- Say what you want about the Toronto Maple Leafs but they play an entertaining brand of hockey. Lots of scoring chances, some good hits and lots of emotion that led to some good ol’ nastiness on the ice. Of course, I’m not cheering for the Leafs so whether they win or lose is irrelevant to me unlike their passionate fan base that are screaming (literally) for a playoff contending team. The Leafs, by the way, have missed the playoffs 8 of the past 9 years.
- If Marleau and Nieto use their speed to crash the net like they did vs the Leafs it is going to open up all kinds of ice for Thornton who will inevitably get the puck to them.
- Tyler Kennedy has looked really good in the two games back since missing 15 games with an upper body injury.
- Justin Braun continues his steady play with tremendous defense and he chipped in with 2 assists vs the Leafs and was named the 1st star of the game.
- What happened to the Pacific Division? Two years ago it was considered the best division in hockey. The Sharks currently sit 2nd in the Pacific with 53 points but that point total would only be good enough for 4th place in the Metropolitan Division and 5th place in the Central and Atlantic. Then again we all know we can’t take stock in the LA Kings regular season point totals – fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us! Come playoff time the Pacific Division turns into possibly the toughest division to get out of!
- The past week all the Sharks pro and amateur scouts convened in San Jose for some mid-season meetings. I mentioned on a broadcast that they attend 150 to 200 games and an old friend and scout sent me a direct message on Twitter saying “If they are not going to 300 games and spending 200 nights in a hotel they are working part-time.” Love it! Point is, scouts are the backbone to an organization, have a great eye for talent and they are good old school guys in a very tight-knit scouting community. Good people them scouts are … safe travels guys and keep up the awesome work!
On Thursday night in St. Louis, Head Coach Todd McLellan coached his 500th NHL game. He deserves a big congrats on the milestone for many reasons:
• 64th coach in NHL history to coach 500 games
• He is only the 20th to coach his first 500 with the same franchise
• His 293 wins in his first 500 games in 3rd all-time behind Mike Babcock (303) and Joel Quenville (294)
• He is in his 7th season with the Sharks with a very impressive record of 293-145-62 for a Win % of 58.6% and a Points % of 64.8%
• In his 21 years as a coach he has never missed the playoffs and won an AHL Championship as Head Coach of the Houston Aeros and a Stanley Cup as an Assistant Coach for the Detroit Red Wings.
So what makes Todd McLellan such a good coach? I think I can answer that question using 5 key attributes: Passion, Humility, Integrity, Preparation, and Hockey IQ.
It's what drives any successful coach because they eat, sleep, and think hockey most of the time. Todd loves and respects the game of hockey and his passion is what drives him the most.
It comes from his family that raised him in Melville Saskatchewan. Todd was the ultimate team player when he played and he coaches the same way. He surrounds himself with good people, and does not put himself above the team or the logo that he works for.
Todd is honest and garners respect from his players who continue to play for him and respect him. Todd realizes that hockey, and life itself, is about relationships and how you treat people and uses that model everyday. When we travel from city to city it's remarkable how much respect Todd gets around the league.
I am not saying Todd is the hardest working coach because I know there are other coaches that put in long hours - but I don't think anyone works harder. Whether it's early meetings to go over video, practice plans, meeting with players, or studying game film into the wee hours of the night Todd leads my example with his work ethic and preparation.
Todd has a plan, stays focused on the plan and has an extremely high hockey IQ. I know that other coaches study and use some of the systems that Todd and his staff have used over the years. He processes extremely fast which is mandatory to be a good bench coach at the NHL level and he has an eye for both technical and tactical aspects of the game. You learn something new every time you have a hockey conversation with Todd McLellan.
There are other attributes but those 5 sum up the type of person and coach Todd McLellan is.
Congrats coach on your 500th game - you are in an elite group that have reached that milestone in the top hockey league in the world, the NHL!
- Voila, the Sharks are finally on a roll as they have won six of the last seven games they have played, including five straight at home.
- We are starting to see an identity surround this Sharks team now that they have endured the toughest start to a season in NHL history from a travel standpoint and now have had time to get some rest, practices in and play some home games.
- That said, the schedule is much lighter from a travel schedule in the coming weeks but the competition will be very tough. In the next 12 games the Sharks play six at home, St Louis three times, Anaheim twice, Nashville, LA, Vancouver, Minnesota and the NY Rangers.
- Joe Thornton had two assists vs Minnesota on Thursday night giving him 1,220 points for his career and moving him into sole possession of 39th on the all-time points list in NHL history. Who did he pass? The great Jean Beliveau who passed away last week. #Gulp
- I am looking forward to seeing the Nashville Predators at SAP Center on Saturday night. They are one of the surprises of the season and currently sit in 2nd place in the very tough Central Division with 40 points. Bring on rookie sensation Felip Forsberg and of course Pekke Rinne, one of the best goalies in the world when he is healthy.
- The Central Division is the toughest division in hockey right now. For instance, two teams that made the playoffs last year, Colorado and Dallas, currently sit in 6th and 7th place respectively.
- The LA Kings are just hovering in the middle of pack … again. Hey LA, you aren’t fooling anyone anymore, we all still consider you the team to beat come April.
- What a week: Barclay Goodrow scored his 1st NHL goal and Melker Karlsson got an assist on the goal in his 1st NHL game. Congrats boys!
- In the game against Minnesota the Sharks dressed 10 players who were under the age of 25 so the youth movement is in place and from early indications looks very promising.
- The Wild were held to 19 shots, their lowest total of the year and 13 shots lower than their season average. It was only the 4th time this season (in 27 games) the Wild had been outshot in a game.
- Patty Marleau looked like Joe Thornton this week with some of the passes he made that set up Sharks goals. It’s no coincidence that the Sharks were winning games at the same time Marleau had nine points during a six-game point streak.
- Congrats to Alex Stalock on his win against the Wild. The St. Paul, MN, native had lots of family and friends watching back home as he beat the team he grew up watching with a stellar performance.
- The Sharks unveiled the jersey they will wear for the Stadium Series game on February 21 against LA. My take, I’m warming up to it. I am also keeping in mind the numbers on the back and shoulders need to be visible so fans attending the game can see who is who. These are special jersey’s for a special game and the more I gander at the front of the Sharks jersey the more I like it.
Baker’s Half Dozen
1. Tommy Wingels is really becoming an inspirational leader for the San Jose Sharks with his consistent north-south physical brand of hockey. And he’s been wracking up the points lately too.
2. The Sharks still need to work on playing a full 60 minutes but the last two games have been impressive come from behind wins against the Flyers and Boston.
3. I think it is the responsibility of all players to do two of three things every game: win, lose, entertain! Considering they can’t win and lose in a single game, they do have to try and make the game entertaining for the paying fans at the game and others watching or listening. That Boston game was a blast too
4. How do you make a hockey game entertaining? Easy really, a good dose of energy, passion, speed, compete and skill. Voila!
5. Joe Thornton’s assist vs Boston was his 1,216th career point tying him with Jeremy Roenick and Larry Murphy for 40th all-time points in NHL history. Up next on the list is, hold your breath, Jean Beliveau who sits 39th all-time with 1,219 points.
6. I was at the Giants game when they lost to the Dodgers 17-0.
6.5 After that humbling loss I’m not sure any Giants fans were thinking about a third World Series title in five years. But that’s exactly what happened which is another reminder why all sports enthusiasts and fans should be continue to be passionate but ENJOY THE JOURNEY and realize that a single game does not determine how a team may fare in the in the long run.
1) Going into the home game Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, the Sharks were beginning a stretch where they play 33 of the next 48 games at home. Hey, who’s complaining about the road travel now?
2) I said in an earlier blog that the Sharks are the most interesting team in the NHL. I was wrong, Toronto is!
3) Speaking of the recent road trip, I found time to fly from Columbus to Syracuse (on the off-day last Friday) to watch my daughter play. She plays for the UVM (Univ. of Vermont) Woman’s hockey team and I was there to watch them come back from a 3-0 first period deficit to win 6-5 in overtime. Talk about spoiled, I got to see my daughter, watch her team win in OT and see a team I was cheering for score six goals.
4) You know where this was leading. In the last 7 games the Sharks have scored 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1 and 2 goals. That’s 11 goals in seven games for those keeping score at home.
5) So what do the Sharks need to do to start scoring? Well that’s the question they are asking themselves but I’ll chime in with a few thoughts:
- Cleaner, crisper breakouts
- Speed through the neutral zone – attacks off the rush
- Hit the net – not hitting the net means you don’t score on the original shot and can’t create 2nd/3rd scoring opportunities
- Make the goalie move laterally – it opens up holes and makes it more difficult for the goalie to control rebounds
- Muck it up in front of the opponents net and get some gritty, greasy, dirty goals that are created by screens, tips, rebounds and just finding a way to score
6) Some great games coming up:
- Wednesday, Nov. 26 – Calgary Flames (one of the early season surprises)
- Saturday, Nov. 29 – Anaheim Ducks (you remember what happened last game eh?)
- Tuesday, Dec. 2 – Philadelphia Flyers (their only visit to SAP Center this season)
- Thursday, Dec. 4 – Boston Bruins (Original 6 team, Thornton’s old team, enough said!)
7) My thoughts and prayers to Ottawa GM, Bryan Murray, as he fights the stage 4 cancer that is in his body. May he find strength in his battle and peace in knowing he has so many people thinking and praying on his behalf.
8) Joe Thornton has been the most consistent player for the Sharks this season. He is currently riding an 8-game point streak, has 20 points on the season. Of the 20 points, 16 are even-strength points, 7 more than any other Sharks forward.
9) Jason Demers, aka ‘Daddy’ is a wonderful person and I wish him all the luck in Dallas. And I would like to give a big warm welcome to Brenden Dillon who is now part of Sharks Territory.
10) It’s a head scratcher to think the Sharks are done with Columbus, Florida and Buffalo for this year and ended up with a 0-5-1 record.
11) Anaheim and LA are a combined 15-4-4 at home this year. Of the 4 regulation losses, two of them have been to the Sharks who beat LA 4-0 on opening night and Anaheim 4-1 on Oct 26. Scratch scratch!
12) The Sharks are 5-2-1 against teams in the West. That’s a good thing because they play 18 of their next 20 games against teams in the West.
13) I broke up the season into quarters (21, 21, 20 and 20 respectively) and here is how it breaks down from a home/road and West vs East (opponent) standpoint:
- 1st Quarter: Games 1 – 21: Home (5), Away (16), vs West (8), vs East (13)
- 2nd Quarter: Games 22 – 42: Home (13), Away (8), vs West (18), vs East (3)
- 3rd Quarter: Games 43 – 62: Home (14), Away (6), vs West (13), vs East (7)
- 4th Quarter: Games 63 – 82: Home (9), Away (11), vs West (11), vs East (9)
It’s my day in the rotation to write a thought of the day and it just so happens that it coincides with the parade in San Francisco for the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants on Halloween.
There’s no need for a trick here, this is a treat to witness a dynasty in today’s modern era of sports and to say it’s impressive in an understatement of huge proportions.
I’m writing about the Giants because last night after the Giants won their 3rd World Series in five years, team President Larry Baer said “We play a team sport, I think we are a role model for all teams” in regards to playing for each other and dealing with the highs and lows of a long season and playoff drama.
So if the Giants are in fact a role model, then what is the secret? Below is an excerpt from the New York Times about the Giants’ playoff heroics:
“Many of the players have changed over the years, but the team has had three important constants: Larry Baer, the team president; Brian Sabean, the general manager; and Bochy, the manager, who also led the San Diego Padres to the National League pennant in 1998.
“It’s down to the culture and chemistry of this club,” Baer said. “All the working parts have to work together. These working parts worked together like I’ve never seen before.”
Culture and chemistry, the exact thing the Sharks are longing for so they can reach the pinnacle of their sport, winning the Stanley Cup.
Makes sense, now lets get back to enjoying the ups and downs and seeing how the team responds. Watching the Giants was great theater, and so is watching the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks.
Definition of Interesting
In – ter – est – ing
“arousing curiosity or interest; holding or catching the attention”
It’s early in the 2014/15 NHL season but two topics are very interesting so far.
1. The parity in the league culminating in close games and come-from-behind wins.
Example: On Tuesday October 20, 2014 there were 10 games around the league:
- Seven saw a team overcome a deficit at any point in the game to pick up a win.
- Six were tied or within one goal entering the third period.
- Five featured a third period comeback that eventually led to a win.
- Five went past regulation, including four that were decided in overtime.
- Two saw a tying goal scored in the final five minutes of regulation. Both teams that tied the game late in regulation went on to win in.
2. The San Jose Sharks have to be one of the most interesting teams, if not the most interesting team, to watch this season. Case in point:
- Game 1 – Sharks spoil the Cup Banner night in LA shutting out the Kings 4-0.
- Game 2 – Sharks explode to early lead, shutout Jets 3-0 and go 0-8 on the PP.
- Game 3 – Sharks have 3-0 and 4-1 leads in Washington and end up winning the game 6-5 in the shootout.
- Game 4 – Sharks get outshot by a large margin, give up a lead, tie the game in the 3rd before losing the game in the shootout to the Islanders.
- Game 5 – Sharks score first for the 5th consecutive game, are comfortably up 3-0 early in third but give up two quick goals before holding on for 4-2 win with ex-Captain and current assistant Captain Joe Thornton getting his 1,200th point by scoring into an empty net.
- Game 6 – Sharks were playing well until late in the 2nd period when they looked like the bad news bears for about 2-3 minutes and ended up getting shut out to the Rangers for their first regulation loss of the year.
- Game 7 – Sharks score twice late in the 2nd period but give up three unanswered goals in the 3rd to lose to the Bruins.
Call it can’t miss live action, or can’t miss TV or can’t miss Radio or can’t miss Internet, this NHL season has already shown it’s going to be a wild with lots of ups and downs and the Sharks are in the front seat of this roller coaster ride.
I love it, because interesting can be good, can be bad but as the definition says, it certainly captures our attention, and isn’t that what pro sports are all about?
I wrote this blog as the Sharks prepared to play their last regular season game at Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders. Being here is nostalgic for me because when I was younger my favorite team was the Islanders, and yes my high school years were fun as they pumped out 4 Stanley Cups.
So why were the Islanders so good? And at the same time, what makes the current version of the San Francisco Giants so good when it comes to playoff time?
No question you have to have the right ingredients of speed, skill and toughness but lots of teams have that and don’t rise to the occasion when it matters most. The last piece to the Championship puzzle is the mental side of playing the game and this next part is important, the ability to over-achieve as an individual and a team.
The Giants know they just need to make the playoffs and then it’s time for everyone to rise to the occasion. That’s what the great Islanders team did, and that’s what the LA Kings did last year.
Having a great regular season gets you good contracts that set you up for life. Having a great playoff is what your legacy will be remembered for. As I looked at the 4 Stanley Cup banners hanging in the rafters I didn’t think about how the Islanders team did in the regular season, but how they dismantled other teams in the playoffs with their; tenacity, grit, speed, toughness, skill, goaltending and an willing desire to refuse to lose and be mentally stronger than their opponents. Their legacies are cemented in Islander and NHL history!
That’s what this season is about for the San Jose Sharks. Can they, as individuals and a group, over-achieve when it matters most. It’s been a long time since a Sharks team has over-achieved.
The regular season is about getting invited to the party. Like the Islanders, Kings and the San Francisco Giants, it’s then about peaking at the right time and taking your game to a new, and much higher level. That’s the opportunity and challenge that lies ahead for the 2014/15 version of the San Jose Sharks.
It’s hard not to be inspired watching the 2014 NHL playoffs, which many consider to be the best playoffs in years, many years meaning in decades. The passion and parity of this year's playoffs has been off the charts amazing and another reason why hockey is the ultimate team sport.
I decided to look up the meaning of inspiration and here is the definition from the World English Dictionary:
Inspiration -- noun
- stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to do special or unusual activity
- the state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused
- someone or something that causes this state
- an idea or action resulting from such a state
So let’s talk about inspiration from a leadership standpoint because great leaders inspire others to be stimulated, aroused and do special things, like go above and beyond when it matters most.
Here are examples from the four teams that played the Conference Finals.
PK Subban is all about inspiration and was the emotional leader for Montreal as they beat the top-seeded Bruins in the 2nd round before falling to the Rangers in the Conference Finals.
How about Toews and Kane from the Blackhawks? They are all about inspiring others. The Blackhawks have won 2 Stanley Cups in the last 4 seasons and a lot of the reason has to do with their inspirational leaders. The way the Hawks battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to the Kings and taking game 7 to overtime was beyond impressive and it started with the inspiration from its leaders.
The LA Kings get inspiration from the likes of Doughty, Williams, Quick, Kopitar and Brown as they have an unrelenting ability to inspire and a ‘refuse to lose’ attitude. The Kings have won three straight game 7’s on the road, for the first time in NHL history, and have done so against great teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago. Their leaders inspire others to be better and it’s why they are in the Stanley Cup Finals.
And last but not least the NY Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist is all about inspiring his teammates to be better, but the circumstances that have followed Dominic Moore and Marty St. Louis are taking inspirational leading to a higher power. Could the Rangers be a team of destiny because of the inspiration from their leaders?
The NHL playoffs are all about passion and inspiration. It’s been great theater so far and the Stanley Cup Finals promises to continue the trend of amazing hockey.
What a treat it is to be a hockey fan right now!