The two worst days, lockouts not included, of the year in hockey (NHL) have been yesterday and today. That's because it's finalize the roster day, which means you have to let the last cuts know they didn't make the team.
I will put it very bluntly from someone who has been there: It's not fun being so close to the NHL and getting cut! It happened to me my first three years in pro hockey, and the sting got worse every year because I was that much closer.
And, I sat across from good people, their eyes told me it wasn't a fun day for them either. This is the human side, and very compelling side, of sports.
So to all the guys who came that close, awesome job in camp. Good luck and keep working for that dream.
The photo below is a snapshot of my hockey journey, starting at St. Lawrence University in 1985 before retiring in 1999 after 10 years of pro hockey. In the snapshot is 3 consecutive years of getting cut during training camp for the Quebec Nordiques (now I'm aging myself by mentioning Quebec City ... I hope the beautiful city gets a team in the NHL someday.)
Jamie Baker (@Bakes_Jamie13)
During the playoffs all Sharks broadcasters are guests on a plethora of radio sports shows in Canada and the United States to talk about the team.
I am no different. I have a weekly spot on KNBR with the great Tom Tolbert and I do a ton of interviews on various shows.
The day after the Sharks lost to the Los Angeles Kings, I was on Hockey Night In Canada Radio. The host played a few clips from Todd McLellan, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
He then introduced me with, "...another year, another lack of a Stanley Cup for the San Jose Sharks."
I started to laugh and asked the host if he introduced somebody from the St Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks or the Toronto Maple Leafs like that.
To back up his argument he then tossed in the word that sets me off, "underachieving."
I did control myself better than I have in the past. In other words, it wasn't a Ray Ratto vs Drew Remenda battle.
Are the Sharks an underachieving playoff team?
As in winning the Stanley Cup. Obviously, yes we have not been able to win the ultimate prize in the NHL.
However, in 16 playoff appearances in 21 years, I can only think of two times the Sharks "underachieved" and this year sure as hell wasn't one of them.
Since the 2000-2001 season, only the Detroit Redwings have won more playoff games than the Sharks in the Western Conference.
So why do the so-called sports experts keep calling the Sharks a playoff disappointment?
It's because we set the bar very high. The team has one goal every year. To compete for and win the Stanley Cup.
Doug Wilson says that setting the bar high is something he will never apologize for and he shouldn't have to.
This year, the team overcame adversity. Saw good friends and teammates traded. Came together and competed as hard and as well as any Sharks team in the past.
Losing a seven game series where the Sharks played with heart, passion and sacrifice isn't something to apologize for, it's something to be proud of and something that inspires.
It’s the day after the worst day of the season.
The worst day of the season is the day after your team is eliminated from the playoffs. It happens to 29 teams, every year. For some teams that day comes in March or April when they are mathematically eliminated from post-season contention. For one team the worst day of the season happens the day after the Stanley Cup is handed out. Maybe it’s just my imagination but “that day” seems even worse after a game 7 elimination like the Sharks endured Tuesday in Los Angeles. Playoff beards disappear, “Sharks Playoff Territory” signs are put away and rally towels get stuffed in a drawer. It’s over. The season is done.
But on this day after the worst day of the season it’s time to turn the page. The Sharks players and coaches meet for one last time to say goodbye until the fall. Team management begins intense preparation for the upcoming amateur draft and free agency. For the fans there’s a leftover sense of what could have been, but soon summertime activities help fill the void left by the absence of Sharks hockey.
To be honest there have been several years when I’ve been genuinely disappointed and even angry about how the team finished the season. This year it’s different. This Sharks team had tons of heart and showed it in 11 terrific playoff games. Yes they came up short. But these weren’t “the same old Sharks”. This was a team that came together during a most unusual season and then accomplished a number of important individual and team goals along with giving us all many thrilling moments.
This time the day after the worst day of the season is filled with hope and optimism. There’s so much to look forward to in October when we’ll all pack HP Pavilion again to watch a team that appears to be transforming in so many positive ways.
Thanks for being such faithful fans and thank you for all the kind words that are sent our way about the radio and television broadcasts. It’s an honor to know that what we do on the air is so appreciated.
One day there will be a parade in downtown San Jose in June instead of a “day after the worst day of the season” in May!
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN summed up this series as well as anyone, "Kings claim epic California battle -- barely".
Someone had to lose this incredibly close, well fought series where every player that played laid it on the line and paid the price. This was the 'no time no space' series accentuated with a lot of ice bags.
Darryl Sutter, whose post game pressers always have a level of intrigue summed up the Sharks very concisely, "they're as good as us."
That doesn't make any of the Sharks players, coaches, management or its loyal fan base feel any better. As Logan Couture said on Twitter this morning, "Today Sucks".
Today is not about analyzing what went wrong because you'll drive yourself crazy. The difference in this series is one goal, a flukey power play goal after a questionable interference call on Brent Burns. Don't get mad at the refs, in the end the penalties and calls evened out.
The closer you get, the bigger the disappointment. I equate it to hiking a mountain - the higher the mountain, the tougher the climb, the more likelihood you won't make it to the top, but when you do make it to the top it's the best feeling in the world. Take the easy short hill over the mountain and you can get to the top but the view and satisfaction isn't the same.
The Sharks will get to the top of the mountain one day. Winning the Stanley Cup is one of the hardest trophies in sports to win. It will take a breakthrough performance from a breakthrough group to do it, just like the Kings did last year.
As Dustin Brown said after last nights game, "I didn't know this until June 12 last year, but you don't know what you're really playing for until you win. You don't know the feeling; you don't know what it's like until you win it."
It's no real surprise based on Brown's quote that the 5 remaining teams in the playoffs (4 after tonights Chicago vs Detroit game 7) are the last 5 Stanley Cup Champions. They know the feeling and want to feel it again.
The additions of Brad Stuart, Adam Burrish, Scott Gomez and Larry Robinson as Assistant Coach know, because they have all won Stanley Cups. Someday Logan Couture is going to know that feeling because he is an amazing player and leader and has the ability to will his team to victory.
Today's feeling of "this sucks" is part of the process but every player on the Sharks can hold their head up high because they battled adversity all year and were a fun team to watch.
As Todd McLellan said yesterday morning before game 7, "Nothing more powerful in sports than people coming together and playing for each other."
The Sharks did that and more this year and it was incredible to watch. Maybe they didn't make it to the top of the mountain but it was fun watching them try and will make it all the more enjoyable when they do get to the top. And they will, because they have the will.
Long live Sharks Territory!
It’s do or die. Sink or swim. Win, and move on. Lose, and it’s all over.
There really is nothing quite like Game Seven of a Stanley Cup playoff series, and tonight, San Jose Sharks hockey skates into the amazing atmosphere and is eager to get things going against the Los Angeles Kings. There is tremendous history, hope, and heartbreak all rolled up into one night of electric shock therapy for everyone’s nervous system.
It is quite fitting that these two closely matched rivals will play this game, under these circumstances. This season, the Sharks and the Kings were two of the best home teams, and the home team has won every game of the series so far. There is absolutely no room to operate on the ice because of outstanding defensive coverage, and the goaltending from Antti Niemi and Jonathan Quick has been excellent.
The last time that the Sharks have been in a Game Seven, they had the home ice against the Detroit Red Wings. Winning the game on a goal by Patrick Marleau, San Jose advanced to the 2011 Western Conference Final against the Vancouver Canucks. It was the conclusion of perhaps the best playoff series of that particular year, including the Vancouver-Boston Final.
It’s been eleven years since the Sharks have played a Game Seven on the road. In 2002, they traveled to Denver to face off against the Avalanche, and had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Teemu Selanne began to wrap the puck around to beat Patrick Roy. Teemu’s skate got caught in a rut on the ice. He missed. Peter Forsberg scored the only goal.
Colorado won the game, 1-0, and perhaps the best series of that particular playoff season came to an end.
It’s the second Game Seven in an all-California Stanley Cup playoff series. On April 13, 1969, Game Seven was played at the Oakland Coliseum Arena between the Kings and the Oakland Seals. L.A. won that game, 5-3, and completed a series in which they won both Game Six at home and Game Seven on the road.
Tonight, the Sharks look to be the team that does the same thing. To date, road teams have captured two of the three Game Sevens played this post-season. Detroit won at Anaheim, and the Rangers won in Washington. On the other side of the coin, Boston took Game Seven at home against Toronto in overtime.
Oh, yes, there has been overtime in Sharks Game Seven history, too. On May 19, 1995, San Jose traveled to Calgary and on a goal by Ray Whitney at 21:54, advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Final with a 5-4 win against the Flames. In that series, the Sharks also captured both Game Six and Game Seven.
The Kings have not played in a Game Seven since 2002, when they lost, 4-0, on the road in Colorado. They have not hosted a Game Seven since 1989, when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers, 6-3, in a first-round series that was played before the Sharks were born.
L.A. is 3-4 lifetime in Game Seven, including a 2-1 home record. Their most recent Game Seven win was on May 29, 1993, when they won 5-4 at Toronto in a game that guaranteed their advancement to the Stanley Cup Final.
It is impossible to predict anything other than a terrific, closely contested hockey game that will conclude a classic series that has been perhaps the best of all that have been played to date this spring. At the end, as the players shake hands at center ice, we will all know whether there will be a new Stanley Cup champion this year, or whether the Cup champs will earn another opportunity to defend their crown.
May the best team win. It is all about the handshake at the end of the night, and both teams will give it their all to be on the right side of that handshake. It is going to be awesome. It’s what players dream to do, and what hockey is all about.
See you on the radio.
The Sharks have played in 7 Game Sevens. The Sharks are 5-2 all time.
Last night I was thinking about the three Game Sevens I was involved in when I was part of the coaching staff in the team's early days. Well I thought about three but focused on the two we won.
Of course in the very first Game 7 it was the Great Jamie Baker, catching Chris Osgood out of position and scoring what my Partner (the equally as) Great Randy Hahn calls the "Biggest Goal in Sharks History."
What people may forget earlier that month, Jamie Baker scored two huge goals against the LA Kings clinching the Sharks very first playoff birth.
In that series we had so many heroes. Arturs Irbe was our rock. He was unflappable that playoff. The Wings kept running him and hacking at him and all he did was smile and stop the puck. The Wings tried to get under his skin but Artur's reaction seemed to bother the top seeded Wings more.
At one point Detroit's Dino Ciccarelli related a story that he ran into Irbe on purpose and all "Artie" did was say,"Hi Dino!"
Causing the Detroit forward to lament to the media that " you can't get mad at them!"
A funny line for sure but looking back it showed a team that was focused and mentally tough.
The next year it was "The Wizard " Ray Whitney in double overtime vs the Calgary Flames. He tipped a Sergei Makarov shot passed Trevor Kidd sending the Sharks to the second round for the second straight year.
In both of those game sevens there were other heroes as well.
One if the enigmatic players of that time was Craig Janney. He was a player who could put up points but in the series against the Flames he didn't do much until Game 6 when we were facing elimination.
Craig scored two big goals and when he was forced to (and I do mean forced) to talk to the media he was "Janneyesque" in his response to their questions.
"Look, let's just say I sucked all series until tonight."
He didn't suck in Game 7 either adding a goal and 2 helpers.
A star performance in a Game Seven.
Oh yeah, Jamie Baker, a two assist night.
We all know that it takes more than one or two heroes to lead a team to a big playoff win. It takes absolutely every man on the roster committed to win battles and races, block shots take and make hits. It takes every player willing to do all it takes to win a game.
When I look at the Sharks I can invision
a Logan Couture fist pump, "The Big Pavelski" becoming even bigger.
I see the "Gamer" Dan Boyle making a key play to set up the winner or the "Wild One"
Brent Burns rifling a shot top shelf off of one knee.
Yes it takes everyone to win but there will be that one moment when someone has that opportunity to be a Game Seven Hero and forever become a Sharks Legend.
Obviously the Sharks are going to have to beat Los Angeles in a 7th game on Tuesday night if they’re to advance to the NHL’s Conference Final round. But in order to get to game 7 they first have to win game 6 on Sunday. And therein lies the dilemma. How can you possibly put that out of your mind if you’re a player heading into game 6? How do you place all of your focus on the task at hand?
For the Sharks, in my view, it all comes down to learning from past experiences in this post season and in this series. In the first round against Vancouver the Sharks never seemed to get ahead of themselves. Even heading into what turned out to be the deciding Game 4 they were focused shift-to-shift, period-to-period. In Game 2 of this series against the Kings the Sharks lost their focus late in the third period and suffered a gut wrenching loss. In game 4 they played one of their best playoff periods ever in the first but then had to hang on for dear life at the end of the game. And in game 5 they weren’t focused enough on the power play opportunities that they earned and in the end it cost them dearly.
The game 6 lead up for the Sharks is cliché filled. “It’s do or die”. “Their backs are against the wall”. “There’s no tomorrow.”
The bottom line is focus and learning from past mistakes. If the Sharks can replicate their first period in Game 4 and carry it through three periods, they’ll be fine. If they can stay within the moment, within the shift and focus on the good things they’ve done to get them this far, they’ll prevail and there will be a game 7.
But make no mistake. Los Angeles played their best game of the series in Game 5. They seized the opportunity to put the Sharks on the brink of elimination. The Kings are the defending champions. They are not to be taken lightly. Championship teams don’t usually let a challenger up off the mat. Game 6 will be the Sharks biggest challenge of this amazing roller coaster of a season.
Watching the NHL Playoffs is awesome but I can't stop thinking that the West, overall, has better playoff style teams. I look at the Sharks and Kings series and I wonder how many teams in the East could beat these teams in a 7 game series. The same goes for the Blues vs Kings 1st round matchup. It's probably safe to say some people in Vancouver are also saying the same thing right now.
In a way, the NHL Playoffs are kind of unfair. The West has more travel and better competition. The best team could be in the East, and Pittsburgh sure looks good, but what if they had to match up against a bunch of West during their run?
It will never happen for a lot of reasons, let's just leave it at that. But wouldn't an East vs West 1st round crossover, in a playoff bracket system, be really interesting to play out?
Just think of some of the potential Stanley Cup matchups that could happen that otherwise cannot:
Toronto vs Montreal
San Jose vs Los Angeles
Pittsburgh vs Boston
Chicago vs St. Louis
Another interesting question is how many West teams would still be playing in the 2nd round? Or the Semi-Finals? My guess is 6 teams in the 2nd round and 3 in the semi's.
The San Jose Sharks have three options in their series with the Los Angeles Kings: (1.) Win Game 6 on Sunday, travel to Los Angeles, win Game 7 on Tuesday, and advance to the Western Conference Final; (2.) Win Game 6 on Sunday, travel to Los Angeles, lose Game 7 on Tuesday, and shake hands at center ice while the Kings advance; (3.) Lose Game 6 on Sunday, shake hands at center ice, and watch the Kings move on.
Inside the Sharks’ locker room, there is only one option to consider, and that’s option 1. The other two options cannot be allowed. However, that state of affairs depends totally on how the Sharks perform on Sunday.
This series has been heading in this direction since the drop of the first puck on May 14th at the Staples Center. In fact, Game 5 was the mirror image of Game 4 in so many different ways. Everything that the Sharks did to the Kings in Game 4, the Kings dished right back in Game 5.
The Sharks know what they have to do. Here is a brief rundown of the challenge from an historical perspective:
- Los Angeles has a 7-1 lifetime series record when leading a series, 3 games to 2. The one loss occurred in 1968, in the team’s very first playoff series against the Minnesota North Stars. Minnesota won Game 6 at home, in overtime, and traveled to Los Angeles and won Game 7 by a 9-4 score.
- The last time that the Kings had a 3-2 series lead, they eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Round 1 with a 2-1 victory at Staples Center. The last time that they were in this situation on the road, they traveled to New Jersey for Game 6 of last season’s Final. New Jersey won, 2-1, and forced a Game 7, which L.A. won, 6-1, to take the Stanley Cup.
- When they have a chance to clinch the series, the Kings have a lifetime record of 13-10.
- San Jose has a 1-8 lifetime series record when trailing a series, 3 games to 2. The one series win occurred in 1995, when the Sharks were shut out, 5-0, by Calgary in Game 5, and followed up with wins in Game 6 and 7.
- The last time that the Sharks were down 3-2 in a series, they traveled to Anaheim for Game 6 in that 2009 series, and lost, 4-1. The last time that they were in this situation at home, it was 2001, and they lost to St. Louis, 2-1.
- When facing elimination, the Sharks have a record of 9-15, including 3 wins in the second round. The last time that they faced elimination in the Western Conference Semi-Final, they beat Detroit, 3-2, in Game 7 of the 2011 series.
- San Jose’s record in home games when down 3-2 in a series is 1-3, with the win coming in that 1995 game vs. Calgary. Darryl Sutter was behind the bench for the Sharks in the other three games against Dallas (1998), Colorado (1999), and St. Louis (2001).
What do all of the above numbers mean, beyond some interesting historical perspective? Absolutely nothing, because the Kings are defending Stanley Cup champions, and the Sharks are a different hockey team this year. All I can say is that regardless of what time they drop the puck on Sunday, it’s going to be a fantastic hockey game. Tune in.
I hate watching a Sharks game when I'm not broadcasting it with the Great Randy Hahn.
Well hate may be too strong of a word. I get stressed watching a game that I'm not broadcasting.
As fans, is this what you go through all the time?
Butterflies in the stomach the whole game? Yelling at the TV, and clapping your hands adding "c'mon boys, big power play right here!"
When we aren't broadcasting a Sharks game on Comcast Sportsnet, I seriously start to doubt the network broadcasters objectivity.
They sound like they want LA to win. Now I know that is 100% wrong. I know the commentators well. They are all good and talented people who have no stake in the outcome of the game.
However every time they mention anything positive about the Kings my mind plays tricks on me.
"Why did he say that?"
"That's the third time he mentioned Anze Kopitar is having a strong game"
"Is he President of that guys freakin fan club?"
Crazy? I know. Completely off base and clouded by my bias for the Sharks, without a doubt.
My kids think I'm nuts.
When Logan Couture scored in overtime in game 3, I jumped out of my seat and pumped my fist hard that my shoulder hurt.
When Randy and I are working a game we are focused on the job. There is a lot going on during a broadcast.
Randy is focused on calling the game. He has to keep the information flowing, from who scored from who and when not to mention the frequent promotion and drop ins.
Meanwhile, I'm watching replays from my own monitor, talking to the truck, watching for unique angles and monitoring the benches to see anything our outstanding coaching staff is doing.
Not rocket science by any means but an individual has to stay on task in order to perform it properly.
On the other hand watching and cheering for the team as my only task from the second round on makes me agitated and overwrought with emotion.
But the payoff when the good guys win seems a little sweeter.