A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Sharks name Joe Thornton captain. A look at the pros and cons.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan named Joe Thornton captain today — a minor surprise for Sharks fans. A lot of fans, including myself, expected Dan Boyle to be named the 11th captain in Sharks history. Turns out Boyle will be a permanent alternate captain, with Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe alternating the second ‘A’ for home and road games.

 

What the Sharks need from Thornton every night — A beatdown of Getzlaf

 

Probably the immediate reaction from most hockey fans is that we’ve seen Thornton be a captain before — in Boston — and how it failed miserably.

Thornton, 31,  says he’s much more mature now being a father and having more experience as a person and hockey player. While you can’t deny that, he still is very much the same type of person he’s always been. A laid-back, glass half-full type of guy. With that said, let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons of his captaincy.

Pros

  • He’s positive. Jumbo Joe will never panic; that word is not in his vocabulary. After every game, he’ll give some version of the phrase, “We’ll be fine,” either after a win or a loss. What’s intriguing about this is Boyle is the opposite. Boyle wears his heart on his sleeve, giving the Sharks a nice dynamic in leadership.
  • He’s the face of the franchise. This doesn’t pertain much to play on the ice, I know, but it could be a good marketing tool for the Sharks in reaching out to potential NHL fans. Hockey fan or not, a lot of people know the name “Joe Thornton.” Now they can ID him more easily with the team in San Jose and as a captain.
  • Regular season prowess. In order to win the Stanley Cup, you have to make the playoffs. While the Sharks have claimed the top spot the last two years, Thornton’s point totals have fell to the upper 80’s. Having the captaincy could make him step his game up in the 82-game audition for the playoffs.
  • It’s a contract year. This could change in the first month of the season, with rumors of an extension going on for some time now. But if GM Doug Wilson chooses to let the season play out, it could be even better play from Thornton, who will be looking to cash in. I think the captaincy also puts to rest the trade speculation, but you never know with Wilson. But in all honesty, I see an extension for Thornton by December.

Cons

  • He’s positive. Yep, this is exactly the same thing as the “pro” above. Having a captain who is always looking at the bright side of things isn’t always good. Thornton mentioned he likes to keep things light and fun off the ice and serious on it. Sometimes you need someone to step up in the locker room, off the ice, and tell the players what needs to change. When it comes to speeches, I’ve always thought of Joe up in front of the players cracking jokes while trying to convey a serious point.
  • Inconsistent passion. Contrary to how Joe says he is extremely passionate about the game, he fails to bring it all every night. You can find him coasting around the ice on some nights, not really caring, and committing atrocious turnovers from lazy passes. That is not captain material.
  • Postseason pressure. Joe answered most critics this past postseason playing his heart out. It was amazing to watch, but can he keep it up? Rumor has it McLellan tried to get Thornton to play a rougher style (Only what fans have been screaming for forever) and it worked. Hopefully, Thornton still knows how to flip the switch a notch higher come April, May and June, and this will turn into a “pro.”
  • Distractions. The weakest “con” of them all, Thornton did just have a baby and a lot of attention must be given to “Mini Joe.” One of Thornton’s quotes was something like, “I already look after one guy, now I have to look over 22.” It was a quip, but if you’d like to overanalyze, it kind of sounded like looking over 22 players is a burden,

Bottom line: The jury’s still out on Thornton being captain, but no doubt the majority of NHL fans are laughing at the Sharks right now. I’m very weary of the move and would have preferred Boyle be captain with Joe Pavelski getting an ‘A.’ But I’m not a coach or see the inner-workings of the locker room, so for now it’s just about supporting the decision and cheering for the Sharks.

–Ray

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fishing for Fins: Sharks add Niemi

Sharks fans everywhere scoffed at acquiring Antti Niemi throughout the summer and they all were forced to eat crow Sept. 2 when the Sharks officially announced the signing of the Finnish goalie.

San Jose now boasts a goaltending tandem of also Fin, Antero Niittymaki and Niemi as opposed to last year’s twosome of Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss.

But you won’t see any partying in the streets. Reaction everywhere on Sharks forums is negative and pessimistic. Of course, being a Sharks fan, the only thing you know is bad luck and seeing the glass half empty.

Niemi signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Sharks

Playoff Proven

The addition of a Stanley Cup-winning goalie is an upgrade over Niittymaki first and foremost. You can argue technique and positioning all day, but Niemi has shown he can make the big saves when called upon.

Niittymaki has only played in two NHL playoff games and looked awful (.828 save percentage, five goals against in 73 minutes). That isn’t a big enough sample size to judge him on playoff play, but it puts him in the same boat as Thomas Greiss.

Previous all-star Nabokov was an OK playoff performer (.907 save %, 2.56 GAA), but couldn’t steal enough games by himself to bring his team to the promise land. Some fans have even dared to bring up how good he is in the regular season. Are you kidding me? Every Sharks fan should know by now how much the regular season means.

But didn’t Niemi have a great defense?

The biggest argument against Niemi and his Stanley Cup ring is that he had a spectacular defense in front of him. That’s very true, and playing for the Sharks will be a completely different experience.

However, we don’t truly know how that defense affected Niemi’s psyche. Maybe knowing he had a defense in front of him, he didn’t play up to his potential and relied on the defense to clear out his gigantic rebounds. Now backstopping an average defense in San Jose could spark him to step up his game to higher level.

Pure speculation but it’s something to think about.

Lame Argument

Niittymaki supporters like to mention that “when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.” This is an argument I love to hate. When any goalie is “on” they can be unstoppable. And if you have to use that argument at all in the first place, it means the goalie is inconsistent.

I wonder if Niitty is "on" in this picture.

The puzzle is still incomplete

One odd reaction to the Niemi addition is that people seem to think this is the roster the Sharks will enter the season with — three NHL starting goalies on one team with another star prospect (Alex Stalock) in the minors.

There is no way this team stays the way it is now. I think some trade will happen before the season starts — probably involving Greiss — to acquire a defenseman.

Ryane Clowe is a name that’s been thrown around numerous times for a package deal to bring in a top-4 defenseman. Something does have to be done about the defense, it doesn’t matter if Patrick Roy were the Sharks goalie, the defense has to improve.

San Jose lacks a shutdown pair, and unfortunately, Huskins-Wallin just won’t cut it (haha).

I’m not a fan of the Dan Boyle-Douglas Murray pair, just because I’m not a Murray fan. I think he’s a pylon who’s only good for one big hit a game. He was terrible in the playoffs, always being a step behind the play and leaving a man open.

There’s been rumors of the Sharks trading Greiss + other assets to Philadelphia for Braydon Coburn, and other whisperings of a potential offer sheet for Rangers restricted free agent Marc Staal.

"Jesus" Greiss' days may be numbered in San Jose

Either would be an upgrade over Murray, but those may be forever pipe dreams.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson must know the defense needs an upgrade, so I wouldn’t fret about the Sharks defense as it is now. It will change — hopefully sooner than later.

-Ray

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ITSC, Game 2 vs. Avalanche

WOW!

They finally smarted up and came to play — well, all except two players.

Everything was against the Sharks tonight; it’s like the Sharks are banned from winning and banned from getting in breaks in the playoffs.

Countless times, I hear dings from Sharks shots going off the posts, pucks fumbling away from Sharks players, pucks bouncing right toward opponents, bogus penalties on the Sharks when they aren’t called against opponents, the list continues….

But somehow, these men picked up their lunch pail and went to work. I’ve never seen a harder working Sharks game ever. Constant battles along the boards, players moving their feet and winning 50/50 battles.

There’s no doubt the Sharks deserved this win.

It took overtime to do it, though. 6-5! That’s right, 6-5!

The two reasons why it wasn’t 5-1 or 6-1? Douglas Murray and Evgeni Nabokov. It’s quite possible they played some of their worst hockey in their lives.

They single-handedly were the cause of four goals. Murray blew coverage twice giving Nabby no chance to stop shots. Then on two others Nabby had brain farts and couldn’t make simple stops.

San Jose annihilated Colorado in every aspect of the game besides those plays. The Sharks are too big and on this night, too determined.

I haven’t even mentioned how bad the referees were. There were so many holding, hooking and interference penalties on the Sharks that went uncalled. But then of course when Rob Blake lowers the boom on a precious Av, it’s a penalty.

Ovvverrr Nine Thousssaaannndddddddd!!!! (From SJSHARKS.com)

In the overtime, the exact same play Rob Blake did happened to Ryane Clowe; an Av came in a decked him into the boards, and it was a clear interference call. Nope, not called.

Luckily, the refs smarted up for one play when Adam Foote bolted Jed Ortmeyer into the net, which was called a penalty.

Devin Setoguchi cashed in on that power play by deflecting a shot and sending the Sharks to Colorado with a 1-1 series tie.

Fantastic work by every forward. I can’t state that enough. I’d like to single out Scott Nichol. That man has some engine in his body. I think he was the reason the rest of the Sharks worked as hard as they did. And guess what? Nichol was rewarded with a goal in the game.

Craig Anderson is not that great. A random thought, but I need to say it. Guarantee he will go back to being a nobody, average goalie next year. One-hit wonder.

One can only hope the Sharks can bottle this energy up and unleash it again in Colorado. This could be an organization-changer.

You know those NHL commercials where they show old highlights in reverse saying “What if so and so didn’t happen?

There could be one in 10 years showing Setoguchi’s overtime goal.

Hard work needs to be rewarded, and thankfully it was tonight.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 81

Quite the rough-and-tumble game for the Sharks as they held on to all but eliminate the Calgary Flames from the playoffs, winning 2-1. No Jarome Iginla in the playoffs, no worries.

Most impressive was the Sharks ability to withstand and neutralize any sort of Calgary onslaught at the beginning of the game.

It wouldn’t have come as a shock to see an early Flames 2-0 lead. Sharks coach Todd McLellan may have been right, before the game, when he said they were well aware the Flames would be desperate.

Pardon me for questioning the Sharks psyche. It’s not like I’ve had any reason to.

Part of the solution was Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby played great tonight, and it’s slowly becoming realized that he’s getting into a rhythm. Perfect timing.

Even more fantastic is the Sharks secondary scoring is hot. Jamie McGinn scored in the second period for his second consecutive game with a goal. McLellan’s been on his case to pick up the pace and it’s working.

"Goalie's gotta biiigg butt!" (From SJSHARKS.com)

Logan Couture played well again also. One thing I notice about him is that he takes the shot — always. It doesn’t matter where he’s at, he will take it. He does it more than Dany Heatley does. Great things are coming from Logan in the playoffs.

Ryane Clowe continued his scorching pace with yet another assist.

After that forgettable debacle in Dallas, Jason Demers returned to the lineup and added an assist.

The planets may be aligning folks — and now that I said that, watch the Sharks lose 8-0 to Vancouver next game.

None of the big three registered a point or a +/- rating. That might be alarming to some but not for me right now. What was alarming was the laziness of Patrick Marleau defensively. He may have caught the Jumbo-shrimp syndrome; he coasted around the defensive zone not pressuring anyone.

Patty’s played well enough all year that I’ll let the last few games slide so long as it ends in the coming days.

A big criticism tonight was the third period. San Jose couldn’t generate any consistent forecheck, which kept Nabby on his toes. Luckily he obliged, but the Sharks have to learn to push back in situations like those.

In the meantime, I’ll rejoice for another Pacific Division title — until next week.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 11  CGY 22; Four players had two.

For those wondering, Rob Blake scored the first goal. No suspension for that hit on Mueller, and there should not have been.

All away games are done with for the regular season. San Jose returns home for the last two games. Vancouver is in town Thursday.

–Ray

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 80

Quite the frustrating game for the Sharks as they fell to the Colorado Avalanche, 5-4 in overtime. The Avs are still battling for a playoff berth and showed that in their intensity throughout the game.

It’s really hard to describe the Sharks. I don’t think they played badly, but they weren’t very good either.

Things were looking up for San Jose when they scored two goals in the first to take a 2-0 lead. In his first game back from injury, Joe Thornton assisted on the first goal, so there’s no worries about a slump.

Colorado got lucky when Kyle Quincey stormed out of the penalty box on a breakaway and beat Evgeni Nabokov, which made it 2-1 Sharks.

It was all Avalanche in the second frame. For the second game in a row, the Sharks blew a two-goal lead, and even worse this time was they allowed four straight goals. Joe Sakic-lookalike Peter Mueller scored twice. He’s become one of my more hated players so quickly.

Logan's got his playoff face on. Show me yours. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Patrick Marleau scored his first goal in 14 road games, and Joe Pavelski knotted it up with five minutes left.

I was worried about a letdown after the score was 4-2, and for a moment, the Sharks looked like they gave up. But Marleau’s goal re-energized everyone briefly.

Ryane Clowe, who looked like a slightly perturbed bulldog tonight, took a penalty at the very end of regulation to put Colorado on the power play in overtime.

That basically did the Sharks in. Even after the power play, Colorado kept the pressure in the offensive zone. They scored to win the game and put themselves two points ahead of Calgary.

These last few games are great for the Sharks because they’re all against playoff teams (one potentially)– Calgary, Vancouver and Phoenix. Last year, the Sharks had to sift through bottom dwellers, which got them in the lazy, coasting mood.

I do like seeing the goals spread out as of late. Tonight, Douglas Murray and Jamie McGinn had goals along with Marleau and Pavelski. That’s what has to happen come playoff time.

Speaking of, the playoffs start in ten days! It’s time to start getting excited and canceling all your late night plans— well maybe gather your friends in front of a TV, hockey fans or not. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the most exciting postseason in sports. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  COL 26; Murray led with five.

Colorado outshot the Sharks 40-22.

Calgary players won’t be too happy the Sharks lost tonight. The Flames have their chance at San Jose on Tuesday, in Calgary.

–Ray

April 5, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 79

Quite the Hello! McFly! game for the Sharks as nobody was home, and Dallas beat them handily again 5-1. Adding insult to injury was the mega-terd Steve Ott with a hat trick — yes, a hat trick.

How do you let a goon like that score so much? Oh I know, don’t cover him. Just let him frolic to the front of the net and let him receive passes right in front of Nabokov.

It’s what the defense did all night. Just when you think they turn a corner, whammo! You get hit with this ginormous piece of garbage.

Jason Demers played his worst game as a pro tonight. Pairing him with Niclas Wallin was a dumb decision. They teamed up to show us the worst tandem in NHL history — kudos to you guys.

Every other defenseman was a turnover machine. It was like watching an infinite loop; you’d see a Shark flail his arms around at the blueline trying to turn around while a Star skated in the other direction. Time after time. No Cyndi Lauper here.

If there’s any retired NHL defenseman out there, I’d like to ask how hard is it to mark your man? Is it really that difficult to be between the goal and your man? Actually, don’t bother because I know the answer. It’s about as hard as blinking.

The boneheadedness wasn’t limited to the blueliners either. Patrick Marleau caught the syndrome and boy was it ugly. Twice he tried through-the-legs passes and both times they ended up on a Dallas stick on a breakaway. Once led directly to a goal.

Scott Nichol was kind enough to show us what this game was with one image. (From SJSHARKS.com)

These turnovers weren’t just coming on 5-on-5’s. Shockingly, they came on power plays. I probably shouldn’t even say shockingly because that would be giving the Sharks credit. How they are third in power play percentage is beyond me. I can tell you they are first in “whoops!” percentage.

I wonder what Joe Thornton thought of his teammates — he was sidelined again with his lower body injury. One can only hope he thought to himself, “Ooohhhh so that’s what I look like.”

STEVE FREAKIN’ OTT! Sorry, I just can’t get over this. After the stunt he pulled on Marleau in the last meeting, he was supposed to get payback. Nah, just rewards.

Whatever happened to the away-ice advantage in this series? San Jose always won in Dallas and vice versa. That’s gone down the crapper.

Let me guess… Interference!

All the refs ever wanted to call was interference. Seven interference penalties were called. Apparently, the “officials” don’t know what finishing your check is.

What’s the point?

Demers dropped the gloves with Mark Fistric in the closing seconds. It was a hugfest.

Hockey is for Everyone ads

I’ve been meaning to mention this, and since I’m already in a bad mood, it’s the perfect timing. Gamecenter and the NHL network really need to stop running these ads. NHLnet already runs the same commercials over and over again, but these ones are so incredibly annoying. It’s hilarious these commercials run on channels and internet software that must be paid for. I think the “everyone” part the NHL is looking for is not going to have enough money to pay to see the ads.

Then we get Wayne Simmonds in the ads who looks completely miserable. If you see the ad again, pay attention. Simmonds looks like he just wants to get the hell out of dodge. Great face for this campaign, huh?

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  DAL 40; Douglas Murray led with six.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic didn’t play tonight after re-injuring his leg. Ryane Clowe didn’t return after the first period. Thomas Greiss started the third period.

Perhaps it’s a good thing the Sharks play Minnesota on Friday, since they were the team that got the Sharks out of their previous slump.

–Ray

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 77

Quite the HA HA! game for the Sharks as they beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. That’s a little Gus Johnson reference for all you March Madness fans.

After taking out two bottom feeders in Minnesota and Dallas, the Sharks proved that they may very well be regaining old form by beating Vancouver. It wasn’t a full 60 minute game, but San Jose wasn’t built in a day.

Vancouver won the first period with a constant forecheck and a goal by the annoying Sedin line. Add the twins to my giant list of people who I can’t stand. That’s all you hear about with the Canucks — Sedin this, Sedin that. They’d be nothing without them. I’m sick of it.

But alas, it wasn’t to be the Swedish meatballs’ night. The Sharks dominated the second period as they do all the time. Three goals came to fruition with Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski netting them.

Heatley shot a wrister on the power play to tie the game, 1-1. Marleau scored on a breakaway after deking Roberto Luongo. No “Luuu” chants here. Patty had a more explosive reaction than usual, which was awesome to see. It’s his 42nd goal. He also recorded three assists for a four-point night.

The San Jose heartbeat stops as Jumbo goes down. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Pavelski took notes from the nearby San Francisco Giants and batted the puck into the net after an initial shot deflected into the air.

Then — PANIC. Joe Thornton rammed awkwardly into the boards and went down in a heap. Jumbo needed extra help to get to the locker room. Any ripping of Thornton can cease now. If there is one positive, it’s that he hasn’t missed a game in a Shark uniform (I’m fairly certain of that).

He’s getting a bit more energetic while working with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell on the third line. It looked to be his left knee that was injured. But we all know what we’ll hear tomorrow morning: “Lower body injury.” That’s Top-5 worst things about hockey — the crappy injury reports.

I hope he’s all right.

The Sharks sunk back into old play again and struggled in the third period. Vancouver barraged them with wave after wave, but somehow San Jose withstood it. They did allow one Canuck goal, but Clowe sealed it in the final seconds with an empty netter.

So, while I’d like the headline to be “Sharks continue winning ways,” it’s going to be “Thornton leaves game injured, return questionable.”

Raining Blood

Manny Malhotra was struck in the face by a puck late in the game, and blood poured out of his face. Not sure where exactly it hit, but the blood wasn’t stopping. Stitches will probably seal that right up, though. I can’t fathom being hit by a frozen puck in the face.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 39  VAN 24; Clowe led with seven.

Scott Nichol returned from injury after missing two games. Rob Blake was back on the ice tonight as well after missing almost all of the third period versus Dallas. Blake had two assists on the night to continue his hot streak.

It’s another back-to-back for the Sharks as the Avalanche will be at the Shark Tank, Sunday.

–Ray

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment