A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Guest Column: The Boys Of Summer (Offseason Review)

Nathan Skytta takes some time from his busy summer schedule to take a look at the NHL offseason and its many twists and turns. Note: Article written Aug. 14.

Just over two months ago, fans of the NHL witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1960-61 season.  Now, with the countdown just over fifty days away from the drop of the puck in Helsinki, Finland, the Blackhawks have dismantled their championship team, the most prized free agent is still unsigned and those are just the beginning of the highlights that have made this summer so interesting for the fans of the NHL.

The Kovalchuk Puzzle

If anyone predicted this for Kovalchuk, please tell me my future.

The highlight of the offseason was the signing, or so we thought, of Ilya Kovalchuk by the New Jersey Devils. The agreement was for 17 years and over 100 million dollars, but as soon as it was signed, the NHL rejected it. The arbitrator assigned to the dispute upheld the NHL’s ruling that the contract went against salary cap regulations and therefore was illegal. We are now in the middle of August, and the most heralded free agent on the market this offseason, remains just that.

Nixing Niemi

Getting back to the Hawks, Antti Niemi, who was in net when the Hawks won the cup, won an arbitration hearing and was awarded a 2.75-million dollar salary. Because they are so close to the cap, the Hawks had no choice but to let Niemi, 26, become a free agent. The Hawks had a plan in place just in case they were forced to let Niemi go. The Hawks turned around and signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco. Turco, a three time all-star, had been let go by the Dallas Stars earlier this summer and was looking for a new home. Niemi remains unsigned and there’s no word on where he may end up.

Anybody want a Stanley Cup winning goalie?

Clipping more Hawks wings

Along with Niemi, the Hawks parted way with players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd. When the Hawks raise the banner on opening night against rival Detroit, they will have a roster that has many people wondering if they will be able to repeat.

More Interesting Moves

Some other highlights of the offseason include former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov signing to play in the KHL (Russia), Mike Modano, a Michigan native, heading home to play for the Detroit Red Wings after signing a one-year deal, the Philadelphia Flyers either acquiring or signing every free agent defenseman on the market—not really but at one time they had 10 defenseman on their roster—and Steve Yzerman taking over the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, in hopes of bringing another championship team back to the Sunshine State.

A New Season Emerges

In the last 65 days since Patrick Kane snuck the championship-clinching shot between the legs of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, teams have been revamped, players have changed addresses, and some big names remain on the market. Along with the aforementioned Kovalchuk, players like Paul Kariya, Miroslav Satan, and Lee Stempniak remain unsigned.

In the next few weeks, teams will begin reporting to camp and start writing the script on what they hope is a championship season of hockey. With two outdoor games scheduled this season, a new roster for the Blackhawks, and many teams making changes to their rosters, anything can happen. So fans, get the jerseys out, the hockey packages ordered on your cable network, and get your vocal cords ready for what’s going to be another fantastic season of NHL hockey.

-Nathan

Advertisements

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 76

Quite the vengeance game for the Sharks as they shut out the Dallas Stars 3-0. After last week’s debacle to the Stars, it was great to see the Sharks rebound by blanking them. Enjoy the playoffs from the couch, Stars!

San Jose continued the defensive focus tonight, and with the exception of the early stages of the game, there weren’t many turnovers to report. Hard to believe I know.

The lines were pretty much the same from last time with the big three broken up. I don’t see any reason to bring them back together anytime soon either.

The win helped clinch a playoff spot for the Sharks, but that was already a foregone conclusion. I have this awful feeling the Sharks are going to play Detroit in the first round. That would be the worst luck in the world. I’d much rather see Chicago play them so their fans can endure what we did last year against Anaheim. Bye bye Chicago.

Couture overlooks a dead-looking Turco ready to be buried (From SJSHARKS.com)

It was also goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s 50th career shutout. I’m sure some Sharks fans will say it was bound to happen sooner or later. These would be the same ones saying his play declines with more starts.

Dan Boyle and Rob Blake scored goals in the second period on the power play. Blake was injured at some point during the game as he didn’t play but half a minute in the third. Hopefully, it’s not too serious. The last thing the Sharks need is another defenseman to go down.

Logan Couture scored his second career goal in the third period after Devin Setoguchi made a tough drive to the net. Setoguchi hasn’t been lighting the lamp much at all but his physicality rivals Ryane Clowe this year.

But with all Dallas game, you have to deal with rats like Steve Ott and Stephane Robidas. Robidas already showcased his recklessness last game when he steamrolled Clowe into the boards. This time he went after Couture in the corner and Couture was slow to get up.

It was incredibly disappointing to not see any Shark go after him. This guy deserves some payback and needs his teeth knocked out.

Now Steve Ott thought it would be a good idea to elbow Patrick Marleau in the head behind the play. I am so disgusted by Ott. He is not a hockey player anymore than Lindsay Lohan is straight edge. Ott dropped the gloves with Marleau but Patty was overwhelmed by the goon before he could do anything.

Luckily, Ott was tossed from the game like he should have been. I hope he gets suspended for that elbow; I’m not entirely sure if it was really brutal because the camera didn’t zoom in, but it’d be a good precedent to suspend him following the head shot rule passing today.

A Bitz Late

Brad Staubitz fought Krys Barch in a minor tussle. Bitz got the better of him and took the victory. Been a while since I’ve been able to say that.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  DAL 24; Setoguchi led with three.

The Canucks march into town Saturday.

–Ray

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 70/71

Quite the . . . for the Sharks as they proved just how awful they can be with two losses in a row to the Anaheim Ducks, 4-2, and the Dallas Stars, 8-2. I use ellipses because words just can’t describe how angry, disappointed and furious I am with this team.

I should have seen this coming. The last time the team played well might have been in January, and it was going to come to a head sooner or later. Tonight against Dallas was the night. It was the Chicago debacle, part deux (November 25, Sharks lost 7-2 to the Hawks).

Apologies for not having a blog posted for the Anaheim game. Unfortunately, my ride back to college took place during the game, and upon seeing the result, I really didn’t feel like watching it. The highlights were more than enough to enlighten me on the sloppy play.

It figures as soon as I defend Evgeni Nabokov, he starts letting in goals a two-year-old can stop. That was both in Anaheim and Dallas. Thomas Greiss relieved him tonight and looked like a lost redneck in New York City.

Tonight’s performance against Dallas was repulsive, but I can’t help but think about praising the Almighty. We all know by now how stupid and stubborn the Sharks can be, and the only way they learn is the hard way. Winning after playing like crap gives them confidence. That’s great if it happens for a few games in a season. Not 10 games in a row.

Dan Boyle supposedly yelled at the team in some capacity after the Anaheim loss and echoed those statements in the media. Boyle said half the team showed up and that they were “coasting” to the finish line like last season. Yes. That would be correct Mr. Boyle. It might be time for a late-season captain change. Rob Blake’s even-keel attitude has worn thin on me faster than I anticipated. And his stupid penalties game after game are driving all Sharks fans insane.

Boyle isn’t playing perfect either. He’s turning it over a lot lately, but at least he knows the team plays like a pile of manure.

Honest question. Have you ever seen a worse team with this many points? Answer in the comment section, please.

Let’s get into some specifics of tonight’s game while you ponder that question. San Jose didn’t help itself taking a double minor penalty right off the bat. More penalties and Dallas eventually capitalized.

Kyrs Barch dropped the gloves the first of two times in the first period — this one against Ryane Clowe. I expected more out of Clowe. Wild punches were thrown, but I think Barch had the slight edge.

After another Dallas goal in the second to make it 2-0, Barch danced with Jay Leach. No clue what Leach was doing, nor do I think he knew what he was doing; Barch won that handily.

Of course, that fight sparked two more goals from the Stars and it was 4-0. Nabby was pulled and Greiss entered the game.

Some of the Sharks players show their signs to the opponent before heading to the locker room and starting their dance recital (From SJSHARKS.com)

Then we have an interesting development. Stephane Robidas slammed Clowe into the boards — payback for an earlier hit Clowe gave Robidas — and Robidas received a five minute major and game misconduct. What’s hilarious is the Dallas analyst said he thinks the injured player shouldn’t be allowed to return either if the culprit is ejected (Clowe did continue to play).

In what dimension does that make sense? So, Clowe should essentially be “ejected” for being boarded? There’s a new low in human thought. Congrats analyst — I’m not even going to bother looking up your name.

This is where I was looking for Brad Staubitz to do something. Jody Shelley is gone; you’re the enforcer Brad. Do something with your life. It’s seeming like you were a lot tougher with Shelley to hide behind. Safe to say Staubitz’s and the rest of the Shark’s family jewels have retreated back into their stomach or just dropped off all together.

Proving my point about learning the hard way and seeing one of their own get demolished in the boards, the Sharks scored the next two goals to bring the score to 4-2.

The flash of professional-hockey-level play came to an abrupt end when Dallas scored two shorthanded goals in a row. Ah yes, the parallels to the Chicago game continue (Chicago scored three shorthanded goals in a row in the 7-2 game).

Dallas continued the onslaught with two more goals, as the Sharks hung up their skates and put on leotards.

I’ve just about given up hope on this team again. Every year after playoff struggles, I’ve managed to keep the positive thoughts going — even last year when they struggled at the end of the regular season. This time it just seems worse because there is only one major injury (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is skating now). Last year the team was plagued with injuries.

I actually verbally lashed out at my computer screen when the sixth goal was scored. It’s just plain ridiculous.

This team needs to start a brawl. Every player should be required to fight someone. I’d love to see that.

All hail the San Jose Sharks:  Dumb, Dumber, Dumberer, Dumbererer, Dumberererer, etc.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DAL 29; Jamie McGinn led with four.

The “Minnows” next game is against Vancouver on Thursday — the front end of a back-to-back.

–Ray

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 38

Quite the typical Sharks-Stars game as the away team won again, this time being the Sharks 4-2. I wonder if there’s ever been such an unusual series besides this one where the away team always wins. The Sharks are now 8-1 in Dallas their last nine games there. Wow.

The Stars ownership should change the arena’s name from American Airlines Arena to Nabokov Airlines Arena. Nabby was once again spectacular on Dallas ice stopping 36 of 38 shots.

Contrary to what the score may indicate, the game very much belonged to the Stars who controlled the pace throughout. What was concerning was the Sharks were actually trying hard but losing a majority of the battles along the boards and for loose pucks. Things started to even out near the end, but luckily the Sharks converted their chances.

Calm down dude. It's just Kent Huskins. (From SJSHARKS.com)

The refs were giving Dallas every opportunity in the world with five powerplays. The Sharks received 0 powerplays and held their ground on the penalty kill until the fifth penalty. Dallas finished 1-5 on the man advantage.

Patrick Marleau took over the goal-scoring lead on the team with his 22nd and 23rd goal of the year. He was tied with Dany Heatley prior to tonight’s game. But Heatley wasn’t quiet. He was placed back on the top line and tallied two assists — both on Patty’s goals.

I’m glad to see coach Todd McClellan put the big boys back together. You can argue putting them together reduces depth all you want, but the “burger” lines produces. It doesn’t matter if the opponent has the last change or not. They find away to put points on the board.

This is the front end of a back-to-back. The Sharks travel to Chicago tomorrow, and because of the long layoff over the last week, Nabby will probably start again.

Stop it Blake!

Rob Blake continues to take bad penalties. Old age is no excuse for constantly whacking other players and hooking them. Calm your hormones old man. Your killing us.

Whoops!

The final Sharks goal came off a stupid play by Stars player Ivan Vishnevskiy. Off a faceoff in front of an empty net, he skated towards his own goal and lost control. And the biscuit went in much to the dismay of Stars fans. It’ll probably end up on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10. He will need a paper bag over his head fast.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  DAL 35; Three players led the team with four each.

As aforementioned, the Sharks face the Blackhawks tomorrow.

–Ray

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 36

Quite the unpropitious performance from the Sharks in their 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. I don’t know what else I can possibly say other than this blows. I feel like a Hurricanes fan right now.

Here’s a startling stat for you: the Sharks are 3-2-4 against their division. That breaks down as follows:

vs. Anaheim: 2-0-0

vs. Los Angeles: 1-1-1

vs. Phoenix: 0-1-1

vs. Dallas: 0-0-2

That’s pitiful and it leaves me dumbfounded. For all the great talk announcers and hockey media people give the Sharks, they sure to suck against the important teams. Being undefeated against the Ducks only helps my feelings a little.

Tonight wasn’t really a contest. Look at the stats and you’ll see the Sharks outshot the Coyotes 38-35. Boy, that couldn’t be more misleading. It really was all Phoenix tonight. Sustaining pressure was impossible for San Jose, and for the 2,453rd time, the Sharks faced a hot goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov.

The biggest reason for forecheck impotence was penalties. The Sharks were in the box all night after taking lazy penalties. San Jose posted 16 PIMs, and they were not just by lowly fourth liners. Joe Thornton, Rob Blake and Dan Boyle all spent time in the naughty room. Isn’t that something, though? Your captain and two alternates all took penalties. What amazing leadership shown there.

Torrey, Torrey, he has none. It's a worthless cause. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Another stat of note: The Sharks are now 0-7-1 when trailing after two periods. I thought this team had more character and resiliency this year. I can get lost in the number of hits and phenomenal shifts Scott Nichol has, but when you look at it from that perspective, it’s frightening.

OK, it’s time to bring Jason Demers back up. The Derek Joslin experiment has gone awry. He hasn’t provided anything worth nothing, but I will tell you something worth nothing: Since Demers was sent down, the Sharks are 2-2-3. Worcester is 3-1-1 with Demers, who has two goals, one assist, and a +3 rating (five games played) with the AHL affiliate.

There isn’t a single Sharks fan I’ve talked to who likes Joslin. I haven’t even found a Sharks fan who’s indifferent towards him. Everyone hates him. Even the Dallas Stars announcers said his nickname should be “Janice” Joslin. Ouch!

Breaking up is hard to do

Coach Todd McClellan thought it best to break up the “burger line” of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau and replace Patty with Devin Setoguchi, who has been struggling mightily. Why on earth would you do that? As good of a sniper as Seto can be, Pattycakez is so much better and a better all-around athlete. Todd– lay off the eggnog buddy and put your head back on straight.

Oh No!

Boyle went down awkwardly into the boards at the end of the game. Taylor Pyatt shoved him after Boyle tried to gain position on him. Hope he’s all right.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 35  PHX 24; Doulgas Murray, returning after missing last game, led the team with eight hits.

The Sharks now have a four-day layoff before facing Anaheim at home on Thursday. It’s their only game in the next eight days. Interesting schedule.

–Ray

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 35

Quite the demoralizing game for the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks are now 0-0-2 against Dallas with both losses coming at home in shootouts.

Marty Turco is an annoying little mosquito, and I wish he would just retire. I’m sick of hearing “Save Turco.” He never goes away. I can’t stand him.

Steve Ott should be banished from the league. He isn’t playing hockey out there; he’s playing to get guys hurt, as evidenced by his blatant cross-check on Dan Boyle. Boyle got up and dropped the gloves, but it was Sharks newcomer Jay Leach who attacked Ott after.

Seriously, throw Ott out of the league. He is of no value to the sport of hockey — put him in prison.

Leach’s first game as a Shark was riddled with defensive mistakes. He turned it over in the defensive zone and was out of position. Coach Todd McClellan put Leach and Derek Joslin on the penalty kill, which is probably the worst decision I’ve seen since a World War II sniper decided not to pull the trigger on Adolf Hitler.

Joe Pavelski chases the puck, which will probably end up being a save by Turco (From NHL.com)

But the story of the game was the 11-round barnburner of a shootout. Amazingly, the Sharks scored just once out of 11 tries. That is embarrassing. Turco poke checked four or five guys and they still didn’t learn! Hello! If you see your teammates continuously poke checked, why are you going to attempt a close deke? Just shoot the puck with a quick release. Jesus Greiss.

McClellan should have put Leach out there for the 11th round. When it gets that late in the shootout, expect the unexpected à la Marek Malik against Olaf Kolzig (youtube it).

So now the Sharks finish a dreadful 1-1-3 on their five-game homestand. Surprising to say he least considering many expected a 5-0 homestand.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 29  DAL 38; Joe Thornton led with 6.

The Stars outshot the Sharks 44-35, and if it weren’t for the Sharks blocking 16, it would have been 60 shots against. U-G-L-Y, they ain’t got no alibi.

No time to think about this loss as the Sharks travel to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes, Saturday night.

–Ray

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 22

Quite the disheartening performance by the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks looked to be on the road to victory until they broke out their trademark lazy third period performance. I’m sensing a trend, and coach Todd McClellan better address it quick.

Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe were the goal scorers tonight. Heatley scored on a behind-the-net feed from Joe Pavelski, while Clowe scored on a wrister from the point. That’s about all the offense there is to report.

The game was all about the goalies. Dallas goalie Marty Turco is probably the luckiest man on earth. He had no right making some of the saves he did. It’s so frustrating to see a goalie beat so many times, yet fling his arms or stick out and make a save. I don’t think that’s skill at all. I can only imagine what it felt like to the Sharks players.

Picture 12

Ryane Clowe screens Marty Turco (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Turco’s saves to keep the game tight. One of the Stars’ goals was a wacky deflection that Nabby had zero chance in getting. Unfortunately, that goal came back to haunt the Sharks.

Enough about the Stars’ luck, though, this third-period collapse trend is scary. I think it was a couple years back in one of Ron Wilson’s last years, if not his last year as Sharks coach, where they could never hold onto leads well. They also got complacent and lazy, and it’s coming up again. I realize I’m not a professional hockey player, but come on. Don’t you want to beat every team 10-0 every night? Why do you want to take shifts off and not try? Please tell me.

This is a rivalry game. Pummel your opponent.

Pacific Division games are boring, I must admit. I don’t know if every fan feels this way about their teams’ division games, but they put me to sleep. Playing Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas is so lackluster. Anaheim is better, but I don’t feel any intensity. Maybe some of the Sharks feel that, I don’t know.

Why did Ryan Vesce only play five minutes in this game? He looks healthy and he was on that point streak before he got injured. Give him more ice time. He deserves it, and he’s earned it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 33  DAL 26; Douglas Murray had six hits. Jed Ortmeyer had five.

The Sharks earn another point by getting into a shootout to extend their point-streak to 10 games.

All five games the Sharks have played past regulation have gone to shootouts. They’re 2-3 in those games.

Next game is Saturday at St. Louis.

–Ray

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment