San Jose Sharks finish preseason with 2-1 win over Calgary Flames

San Jose Sharks Evgeni Nabokov
Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla
San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau

The San Jose Sharks held off a late charge by the Calgary Flames to earn a 2-1 win at HP Pavilion on Saturday night. The Sharks finished the preseason undefeated in regulation (5-0-2) and will travel to Edmonton to open the 2007-08 NHL regular season on Thursday.

Ryane Clowe opened the scoring for San Jose 16:11 into the first period, and Joe Pavelski earned his 9th point of the preseason with an assist. Pavelski gathered a bouncing puck that eluded Rhett Warrener, and fed Clowe for a shot which beat Calgary Flames goaltender Curtis McElhinney over the shoulder. The Sharks "Murderer's Row" line of captain Patrick Marleau, former NHL MVP Joe Thornton, and former Rocket Richard winner Jonathan Cheechoo struck next for San Jose in the second period. Patrick Marleau snapped home a rebound from very sharp angle to make the score 2-0 Sharks after two periods. Veteran center Craig Conroy beat two Sharks defenseman for a goal 4:27 into the third period to set the stage for a very close finish. Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made several sprawling saves on Iginla, Tanguay, and Nilson in the waning minutes to lock down the win.

The Flames should have been hindered more towards the end of the game by the borderline reckless play of star defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf tried to ratchet up the pressure on the Sharks down the stretch, several times hitting players well after the play had passed by. The NHL's hacking and obstruction laws appear to be adjudicated differently for Phaneuf, he was only called for 1 interference penalty early in the 3rd period.

Notes from the game: The Marleau/Thornton/Cheechoo power play unit was stunningly good in the first period. On one cycle in the corner, Marleau and Thornton each compeleted a behind the back pass that had the defender skating in the wrong direction. Lots of movement from all 5 players, but the shot still came from 10 feet out. The Sharks have new HD video equipment to film rinkside and post-game interviews, which should be a regular staple of the San Jose section on NHL.tv. Former Sharks center Mark Smith signed a 1-year $487,500 contract Saturday with Calgary after being released earlier in the week by the New York Rangers. Owen Nolan also was a scratch for the Flames.

A photo gallery from the Sharks 2-1 win over Calgary is available here.

Line combinations and defensive pairings:



Post game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

[Q] One of the preseason goals is to make it through without injuries. It was a physical game tonight, did you guys make it through without injuries?

[RW] Yes, I belive so. They have not had a pretty good preseason. They brought in their full lineup in what I think was their 4th game in 5 days. I think Mike Keenan obviously brought out the sandpaper to try to irritate a few people. They turned it into kind of an ugly game. I think mentally we were dealing with it as the last exhibition game, where you want to come out of it and survive, and get ready for Thursday's game with Edmonton.

[Q] What is the process between now and Thursday, getting the roster down to 23?

[RW] I don't know. The coach doesn't do this, the general manager does. I am part of the process, but I don't know the rule for it. We will talk to a few people tonight and go from there.

[Q] How would you describe the play of Davison and Murray tonight?

[RW] I think they both can play better, and they have to if they want to play regularly on our team. They have to be more physical, and in general play better. They both had their ups and downs in camp, and we have some decisions we have to make on the back end.

Post game comments from Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan:

We had a real strong effort overall, particularly in the third period. They showed signs and I think we can build on the way we finished this particular game. We saw some progress, and that’s what we’re looking for.

We're trying to evaluate players [in the preseason], and we've had a lot of young players in the line-up. We're looking at a lot of players over the course of this time, which is particularly important when you have a new coach. You get to see more players and evaluate the system.

Post game comments from defenseman Douglas Murray:

[Q] How would you describe your game tonight, how do you come away from the preseason thinking about your chances?

[DM] Whatever happens in the preseason, you try to be successful all year. Whatever happens in game 1, I am still going to have to prove myself every day. I am fairly happy with the preseason. I feel I did some good things today, but there are still mistakes that need to be eliminated from my game for me to be in the lineup, and for me to play a lot.

Post game comments from defenseman Rob Davison:

[Q] How did you prepare for the preseason?

[RD] I tried to address some of the issues, maybe some of my faults from last season. Tried to improve. It will be a coaches decision.

[Q] The fact that your scored on a penalty shot against Vancouver can't hurt?

[RD] You know, I don't think that has anything to do with it because I doubt I will be taking regular season penalty shots. But you never know.

[Q] Were you expecting such a physical game from Calgary tonight?

[RD] Calgary, always. That is what they are known for, grinding it out. I think they got away from that a little bit, and the players they brought in this season addressed that. That toughness, or that physical factor they are known for.

[Q] Was it unusual to see Mark Smith in there for Calgary?

[RD] You know it is always unusual to see your ex-teammate in another jersey, but you put that out of your mind in warmups. He is just another player now.

After the game Sharks defenseman Rob Davison was asked about the play of Dion Phaneuf, about what it was in Phaneuf's game that elicited so much controversy. Davison said it was Phaneuf's hits from behind. He mentioned that if Phaneuf hit someone face to face he would not have a problem with it. After a report of a RBK jersey malfunction during a recent fight, possibly causing an injury, and another writer claiming it was easier to be "jerseyed" with the tighter uniform, defenseman Douglas Murray was asked if he could see an increase in either occuring with the new jersey. He mentioned being caught with the jersey pulled over his head in his last fight with Vancouver's Pierre-Cedric Labrie, but that he did not notice a significant difference between the two jerseys when physical play occurred.

[Update] The Sharks assigned 3 players to the Worcester Sharks of the AHL; right wing Graham Mink, left wing Lukas Kaspar, and goaltender Thomas Greiss. The current roster of 26 players will need to be trimmed by 3 more prior to Thursday's season opening game in Edmonton.

[Update2] Sharks look ready after final tuneup, but exhibition wins don't mean too much - San Jose Mercury News.

Darryl Hunt: Worcester Sharks win preseason finale with 4-3 shootout victory over Providence Bruins

The American Hockey League's regular season does not start until Wednesday, but the rivalry between the Providence Bruins and Worcester Sharks was in mid season form Saturday night as the Sharks defeated the Bruins 4-3 in a shootout thriller. Rookie netminders Taylor Dakers for Worcester, and Tuukka Rask for Providence, showed why they are both highly rated prospects by making several key stops and combining for 64 saves in a spirited game, where play at even strength was uncommon.

Games between the Sharks and Baby-Bs are often very physical contests, and it took exactly 71 seconds for the tone of the game to be set. After a nice glove save by Dakers put the face-off to his right, Jonathan Tremblay took the ice. Providence, with the last change as the home team, sent out Steve MacIntyre. The puck barely beat their gloves and helmets to the ice, and both skated to the center of the rink to do battle. After an exchange of multiple left hands, both attempted to take down the other, neither succeeded. As both players held and threw shots that missed, and wrestled for position, the linesmen stepped in and ended the bout that fans on both sides called a draw. The remainder of the first period was hard played with only minors called. That would not be the case for the rest of the game.

Just 43 seconds into the second stanza, just as Sharks forward Nate Raduns was being whistled for kneeing, Providence defenseman Nathan Saunders pinned fan favorite Riley Armstrong against the boards. Heavy hitter Brad Staubitz stepped in, and Saunders really wanted no part of Staubitz, holding on and not letting Staubitz throw any punches. After a few seconds of wrestling, Staubitz let go of Saunders and got an instigator minor penalty for his effort. The Bruins took advantage on the power play, with Vladimir Sobotka flipping one past a sprawling Dakers.

The game got very chippy, with five minors being called, four against Providence, in the span of 3:22. While on a five-on-three advantage, Worcester defenseman Patrick Traverse tied the game with a booming shot from the right point. As the Sharks continued a two-man power play, Riley Armstrong broke in alone and slid one past Rask to give the Sharks their first lead of the game.

The third period saw Taylor Dakers make several of his best saves of the night, but there were two chances he most certainly wants back. At the 4:31 mark Providence defenseman Kenny Smith flipped a shot at the Sharks net that Dakers misjudged, and it rolled just inside the goal line tying the game at 2-2.

Traverse's second goal of the night came from a centering feed that deflected in off of a P-Bruin defender to put the Sharks back on top 3-2. The score remained the same until Providence pulled Rask for an extra attacker, and with 40 seconds left winger Martin Karsums pounced on a loose puck in the slot and beat Dakers five-hole, the puck just squirting over the goal line. Both teams then played a scoreless overtime stanza.

Armstrong and Raduns both had pretty shootout goals, while Dakers stoned the shooters he faced. The Worcester Sharks ended the preseason on a high note.

There were no stars of the game announced, but my votes would have gone to:
1) RW - Riley Armstrong
2) D - Patrick Traverse
3) G - Taylor Dakers

Boxscore from the game:

Worcester Sharks 4, Providence Bruins 3 OT Shootout

WOR 0 2 1 0 1 - 4
PRO 0 1 2 0 0 - 3

1st period
Scoring: none.
Penalties: Wor-Tremblay (fighting) 1:11; Pro-MacIntyre (fighting) 1:11; Pro-Tobin (tripping) 3:59; Pro-McQuaid (interference) 5:51; Wor-Raduns (hooking) 17:43.

2nd period
Scoring: 1 Pro-Sobotka (Pelletier) PP 1:35; 2 Wor-Traverse (Walsh,Armstrong) PP 7:40; 3 Wor-Armstrong (Ciocco) PP 9:16.
Penalties: Wor-Rabuns (kneeing) :43; Pro-Saunders (fighting) :43; Wor-Staubitz (instigator, fighting, misconduct) :43; Pro-Rabbit (holding) 2:52; Pro-Laliberte (hooking) 5:01; Wor-Rome (hooking) 5:07; Pro-Platt (kneeing) 5:33; Pro-DiCasmirro (slashing) 6:14; Wor-Dakers (slashing, served by Armstrong) 9:42; Pro-McQuaid (roughing) 11:34; Wor-Murray (roughing) 11:34; Pro-MacIntyre (hooking) 12:14; Wor-Murray (interference) 18:59.

3rd period
Scoring: 4 Pro-Smith (Collins,Trevelyan) 4:37; 5 Wor-Traverse (Walsh,Rome) PP 5:58; 6 Pro-Karsums (Imbeault,Trevelyan) 19:20.
Penalties: Pro-Saunders (tripping) 5:21; Wor-Tremblay (hooking) 7:18; Wor-Rome (roughing) 9:25; Pro-Karsums (boarding) 9:25; Pro-Platt (interference) 10:38; Wor-Iggulden (tripping) 12:05; Pro-Sobotka (high sticking) 12:43; Wor-Raduns (interference) 14:58.

Scoring: none.
Penalties: Wor-Prudden (hooking) 4:43.

Wor: Iggulden (NG); Armstrong (G); Valette (NG); Raduns (G).
Pro: Sobotka (NG); Karsums (NG); Rabbit (NG); Collins (NG).

Shots on goal
Wor 10 12 7 4 - 33
Pro 9 14 12 2 - 37

Wor: Taloyr Dakers 37 shots, 34 saves
Pro: Tuukka Rask 33 shots, 29 saves

[Update] T.J. Fox a dangerous offensive player - Worcester Telegram.


Introducing your China Sharks

China Hockey

The San Jose Sharks recently announced that they would be sending 3 coaches and 5 players to Beijing to help the new China Sharks franchise compete in the Asian Ice Hockey League. "It's part of the idea of continuing to sell hockey on a worldwide basis" Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison said.

The China Sharks are a combination of two franchises that played last season in the ALIH, the Hosa and Changchun Fuao, who collectively finished at the bottom of the ALIH standings. The China Sharks are now under the management of the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, and their home ice is located in the Chinese capital of Beijing with over 13 million residents (also the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics).

Derek Eisler, a Jr Sharks head coach, and Tom Lenox, a junior coach from Minnesota, are 2 of the 3 coaches heading east. Keegan McAvoy, Kevin Korol, Jason Beeman, Dan Knapp and Zach Sikich are the players that will suit up for the China Sharks. McAvoy has played right wing for the University of Saskatchewan (CIS), and also has WHL and ECHL experience. Left wing Kevin Korol also has WHL, ECHL and CIS experience. Right wing Jason Beeman scored 24 points and racked up 143 PIMs for the Texas Wildcatters of the ECHL last season. Zach Sikich is a 6-foot-2, 205 pound goalie who has played for St. Thomas College (NCAA), as well as for teams in the UHL, SPHL, and ECHL.

A brief history of the Asian Ice Hockey League (ALIH):

The ALIH began play in the 2003-04 season with 4 former Japanese league teams, and the Korean Anyang Halla Winia franchise named after a local refrigerator company. In correspondance with ALIH headquarters after the start of the season, the league's mission statement was to "aim to develop ice hockey as a very popular and longed for sport, and also to make the venue full of spectators."

In 2004-05, while the NHL and NHLPA were marching toward the cancellation of an entire season, the Asia League Ice Hockey exploded onto the scene with 8 teams in 4 different countries. Japan featured 4 teams, the Nippon Paper Cranes, Oji Paper, Nikko Ice Bucks, and Kokudo HC, Anyang Halla Winia represented Korea, Qiqihar and Harbin played in China, and Golden Amur represented far eastern Russia. In a single post on this blog, hockey starved fans (mostly expat Canadians) sent in notes and photos from teams in Japan, Korea and Russia. Some of photographer Igor Saranchin's photos from eastern Russia are still available online, and photos of a globe trotting Esa Tikkanen skating for Halla Winia in Korea are available here.

New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury posted an incredible ESPN Page2 report from China shortly thereafter, Hockey Days in China. Milbury traveled 28 hours from Long Island to visit the Harbin and QiQihar ALIH franchises in China. Both teams supply most of the players for the Chinese national team, and the Islanders had set up a branch office in Harbin. The conditions for the players and the teams in Harbin and QiQihar were difficult, but the enthusiasm from the professional and youth teams was there according to Milbury.

The Kokudo Ice Hockey Team ran away with the season, but a late push by the Nippon Paper Cranes saw them eventually tie Kokudo with 98 points, earning a first place finish on points with one more tie. The former Kokudo "Bunnies" franchise rebounded by sweeping Golden Amur in the first round, and by downing the rival Paper Cranes 3-1 to win the Championship. ALIH added two teams and lost 1 in 2005-06, Kangwon Land joined from South Korea, and a team of Scandinavians named the Nordic Vikings operated from China. Kokudo downed Nippon 3-2 in the league finals.

In 2006-07, the Qiqihar and Harbin Chinese franchises moved to Changchun and Beijing. The Nordic Vikings team ceased operations due to financial difficulties, and the Kokudo franchise was renamed the Seibu Prince Rabbits. The Nippon Paper Cranes outlasted a game Seibu Prince Rabbits club for the regular season crown. After a bye in the quarterfinals, the Prince Rabbits and Paper Cranes each blanked the Icebucks and Kangwon Land 3-0 in the semis. The Nippon Paper Cranes and Kokudo (now Prince Rabbits) franchises have appeared in all 3 ALIH finals. Nippon lost the first two to Kokudo, but they earned their first title with a 3-1 series win over the Seibu Prince Rabbits.

Former NHL players that have played in the ALIH: Esa Tikkanen, Shjon Podein, Derek Plante, Steve Mckenna, and Joel Prpic. Yutaka Fukufuji, who became the first Japanese-born player to play in the NHL, started for the Kokudo franchise in the Japanese Hockey League. Martin Kariya, younger brother of Paul Kariya, played for the Nikko Ice Bucks.

The Asia League Ice Hockey opens its 2007-08 regular season today. Four Japanese teams will be competing this year (Nippon Paper Cranes, Oji Paper Ice Hockey Team, Nikko Ice Bucks, Seibu Prince Rabbits), two teams from Korea (Anyang Halla Ice Hockey club, Kangwon Land Ice Hockey Team), and the China Sharks will be the only team participating from China. A full ALIH schedule is available here. The China Hockey Association website is available here.

This is a very cool announcement, but the China Sharks is a little bland for a franchise name in the mighty Asia League Ice Hockey. The China Flying Tiger Sharks sounds a little more appropriate.

[Update] Goals being set overseas, Asian inroads reflect NHL's new mind-set - Boston Globe.

Further proof of some forward thinking around the NHL emanated last week out of San Jose. Sharks boss Greg Jamison, approached over the summer about a venture in the Asian Ice Hockey League, agreed to back and engineer a plan to send five players and three coaches to join the China Sharks. Yes, that's China, specifically Beijing, which is part of the six-team AIHL that includes four clubs in Japan and one in Korea.

According to Jamison, there were many good reasons to try to give the game a boost over there. Among them, he said, "Obviously, they have a few people living there." Some 15 million (about half of Canada's population) live in Beijing, which actually looks like a couple of pucks in the bottom of the bucket when compared with the country's overall population of 1.3 billion-plus. "The idea," said Jamison, "is to help grow more and more players who can play this game."

Kevin Paul Dupont reported that Islanders owner Charles Wang and Mike Milbury helped with the construction of eight outdoor rinks built in China over the last 10 years. Dupont also notes that the league only plays a 30-game season, and that each team is allowed 5 foreign import players.

[Update2] Islanders' project offers hope for Chinese hockey - Bill Meltzer for NHL.com October, 2006.

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang has a bold vision for hockey in the People's Republic of China. Wang, the Shanghai-born American citizen, has launched a massive plan, called Project Hope, to create a viable infrastructure in a nation with untapped hockey potential. The program also provides educational opportunities in the United States to young Chinese players and cultural exchanges between East and West.

Although there has been organized hockey in China dating back to at least 1945 and there are two Chinese entries in the four-year-old Asia Hockey League, the sport has yet to truly take off. There are only a few hundred registered hockey players in the country today, and the number of training programs has dropped from about 20 in the early 1980s to three today.

[Update3] More news on China Sharks head coach Derek Eisler is available at sjjrsharks.com. Videos of the 2006-07 ALIH Championship game between Seibu and Nippon, and a Seibu-Nikko video clip from the start of the 2007-08 ALIH season are available from kow1968's youtube profile.

Max Giese: 5 Burning Questions the San Jose Sharks must answer this season to win a Stanley Cup

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson put the focus squarely on internal development this off-season, instead of trying to fix problems exclusively through free agency. While the lack of movement on the free agent front raised eyebrows, it is one that could prove to be genius if the young talent on this team begins to play to their full potential.

The plan also has significant locker room implications. It helped the Sharks retain the core group of personnel, one geared for an extended string of playoff runs, instead of spending money on unrestricted free-agents that may bring with them expectations and distractions that could draw the focus away from the main goal; winning a Stanley Cup. The Sharks were able to lock up Craig Rivet, Milan Michalek, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau this offseason, and they have cap room available to make a future move if it is needed.

With the regular season right around the corner, here is a look at the key question marks that are looming over this franchise after 3 years of unfulfilled playoff expectations.

[Question 1] With Vesa Toskala traded to Toronto at the NHL Entry Draft, who will assume the back up goaltending role behind Evgeni Nabkov?
The last two seasons the Sharks where blessed with having two NHL #1 goaltenders on the roster. Injuries and slumps were not a major concern because there was always another solid goaltender capable of carrying the load. With the Sharks pulling a draft day trade sending Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell to Toronto for 3 draft picks (2007 first round, 2007 second, 2009 fourth), Evgeni Nabokov is lone starter for the first time since 2003-2004. He will be asked to play 60+ games this season.

The Sharks have a void at the back-up position for the first time in recent memory, but the depth in their development system will make the transition to a new #2 almost seamless. While the competition is being advertised as an open battle between two Germans, Dimitry Patzold (24 years old) and Thomas Greiss (21), the Sharks might already have Patzold penciled in for the role. Patzold spent the last three seasons playing for the Sharks AHL affiliate being groomed for this opportunity. He came to the Sharks as an aggressive and unique hybrid goalie that relied on his athleticism and reflexes to compensate for questionable mechanics. Sound familiar? Patzold’s development curve and style in the net is eerily similar to Evgeni Nabkov’s and now the two will share the goaltending duties in San Jose. A refined and patient net minder, Patzold received a vote of confidence from the great Warren Strewlow before his passing last season. That said, Greiss is the goaltending prospect of the future. Sharks head coach Ron Wilson recently mentioned that a platoon system may be implemented to give Patzold and Greiss their fair share starts at the AHL level. The Sharks have moved from a platoon system for the #1 goaltender, to a platoon system between Patzold and Greiss for the backup position.

[Question 2] If the Sharks ice a stacked first scoring line, who will be asked to contribute on the second line?

The Sharks boast a possible "murderers row" first line capable of carrying the offensive load with Milan Michalek, former NHL MVP Joe Thornton, and former Rocket Richard winnerJonathan Cheechoo. In a tight Western Conference, the name of the game for San Jose is depth and scoring from multiple lines.

Last year the Sharks struggled to find stability on their second line as several forwards (including off-season departure Bill Guerin and Mark Bell) could not consistently get the job done. Entering this season the only sure thing on the second line is captain Patrick Marleau at center. And Ron Wilson recently mentioned that he may move Marleau to the first line with Thornton and Cheechoo.

Another favorite for second line duty is right wing Steve Bernier, who has all the tools to be an elite power forward at the NHL level. Bernier displayed chemistry with Marleau and Michalek last season, and it would not take long for them to rekindle their impressive play together this season. Sophomore left wings Ryan Clowe and Joe Pavelski are the most deserving of the remaining spot on the second line, but Ron Wilson could go off the board use the talents of prospects Devin Setoguchi or a Torrey Mitchell. Both have turned in impressive performances in training camp, and in the preseason. Setoguchi is tied for the lead in preseason scoring (with Brian Rolston, Derek Roy, and Paul Stastny) with 5 goals in 6 games played. Center Torrey Mitchell has 2 goals and an assist in 5 games played.

Veterans Patrick Rissmiller and Mike Grier are also in the mix. All six have their pros and cons. Clowe and Pavelski lack a top gear that may take advantage of the open ice created by Marleau and Bernier. Setoguchi has not played on the left wing before, but he is an explosive offensive talent and a rocket for a wrist shot. Rissmiller is best suited on the third or fourth lines but has consistently improved year after year (Jon thinks he has focused early in his career on the defensive side of his game, but he has underrated offensive power forward potential). Mike Grier has the size, speed, and competitiveness it takes to fill that void, he ultimately lacks the finish needed to be a top six winger night in night out. He is at his best in a shutdown role, and he creates an inordinate amount of breakaways with his anticipation and drive. Wilson has a history of mixing and matching lines when a team plateaus on the ice, and that should not change against this year.

[Question 3] Who will win the battle for the 6/7/8th defensive roster spot?

The Sharks will enter yet another regular season after a hotly contested competition for the final defensive roster spots. San Jose experimented with the big and physical tandem of Rob Davison and Douglas Murray last year, but neither grabbed the reigns and ran with the opportunity. The Sharks eventually acquired Craig Rivet at the trade deadline to add a veteran presence and log a lot of minutes on the blueline leading up to the playoffs. While the Sharks where able to re-sign Craig Rivet, they lost their top shut down defenseman in Scott Hannan via free agency. Once again, the Sharks were left with an open spot in the top six.

The usual suspects return to fight for the job this year. Rob Davison and Douglas Murray, and 6-foot-6 defenseman Alexei Semenov and 6-foot-5 defenseman Brad Norton. 2006 first round draft pick Ty Wishart, a late training camp cut, is another intriguing option down the line. He is the type of big, mobile, and reliable two-way defenseman the Sharks are desperate for, but after training camp and the preseason he looks to be a year or two away from the NHL. Rob Davison is the most logical fit, he has proved he is capable of the role in 2005-2006, and he is looking to rebound after a rough 06-07 campaign. Davison is a big and physical stay at home defenseman, one who will stick up for his teammates, and one who has shown chemistry with Kyle McLaren in the past. Douglas Murray is probably the flashiest of the bunc. He is endearing to fans because of his monstrous hits, and a tank-like demeanor. The problem with Murray has been consistency and skating deficiencies which he will have to overcome to earn and keep the 6th spot.

Out of the two free agent signings, Semenov has the best shot at making this team. He is a former second round pick, with intriguing raw physical gifts. His bone rattling point shot, which earned a fastest shot award in an Edmonton skills competition, and his above average skating ability compliment his towering frame. He has also shown good instincts with the puck in the offensive zone, and may be a power play option if other players struggle. If he can tighten up his game, Semenov could bring an element to the roster that the Sharks are lacking. Rob Davison and Douglas Murray are the odds on favorite for the 6th and 7th defensive positions, and if the Sharks keep 8 defenseman Alexei Semenov could find himself in a Teal jersey as well.

[Question 4] How will the Sharks fill the void of the Scott Hannan’s departure?

Scott Hannan was the Sharks top shut down defenseman for the past three seasons. He left for Colorado via free-agency, and how will Ron Wilson replace his minutes against opponents top lines, and on special teams, is a major question mark this season for the San Jose Sharks. Hannan was a fan favorite for his courageous play, sacrificing his body to clear the puck or to draw a penalty. His ability to frustrate and contain the opposition has allowed the Sharks to lock down players such as Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya. While it may have been a wise business decision to not offer Hannan the lucrative contract that Colorado did, 4 years at $18 million, this will hurt the Sharks in the short term.

San Jose will need to fill that #1 role on defense by committee. Rookie defenseman Marc Edouard-Vlasic did an exceptional job last season, logging key minutes every night against the best the opposing team had to offer. He will be asked to do more of the same this year. Vlasic is not a big defenseman, but few are stronger in one-on-one situations, and few rookies combined that with solid positional play, and solid decisions in his own zone. In the preseason, Vlasic has also contributed more on the offensive size, and has initiated play on the rush.

Another young defenseman that took major strides in his game last season was Christian Ehrhoff. Always known for his speed and heavy point shot, Ehrhoff began to show his ability to take advantage of that speed and athletic frame to be a better player in his own end. Ehrhoff will see more ice time on the penalty kill this season, and more ice time against opposition’s top lines. He did an excellent job against the skilled and fast forwards Detroit had to offer in the playoffs. The other young defenseman who will be asked to contribute is former Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Carle. Carle had a strong year offensively last season, but also regressed a little when it came to poise with the puck, and occasional defensive lapses. Carle has been a strong player in his own end at every level of hockey he has played at, and one should expect to see more of the same as Carle’s maturation process as an NHL defenseman continues.

Veteran's Craig Rivet and Kyle McLaren will bring tenacity, leadership, and an iron will again this season. Rivet blossomed in San Jose down the stretch, and he was the Sharks top defenseman many nights despite having to adjust from a more stay at home role in Montreal to a more uptempo role in San Jose. Rivet a big and tough defenseman with the ability to play in all situations. McLaren is the anchor of the Sharks defensive group, and he is a general on a back end that continues to usher some of the best young defenders into the NHL. McLaren is a big and physical defender, a calming presence when moving the puck out of his own zone, and a terrifying presence when opposing forwards coming down the wing misjudge his ability to close in and deliver a massive hip check.

[Question 5] Is Ron Wilson the coach to get this team over the hump?

General Manager Doug Wilson took an exhaustive look at the team from the top down after last year's playoff exit against Detroit. It was reported that the lines of communication thoughout the team would be a little more open, and that head coach Ron Wilson might accept more outside input as the season progresses to get the most out of this team.

San Jose is a young and talented team that needs leadership and guidance from the coaching staff. Ron Wilson is one of the best hockey minds on the continent. A player's coach almost to a fault, but he has been criticized for being too nice on his players when at times he should be lighting a fire underneath them. This is one area of concern that Doug Wilson brought up after the abrupt playoff exit last season. Assistant coaches Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler will play significant roles in maintaining the direction of this team throughout the grind of an 82-game regular season.

The story line this offseason has been a few of the conflicts between Ron Wilson and his players. Last season Wilson called out captain Patrick Marleau after a last secon goal against, and it has been rumored that there was a rift between the coach and veteran defenseman Scott Hannan. A recent comment by Ron Wilson stated that rookie defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic carried Hannnan last season as much as Hannan carried Vlasic. He later clarified that remark, explaining that he was complimenting the poise and character of Vlasic without trying characterize Hannan's service in Teal in a negative way. Hannan was a defenseman effected significantly by the NHL rules changes meant to speed up the game. He adapted his stick work in the corners to a more positional role in front of the crease, and he was steady influence on his younger defensive partners while on the ice.

Look for Ron Wilson to continue to ride his thouroughbreds on offense, to dole out ice time based on performance, and for him not to alter a coaching strategy that has resulted in 3 straight 99+ point seasons. Also expect him to make the proper tweaks it will take to turn the Sharks from a team full of developing young talent, to a team full of young stars. This is too good of a team to have another second round playoff exit. Expectations are high, and while it is evident that talent is not an issue, Ron Wilson will be the first to go if the Sharks can not take it to the next level this season.


NHL.tv - free NHL Center Ice Online beta preview until October 9th

NHL.tv Center Ice Online PPV hockey

The latest version of NHL's Center Ice Online is available for a free preview up until October 9th, 2007. The Center Ice Online service using NeuLion technology, $149 for early adopters $169 for regular subscibers, includes a schedule with up to 40 NHL games per week, over 1000 games for the year. Current NHL Center Ice TV subscribers can receive 50% off with this rebate form.

Interactive features include the ability to watch 4 games simultaneously, team multimedia channels with highlights, pregame skate videos, lockerroom interviews, on demand game footage, and archived game footage. Also included are links to statistics, game recaps, real time scores, blogs and social media tools, and fantasy player information. The "Sharks TV" section includes Sharks Insider videos, current and classic Sharks games, PPV video, and a Sharks Archive video library.

There were minimal small glitches when I tried out the beta service. Sound from a game highlight page continued after moving to the live video Center Ice feed, and the occasional video had trouble loading. This is more than offset by the crisp video quality and sheer amount of information on NHL.tv and Center Ice Online. Any hockey fan that tries out this service is going to be hooked.

[Update] A press release from the NHL and NeuLion this July:

National Hockey League Inks Deal with NeuLion to bring unique online experience to NHL fans - NeuLion is chosen as the NHL's online video service provider

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The National Hockey League (NHL) and NeuLion Inc., today announced their partnership to bring a unique online experience to fans worldwide using NeuLion technology at the start of the 2007-08 season.

A new NHL Integrated Video Portal will be available via NHL.com and all of the 30 club sites to deliver high-quality video and other content. Fans will be able to navigate easily between live game content, video features, behind-the-scenes footage and game highlights that are viewable in multiple video windows or full screen.

NeuLion will power this NHL online video offering, which will include the following:

- Live hockey games from NHL Center Ice Online. Paying subscribers of NHL Center Ice Online will be able to watch up to 40 games per week, subject to local blackouts, with the option to view multiple games at one time, zoom into just one game and set their own viewing preferences. The multiple game feature is one of several exciting upgrades to last year’s NHL Center Ice Online product.

- League-wide videos, player information and fan input. Fans can monitor their favorite players or teams, monitor stats for fantasy league purposes and share videos with other fans around the world. Fans can organize and share their favorite specific NHL content through buddy lists, blogs, e-mail, and playlists.

- Team Channels for all 30 teams plus NHL.com. The team experience features footage only available through this new service such as the clips from morning skate, pre-game interviews and post-game commentary. Additional content may include off-season NHL highlights and team-specific video-on-demand such as locker room access and mascot features. In addition, fans can choose game highlights to watch their favorite team or players around the League. Premium content may be available for a pay-per-view or subscription fee.

"The popularity of viewing sports highlights and games online continues to grow, especially with hockey fans, who tend to be early adapters to new technology," said John Collins, Senior Executive Vice President, Business and Media, NHL. "This new agreement with NeuLion is another addition to the NHL’s technical platform to deliver unique and exciting content online that is available anytime, anywhere, without geographic boundaries."

"NeuLion networks continue to grow across our customer base, we are really excited about this new partnership with the NHL, as we worked hard this past year to create a new fan experience for Islanders and Rangers fans, that was truly unique," said Nancy Li, Chief Executive Officer of NeuLion Inc. "We know hockey fans throughout the world will benefit from this service."

About the NHL
The National Hockey League, founded in 1917, is the second-oldest of the four major professional team sports leagues in North America. Today, the NHL consists of 30 Member Clubs, each reflecting the League’s international makeup, with players from more than 20 countries represented on team rosters. According to a Simmons Market Research study, NHL fans are younger, more educated, more affluent, and access content through digital means more than any other sport. The NHL entertains more than 100 million fans each season in-arena and through its partners in national television (VERSUS, NBC, TSN, CBC, RDS, RIS, NASN, NHL Network and HDNet) and radio (Westwood One and XM Radio). Through the NHL Foundation, the League’s charitable arm, the NHL raises money and awareness for Hockey Fights Cancer, Hockey’s All-Star Kids and NHL Diversity, and supports the charitable efforts of all NHL players. For more information on the NHL, log on to NHL.com.

About NeuLion Inc
NeuLion Inc. provides the delivery platform for the future of television by developing a service and technology that drives convergence between television and the internet. Working with companies interested in reaching target markets anywhere at anytime, NeuLion’s technology uses the public internet to aggregate content from any provider and delivers it in real time. Please visit www.neulion.com for more information.

[Update2] This post on Sharkspage from last October covers a few different topics related to online video and emerging technologies.


Sharks cut 8 from training camp roster

The San Jose Sharks announced Monday that five players have been assigned to the AHL affiliate in Worcester (goaltender Taylor Dakers, defenseman Derek Joslin and Tom Walsh, left wing Dennis Packard, and right wing Nate Raduns). Packard and Raduns were sent to Worcester on tryout contracts.

The Sharks need to reduce the training camp roster to the NHL limit of 23 players by October 2nd. 32 players are on the current roster; 19 forwards, 10 defenseman, and 3 goaltenders.

The updated training camp roster as of Tuesday, September 25th:

LEFT WING: Ryane Clowe, Lukas Kaspar, Milan Michalek, Patrick Rissmiller.

CENTER: Curtis Brown, Marcel Goc, Patrick Marleau, Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Plihal, Jeremy Roenick, Joe Thornton.

RIGHT WING: Steve Bernier, Jonathan Cheechoo, Mike Grier, Graham Mink, Devin Setoguchi.

DEFENSE: Matthew Carle, Rob Davison, Christian Ehrhoff, Kyle McLaren, Douglas Murray, Brad Norton, Craig Rivet, Alexei Semenov, Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

GOALTENDER: Evgeni Nabokov, Thomas Greiss, Dimitri Patzold.

Note: The Worcester Teal and White scrimmage will take place September 27th. Former Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh will be eligible for reinstatement into the NHL on October 10th after entering the NHL-NHLPA's substance and behavorial abuse program.

[Update] Three more players have been assigned to Worcester of the AHL: right wing Riley Armstrong, center Craig Valette, and defenseman Brennan Evans. The Sharks roster currently stands at 29 players.


San Jose downs Vancouver 3-1, old time Canucks-Sharks hockey returns to HP Pavilion

San Jose Sharks Craig Rivet
San Jose Sharks Ryane Clowe
San Jose Sharks Douglas Murray
San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau

In San Jose's early franchise history, when taking someone to their first NHL game the best possible opponent was the Vancouver Canucks. Gino Odjick or Dana Murzyn almost guaranteed a hard hitting, glove dropping contest, and the occasional 5-on-5 fight was not out of the question. Old time Canucks-Sharks hockey returned to HP Pavilion for a preseason matchup on Saturday.

Vancouver came into the game reeling from injuries. 10 players were out of the lineup, including veterans Trevor Linden, Brendan Morrison, Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell, and Aaron Miller, and younger stars Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, and Jannik Hansen. A prospect heavy Vancouver lineup was going to get a good look at one of the prohibitive favorites in the Western Conference, and they were going to re-ignite a physical rivalry that dates back to the Cow Palace years in San Francisco.

The Sharks were looking to evaluate more of an opening day roster, trying to mix lines and gauge the chemistry of prospects Devin Setoguchi, Lukas Kaspar, Torrey Mitchell and Tomas Plihal with possible NHL linemates, as well as taking a furthur look at Dimitri Patzold for the hotly contested backup goaltending position.

The Sharks were controlling action early, holding Vancouver without a shot until left wing Juraj Simek let loose with a wrist shot 17:56 into the first period. The Canucks finished with 2 shots after 20 minutes of play, and 1 even strength goal by Nathan McIver. Jeremy Roenick scored his first goal as a San Jose Shark with a one timer on the power play. Devin Setoguchi and Jonathan Cheechoo also contributed power play goals in the second and third periods, as the Sharks finished 3 for 11 with the man advantage.

Thomas Plihal was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down on a breakaway by defenseman Patrick Coulombe and Jim Sharrow. Alexandre Burrows came in a few seconds after the play was stopped and delivered a shot to the back of Jeremy Roenick who was at the side of the crease. Patrick Marleau came to the defense of Roenick, and had to be seperated from Burrows by the referees. On the ensueing penalty shot attempt, Plihal took a slow stride towards the net and tried to snap a shot up high over the glove hand of Luongo. Luongo swallowed up the puck.

The preseason evaluation and analysis mode went out the window later in the second period as the Sharks reverted to message sending mode. After a fairly innocuous play along the corner in the Sharks defensive zone, Canucks defenseman Nathan McIver (139 PIMs with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL last season) dropped the gloves with Patrick Marleau (1 fight last season against Keith Ballard). Both players wrestled for position, before McIver took a knee on the ice and the players were seperated by the referees. Shortly after Craig Rivet dropped the gloves with Alexandre Burrows. Not too many punches thrown, but Rivet ragdolled Burrows for close to a minute before being pulled off him. Ryane Clowe then pushed aside one Vancouver Canuck to single out Jeff Cowan, who was the instigator of the rough play. A much larger Clowe did not land a lot of clean punchs, getting his hands wrapped up in Cowan's new RBK jersey, but he pushed Cowan to the ice and held him there until the message was received.

Later in the third period, defenseman Douglas Murray dropped the gloves with left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie. Again not too many punches thrown, but Labrie succeeded in pulling Murray's jersey completely over his head. Rob Davison also faced off against Nathan McIver as the third ticked down illustrating the fact that even without former enforcer Scott Parker, there are plenty of individuals on the San Jose bench who can answer a physical challenge. The one question that may play out as the season progresses is whether or not they can initiate that challenge, and develop more of a rougher edge to go with the largest lineup in the NHL.

Dimitri Patzold (1-1-0) finished with 9 saves on 10 shots to earn his first win of the preseason. Roberto Luongo (0-1-0) made 34 saves on 37 shots. A photo gallery from the Sharks-Canucks game is available here.

Lines and defensive pairings for San Jose: Plihal-Marleau-Roenick, Cheechoo-Mitchell-Clowe, Setoguchi-Pavelski-Kaspar, Grier-Goc-Rissmiller, McLaren-Ehrhoff, Rivet-Carle, Murray-Davison.

[Update] Lots of candidates, one opening, seven defenders lobbying to prove they should start - SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] Saturday Night Returns - HockeyBuzz.com.

[Update3] Sharks Rise In Defense of Their Captain - SJsharks.com.


Interview with OC Register beat writer Dan Wood

Orange County Register beat writer Dan Wood was kind enough to answer a few questions prior to the Sharks-Ducks preseason game on Friday night. The Anaheim beat writer talked about the Ducks first Stanley Cup championship, the preseason battle for roster spots, a little Samuel Pahlsson Conn Smythe and Selke discussion, the media landscape for the NHL in Southern California, and how the Sharks-Ducks series might play out this season.

[Q] How long have you been covering the Anaheim Ducks for the OC Register, and how long have you been covering the NHL and sports in general?

[DW] I've covered the Ducks for the OC Register since March of 2000. Before that, I had covered the Sharks for the Contra Costa Times since the Sharks entered the NHL in 1991. I started covering sports in 1980, after graduating from San Jose State.

[Q] The Ducks earned their first Stanley Cup championship, and the first NHL championship for California last season. How was the reaction from fans and the general media over the summer? Did the Stanley Cup foray into any entertainment or unusual venues that may not regularly comment on the NHL?

[DW] Well, the Ducks have pretty much guaranteed they will sell out every home game this season, and had to cap season-ticket sales at 15,000, so I guess that pretty much answers the question about fan reaction. The fans certainly responded loudly and enthusiastically during the playoff run, but this is Southern California. People here like winners. Always have, always will. The media is the media. Hockey will never rival football, basketball and baseball here. Yes, the Ducks did quite a few TV gigs and things of that nature. I'm sure their PR department could give you all the specifics, if you want them. I know, for example, that Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Chris Pronger and Brad May appeared with the Stanley Cup on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. There were a lot of other TV appearances, as well.

[Q] The Ducks assigned 17 players to the AHL and juniors on Tuesday, and released center Tyler Bouck. How is the roster looking right now for the Anaheim Ducks, and where do you see the major competition for roster spots taking place?

[DW] I think things are pretty well set, for now, with the exception of perhaps three forward spots. The contenders are Drew Miller, Jason King, Ryan Carter, Petteri Wirtanen, Bobby Ryan and Brandon Segal.

[Q] Anaheim has early season adjustments to make with injuries to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Samuel Pahlsson, and a recent injury to new addition Mathieu Schneider. Is there any news on their status, and when are they expected to return?

[DW] None will be ready for the season-opener, barring a miracle in the case of Giguere or Pahlsson. They figure to be ready shortly after the season-opener, Giguere probably before Pahlsson. Early October looks like a best-case scenario for Schneider.

[Q] An article on ESPN recently speculated that Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne may postpone their retirement, and come back for a chance to defend their Stanley Cup Championship. Do you think that opportunity is too much for them to turn down? And at what point does a decision have to be made?

[DW] Certainly, it is a possibility that either or both will return at some point this season. That has been a possibility all along. ESPN wasn't breaking any news there. There is really no deadline. It could happen at any point before playoff time, I suppose. Logic would suggest, though, that it would need to happen at some point by the midway point of the season, I would think. My guess is sometime in November might be reasonable. I think Niedermayer returning is more likely than Selanne, but anything is possible at this point.

[Q] Samuel Pahlsson was a favorite by many for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which was awarded to Rod Brind'Amour for the second straight year. But many also considered Pahlsson a dark horse candidate for the Conn Smythe, which was awarded to his teammate Scott Niedermayer. What were your selections for each trophy, and what does Pahlsson mean to the Anaheim Ducks? Do you think he suffers a little from a lack of exposure to the East Coast and Canadian media?

[DW] I'll be perfectly honest, though I'm not sure I'm supposed to reveal my votes, and say that I voted for Pahlsson for both the Selke and the Conn Smythe. I think he should have won the Selke hands-down. No disrespect to Rod Brind'Amour, but what Pahlsson did last season merited him winning the Selke. There is no better defensive forward in the NHL. He plays every night, every night against the opposition's best scoring line, and consistently excels.

Yes, absolutely he suffers from a lack of exposure, as all players in the West and particularly on the West Coast do. His "coming-out party" in the playoffs should help him from now on. As for the Conn Smythe, the truth is that there was no one standout candidate. The Ducks had a number of outstanding performers. For my money, I though Pahlsson and Giguere were 1-2, with Niedermayer third. I thought there was a clear separation between Pahlsson and Giguere, and then Niedermayer. I think Niedermayer won because many voters just couldn't bring themselves to vote for a relative unknown like Pahlsson, or to see Giguere win it for a second time in five years. So they voted for Niedermayer almost by default.

And that is no disrespect to Niedermayer. I think he was a deserving winner, and frankly, I voted for him in 2003, over Giguere, because I thought as great as Giguere had been in the first three rounds that year, Niedermayer was the sole reason New Jersey beat the Ducks in the finals. So perhaps there was some justice there. The truth is, some other Ducks, certainly Ryan Getzlaf, could have won the Conn Smythe last year, too, and that would have been justified, as well.

[Q] Dustin Penner was the topic of much consternation this offseason. With Edmonton's offer sheet of $21.25 million drawing a lot of criticism. What are your thoughts on what was offered, and what was said. And how do you think this season will play out for him with the Oilers? What are your thoughts of bringing in Todd Bertuzzi to possibly fill Penner's role in Anaheim?

[DW] I think Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe gave an awful lot of money to a relatively unproven player, but that's what has to happen if a team is going to pry away a restricted free agent. That's the way the system works. Good for Dustin Penner. I hope for his sake, though, that he gets off to a good start in Edmonton, because if he doesn't, the fans are going to be all over him, just as they were all over Joffrey Lupul last season. As for the spat between Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe, I'll leave that to them. As for Bertuzzi, if he's healthy, I think he'll be better in the short-term than Penner and, consequently, the Ducks will be better in that spot. If Bertuzzi is not healthy, that's another story.

[Q] Not counting the pre-season or the rookie tournament, I attended 4 Sharks vs Ducks games in San Jose, and 1 in Anaheim. With the exception of the 5-0 Sharks blowout loss to start the series off in Anaheim, I thought this was the best regular season series in the NHL last season. I was in the hallways prior to the first game in San Jose, and the intensity level was comparable to a late round playoff game. Both teams were big and fast, and when they played each other, mean. But neither were capable of knocking the other off their game. What are your predictions for the Sharks-Ducks meetings this season, and do you think any of the personnel changes from either team will affect the result?

[DW] You know, that's a good question. I thought it was a tremendously entertaining series last year. Even the 5-0 game, you mention, I thought that was a tremendous hockey game. The Ducks didn't break it open until the third period, as I recall, and until then, it was very competitive. What I remember is that other than that game, the games were never over. A couple of times, I thought the Ducks should have put the Sharks away, and they couldn't. A couple of other times, as I recall, the Ducks came back to win when it seemed they shouldn't have. I guess that is a mark of a good series.

As for personnel changes, what I see with the Sharks is the same weakness I saw last year. I think they will be an outstanding regular-season team. In fact, I think they will probably win the division. But I just do'’t see them going as deep into the playoffs as they want to unless they address what I consider to be a huge deficiency on the back end. Losing Scott Hannan isn't going to help. I’m not saying it has never been done, because Carolina did it two years ago, but I don't think you're going to win a Stanley Cup without a premier defensemen. The Ducks had two last year, and really almost three, because Francois Beauchemin is almost in that class.

As for the Ducks, if Niedermayer doesn't come back, I don't think they will survive that loss. I can see them getting by without Selanne, but not Niedermayer. As much credit as he has gotten, I don't know if people who don't see this team every night realize how incredibly valuable Niedermayer is, on and off the ice. People always say Mark Messier was the greatest captain ever, and he probably was. But from what I've seen the past two seasons, I think Scotty isn't too far behind.

[Q] Could you give me a brief assessment of the Anaheim Ducks. What is one or two words you would use to describe their offensive system. GM Brian Burke described a desire for Anaheim's opponents to not be able to skate in a "fear free" environment. Besides the penalty minutes and the fighting majors, how have you seen that translated onto the ice?

[DW] Their offensive system is aggressive -- an aggressive forecheck, a "North-South" style.

"Fear-free" means the skill guys can operate without having to worry about tough guys on other teams intimidating them. I think Burke wants his teams to be able to skate in a fear-free environment. If another team tries to intimidate the Ducks, they have players to counteract such tactics.

[Q] Prior to the start of last year, there was news that the LA Times would cut back coverage of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, combined with similar news about the New York Times and the Washington Post's hockey coverage, it could be considered a trend. More recently in the Bay Area, the Sharks two beat writers for the SJ Mercury News and SF Chronicle were laid off or bought out. What are your thoughts on the newspaper industry's current problems? And how do you think this will affect coverage of the NHL?

[DW] My thoughts are that it is very disturbing, and unfortunately, I can’t say that I think it is going to turn around. The newspaper industry is in trouble, and in this country, hockey coverage is going to be among the first things to suffer. Both of the Sharks beat writers who lost their jobs are friends of mine, so this hits very close to home with me. I don’t like it one bit, but I’m afraid it’s the world we live in. With the Internet and other technological advances, times are definitely changing. I believe I am fairly fortunate in that I cover one of only two professional Orange County teams for an Orange County newspaper, but you never know. How long any newspapers will be covering hockey the way we have come to expect over the years remains to be seen.

[Q] How does the media landscape look for the Anaheim Ducks, I know GM Brian Burke complained a little prior to the start of last season. How was the media turnout for the start of training camp in Anaheim? More or less than last season?

[DW] I think the media landscape in Anaheim is relatively similar to last year, probably a little better, but that's because they are the Stanley Cup champions. There has been more of a columnist presence at training camp. All the TV crews were out the first day -- haven't been seen since, but that's typical. The LA Times is covering the Ducks on the road, but that's only because the Ducks are a very good team, or at least are expected to be good again. The Times is not planning to travel with the Kings, I'm pretty sure. If the Ducks should stumble badly, I’m pretty sure the Times would stop traveling with them.

[Q] What can readers expect from the OC Register's coverage of the NHL this year? Are there any special features or planned coverage that readers should keep an eye out for?

[DW] Believe it or not, I'm not exactly sure. The Register is undergoing some transitions in terms of more of an Internet presence, and I'm not exactly sure of the specifics at this point. As far as I know, we’re still as committed as ever to providing solid coverage of the Ducks, and the fact that they have been as successful as they have the past two seasons certainly doesn't hurt.

The Anaheim Ducks travel to Vancouver for a game Sunday before heading to London, England for a two game series with rival Los Angeles. Dan Wood's coverage of the Anaheim Ducks can be found at ocregister.com, and also online at his Ducks blog. He has been one of the best for many years, and it should come as no surprise from an SJSU alumni.

[Update] The Hockey Hall of Fame posted a summer journal chronicling the Anaheim Ducks' individual 24 hour celebrations with the Stanley Cup.

Pavelksi scores 2 goals en route to 3-1 win over Anaheim Ducks

San Jose Sharks Craig Valette
San Jose Sharks Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks

San Jose head coach Ron Wilson mixed up line combinations and defensive pairings for the second game of a back-to-back series with Anaheim, and the Sharks adapted on the fly to defeat the Ducks 3-1 in the preseason home opener. Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves on 19 shots to earn the win as San Jose outshot Anaheim 36-19.

Joe Pavelski scored twice on the power play, the second goal coming 15:48 into the third period as he undressed defenseman Brett Skinner and snapped the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov. Devin Setoguchi scored his first goal of the preseason, assisted by Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe. Anaheim's 2005 first round draft pick, right wing Bobby Ryan, scored a power play goal on a wrist shot from a sharp angle.

It was difficult to keep track of the lines for San Jose, but Clowe-Thornton-Setoguchi, Valette-Brown-Armstrong, Kaspar-Pavelski-Bernier, Plihal-Mitchell-Raduns were all spotted on the ice during the first period. Kyle Mclaren was paired with Christian Ehrhoff, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic appeared to take shifts with everyone else, auditioning defenseman Brennan Evans, Derek Joslin, and Alexei Semenov.

Initial impressions were favorable for right wing Devin Setoguchi, center Torrey Mitchell, and defenseman Alexei Semenov. It does not matter what it is called, hockey sense, drive, a killer instinct, but Setoguchi has it. The question will be how does he hold up after taking a pounding from NHL defenseman around the crease. Can he fight through checks, can he pick himself up off the ice, and can he still put pucks in the net. The Sharks radio crew of Dan Rusanowsky and Dave Maley focused on Torrey Mitchell throughout the game. He has a burst of speed, and quick hands that made him stand out on Friday night.

On the defensive front, Marc-Edouard Vlasic logged 27:00 minutes of ice time, Derek Joslin 20:19, Kyle McLaren 19:53, Christian Ehrhoff 19:53, Alexei Semenov 18:05, and Brennan Evans 12:11. Marc-Edouard Vlasic intiated the offense at times for San Jose, and he earned an assist, 3 shots on goal, and 1 blocked shot. Vlasic logged the most ice time for any defenseman on either team. Alexei Semenov showed good mobility for a player larger than sasquatch, and he moved the puck well in the offensive zone.

A photo gallery from the Sharks-Ducks preseason game is available here.

[Update] It's a three-for-all on Sharks rookie line - San Jose Mercury News.

While Mitchell is happy with the attention he's drawing, he knows he's still a long way from sticking in the NHL.

"I had to come in and try to make an impression right away," he said. "I feel like I've done that and I've just got to keep going. It's a long process and I need to keep learning and keep gaining experience and keep doing the little things."


NHL season preview magazine review

The Hockey News 2007-08 NHL Yearbook

It is that time of year to review the 2007-08 NHL season preview publications. The Hockey News 2007-08 NHL yearbook might be the magazine of choice if you are only going to purchase one this year. There is almost too much information included to adequately preview it here.

A feature on Vancouver Cancucks goaltender Roberto Luongo asks him for his top 5 alltime goaltenders, and interestingly his name is not on his own list (Dryden, Roy, Sawchuk, Fuhr, Brodeur). The issue also includes an article on "The Fighty Ducks", an under the radar special with 6 of 9 players coming from the Western Conference, a young guns special featuring 2 San Jose Sharks (Matt Carle, Ryane Clowe), an edgy article on Chris Chelios, and more on Hockey in Tanzania, Anze Kopitar, the many faces of Darcy Tucker, and Scott Gomez.

The player rankings feature Joe Thornton at #8, complimenting his regular season offensive prowess but knocking him for a lack of production in the playoffs. THN ranks Jonathan Cheechoo #26, and notes that after Patrick Marleau was ranked #37 last year, this year he is not longer in the Top 50.

The Hockey News predicts a Ducks repeat Stanley Cup win over the Ottawa Senators, and after a brief check of the date on the front of the magazine, it is a prediction for the 2007-08 NHL season. THN feels that a Conn Smythe winning J.S. Giguere, a Schneider/Pronger combination on the blueline, young stars like Getzlaf and Perry, and the best checking line in the NHL (Pahlsson/Niedermayer/Moen) will be the difference in the series.

NHL 2008 Yearbook

The 2008 NHL yearbook from Faceoff Publications has Crosby and Malkin on the cover. The yearbook features the emergence of hockey stars from the U.S., a Vincent Lecavalier coming of age profile, an article on the goaltending factory that is the province of Quebec (not San Jose?), an Anaheim Stanley Cup season in review, and top NHL player rankings.

Three San Jose Sharks made the top 50 for the 2008 yearbook, Joe Thornton at #7, Patrick Marleau at #25, and Jonathan Cheechoo at #33. Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, and Mike Cammalleri were three players listed in the breaking out category.

Sporting News 2007-08 NHL Yearbook

The Sporing News 2007-08 NHL yearbook centers around a report detailing the top 60 fantasy players, followed by a feature on the top 30 goaltenders. Crosby, Lecavalier, Ovechkin, and Thornton lead off the player rankings, with Patrick Marleau coming in at #27 and Jonathan Cheechoo following at #41. The top 30 goaltenders are lead by Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, Martin Brodeur, Thomas Vokoun, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeni Nabokov.

This issue also includes features on the first family of hockey, the Staals, season predictions (Pittsburgh over Detroit, SJ third in the Pacific), and individual team-by-team previews. The headline for the Sharks preview "Do they know the way", lists big game poise, grit and resilience as three characteristics the Sharks need to find in order to go all the way.

One of the most interesting articles in the 2007-08 NHL Yearbook focuses on the NHL's television contract with Versus, "Versus up against it in race for NHL television ratings". The article by Matt McKenzie notes that game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals broadcast on NBC tied a 2005 West Wing rerun for the lowest ratings in NBC's primetime history. Ottawa's 5-3 win over Anaheim received a 1.1 national rating. The Anaheim Ducks 3-2 win in game 4 rebounded slightly with a 1.9 rating. Versus averaged a .6 rating for the first two games of the Finals, down 20% from 2006. Versus Senior VP of Programming and Producing Marc Fein was quoted by the Sporting News, "When you change a name or a brand, it takes people a little while to find it".

[Update] McKeen's 2007-08 NHL Yearbook is available here.

James Mirtle was a senior editor for the issue and a major contributor. He wrote an article for the yearbook titled, "Building a Contender: 10 players that win your pool".

[Update2] A few fans have asked me about Forecaster's 2007-08 NHL Yearbook. It is available for purchase via fantasysports.ca. With Sidney Crosby and Mats Sundin on the cover, the yearbook includes team previews, forecasts, and a top 500 player ranking.

[Update3] Congratulations are also in order for The Wave Magazine. In the 2007 edition of their Readers Choice Awards issue, The Wave Magazine took home a Wave Magazine Editor's choice award for the Best Local Magazine. Their acceptance blurb made me laugh at loud. Last year the Wave Magazine's Sharks season preview included an interview with NHL MVP Joe Thornton that was one of the best of the year.


Sharks cut 6 from training camp roster

The San Jose Sharks announced today that four players have been assigned to the AHL affiliate in Worcester (center Tom Cavanagh, right wing Mike Iggulden, defenseman Dan Spang, and defenseman Patrick Traverse). Two players were assigned to their junior teams, Frazer McLaren to Portland of the WHL, and 2006 fist round selection Ty Wishart to Prince George of the WHL.

The updated training camp roster as of Thursday, September 20th:

LEFT WING: Ryane Clowe, Lukas Kaspar, Milan Michalek, Patrick Rissmiller.

CENTER: Curtis Brown, Marcel Goc, Patrick Marleau, Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Plihal, Jeremy Roenick, Joe Thornton, Craig Valette.

RIGHT WING: Riley Armstrong, Steve Bernier, Jonathan Cheechoo, Mike Grier, Graham Mink, Devin Setoguchi.

DEFENSE: Matthew Carle, Rob Davison, Christian Ehrhoff, Brennan Evans, Derek Joslin, Kyle McLaren, Douglas Murray, Brad Norton, Craig Rivet, Alexei Semenov, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Tom Walsh.

GOALTENDER: Evgeni Nabokov, Taylor Dakers, Thomas Greiss, Dimitri Patzold.

[Update] Duhatschek: One last hurrah for Sandis Ozolinsh? - Globe and Mail.

[Update2] Sharks show no sympathy over rival Anaheim's recent problems - SJ Mercury News.


Teal and White game 2007

Teal and White game 2007 San Jose Sharks
Teal and White game 2007 San Jose Sharks
Teal and White game 2007 San Jose Sharks

A photo gallery from the 2007 Teal and White game is available here.

Team White faced Team Teal for two 25 minute periods, and then season ticket holders were treated to player autograph sessions, photos with the Shark head, and pickup ice skating on the NHL rink.

The Teal vs White game was played at a slightly slower pace than the intense training camp scrimmages held over the weekend at Sharks Ice in San Jose (formerly Logitech). Goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Dimitri Patzold started the game, with Thomas Greiss and Taylor Dakers manning the crease for the second period. Each side was held scoreless during regulation, and fans from the stands picked several Sharks to compete in the deciding shootout. A loud cheer went out for the selections of Setoguchi, Vlasic, McLaren, and Thornton. Steve Bernier snapped a quick shot that beat Greiss to give Team Teal the 1-0 scrimmage win.

Out of the four goaltenders showcased on Monday night, Greiss put up the most impressive performance. Very athletic, quick and focused. Mark Emmons of the SJ Mercury News wrote today about the competition between the Germans Thomas Greiss and Dimitri Patzold for the backup goalie position. After each shootout attempt on Monday night, Greiss skated over to Patzold rinkside to discuss strategy.

[Update - 1st Period] The Sharks at Kings pre-season game tonight is available via streaming radio on KTIK 1150AM, and game notes are available at the new LA Kings Crown Points gameblog.

The score is 1-0 Los Angeles 10 minutes into the first period. Derek Armstrong converted a one-timer off of a pass by Kyle Calder to beat Sharks goaltender Dimitri Patzold. Highly regarded goaltending prospect Jonathan Bernier is in the nets for Los Angeles.

Shot by Lukas Kaspar and Jonathan Bernier can not control the rebound. Setoguchi controls the puck, and evens the score at 1-1. Torrey Mitchell picked up the secondary assist. The Sharks scored their first power play goal after three previous opportunities in the first period. Shots after 1: SJ 15, Kings 5.

[Update - 2nd Period] Goal by Torrey Mitchell, assists by Lukas Kaspar and Devin Setoguchi. Score 2-1 San Jose. Steve Bernier lands a people's elbow on defenseman Peter Harrold. He is given a 5 minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Kyle Calder set up right wing Brian Willsie for a one timer, score tied at 2-2. 1:35 left on the major penalty.

Defenseman Kevin Dallman did not check Torrey Mitchell's stick, and Mitchell beats Kings goaltender Dan Cloutier for his second goal of the game at 12:40 (Cloutier entered the game in the middle of the 2nd, an audible boo from Kings fans is heard on the broadcast). Lukas Kaspar earned his third assist of the game. Patzold mishandles a puck in the crease. Willsie drops the puck to Kyle Calder who ties the game at 3-3 at the 18:33 mark.

Matthew Kredell is live blogging this game at Inside the Kings. Earlier Rich Hammond published an interesting post on the prospect of 19 year old Jonathan Bernier making the goaltending decision difficult for the Kings this year.

[Update - 3rd Period] Goal Los Angeles, Dustin Brown scores on an assist by Anze Kopitar. Score 4-3 Kings. After a Shark is knocked into the Kings bench, a fight breaks out between Raitis Ivanans and San Jose defenseman Brad Norton. Decision Ivanans according to Kredell. Brady Murray and San Jose right wing Graham Mink trade goals less than 20 seconds apart to make it 5-4.

Defenseman Douglas Murray ties the game at 5-5 at the 16:45 mark, assists by Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. Scoreless overtime. Dan Cloutier stopped Devin Setoguchi's and Lukas Kaspar. Sharks goaltender Dimitri Patzold stopped a wrist shot by Anze Kopitar, but was beat by Dustin Brown. Torrey Mitchell could not get a penalty shot attempt past Cloutier, Kings win 6-5.

The Kings were outshot by San Jose 38-22. They gave up 10 power plays, allowing 2 goals against, and LA scored 1 goal short handed. Three stars of the game: Kyle Calder, Devin Setoguchi, Brian Willsie. Jonathan Bernier and Dan Cloutier combined for the win, with Bernier stopping 18 of 20 shots faced, and Cloutier stopping 15 of 18. Dimitri Patzold made 17 saves on 22 shots. Kyle Calder and Brian Willsie each scored a goal and 2 assists for Los Angeles. The line of Kaspar-Mitchell-Setoguchi was a productive one. Kaspar picked up 3 assists, Mitchell 2 goals and an assist, and Setoguchi a goal and 2 assists.

Rookie goalie Jonathan Bernier impresses team - Los Angeles Times.

Sharks Fall To Kings 6-5 In Shootout - SJsharks.com.


Sharks unveil new home and away RBK Edge jerseys

Joe Thornton Kyle McLaren RBK Edge Jersey

The San Jose Sharks unveiled the new home and away RBK Edge jerseys at an on-ice press conference this afternoon. Captain Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Mike Grier, and Kyle McLaren were onhand to showcase the new sweaters for the assembled media.

A press release and photo gallery featuring the new jerseys is available on sjsharks.com.

The Sharks and RBK also released a few details of the research and more than 2 years of development that went into the new jersey system. In conjunction with MIT wind tunnel analysis, and Central Michigan thermal regulation analysis, NHL players, general managers, equipment managers, and the NHLPA, RBK created a jersey system for all 30 NHL teams which reduces weight up to 14% prior to game usage, reduces moisture absorption up to 76%, reduces drag up to 9%, increases core temperature dissipation 4-10%, and doubles game durability from previous models.

The RBK Edge uniform system encorporates new technologies to accomplish these gains, including 4 new fabrics (4way stretch pique, X-trafil, playdry, stretch mesh), playdry moisture management and bead away water repellent technology.

"Our goal was to produce a uniform that paid homage to our birth as a franchise while incorporating a few elements that are more 'now'. The striping on the jersey is reminiscent to our first sweaters. We increased the size of the numbers and added them to the front of the sweater, which will help our fans in identifying our players more quickly and easily. On top of all that, we are excited by the new technological innovations made by RBK" San Jose Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison told reporters.

My opinion on the new jerseys? They did a good job trying to maintain a little coherence with classic designs while integrating the new logo and the new RBK Edge jersey system. The white jersey looks really good in person, and the teal looks better in photos and on television. There will be no third jerseys this season.

Hockey Notes - September 17th

Logan Couture Jeremy Roenick

- A few days ago Mark Emmons of the Mercury News noted that a photo of 2007 first round draft pick Logan Couture and Jeremey Roenick was put up on a wall inside the Sharks locker room. Chet Couture, Logan's father, emailed this picture of a 2-year old Logan Couture reluctantly posing with then Chicago Blackhawks forward Jermey Roenick after a practice in London Ontario November 20th, 1991.

Logan started the Sharks series of training camp scrimmages on a line with Brad Norton and Riley Armstrong. Afterwards he noted the speed of the play on the ice, "It's a lot quicker. The first couple of shifts, I was just shocked to be on the ice with some of the guys I was watching on TV last year. It was pretty unbelievable. The speed and strength mean you have to make the play right away." On Sunday, Couture scored the only goal for Team B in a 3-1 loss.

- Also of note in that report by Mark Emmons, Logitech did not renew its affiliation with the Ice Center in San Jose. As of September 1st the new name of the facility is Sharks Ice at San Jose, not to be confused with Sharks Ice at Fremont. More information about both rinks is available at sharksice.com.

- The Sharks will unveil their new home and road RBK Edge jerseys today at 2PM. Several players including captain Patrick Marleau will be on hand to showcase the new look for the media, and later the players will wear the jerseys for the annual "Teal and White" game at 7PM held exclusively for Sharks season ticket holders. The new jerseys will be available for purchase by the general public today at the Sharks store from 2:30-4:30PM, and then by season ticket holders tonight after 5PM.

- Jeremy Roenick ready to roll as steady Sharks open training camp - AP via Yahoo.

Though Roenick doesn't know his role or position with the Sharks, he's determined to be a positive influence on a young club that appeared to crave veteran leadership in previous seasons. He's also grateful for another legitimate shot at his first Stanley Cup after spending the last two years with losing clubs in Los Angeles and Phoenix.

"You can't understand the level of excitement when you get to come to a team like this after you've been battling and losing for so long," Roenick said. "It's hurt a lot to get into shape this quick, but there's a reward at the end."

Roenick mentioned being low key, and not wanting to be a distraction in the locker room, but his acquistion and the return of television color commentator Drew Remenda will keep the NHL front and center in a crowded Bay Area sports media market.

- According to a press release from the San Jose Sharks, former Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was offered a tryout over the weekend. Ozolinsh set a franchise record for the Sharks, scoring 21 goals and 64 points en route to a playoff upset over the top seeded Detroit Red Wings in 1993-94.

"Ozone" was originally drafted by the Sharks in the second round in 1991, and then traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Owen Nolan in 1995 where he won a Stanley Cup. He has recorded 164 goals and 384 assists in 836 games played for the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, and New York Rangers.

It was oft-reported that Ozolinsh had to deal with a substance abuse problem last season in New York. The Sharks now have several quality candidates vying for the 5th and 6th defensive position, and the #7/#8 reserve slots on the roster. Hobey Baker winner and 2-time NCAA champion Matt Carle, veterans Rob Davison and Doug Murray, 6-foot-4 230-pound Brad Norton, 6-foot-6 235-pound Alexei Semenov, and several defensive prospects inluding Ty Wishart, Dan Spang, Patrick Traverse, and Derek Joslin are going to make the competition tough.

- Ozolinsh, an old face, tries out for Sharks, An 'Opportunity' for an old face - SJ Mercury News.

The past couple of years have been difficult. In December 2005 he entered the NHL's substance-abuse program. In June 2006 he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. Coming off knee surgery, he only had three assists with the New York Rangers last season before he declined to report to the minors.

"For today, I am feeling great," he said. "It's one of the decisions I had to make: if I was ready to handle all of the pressures. It was one of the things we talked about. I was very honest with them and told them where I was mentally, what I was feeling, and how I was looking at life now."

Sergei Starikov Viacheslav Fetisov

- The History Channel recently aired an episode of Our Generation titled "Miracle on Ice". It examined the lasting impact of the USA Men's Olympic Ice Hockey victory over the Soviet Union in 1980. One of the most touching aspects of the program, was an interview with Russian defenseman Sergei Starikov.

Sergei Starikov, a much decorated defenseman with 2 gold medals and 1 silver in Olympic competition and 9 national titles in the Soviet Union, was on the ice for one of the pivotal goals against. In the program, Starikov discussed the leadup to "Miracle on Ice" game, a 3-game "Challenge Cup" series where the Russians dominated a team of NHL Allstars, and a 10-3 exhibition win over the Americans in an Olympic tune up. The Russians were confident heading into the "Miracle on Ice" game.

Starikov talked about the loss, and how the period following it was the most difficult of his life, even after winning a gold medal in Sarajevo in 1984. New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello drafted Starikov with the 152nd pick in 1989. Starikov was going to join his former teammate Viacheslav Fetisov in the National Hockey League with the New Jersey Devils. Both players were part of the memorable The Russians are Here Sports Illustrated cover that was a precursor for the modern influx of Russian players into the National Hockey League.

Starikov is now a youth hockey coach in the New Jersey Area, manning the bench for the Jersey Penguins, who are understandably proud of the recent History Channel show honoring their coach. Legends of Hockey has a brief bio of Starikov here, and a full roster for each team from the "Miracle on Ice" game is available here.

- Tribute to Russian Hockey, KLM line re-united in first exhibition game played at Moscow's Red Square - Sharkspage archive from December, 2006.

- Streaming video of the 8-game Russia vs Canada "Super Series" is available via TSN here. Click on game archive, and then scroll down for video from each of the games.

- I am going to try out the New York Islanders BlogBox for a game with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, October 20th. If you are going to be in the area, drop me a line.

- Interesting website for the Finnish Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. Current rotating exhibitions are a collection of Finnish Ice Hockey cards, one on the Ice Hockey World Championships in Finland, and another on 50 years of Finnish Olympic Ice Hockey.

- Toskala unafraid to play in hypercritical Toronto, Ex-Shark goaltender's 'laid-back' style might blunt inevitable attacks - Toronto Star.

Two days after goaltender Vesa Toskala learned he'd been traded to the Maple Leafs, he placed a phone call to a Finnish reporter he trusted: one who had worked in Toronto covering the team for a couple of seasons. "Is it as hard to play there as I've heard it is?" inquired Toskala, conjuring up the stories of media and fan pressure passed on by fellow Finns, and former Leafs, Aki Berg and Jyrki Lumme.

"It's worse," came the reply. "It's an awful place to play. If you play well, you'll be next to God. If you don't – oh my God – they'll stone you to death."

There was a long pause at the end of the line. "Good," Toskala finally said, breaking the silence. "I look forward to the challenge."

After goaltender Andrew Raycroft signed with Toronto last season, Maple Leafs goaltending coach Steve McKichan mentioned that there were technical issues with Raycroft's play. He believed that if they were fixed, Raycroft could rebound from a difficult season in Boston and regain the form he had when he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the Rookie of the Year in 2003-04.

Andrew Raycroft started 71 games for the Maple Leafs in 2006-07, and put up a 37-25-9 record, with a 2.99GAA, .894SV%, and 2 shutouts. Without confidence in backup Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Raycroft was forced to start games where he admittadly was not 100%. "Obviously, there were a lot of games and definitely there were nights when I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked. There were nights it would have been nice to have a guy jump in there and give us a chance to win." Raycroft told the media.

Toronto reporters are all across the board on the goaltending competition between Toskala and Raycroft. David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail says that Toskala has a chance to become the #1 goaltender in Toronto, and to "finally prove he can be an elite goaltender".

I think Shoalts has that reversed. Toronto has an elite goaltender in his prime, a solid goaltending tandem, and the Maple Leafs now have an opportunity to prove that a myriad of other problems have been addressed and that they are now an "elite" NHL team. Playoffs or no playoffs, the season this year for the Maple Leafs is not going to hinge on goaltending.

- You Can Quit Pitching Scripted TV Ideas to ESPN - The Big Lead.

- The San Jose Sharks recapped the 2 game mini Rookie Tournament with Anaheim here and here. The Sharks earned a 2-1 win in the first game on goals by Torrey Mitchell and Logan Couture, and a 29 save performace by German goaltender Timo Pielmeier. The Sharks earned a sweep with a 3-1 win in the second game, with goals coming by Torrey Mitchell, Luke Fritshaw and Logan Couture. 2007 3rd round draft pick Tyson Sexsmith earned the win in game 2.

- Unable to see Pielmeier play at the rookie games in Anaheim or in training camp, I tuned in online to watch him start against the Montcon Wildcats for the QMJHL St John's Fog Devils on Sunday night. Montcon's Phil Mangan scored in the extra period to give the Wildcats a 3-2 OT win.

The QMJHL recently announced that its partnership with telecomunications company Telus would be extended for another 5 years. As part of that agreement, Telus will stream all QMJHL games online for free at qmjhl.mytelus.com.

- Ice time was draw for German goalie Timo Pielmeier - St John's Telegram.

- In addition to an ACHA D2 ice hockey program, which starts play September 28th against rival USC, San Jose State now has a new ACHA Third Division team. Captained by Cameron Coles, the new D3 team coached by Terry Jones will begin play on the road against UC Davis October 5th. Their first home game against Redlands University will be at Sharks Ice in San Jose October 20th at 10:30PM.

- The Battle of Alberta blog posted a recap and photos of the University of Alberta Golden Bears college hockey team's 2-1 win over a squad of Edmonton Oilers rookies. More from the game is available from the Oilers and the Edmonton Journal.

- Flames Looking For Production From Owen Nolan, Fire still burns for veteran Nolan - Globe and Mail.

- For Correia, tournament's success is like money in the bank - NHL.com.

The prospects tournament that preceded the opening of the Detroit Red Wings’ training camp here at Centre ICE Arena was a rousing success as the New York Rangers took home the tournament title.

This was the 11th year that Centre ICE and Traverse City have hosted the event and the second year that seven other NHL teams competed here. There may be an event like this coming to you in the future. There were at least two teams here to study the rink operation as well as scout the roughly 160 players who, for the most part, were drafted in the past three years. Each team was limited to using only four professional hockey players, mostly those in the AHL and ECHL.

Teams that once turned down Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland's invitations, call repeatedly to ask to be admitted.


Interview with San Jose Sharks defenseman Alexei Semenov

San Jose Sharks defenseman Alexei Semenov answered questions from reporters after Friday's practice and scrimmage in San Jose:

[Q] How has camp been so far?

Good. That was a pretty good first day. Kind of slow for me because it is a new team, and with new players out there, but I think it was a good first day. I think there is going to be something new to adjust to every day, every game out there.

[Q] Is this system much different that what you are used to in the past?

[AS] Not team-wise, just a little different, but I do not think that is going to be a problem... I can play both ends, I just need a chance to play out there. I think I could be a good part of the team.

[Q] I saw where Joe Thornton hit you with a pass across the ice through five sticks, right on the tape.

[AS] I wanted to give it back to him, but I could see the defenseman out there going to the net for a one-timer. I tried to give it back to him, but it did not work out.

[Q] Could you get used to seeing passes like that?

[AS] Yes.

[Q] What is the appeal of playing on a team like the San Jose Sharks?

[AS] It is always fun. With a lot of new guys, there are a lot of different players to get used to. When you play with different players and different clubs, it is good when you learn and see the team playing out on the ice. I have played with Edmonton and Florida, and every team is different.


Training Camp photo gallery - September 14th

Logan Couture San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks training camp
Alexei Semenov San Jose Sharks

A photo gallery from Friday's San Jose Sharks training camp is available here.

Media Day video interviews with Jeremy Roenick, Jonathan Cheechoo, Evgeni Nabokov, and head coach Ron Wilson

Posted here are Media Day video interviews with Jeremy Roenick, Jonathan Cheechoo, Evgeni Nabokov, and head coach Ron Wilson. A transcript of an audio interview with 6-foot-6, 235 pound defenseman Alexei Semenov will be posted shortly.

San Jose Sharks training camp, Team A vs Team B scrimmage video

Here are a few brief video clips from the San Jose Sharks training camp scrimmage between Team A and Team B today at the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose. The video quality here is not the best, but it allows a brief look at the action on the ice. There were video crews from SJsharks.com, Fox Sports, Channel2 and Channel7 that I saw on site, make sure to tune in this weekend for their coverage.

Celaya, Rodriguez and Perez all take home wins at latest Fight Night at the Tank

Jose Celaya Fight Night at Tank
Jesus Chuy Rodriguez Fight Night at Tank
Eloy Perez Fight Night at the Tank

A collection of Northern California's best boxing talent converged on HP Pavilion for the American Metal and Iron Fight Night at the Tank on Thursday. Jose Celaya, Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez, and Eloy Perez headlined a local-heavy fight card, with San Jose's Ricardo Cortes, IBF featherweight title holder Robert Guerrero and Wayne "Pocket Rocket" McCullough rinkside.

The fireworks started early with a Super Middleweight bout between Fernando Barajas (1-0, 0KOs) of Oakland and Jesus Berrelleza (1-0, 1KO) of Fontana. Barajas pressed the action for the first two minutes, but Berrelleza landed a flurry of punches that sent Barajas to the canvas. A wobbly Barajas tried to stay on his feet and continue the fight, but referee Marty Sammon declared a technical knockout for Berrelleza at 2:36 of the first round.

The second fight of the evening featured Team Garcia boxer Eloy Perez. Perez landed heavy shots in close, turning on a dime and landing to the body. He clearly was the aggressor in the first two rounds. Picking up the pace in rounds three and four, it looked like Eloy might be able to stop Odilon Rivera before the end of the 6 round fight. Perez trailed off slightly in the fifth round, and Odilon tried to work his way back into contention landing several combinations and winning the fifth 10-9 on the Sharkspage scorecard. The sixth and final round started with more of the same from Odilon, but hard shots to the body by Eloy slowed him down considerably. Both fighters finished a little winded, but Eloy Perez earned a unanimous decision win to up his record to 9-0-2. All three judges scored the bout 60-54, giving Perez the nod in all 6 rounds.

Joseph Jones (1-0, 0 KOs) earned a majority decision win over Rudolf Louis (2-2, 0 KOs) in his professional debut. There were several akward exchanges, and a few warnings from the referee, but Jones did enough to earn the 4-round decision according to 2 of the referees.

Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez (16-2, 5KOs) and Dario Jose Esalas (30-10, 25KOs) turned in the surprise fight of the night. A minute and a half into the first round, you can tell that the impressive knockout record of Esalas there for a reason. Chuy Rodriguez tried to generate offense on the counter, ducking down low and trying to get under Dario Jose's hands, but the 33 year old Esalas displayed excellent movement and proved to be a difficult target for the rest of the fight.

In the second round, each of the fighters strategies seemed to negate each other out. Rodriguez had trouble trying to get inside, and Esalas would try to pick his spots from the outside. Not much happened of note until the last 20 seconds. Both fighters traded a hard 10 second flurry toe-to-toe, stood back for a second, and then launched in on each other before the referee jumped in to seperate them at the bell. Dario Jose Esalas has a habit of stretching his arms out wide in between punches, trying to lure Rodriguez to come in closer.

The action continued at the start of the third, but Esalas soon backed off with Chuy in pursuit. An incidental headbut late in the third opened a cut over the left eye of Rodriguez. Early in the fourth, the cut over Rodriguez's eye started bleeding profusely, and the fight was stopped. The referee went to the scorecards, which were (40-37, 39-37, 40-36) in Rodriguez's favor.

Jose Celaya (30-3, 16KOs) entered the ring against Steve Walker (21-16, 15KOs) in the Fight Night finale. The buzz was building in the crowd, but Walker was stunned by a left jab, and dropped cold by a Celaya right hand 111 seconds into the first round. Walker never lifted his head off of the canvas, and Celaya earned his 30th win and 16th knockout in impressive fashion.

American Metal and Iron Fight Night at the Tank boxing results:

(HP Pavilion - San Jose, CA - September 13, 2007)

- Jose CELAYA (30-3, 16 KO's) def. Steve WALKER (21-16,15 KO's) - KO Round 1

- Jesus "Chuy" RODRIGUEZ (16-2, 5 KO's) def. Dario Jose ESALAS (30-10, 25 KO's) - Technical decision, accidental head butt Round 4

- Joseph JONES (1-0, 0 KO's) def. Rudolf LOUIS (2-2, 0 KO's) - Majority Decision Round 4

- Eloy PEREZ (9-0, 1 KO's) def. Odilon RIVERA (5-13-3, 3 KO's) - Unanimous Decision Round 6

- Jesus BERRELLEZA (2-0, 2 KO's) def. Fernando BARAJAS (1-1, 0 KO's) - KO Round 1

Attendance: 3,599

[Update] Celaya Knocks Out Walker In Impressive Fashion - Fight Night at the Tank.

[Update2] Fight Night: Celaya gets 1st K.O. in 3 years, 'Chuy', Perez also win - Salinas Californian.

Make sure to take a look at the excellent photos posted by Salinas Californian photographer Scott MacDonald, including an impressive shot of a celebratory Jose Celaya.

[Update3] Salinas Sweep, Celaya, Rodriguez and Perez win at The Tank - Monterey County Herald.

The victory boosted Celaya — once the No. 1-ranked welterweight in the world, according to once sanctioning body — to a 30-3 record. It was his 16th career knockout.

"I've been up in Big Bear, training with Shane Mosley, and he's the fighter who does that the best: He hides that right hand behind his shoulder a little bit, so his opponent doesn't see it coming," Celaya said. "He never saw it coming."


Max Giese: San Jose Sharks prospect review and Top 20 list

Devin Setoguchi
Thomas Greiss
San Jose Sharks Mike Morris

Included in this San Jose Sharks prospect review is a Top 20 organizational list, individual scouting assessments of each player, and a brief Top 5 prospect review for each of the remaining Pacific Division teams; including the Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks.

After San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson took over the reigns from Dean Lombardi, the Sharks organization has stockpiled talent at an unprecedented level in four consecutive NHL Entry Draft classes. Each draft has the potential to yield multiple NHL-caliber players, punctuated by high-end impact talent.

The 2003 Sharks draft class was a work of art from a scouting perspective as the Sharks walked away with 4 potential NHL stars (Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Matt Carle, and Joe Pavelski). Subsequent drafts have built on that success with blue chip prospects expected to contribute at an elite level in the not too distant future.

Sharks Top 20 prospect list:
1. RW - Devin Setoguchi
2. C - Logan Couture
3. G - Thomas Greiss
4. D - Ty Wishart
5. D - Nick Petrecki
6. RW - Jamie McGinn
7. C - Torrey Mitchell
8. LW - Lukas Kaspar
9. G - Timo Pielmeier
10. G - Taylor Dakers
11. RW - Mike Morris
12. G - Tyson Sexsmith
13. C - P.J. Fenton
14. C - Steven Zalewski
15. D - Dan Spang
16. D - Derek Joslin
17. C - Tony Lucia
18. G - Alex Stalock
19. D - James DeLory
20. LW - Patrik Zackrisson

1. RW/LW Devin Setoguchi, 5-11, 195. Taber Alberta, Canada. Acquired: 8th overall 2005 draft.
2006/2007: Prince George Cougars, WHL (55gp, 36g, 29a, 65pts, 55pims).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL/San Jose Sharks NHL.
Strengths: A true game breaking talent with explosive speed, a hard shot, and the ability to elevate his game when needed to score a critical goal. Setoguchi is a good skater with quick feet and a top gear that allows him to win races to the puck and beat defenders outside. Superb offensive creativity, timing, and anticipation are some of Setoguchi's calling cards. He sees the ice well and is a slick play maker when he is in the sharing mood. Devin owns the natural instincts, quick release, velocity, and accuracy of a pure goal scorer. He also has good hands and impressive puck protection aided by a low center of gravity. Solid puck pursuit and can land a bone crunching when so inclined. Appears to have added considerable size since his last appearance in training camp.
Weaknesses: Setoguchi's main flaw is that he can be prone to cold streaks. He can be caught floating away from the puck, and he needs to work more on winning one-on-one battles in his own zone.
NHL Projection: First or second line offensive forward capable of leading a team in goal scoring.

2. C Logan Couture. 6-0, 195. London Ontario, Canada. Acquired: 9th overall 2007.
2006/2007: Ottawa 67s OHL (54gp, 26g, 52a, 78 pts, 24 pims).
2007/2008: Ottawa 67s OHL.
Strengths: A crafty two-way center with superb vision. Couture is one of the most intelligent players in the Shark system. He is blessed with elite hockey sense and anticipation. All scouts agree, Couture will be a play making pivot in the NHL. "He has very good offensive skills, especially his on-ice vision, and anticipation" Red Line Reports Ontario scout Ed Roberts said. While not a showman with the puck, Couture does possess slick hand skill and puck protection as he shields the puck well with his stable frame. He also does a good job making sure he does not overhandle the puck, and often elects to move it up ice with a pass rather than skate it up himself. His instincts and timing around the net make him an adequate goal scorer. He is consistently referred to by scouts as a future captain with great character and leadership, and as a player that plays with passion and grit every night. Logan is an exceptional two-way player with a fine understanding of the defensive side of the ice. "He will be a major contributor even without putting up points" proclaims Roberts. He is a solid penalty killer and an asset in the face-off circle.
Weaknesses: The knock on Couture is his skating, specifically that he needs to improve his quickness. Not all scouts see this as a glaring issue, "He gets knocked for his skating, mainly due to an ugly stride, but his smarts and determination sees him win one-on-one battles and races" says Roberts. Logan can also work on adding velocity to his shot, and continue to get stronger on his feet.
NHL Projection: Will play in the NHL soon as the 2008-2009 season, possibly sooner. Couture could slotted as the Sharks third line center behind Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Some scouts think Couture projects as a special player, "This guy is the next Ron Francis" says a pro scout that has followed Couture since he was 15 years old playing for Jr. B for the St. Thomas Stars.

3. G Thomas Greiss. 6-1, 195. Koln, Germany. Acquired: 91st overall 2004 draft.
2006/2007: Worcester Sharks AHL (43gp, .912sv%, 2.61gaa).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL.
Strengths: Displays elite athleticism and the mental focus to be a star in the NHL. His lateral movement and leg quickness are special. Thomas Greiss is almost unbeatable down low thanks to a compact butterfly technique, excellent reflexes, and impressive dexterity in his lower limbs. Confident and poised beyond his years, Greiss is a patient netminder that always forces the shooter to make the first move. His exceptional anticipation and game reading abilities give him tremendous upside. He does not go down early, and he does a good job keeping his shoulders square and upright allowing him to cover the upper portion of the net well, even from the butterfly. A tall goaltender with a quick glove hand and solid blocker, Greiss can be a special player for the Sharks in the near future.
Weaknesses: Greiss can improve his puck handling skills, and with only 1 year of hockey to adjust to the North American game, he can use more seasoning at the AHL level.
NHL Projection: Capable of being a back-up NHL goaltender this season in a pinch, but the Sharks should be patient with this player and give him more time in the AHL where he will be the starting goaltender at Worcester.

4. D Ty Wishart. 6-5, 215. Comox, British Columbia. Acquired: 16th overall 2006 draft.
2006/2007: Prince George Cougars WHL (62gp, 11g, 38a, 49pts, 59pims).
2007/2008: Prince George Cougars WHL.
Strengths: Mammoth two-way defenseman that can be utilized in all situations. Wishart is an above average skater for a big man, with a stable stride and surprisingly light feet. While not a mean spirited player, Wishart does do a good job of suffocating his man with his size and reach. A brilliant defender with exceptional defensive awareness, gap control, and defensive positioning. Ty does a good job of standing his man up at the blue line and sealing him off at the boards. Type of defenseman you put on the ice against the opposition's top line, and on the penalty kill. Wishart covers and clears the crease area well, and is solid with the puck when moving it up ice. He makes good decisions, often electing to make the safest play. Does not lack confidence with the puck, and owns a low, heavy point shot. Displays impressive character and leadership qualities, which increasingly have become a bigger factor in whether the Sharks organization will draft a player.
Weaknesses: While it is rare, Wishart can still get caught flat footed at times, and he will need to be a tad quicker before taking on NHL skaters. He does not own the creativity to quarterback the power play at this point in his development.
NHL Projection: Third defenseman capable of logging minutes in all situations.

5. D Nick Petrecki. 6-4, 210. Schenectady, NY USA. Acquired: 28th overall 2007 draft.
2006/2007: Omaha Lancers USHL (54gp, 11g, 14a, 25pts, 177pims).
2007/2008: Boston College Eagles NCAA.
Strengths: Blessed with off the charts athletic ability, Petrecki is a true gym rat. He is an intimidating physical presence, with a mean streak that the Sharks have not seen in their uniform in some time. Drawing lofty comparisons to Scott Stevens, Nick will keep the opposition honest going through the neutral zone. Every goaltender would love to have a defenseman like him, as he protects the crease area with vigor and tenacity. Petrecki is a fantastic skater for a player of his size, with quick feet and a powerful stride. "He has a dynamic physical package" says Ed Roberts, "He is big, strong, owns a solid stride, and is just down right mean and nasty". While he is not an offensive catalyst, scouts see hidden upside in him "He has untapped offensive potential, especially with his cannon from the point" says a scout who has followed Petrecki's progress since he was 14 years old. The type of warrior that can captain a hockey team and play through injury, Petrecki wears his heart on his sleeve, and plays with contagious passion every night.
Weaknesses: Scouts think Petrecki would have progressed further (and been drafted higher), had he chosen Canadian Junior over United States Junior Hockey. "Playing in the USHL for the past two years has stalled his development" a scout said. Petrecki can try to do too much and be error prone with the puck in the process, or get caught out of position chasing a hit.
NHL Projection: Big, tough, and mobile shut down defenseman who could be a future captain.

6. RW <b>Jamie McGinn</b>. 6-1, 200. Fergus Ontario, Canada. Acquired: 36th overall 2006 draft.
2006/2007: Ottawa 67s OHL (68gp, 46g, 43a, 89pts, 48pims), Worcester Sharks AHL (4gp, 1g, 1a, 2pts, 4pims).
2007/2008: Ottawa 67s OHL/Worcester Sharks AHL.<br /> Strengths: Ferocious power forward with a goal scorer's touch. McGinn has a non-stop motor, able to drive his feet through traffic, with a surprisingly fast top gear. Does a good job getting a jump on a defender, and then is difficult to stop when he drives to the net. His hand skill is above average, but it is his ability to finish that has scouts excited, "Blossomed as a goal scorer this year, I thought he was just going to be a hard working plugger with bit of a touch, but he scored some nice goals off the wing, both with shots on the fly and moves heading to the cage" a scout told Sharkspage. Well built and very strong, McGinn loves to venture in the front of the net, creating screens and being an option in front. Has a mean streak and is a thunderous body checker. Good two-way player with a mature defensive conscious and hockey sense, "He knows both ends of the ice and plays responsibly" says a scout. A true spark plug that will sacrifice his body for the team and is a gritty performer every night, McGinn backchecks or forechecks hard as anyone. He is the type of player that you need to win in the playoffs. Possesses solid character and leadership.
Weaknesses: Does not see the ice all that well, and is a limited passer. He needs to get a quicker first step, and must continue to improve discipline.
NHL Projection: Second or third line goal scoring power forward, capable of going to the front of the net on the power play, and can kill penalties. Special chemistry with Logan Couture makes a future second line pairing a legitimate possibility.

7. C Torrey Mitchell. 5-11, 190. Greenfield Park, PQ USA. Acquired: 126th overall 2004 draft.
2006/2007: Vermont Catamounts NCAA (39gp, 12g, 23a, 35pts, 46pims), Worcester Sharks AHL (11gp, 2g, 7a, 9pts, 27 pims).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL/San Jose Sharks NHL.
Strengths: Gritty and fast two-way center that can spark his team in a number of his ways. Mitchell is a striking skater with explosive speed and blistering acceleration. He uses his speed to generate an offensive attack, or create turn overs. Torrey sees the ice well, anticipates the action, and is a fairly creative play maker. His shot has steadily improved over the past few years, he now has an accurate shot with a quick release. Owns a great work ethic and is a fearless player that is a torpedo on the forecheck. Knows his defensive assignments and executes them well. Torrey Mitchell's ability as an elite penalty killer, his strength as a penalty killer, and leadership qualities on and off the ice separate him from other prospects.
Weaknesses: Mitchell does not have any glaring weaknesses, but size is an issue, and he is not projected to be a top end offensive player.
NHL Projection: Prototypical 3rd line center with a tenacious two-way game, speed, and the skill to generate offense. If his playmaking and finishing skills continue to develop, he could ultimately see time on the second line in the NHL.

8. RW/LW Lukas Kaspar. 6-2, 205. Most, Czech Republic. Acquired: 22nd overall 2004 draft.
2006/2007: Worcester Sharks AHL (78gp, 12g, 28a, 40pts, 64pims).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL/ San Jose Sharks NHL.
Strengths: Possesses all of the raw intangibles to be a good player in the NHL. Kaspar is a skilled two-way winger with a hard slap shot and a good top gear. Not an explosive skater out of the gates, but has an unencumbered stride and a commanding top gear. While not a flashy puck handler, his hands are quick and soft. Kaspar sees the ice well and displays impressive offensive creativity at times. Owns a splendid shooting arsenal, but must be more selfish and use it to its full potential. Lukas Kaspar's slap shot is especially powerful and accurate. He is an underrated two-way player that is an asset to the penalty kill. He uses his big frame well to be strong on the boards and in traffic. He has a coachable, and confident personality.
Weaknesses: Needs to get more selfish with the puck and unload his shot more. Kaspar must improve both his shift-to-shift, and game-to-game consistency. Still an enigma at this point, Kaspar needs to learn how to utilize his talents more to his advantage, and be the offensive player he is capable of being.
NHL Projection: Second/third line tweener capable of doing a little bit of everything, including logging time on the power play and penalty kill.

9. G Timo Pielmeier. 6-0, 175. Deggendorf, Germany. Acquired: 83rd overall 2007 draft.
2006/2007: Cologne EC Sharks (18gp).
2007/2008: Saint Johns Fog Devils
Strengths: Besides fellow German Thomas Greiss, Pielmeier has the most upside of any goaltender in the Sharks system. A raw but highly athletic goaltender, Pielmeier is great down low but he must continue to refine his mechanics and ability to make saves up high. He possesses all the athletic tools to be a number one goaltender in the NHL if developed properly. Pielmeier is blessed with phenomenal leg quickness and lateral movement. He is almost unbeatable down low thanks to his lightning quick leg speed. Does a good job angling his pads and using his stick to aid his rebound control. He is a good skater, with solid reflexes in all of his limbs. Timo loves to challenge the shooter and is capable of making acrobatic saves. Competing to keep his team in games, Pielmeier also anticipates developing plays well.
Weaknesses: Does open up holes when moving laterally, and must improve his mechanics and minimize his movements. He is still very raw, and only average up high, must improve his glove.
NHL Projection: He is a long ways away from NHL duty, but he has the undeniable upside that equates to a number one goaltender in the NHL. He will be the starting goalie for the Saint Johns Fog Devils in his first year of North American hockey, and he will play for Germany at the World Junior Championships. Both will be good stepping stones for him this season.

10. G Taylor Dakers. 6-1, 170. Langley British Columbia, Canada. Acquired: 140th overall 2005 draft.
2006/2007: Kootenay Ice WHL (48gp, .919sv%, 2.16gaa, 5so).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL.<br /> Strengths: Well trained, mechanically sound goaltender with good size and composure. Dakers is the type of goalie that does nothing flashy, but makes it all look easy when he is on his game. He has a compact stance and butterfly that gives the shooter very little light to shoot at. Dakers is solid positionally, able to make the first save while staying square to the puck. Does a good job sucking in high shots with his glove, engulfing rebounds, and angling his pads down low to kick pucks out to the corners. Poised and composed with traffic in front of him, Dakers does a good job tracking the puck from the point. Taylor Dakers has a quick glove hand, and likes to challenge the shooter out at the top of the crease. He is a good skater that handles the puck well, and he owns one of the better poke checks in the game at his level. His dexterity is impressive, as he can recover from the butterfly back to his stance in an instant. Dakers possesses quick side-to-side movement. Overall, he is a savvy goaltender that can control the pace of the game to his liking, one who does not lack in confidence.
Weaknesses: Needs to be careful about being too adventurous pwhile laying the puck. He is a strong athlete, but he may not be on the same level as Greiss and Pielmeier at this point in his development.
NHL Projection: Outside chance of developing into a starting NHL goaltender, but projects to be a solid backup.

11. RW/C Mike Morris. 6-0, 185. Braintree, Massachusetts USA. Acquired: 27th overall 2002.
2006/2007: Northeastern Huskies NCAA (20gp, 7g, 11a, 18pts, 22pims).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL.
Strengths: Versatile forward with confidence and character to spare. No glaring flaws. Mike is a quick skater with good agility and rapid acceleration. He possesses a deceptive change of gears to get around the defense. His hockey sense and anticipation make him stand out among other prospects. Morris possesses a quick shot with good accuracy, and he has a knack for scoring big goals. He sees the ice very well and is a creative play maker capable of running the power play. Does a great job of reading the oppositions intentions and then generating a turnover. Morris is a useful penalty killer who understands and executes his defensive assignments. Not afraid to finish his checks, Morris has a physical element to his game, and he can handle his own in traffic areas. A resilient character, his ability to overcome obstacles says a lot about him as a person.
Weaknesses: On the ice Morris has no weaknesses except for the fact that he has more of an all around game, and does not excel in any one area at an elite level. His previous injuries are the major concern, specifically concussion problems.
NHL Projection: A real wild card among Sharks prospects, as his skating ability, skill set, and hockey sense are all NHL caliber, but because of injuries there are question marks. Possible second or third line forward.

12. G Tyson Sexsmith. 5-11, 205. Calgary Alberta, Canada. Acquired: 91st overall 2007 draft.
2006/2007: Vancouver Giants WHL (51gp, .915sv%, 1.79gaa, 10so).
2007/2008: Vancouver Giants WHL.
Strengths: Mentally tough and smart goaltender with superb mechanics, and the ability to show up in big games. Possesses accomplished mechanics, as he has a compact stance and butterfly. Does a good job keeping his body upright while in the butterfly, and despite his average height he covers the upper half of the net well. Reads the developing play well and does a good job staying square to the puck. Likes to play on the top of his crease, and allows the shooter little daylight to look at. Possesses adequate foot work, he is quick laterally from his stance and the butterfly. A patient goaltender that will stay on his feet to make a save. Owns quick leg reflexes and above average glove hand. The bigger the stage, the bigger he plays.
Weaknesses: May not have the natural athleticism to be a number one goalie in the NHL. While he skates well, he does not play the puck well. Scouts question his success last season, or wonder if it was a product of playing for a stacked team with a strong defense. He will be asked to shed some weight and improve his conditioning, and could be lighter on his feet.
NHL Projection: Sexsmith was a safe draft selection, that is capable of developing into a backup NHL goaltender.

13. C/LW P.J. Fenton. 5-11, 175. Springfield, Massachusetts USA. Acquired: 162nd overall 2005 draft.
2006/2007: University of Massachusetts NCAA (39gp, 10g, 15a, 25pts, 16 pims).
2007/2008: University of Massachusetts NCAA.
Strengths: Fenton is an exceptionally quick skater that is nimble on his feet, with great agility and acceleration. He has lateral explosiveness, and is elusive in tight spaces. Willing to get his nose dirty, Fenton goes to the net hard and can score in close with a quick release. He sees the ice adequately and shows some creativity distributing the puck. He is small, but slippery and tough to knock off his feet. An exceptional penalty killer, Fenton is a smart and tireless worker away from the puck.
Weaknesses: His size is a factor, and he will need to bulk up to withstand the rigors of the pro game. He is not a top line guy and needs to improve the velocity on his shot to be more of a threat.
NHL Projection: Third or fourth line forward that can kill penalties. An exciting player, P.J. Fenton could be a fan favorite.

14. C Steven Zalewksi. 6-0, 190. New Hartford, NY USA. Acquired: 153rd overall 2004 draft.
2006/2007: Clarkson Knights NCAA (39gp, 16g, 18a, 34pts, 44 pims).
2007/2008: Clarkson Knights NCAA.
Strengths: Gritty center with a mature defensive game. Stable on his feet and his skating stride is similar to San Jose forward Marcel Goc's. Always in the right position, he anticipates action and puts himself in position to make plays. His hands are average, but he protects the puck well as is sturdy on his feet. He possesses good vision of the ice and is a mature puck mover. Zalewksi's finishing touch has improved since being drafted, his release has quickened, and he now produces more velocity. Puts emphasis on the little things such as wining one-on-one battles, blocking shots, and winning important face offs. An exceptional penalty killer with good defensive awareness and commitment to his defensive assignments. Has good puck pursuit and a good wheels which help him on the forecheck. Likes to get his nose dirty and plays with tenacity in traffic.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve his first step quickness and overall top gear. He lacks the offensive creativity and instincts to be a top six forward in the NHL. NHL Projection: Prototypical 4th line center due to his two-way play and grit.

15. D Dan Spang. 5-11, 205. Winchester, Massachusetts USA. Acquired: 52nd overall 2002.
2006/2007: Worcester Sharks AHL (48gp, 4g, 21a, 25pts, 18 pims).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL.
Strengths: Mobile puck moving defenseman with a good feel for the game. Owns a fluid and stable stride with a deceptive change of gears. Spang sees the ice well and makes a good first pass. He senses danger well, and displays urgency and poise with the puck depending on the situation. He does not have a hard shot, but he does a good job getting it on net and keeping it low. His hand skill is impressive, and he does not hesitate to skate the puck out of danger on his own. Spang lacks height, but not leg strength, which gives him a solid base. He is not timid, able to go into corners and work hard to move the opposition out of the crease.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up his upper body, as he still struggles one on one against bigger opponents, prone to the occasional defensive miscue.
NHL Projection: Depth or third pairing defenseman, who can move the puck and be reliable in his own zone.

16. D Derrick Joslin. 6-1, 193. Canada. Acquired: 149th overall 2005 draft.
2006/2007: Ottawa 67s OHL (68gp, 11g, 38a, 49pts, 66 pims), Worcester Sharks AHL (3gp).
2007/2008: Worcester Sharks AHL.
Strengths: Quietly effective two-way defenseman with good hockey sense, has scouts impressed with his recent progress. "Came along at the right time, he has decent puck skills, plays hard and with heart, and has good leadership intangibles" says one scout. His skating has steadily improved year after year to where it is now an asset. He accelerates quickly and has good feet and lateral movement. Joslin is not a flashy player, but he makes all the correct reads and is always in position. He sees the ice well and makes mature decisions moving the puck. A clever player on the point, Joslin is a threat to pass or shoot with a quick release and good accuracy from the blue line. He is a savvy player who appropriately gauges when to pinch in down low, or join in the offensive rush. Reliable and steadying defensive presence, Joslin does not make many mistakes or play outside of his limitations. He plays the body well and does a good job gapping his man, and closing him off to the boards.
Weaknesses: Does not have any glaring faults, but he will need to continue to get bigger and quicker as he adjusts to the pro game in the AHL.
NHL Projection: Depth or 3rd pairing defenseman that can bring a little bit of everything to the table. "He's not a prime-time prospect, but could be a good organizational depth defenseman" says Ed Roberts.

17. C Tony Lucia. 6-0, 175. Plymouth, Minnesota USA. Acquired: 193rd overall 2005 draft.
2006/2007: Minnesota Gophers NCAA (43gp, 7g, 12a, 19 points).
2007/2008: Minnesota Gophers NCAA.
Strengths: Lucia is the son of the hockey coach, and it shows. Lucia plays the game hard and intelligently night in and night out. Tony has high end hockey sense, as his defensive maturity for a player of his age is unique. Strong on his feet, he has a stable stride with decent agility. Goes to the net hard, and has a knack for scoring garbage goals. Not a natural play maker, but he can keep the play moving with a crisp pass. Lucia's best attributes are away from the puck. He is an elite penalty killer that will sacrifice his body to make a play, whether it is taking a hit to get the puck out of the zone, or dropping down to block a shot. Lucia possesses a good motor and forechecks hard finishing every check. He plays with grit and passion, and has a mean streak that can spark a team.
Weaknesses: Lucia's skating has improved as the year went on, but it is still an area of concern. He can fumble the puck at times, and he is not a natural offensive player.
NHL Projection: Prototypical 4th liner with upside.

18. G Alex Stalock. 5-11, 175. St. Paul, Minnesota USA. Acquired: 112th overall 2005 draft.
2006/2007: Minnesota Duluth NCAA (23gp).
2007/2008: Minnesota Duluth NCAA.
Strengths: By far the best goaltender in the Sharks system in terms of puck handling skills, his style of player is similar to that of the Dallas Star's Marty Turco. Stalock acts like a third defenseman on the ice, aggressively playing the puck in his zone. He can stretch the ice with a home run pass from behind his own blueline if he catches the opposition sleeping on a line changes. Stalock can also aid the breakout by getting the puck up ice by using a hard shot off of the glass. Alex is a great skater who possesses exceptional foot speed and quick like lateral movement. He is blessed with elite dexterity and flexibility, and owns a fast glove hand and even quicker leg reflexes. He is the type of goaltender that is capable of making awe-inspiring acrobatic saves that lift fans out of their seats. Stalock is a big game goalie that can steal a win for his team. Loves to aggressively challenge the shooter, Stalock is hyper competitive.
Weaknesses: He is awful mechanically, and flops around more than he needs to on plays. Stalock over exerts himself and can play himself out of position. He must minimize his movements. His rebound control can be horrid at times, and he needs to be careful about trying to do too much with the puck. Still beatable up high rather easily at times.
NHL Projection: Stalock has the athletic ability and competitiveness to be a number one goaltender in the NHL in the future, but because of poor mechanics he is still a long shot.

19. D James DeLory. 6-6, 215. Scarborough, Ontario Canada. Acquired: 98th overall 2006.
2006/2007: Oshawa Generals OHL (61gp, 4g, 21a, 25pts, 167pims).
2007/2008: Oshawa Generals OHL.
Strengths: Towering defender with great strength and a mean streak. James is a good, but not great, skater for a player of his size. He owns a strong and stable stride. He not does possess the most hockey sense in the Sharks system, but he reacts instinctively and should be able to handle the pace of the pro game. While his decision making with the puck is inconsistent, at times he does make a crisp head man pass, and he has shown the ability to be effective working the point. DeLory's hand skill is deceptively good, and he has a heavy point shot. Plays a full frontal assault physical game, and he is always looking to catch the opposition with their head down to land a devastating open ice hit. Clears his crease with vigor, and DeLory can ignite his team with his physical play. It is that physical play that can get DeLory into the NHL "Can bring some much needed toughness and size to a team" says a scout.
Weaknesses: Scouts are concerned with his lack of progress recently, "See Derek Joslin, and think complete 180" says Ed Roberts, who went onto say "He is another big, strong defenseman who struggles with the new game when he can't just lock on his opponents and take them out of the play". Scouts say that if he was born a half a dozen years earlier, he could be working on a successful NHL career, but with the new obstruction crack down in the NHL DeLory may struggle to adapt. He struggles with the pace of the game at times "He can't defend against speed, his feet and though process are slow" continues Roberts.
NHL Projection: Raw but intriguing prospect that could develop to be a Mathieu Biron or Alexei Semenov type depth defenseman, that always has a job for his intangibles.

20. C/LW Patrik Zackrisson. 5-11, 190. Ekero, Sweden. Acquired: 165th overall 2007 draft.
2006/2007: Rogle BK SEL (29gp, 16g, 18a, 34pts, 28 pims).
2007/2008: Rogle BK SEL
Strengths: Originally passed up in during his first year of draft eligibility, Zackrisson saw his development increase at a rapid pace this past season. Patrik is a versatile two-way player, a smooth skater, with good agility and swift acceleration. Always in position, his anticipation and hockey sense are impressive. A detailed and mature forward who has excelled against grown men as well as the top prospects in the world at his age group. He possesses underrated hands, as he can drop flashy dangles. Not a creative offensive threat at this point, but Zackrisson moves the puck well and possesses above average vision of the ice. A reliable player away from the puck, Zackrisson is a solid penalty killer. He back checks hard and while he is not always the first guy in on the forecheck, he reads the opposition's breakout well and does a good job intercepting outlet passes.
Weaknesses: Not a big forward, or top end offensive player, Zackrisson will make the NHL for his detailed two-way game. He lacks a fast top gear, and needs to be more selfish with the puck.
NHL Projection: AHL ready, and could be ready for a bottom six role in the NHL in the near future.

San Jose Sharks prospect review notes:
- The Sharks have high end talent at every position with two blue chip prospects up front in Setogouchi and Couture, two on the back end in Petrecki and Wishart, and one in goal with Thomas Greiss.
- The Sharks have stockpiled talent in the later rounds to boast impressive depth, it was difficult to squeeze every deserving prospect into the Top 20 ranking. Specifically, the San Jose Sharks organization (aka the Goaltending Factory) can boast of the deepest system in the NHL in terms of prospective goaltenders.
- The San Jose Sharks possess arguably one the most impressive groups of young players already in the NHL. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Carle were named to the 2006-07 NHL All Rookie team last season, only the second time that two defenseman from the same team earned the honor in the same season. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov were the last to accomplish the feat in 1991-92

Top 5 Pacific Division team-by-team prospect review:

Phoenix Coyotes key prospects:

1. C Kyle Turris, 3rd overall 2007, 6-0 170, Wisconsin Badgers. Turris has the potential to be a franchise center. He possesses the quick release and all around game of Joe Sakic, combined with the explosive speed of Marian Gaborik.
2. C Peter Mueller, 8th overall 2006, 6-1 205, Phoenix Coyotes. The most NHL ready prospect in the Phoenix system, Mueller is a big, strong, and creative play making center with velvet hands.
3. D Keith Yandle, 105th overall 2005, 6-2 205, San Antonio Rampage. Yandle is a gifted offensive defenseman with an explosive top gear and a rocket point shot.
4. C/RW Martin Hanzal, 17th overall 2005, 6-5 210, San Antonio Rampage. A towering center with nimble feet and exceptional hand skill to compliment his elongated reach.
5. C/RW Blake Wheeler, 5th overall 2004, 6-5 215, Minnesota Gophers. Wheeler is blessed with size and all the athletic ability in the world, but at times immature play holds him back.

Dallas Stars key prospects:

1. D Mathew Niskanen, 28th overall 2005, 6-0 195, Iowa Stars/Dallas Stars. Future allstar offensive defenseman in the NHL. Niskanen has all the tools to rack up points while quarterbacking the power play and starting the break out of his own zone at regular strength.
2. D Mark Fristric, 28th overall 2004, 6-3 225, Iowa Stars/Dallas Stars. Big, reliable, and intelligent stay at home defenseman who has underrated skating ability.
3. D Ivan Vishnevski, 27th overall 2006, 5-11 175, Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL. Very raw defensively, but his offensive capabilities are special. He is a great skater with exceptional offensive instincts.
4. C Perttu Lindgren, 75th overall 2005, 6-0 180, Iowa Stars/Dallas Stars. Smart and skilled two-way center, Lindgren is nimble on his feet and is a clever play maker.
5. C James Neal, 33rd overall 2005, 6-2 185, Iowa Stars. Big and physical center with an exemplary work ethic, and impressive speed.

Los Angeles Kings key prospects:

1. D Jack Johnson, drafted 3rd overall 2005, acquired via trade with Carolina, 6-1 210, Los Angeles Kings. Truly a special prospect that is NHL ready out of the gate, Johnson is projected to be a number one blueliner. Could earn a label of a franchise defenseman this season, but with penalties and at times and over agressive nature, it will be feast or famine in the immediate future.
2. G Jonathon Bernier, 11th overall 2006, 5-11 180, Lewiston Maniacs. Classic Quebec-trained butterfly goaltender with flawless mechanics and superb athleticism.
3. C Trevor Lewis, 17th overall 2006, 6-1 200, Owen Sound Attack. A poor man's Patrick Marleau, Lewis is a fast center with good offensive instincts and a dangerous wrist shot.
4. D Thomas Hickey, 4th overall 2007, 5-11 185, Seattle Thunderbirds. Was taken too high in the draft, but Hickey is the type of defenseman that every team covets in the new NHL. He is an impressive skater with superb hands and offensive instincts. The knock on Hickey is his size, but it drives him to compete.
5. C/D Brian Boyle, 26th overall 2003, 6-6 230, Manchester Monarchs. Absolutely massive, Boyle can drag multiple defenders with him to the net before unleashing a booming wrist shot.

Anaheim Ducks key prospects:

1. RW Bobby Ryan, 2nd overall 2005, 6-1 215, Portland Pirates. Ryan possesses a broad frame, magnetic hands, and a dangerous scoring touch. Needs to improve his play away from the puck.
2. D Mark Mitera, 19th overall 2006, 6-4 220, Michigan Wolverines. Big and savvy stay at home defenseman, tough to beat one-on-one, can log a large number of minutes.
3. C Logan MacMillan, 19th overall 2007, 6-1 185, Halifax Mooseheads. Projects as a third line shut down center, but he has shown glimpses of hidden skill. He compliments offensive players well.
4. D Brendan Mikkelson, 31st overall 2005, 6-2 205, Portland Pirates. Blessed with good size and amazing skating ability, Mikkelson has all of the raw tools to be a stand-out NHL defenseman, although he has to overcome problems with inconsistency.
5. RW Ryan Carter, Free agent, 6-1 200, Portland Pirates. Gritty and smart goal scoring winger who could be the next collegiate free agent signing steal for the Ducks.

[Update] Frazer McLaren Impresses With 1st Rounders at NHL Rookie Games with Anaheim - SJsharks.com.

The Sharks decision makers wanted to see what they had in Frazer McLaren, selected 203rd overall in the seventh round in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. They placed the left wing on a line with Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi, first round picks from 2007 and 2005 respectively. McLaren accepted the challenge and added a necessary component to the trio.

"He provided a little toughness up there and kind of let those other two free-wheel," said Worcester Head Coach Roy Sommer, who was the bench boss for the two rookie games. "He's good on the wall and he's a good forechecker. He's a good first guy and cracks the puck loose so they can make a play with it."

The trio had several sustained attacks in the offensive zone and all three players were involved. And instead of just maintaining the puck, they constantly made good hockey plays that led to scoring opportunities.

[Update2] Healthy Setoguchi prepares for Sharks camp - Hockeys Future.

[Update3] Couture adjusts to culture as he begins Sharks career - San Jose Mercury News.

Wilson believes that Couture, who arrived last week as part of the Sharks' rookie camp, has a bright future. But when does that future with the Sharks begin? The traditional path for young Canadian draft choices is to return to the juniors and then emerge a year or two down the line.

But although it will be difficult for any young player to make the Sharks' talented lineup, Wilson had a ready-made answer when asked about Couture's immediate prospects. "Look at Marc-Edouard Vlasic," he said.


Labor Day at Bay Meadows

Labor Day Bay Meadows horse racing
Labor Day Bay Meadows horse racing

Bay Meadows is in the racing business, and on a sun-baked Labor Day in front of packed grandstands in San Mateo, business was good. Nine races were scheduled for the national holiday, including the $75,000 Palo Alto Stakes. Many fans also turned out with families in tow for the free beach chair promotion and live music on the infield.

The longest continuously operated track in California, Bay Meadows was founded on a former airfield in 1934 by Bill Kyne and assemblyman Tom Maloney after a state ban on horse racing was lifted. The bay area jewel has seen a steady stream of hall-of-fame thoroughbreds pass through its gates, including the legendary Seabiscuit, triple crown winner Citation, Majestic Prince, Skywalker, A.P. Indy, Charismatic, Cigar, Brown Bess, and recently the local favorite Lost in the Fog. Jockey Russell Baze surpassed Laffit Pincay Jr. with his 9,531st win, to become the winningest jockey all-time, after a first place finish aboard Butterfly Belle here on December 1st, 2006.

A severe pennisula housing crunch has left the future of Bay Meadows in question. Initially scheduled to close its doors in November 2002, the landmark remained open for business in defiance of developers and shopping malls encroaching on all sides. Then the track ran into problems with the California Horse Racing Board. Bay Meadows failed to receive a 2-year extension to hold off a requirement to replace its dirt oval with a synthetic racing surface that helps protect the saftey of horses (at a cost of $7-10 million). The latest imminent closure of the track was scheduled after the final fall race on November 4th, 2007.

Bay Meadows received yet another reprieve in July, as the California Horse Racing Board granted a 1-year extension allowing races to continue on the old surface until 2008. The good news may be tempered somewhat by the recent suspension of jockey Russel Baze in late August. Riding the race favorite favorite Imperial Eyes at Bay Meadows, Baze was accused of using his whip after the horse suffered an injury in the final stretch. I asked a jockey, a trainer, and several fans about the incident on Monday, and all seemed to agree it was a freak accident in a heat of the moment situation that should not reflect negatively on the much respected Baze.

Back to Monday's racing action, the focus of my very limited track analysis boiled down to three races; the 4th (an $8000 1-mile), the 6th (a $30,000 1-mile on turf), and the aforementioned $75,000 Palo Alto Handicap stakes race (the 8th race, 7 and a half furlongs on turf).

Brief race notes:

4th Race - 1 mile
Two horses jump out in front early. Alibi and Excuse (#3) and Lady Gemini (#7) build a three length lead through two turns, and stretch it out to 6 lengths on the back straightaway. The announcer calls it a "suicidal duel". Lady Gemini pulls in front at the 3 quarter pole, but the trailing chase group pulls in close. Jan's Au Lait (#9), a huge statistical underdog (odds 47.20), unleashes a burst of speed in the final stretch to win by 2 lengths. Oh I ate one too (#4) sneaks into second at the finish line. A $1.00 Superfecta on Jan's Au Lait would have paid $54,022.50 (9-4-7-2).

6th Race - 1 mile Longden Turf
The inside horse Christie's Glory (#1) has the best early break out of the gate, but it is the outside horse, Miller's Turbo (#10), that storms around the outside to lead at the first turn. Sentimental favorite Elvishasleftthebldg (#4) was sandwiched three-wide going into turn 1, but manuevers into a second place battle with Suffolk Punch (#9). Miller's Turbo looks comfortable in front heading into the third quarter pole, but acclerates throughout and is simply flying by the time he hits the final straightaway. Coasting a little at the finish after a dominant performance, Miller's Turbo takes 1st, Novelty Hill 2nd, Christie's Glory 3rd.

8th Race, Palo Alto Stakes - 7 1/2 furlongs Longden Turf
A deep field is dominated by two trainers. Jerry Hollendorfer entered 3 of 8 fillies competing, Rockella (#2), Forest Huntress (#3), and Eastlake Avenue (#7). Gloria Buckridge entered Whims and Fancies (#1) and Comedy Girl (#5). The entire field explodes out of the gate, but Forest Huntress takes the lead at the first turn with a high pace. Forest Huntress maintains the lead on the back stretch, and Macadamia (#8) holds a slight edge over Eastlake Avenue and Comedy Girl. Forest Huntress looks to be laboring a little harder at the third quarter mark, but picks it up at the final straight. As the top three horses are locked into the relatively same level of speed, Rockella not only finds another gear, but finds another 2 or 3 gears to blow by 6 horses on the outside. Rockella finishes with a back of the pack to a 6 length win. Rockella finishes first, Macadamia second, Forest Huntress third. Rockella (#2) is either too close or too fast for me to take a good photo.

A photo gallery from Monday is available here, and free video replays are available via calracing.com (registration required). For more information visit baymeadows.com.

[Update] Well-rested Rockella gets comeback victory - SF Chronicle.

Six weeks at the beach apparently gave Rockella a new outlook on racing. The 3-year-old filly regressed at the end of the Golden Gate Fields season in June, then trained at Del Mar before returning north for Monday's $75,000 Palo Alto Stakes at Bay Meadows.


Nikon "Picture This" D80 marketing campaign reaches out to blogs, and lands one hockey blogger

Nikon Picture This blogger Jon Swenson
San Jose Grand Prix Motocross
Heavyweight boxing photo James Toney

In April Nikon began a blog outreach campaign organized by the MWW Group public relations firm. 50 Nikon D80 DSLR cameras and AF-S DX 18-135 mm lenses were offered to 50 bloggers to evaluate for 6 months, after which time the bloggers could extend the period for another 6 months, return the camera, or purchase it at a reduced editorial price (all proceeds would be donated to charity). There was no expectation of positive coverage, or any coverage, but only a request to disclose participation in the program if a post was written about Nikon or the D80.

Any photographer who has picked up a photography magazine in the last 2 years has seen that Nikon's previous marketing campaigns with flickr photographers (PDF file here) , and Nikon's D40 Picture Town campaign with 200 residents of Georgetown, South Carolina (video here) sparked a nerve in the photo community.

Nikon's background with optics and history of delivering feature rich camera models is well known, but to put their products in the hands of the people who use them, and to use their photos to market to other photographers was an inspired decision. It captured the participatory nature of many photography forums and camera clubs, and gave photo enthusiasts a lot of quality pictures to look at. There are several incredible portraits posted by the residents of Georgetown that make me want to pick up a camera and take it outside, which I guess is the point.

K. Paul Mallasch interviewed MWW Group's Senior Director of New Media Strategies Tom Biro about the Nikon "Picture This" campaign. Biro noted that the mix of bloggers included photobloggers, citizen journalists, sports bloggers, and new media marketing blogs, and that the selection process was not an easy one. The possibility of using a blogger photo in a future Nikon "Picture This" print advertising campaign was also left open. On B.L. Ochman's WhatsnextBlog, Biro said that there have been bloggers who have tested products at launch time, but that there has never been this level of involvement with bloggers before.

It was initially reported that out of the 50 bloggers selected, 46 immediately accepted, 2 declined, and 2 did not respond. Some of the blogs/bloggers participating include: Muncie Free Press, Jaffe Juice, Jordan Behan, Costa Tsiokos, Patrick McGonegal, Jason Clarke, Steve Garfield, Feedburner/Google's rKlau, GiggleChick, moblogsmoproblems, Sarasota Livin, Paul Stamatiou, Tell Ten Friends, Laughitupfuzzball, Mario Sundar, Mack Collier, Media Guerilla, Canadian Canon "fanboy" Photo Junkie, and Sharkspage.

Out of the 50 bloggers, 25 are currently participating in the Nikon "Picture This Project" Flickr group here. A few photo highlights can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, but there are many more to choose from.

Nikon USA's official D80 website is available here, and they have also created a Nikon SLR learning center here. Continuing the new media/social media push, Nikon partnered with Flickr.com to create a D80 user group complete with 10 "Mastering your d80" online training lessons, and a Nikon Digital Learning Center user group that allows for a broad range of photography participation and discussion. Three highly recommended additional resources for photographers to learn from their peers online are available via forums at dpreview.com, fredmiranda.com, and sportsshooter.com.

The Nikon "Picture This" blogger campaign also initiated a heated discussion in some corners of the marketing community. Common Sense PR noted the lull before the storm, which was followed by a number of critical comments for and against posted mostly from online marketing blogs. CK's Blog asked questions that summarize many of the issues, others have raised concerns here, here, and here. MWW Group President/CEO Michael Kempner responded with a post on the company blog clarifying some of the details of the program, and the stated intention for complete transparency.

Nikon's past involvement with flickr photographers and the residents of Georgetown should be the foundation for any discussion about a "Picture This" blogger program. Customer involvement and community building are themes that tie all three projects together. In addition to transparency, the other main bone of contention raised is the ethics behind receiving a product prior to evaluating it. Several media organizations have policies against accepting gifts or gratuities, but there are also several major camera reviewers online and in print who regularly use pre-production or production evaluation models when writing a review. Canon and Nikon also have professional programs that offer expedited service, loaner or trial cameras to professional photographers who run into problems, often under a time crunch.

The ethics rub appears to boil down to if can you trust a blogger to be up front and honest when writing a review of a loaned piece of equipment, and based on the blog posts so far on the subject the answer is yes. Will a new DSLR influence an amateur photographer to write a positive review? Possibly, but the letter Nikon and the MWW Group delivered to bloggers was structured in such a way that a photographer's true opinion should come out in the end. In my own case, the performance of the camera in extreme low light and fast action situations (boxing, hockey, mixed marital arts, etc) will influence the bulk of my upcoming review.

In other Nikon news, the release of 2 new DSLR models, 5 new lenses, and 8 new Coolpix digital cameras was recently announced. The 2 new DSLR models include the first Nikon full frame 12.1 megapixel D3 (11 frames per second, 6400 ISO, 3-inch LCD, dual CF card slots), and the 12.3 megapixel D300 (6 frames per second, self cleaning sensor, 3-inch LCD). More information about the D3 and the D300, the new lenses, and the new Coolpix digital cameras can be found online at nikon.co.jp.

Upcoming on this blog will be a short review of the D80 (in the next few days), and a live report in October from the 2007 Photo Plus Expo conference in New York City. If I get a chance to sample a new model, talk with a Nikon representative, or interview another professional photographer who uses Nikon equipment, I will post the interviews on this blog and archive them in the photo articles section.

[Update] Nikon Focuses in on Bloggers with New Campaign - Search Engine Guide.

[Update2] Nikon blogger outreach gets focus right - Blogging 4 Business.

[Update3] 2007 Digital Camera Satisfaction Study, DSLR Award Recipient: Nikon D Series - JDpower.com. The Nikon D Series received a 5-star overall rating, and a 5-star rating in each individual category (picture quality, performance, operation, appearance).

[Update4] There will be a Nikon School event in the south bay November 17-18 at the Marriot in Fremont. Details about the Intro to Digital SLR Photography are available here.