Two Roadmaps To Change
Tonight’s matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks is an interesting game in the midst of the 82 game grind. Two organizations have had to take “Two Different Roadmaps To Change.” Both teams have come off a tough end of the 2013-14 season with the Canucks missing the playoffs and the Sharks, well you know the story. Both these organizations have had similar records the last three years posting regular season records: Canucks (113-72-27) Sharks (119-77-26). Maybe the only difference between these two teams over the last three years has been playoff success, the Sharks have won 11 playoff games, and the Canucks only one win in the last three years, but both have had a hard time winning their last game of the season with a Stanley Cup.
That being said, both teams had to make changes before they could move forward. The Canucks decided to start at the top by hiring ex-Vancouver Hockey Legend Trevor Linden to be their President, Jim Benning as their new General Manager, and Willie Desjardins as their new Coach. Along with the management changes, they decided to move out hard-nosed forward Ryan Kesler to Anaheim and getting in return Nick Bonino who has gotten off to a great start. Bonino has scored six goals in 13 games, all of those goals have been even strength. Along with Bonino, they’ve added four other players, Luca Sbisa, Linden Vey, Radim Vrbata, and Derek Dorsett. If you count all the points those five players have added it equates to a big addition of 19 goals, 19 assists, 36 points through 13 games. They’ve also added a world-class goaltender Ryan Miller who is off to one of his best starts of his career nine wins, one loss, 2.21 GAA, .917 Sv %, which is also a huge change in where he started last season 1-10-0. With an eight win difference to start the season, it should have a dramatic impact on Miller's season confidence.
The San Jose Sharks have pushed change by committing to giving youth a chance with guys like Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Mirco Mueller, and Tye McGinn. They’ve also dispersed leadership, allowing younger players to step in that role, which early in this season seems to be working for guys like Tommy Wingels, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. With the tough schedule to start the season for the Sharks, they’ve had to rely on veterans like Joe Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Anti Niemi to steady the ship, by playing some great hockey to start the season. In addition, Thornton & Niemi have come back this season in even better shape along with great attitudes that seem to be that solid foundation any team would want.
Two points in the standing separate these two teams through 13 games to start this "changed" season. So, what will happen tonight between these two teams, scarred by the past, but making change for the future in hopes of winning that last game of the year? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!
My thought today is all about Tuesday’s “Meet The Sharks” event at SAP Center. For several hours my fellow Sharks broadcast colleagues and I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting with so many ardent and wonderful hockey fans. Back in the day when the broadcast positions were in the lower seating area we met fans each and every night. For the past few years we have been located in the upper press box area, which is closed off from the main arena. I miss the day-to-day, game-to-game contact with you the fans.
Tuesday we met little children who are just finding out about hockey and about the Sharks. We met moms and dads who brought them along and have been faithful fans for years. We saw familiar friendly faces, the people who we see at these events all the time. Your dedication is always appreciated. One of my fondest memories was meeting a couple, well into their golden years, which stopped by to chat with us. They were new fans. They discovered Sharks hockey as seniors, and fell in love with it. How uplifting is that?
There were many gracious comments about our broadcasts. We truly appreciate that. It’s especially gratifying when we hear that you enjoy learning more about the game but also like the “entertainment factor”. It’s always our goal on radio and television to bring that blend.
I sincerely felt energized leaving the arena Tuesday night. It’s so humbling and gratifying to know that so many of you care about the Sharks and care about how we present them to you. Thank you!
I’m Randy Hahn for SJsharks.com
When Brent Burns stepped forward last season to create “Burnzie’s Buzzcut” for charity, few would have believed that transforming oneself from a rugged mountain man into a lean, mean, coiffed-for-the-military machine would generate so much attention and interest from hockey people everywhere. But it’s all in a day’s work for #88, who has tirelessly worked with his wife, Susan, his teammates, and his friends to help those in need ever since he joined the Sharks three years ago.
On Monday, “Burnzie’s Buzzcut” expanded its reach, as several of Brent’s teammates joined in the annual fray. Inspired by his program, Joe Pavelski, James Sheppard, Scott Hannan, Mirco Mueller, Chris Tierney, and Barclay Goodrow all stepped forward for a festive post-practice hair-zipping session.
The event not only raised money, it raised awareness for three deserving non-profit organizations. Defending the Blue Line (DTBL), one of Burns’ favorite projects, ensures that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to play the game of hockey. Whether their parents are deployed overseas or simply stateside at a military base, DTBL ensures that these kids have things taken care of on the home front when it comes to exercise, teamwork, and the great camaraderie that is such a huge part of this sport.
The event also saw Burnzie stepping up for a former teammate. The Katie Moore Foundation (KMF) was founded out of sadness when former Shark Dominic Moore lost his wife Katie to a rare form of liver cancer. KMF funds research to advance cancer care, but perhaps more importantly, it provides resources and a lot of hope to families battling rare diseases.
We all know that Brent Burns loves animals, so it probably makes sense that he would also step up to raise awareness for wildlife. Inspired by a new baby gorilla that has arrived at the San Francisco Zoo, Brent and Susan added the organization to the list of places benefitting from his annual buzz-cutting event.
Of course, none of it would have been possible without the engagement and generosity of Sharks fans everywhere. Over $15,000 was raised on this day, and it is going to benefit these three great causes.
The entire event showcases how leadership bubbles to the surface in interesting ways. As is the case with fresh water springing from the ground in unexpected places, Brent Burns not only participated, he got his teammates, his friends, and his fans to take part. The fresh water of this leadership will sustain many in times of trouble, and it will bring everyone closer together, with shorter hair, of course.
Perhaps the best part of the story is that we can look forward to more leadership sustenance springing forth as the season goes on, both on and off the ice.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
|Studio B in San Francisco is used for Sharks programming in the winter months.|
Today, I wanted to pull back the curtain on how we cover the Sharks at Comcast SportsNet.For every game on CSN, there is a broadcast crew on site (home or road) to bring you the telecast. There is also a separate complement of professionals in our San Francisco studios that help us bring you Pregame & Postgame Live.
Here's what a typical 'rundown' looks like. The producer creates this as a road map for the show.
Pregame Live is always a 30 minute program, where our goal is to prepare you for all the things we THINK could happen - based on statistical trends, player interviews and insights from our analysts Curtis Brown, Bret Hedican and Jamie Baker. Our producers usually put in a good 3-4 hours of preparation for each and every one of these shows. I am on hand at least 2 hours prior to prepare notes and conversational points. We always aim to address why the Sharks should be successful that night, but it is also our duty to summarize opponent threats, as well. The prepared viewer, is the better viewer.
|Before a recent show with analyst and former Shark Forward, Curtis Brown.|
|The video "switcher" controls everything you see on screen, and is rather intimidating.|
Our studio crew really does operate like a symphony, with the Director acting as conductor. Here’s a breakdown of all the positions we utilize, on a regular basis:
Producer - Organizes show topics and moderates pacing/timing
Director - Acts as a conductor to synchronize the entire control room
Technical Director - Works the video “switcher” for live camera & tape sources
Audio Operator - Works the audio “board” for microphone, music & tape sources
Graphics Operator - Coordinates all the graphics you see on screen
Font Assist - Creates all the graphics you see on screen
Editor - Pieces together all of the pre-produced video packages/montages we play
Associate Producer - Works with editor to locate all the right footage / angles
Field Photographer - On site to shoot player & analyst interviews
Engineer - Coordinate video feeds from NHL arenas to our San Francisco studios
As I hope you have learned here, for every one or two people you see in front of the camera, there are several more behind the scenes to make our shows happen. We are like any hockey team, never perfect… but striving for just that, every night.
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.
It took an amazing effort by Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Antti Niemi in the shootout but the Sharks managed to win 3-2 in Colorado on Tuesday night and string together consecutive victories.
Talk about a frustrating night! The Sharks carried over what they established in the Anaheim win and absolutely dominated the Avalanche in the first period outshooting them 23-8. But thanks to a goal post, a crossbar and that guy named Semyon Varlamov, San Jose only had a 1-0 lead. When Alex Tanguay tied it shorthanded in the second period that sinking feeling set in just a little. How many times over the years have we seen a team dominate but not get rewarded around the net and ultimately lose? And when Gabriel Landeskog beat Niemi with a shot from the wing it felt like a rerun of heartbreaking losses from the past.
But it would be different this time. Right after Jamie Baker noted on the broadcast that Justin Braun expects to grow his game even more this year, including offensively, Braun hit the post with a booming shot and Logan Couture scored on the rebound. And then Niemi made the critical save of regulation when he robbed Ryan O’Reilly with what might very well have been the “dagger in the heart” winner had it gone in.
The shootout belonged to the Sharks thanks to the sniper like accuracy of Marleau and Pavelski and the “shut the door” goaltending of Niemi who absolutely deserved his first star of the game honors despite Varlamov’s 49 save night.
It’s still early but it’s another brick in the foundation of a long season. The Sharks proved that the Anaheim game wasn’t a one and done. They built on it. That’s a good thing.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
It's amazing how one weekend (more like a 32-hour span) brought us the definitive lows and highs of this young Sharks season, to date.
San Jose players were quite honest after losing a 4th straight game on Saturday afternoon, especially 2-1 to the struggling Buffalo Sabres. As Logan Couture put it: it was "a look in the mirror" kind of defeat.
Fast forward to include travel, fatigue, and going up against the NHL's leading team in points one night later - and it makes their decisive 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks that much more impressive. As Todd McLellan put it: "The best sixty minutes we have played all year".
So how does one group show two very different looks in such a short time period?
Fans and media ask this question of the players and coaches (of all teams) on a regular basis. The responses are rarely good. That's because if the performers HAD the answers, they would HAVE the solution, and they would execute to perfection 100% of the time.
I'm not here to tell you I have the answer either, but I do think I have an explanation. It's human nature.
None of us are perfect at our job, every day - every shift (to put it in hockey terms). Some days at the office are a grind, for internal or external reasons. And if we regularly threw our work team's collective effort out there against the competition - would it always win?
I'm here to humbly admit - I have good days, and bad days on the job. For better or worse, you the CSN viewer, gets to share in all of them. My premonitions about shows - good or bad - are usually on target. When personal mistakes arise, it's because I'm a human being who stumbles on the occasional ad-libbed word. Not a robot spitting out a perfectly dictated script.
Back to the point: much as we build athletes up as the brilliant performers they are, NHL players are the same human beings we are. They are expected to produce at a peak level on a highly consistent basis. And when they don't ... it is exposed on television, radio, and the internet for all to see.
So until the day comes where NHL teams send out droids, expect to see what makes the game interesting: individual and collective human nature.
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?
Now that the Sharks first lengthy road trip (5 games) is over, what have we learned?
This year’s team is capable of beating top-notch opponents. The New York Islanders are a good hockey team and the New Jersey Devils won’t miss the playoffs this year. Those were solid road wins.
Logan Couture can still score. He might have failed to light the lamp in the first four games of the season but once Couture broke the seal in New Jersey he was on his way to a 5-point roadie.
The Sharks goaltending is solid. Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock are both playing well right now. Stalock might want a goal or two back from the New York Ranger tilt but stuff happens. The whole team was off their game that day.
Adjusting to the NHL at the age of 19 is tough. Mirco Mueller and Chris Tierney both spent part of the trip watching from the press box. It’s a big jump from junior to “the show”. It’s much better to be patient with young players and give them an opportunity to succeed than to thrown them to the wolves.
We learned that the New York Islanders are legit. They will be a tough team in the east all season.
We learned that Henrik Lundqvist is a really good goalie. But then we already knew that.
And we learned that while a 2-2-1 Sharks road trip (.500) is OK, there is still plenty of room for improvement
Most of all it’s great to be back in the rhythm of the regular season.
As the Sharks move through the young season on this East Coast road trip, I was thinking about something that we’re all witnessing that’s awfully rare at the National Hockey League level. However, in order to relate that properly, I have to venture back in time for a brief story.
Back in the halcyon years of my hockey youth, I used to listen to a lot of New York Rangers games on the radio, and in those days, the Broadway Blueshirts had a player on the roster named Ron “Harry” Harris. Harris, who also was a member of both the WHL’s San Francisco Seals and the NHL’s Oakland Seals earlier in his career, was a journeyman defenseman from Verdun, Quebec who had a mean streak and a rugged playing style that was appreciated by fans in Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta, and New York.
To counter the brusque, bullying style of the Philadelphia Flyers and other clubs in those days, Rangers’ legendary GM/coach Emile Francis decided one day to skate Harris on the right wing. If there was trouble, Harry would put a stop to it, and he often did. It was a rare experiment that worked.
But Harris was the equivalent of a sixth or seventh defenseman for the Rangers back in those days, and as a right wing, he was generally on the fourth line.
Back to the present.
Over the course of his career, Brent Burns has played both right wing and defense in the NHL, and regardless of what position he’s playing, he’s slotted in one of the top two forward lines or the top four defensemen. He is a physical specimen, with tremendous skating ability, great size, a physical presence, and the ability to score.
Whether Burns plays forward or defense, he’s an impact player for his team. While with the Minnesota Wild, Burnzie scored 17 goals as a defenseman in 2010-11. Last season, he scored 22 goals as a right wing, notching a career-high 48 points and finishing 5th on the team’s scoring list while playing on a line with Joe Thornton.
What’s interesting is how rare it really is to see a player excel at both forward and defense in the National Hockey League. On October 11th, we saw an even greater rarity: two such players competing against each other in the same game. At SAP Center on that date, Burns was opposed by Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, who finished 3rd among defensemen in 2010-11 when he was with the Atlanta Thrashers and who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010. In this game, Byfuglien was back on the wing with the Jets, and as is the case with Burns, he cuts a large swath on the ice with a big presence.
Going back in NHL history, I can think of only two other instances of players who excelled at this high a level at both forward and defense:
When he began his professional career with the Houston Aeros of the WHA, Howe was a winger, and in 6 WHA seasons, he scored 30 or more goals 5 times while playing alongside his father, the legendary Gordie Howe. Moving to Hartford, Philadelphia, and Detroit in the NHL, he converted to defense and broke the 20 goal mark 3 times, scoring a career-best 82 points with the Flyers in 1985-86. Paired with the late Brad McCrimmon, he was regularly at the top of the plus-minus stats in the League.
Howe was selected as an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
When the family of the late Red Wings owner-president James Norris presented a trophy in his memory to be given to the NHL’s best defenseman, its first winner in 1954 was Leonard “Red” Kelly, who happened to play for Detroit at the time. Kelly distinguished himself for many years as a top blue liner, finishing as Norris Trophy runner up on two more occasions. He may very well have won another one, had Doug Harvey not have been playing at the same time in history.
But when he moved to Toronto in the 1960’s, GM/Coach Punch Imlach decided to convert Kelly into a center. Easily making the transition, Kelly had three 20-goal seasons with the Leafs playing up front.
Kelly was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969. He won a total of 8 Stanley Cups, 4 with Detroit and 4 with Toronto.
Playing defense with the legendary Fern Flaman and forward with Don McKenney in Boston, Mohns was one of the more proficicent users of the slap shot in the 1950’s, but was often lost in the aura surrounding Bobby Hull and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. He played both forward and defense over a 22-year NHL career. In Chicago, he played wing on the “Scooter Line” with Kenny Wharram and Stan Mikita, and was 9th in NHL scoring in 1966-67. Later in his career, he played for Minnesota, Atlanta, and Washington, and was the very first captain of the Washington Capitals. He wasn’t a Hockey Hall of Famer, but he did play in seven NHL All-Star games, and excelled at both forward and defense over 1,390 regular season and 94 Stanley Cup playoff games.
Burns is back on defense this season, but he’s also at or near the top of his team’s scoring list. He’s on the ice for more minutes, playing 22:02 and 25:08 in the recent back-to-back set of contests at New Jersey and at Madison Square Garden. He’s looking good alongside the promising Mirco Mueller, which bodes well for the Sharks as they skate forward.
Remember, when you watch or listen to Brent Burns’ exploits this season, you’re witnessing some history, but you’re also seeing a unique level of excellence in the National Hockey League. That’s the case, whether he happens to play defense, as he is now, or forward, which he certainly can do with elan.