Russian Super League franchise). The 25-year old Patzold has good size (6-foot-0, 195 pounds) and the raw skill set to be a solid backup at the NHL level, but he failed to stand out enough while battling Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala, and phenom-in-waiting Thomas Griess for playing time over the last 2 seasons. Dimitri Patzold registered 16 saves on 20 shots in 3 NHL appearances with the San Jose Sharks this season, and a 7-8-5 record over 21 games (2.84GAA, .898SV%, 1SO) with the Worcester Sharks of the AHL.

Patzold joins Minnesota Wild enforcer Chris Simon, who signed with Vityaz Podolsk Chekhov in May, and former Chicago Blackhawk center and current Vitaz general manager Alexei Zhamnov. A name familiar to many Sharks fans, Alexander Korolyuk, scored 16 goals and 52 points in 50 games played for Vitaz in the Russian Super League this season. Two other KHL teams recently signed NHL players, Carolina backup goaltender John Grahame recently signed with Omsk Avangard, and Minnesota Wild right wing Branko Radivojevic signed a 2-year deal with Spartak Moscow.

The Continental Hockey League's (KHL) inaugural 2008-09 season will consist of 20 current Russian Super League teams, two Russian Elite League teams (second division) Barys Astana from Kazakhstan and Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg from Russia, Dynamo Minsk from Belarus, and Dinamo Riga from Latvia. James Mirtle posted a very interesting interview with Russian oil baron and league president Alexander Medvedev, which along with a second interview by Sportingnews.com's Eric McErlain provide a good introduction to the new hockey league.

[Update] New Russian-based league flexes its muscles - Globe and Mail.


Entertaining Fight Night at the Tank boxing card: Knockouts through the ropes, Hells Angels, and Giants! Oh My!

Fight Night  at the tank boxing knock out
Jr Lightweight Eloy Perez boxer San Jose fight night
Bakersfield welterweight boxer mike dallas jr

Thursday's American Metal and Iron Fight Night card underwent significant changes before showtime, but the result was a 62-pound main event weight disparity between the WBC CABOFE heavyweight champion Manuel Quezada (23-4, 15KOs) and former NFL defensive end John Clark (12-13-1, 7KOs), super middleweight Jason J.P. Peterson (1-0, 1KO) earning an emphatic second round stoppage in front of several hundred fellow Hells Angels, Iraq war veteran Keith Spencer knocking Theron Johnson clear through the ropes with a brutal second round KO, and several up and coming boxing prospects playing their trade under the lights.

The original main event between San Jose's Ricardo Cortes and Jose Celaya of Salinas was unable to move forward, and a second bout between Cortes and undefeated Oakland prospect Antonio Johnson was scuttled after Johnson suffered an injury in training. Manuel "El Toro" Quezada received a last minute replacement for his featured main event fight, enormous 285-pound former San Francisco 49er practice squad defensive end John Clark. Quezada previously defeated Clark with a six round split decision in 2005.

Quezada controlled the pace and action for the first two rounds, creating angles and landing from outside against the much bigger opponent. Clark started to slow down noticeably in the third, as Quezada continued to pick him apart with straight jabs and combinations to the body. Clark appeared willing to absorb punishment with his back against the ropes, pawing with a jab while waiting to unload with a heavy right hand, a right hand that never came. During the sixth, a frustrated crowd at HP Pavilion began loudly voicing their displeasure. Each boxer responded near the end of the seventh round. Quezada backs Clark into a corner and lets his hands go at the 10 second mark. Clark responds with a series of punches as the bell rang. The action continued in the later stages of the eigth, but Manuel Quezada was in complete control of this fight from start to finish. "El Toro" earned a unanimous 8-round decision (80-72, 80-72, 79-73), the 12th straight win for the former kickboxer. After the fight Quezada mentioned that he was trying to wear down his opponent with extensive work to the body, but that the resilient Clark stood tough. He also noted that several of the punches he landed would have dropped his initially scheduled opponent Teke Oruh. Quezada said that he is looking forward to taking a step up in competition, and start challenging bigger names in the division.

The semi-main event featured hot Salinas boxing prospect Eloy Perez (11-0-2, 2KOs) against Sonora, Mexico native Jorge Pimentel (12-7, 10KOs) in an 8-round Jr Lightweight bout. Perez exudes raw athleticism and speed and power, but against a hard punching veteran Pimentel this fight became a chess match early. Pimentel actually established a higher work rate at the start of the first, with Perez looking to land on the counter. Eloy Perez started to find holes in the second and third, moving well but possibly showing too much respect for his opponent. Pimentel lands a punishing counter left hand at the end of the third, and Perez starts to keep his right hand up high as a result. Action intensified in the sixth as Perez still looked to land from outside, Pimentel wanting to brawl from close quarters. An accidental head butt cut Pimentel over his right eye later in the round, and Perez finished with a left that knocked out his mouthpiece. Perez hurt Pimentel again at the end of the seventh round with a string of punches to the body, and a slip off the side of the ring in the eighth and final round could not detract from a solid 8-round unanimous decision (80-72, 79-73, 77-75) win. Eloy Perez's trainer Max Garcia cornered the fight while in late term preperations for a kidney transplant.

San Francisco super middleweight Jason Peterson's (1-0, 1KO) professional debut against Kansas native Steve Martin (1-2, 1KO) was one of the more entertaining aspects of the fight card. The heavily tattooed Peterson entered the ring as he was cheered on by several hundred fellow Hells Angels members in the audience. There was little to no feeling out process at the start of this 4 round bout, with a constant back and forth from each fighter. Peterson staggered Martin in the final seconds, and let loose with several flurries trying to end the fight before the bell. Steve Martin was not on sure footing at the start of the second, and it took all of 56 seconds for Jason Peterson to end it with a second round TKO. Peterson was also named as the "You be the Judge" award winner, as fans nominated his 2nd round TKO as the best of the 5 undercard fights. The award came with a $500 bonus and the AMI Cup handed to him by Tommy Morrison.

Carlos Herrera (1-2, 1KO) of Oxnard landed a vicious right hand to the jaw of Oakland junior lightweight Anthony Chavez (1-1). Chavez, who had pressed the action early in the round, was crumpled in the corner in the second best knockout of the night. Iraq war veteran Keith Spencer (4-0, 3KOs) took a fight with Chicago heavyweight Theron Johnson (1-1) on short notice, and possibly registered one of the top-5 knockouts in Fight Night at the Tank history. Both fighters connected with power punches in the first, but the majority of the round saw more of a greco roman clinch trying to gain position. The 263-pound Spencer stunned the smaller Johnson with a left hand against the ropes, and then knocked him out with a hard right. Theron Johnson was out on his feet before he hit the mat, and he collapsed through the ropes and on top of photographer Max Matsuhara to my left. A quick response by a nearby paramedic helped support the 230-pound Johnson, as his head and neck were dangerously hanging outside of the ring apron. It took several minutes for the medical staff to help Theron Johnson to his feet, and Keith Spencer came over to make sure his opponent was unhurt.

Bakersfield's Mike Dallas Jr (2-0) returned to HP Pavilion for a welterweight contest against Marlo Cortez (2-5-2, 1KO) of Van Nuys. Dallas Jr had legendary former Muhammad Ali trainer Angelo Dundee in his corner during his 4-round unanimous decision over Alejandro Balladares in the March installment of Fight Night at the Tank. The talented prospect amassed a considerable amateur record, recording 115 wins in 127 fights and reaching the quarterfinals of 2007 Olympic Boxing Trials according to Andy Kehe of the Bakersfield Californian. Mike Dallas Jr was simply on a different level than his opponent Thursday night, Marlo Cortez. Dallas loaded up on the left hook early, punctuating the first with a double left hook the body that left his opponent with his mouth open and sucking wind at the end of the round. Cortez lumbered forward in the second, but a punishing counter left jab landed cleanly for Dallas. He was very confident in the ring, as Cortez was in a defensive shell in the third. A long range right drew oooh's from the crowd at the end of the third, followed by a lunging left that hurt Cortez. A series of chopping right hands highlighted the fourth round, and credit is due to Marlon Cortez for remaining on his feet. Dallas earned a unanimous 4-round decision (40-36, 40-36, 40-36) win, not losing a single point on any of the three scorecards.

Los Angeles super bantamweight prospect Rico Ramos (3-0, 2KOs) faced off against Fresno's Jerry Mondragon (3-1, 2KOs) in the opening bout of the evening. Ramos was a U.S. Olympic Trials semifinalist in 2007, and his speed and power were evident from the first bell. A left hook to the liver dropped Mondragon to one knee in the second round, and Ramos jumped on the hurt fighter with a flurry of punches. Mondragon sagged to the mat a second time, and with 2:43 elapsed in the second round the referee stopped the fight. Ramos is a boxer to keep an eye on in the future.

Seated ringside were San Jose's Ricardo Cortes along with his family, Watsonville's WBC Strawweight champion Carina Moreno, and former 2-time heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison. Morrison said there were a lot of "green fighters" on the fight night card, but several prospects that fans should keep an eye on for the future. On heavyweight Keith Spencer's through the ropes second round knockout of Theron Johnson, Morrison said "it does not matter how big you are, in boxing you are always one punch away." Tommy Morrison (43-3-1, 42KOs) earned a 3rd round TKO over Matt Weishaar (4-1-2, 1KO) earlier this year in Mexico. He mentioned that he was looking to fight again in August.

A photo gallery from the event is available here. The announced crowd for Thursday's Fight Night at the Tank was 3,012. The next event will be held at HP Pavilion September 11th.

Correction: The original version of this post had heavyweight Theron Johnson initially indentified as Jason Peterson in the first photo. Unfortunately, problems with a server and a corrupted archive made it impossible to correct the error and update this blog post until Sunday. We regret the error. A video preview of Jason Peterson's HP Pavilion pro debut is available on Youtube here, and a second training video was uploaded here. Jason Peterson's next fight will be held June 25th at the Playboy Mansion. Visit friscoboxing.net for more information.

[Update] Salinas' Perez remains unbeaten - Dennis Taylor for the Monterey Herald.

Undefeated Salinas junior lightweight Eloy Perez made superb use of the ring and peppered his heavy-hitting opponent with rapid combinations, often in a counter-punching mode, to score a unanimous decision victory over Jorge Pimentel. Perez improved his record to 11-0-2 by winning all three scorecards. Ringside judge Steve Morrow gave him all eight rounds, Mike Tate awarded him seven of the eight, and Jack Campbell scored it 77-75.

[Update2] Quezada Decisions Late Replacement; Prospects Steal Show at the Tank - 15rounds.com.

In the heavyweight main event, Manuel Quezada (23-4, 15 KOs) of Wasco, California scored a decisive eight-round unanimous decision over John Clark (12-13-1, 7 KOs) of Huntington Beach, California in a rematch of a 2005 bout. Quezada, 223, held a clear edge throughout fight, as the much larger Clark, 285, lingered on the ropes for much of every round. The first six rounds were fought at a pretty methodical pace, as Quezada stacked up the points by simply outworking his slower-moving opponent. Action heated at the ends of rounds seven and eight, as each fighter let loose with what they had just before each bell. Scores read 80-72, 80-72 and 79-73 for Quezada. 15rounds.com had it 80-73 for Quezada.

[Update3] Salinas' Perez grabs victory at Fight Night, Layoff doesn't hurt former football star at Fight Night - San Jose Mercury News.

Mike Sasson boxing trainer Freddie Roach

Shortly before the start of the fights Thursday, my brother Mike Sasson sent me a photo taken with boxing trainer Freddie Roach from the Wildcard Boxing Gym in Hollywood. Roach is one of the best in the business, and after a recent training session in Berkeley he is preparing WBC and Ring Magazine Jr. Lightweight Champion Manny Pacquiao (46-3-2) for an upcoming June 28th bout with WBC Lightweight Champion and Ring Magazine #2 Lightweight David Diaz (34-1-1).

[Update4] Frisco boxing trainer Arturo Gastelum sent in a link to a short Fish Eye films online video of Jason Peterson's professional boxing debut in San Jose. It covers the pre-fight preperation, the arrival of several hundred Hells Angels in San Jose, and the action inside the ring. More notes and photos on the latest Fight Night at the Tank are also available via fightnews.com.

Detroit wins 11th Stanley Cup Championship with 3-2 win over Pittsburgh in game 6, Henrik Zetterberg named Conn Smythe playoff MVP

Detroit News Stanley Cup Championship newspaper cover
Detroit Free Press Stanley Cup Championship sports front page

A young and talented Pittsburgh Penguins team fought to the very end, but after a 2-1 win in the series deciding game 6 the Red Wings earned their 11th Stanley Cup Championship for the city of Detroit. Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European-born captain to raise the Stanley Cup above his head, and left wing Henrik Zetterberg earned the Conn Smythe playoff MVP trophy after a sparkling two-way playoff performance that saw him finish tied with teammate Johan Franzen for the NHL playoff goal scoring lead and tied with Sidney Crosby for the NHL playoff scoring lead.

Defenseman Brian Rafalski opened the scoring for Detroit on a first period power play. Rafalski took a pass from a diving Henrik Zetterberg in the slot, and buried it past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. After a hard check by Jarkko Ruutu on Valtteri Filppula along the end boards at the end of the first period, Filppula responded with a Detroit Red Wings even strength goal at 8:07 of the second period. Marc-Andre Fleury could not control the rebound of Mikael Samuelsson's initial shot, and Filppula jumped on the rebound and slipped a backhand home. Chris Osgood was solid in net for Detroit, over-extending far out to his right to stuff a Gary Roberts shot attempt from the goal line later in the period.

Pittsburgh was able to break through for a power play goal on an Evgeni Malkin blast from the left faceoff circle at 15:26 of the second. In what turned out to be the deciding goal of the Stanley Cup Championships Henrik Zetterberg drove down the left wing, and snapped a shot on net through defenseman Sergei Gonchar. The puck was slowed but not stopped underneath Fleury. As he moved back towards the goal line the puck deflected off his backside and into the net. Gonchar was busy tying up Zetterberg in front, and Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik took Pavel Datsyuk down to the ice on the other side of the crease. Pittsburgh forwards Peter Sykora and Jordan Staal collapsed on net to provide support, but Fleury blocked their view of the puck that was free behind him. Pittsburgh initially outnumbered Detoit 4-on-1 down low on the play, and later 5-on-2, but the unfortunate bounce was part of the game you can not prepare for.

Pittsburgh's Marian Hossa scored on the power play to bring the game back to a 1-goal margin with 1:27 left in the third period. Gonchar was initially denied on a hard point shot, but a second point shot found its way through traffic to Hossa for the deflection. Pittsburgh capitalized on 2 of 4 man advantage opportunities in game 6, Detroit finished 1-for-3 on the power play. Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Michel Therrien pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, and with 1.3 seconds left in regulation Chris Osgood can not control the rebound on a hard shot from just inside the blueline. Marian Hossa extended his stick with one arm and pushed the puck across the goal line in a near-miss attempt to bank the puck off of Chris Osgood. The Detroit Red Wings collapsed on Osgood as the horn sounded, and the celebrations across Hockeytown began.

On of the most powerful articles about Detroit's Stanley Cup Championship was written by ESPN's Scott Burnside. Burnside singled out loyalty and a sense of family among Detroit Red Wings players, management and fans as major contributing factors to their success. General manager Ken Holland's move to bring back veteran goaltender Chris Osgood, the addition of 39-year old character forward Dallas Drake, the first Newfoundland native to win a Cup in hard nosed forward Dan Cleary, and the return of Darren McCarty were just a few of the building blocks that forged a championship team according to Burnside.

An editorial in the Detroit News noted that the Red Wings delivered a Stanley Cup Championship exactly at the time the city needed them. Political entanglements at city hall, a high unemployment rate and a decline in the auto industry, and a mounting budget deficit all will be pushed out of the way however briefly to celebrate the most difficult trophy to win in all of professional sports. Detroit Free Press reporter Shawn Windsor covers the Stanley Cup parade from his couch, which is still closer to the action than San Jose. The Detroit Freep went photo gallery ballistic in its Stanley Cup coverage. Available on the site are too many photo galleries to link to, from highlights of individual players, highlights of individual games, on ice and off ice celebrations, fans, and more. Very well done. The newspaper I read the most when flown in to Southwestern Michigan to shovel snow, the Kalamazoo Gazette, also is in heavy NHL rotation mode with the Stanley Cup Championship coverage. Ansar Khan, interviewed on this site during the second round series with San Jose last year, believes Detroit will be even better in 2008-09.

At one point in the season with day-to-day reports touting the talent in San Jose and Anaheim, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock mused that his team was flying under the radar. This blog, and a number of mainstream reporters, believed Anaheim, Dallas, Detroit and San Jose were the new "Big 4" in the Western Conference, each having a legitimate claim as a Stanley Cup favorite. The reality after 4 grueling playoff rounds, the Red Wings were in a class of their own. The media may try to find holes, may tout the talent or physical nature of up and coming teams, but Detroit will be the prohibitive favorite moving forward until someone knocks them off the pedestal.

The Detroit blogophere is in an understandably celebratory mood, with Abel to Yzerman, Kukla's Korner, Behind the Jersey, On the Wings, and LetsgoWings leading the party. The Detroit bloggers, along with Pens Blog and Empty Netters, made this year's Stanley Cup Final significantly more entertaining. Hopefully more of the same is in store for next season.

Detroit Red Wings NHL Stanley Cup Championships: 1935–36, 1936–37, 1942–43, 1949–50, 1951–52, 1953–54, 1954–55, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2001–02, 2007–08.

[Update] Video of the Stanley Cup being awarded to Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and a brief clip of the ensuing celebration is available from the NHL on Youtube. Video of Henrik Zetterberg raising the Conn Smythe playoff MVP trophy is available on youtube here.

[Update2] Game 6 draws 6.8 million viewers - Sports Media Watch.

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals drew the largest audience for an NHL game in five years. The Red Wings' series clinching victory over the Penguins last night drew a 4.0 rating and 6.8 million viewers on NBC, making the game the highest rated and most watched NHL telecast ever on the network. Game 6 is also the most watched NHL game since Game 7 of the Devils/Mighty Ducks series drew 7.2 million viewers in 2003...

Overall, NBC averaged a 3.1 rating with 5.3 million viewers for four Stanley Cup Final games, up 94% and 116% from the 1.6 rating with 2.4 million viewers the network averaged for three games last year. For the entire six-game series, NBC and Versus combined to average 4.6 million viewers, up 159% from last year.

[Update3] Brad Stuart finishes in the money - Detroitredwings.com.


Patrick Marleau to Columbus for Nikolai Zherdev trade rumor, free agent defenseman Brian Campbell garnering significant interest from Chicago-Ottawa

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau NHL photo
San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau NHL photo
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nikolai Zherdev

San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak quoted an anonymous NHL source yesterday suggesting the possibility of a Patrick Marleau trade to Columbus for 23 year old Blue Jackets right wing Nikolai Zherdev. The source, not connected with either team, suggested Marleau and an unspecified player could be traded to Columbus for the slick skating but enigmatic Zherdev and the Blue Jackets 6th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Columbus owns two selections in the first round, their own #6 overall pick and Colorado's #19 overall pick gained after the trade deadline move of captain Adam Foote.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch tried to map out the offseason strategy of Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, noting that several big name offensive stars might be available on the market this offseason. Portzline cites two teams as those that might make significant moves, the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks. Antoine Vermette, Jason Spezza and Wade Redden are three Senators that might become available via a trade or free agency, and according to Portzline Sharks captain Patrick Marleau or possibly even Joe Thornton might also be candidates for a blockbuster deal.

In a blog post on the Columbus-Sharks trade rumor, Aaron Portzline spent Saturday trying to nail down more information about a possible trade involving Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche or Stefan Legein and the #19 pick to San Jose for Patrick Marleau. Portzline's sources denied that there was any substance to the rumors, and that no framework for a future trade and no names have been mentioned. Portzline discusses Zherdev's 100 point "potential" as a possible sticking point in giving up the #6 overall pick, and notes that the Sharks will have salary issues if they re-sign free agent defenseman Brian Campbell.

The rumored deals do not make sense for a handful of reasons. Patrick Marleau scored 212 points in the last three post-lockout seasons (85G, 127A, 212PTS), including a rough 19 goal and 29 assist campaign in 2007-08. A move from center to left wing on the second line sparked a late season offensive surge the last two months of the season, and Marleau re-developed a power forward game that was difficult to stop heading into the postseason. Marleau, who is scheduled to make $6.3 million over the next 2 seasons, has scored 30 playoff goals over the last 6 seasons. That is a gigantic chunk of the Sharks postseason offense. Unless there is firm belief as to where that playoff offense is going to come from, it would be a longshot for San Jose general manager Doug Wilson to pull the trigger before Marleau's no-trade clause kicks in on July 1st.

The Sharks captain responded to a brutal elbow by Cory Sarich with one of his best performances of the playoffs against Calgary, and Patrick Marleau became the first player in NHL playoff history to score back-to-back shorthanded goals in WCSF games 3 and 4 against Dallas. That being said, Marleau is not expected to be a good or even great game-in-and-game-out player. It was assumed he would be the Sharks key impact player, an offensive threat who would use his dominant size and speed to score critical playoff goals and provide a whatever it takes defensive shutdown role late in games. In that regard, Patrick Marleau was outplayed by Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla and Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow in the first two rounds. Former head coach Ron Wilson was fired after his third consecutive playoff exit in the second round. The Sharks cited the need for a "new direction" after his dismissal. How much of the past direction should be shouldered by the Sharks captain, and whether the roster or the captainship in San Jose takes a new direction remains to be seen.

Nikolai Zherdev was drafted 4th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003. In 3 post-lockout seasons, Zherdev scored 63 goals and 147 points while registering a disasterous -41. Explosive speed, and a goal scoring touch around the net make the Russian winger a tantalizing offensive opportunity, but the Sharks roster is filled with scoring potential. Locking down 1-goal leads, answering a long line of teams looking to challenge the Sharks physically, and tough hard-nosed offense from the top of the crease are where the needs for San Jose lie. Zherdev has one year left on his contract at $3.25 million, almost half of Marleau's annual salary. This trade would make it easier for Doug Wilson to re-sign free agents Brian Campbell, Patrick Rissmiller and Jody Shelley, or restricted free agents Ryane Clowe, Christian Ehrhoff or Joe Pavelski, but would the trade make the Sharks a better team? No.

In the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, top-tier game breaking offensive talent will not last until the Blue Jackets sixth pick. Phenom-in-waiting Steven Stamkos (Sarnia), Russian left wing Nikita Filatov (CSKA) and Danish forward Mikkel Bodker (Kitchener) should be long gone. One of the top defensive prospects in Drew Doughty (Guelph), Alex Pietrangelo (Niagara) or Luke Schenn (Kelowna) should be available, but the Sharks have defensive depth stacked throughout the organization, at all stages of development. Christian Ehrhoff and Douglas Murray are two homegrown blueliners that at times carried the team defensively during the regular season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and former Hobey Baker winning Matt Carle were co-rookie defenseman of the year last season, but they exhibited second year growing pains against Calgary and Dallas. Hulking defensive prospect Ty Wishart and hard hitting Boston College freshman defenseman Nick Petrecki are going to have plenty of time to develop before joining the NHL rotation. The Sharks have assets they can move to trade for a late first or second round draft pick without including Marleau in any package.

Trading Marleau for Zherdev and change does not fit with many of the past moves made by this organization. Former captain Adam Foote, and current Columbus left wing Fredrik Modin gel more with the direction the Sharks need to move towards. Hard edge, battle tested veterans who stood out in every game they played at HP Pavilion over the last 2 seasons. The Marleau for Zherdev trade makes sense for Columbus. With more than $20 million in cap space according to Lyle Richardson, Marleau would be the perfect compliment for left wing Rick Nash. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has noted in the past that that he looks at teams from their perspective, and tries to make offers that fit their needs. Teams looking at San Jose have to be awestruck at Chicago's rumored interest in offering $8-million a year for free agent defenseman Brian Campbell. Rumors also have the Ottawa Senators preparing to make an offer to Campbell in the $6-8 million a season range. Campbell is assured a large raise over the $1.75 million he made in 2007-08.

There are several factors that are going to affect Brian Campbell's decision on whether or not to re-sign in San Jose: the contract offer, the hiring of a new head coach, his childhood friendship with teammate Joe Thornton, a packed building and laissez faire local media. Campbell has gone 3 straight months without the Buffalo media hounding him daily on his upcoming free agent status, and he was able to focus more on his play and his transition to a new team as a result. The Sharks won 9 straight games after Campbell joined the team on February 27th (with 2 preceeding wins), and they did not lose in regulation until his 19th game in teal. Brian Campbell finished with 3 goals and 16 assists in 20 regular season games with San Jose. The playoffs were a different story, Campbell registered 3 assists in a 7-game series with Calgary and 1 goal and 3 assists in a 6-game series loss to the Dallas Stars. Campbell uncharacteristically struggled to break the puck out of his own zone 5-on-5, did not click on the power play, and had problems with defensive zone coverage.

Once again, general manager Doug Wilson has a difficult decision in front of him. Campbell has shown glimpses of what the Sharks need to transform their offense, he fits the locker room mentality and the team philosophy perfectly, but he did not perform up to expectations in the playoffs. Will Campbell consider other offers to play in Chicago and Ottawa, or will he follow the mould of Vincent Damphousse, Teemu Selanne, and Joe Thornton, all players who took less than market value to make a run at a Stanley Cup with a deep San Jose Sharks roster. Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mark Streit, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ron Hainsey, and Ottawa Senators defenseman Wade Redden are all free agent options that general manager Doug Wilson could pursue this offseason. Another San Jose resident, current Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart, should garner consideration as well.

[Update] Trade Winds Blowing, Spezza among players to watch as GMs plot draft-day deals - Ottawa Sun.

Sharks C Patrick Marleau: GM Doug Wilson might surprise everybody and keep Marleau, but not before the club takes a hard look at the market. Marleau's no-trade clause kicks in July 1 and there's going to be interest. The Bruins may offer up F Glen Murray as part of package. Wilson could finally be ready to bite.

More Marleau trade rumor opinions from the blogs at AOL Fanhouse, Yahoo's Puck Daddy, and the Battle of California. Columbus Blue Jackets bloggers Neutral Zone Trap and Light the Lamp are against the Marleau-Zherdev trade for similar reasons.

[Update2] Rumor Roundup: Cup finalists will have busy off-seasons - Lyle Richardson for Thehockeynews.com.

Like the other 28 NHL teams, the priority for both clubs will be determining which of their impending free agents – particularly the unrestricted ones - to retain...

Nine noteworthy Penguins – goalie Ty Conklin, defenseman Brooks Orpik and forwards Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque, Jarkko Ruutu, Adam Hall and Pascal Dupuis – are eligible for UFA status, while goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is a restricted free agent eligible to receive offer sheets from rival teams.

The Wings have eight players of note – goaltender Dominik Hasek, defensemen Chris Chelios, Brad Stuart and Andreas Lilja, and forwards Dallas Drake, Aaron Downey, Darren McCarty and Mark Hartigan – eligible for UFA status this summer.

[Update3] Jokinen talks may be heating up - Inside the Panthers.

Also worth mentioning is San Jose. We heard that (Flordia Panthers) Assistant GM Randy Sexton spoke with the Sharks about a Jokinen-for-Patrick Marleau deal at midseason, and Marleau once again is perceived to be on the block.

[Update4] Marleau would be a good fit with Blue Jackets, Columbus has to acquire a big, veteran centre to pair with Nash in order to get the most out of its young superstar - Jim Matheson for Faceoff.com.

"There's a scarcity of first-line centres in the league," said Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, who was driving back from the GMs meetings in Pittsburgh on Monday.

"I think this team has been looking for one since Rick got here (2002). You saw what Rick did at the world championship playing with two really good players (Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators). We have a big player, (Fredrik) Modin, who could play with Rick, but he's a winger not a centre. It's our goal to get somebody to help him."


Close 7 second finish for the 40th annual 2008 Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert rally, video highlights

The official press release called the 2008 SCORE Baja 500 desert rally one of the closest battles in off-road racing history. Las Vegas native B.J. Baldwin drove the entire 441.15 miles solo, narrowly defeating the second place team of Mark Post/Rob MacCachren by seven seconds for the overall 4-Wheel title on Saturday.

The defending Score Trophy Truck classification points champion Post/MacCachren team crossed the finish line at the Riviera Cultural Center in Ensenada first in their #1 Riviera Racing Ford F-150 SCORE Trophy-Truck, but Baldwin finished the elapsed time race in his #97 Baldwin Motorsports Chevy Silverado 53 seconds later. Baldwin started the Rally 60 seconds after Post/MacCachren, giving him the slim margin of victory in the 40th anniversary Tecate SCORE Baja 500 Rally. The Baja 500 is the third round of a five event desert racing series. Racers came from 24 U.S. States and 9 countries, with 195 out of 289 competitors finishing the grueling offroad circuit.

The video above is a higlight clip from the Trophy Truck classification of this weekend's 2008 Tecate SCORE Baja 500 rally. SCORE also emailed a general Baja 500 highlight video, and scenes from the pre-race contingency (recommended viewing). These preview clips are part of a soon to be released official 2008 Tecate SCORE Baja 500 DVD which will be available on www.thebajaunlimited.com.

The 2008 Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will also air on Discovery Channel HD and ESPN International. The Outdoor Channel will rebroadcast the 2007 Baja 1000 Rally ten times in July, and NBC is scheduled to air a tape-delayed broadcast the 2008 Baja 1000 Rally December 14th at 10AM (PT). The 2008 Baja 1000 race will be held November 20-23th.

Notes, track-side video, and links to photos from the 2007 Baja 1000 Rally are available from this January Sharkspage post. Activision is releasing a Baja 1000 themed video game for the XBOX 360 and Playstation 2 in August, for more information visit bajagame.com.

[Update] Baja 500 photo galleries and video footage are available online from off-road.com.


Good, Bad, and the Ugly on display for Elite XC's Saturday night primetime mixed martial arts debut on CBS

Kimbo Slice headlines Elite XCs inaugural MMA on CBS fight card

As of Saturday night, mixed martial arts is open for business live on American broadcast television. The full spectrum of combat sports entertainment was on display for Elite XC's primetime debut on CBS from the Prudential Center in New Jersey. Inside the ring internet toughman Kimbo Slice faced an almost immediate test of his skills on the ground, potential slugfest of the year candidate between Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith was cut shot by a ridiculous medical stoppage, and the face of women's MMA Gina Carano came into her fight with Kaitlin Young ill-prepared and almost paid the price.

Outside of the ring, mainstream sports announcer Gus Johnson teamed with Frank Shamrock and MMA's answer to Don Cherry in Mauro Ranallo to provide a mix of entertainment and instruction on the CBS broadcast. Shamrock offered an brief introduction to mixed martial arts, describing several basic moves and techniques for first time viewers of the sport. Shamrock also called Bruce Lee "the godfather of Mixed Martial Arts". In Bruce Lee's Commentaries on the Martial Way, Lee painstakingly broke down several technical fighting styles to develop his own adaptive fighting system called Jeet Kune Do (Way of the Intercepting Fist). A very early vision of how the sport would develop into a more complete discipline several decades later.

A short performance by Jamaican-American hip hop artist Busta Rhymes preceeded Elite XC heavyweight Brett Rogers into the ring for the first televised fight. A nice touch by CBS displayed the song title and the Last.FM URL so viewers could listen and purchase entrance music online. Brett Rogers (7-0) dispatched Jon Murphy (4-3) 1:01 into the first round with a hard right cross. Inside the cage for the post-fight posse celebration, Big Black of the MTV show Rob and Big was promoting his bigblacksecurity.com company along with his sponsorship of Rogers. The mohawk wearing Brett Rogers also nearly came to blows in the post-fight press conference after he called out Kimbo Slice for his performance in the main event. The CBS "Primetime" opening was an assault on the senses early, but there was much more time for the event to veer off the rails, then back on, then back off again, repeat.

Phil "the New York badass" Baroni (10-10) and Joe "Dreamsmasher" Villasenor (26-6) faced off for the second televised fight of the evening. This was a sleeper pick for fight of the night. Villasenor has power in both hands, and a career resume that stretches across some of the toughest competitors in the Middleweight division. After dropping a EliteXC Middleweight World Championship fight to Murilo "Ninja" Rua in San Jose last July, Villasenor reeled off 2 successive wins. Phil Baroni has a strong wrestling background and a career that dates back to the toughman era. Baroni's last fight saw him earn a tough fifth round TKO loss to Kala "Kolohe" Hose for the Icon Sport Middleweight title in Hawaii. Hose took everything thrown at him, and Baroni's traditionally suspect conditioning worked against him in the later championship fourth and fifth rounds. He came into this fight with Villasenor ripped, a good sign that this fight might go the distance.

Baroni took Villasenor to the mat early, and a quick ground and pound KO was a distinct possibility. Villasenor quickly gets to his feet, lands a hard left hook, and sinks in a standing guillotine that comes close to earning a submission. Taxed, Baroni escapes but is hit with several shots that land on target. Phil Baroni is crumpled against the cage unable to defend himself, and the referee calls the fight at 1:01. "It was all about finding a range... once I found that range, the left hook was there" Villasenor said in a post-fight interview.

The third fight featured "the face of women's MMA" Gina Carano (6-0) vs Kaitlin Young (4-2). Fresh off her appearance on American Gladiators as "Crush", Carano had a dominant 12-1-1 kickboxing record in Muay Thai before transitioning to mixed martial arts. She also served as a trainer/mentor on the excellent Oxegen MMA reality show Fight Girls. A "crush" of outside obligations and commitments hindered her preperation for this fight, and she weighed in 3 and a half pounds over the agreed limit (with a 1 pound allowance). The strikingly attractive and well-spoken Carano garners a critical mass of media attention, but much of the superficial attention detracts from the devastating power of her kicks/knees/punches. EliteXC, CBS, and the fighters are touching all bases, and the gaming community is well represented with Carano's video game sponsorship from Command and Conquer Red Alert III (she will play Natasha in the game).

Not to be left out of the equation was EliteXC bantamweight Kaitlin Young. The Minnesota Martial Arts Academy trained Young, which also produced Brock Lesnar and Sean Sherk, is coming off her first loss after five professional MMA fights. Carano showed solid power early in the first round, but Young took her to the mat and could not finish with a dominant position. In the second round, the toll of heavy punches and kicks on Kaitlin Young began to wear down her movement considerably. Carano rocked her late in the round with a right hand, and rained down punches with Young listless and up against the cage. Carano sinks in a rear naked choke at the end of the second, but Young is saved by the bell. The referee stops the fight before the start of the third.

The amount of hype surrounding other fights on the card allowed an EliteXC Middleweight title fight between "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (15-4, 1NC) and Sacramento Capital City Fighting Alliance member Scott Smith (15-4, 1 NC) to fly somewhat under the radar. MMA experts overwhelmingly tabbed this matchup as a favorite for fight of the night. Each competitor has one punch knockout power, and the will to stand and throw until they can deliver. Lawler is considered by many as the more complete fighter, and he owns KO's over Frank Trigg for the ICON Sport middleweight championship and Murilo Rua for the EliteXC middleweight championship. Lawler has struggled with injuries, and he was unable to fight Hawaii's Kala Hose in December and was stripped of his Icon championship. Scott Smith is a former The Ultimate Fighter reality show participant on season 4, and has fought for the UFC, EliteXC, WEC, and Gladiator Challenge promotions.

Smith starts with several hard kicks, but Lawler is the first to do damage early. Lawler catches Smith with a hard punch as he is leaning in, and Smith tries to regain his composure. There is an extended feeling out process between the two fighters, drawing a negative reaction from some in the crowd. At the two minute mark there is a tremendous flurry between both fighters. A low percentage of the punches landed, but each were swinging for the fences early. Robbie Lawler lands a savage liver kick causing Smith to drop his arms and protect his midsection. Smith staggers back as Lawler presses the action at the end of the first. The crowd is very vocal in the second, and Lawler is stalking Smith looking to knock him out. Scott Smith gets Lawler in the clinch and lands a hard knee, then follows with two more knees and a short chopping elbow from inside. Robbie Lawler backs out and then presses forward, cutting Smith above the eye before the end of the second.

The third round would be the most controversial round of a very tumultous fight card. Robbie Lawler was doubling and tripling up his jab, as Scott Smith focused on short kicks to the inside leg. Lawler is mixing up the angles, circling and landing more effective strikes. He is methodically taking apart Smith. After an unsuccessful shot by Lawler, he tries to block a punch by Smith and instead lands two fingers directly in his right eye. Lawler acknowledges the illegal strike, and the referee gives Scott Smith 5 minutes to regain himself before he has to continue. The doctor is called into the ring. Smith allegedly tells her twice that he can not see, but that he will be able to go after the full 5 minutes allowed for him to recover. The doctor instead stops the contest. New Jersey requires a championship fight to go three full rounds before a decision can be rendered, so it is ruled a no contest. Both fighters are visibly upset after the decision, and the crowd exhibits a mix of shock and vocal displeasure.

Lost in a lot of the pre-fight discussion is the sheer size matchup of the final main event bout between Kimbo Slice (6-foot-2, 235.5 pounds) and James Thompson (6-foot-5, 257 pounds). Kimbo Slice aka Kevin Ferguson (3-0) crossed over from amateur no-holds barred internet fights on youtube to a professional mixed martial arts headliner. He has achieved a level of stardom outside the cage that mirrors those of other big name entertainment and sports A-listers. Kimbo Slice recently became the second MMA competitor to grace the cover of ESPN the Magazine, and has been on a whirlwind promotional tour to pump up the primetime broadcast debut of EliteXC on CBS. Stripping away all of the hype Kimbo is a talented prospect with huge power, facing a big step up in competition in his third professional MMA fight. James Thompson (16-9) is riding a three fight loss by KO streak, but he has fought some of the biggest names in the division (Aleksander Emelianenko, Kazuyuki Fujita, Hidehiko Yoshida). According to Mauro Ranallo, Japanese fans labeled Thompson's intial charge against opponents the "Gong and Dash" style.

James Thompson takes Kimbo to the mat early, and instantly it is evident the amount of work on his ground game he has put in with legendary coach and former UFC Heavyweight champion Bas Rutten. Kimbo is briefly able to get back to his feet, but Thompson takes him down again with a double leg demonstrating a solid game plan. Keeping Kimbo on his back keeps Thompson away from the punching power, and tests his as yet unproven ground game. Kimbo escapes a choke, and is able to take Thompson down without gaining a dominant position. Slice tries a brutal neck crank, but Thompson spins out and gains top position.

James Thompson tries more of the same in the second round, but Kimbo stuffs the first shot attempt and lands several hard punches. A straight right stuns Thompson, and a hard uppercut rocks him. Thompson takes Kimbo back down to the mat, and from the bottom Kimbo unsuccessfully tries a guillotine choke. After a second takedown later in the round Thompson is hammering Kimbo with elbows, at one point pinning his arm and raining down punishment. Fighting for air, Kimbo is able to defend himself enough to make it to the end of the second round. Slice lands several power punches to start the third, and then targets the bulging left ear of Thompson. A hard right explodes the ear of Thompson splattering him with blood. An uncontested four punch combination forces James Thompson to stumble to his left. Briefly out on his feet, referee Dan Miragliotta stops the fight. Thompson regains his senses immediately, and actually takes a shot at Miragliotta when he realizes the fight had been stopped. Slice collapsed to the mat after the stoppage, and was able to answer a few questions briefly before heading to the locker room visibily exhausted.

The judges were mixed scoring the fight. All three scored the first round 10-9 for Thompson, but they differed on the second round with a 10-9 and 10-8 for Thompson and a third calling it 10-9 for Kimbo Slice. Kimbo was lighting Thompson up in the final round, but he was behind on the scorecards and needed a knockout to win. Mission accomplished.

EliteXC's "Primetime" event finished at 11:50PM local time, slightly over the three hour window initially scheduled. The first no holds barred UFC turned off a lot of casual viewers, and saddled the sport with a "human cockfighting" bloodsport monicker that took years to shake. EliteXC tried to balance instruction for the first time viewers with action and entertainment to satisfy the hardcore fan base. In the end, they showed that a viable primetime platform for mixed martial arts on network television exists. With more time to refine and develop the product, EliteXC's mixed martial arts broadcast on CBS should only improve.

EliteXC's "Primetime" undercard was streamed for free online at proelite.com. More information on the card is also available from elitexc.com and CBSsportsline.com. Showtime will rebroadcast last night's event on Friday, June 13 (11:00 PM, ET/PT).

[Update] CBS's Slice night lives up to the hopes and fears - Globe and Mail.

[Update2] Slicing The American Dream - Sherdog.

The American Dream arrived in living rooms all over the country Saturday. For better or worse.

CBS broadcasted EliteXC from the Prudential Center, the first live mixed martial arts event on network television, and its centerpiece was the most compelling sports figure of the 21st century: Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson.

[Update3] CBS-EliteXC Review: Kimbo by Controversy - MMA Weekly.

With 8,033 in attendance at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, CBS and EliteXC debuted the first-ever mixed martial arts event to be telecast live in prime time on broadcast television. Much to the surprise of the fans, the main event didn’t end in the first minute… as a matter of fact it went into the third round.

A controversial stoppage in the final round of the fight saw Kimbo Slice declared the victor despite an opponent in James Thompson who, while definitely hurt, did not seem out of the fight yet. Thompson looked solid for the better part of the fight, playing a smart game plan, taking Kimbo down numerous times throughout the fight. While Kimbo was able to reverse position a couple of times during the bout, Thompson’s takedowns almost made the difference.

[Update4] The third episode of ESPN's new broadband show MMA Live is available here. New episodes air Thursday nights at 6PM (ET). ESPN needs to add a full screen viewing option. HDnet's hour long Inside MMA highlight show featuring Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten is available via Sherdog.com every Friday. The latest episode is available for viewing or download here.

[Update5] Champions Faber and Torres Deliver in Instant WEC Classics - WEC.tv.

SACRAMENTO – Urijah Faber came ready for a war. So did Miguel Torres. And Jens Pulver and Yoshiro Maeda made sure that is exactly what both champions got. Faber and Torres both survived brushes with danger to retain their WEC titles at the packed Arco Arena Sunday night in what amounted to the toughest tests in each man’s career.

[Update6] Faber wins popular decision, A raucous Arco Arena crowd helps set the tone during World Extreme Cagefighting - Sacramento Bee.

The crowd grew impatient as the clock wound down on the fifth and final round of the main event. Urijah Faber heard the chanting echo through Arco Arena but said he was unsure as to the exact message.

He managed to answer their call anyway. The hometown mixed martial arts star defeated veteran Jens Pulver in a five-round unanimous decision Sunday to retain his World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title in front of an announced sellout crowd of 12,682.

[Update7] The EliteXC Saturday Night Fights Post Show with Frank Shamrock is available online at proelite.com here.

Fight Night at the Tank replaces Cortes-Johnson fight with Perez-Pimentel after training camp injury to Antonio Johnson

Eloy Perez Riot Boxing at the  Monterey Convention Center
Eloy Perez Fight Night at the Tank boxing

A training camp injury to Jr Middleweight Antonio Johnson forced him off of the June 5th Fight Night at the Tank card. Johnson was scheduled to face San Jose's Ricardo Cortes (22-2-1, 15kos). Initially Cortes was scheduled to face Jose Celaya in a Northern California superfight, but Celaya withdrew citing a need for more time recover after a grueling knockout loss to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr February in Mexico.

The co-main event was replaced with a bout between undefeated Team Garcia trained Eloy Perez (10-0-2, 2KOs) out of Salinas and Sonora Mexio native Jorge Pimentel (12-6, 10KOs). Perez registered a 5th round KO over a much larger Ron Boyd in his last fight at the Monterey Convention Center in October. Eloy Perez is undefeated in two fights at HP Pavilion. His last win came via a unanimous 6 round decision over Odilon Rivera, where he did not lose a single round on any of the scorecards. Jorge Pimentel is considered a heavy puncher, one who is dropping down in weight to face a smaller Perez.

Very sad news out of the Team Garcia camp as Dennis Taylor of the Monterey Herald reports that trainer Max Garcia has suffered kidney failure. He is currently in a Los Angeles hospital on dialysis while he awaits news of a possible transplant. The entire Northern California boxing community owes a large debt to Garcia, and wishes him a quick recovery.

Promoter Goossen Tutor released a training camp report for heavyweight headliner Manuel "El Toro" Quezada (22-4, 15KOs). The report noted an 11-fight winning streak by Quezada dating back to February 2006. Quezada, the reigning WBC CABOFE (Caribbean Boxing Federation) heavyweight champion, said he is mentally and physically prepared to go the full 10 rounds against his opponent Teke Oruh (14-1-1, 6KOs). "Teke is a good fighter, but I believe my experience will be the key to victory. Malik Scott is a world class fighter that I'll be getting good work with. One thing I know for sure, I'm going to leave it all in the ring come fight night" Quezada said.

An alternate on the Nigerian Olympic team, Teke Oruh is coming off a tough 10 round decision loss in November to Joey Abell. Oruh was also on the Toney-Batchelder undercard last May. His fight with heavyweight Jason Gavern was one of the most bizarre bouts seen at HP Pavilion. Below is the blog report from ringside:

A preliminary 6-round bout between heavyweights Teke Oruh (13-0-1, 6KOs) and Jason Gavern (11-3-2, 5KOs) was one of the most bizarre events to take place at HP Pavilion. Although there appeared to be some communication problems, Oruh was repeatedly warned about low blows. Just when it seemed Oruh would not be penalized for the entire fight, the referee gave him a one point deduction in the fifth. Gavern knocked down Oruh in the first, tried a rope-a-dope maneuver, and interacted with the crowd while fighting in the later rounds. It did not impress the judges, and Oruh earned a majority decision (57-55, 57-55, 56-56).

The weigh-in for Thursday's American Metal and Iron Fight Night at the Tank event will be held Wednesday at The Grill inside HP Pavilion at 6PM. Former IBC and WBO heavyweight champion and "Rocky V" actor Tommy Morrison will be a special guest for the event. This Fight Night will also see a return of the "You Be the Judge" promotion. The crowd will be able to score the undercard fights and nominate their favorite for a fight of the night bonus and an AMI Cup. For more information and ticket availability visit fightnightatthetank.com.

An updated fight card (subject to change):

JUNE 5, 2008

AM&I Main Event

10 Rd Heavyweight Bout
MANUEL "El Toro" QUEZADA (Wasco, CA) 22-4, 15KO
WBC CABOFE Heavyweight Champion
TEKE "African Prince" ORUH (Las Vegas, NV) 14-1-1, 6KOs

8 Rd Jr Lightweight Bout
ELOY "The Prince" PEREZ (Salinas, CA) 10-0-2, 2KOs
JORGE "El Tigre" PIMENTEL (Sonora, Mexico) 12-6, 10KOs

"YOU BE THE JUDGE" Tournament

4 Rd Super Middleweight Bout
JASON "JP" PETERSON (San Francisco, CA) Pro Debut
STEVE MARTIN (Topeka, KS) 1-1, 1KO

4 Rd Jr Lightweight Bout
ANTHONY CHAVEZ (Oakland, CA) 1-0

4 Rd Heavyweight Bout
THERON JOHNSON (Chicago, IL) 1-0
ALVERO MORALES (Las Vegas, NV) 2-1-4

4 Rd Jr Welterweight Bout
MIKE DALLAS JR (Bakersfield, CA) 1-0
SHAWN WAITE (Los Angeles, CA) 0-1

4 Rd Super Bantamweight Bout
RICO RAMOS (Los Angeles, CA) 2-0, 1KO

[Update] Boxing analyst Al Bernstein, a former Ring Magazine and Boxing Illustrated columnist and NBC/ESPN boxing commentator, posted an audio podcast breaking down the June 5th Fight Night at the Tank card here. Al's Insights are also available via an email newsletter available here. Manuel Quezada also published his first blog entry on the official site here. Quezada notes he has been sparring with Malik Scott and Keith Spencer, and that he also previously trained in kickboxing and had one MMA fight (watch here). His opponent Teke Oruh posted his first blog entry here. "Boxer Blog" links have been added to the Fight Night at the Tank link under the sports sidebar to the right.

[Update2] Pacquiao-Diaz Tour Hits Berkeley - 15rounds.com.

[Update3] Pacquiao, Diaz delight Bay Area boxing fans with free workout - ESPN.

Pacquiao worked out after Diaz's session, when the fans were in the mood to cheer his always-impressive mitt work with Freddie Roach, his longtime trainer and a Filipino celebrity in his own right. Pacquiao, who's training in Los Angeles, was in good spirits for his second free workout this year in the Bay Area, where he briefly lived while ascending to international stardom.