The road to an NHL career is long and often bumpy. Every player has his own story. Players come from the biggest cities and from the smallest towns. They come from the North America. They come from Europe. It’s the last amateur stop that separates the men from the boys. Many top players come via the Canadian Junior system; others make their way by way of U.S. College Hockey.
There was a day when virtually every NHL player came from the 3 Canadian Juniors leagues. The juniors consist primarily of the ‘Western Canadian’, the ‘Quebec Major’ and the ‘Ontario Hockey League’. Prior to the 1970’s it was rare to even dress a U.S. born player. Often they were not even scouted. It was assumed American players were not skilled or tough enough to crack an NHL lineup.
Today American players have proven their worth and the U.S. college system is a legitimate way to prepare for a pro career. Most Canadian-born players still take the junior path, while most American-born players take the college route. A vast majority of European players play junior hockey in their home countries. Some Americans play junior, some Canadians play college.
The current Sharks roster is a good example of the face of big league pro hockey in 2014. San Jose has 11 players from juniors, 11 from U.S. colleges. The club’s 2 Europeans learned at home. It can be argued that the high level stars still come primarily from the juniors. The Sharks Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic all played Canadian Junior hockey. However Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle, Justin Braun, Tommy Wingels and others played college hockey.
Why junior? Why college?
Those who support junior hockey say that it closely resembles the pro game. Juniors play a 70+ game regular season with a long playoff system. Juniors travel thousands of miles by bus. Players wear half-shields, fighting is allowed and the juniors foster an environment that makes hockey the number one priority. Junior clubs are also very young, with players being from 16 to 20 years of age. It’s a great choice for a young ‘can’t miss’ type of player.
College hockey is a great option for an ‘excellent’ player who may aspire to a pro career but wants to a plan B by getting a great education while playing high level hockey. College players are generally older, more mature and bigger physically. NCAA hockey insists on full face shields or cages.
Junior hockey has more games than practices. College plays only 2 games a week which allows for more practices. NCAA hockey is perfect for the ‘late-bloomer’.
The old prejudices are no longer in place. NHL teams know that great players come from everywhere. Great players come from junior, college and from Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Winning is all they care about.
The new trend that will continue in the future is high-level players born and bred in the states of California and Texas. The Sharks boast 2 Californians, winger Matt Nieto from Long Beach and defenseman Matt Tennyson of Pleasanton. Both played in California, both took the college route. Nieto went to Boston University, Tennyson played at Western Michigan.
The hockey world is just beginning to see the emergence of players who have grown up in NHL warm-weather markets. The hard work of growing hockey in places like California, Texas, Florida and other is beginning to pay off. That only means good things for young players and for NHL fans. Dreams of NHL glory can come from warm weather places as well cold weather places. Great players can come from college and from junior hockey. One day the Sharks will dress a team made primarily of players from places like San Jose, Gilroy, San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont and countless other California towns. Equally likely is Division 1 hockey will be played by programs like Stanford, UC Berkeley and San Jose State. On that you can bet.
Before Adam's injury I watched the video of Jason Fuchs who plays in the Quebec Major Junior League lose a portion of his finger after a puck tore it off the bone.
I think shot blocking should be reconsidered as an essential defensive and penalty killing strategy.
It's not that as a player you shouldn't try to prevent the puck from getting to the net but do we really want players who are 15 feet away going down on one knee to stop a slapper from the blue line? Why do we have goalies?
I would hope coaches would examine their demands on their troops. All coaches have teams collapse to the slot and net in the defensive zone. In turn you are willing to give up points.
As the puck inevitably finds its way to the DMen with the big shots, a defensive forward is expected to get out and front or block the shot.
Those expectations are always attempted and many times met without injury. However I ask again, as a Sharks Fan are you content with two of your integral players are lost to the team because they prevented shots from getting to the winningest goalie in the NHL?
So maybe it's the way the guys block shots. Instead of sliding down on one knee and risking many appendages and fleshy parts, why not just skate at the shooter, stay on your feet and take the puck off your shins or skate guards?
I love the heart and the courage shown by all the Sharks. I just wish their sacrifice didn't result in losing players that you want to see on the ice.
My friend and colleague Jamie Baker knows a thing or two about getting to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “Bakes” is best know for scoring the biggest Sharks goal ever when he netted the winner in the teams’ Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings back in the spring of 1994. By the way the 20th anniversary of that seminal moment in franchise history is a month away. But Baker also scored both goals in a 2-1 Sharks win at Los Angeles on April 5th of that year. That victory put the Sharks in the post season for the first time ever.
Monday night in Calgary the Sharks earned a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Flames. That point gave them 101 on the season and sent them to the playoffs for the 17th time. It’s also the 10th year in a row that the Sharks will get a shot at playing for glory. Only the Detroit Red Wings, with 22 straight trips to the post season, have a longer streak in the NHL. It remains to be seen if the Wings can make it 23 in a row as they are still battling in the Eastern Conference race.
Baker pointed out in his Great White Bite blog yesterday (is it wrong to blog about a blog?) that a decade of playoff hockey is the envy of a lot of organizations. He’s right. We all tend to take it for granted that the Sharks are going to be a playoff team every year. Many tend to measure the success of the franchise by how far they go in the playoffs. Fair enough, but first you have to maneuver through a treacherous and grueling schedule and get to the playoffs before you can seek the Promised Land. To be a consistent playoff team takes the commitment of ownership, the wisdom of the general manager and the skill of his scouts, the acumen of the coaching staff and the talent of the players. It also takes the support of the fans, sponsors and broadcast partners that help pay the bills. The Sharks are blessed to have enjoyed plenty of the above.
Detroit’s 22 year playoff run is tops in all of professional sports in the US and Canada. The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA are next at 16 straight. The San Jose Sharks are now in elite company with 10 straight playoff seasons, tied with another basketball team the Denver Nuggets.
The best is yet to come. The Sharks will battle for the Pacific Division title and perhaps even the Presidents Trophy over their final 9 games. And after that the best hockey tournament in the world will start. But before all of that, take a moment to appreciate another trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 14 teams won’t be going this year. Those teams will be envious.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
It’s an exciting time of the year. There are 10 games remaining in the regular season, beginning with Monday night’s game at Calgary.
Here is a breakdown of what’s left:
Mar. 24 at Calgary
Mar. 25 at Edmonton
Mar. 27 WINNIPEG
Mar. 29 at Colorado
Apr. 1 EDMONTON
Apr. 3 LOS ANGELES
Apr. 5 NASHVILLE
Apr. 9 at Anaheim
Apr. 11 COLORADO
Apr. 13 at Phoenix
As of March 24, here is what that schedule brings:
Games vs. Teams in Playoff Position: 5 (2 home, 3 away)
Games vs. Teams out of Playoff Position: 5 (3 home, 2 away)
Games vs. Pacific Division: 6 (2 home, 4 away)
Record vs. Pacific Division: 14-6-2 (H: 9-2-1 A: 5-4-1)
Games vs. Central Division: 4 (3 home, 1 away)
Record vs. Central Division: 11-5-2 (H: 8-0-0 A: 3-5-2)
Top Scorers Facing Sharks in Final 10 Games:
Calgary Jiri Hudler (15-31-46)
Edmonton Taylor Hall (24-41-65)
Winnipeg Blake Wheeler (24-35-59)
Colorado Matt Duchene (22-45-67)
Los Angeles Anze Kopitar (22-36-58)
Nashville Shea Weber (18-28-46)
Anaheim Ryan Getzlaf (29-47-76)
Phoenix Keith Yandle (8-42-50)
Top Goaltenders Facing Sharks in Final 10 Games:
Calgary Karri Ramo (12-10-4, 2.60)
Edmonton Ben Scrivens (6-7-0, 2.67)
Winnipeg Ondrej Pavelec (20-24-6, 2.97)
Colorado Semyon Varlamov (34-14-5, 2.48)
Los Angeles Jonathan Quick (23-15-2, 2.01)
Nashville Pekka Rinne (6-9-1, 2.75)
Anaheim Jonas Hiller (27-11-6, 2.40)
Phoenix Mike Smith (27-21-10, 2.65)
The Sharks are poised to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. When they do, they will have a chance to be the only team in the National Hockey League that can say that.
There is one other team in the NHL that might have something to say about that. The Detroit Red Wings are in the heart of a tremendous battle within the Eastern Conference of the NHL, and for the first time in a long time, there is a real possibility that they could miss post-season action. With 12 games to play, Detroit is in the final playoff position in the East. Given the spirit with which they have been playing, I’m not betting against them.
The Sharks and the Red Wings have benefited from tremendous contributions from their coaching staffs to solve a variety of challenges. In Todd McLellan’s case, he and his staff have done a remarkable job in managing through several serious injuries to important players, have set up young players to succeed, including a handful who have spent most of the year in the American Hockey League and have also done amazing work in the area of ice time management to set things up for the final drive and the post-season.
While Detroits head coach Mike Babcock’s challenges have been distributed differently, it is clear that he and his staff have really excelled as well. These are two coaches who deserve some serious consideration for the Jack Adams Award, handed to the NHL’s Coach of the Year, along with a reasonably large pool of candidates who will be considered.
Over the last 9 years, the Sharks and the Red Wings are the only teams to qualify for every playoff year, and they have each advanced beyond the first round a League-high 7 times. Only Philadelphia (5 advancements) , Boston (4), NY Rangers (4), Pittsburgh (4), and Vancouver (4) have come close.
Now, since the 2003-04 season, when San Jose began its current run of qualifying for the post-season, there have been eight different Cup winners, with Chicago the only team to win twice. There have been nine different losing Finalists.
But, here is where it gets interesting. There have been only 5 teams to advance to the Conference Final or further a minimum of 3 times. Those teams are: Philadelphia (4 times), Pittsburgh (3), Chicago (3), Detroit (3), and San Jose (3).
I think that the Sharks see this year as a year of great challenge and tremendous opportunity. They have been prepared extraordinarily well by an outstanding coaching staff. They have built their depth, and have proved that they can handle adversity. As of this moment, they are in first place in their division, with a chance to capture that banner by the end of the season.
Now, all that remains is to play the final portion of the schedule, and get to professional sports’ ultimate playoff championship, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Let the games begin! I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com
It takes a lot of heart to play in the NHL and the San Jose Sharks know that more than anyone. Since the team’s birth back in 1991 the professional ice hockey club has given fans some great memories. The SAP Center has been the venue where many of those memories have been made.
Big goals, great goaltending, last minute comebacks and incredible individual accomplishments have been many. But this past Tuesday we may have been given the finest, most important memory of all.
18 year-old Sam Tageson was born with a heart condition that has affected his family every day of his life. Sam may need a heart transplant sometime in the near future, but in the meantime, Sam treats every day like the gift it is. Helping him along the way has been his love for the game of hockey and most specifically the San Jose Sharks. Despite doctor’s advice, Sam loves to play roller hockey. He’s a goalie and his role is to protect the net. It’s the game that gives him joy. It gives his life structure.
As is the case with many children who have medical challenges, the future is uncertain. Along the way, Sam’s family came in contact with the Make a Wish Foundation of the Bay Area. Sam’s wish was to skate with San Jose’s NHL team. I’m sure his family tried to let Sam know that was a lot to ask for. Parents are there to protect their sons and daughters from harm and from hurt. But like a wonderful glorious daydream…the Sharks Foundation entered his life. Sam would be granted his wildest dream.
On Tuesday Sam signed a one-day contract with the Sharks. Terms were not disclosed. The team bought him a nice suit, gave him a customized home jersey and let him get on the ice with his heroes towards the end of the morning skate. The players treated him as they would any new teammate. They gave him some good natured teasing and tips on how to improve his game. The Sharks spent time and smiles on their new friend.
In the afternoon Sam was let loose in the Sharks Store to pick up some new team gear.
Sam’s pregame meal was Chicken Parm in the Sharks Press Room. The young goalie and his family were joined at their meal by radio man Dan Rusanowsky. They also visited with other broadcasters Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda, Brodie Brazil and Bret Hedican. But the best was yet to come. Sam spent time in the Sharks dressing room prior to the game. He watched the warm-ups from the Sharks’ bench where almost every player acknowledged him a tap, fist bump or small joke. Jason Demers, as he does most every night, sprayed those on the bench with his water bottle.
He got to see firsthand how his heroes prepare for a game. With the warm up finished, the clock ticked down. The team shared their final moments before their trademark entrance via the “Shark Head”. The starting goalie Anti Niemi is first, followed by the Captain Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is always last. But this night was different. Sam would be the last Shark to hit the ice. It was the first time ever that a non-player has skated through the “Shark Head”.
Sam joined the San Jose starters on the blueline as their names and pictures were announced on the in-house JumboTron. Following the anthem, Sam headed to the bench and was once again acknowledged, this time by the fans. Many gave him a standing ovation. Both teams, the Sharks and the Florida Panthers applauded or banged their sticks on the ice or the boards. Sam waved to the crowd as a flood of emotion came to Sam. He sobbed with joy and an understanding that his wish had been granted. It was a wish that he was able to share with his 17,500 best friends, the Sharks’ fans.
The kindness of the players was truly remarkable. I knew they are grounded, loyal and caring people but their performance on Tuesday may be their finest moment. The Sharks Foundation, Sharks’ staff, coaches, GM Doug Wilson and even Sharkie did everything possible to make this a memory for Sam and his family. At the same time all involved crafted a lasting memory for hockey fans everywhere.
We all know that sports are nothing more than a diversion for people, a way to forget their daily troubles and spend time with friends and family. But Tuesday Sharks hockey was more than that. Tuesday made sports important.
Click here and I dare you not to feel emotion for this brave young man.
As they get ready to begin a three game home stand against Florida, Anaheim and Washington, the San Jose Sharks are the best home ice team in the National Hockey League with a record of 25-4-4. That domination at SAP Center this season is a big reason why the team is tied for the Pacific Division lead and has a shot at the Presidents Trophy down the stretch. But if you look a little deeper there’s another reason the team is so well positioned. The Sharks were excellent on the road against the Eastern Conference.
With an unbalanced schedule and a work stoppage or two, it had been a long time since the Sharks visited every road team out east in the same season. But this year the NHL schedule maker finally got it right and Team Teal made an appearance in every Eastern Conference rink. With Sunday’s 1-0 shutout victory at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, the Sharks have now completed their road schedule against the east.
So how did they do? As my colleague Jamie Baker would say, “Let’s run the numbers!” The Sharks finished with a 12-4 record on the road against the East. That’s good. That’s very good actually when you consider that this season the Sharks will have traveled more miles (57,612) than any other club in the league. The only losses came in Boston, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Buffalo. A few of my personal favorite wins include the wild 5-4 victory at Tampa when Martin St. Louis scored all 4 goals for the lightning but Joe Pavelski scored the last 3 goals of the game for his first NHL hat trick. Or how about the 3-0 win at Florida when Alex Stalock recorded his first career shutout? And it’s tough to top the 1-0 win over the Rangers highlighted by Antti Niemi’s brilliance in the net and Logan Couture’s remarkable shorthanded game winning goal.
Niemi went 7-3 on the road out East with three shutouts. Stalock was 4-1 with the perfect game against the Panthers. Patrick Marleau led the Sharks with 16 road points against the East. Joe Pavelski was tops with 8 goals, 6 of those coming in hat tricks at Tampa and Philadelphia. Jason Demers had 9 points to lead the Sharks defense. Five of Matt Nieto’s 10 goals so far this season have come on the road in the east. The Sharks were also perfect in shootouts with wins at Detroit, Washington and Columbus.
It was fun visiting all of the Eastern Conference arenas again. It was even more fun watching the Sharks dominate.
I’m Randy Hahn
I’ve always enjoyed playing, watching and talking hockey. It’s a game of action and excitement. It’s a game where effort trumps skill on many occasions.
Travel is another passion. I’ve lived on three continents, been to 23 countries and 45 states in my life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to combine these two interests during my sports-television career. Each year the Sharks send Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda, Dan Rusanowsky, Jamie Baker, producer Sean Maddison, graphics producer Darin Stephens and me on the road to visit the other 29 cities in the NHL.
Let me start by saying I think San Jose is the best stop in the league. For me they have classiest team, the nicest arena, best location, best TV techs and finest weather in all of the NHL. However for this exercise I’m eliminating San Jose from consideration.
Here is my NHL travel best-of list.
Most beautiful city…It’s hard to do much better than Vancouver, BC. It’s where sea meets land and mountains set the perfect backdrop. Stanley Park is an amazingly beautiful city part that offers world class vistas. Also considered…New York City and Calgary, AB.
Best arena to broadcast from…I love all of the Canadian building but for my money Calgary is the best. Camera angles are excellent, announcers are stationed almost over the rink and lighting is very good overall. Also noted…Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Best US venue…Dallas.
Best press meal. Writers, broadcasters and staff get access to an on-site pregame meal. Los Angeles has a spread that any fine restaurant would be proud of. Lots of choices, great salad bar, fresh fruit and soft serve ice cream make it a special place to visit. Others considered…Buffalo, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Montreal.
Best cheap meal….Marcel’s sandwiches in Edmonton. Try the super Donair/Gyro. Nice food courts in many places…most noted the ones in Calgary and Toronto.
Best restaurant…Ted’s Montana Grill in Columbus, followed by Cordero’s in Vancouver, and Caesars Steakhouse in Calgary. As for cities, LA and New York feature some amazing places for breakfast lunch or dinner..
Best ice. Near 100% of players claim Edmonton has the finest playing surface in hockey. A winter of severe cold and dry air make for good ice-making. Calgary, Minnesota and Detroit also boast great ice.
Best arena location. The Staples Center in LA is pretty awesome. Across the street there’s ‘LA Live’ along with hotels, restaurants and entertainment. Do yourself a favor and take in a Sharks’ game next time they visit the Kings. Another nice setup is the Coyotes with arena, shopping, meals and hotels all a short walk.
Best place with two hours to kill…the Hockey Hall-of-Fame in Toronto. Great displays take you into the history of the game while honoring the greatest players and teams of all-time. Exit through the gift shop and pick up a t-shirt of the 1917 Stanley Cup Champion Seattle Metropolitans.
Most-friendly people. The people in Calgary and Edmonton always welcome visitors with a smile.
Best walking city. It’s hard to top the overload of the senses that is New York City. Walk 10 minutes in any direction and you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. It’s free entertainment and makes it fun every time we visit the Big Apple. Other walking towns of note…Toronto, Vancouver and Chicago.
Best shopping town. Chicago’s Michigan Ave offers everything you’d ever want. I enjoy looking a high tech gear and clothing spots
Best off-day city. Chicago boasts great restaurants, museums, and shopping. Chi-town is also known for its entertainment, is it live blues, the Blue Man group, concerts or comedy clubs.
Best weather. Tampa Bay is a great place to go any winter. Mild temps and low humidity make for a break from places like Buffalo, Detroit and Winnipeg.
Best live music. Now I don’t much care for country music, but it is hard to ignore Nashville. Broadway is lined with bars with live music. People from around the world make pilgrimages to Nashville with hopes of see the next big talent. If you know your way around, there’s some nice rock bars too. Chicago live blues venues are tough to top also.
Best Hockey town. They call it ‘Hockeytown’ for a reason. Detroit’s love for the game spans generations. The Red Wings are the talk of the town all year round. Joe Louis Arena is always packed and the winged wheel logo is everywhere.
Best sports bar…’Real Sports’ in Toronto has set the standard for all to come after it. It features 199 TV’s, arranged around the enormous space. The jewel however is a truly massive 39-foot video display. Great food and drink, sports and lots of interesting characters make it fun.
Best place to come home to…San Jose and the Bay Area.
The San Jose Sharks have a wonderful opportunity Tuesday against Toronto.
Thanks to the Maple Leafs 3-1 win in Anaheim Monday, the Sharks are now within 4 points of the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. For the first time in a long time Anaheim has to be feeling some heat.
Back on January 15th Ducks had a 13-point lead on the second place Sharks. They looked uncatchable for the division title. At that point Anaheim had an incredible 20-0-2 record on home ice. But since then they’ve won only 4 out of 12 home games. The Sharks on the other hand have kept their collective noses to the grindstone and amassed a 12-5-1 record since January 15th, and that leads us to the opportunity.
Since last weeks trade deadline passed, the Sharks have played two of their better games of the season against Pittsburgh and Toronto. They’ve closed the gap on Anaheim and now they have a chance to turn up the temperature on their Orange County rivals.
So why is it so important to catch Anaheim for the division? Well first of all the Sharks could avoid a first round match-up with Los Angeles. The Kings appear to have returned to form and will be an extremely tough out in the opening round of the playoffs no matter who they go up against. And if the Sharks want to make a long run and get to the finals it figures they’ll probably have to go through some combination of LA, Anaheim, St. Louis, Colorado and or Chicago regardless of where they finish in the standings. Any preferable match-up you can get in the opening round and any additional home ice advantage you can grab would be for the best.
So Tuesday night the Sharks have an opportunity to build on what has been a good post Olympic run. They will face a team that played a difficult game Monday and they will face a backup goaltender. The opportunity is there. Will they make the best of that opportunity or will it be an opportunity missed? Find out tonight on Comcast Sportsnet California and on KFOX and the Sharks Radio Network with the pregame coverage beginning at 7PM PDT.
I’m Randy Hahn
The 2013-14 version of the San Jose Sharks has a different feel than in years past and in a very good way. It's called chemistry and character which is the foundation that is necessary if any team has a real chance of winning a championship.
I have been around a lot of teams over the years, some are more talented than others but there is one thing that I always look for in a team's identity and that is whether the players truly play for each other when it matters most. This team does that … in spades.
The Sharks played one of the most dominating team games I have seen in a long time against Pittsburgh this past week. As Vlasic said about that game, "We played hard, physical and fast. We raised the bar of how good we can be." Well said!
The following game, the Sharks shut out the Montreal Canadians for the second time this season. Two things stick out from that game:
- The ferocious back-checking of Patrick Marleau all game but in particular on the Couture goal. Patty used his speed and tenacity to create a turnover inside the Montreal zone that led to a perfect saucer pass from Nieto to Couture.
- With 8 minutes left in the game and the score 4-0, a Montreal forward had the puck in the neutral zone and was all alone heading towards the two Sharks defenseman. Joe Thornton back-checked as if his hair was on fire and forced a turnover.
When two leaders and star players like Marleau and Thornton back-check that hard, regardless of the score it sends a message to the rest of the team. Marleau and Thornton and both selfless, team-first players who once again held off from free-agency to sign with the team they love to play for. It starts with them and they are leading by example and want nothing more to help bring a championship to the city of San Jose.
It's about character and chemistry and this team has an abundance of both and it starts with the two leaders and all around great guys.