Friday, May 22, 2009

State of the Sharks

Against my better judgement, I watched the first two hours of the "State of the Sharks" event that was held at HP Pavilion on May 14th. A few things stood out that I feel I need to comment on.

First things first though. I have been a Sharks fan since the 92-93 season. I have seen highs and lows a plenty. I have never been as angry and depressed as much as I am right now. All of the playoff losses to Colorado and Dallas pales in comparison to the total frustration I am feeling. There's always disappointment when the season ends, but it has never lasted this long. This past season has so turned me off of sports I find myself missing more Cubs games than I hear.

Back to the "State of the Sharks". The thing that stood out the most was the very weakly concealed anger of Doug Wilson. Weeks after the embarrassing first round upset at the hands of the Ducks, Wilson is still fuming. One thing I can say with total confidence is that there will be major changes to the roster this off season. I can almost guarantee that there will be no fewer than four players who are currently on the roster who will not be on the team come October. It will not just be role players who could face the axe. It could be very likely that at least one Shark with an extra letter on the front of his jersey last year will be gone.

CEO Greg Jamison to me didn't show enough emotion one way or the other. Yes, he's the business face of the Sharks and the public liaison for the ownership group, still he could have at least sounded upset.

The most telling about just where the Sharks are right now was the responses that came from Todd McLellan. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but three things stood out to me. First, yes, the Sharks had more than their fair share of injuries last season and it did play a big part on why they seemed to lack focus during the last half of the season. However, as many times as McLellan referred to it, it seemed that he was looking for an easy way out. Second, the mental toughness angle also was brought up frequently. It almost seemed like he was trying to shift blame from himself to the players. Saying the mental toughness is something the players need to find on their own feels like a bit of a cop out. Lastly, in McLellan's favor, he did acknowledge that the coaching staff was responsible for the failures as much as the players. It did seem to me that there may be a shake up in the coaching staff before next season as well as player moves.

As far as the player angle goes, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski were on hand for a time to field questions as well. What was the most telling to me was not just what they said but how they said it. Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle did not give generic, canned answers to any question posed to them. They also were more serious than Marleau and Thornton were. Granted, Thornton and Marleau tried to inject a bit of humor into a solemn and serious occasion, but I think it was a bit misguided. When you wear the C and an A, you should not be trying to make jokes after your team became the joke of the NHL this year. Based on what he said and how he said it, I cannot believe that we fans, nor the coaching staff, can look to Joe Thornton to be a leader. Boston knew this after a few seasons. Hopefully the Sharks will learn this as well.

I have to say that this has the potential to be the most interesting July and August in Sharks franchise history. It will all start on June 26th. With no first round draft pick, Look for Wilson to wheel and deal. If the Sharks move into the first round, expect the changes I mentioned before to happen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Journey Part V

The Journey is chronicling my thoughts and feelings as I proceed down the path of spirituality. For a detailed explanation, see The Journey Part I.

There's really not too much to report lately, however I have come across a bit of a paradox that I think may be keeping me from taking that last step.

Religion and spirituality relies on faith. I know that is not a profound discovery, but it is a major sticking point for me. As someone who has not had very many people in which to trust so far in my life, making the step to put faith in anything is really hard. It may be impossible.

With seven major religions with over 100 million adherents, one of the biggest issues for me is, how do I know which religion is the right one? Many religions teach that their religion is the "true" or correct religion. How do you know which one is correct? Simple. You need to have faith in your religion. Can you see my dilemma?

Having had virtually no religious background doesn't help. I have no spiritual foundation on which to build faith. How do I know that I am building a strong foundation? Again, it comes down to faith.

It's too early to tell if I have enough faith to make this last, vital step. I guess we will see.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hey, youse guys, where's the bubbler at?

In one of the chats I was a part of today, something was said that got me thinking. The person was not happy with their accent. That struck me a little funny. Maybe it's the amateur linguist in me but I love hearing people speak from different parts of the country. It just shows that we are not all the same.

Yes, I love to have fun with it too. I know what I sound like to folks who are not from around here. That's why whenever I travel outside of my region, I over-exaggerate it. Seeing the looks on people's faces when I say, "Hey, where's the bubbler at?" is great! The looks they give as they open their mental thesaurus is great fun!

The more I thought about it though, the more I was bothered by it. With the amount of feel good, one size fits all legislation that has either passed or is being proposed, why are we not standing up more and saying no?

In a country as diverse as the US, what is good for me is not always going to be good for a family in South Central LA. What's good for people in Phoenix isn't good for people in Boston.

We need to embrace our individuality. Be proud of who we are and where we come from. Why are we obsessed with homogony? I don't want to sound like every one else. That's why I crack off a "don't cha know" or a "why don't cha" every once in a while. Of course, anyone who knows a little about regional speech knows exactly where I'm from now, but that's ok. Where I'm from plays a big part in my beliefs and ideals. If you are willing to embrace your ideals, you should also embrace your accent, be it Southern, Eastern, Californian, or wherever. Be proud, be loud even if some people look at you funny!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's safe to go in the water

Ok, I think I have finally calmed down enough to take an objective look back on a wonderful regular season and a completely disappointing post-season. Despite what happened, there are a few good things to happen over the last seven months.

Young stars
The Sharks have to be optimistic when it comes to the future of the franchise. With the solid performances of young talent like Jamie McGinn, Ryan Vesce, and Derek Joslin. Add that with the high end prospects Logan Couture, Jason and Julien Demers and the Sharks have a very solid young core to build on.

Veteran play
Several young veterans made great strides forward this last season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic played with a stability that belied his 22 years. Devin Setoguchi showed why he will be a major cog in the Sharks machine in the years to come. Joe Pavelski made it known that he is a rising star in the NHL.

Overcoming underachieving
In the regular season, the Sharks showed that they have the talent to win games that they didn't play their best hockey. Although that didn't translate into the post-season, it does show some promise.

What is disturbing though is the apparent huge holes and questionable decisions.

Veteran starts
With the play of the young stars mentioned before, what shocked me is that they didn't get more playing time. Yes, they saw a lot of ice time this past year, but that was mostly due to the injury bug that hit the Sharks hard. The signing of, and recall of, Claude Lemieux still is baffling.

Player moves
Time will tell if the trade that brought Kent Huskins and Travis Moen to the Sharks pans out, but if I were to guess now, I would think the Sharks got the short end of the deal. Moen showed that he could provide some grit, but with Jody Shelley on the roster and Brad Staubitz in Worcester, how much more grit can you have before it starts becoming a liability?

There are going to be a ton of decisions that will be made this off season. Comments from Doug Wilson lead me to believe that there are going to be major changes when it comes to the roster for next year and there may be some that will not sit too well with Sharks fans. I, for one, as a long time Sharks fan will welcome any changes that are made this summer. At this point, I have no allegiance to any current player (except maybe Joe Pavelski...got to stick with the local boy) if it means that the Sharks can get over their playoff hump.

So, how did a President's Cup winning team fall so hard and fast in the playoffs? Honestly, there are only 25 or so guys that can really answer that question. However, I can think of two big reasons.

October, November and December
When you win so many games so easily, it can become a habit to believe that you can still win when you don't play your best. If you come out strong enough, fast enough, teams will just pack it in. Unfortunately, the playoffs do not work that way.

Injuries
I know, it's an easy excuse, but when you lose so many man-games to injury as the Sharks did this year it is very hard to maintain the team chemistry that you need when it comes to playoff time. Only 5 Sharks played 80+ games and one of those was a player acquired at the deadline (Moen). A constant juggling of lines and D pairings makes it hard to get a cohesive unit together. They were able to overcome it in the regular season with talent, but in the playoffs, talent alone usually doesn't win a series.

When this October comes, will we even recognise our Team Teal? If it means a serious run at the Cup come April, I sure hope not.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring is in the air...

The birds are singing, everything is becoming greener, the Cubs are losing...

Ok, I don't really like being so negative right away. After all, we are only 22 games into the season. That being said, why on earth with the talent on that roster are they fighting to stay in front of the Pirates? The easy way out is to blame the injuries that may or may not be a result of the World Baseball Classic. I'm not one to take the easy way out.

Yes, the World Baseball Classic falls at a bad time for Major League Baseball. However, if these guys are relying on spring training to get ready for the season you have to question their motivation. How hard is it these days with the money they are making to stay in shape year round?

Could it be the Wrigley Curse? Possibly. If you took a poll before a certain game recently asking people if they believed in curses, most would probably have said no. Those same people though were no doubt holding their breath for that split second before they realized the cat wasn't black.

Maybe it's just me. As a member of the WGN generation, I had to endure some pretty miserable seasons. That's what scares me. The happiness I felt earlier today as the Cubs beat the Marlins to go to .500 for the year felt a little too familiar...

Yes it's early. There's plenty of time to turn it around. At what point should we start to worry? Will we even know when it's here or will it pass and we never notice?