It is amazing what a trade can do. Even though General Manager Doug Wilson insisted that the trade of Douglas Murray was not meant to send a message to the rest of the team.
However, every trade sends a message intended or unintended.
Joe Pavelski said it best in an interview during the game in Anaheim.
"That's on us." He emphatically stated in regard to a good friend and teammate leaving the team.
He further explained that if the team and individuals had performed better then no one would have been traded.
Since the trade, the Sharks have played two games that are two of the best they have played this season. Two games where the team didn't lean on one line or a goaltender to steal the game. Two games where you can point out every player making a positive impact and competing every shift for 60 minutes.
Message or no message, the GM has certainly got the attention of his team.
It’s impossible to know what stretch of the Sharks season will end up being the most important to their playoff hopes. Maybe it was the 7 game winning streak at the beginning of the year that gave them a cushion? Or it could come down to the final two games of the season on the road in Phoenix and LA. But the next 4 home games against Anaheim, Detroit, Phoenix and Vancouver will certainly tell us a lot about where the team is heading and perhaps where some individual players are or are not heading.
The NHL trade deadline is a week from today. As of this morning the Sharks are in a playoff spot, 8th in the West. If the next 4 games go well they’ll be in good shape at the deadline. If things go sideways they could fall out of the top 8 in a hurry.
I’m not required to provide “keys to the game”. That duty is left for far more advanced hockey minds than mine. (Remenda, Baker, Hedican, Brown) But these are MY Great White Bites, so here are my keys to victory tonight against Anaheim.
Urgency and focus.
It was great that the Sharks broke out against Anaheim Monday and scored 5 goals. But it’s hardly time to start feeling comfortable. I’m guessing the Ducks are going to be in a snarly mood tonight and the Sharks have to match that with urgency from the first drop of the puck.
And then there’s the issue of focus. When things have gone bad for the Sharks it’s usually been a loss of focus/composure over a 2 or 3-minute stretch that sees the game get away from them. They overcame some adversity within that game Monday and settled down to close it out. That needs to happen again tonight.
I’m Randy Hahn.
• Douglas Murray, aka the Crankshaft, introduced all of us to his patented “head down, eyes up, hit-back.” Cranker would have his head down to lure opponents to come and hit him but unbeknownst to them his eyes were up – meaning just before they hit him he planted his 245 lb. middle linebacker body and offered the hit-back. Opponents would get credit for a hit yet they ended up going down …. Hard! Good luck in Pittsburgh Cranker and thanks for all great memories in San Jose. You will be missed both on and off the ice!
• With Jon Cooper getting the Head Coaching position in Tampa Bay a void was left for their AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch. Ex-Shark player and assistant coach Rob Zettler was named Head Coach of Syracuse – congrats to Zetts who is one of the best guys I have ever met.
• The Sharks just completed a stretch of 15 games out of 20 on the road. The Sharks spent 28 of the last 43 days on the road and a rough estimate of about 42 hours of time in the air. Remembering your hotel room is the least of your concern, especially when the wins were hard to come by. The good news is this tough stretch of the season is now in the rear view mirror and the Sharks are still clinging to a playoff spot.
• What’s in store – 7 home games in a row, 13 straight days in San Jose and not having to eat every meal in a restaurant. Here’s to some good home cooking both at home and on the ice where the Sharks have a home record of 8-1-4.
It’s great to be back in San Jose where we have the best fans in the NHL.
What is “Billy Mosienko Time?”
For those of you who have listened to our broadcasts, you know that it means that a team needs more than one goal to force overtime, but time is dwindling in the game. It’s named for the late Billy Mosienko, who scored three goals in just 21 seconds for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 23, 1952, at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
What is “Teemu Selanne Time?”
For those of you who have seen the Finnish Flash play, it usually means that it’s a Sharks game where he is on the opposing roster. Selanne scored his first NHL goal against the Sharks at the Cow Palace, way back in October of 1992, and he’s close to becoming the first player to record 100 points against San Jose in his career. But so far this season, Selanne has not recorded a single point against Sharks Hockey, and the team is hoping that stays that way in the final two games of the season series.
What is “Marleau Time?”
It’s the third period, where Patrick Marleau has scored more goals than anyone since the 2005-06 NHL season. Marleau has two goals on this trip, and one of them, scored on March 18th at the Honda Center against the Ducks, came at the 19:31 mark of the second period, which is pretty close to being “Marleau Time.”
What is “Sharks Hockey Time?”
When the Sharks really need to record a win, they tend to gather all of their energies and get it done with a combination of determination, resolve, goaltending, and timely play. As the road trip concludes, what is definitely needed is a little “Sharks Hockey Time,” which might need some “Marleau Time,” but hopefully no “Billy Mosienko Time” and definitely no “Selanne Time.”
See you on the radio tonight.
I have been sequestered into digital silence because I broke my computer. Broke being a euphemism for completely wiping out the hard drive. In the age of computer notebooks, tablets and smart phones, I'm getting dumber.
Now for my GWB.
The Sharks gave up another first goal of a career recently. It is fifth first the Sharks have given up this season. In fact 81 players scored the first goal of their career vs the Sharks.
I tossed that number at Joe Thornton the other day and he asked which player of the 81 had gone on to score the most goals in his career.
Great question, far too good for me to answer, so enter The great Darin Stephens our graphics and stats man from Comcast SportsNet.
The top five goal scorers who tallied their first vs the Sharks are:
- Teemu Selanne-670 (and counting)
- Jason Arnott-419
- Tomas Holmstrom-243
- JP Dumont-214
- Valeri Kamensky-200
It is a freak stat to be sure but interesting nonetheless.
Sitting here in front of my computer at the Sharks Saint Paul hotel, I can’t remember a game where there were so many “connections” like tomorrows’ against the Minnesota Wild.
Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Torrey Mitchell all played for the Sharks and Charlie Coyle was drafted and developed by the Sharks and ended up with the Wild as part of the Brent Burns trade. On the other side Burns, Martin Havlat and James Sheppard all played for Minnesota. But the connections don’t end there.
Todd McLellan spent 4 years in the Wild organization as their AHL Head Coach at Houston and won a championship there. Assistant Coach Jim Johnson is a University of Minnesota-Duluth Hall of Famer. Defenseman Justin Braun was born in Vadnais Heights, just outside the Twin Cities. Goaltender Alex Stalock was born and raised here in St. Paul and won a WCHA championship with UMD, Johnson’s alma mater. Sharks Assistant General Manger Joe Will worked for the old Minnesota North Stars before he joined the Sharks and scouts Pat Funk and Rob Grillo are both Minnesota guys.
And last but not least there’s the immensely popular Sharks former Assistant Equipment Manager Rick “Rickey Bobby” Bronwell, who now holds down the same position with the Wild.
Connections aside it’ll be “All Business” tomorrow as the Sharks and Wild meet for the first time this season and continue the battle to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Skating - quickness, speed, mobility, agility, backwards
Hockey Sense - ability to anticipate and make the right decisions ... quickly
Compete Level / Win Battles - have to win battles to get the puck
Puck Skills - stickhandling, quick hands, puck protection, making and catching passes
Ability to Score - some players have the knack, others don't
Size / Strength - helps to win battles and endure a grueling schedule
Leadership - ability to make others better
Intangibles - discipline, experience, good details/habits, work ethic, not injury prone
It takes a combination of all these attributes to be a great player and to build a great team. The fastest team doesn't necessarily win, neither does the biggest or the most skilled. Building a team is like making a great stew, you need just the right ingredients and they have to all compliment each other.
The Sharks along with every other team they are competing with to make the playoffs are trying to find just the right ingredients. Isn't that what makes hockey, and sports for that matter so interesting; watching teams try and find that right mix of character of chemistry. The Giants did it as did the A's and 49ers and now the Sharks are trying to do the same thing.
Don't forget to set your clocks for 11am PST on Saturday - that's game time against the Wild. Should be a great game.
Sometimes, a change of seasons brings forth a change of perspective, and with two straight Sharks losses on their current road trip, it is heartening to know that spring is here.
Spring begins on the occasion of the vernal equinox, when days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and where the Sun rises due East and sets due West. It marks increasing daylight, the end of hibernation, the return of green pastures and flowery landscapes, and a general rebirth.
Today in Edmonton, there isn’t much sign of spring, as the temperatures will rise to about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, wind, and a 50% chance of snow later in the evening. In other words, it’s hockey weather.
Today, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is slated to skate in his 500th career game. He’s one of several “home grown” Sharks who have reached that point in his career with the team. That includes Scott Hannan, Marcus Ragnarsson, and Mike Rathje. He is the youngest to do so, at 25 years (plus 355 days) of age, and he’s the kind of player who will continue to excel for years to come.
It’s interesting to note that Vlasic is only the 11th player to skate in 500 games in a Sharks uniform. Along with Rathje (671 games), Ragnarsson (519), and Hannan (508), there are seven additional players who have accomplished the feat: Patrick Marleau (1145), Joe Thornton (573), Owen Nolan (568), Evgeni Nabokov (563), Marco Sturm (553), Mike Ricci (529), and Jeff Friesen (512). That’s a pretty distinguished group of Sharks!
Douglas Murray is scheduled to skate in his 450th Sharks/NHL game tonight, but he will have to wait until next season to get to 500 because of the shortened schedule. Brad Stuart will play in his 406th Sharks game (his first 377 were with San Jose before beginning his “Great Circle Route” around the NHL via Boston, Calgary, Los Angeles, and Detroit before returning to the Sharks this year).
With the beginning of spring, the newly achieved milestones, and some hard work, the Sharks are hoping for rebirth in the win column on this road trip. If that happens, it couldn’t be on a more symbolic day: the first day of spring.
I had the pleasure of spending St. Patrick's Day here in Anaheim with one of the great Sharks players of all time Owen Nolan. Even though he's retired as a player the passion for the game of hockey remains for Owen. He's still at that stage where watching NHL games as a fan is difficult because he would much rather be out there on the ice. But the great tradeoff is the time he can now devote to his family and his Sportsman 360 television show.
Owen was as fierce a competitor on the ice as the Sharks have ever had. He was passionate, skilled, tough, fiery and mean. And when the Sharks weren't playing well "Buster" wasn't in a very good mood. As the Sharks try to bounce back from the disappointment of Saturday night's loss in Los Angeles they need to bring some of Owen Nolan's attributes to the ice against the Ducks tonight.
I'm Randy Hahn
Drew and I were reminiscing on the flight home from St Louis about our 93/94 team. That team wasn't the biggest, fastest or most skilled but man did we battle, compete and play for each other, not to mention we got unreal goaltending from Arturs "The Wall" Irbe.
Drew was an assistant coach and a big part of that team. I was a 3rd line player and a big part of that team. And that's the thing, teams with character and chemistry get contributions from everyone and everyone buys in and knows their role.
We started that year 0-8-1. No one outside of the players and coaches thought we would do what we did by making the playoffs and upsetting the Red Wings.
The 2013 Sharks team is big, skilled and while they might not be the fastest team in the league they compete and are hard to play against. The coaching tandem of McLellan, Robinson, Johnson, Woodcroft and Heimlich is top notch.
Maybe this team has seen a pro-longed rough patch that will help them come together and develop a chemistry that leads to special things happening. I don't know but I am looking forward to watching how the second half of this truncated season plays out.
Drew and I can just cheer these guys on but we would both love to see this group get that special feeling - it doesn't happen often and its fun to reminisce about years later.
Go Sharks, BEAT LA!