The Worst Trades in San Jose Shark History – A look back

It’s always interesting being a Sharks fan, at least for myself because it allows me the rare chance to follow a sport I love while living in a state where, for the most part nobody really cares.

It’s also damn frustrating, because it’s hard to talk about the Sharks without some self serving baseball-football-basketball fan jumping in with their 2 cents. Nothing like listening to self-serving pundits talking about how Patrick Marleau’s struggling shooting percentage somehow relates to Alex Smith’s pass protection.

After a few minutes of that “analysis”, and I’m looking for the nearest sharp stick so that I might promptly shove it into my eardrum.

The lack of interest can split the fanbase down the middle, one side being too soft and coddling of our millionaire superstars who play a game for a living, no matter what the effort. And the other side is viewed as being too harsh and critical, in a sport where clutch play is celebrated and loved, while following this team.

For a die hard hockey fan such as myself and hopefully you as well reader, you can see how talking hockey to the average fan here in San Jose can be an exercise in futility.

When the average fan walks up to me and says the Sharks will be fine next year, and that all is needed is a few trades, I usually just smile and nod my head.

Sharks fans may look for the big fish trade like the Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton trades of the past, but the fact of the matter is the salary cap is making big trades damn near impossible.

The Sharks have been “tinkering” at the deadline the last few years, with little to no success, this year included. So when and “if” the Sharks fall to the Blues, there will be no lack of projections and predictions about exactly how the Sharks will get back to where they need to be.

One thing is for sure, however, with the top-heavy nature of this roster and payroll, Doug Wilson cannot make another mistake. I don’t envy his job because he’s going to have to make some tough choices should the Sharks bow out in the first round.

Speaking of mistakes, I’ve decided to revisit a few from the pages of Shark history, just for fun 🙂 Here then is a chance to look back at some of the worst trade mistakes in franchise history.

Bob Errey For a 7th-Round Draft Pick

While many fans may question the impact Bob Errey had as a San Jose Shark from a statistical perspective, he was a huge part of the team. For the young franchise struggling to find it’s way, Errey was an unquestioned leader in the locker room and an important part of the playoffs during the 1993-1994 season.

Errey was initially selected 15th-overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins and won two Stanley Cup rings in 1991 and 1992. Bob would also win a gold medal at the World Championships as a member of Team Canada in 1997.

He was one of the Sharks’ early franchise cornerstones and leaders and served a huge role as a captain from 1993-1995. Errey would tally 12 goals, 18 assists in 1993-1994 and chip in three goals and two assists in the playoff run that year for the Sharks.

Errey was moved out of town for a seventh-round draft pick and in favor of Jeff Odgers, a respectable player but not nearly as charismatic.

Errey would be reunited with former Peterborough Pete teammate Steve Yzerman and retire from hockey in 1999.

Miikka Kiprusoff to the Flames for a 2nd-Round Pick

“Kipper” joined the Sharks organization well before being officially recalled to the big club on March 5, 2001. Miikka would end the 2000 AHL season with the then-Sharks affiliate Kentucky Thoroughblades with a 2.48 goals against average and star in the All-Star game.

He backstopped the Thoroughblades to their first division title and post a 19-9-6 record for longtime Sharks coach Roy Sommer.

Kiprusoff would get his first start and win in the NHL against the “Mighty” Ducks of Anaheim on April 8th, 2001. With Evgeni Nabokov sidelined in the playoffs series against the Blues, Kipper would record 39 saves in the huge 3-2 victory.

Kiprusoff failed to capitalize in the 2002-2003 season with Nabokov holding out in a contract dispute. Instead of taking the next step he would go backward, losing his first three games and posting an ugly 5.65 goals against.

The next year with Nabokov and Vesa Toskala firmly entrenched ahead of him, Kiprusoff was traded on November 16th, 2003 to Calgary for a conditional second-round draft pick.

He made an immediate impact taking over for the injured Roman Turek, posting a NHL record low GAA of 1.69. He would be lights-out in the playoffs, winning 15 games; five by way of shutout. He would backstop the Flames within a game of the Stanley Cup championship.

Kipper would come back to haunt the Sharks multiple times during his career as a Flame, and has been a huge Shark killer in his career, especially at the Saddledome.

Tom Preissing and Josh Hennessy For Mark Bell

We all remember this trade as being one of the worst trades ever, but not from what the Sharks gave up. With Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo in the fold, the Sharks were looking to add that one left winger opposite of Cheech that would make the big difference.

Bell enjoyed moderate success as a Blackhawk in 2003-2004, recording 21 goals and 24 assists.

Instead of building on that as a San Jose Shark, Bell would bomb despite being paired on the top line with Thornton and Cheechoo. Head coach Ron Wilson lost his patience with Bell and relegated him to fourth line or completely scratched him.

To add insult to injury, Bell would make a series of professional blunders and simply was just too dumb to utilize his God-given talents.

In early September of 2006, Bell drove a rented Toyota Camry into the back of a stopped pickup truck in Milpitas, California.

The victim was an uninsured and unlicensed man and suffered severe head and neck trauma from the accident.

Bell would walk away from the incident and was arrested an hour later, blowing a .201 when given the breathalyzer test. His blood level would be tested when he was taken back to the station where the blood test would reveal a level of .15, almost twice the legal limit of .08 at least an hour after the accident.

I’d say that’s one hell of a party but it was 4 p.m.

Tom Preissing and Josh Hennessy to Chicago was initially viewed as a big win for the Sharks, although Preissing would enjoy modest success. After it was all said and done though, this trade was a huge mistake for a joke of a NHL player who just couldn’t get his head on straight.

Bell was mercifully shipped out of town with Toskala to Toronto for their 2008 first-round draft pick, a 2007 second-round pick and a 2009 fourth-round selection.

Igor Larianov For Ray Sheppard

What a magical season the 1993-1994 season was for the Sharks, who set a NHL record with a 58-point improvement from the year before. Igor Larianov and Sergei Makarov along with the young Sandis Ozolinsh would be part of a Russian revolution in San Jose.

Backstopped by the great Arturs Irbe with timely offense from the Russian top line, the Sharks would upend the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

Sharks’ hockey had to wait until January 15th, 1995 to resume due to the NHL lockout.

Upon their return, the Sharks struggled to regain the magic from the 1993-1994 season. The Sharks would again play the role of underdog, sending the Calgary Flames packing in seven games.

The Red Wings destroyed the Sharks in the second round, quickly dispatching them while outscoring the Sharks to the tune of 24-6 in the sweep.

A long and sad tale of how the Sharks would unravel would then play out, as one by one our heroes would fall.

Irbe would struggle after being bit by his dog and suffering nerve damage to his glove hand and wrist.

Makarov couldn’t make it out of training camp after reporting out of shape and not ready to play.

Ozolinsh was traded to Colorado after a contract dispute had him play a few games for the now defunct IHL San Francisco Spiders.

Worst of all, Larianov made his way into the doghouse after a run-in with fiery head coach Kevin Constantine in training camp. He was traded on October 24th, a sad day indeed for Sharks fans.

While Sheppard enjoyed some success as a Shark, but he was largely a one-dimensional player and was traded to Florida the following year.

The rebuilding would commence with Constantine and Chuck Grillo being dismissed, leading to the Dean Lombardi-era and the forgettable Al Sims.

Larianov joined the “Russian Five” in Detroit and win back-to-back Stanley Cups as well as scoring over 400 more points.

Steve Bernier and First-Round Pick for Brian Campbell

The Sharks approached the trade deadline in 2008 needing another puck-moving defensemen to bolster the breakout and man the power play. Doug Wilson would trade Steve Bernier and a first-round draft pick to Buffalo for Brian Campbell, who would fit the bill for the most part.

At the time of the trade, Campbell ranked seventh among NHL defensemen with 43 points (5 goals, 38 assists) in 62 games.

While the local media made much of the sexy trade at the deadline and what it brought to the team, many fans worried about the price of the rental. Much was made about Soupy’s childhood relationship with Joe Thornton and the Ottawa 67 connection with GM Wilson, leading to speculation that he would resign.

Campbell played decently, scoring three goals with 16 assists in 20 games down the stretch leading into the playoffs. He would also score the game-tying goal in the third period of the elimination game against the Dallas Stars in the conference semifinals.

Despite those contributions, he didn’t make the difference many fans envisioned and his decision to leave San Jose put him in the fan doghouse.

Despite some poor defensive coverage in the playoffs, Campbell also posted a plus-3 during that time.

Bill Guerin For Ville Nieminen, Jay Barriball and First-Round Pick

Doug Wilson played mad scientist and get burned in this classic tale of locker room chemistry gone awry. Looking for the power forward type of player who could crash the net and contribute along the boards, Wilson would trade for Bill Guerin on February 27, 2007.

Guerin was just 20 days removed from playing his 1,000th NHL game as a member of the St. Louis Blues.

Reunited with Doug Weight in the Gateway City, Guerin had resurrected his career and was a hot commodity at the deadline, initially making Wilson look like a genius.

A gritty, veteran power forward who could score in clutch situations, Guerin was supposed to help lead the Sharks in the playoffs. Instead his critical voice in the locker room would alienate himself from many Sharks and he would turn out to be the worst rental player to ever don the teal.

Who can forget the Game 4 gaffe against the Red Wings when the Sharks were poised to take the 3-1 series lead with just under a minute remaining. Guerin would get caught cheating up ice looking for the empty-net goal, and the Red Wings would even the score with just 30 seconds left.

Guerin would suffer a deep laceration to the face when he was struck by a Christian Ehrhoff slapshot in the following overtime.

Guerin would record just two points in nine playoff games before missing the rest of the postseason with the injury. He’s arguably the worst rental player trade in San Jose Shark history.

Ed Belfour For Chris Terreri, Michal Sykora, and Ulf Dahlen

Ed Belfour was one of the most intense and razor-sharp focused goalies in the NHL.

He went undrafted despite winning a college championship at North Dakota with a tremendous senior season. He went on to be signed as a free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks and in his rookie season he won 44 games in 74 starts and recorded four shutouts with a GAA of 2.47.

Awarded the Calder, Vezina and Jennings trophies that year, he was also nominated for the Hart as the NHL MVP.

Dean Lombardi would trade Chris Terreri, Michal Sykora, and Ulf Dahlen halfway through the 1996-1997 season for Belfour’s services.

The thinking was Belfour would give the Sharks their true bona fide goaltending star, and instead failed to live up to his hype. Crazy Eddie was absolutely horrible with a .884 save percentage and a 3.41 goals against in just 13 games.

There were more than a few whispers in regards to Belfour’s mysterious back injury and why it took so long for him to return.

Despite our team attempting to re-up the goaltender, he strung San Jose along just long enough for him to sign with the Stars the first minute that free agency opened.

Belfour deserved every bit of the venom that would spew forth from the Sharks fanbase, and if he isn’t the most hated ex-Shark, I just don’t know who is.

Owen Nolan For Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and a 1st-Round Pick

Yet another transitional period for the Sharks brings us this list’s worst trade in franchise history.

The team struggled mightily in 2002-2003 and would miss the playoffs despite a roster laden with offensive talents.

Darryl Sutter was fired on December 1st during a disappointing season due to Brad Stuart and Evgeni Nabokov contract disputes. The Sharks would have a record of just 8-12-2-2 through 24 games when Sutter was fired, and Ron Wilson was hired to lead the turnaround.

Teemu Selanne, Marco Sturm and Patrick Marleau would score 28 goals apiece and Vincent Damphousse would lead the team with 38 assists. Even with those combined contributions, it was clear that locker room chemistry had failed, and captain Owen Nolan was moved.

On March 5, 2003, the Sharks traded Nolan to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Alyn McCauley, Brad Boyes and a first-round draft choice in 2003.

It was one of the darkest days for Sharks fans as the singular face of the franchise and captain who held so many team records was gone. Dean Lombardi was dismissed just three days later and Doug Wilson would take the reins.

Now, many of you may say that McCauley provided a good return, and he did for the most part.

In 2003-2004, McCauley would have a good year posting 47 points in 82 games and another three points in 11 playoff games.

Boyes has become a much better player than he was during his time in San Jose. He was traded to Boston in a three-way deal that brought Curtis Brown to the Sharks. The first-round pick would be used to select Steve Bernier taken 16th overall.

Some names still on the board when Bernier was taken? Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry and Mike Richards. Yeah…

So was the return sufficient? Yes, on paper it was quite sufficient, but yet this trade was the one that will always stick in my mind as the worst in Shark history.

Nolan’s leadership, competitive fire and locker room presence were unmatched and to this day not found on the Sharks roster. I can remember when Owen was actually criticized for being too much of a fiery leader in the locker room.

Nolan was a fan favorite as soon as he arrived from Colorado/Quebec in the Ozolinsh trade. San Jose loved Nolan and he would take the reins of leadership without complaining about it.

After Kevin Constatine was shown the door in 1995-1996, and interim coach Jim Wiley could do no better, Owen was consistently the brightest light for the Sharks. Sharks fans loved Nolan despite the team finishing only ahead of lowly Ottawa with a 20-55-7 record.

The Sharks would sell out all 41 home games that season, a testament to the fans in San Jose and Northern California.

Nolan, even with all of his warts and coach-killer label, was and still is the face of the San Jose Sharks to many fans including this one.

Go Sharks

NHL Playoffs 2012 : Has the Window closed on the San Jose Sharks?

As the Sharks prepare for head out to St. Louis for Game 5 of the opening round, there’s a lot of questions about the team and where it’s heading.

No doubt being eliminated in St Louis will bring an offseason of change or so Sharks fans should hope.

Don’t get me wrong, this team still has plenty of fight and plenty of skill, but maybe the real question should be…

Is it enough?

Let’s face it, this Sharks team just isn’t elite anymore. There was a lot of talk entering the postseason about what was wrong with the Sharks??

Well, maybe there’s nothing wrong with the Sharks.. maybe they aren’t that good anymore, maybe the window has closed on this core, maybe they are who we thought they were?

While some may argue that 2008 was our best shot, I would venture to say that 2010 featured a far more superior team.

San Jose has regressed seriously since then in every single category that matters, starting with the awkward signing of Antti Niemi and the ensuing chain reaction of trades and events that followed.

Want proof?

Sharks lack depth – The 2010 team sported a third line that was simply dynamite, with Manny Malhotra, Torrey Mitchell and Logan Couture. Faceoff ability, excellent special teams ability and good speed.

The 2012 version of this team is either too small or too slow when McLellan switches Handzus and Winchester in for Dominic Moore and TJ Galiardi. Against the Blues, the Moore-Mitchell-Galiardi line looks horrible along the boards and in front.

Sharks not special – In 2010, the Sharks power play was fourth in the NHL with 65 goals in 309 chances. The Sharks were fifth on the kill with an 85-percent conversion rate.

The team was ranked 30th in the NHL entering the postseason this year, and the trend has continued in the playoffs, scoring on just 2 goals in 14 man advantages. That’s not championship caliber hockey, hell… it’s barely winning hockey.

This team infuriates me with the spotty special teams play, and the level of domination the Blues have taken over the Sharks is really unexplainable considering the high level talent on this roster.

Or is it really that high level anymore?

Patrick Marleau was almost invisible in the playoffs against the Blues, who outhit the Sharks and just imposed their will. Marleau just isn’t the same even strength player he once was, and that’s not a good sign for the recent resign.

Let’s be clear, he won’t fall off the cliff next season, Marleau will score plenty on the power play, end up with 25-30 goals but he’s on the wrong side of 30.

It’s clear that his slip in numbers was clearly a result of his reduced minutes with Jumbo on the top line. I’m not saying it’s easy to score 44 goals, but it doens’t hurt when you have the league’s top point producer in the last decade feeding you the puck.

Just ask Jonathan Cheechoo.

Sharks don’t play as a unit – What was looking like a lopsided matchup on paper, has played out to exactly that on the ice. The Blues are the sum of their parts, and collectively they have outplayed every single Shark, outside of maybe captain Joe Thornton.

As I eluded to in the Game 4 wrapup, the Blues depend on one another and trust that the line as a unit will get the job done. Too often you see the Sharks trying to do too much, and instead hurting the team, instead of playing as a team.

Until they start doing that, it’s not going to be much different for the men in teal when it comes to the quest for Lord Stanley’s chalice.

I am hoping for the Sharks best effort come Game 5, sadly that just might not be enough this time for San Jose.

Go Sharks

NHL Playoffs 2012 : Lack of focus sinks Sharks 2-1 in Game 4

The San Jose Sharks fell short in their bid to tie their opening series against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 Thursday night, giving the Blues a stranglehold on the series 3-1. Head coach Todd McLellan made changes to the lineup, inserting Handzus and Winchester, while sitting Moore and Galiardi, trading some size for speed.

And for the most part, this tactic served the Sharks well for some stretches in the game as the size helped win some of the scrums for the puck. The Sharks had a decent jump and did a much better job winning the loose puck battles and being stronger along the boards. While the Sharks may have played a good game, at this stage it will take much more to force a Game 6 in San Jose.

A lot was made of the Sharks experience heading into this series, coming off 2 consecutive Western Conference Finals in a row but to this point the young Blues look much more composed and ready to play. The Sharks top line has been invisible to this point, outside of some late assists from Joe Thornton late in Game 3.

The Sharks leaders and “experience” has not netted them the results they have desired so far, with yet another costly penalty taken late in the game with the team trying to build a comeback.

Meanwhile Blues forwards like Andy Mcdonald and David Perron are leading their young and inexperienced team and downright embarrassing the Sharks with their work ethic and hustle. Further, the Blues are continuing the trend of scoring first, and sagging back to the 1-2-2 and stifling the Sharks with an aggressive forecheck.

Brian Elliott continued to look impenetrable with excellent rebound control and looking in control, and the Blues block shots better than any team I have seen in quite some time.

But it’s still another loss in what was almost a must-win game for San Jose, and was it ever a classic Sharks playoff loss.

Sharks fans will recognize the signature style of loss by the familiar problems for San Jose; struggling breakout, horrible shot selection, high neutral zone turnovers, and an overall inability to adjust.

Down 3-1 and heading to St Louis for Game 4, the Sharks just added more weight to their lunchpail and have a huge hill to climb.

Has the window closed on this team? Or are the Blues just that darn good? Whichever side of the coin you believe, the Sharks certainly looked nothing like a playoff team, let alone an elite one.

Elite? Is this team elite anymore? Honestly you’ve got to ask yourself that question given the age of the core and how horribly they have played for the most part outside of Joe Thornton.

Patrick Marleau finally made an appearance last night, although most of his play was marked by soft play along the boards and making questionable choices with the puck.

Factor in his horrible boarding penalty late in the third, that effectively neutralized the Sharks power play and it’s a fair estimation to say that he is struggling to make a difference right now.

Dan Boyle had a horrible game late and he seemed completely flummoxed by the Blues forecheck, especially with just a minute to go and a open net in his own zone.

Joe Pavelski continues to be ice cold, logging 5 shots and getting his helmet cuffed off his head ceremoniously in the third period.

Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, and Ryane Clowe each made several errors during the game, stepping out of their role and trying to do too much. This simply cannot continue to happen, when you are talking about a team that plays defense as well as the Blues do, you have got to make every chance count.

Instead the Sharks desperation has them trying to do too much individually, and hurting the collective.

This is a serious contrast in relation to the Blues, who seem to be more a sum of their parts versus the Sharks not trusting their linemates and trying to do too much.

San Jose keeps talking about the tough breaks and the funny bounces, but a good team makes their own breaks, creates their own bounces. And if this Sharks team wants to make any kind of noise this year, they are going to need to start making their own breaks and playing as a team.

Go Sharks

NHL Playoffs 2012 : Five Reasons the Kings Sweep the Canucks

Canada’s lost sons, the Vancouver Canucks may be getting their leading scorer in Daniel Sedin back in the lineup after quite an absence. Having lost their last six playoff games, a seventh loss means the Canucks will be golfing a tad earlier than they had planned.

While the Canucks put up a great effort in Game 3, they were unable to solve Jonathan Quick or put the clamps down on either Mike Richards or Dustin Brown.

This team is still extremely talented, and figures to come out firing on all cylinders. Problem is, they are still going to be swept tonight, and here’s five reasons why.

5. Dustin Penner is alive

The last time I saw a Dustin Penner play this way in the playoffs was when he was wearing a Duck sweater. Let’s just stop talking there #badmemories.

mmmm.... pancakes.... OW MY BACK!!!

4. Roberto Luongo is still Alain Vigneault’s man.

Easy enough to figure out right? Lu is still the man for head coach Alain Vigneault, despite the fact that Schneider has been superior than the over-rated Luongo. Vigneault claims to have already made his decision, but is not ready to claim his starter as of noon Wednesday.

3. Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown

After winning over some critics last year with his play in the postseason, Kesler has reverted back to the same whining, diving antics that often detracted from what tremendous skill he did have.

All the little things this guy does on the ice are no good when he’s flopping around and allowing his emotions dictate his actions. He’s been held without a goal for the last 16 games, and it’s clear the Kings are completely in his head.

Dustin Brown

I’ll admit, I’ve said my share fair of barbs when it comes to the Los Angeles captain. I’ve called him overrated, a poor leader, and a choker, but not this year. After being dangled at the trade deadline, GM Dean Lombardi has certainly lit a fire under the captain.

He’s had an up and down year so far, but is putting it together when it counts. With four goals in the series, he has the same amount of goals as the entire Canucks roster.

2. Special Teams and Defense

Once one of the strongest teams in the NHL, the Canucks just aren’t the same on defense and the power play / penalty kill anymore.

The Kings have racked up five of the team’s nine goals via special teams, which also includes two shorthanded scores.

Alex Edler has also made some horrible mistakes this series, just a small snapshot of what exactly is wrong with the Canucks blueline.

1. Jonathan Quick

And you were expecting???? Quick has quietly joined the elite ranks of NHL goaltending this year. In stark contrast to his performance against these very same Canucks two years ago, Quick looks dominant and in the zone.

He’s allowed four goals in three games, and with four in his last 11 games he’s got as good of an Conn Smythe argument as anyone in the NHL right now.

Best of all? the Canucks don’t seem like they believe they can solve Quick, especially after Game 3 where Vancouver clearly outplayed LA but failed to get the job done.

Yes, the fourth win is the hardest. Yes the Canucks will be fighting for their lives. Yes this is uncharted territory for the Kings.

No, none of this sways my pick of LA sweeping Vancouver out of the playoffs

If you own a business in Vancouver, now might be the time to sell.

 



NHL Playoffs 2012 : Raffi Torres to spin the NHL Wheel of Morality

We’ve all seen the signs, the disturbing hits and cheap shots that have seemed to ramp up lately in the NHL. Things that cross the line of competitive fire and balance, into an ugly gray area of dirty play, cheap shots and intent to injure.

It’s been a disturbing trend of declining respect among their peers for NHL skaters, but last night’s hit on Marian Hossa is one of the more disgusting plays I have ever witnessed on NHL ice, even for a dirtbag like Raffi Torres.

I hate Raffi Torres, with every fiber of my being despite the fact he no longer pulls the Canucks sweater over his head before games.

Early in Game 3 of the Blackhawk-Coyotes series, Raffi “Soul Patch” Torres left his feet, delivering his shoulder squarely into the face of Blackhawk forward Marian Hossa. Hossa was immobilized and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Hossa was nowhere near the puck when the hit occurred.

With the cheapshot hit, Torres makes himself the next contestant to spin the NHL’s Wheel of Morality.

Problem is, the changes we were all promised last year with Colin Campbell’s resignation haven’t seemed to materialize.

Shana-ban has looked inconsistent with the surprisingly rough and tumble first round of the NHL playoffs.

In the first 22 playoff games, teams have racked up 804 penalty minutes, with the Flyers-Penguins series topping the charts in Game 3 with 158.

Shanahan has clearly missed on several opportunities so far, but this is the one clear chance for him to make Raffi Torres a shining example.

Make any excuse you wish for this hit, because it has no place in hockey. period.

Banning him for the rest of the postseason would be reasonable, the Hockey Files believes Torres should be gone for 10 days, but sadly I think that a repeat offender like Torres gets nothing but a slap on the wrist.

Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

UPDATE : It looks as though Shanahan is serious about Torres, as the NHL just announced he’s been suspended indefinitely pending a hearing. As I’ve said before, this guy needs to be suspended for the duration of the playoffs as an example of his stupidity.

The hearing is set for Friday, April 20th.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=628445

Riot Watch 2012 : Kings look to sweep Canucks in Game 4

The Los Angeles Kings ( and Dustin Brown ) look to put the finishing touches on their first round, and doing it in epic 8th seed style.

Assuming Los Angeles does sweep the President’s Trophy winners by winning in Game 4, it’ll be the first sweep in franchise history, and yet another disappointing finish to the Vancouver season.

The casual fan may look at the 0-3 hole, and spout the normal cliche sayings, about taking it one game at a time, about living in the moment, about taking care of business.

Yes, there will be experience on the ice Wednesday night, even the kind that knows how to come back from a 0-3 hole. Why is that so rare you ask? Only three NHL teams have overcome 0-3 deficits to win a best-of-seven playoff series, and there’s 2 guys that know just how to do that for the Canucks.

Sadly, they are wearing the wrong colors as it’s Kings’ forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who accomplished the feat as Flyers just two years ago.

Why yes I am basking in the warm afterglow of Vancouver’s epic meltdown, because after leading the NHL yet again for the majority the season, the Canucks have self imploded after just 3 playoff games.

Why do I hate the Canucks? Why doesn’t everyone is the better question. Being perceived as a bunch of arrogant divers doesn’t help their image. But the way the team quits or folds like oragami while being portrayed as elite or acting as though they are elite is what rubs the casual fan the wrong way.

Which makes it all the more delicious that the Kings have completely untracked the Canucks, and while the meltdown isn’t as complete as say… the meltdown against the Blackhawks two years ago, it’s still plenty bad.

Dustin Byflugien couldn’t be prouder… unless of course his name was Dustin Brown, captain of the Kings who has scored 4 goals in the series… the same number of goals scored by the entire Canuck team so far.

He’s also been throwing his body around a little… care to ask Henrik Sedin?

The Canucks are hoping that superstar Daniel Sedin will be healthy enough to play, but this team looked beat in Game 2. If they hope to stave off elimination, the big question will be… who is Alain Vigneault going to turn to in net?

While common sense may dictate that Schneider get the nod again in net, as he did in Game 3, my vote is for Roberto Luongo.

And why not? in this tale of regular season success gone wrong, who else would make the perfect poster boy for President’s Cup failure?

Maybe the better question is, will Vancouver riot after being swept out of the playoffs? Will Vancouverites have the common sense to not trash their own city and pride after their beloved Canucks are swept?

Common sense says no….. they will not be doing that again… because we all believed them last year right? 😉

I was going to say something witty and clever here, but words somehow escape me

This actually hurts to say… but… Go Kings.

2012 NHL Playoffs : Sharks Lay an Egg in Game 3, Lose Home Ice

With so much of the pregame chatter about how Game 2 ended, it was much to do about nothing as the Sharks limped through 60 minutes en route to a 4-3 loss.

The St Louis Blues now hold a dominant 2-1 edge over the Sharks in the opening round series, and they got plenty of help from the boys in teal.

Much like the Game 3 of the Penguins / Flyers series the Sharks allowed their emotions to rule the day, and paid the price via 3 power play goals that gave the Blues all the cushion they needed.

Most egregious of all was Captain Joe Thornton’s roughing minor with 2:35 left to play and the Sharks applying the pressure.

I’d say the lazy penalties, poor special teams and sloppy composure ruined the game, but to be honest the Sharks weren’t great at even strength either.

While I sat through the torturous swing of bad play and offensive zone turnovers that was the middle of the third quarter, I had to exercise every bit of restraint to stop myself from throwing my remote at my TV.

Not that I hate my poor TV who has taken the brunt of my often-hockey-fueled anger rampages, no my anger was directed at the supposed “hockey experts”.

No, not Ray “I should be following the Warriors” Ratto, I mean Bret Hedican and Drew Remenda who kept talking about how the Sharks 5 on 5 play was so much more superior.

three blind mice

What freaking game were they watching? Because by my count the Sharks had only 5 true scoring chances at even strength. When the team wasn’t turning the puck over, they were losing the battle in front and along the boards.

Getting pushed to the outside, horrible breakouts, not getting to rebounds, offensive zone turnovers and perimeter dominated shot selection downed the Sharks in Game 3.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Ken Hitchcock loves to coach against the Sharks, because he clearly outcoached, outchanged and dictated the tempo despite Todd McLellan being the home coach.

The team also showed no adjustments, from period 1 to the final buzzer and in fact didn’t show much urgency until Joe Thornton was escorted to the box late in the third period.

The team simply has to be better, and it starts with Todd McLellan on down. His system didn’t work in Game 3, and he showed little in the way of flexibilty and adjustment for the lack of success.

What Worked :

Joe Thornton : With 3 assists and 3 shots in almost 20 minutes of ice time, the Captain is leading the way. He had a “Shea Weber” moment, taking a poor roughing penalty with his team pushing for a score.

He needs to be better, and he knows that.

Brent Burns : With 1 goal and 3 shots, his true value is starting to show as Burnsie logged over 22 minutes last night and was defensively sound for the majority of the game.

What didn’t work :

Douglas Murray : I love the big man, but Crank has got to settle down and play within his game. Delivering the nasty hit, sticking up for teammates, clearing the crease are his strong suits.

Taking the puck on an end to end rush, and promptly turning it over 3 strides into the neutral zone isn’t.

Moore-Mitchell-Galiardi – After all the negative talk the Wellwood-Mitchell combo created in last year’s playoff ouster, GM Doug Wilson spoke about getting faster, bigger and meaner.

This line isn’t doing that, and at times looked physically incapable of taking the body against the Blues. The coaching staff needs to shake this line up.

It’s going to be an uphill battle, but we all knew this series wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. The Sharks will need to bring their A game for Game 4, hopefully the boys can get it into gear.

Go Sharks!

NHL Playoffs 2012 : Byron Bitz spins the NHL Wheel of Morality!!

Vancouver Canucks right wing Byron Bitz was suspended for two games today for his hard hit along the boards Wednesday night on Kings wing Kyle Clifford.

Yes, just 24 hours after their latest disciplinary gaffe, the NHL felt as though there wasn’t enough outrage or backlash to suffice. In order to restore balance to the universe and raise the fans’ level of scorn for the league and it’s haphazard method of discipline, the NHL sent Byron Bitz to the ever popular Wheel of Morality.

Wheel of Morality… turn turn turn

Here is the play in question : Bitz was given a 5 minute major and suspended for 2 games.

Let’s compare that to this play, where Shea Weber not only punched Zetterberg in the back of the head with a sucker punch, but grabbed his head and slammed it into the glass Hulk Hogan style.

Zetterberg avoided injury, although his visor was cracked from the hit and cheap shot from Weber. The fact that he was not injured was taken into account in the decision not to suspend Weber, said Brendan Shanahan, the league’s chief disciplinarian.

Clifford was wobbly after the Bitz hit, and was escorted off the ice, but was skating and had his wits about him just moments after the hit, whereas Zetterberg laid there crumpled to the ice for several moments.

I’d like to recall another dirty play from the playoffs a year ago, when Bobby Ryan was suspended for 2 games after stomping on the skate of Nashville defenseman Jonathan Blum.

Blum was not injured on this play, no penalty was called.

Let’s see… Weber called for penalty, no injury, no suspension. Bitz called for a major, no injury, 2 game suspension, Ryan not called for penalty, no injury, 2 game suspension.

Want more NHL disciplinary fail? Look here at an article I wrote a year ago following the Rule 48 implementation.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/585992-nhl-a-look-back-at-rule-481-at-the-all-star-break

I have a funny feeling I’ll be writing a few more of these kinds of blogs before this postseason is through. Stay tuned.

 

2012 NHL Playoffs : San Jose Sharks Win Game 1 in 2OT – Kicking it Old School

The San Jose Sharks snuck out of Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals with a double OT thiller in St. Louis, winning 3-2 on a Havlat slapshot Thursday night.

While the Sharks came away the the W, they were outplayed for the most part, and especially in the first period as well as the first OT frame.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock is no stranger to the Sharks, and was quite clear that his team had to work harder in Game 2. The Sharks had difficulty handling the Blues forecheck and got outshot 42-34, as well as actually LOSING the faceoff battle.

Martin Havlat had a wonderful game, and it’s clear he’s the hot hand right now. With our season long finishing issues and woeful shooting percentage, he needs to stay healthy and in the lineup for the Sharks to enjoy a deep run.

Antti Niemi had a strong game, turning in 40 saves for the Game 1 win. The Sharks must get things turned around quickly, because relying on Nemo to save the day as he did in Game 1 is not a favorable position.

Still though, as they did a year ago they got the job done, however ugly it was. And got it done against a team that had lost at home only six times in regulation this year.

It’s still going to be one hell of a series against a great opponent, but so long as the defense and goaltending holds up, the Sharks have the experience and scoring ability to get the job done in the Quarterfinals.

In honor of the 2000 playoff team, I am kicking it old school today at work a day after the Sharkies huge win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

My Al Iafrate Practice Jersey

Can’t wait for Game 2.

Go Sharks!