Twenty years ago was the day that started the biggest single season turnaround in NHL History. Here's a quick overview of what and how it happened!
January 12, 1994
If anyone had asked a Sharks fan on that day if the Sharks were going to make the playoffs, let alone beat Detroit in a seven game series and take Toronto to a seven game series they would have:
- Literally spilt their stomach from laughing so hard
- Fallen off the rocking horse multiple times
- Bet the farm, and the neighbors farm, that it wouldn't happen
- Said if that happens there should be a parade in downtown San Jose
Correct answer is D.
Here is why anyone and everyone outside of the players and coaching staff thought D would never have been the answer.
- Sharks record on October 25, 1993, nine games into the 84 game regular season was 0-8-1.
- Sharks record on January 12, 1994, 43 games into the season was 12-21-10.
- In the previous 14 games prior to January 12, the Sharks went 1-8-5
- Including a 10-3 loss to Detroit at home on January 6
- And In the next game, on January 11, it was a 2-2 tie at home to Los Angeles in a game where the Kings outshot the Sharks 39 to 10. After the game, Head Coach Kevin Constantine, who seldom lit into the team after a game, went absolutely crazy, yelled and screamed and basically called the way we played an embarrassment.
So it's game day on January 12, 1994 as the Sharks play the Mighty Ducks in Anaheim. It’s year three of the San Jose Sharks and year one in downtown San Jose where the team played in an arena known as The Shark Tank.
Despite the odds against them, on the evening of January 12, 1994, the San Jose Sharks beat the Mighty Ducks at the “The Pond” by a score of 5-2.
This was the first win in a 9-3-1 run over the next 13 games as the teething Sharks started to get some bite to their game.
The last three games of the 13 were, in a scheduling quirk, all against the very good Chicago Blackhawks. Back then the NHL played 84 regular season games with every team playing 2 neutral site games. One of the neutral site games was in Sacramento against Chicago.
February 8, 1994 - @ Sacramento, Sharks W 4-3
February 11, 1994 – @ San Jose, Sharks W 4-3
February 13, 1994 - @ San Jose, Sharks W 1-0
The 1-0 win was a classic in many ways but especially because of how it ended. With less two minutes left in a scoreless game, Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was doing his typical roaming in the offensive zone which drove the coaches crazy when Kevin Constantine yelled from the bench; “No Sandis, No Sandis, Great play Sandis” as he found a loose puck in the mid-slot and fired it past a sliding Ed Belfour to secure the Sharks 3rd consecutive win against a very good Blackhawks team.
Drew Remenda can tell the story better than anyone because he was an assistant coach and watched the video over and over again with the coaches … in disbelief!
Randy Hahn and Dan Rusanowsky have their versions and memories of that three game set against Chicago and the entire season as a whole, as does Wayne Thomas who was also an assistant at the time.
So on January 12, 1994 the Sharks were 12-21-10 after 43 games. The team would finish the final 41 games going 21-14-6 to finish in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 33-35-16.
So the Sharks went from:
0-8-1 on Oct 25, 2013, to
12-21-10 on Jan 12, 2014, to
33-35-16 on Apr 14, 1994
It was a unique experience, a unique team where there were no ego’s, everyone played for each other, respected each other and did what it took to win. The coaching staff was as prepared as any staff in the league as they put in more hours than anyone could imagine. It was, ‘a magical season’.
From 0-8-1 to making the playoffs, no way we could be Detroit, right?
So January 12, 1994 stands as the day that really started the biggest single season turnaround in NHL history. No one knew it was possible, well, except the players and coaches because you can’t accomplish that type of turnaround if you don’t believe! It takes “character and chemistry”, two characteristics that ’94 had an abundance of.
From there …
History Never Says Never!
Brett is the technology guru of the staff who oversees all the video, but he is also much more than that. As Todd McLellan said, “Brett is the unsung hero of our staff, doesn’t get much recognition and people outside don’t know how much he does. When he started he had technical skills but our staff is more efficient now because Brett’s hockey knowledge has expanded so much.”
On a typical game day Brett arrives at the rink at 6:00am and gets home around 11:30pm. On a practice day he arrives at 6:00am and gets home around 3 or 4pm. Long days, but passionate days as he works with some of the smartest hockey minds in the world.
Brett’s hockey knowledge, especially of how the San Jose Sharks are hoping or expected to play, is on display during a game. This is when Brett has to be, and is, at his best!
During a game Brett captures, edits and marks the live video using an advanced sports software system. He captures a live timeline of the game, a single video file for each period that he works of off. Here is a rundown of his in-game responsibilities.
- Breaks down and does a live capture of all the situations in a game whether they are systematic in nature or of particular players
- During a typical game Brett will mark and create 600 to 800 separate video clips
- He indexes points on the video using pre-set key strokes that are labeled for specific entries, for instance; system plays, scoring chances for and against, individual players, plays from different zones on the rink etc…
- Knows what the coaching staff is looking for in regards to the Sharks systems, opponents, players
- Identifies adjustments and/or tendencies that he sees while watching the game
- Is in constant communication with Jay Woodcroft who is on the Sharks bench.
- Brett will let Jay know if he sees something on video
- Jay will communicate with Brett something the coaches want to see at the end of the period. They can then show players the video.
While Brett’s most crucial value from a job description is his in-game video marking and analyzing, that’s not all he does.
Brett makes sure the assistant coaches are prepared and have what they need from a video standpoint to pre-scout the Sharks next set of opponents, typically 5 games out.
Brett sets up all the video equipment, configures the network for file sharing (more prevalent on the road in different hotels and arena’s), makes sure all the video clips are ready for coaches meetings and when necessary sets up projectors, network cables and lastly oversees all the data backup, storage and filing.
Brett does data and video analysis and provides stats for the coaching staff.
On a typical practice day Brett organizes all the clips for the coaches meetings and also identifies additional clips or information that is needed for the meetings. He is at the disposal of the coaches if they are having any technical issues, whether it is network, hardware or software related.
Bottom line, Brett gives the coaches more time to do what they do best, coach and teach. Brett Heimlich, the guy behind the scenes we seldom see or hear of but who makes the team and organization better because of the tremendous job he does.
During every game, Dan Rusanowsky and I go over SAP Analytics and break down some numbers. It's a fun segment and considering we live in Silicon Valley where one's and zero's dominate our lives. I want to analyze and explain some numbers that I find intriguing.
TOI = Time On Ice
BS = Blocked Shots
FO = Faceoffs
+/- = Plus Minus
EV PTS = Even Strength Points
- Let's start the with the fist battle of every shift, the faceoff.
- 57.8 % - That is Pavelski's FO % and it's 1st on Sharks and 8th in the NHL
- 41-19 - That is Pavelski's FO record on the Power Play. So Pavelski's FO % is 68.3 when the Sharks are on the PP. Winning a faceoff that pretty much every time is in the OZ is a good way to start a shift on the power play.
- Even strength points, whether 5-5 or 4-4 is a telling stat over the course of a season. The Sharks have two players who are in the top 20 in the NHL in this category.
- 17 - Number of EV PTS that Thornton has, tied for 12th in the NHL with Jonathan Toews. Corey Perry leads all skaters with 22 EV PTS.
- 16 - Number of EV PTS that rookie Tomas Hertl has, tied for 14th in the NHL with Matt Duchene, John Tavares, Henrik Sedin, Pavel Datsyuk and David Backes. Hertl is keeping some pretty good company in the EV PTS department!
- Blocking a slapshot that is coming at you anywhere from 80 to 100 miles per hour is not fun. To be honest, if you block it perfectly it doesn't hurt, but that only happens some of the time. The other times it hurts, more often than no, a lot. Blocking a shot is paying the price for your team. Here are the top three shot blocking forwards for the San Jose Sharks and where they stand in relation to all forwards in the NHL.
- 25 - Couture - Tied 1st team - Tied 3rd NHL
- 25 - Pavelski - Tied 1st team - Tied 3rd NHL
- 24 - Wingels - 3rd team - Tied 7th NHL
- Playing against the other team's top players night in and night out and leading your team in +/- speaks volumes. Here are the Sharks +/- leaders who often get the assignment of playing against the other teams top line.
- +16 - Braun - 1st team - 2nd NHL (Braun is +7 at home and +9 on the road)
- +10 - Couture - 2nd team - Tied 18th NHL
- Because of the Olympic Break in February this 82 game season is a compressed schedule making ice time distribution extremely important over the long haul. The fact the Sharks are 15-3-5, have had to deal with injuries to key players and yet they distribute ice time so well speaks volumes about the depth of the team.
- 21:55 - Braun - 1st Team - 55th NHL
- 20:57 - Boyle - 2nd Team - 90th NHL
- 20:41 - Vlasic - 3rd Team - 102nd NHL
- 20:21 - Marleau - 4th Team - 1st Team Forwards - 113th NHL - 23rd NHL Forwards
- 19:30 - Couture - 5th Team - 2nd Team Forwards - Tied 151st NHL - 43rd NHL Forwards
- 19:13 - Pavelski - 7th Team - 3rd Team Forwards - Tied 171st NHL - 55th NHL Forwards
Stats can never tell the whole picture but they are very interesting when studying players and teams.