Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Regular season hockey and playoff hockey are two different animals. The level of play is elevated and the intensity is dialed up a few notches. Most veteran clubs are able to flip that switch and take their game to the next level in the push for Lord Stanley. The Red Wings struggled a bit down the stretch (emphasis on "a bit")but turned it on and swept Columbus. Anaheim is only 2 years removed from skating the Cup and their roster is chalked full of guys with a myriad of post-season experience. The San Jose Sharks made moves in the off season (Boyle, Blake, and Lukowich) to bring in players who had won a Cup. They were supposed to be the perfect compliment to the Sharks young, battle tested core. Marleau, Thornton, and Nabokov. These players are the "core" that Todd McLellan referenced when asked who needed to step up. Simply put: They didn't.
It's not that the Sharks aren't lovable guys. Who wouldn't want Joe Pavelski over for a barbecue? Thornton seems as laid back as anyone and Marleau is a normal, quiet guy. But post-season hockey isn't the place for "nice guys" to hang out. The Stanley Cup playoffs are an arduous grind of will and determination. The desire in each individual that they will not tolerate losing. The Ducks were busy blocking shots, hustling for loose pucks, and basically dismantling the Sharks on the counter-attack. The game plan was simple enough: Let the Sharks control the play, keep them on the perimeter, and then strike quickly on the counter-attack. Sure the Sharks out-shot the Ducks, but many of those shots were not of the quality variety. The one X-factor of the series was the battle in net. Rookie, Jonas Hiller played out of his mind and it was clear that he was on top of his game. He shut the Sharks out twice, won the first 2 games at HP Pavilion, and only allowed 10 goals in 6 games. Nabokov played average at best.
This has been a recurring theme for the boys in teal. Unfortunately as a career observer of this team, it was clear that Game 1 was more than just a typical loss. Hiller asserted himself as a dominant force that would not be beaten easily. He had wrestled the starting job late in the year from J.S. Gieguere who led the Ducks to 2 finals and won a Cup. The Sharks looked puzzled, and by Game 6, clearly a frustrated bunch. The Ducks out-hustled, out-classed, and out-played the Sharks and deserved to win the series.
So what now?? Blow up a team that won the President's trophy? A regular season prince charming that turns into a pumpkin at midnight when the playoffs start? Clearly something is missing. Patrick Marleau has had success in the playoffs (single handedly beat Colorado to send Sharks to West Final in 2004) and has been apart of some not so memorable moments (the goal against in Game 4 against Detroit in 2007 to tie the game when he went for an empty net). Do you strip Marleau of the Captaincy? If you do that, can you afford to keep him around? Do you give the "C" to Jumbo Joe? Let's face it, the jury is still out on Thornton's playoff legacy also. What do you get in exchange for a Marleau or a Thornton? I'm sure plenty of teams would entertain the idea. Nabby has been shaky in the last few post seasons. It is time to ask the question if this team will ever go where it thinks it's destined to with Nabby between the pipes?
Then you have the next tier of players, who any coach will tell you are a critical part of a teams success in the playoffs. Joe Pavelski played poor. He didn't win any of those individual battles (minus him punching out Ryan Whitney) that make Lil Joe such a valuable player. Milan Michalek pulls a Houdini every post season and completely vanishes. He is big, he is fast, he is immensely talented. He is also an underachiever and seems to lack a "killer instinct".It might be wise for Doug Wilson to explore his trade value. Clowe is tough, but needs players around him playing at a high level in order for him to be successful. Cheechoo may have run his course in San Jose and his "shoot the puck at any cost" philosophy has worn thin on this Sharks fan. Cheechoo may have played his last game for the Sharks. Setoguchi played average at best, he is capable of more. Marcel Goc is a waste of roster space, and Mike Grier's best days (if you are comfortable calling them that) are certainly behind him. That about sums up the state of the forwards. 6 playoff games, 7 goals by forwards. Not so hot.
The defense had been such a bright spot all regular season. The Sharks got seemingly nightly offensive contributions from their blue-liners and the Blake, Boyle and Lukowich experiment drew rave reviews for 82 regular season contests. Dan Boyle had a great series and was the best Shark in the playoffs, hands down. He is an amazing talent and a player that you can build a defensive core around. He is absolutely mentally tough enough and is a treat to watch skate. Rob Blake led the Sharks in shots in the playoffs, but at times looked slow and I suspect injured. I would guess his back didn't hold up as well as he would have liked. Vlasic is young enough that he has time, but he needs to be more assertive with his puck handling and seems like he can be rattled when the pressure is on. Too many times he gripped his stick to tight and cost himself a scoring chance. He was the worst Sharks D-man in the series. Not to say that Christian Ehrhoff didn't give Pickles a run for his money. Error-hoff made the same bone-headed plays that Sharks fans have come to expect. He has a rocket of a shot, but lacks any accuracy whatsoever. What good is a bullet shot that goes 3 feet wide? He is a brilliant skater but routinely is out of position and constantly makes very poor decisions in his own end. Douglass Murray wasn't physical enough and the Ducks were able to set up shop in front of Nabby all series. Lukowich played good at times and not so good others. Overall the Ducks D out performed the Sharks D. It was a complete dismantling of a team with expectations higher than ever.
The following is a list of Sharks players who I feel could be on the way out. This list is as objective as can be and I am merely applying logic and my hockey I.Q. to support why these players may be expendable.
Public enemy #1. Captain Patrick Marleau (Does this guy ever get mad? He is the leader, the leadership failed). #2. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov (Had his chance and it just might be time to try someone else). #3. Milan Michalek (Lacks heart and vanishes in post season). #4. Jonathan Cheechoo (2 years on the decline. May still possess some trade value). #5. Mike Grier (2 years on the decline). #6. Christian Ehrhoff (Lacks focus and intensity). #7. Rob Blake (5 Mill Per a little steep). #8. Joe Thornton (6 goals in 40 playoff games, needs to play with more edge in playoffs). #9. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Still young, but hasn't performed well in playoffs). #10. Marcel Goc (If this guy is a true defensive forward, shouldn't he be good defensively?).
Anyone of these players may not be back next year. I could see Doug Wilson being able to justify moving anyone of these players for those reasons. Only a handful of Sharks I feel are not trade bait. Devin Setoguchi could be a 40 goal scorer next year. Joe Pavelski is tough and I feel is an ideal second line center. Dan Boyle is the foundation of the D. He can QB the Power Play for the next 5 years. Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell are good, young players and have bright futures in the NHL. Aside from these players, I could see anyone else getting shipped out of town.
The Sharks have lost to an inferior team 4 out of 5 years. (I don't include Detroit in 07 even though the Sharks blew a golden opportunity in that series). This team has come up short too many times and change is needed. For whatever reason, they lack that killer instinct you would expect from a team called "The SHAKRS"! The accountability begins with the leadership and trickles down. Younger players look to Marleau and Thornton and Nabokov for how to act. If they see the veterans with fear in their eyes, it will undoubtedly affect the youngsters. They did the "fire the coach" thing last year, this year it may be time to fire the Captain.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Another great week of sports talk on THE THINK TANK. Big Papa Knockout and I welcome Will Davis in studio (Bay Area Sports Hour)for the 11th episode on 4/20. We also interviewed Matt Maiocco from the Press Democrat who is an amazing beat writer for the 49ers for more than a decade. Matt was nice enough to talk NFL draft and what's in store for the Niners in the future. What a tremendous honor to have Matt on the show and this is back to back weeks of huge guests! Thanks to everyone who made the show a tremendous success.
Friday, April 17, 2009
In what has become a disturbing post season trend, the boys in teal dropped the all important Game 1 on their home ice to kick off the series. The Ducks played with an arrogance and swagger you would expect from a former Cup champ and looked VERY comfortable playing in the Tank. The Sharks have made a habit of dropping the first game of the series played at home. Dallas and Calgary last season, game one loss. In the 2004 Western Conference Finals, one of the biggest home games in franchise history to that point, they laid an egg against those pesky Flames. Let's face it, this team struggles when the pressure is on. They always have.
You can take this deflating loss two ways. The natural reaction is to panic, here we go again! But this is just one game and the Sharks have shown an ability to win in Anaheim. The problem for the Sharks is now Sunday become a MUST WIN. It took the Sharks 82 games to earn the top seed and the luxuries that come with it. However, it took only 60 minutes of uninspired play to give it all back. Granted, Hiller play well in his first playoff start, but the Sharks quality scoring chances were few and far between. So now, a mere one game into the post season, their backs are to the wall.
The Sharks have scored a measly 1 goal in their last three home games. They are playing flat and lack cohesiveness in their attack. Let's face it, they haven't been playing well since the All-Star break. They did get an infusion of injured players back right at the end of the regular season so getting everyone back up to speed may take time. And what about that word "Speed". I thought that was what separated the Sharks and the Ducks was team speed. The Ducks appeared more determined and imposed their will on the Sharks. Every game, dozens of little individual battles are fought over puck possession. Usually the team that is more vigilant in this area benefit by getting quality scoring chances that win hockey games. That edge clearly went to Anaheim last night. The big boys need to step it up. I know Nabby would like to have the 2nd goal back last night, even though Getzlaf fired a missile. Marleau and Thornton were basically invisible last night (only one shot apiece) and clearly if they are going to have success this post season it will start with the leaders of this team. The only Shark player who I thought showed up was Dan Boyle. His shot in the 3rd that rang off the inside of the post was an inch away from tying the game and energizing the crowd. Truly a game of inches.
What needs to happen Sunday is the Sharks need to go to those tough areas and win some battles around the net. They need to create screens in front of Hiller and try to cash in on rebounds (which Hiller gave practically none last night). Sure they out-shot Anaheim by a 2-1 margin,but most of those shots were from outside and clearly the Ducks game plan is centered around counter-attacking the Sharks and catch them too deep. The 0-6 on the power play needs to change. Special teams decides a large majority of playoff games, and last night was no exception. It's not over yet, a seven game series can have many twists and turns. But it was a typically poor start for this franchise that desperately wanted to send a message to the hockey world. Now we will see what this team is made of. Time for Jumbo, Patty, Nabby, and the rest of the boys to look each other in the eye and not accept anything less than everything they got. Otherwise this franchise will further solidify the league-wide perception that the Sharks can be taken off their game when it matters most.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
#1 BOSTON BRUINS VS #8 MONTREAL CANADIENS
Much like in the West, the East's 1 vs 8 is a battle of bitter rivals. Boston has returned to relevance with a bang. Behind the stellar net-minding of Tim Thomas (my choice for the Vezina trophy)and the twin towers of power on the blue-line, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman, it will be hard to score on the B's. Up front they have a nice combo of set-up men Marc Savard and David Krejci. Those two will be dishing to finishers Phil Kessel, Michael Ryder, and Chuck Kobasew. Up in Montreal, the 100th anniversary season that started with so much promise ended with them barely making the playoffs and possible wholesale changes if they exit quickly. Captain, Alex Kovalev did lead the team in scoring but his season overall was a let-down. The Canadiens didn't have a 30 goal scorer and only three players with 20+. Goalie Carey Price's 2.83 gaa is below the standard of what is expected from the young keeper. Andrei Markov will log a ton of ice time and look for the Habs to try and keep the scoring down. With Boston's high powered attack, that is going to be a tall order. Player to watch: Boston's Milan Lucic.
Prediction: Bruins in a sweep.
#2 WASHINGTON CAPITALS VS. #7 NEW YORK RANGERS
The Capitals have the most dynamic player in the game in Alex Ovechkin. He is a lock for MVP in my opinion. His sheer determination on both ends of the ice will serve the Caps well. Defenseman Mike Green is a power play phenom and has an ability to jump into the rush that reminds me of Paul Coffey. Niklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, and crafty veteran, Sergei Fedorov will be key factors in the Caps playoff run. If Jose Theodore can be steady if not spectacular, this team can go a long way. For the Rangers, they had a great start to the regular season but faded. They acquired Nik Antropov from the Leafs and still have a talented group of forwards like Drury, Gomez, Zheredev, Naslund and Dubinsky. Wade Redden will need to focus his efforts on slowing Ovechkin and Henrik Lundquist will need to play at a VERY high level if NY has any chance in this series at all. I think the Caps are just too strong and they have a date in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Player to watch: Capitals Brooks Laich.
Prediction: Capitals in 5 (maybe 6).
#3 NEW JERSEY DEVILS VS. #6 CAROLINA HURRICANES
This series features the red hot Hurricanes and the roller coaster Devils. However, anytime you have Martin Brodeur in net in the post-season, you are the favorite. The Devils are led by 40 goal scorer, Zach Parise who was consistently dominant all season. The addition of the aging Brendan Shanahan will pay dividends late in close games as Shanny has a knack for timely goals. Captian, Patrick Elias has a ton of playoff experience, along with Jamie Langenbrunner and John Madden. The knock on the Devils is they lack a consistent scoring threat from the Blue-line. As for the 'Canes, they rode the red hot Cam Ward all the way to the postseason. The ageless wonder, Ray Whitney led the charge down the stretch. Brining back Eric Cole who was an instrumental part of their Cup win a few years back payed off. Eric Staal is the real deal and this post season could be his coming out party. The health of Rod Brindamour is something the 'Canes will monitor (he finished the year -23). If possible, they will try and keep his minutes down. Player to watch: 'Canes center, Eric Staal.
Prediction: Hurricanes in 7.
#4 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS. #5 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Let the battle for Pennsylvania begin! These two teams have a very similar approach. Both have high flying offenses and have defensemen wiling to take chances by jumping in the rush. The Penguins are coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and they have taken steps to improve their club. They landed Chris Kunitz from the Ducks and Bill Guerin (who seems to get traded every year) at the deadline. Evgeni Malkin is certainly an MVP candidate and on most nights, was the best player on the ice. Sydney Crosby gets a lot of negative publicity but the kid can flat out play hockey. If he can take that negative attention and turn it into a positive in his game, then this team is more than capable of a return to the East Finals. The Flyers have a ton of scoring punch up front with Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Knuble, Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell all scored at least 25 goals. The big question mark is can they get enough goaltending from Martin Biron. You have to give the Pens the edge in net with Marc-Andre Fleury and it will take Biron really elevating his game for the Flyers to have success in this series. Player to watch: Penguins, Jordan Staal. He played some great hockey down the stretch and his game is on the rise.
Prediction: Penguins in 5.
#1 SAN JOSE SHARKS VS #8 ANAHEIM DUCKS
If the Sharks can get their scoring touch back and use their speed, they should be able to take out the Ducks. The pressure is on the Sharks now, more than ever on the heels of their first Presidents trophy.Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and Evgeni Nabokov will need to elevate their game. Thornton has been disappointing in the post-season in the past and has slowly begun to shake that moniker. Only a deep post-season run with Jumbo leading the way will do that. The Ducks will try and muddy up the waters and slow the series down. Watch out for Anaheim rookie forward, Bobby Ryan. He has a tremendous skill set and the top line of Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf will cause the Sharks fits. Anaheim is a veteran team who is only 2 years removed from winning the Cup. Jonas Hiller will start, but the Ducks won't hesitate to go to J.S. Giguere if Hiller falters. For the Sharks, the health of Marleau is key. The Sharks need to roll out 2 complete scoring lines and with the return of Marleau and Clowe, this is possible. This will be a tough series that could get very nasty. Player to watch: Sharks Joe Pavelski
Prediction: Sharks in 6.
#4 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS VS. #5 CALGARY FLAMES
The Chicago Blackhawks make a triumphant return to the post-season. Led by their young snipers, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, this team appears to have every reason to believe they can make some noise in the playoffs. The signing of free agent defender, Brian Campbell rounded out a D corps that also features Cam Barker and the underrated Duncan Keith. Patrick Sharp returned from injury and the acquisition of Sami Pahlsson should help on the penalty kill. For the Flames, they made the big trade deadline move to bring in Olli Jokinen. Things started out well after the trade, but the Flames struggled mightily the last few weeks of the regular season. Their poor play down the stretch cost the Flames a division title and home ice advantage in round 1. Goalie Mikka Kiprusoff will need to play very well and Sarich, Regeher, Phaneuf and Leopold will need to bring a sound defensive effort to stop the 'Hawks high powered scoring team. Captain Jarome Iginla can't be expected to do it all. A player to watch on the Flames is Mike Cammalleri, who had a career year. The Blackhawks appear poised for a post-season run if Nikolai Khabibulin can regain the form that won him a cup in Tampa in 2004.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7.
#2 DETROIT RED WINGS VS #7 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Blue Jackets make their very first post-season appearance behind the tremendous play of Captain, Rick Nash. The other key component for Head Coach, Ken Hitchcock's team is rookie of the year candidate, goaltender Steve Mason who's 33 victories and 2.29 GAA gave the Jackets a chance to win on most nights. They are facing a daunting task however facing the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings. Things aren't all great in Hockeytown however. Goaltending has been an issue and it appears Osgood may have done just enough to be the game 1 starter. Up front Detroit is deeper at forward than any team in the league. Zetterberg, Hossa, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, Hudler, and newly re-singed Johan Franzen round out a very strong goal scoring core. If the Blue Jackets can get a split in Joe Louis and come home 1-1, the Columbus crowd will surely be in a playoff frenzy. It will be a tough road, but I think the Blue Jackets are capable of making life difficult for the Wings. A player to watch is Blue Jackets center, R.J. Umberger whose game is tailored for post-season hockey. He had a nice run last year while with the Flyers.
Prediction: Detroit in 6.
#3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS. #6 ST.LOUIS BLUES
The Blues are the "feel good" story of the NHL this season. They came on in the second half of the season and climbed all the way to the 6th seed. Brad Boyes (33 goals) and David Backes (31 goals) have provided the scoring. Veteran Keith Tkachuk is the calming presence on the bench. This team came out of nowhere and was red hot down the stretch. Former Nashville goalie, Chris Mason has made the most of his chance in net. A ton of credit goes to Head Coach, Andy Murray who made all the right moves and now the Blues are not only in the playoffs, but have a chance to make some noise. The Canucks won the Northwest division in the final days of the regular season as the Flames fell apart. The addition of Mats Sundin hasn't exactly gone as well as they would have liked. The Sedin twins had solid campaigns, (82 points each in 82 games each) to pace the Canucks. Center, Ryan Kesler had a career year and is a terrific two-way player. Willie Mitchell (plus 29) will be relied upon to shut down the Blues top line. But when you talk about the Canucks and their chances for success, look no further than Goaltender, Roberto Luongo. He battled through injuries and it took him a few weeks to get back into form. He did record a startling 9 shutouts in only 54 games. If Luongo is hot, it could be a tough series for the Blues. St. Louis is a nice story, but it may be close to midnight for this Cinderella. Player to watch,Brad Boyes. This guy is on the verge of becoming an elite NHL player, he just has to do it in the post-season.
Prediction: Canucks in 7.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
In the latest episode of THE THINK TANK, we welcome legendary play-by-play voice of the San Jose Sharks, Randy Hahn to the show. Randy talked about the Sharks chances of winning the cup and the test of endurance that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This interview of Randy Hahn is the highlight of my young broadcasting career. Thanks again Randy, GO SHARKS!!
PART 1-Randy Hahn
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Well its playoff time in the NHL again. A two month odyssey of endurance and resolve to crown the Stanley Cup Champion. Once again the Sharks are finishing yet another solid regular season campaign. Actually, barring a complete collapse, the Sharks will win the President's Trophy as the top team in the NHL in the regular season. What this does is ensure home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. And what an advantage it has been for the Sharks at HP Pavilion this season. They have a team record 33 victories on the sloppy ice in San Jose. Also, after tonight they have an impressive 117 points with 2 games to play.
First year head coach, Todd McLellan has done a wonderful job this season. The Sharks scorched the NHL in the first half of the season tying the record for most points in the first 25 games with 43. Blue line newcomers, Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, and Brad Lukowich all have Stanley Cup victories on the resume and all three have gotten healthy of late.
All teams have injury problems at this time of year, and the Sharks are no different. They managed to get through the first half of the year relatively unscathed, but after the All Star break, their fortunes changed. Currently sidelined are Captian, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, and they have been without 3rd line center, Torrey Mitchell all season. Mike Grier and Claude Lemiuex returned tonight after lengthy layoffs. Jeremy Roenick, Jonathan Cheechoo and Marcel Goc all recently returned from injury. With Clowe and Marleau scheduled to return in time for the post season, it would appear this team is getting healthy just at the right time.
The Sharks have some major hurdles to clear if they are going to have the type of post season the fans, the organization and basically the entire hockey world have expected for several seasons now. They have bowed out in the 6th game of the second round for 3 straight seasons. Twice they have been eliminated by lower seeds (Oilers in '06 and Stars in '08). Then there was the catastrophic collapse against the Red Wings in 2007 that Ron Wilson never forgave Patrick Marleau for. The Sharks led that series 2-1 and had dominated to that point. Game 4 in San Jose saw the Sharks leading 2-0 late in the 2nd period. The Wings scored in the final minute of the 2nd period to close to 2-1. With under a minute left in regulation the Wings had Hasek pulled for an extra attacker. The Sharks had possession of the puck and Marleau appeared to pursue an empty net goal at the expense of his defensive responsibility. The Wings forced a turnover, Robert Lang beat Nabokov to tie as the Sharks were out of position on the play. Mathieu Schneider then won it in OT and the Wings ran the Sharks out from there 4-2. Ron Wilson thought Marleau's aggressive pursuit of the empty net cost them the game. The relationship between the two never recovered.
Three years of post season failures and a rift between captain and coach forced Doug Wilson choose between them. It seemed easier to replace Wilson who's prickly demeanor had not endeared himself to many in the organization. Doug Wilson hitched his wagon to Marleau, knowing that despite the post season failures, this team was ready to turn the corner. Bring in McLellan and revamp the "D" and that brings us to this season.
So can the Sharks win the Stanley Cup? The first key is the severity of Marleau's injury. Soft tissue damage can be a very serious situation. Had Marleau stayed healthy, he would have scored 40 goals this year. McLellan recognized he could get the most out of his Captain pairing him with Joe Thornton. Add young sniper, Devin Setoguchi and you had the most potent line in the NHL for the first half of the season. Now with Marleau's health in question, the lines have been shuffled and the scoring has been very hard to come by. Patty and Ryane Clowe are critical to the Sharks survival in the playoffs. Their size, toughness and willingness to go to the front of the net is the key because that is where most playoff goals come from. The Sharks are 4-1 in their last 5 while only scoring 9 goals in that span. Great goalkeeping by Nabby and a good start by Boucher on Sunday made that possible.
Which brings us to the next key: Evgeni Nabokov. In playoff years past, he has had some brilliant performances and some not so memorable. His career post season stats, 59 appearances, 2.17 goals against and a .917 save percentage are very solid. In the 4 OT game against the Stars last season he made a save on Brad Richards that even in defeat is remembered as a brilliant moment in his career. And speaking of last season, Nabby was at the top of his game going into the post season and was ROBBED out of the Vezina trophy. This year, he has the wins and his play of late has been solid. If the Sharks are to have any measure of success, it will be because Nabby played not just good, but great. The McLellan offense takes more chances than Ron Wilson's and thus leaving Nabby vulnerable at times. It seems Nabby relishes this responsibility and his game has certainly elevated in the 2nd half of the year.
So can the Sharks finally make it past the 6th game of the 2nd round? Well that will depend on how the first round goes. You have to get through that first round in 4 or 5 games max and not let the injuries pile up. Last year, going 7 against the Flames wore down the Sharks and Dallas ate them up in round 2. If they draw the Predators or the Blues, they will have an easier time than if they draw the Ducks (See home and home teams split over the weekend, with both winning on the others home ice). Bottom line, Anahiem would be a bad eight seed to run across. They have been one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch.
Always a key component to the Sharks success is playmaker Joe Thornton. Jumbo has done a decent job of shedding the playoff choke artist moniker, but lets face hit, he still has to prove his place in the game with a dominant post season. If Joe plays like Joe can and controls the game, that takes the pressure off in so many other areas.
Yes many feel this is the Sharks best chance ever to win a Stanley Cup. But as soon as the clock strikes midnight next Sunday and the regular season ends, all those points disappear and all the Sharks have left is home ice throughout the playoffs. Yes that is a big deal and a game seven vs. the Red Wings or the Flames in San Jose is much more likely to have a happy ending than a game at the Saddledome or the Sharks personal house of horrors, Joe Louis Arena.
They have done the job to this point. The mix of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership and a battle tested goalie put the Sharks in a prime position to have a deep run. I believe the short answer is "yes" this team can win the Stanley Cup. They have the right pieces. But they still have a TON to prove in the playoffs and should they get down early, then we will see what they have learned the past 4 years. The Red Wings have a brilliant group of forwards,but depth on defense and goaltending are a major concern. The Flames have been a little hot and cold down the stretch but are dangerous as can be. The Blackhawks are back in the post season and with those young forwards, a nice defensive group and a goalie in Khabibulin that has won a cup before, they could cause some teams fits. I'm not even going to break down the East, as the Sharks don't need to be looking any further than game 1, round 1. All the goalies in the West have the potential to steal a series so there will be no sure things. The Sharks need to play with desperation and resolve and trust in their abilities. They can do it, but I feel a lot of things will have to go very right for that to happen. If that happens, then the Sharks will have a banner worth raising in the Shark Tank and Teal Mania will sweep the Bay Area!
In the latest installment of "THE THINK TANK", Big Papa KO and I welcome back Ashley "diry d the d-man" Dias back to the show. We discuss the Jay Cutler trade to Chicago, preview the upcoming MLB season, give our picks for the NBA playoffs, and give our list of our top 6 NBA players of all time. Also, Big Papa KO compares the 09 San Jose Sharks to the 83 Oilers. REALLY??? I know, that's what I said!!! It was a very fun show that FLEW by. Dirty D kept it as real as he can and we had some great callers. Enjoy the show and thanks for listening.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
On Thursday, the Chicago Bears filled a huge hole of want and need that had been hanging over the franchise for 25 years. They acquired disgruntled, former first round pick Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos. The Bears made this move at a huge cost, sending QB Kyle Orton, a first round pick in this years draft, a first rounder next year and a third this year. In addition to Cutler, the Bears received a fifth round pick this year. Many would argue that Cutler came at too high of a price, but the reality is if you have a chance to acquire a blue chip talent like Cutler who already has a pro-bowl on the resume, you have to take that chance.
Historically the Bears have made some less than stellar assessments on draft day regarding their first round pick. Names like Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, Dave Terell, Curtis Enis, and everyone's favorite, Cedric Benson don't exactly inspire a lot of confidence. And these are just the first round blunders of the last 10 years. The bottom line is that Bears GM, Jerry Angelo and head coach, Lovie Smith are on the hot seat. They have an aging defense and are very thin at Wide Receiver. Kyle Orton made some good strides last year, but the arm strength is an issue with him. Cutler may be a tad immature, but this Bear team is full of veterans and that type of behavior won't be tolerated in Chicago. Cutler is a Bears fan from childhood, being an Indiana native and with former Vanderbilt players Chris Williams and Earl Bennett, it should make Cutler's transition much easier. Yeah the Bears paid a high price, but if you want quality, you have to pay for it. And as far as the first round picks, the next Cade McNown is only a bad decision away from being on the Bears roster. Props to the normally tight fisted Bears for making a clear effort to better this football team.
Cutler is 25 years old with 3 years of NFL experience. His best years are ahead of him and he will spend those years in the orange and blue. Best of luck to Kyle Orton in Denver. His 15-2 record at Soldier Field is a high standard, but Cutler is clearly a cut above in the talent department. Bears running back, Matt Forte and tight end, Greg Olsen will benefit right away from the arrival of Cutler. And how about this call: Cutler to Hester could be a VERY dangerous combo. Look for the Bears to challenge for a wide open NFC North and possibly get back to the playoffs. Cutler came at a huge price, but when you dissect Bears draft history and their need for a franchise arm, it was hardly a high price at all. Bear Down.