Sunday, May 31, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Final 2008-09 Report Card

With the AHL season over for the Worcester Sharks, it’s time to update the mid-season report card to reflect the entire 2008-09 season. The grades represent their play though the regular season and playoff run. The player’s contract status is also listed, either by type of free agent the player is or by the number of years remaining under their current contract.

Each player’s grade is based on what was expected of them, how they performed against those expectations, and a general feel of how they have played compared to other players on the team. Players are listed by number, forwards first, then defensemen, and ending with the goaltenders. Following the players are grades for hockey operations and coaching staff.

6 Brad Staubitz LW (RFA-arbitration eligible)
Reg: 38 games: 0 goals, 5 assist, 5 point; (-11), 130PIM
Play: 10 games: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points; (-1), 15PIM
NHL: 35 games: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points; E, 76PIM
Staubitz is in Worcester what he is in San Jose, a fourth line physical presence. Last season after his switch from defense to forward Staubitz showed he does have some offensive skills by nearly doubling his career point total in just half a season, but this season those offensive numbers have all but disappeared. He is still learning his role as a forward, and occasionally takes ill-advised penalties by being over-aggressive.
Season highlight: Scored first NHL goal against Edmonton on 1/9
Grade: C

9 Tom Cavanagh C (UFA)
Reg: 51 games: 15 goals, 24 assists, 39 points; (-8), 37PIM
Play: 12 games: 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points; +2, 8PIM
NHL: 17 games: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points; (-2), 4PIM
Cavanagh isn’t a flashy player, but he’s been one of the most consistent players on Worcester’s roster over the last three seasons. Cavanagh’s versatility is his strength, being able to play well in both ends of the ice. He has consistently been one of Worcester’s best face-off men, and played on the top two lines in all three aspects of the game.
Season highlight: 2 goal, 3 point game against Hartford on 10/31.
Grade: B

11 P.J. Fenton F (UFA)
Reg: 52 games: 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points; +4, 22 PIM
Play: DNP
Fenton never really lived up to his reputation during the season, spending most of the season on the bottom two lines. Were it not for injuries in Worcester and San Jose Fenton would have most likely spent large parts of the season in Phoenix of the ECHL. Fenton does have the speed to play in the AHL, but his size and skill level projects him to be a borderline ECHL/AHL player.
Season highlight: Hat trick, 4 points vs Springfield on 2/28.
Grade: D

12 Matt Jones RW (1 year, $875,000)
Reg: 46 games: 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points; +1, 19PIM
Play: DNP
Jones never really got back on track after being struck in the face by a clearing attempt and having his jaw broken against Bridgeport on October 25. Jones returned just before Christmas, but was obviously a little gun shy about playing the type of game that got him signed to a free agent deal in 2007. Hopefully Jones will be able to return to his pre-injury confidence next season.
Season highlight: Goal against Albany on 10/17
Grade: D

13 T.J. Fox C (RFA)
Reg: 79 games: 7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points; (-2), 15PIM
Play: 9 games: 3 goals, 0 assists, 3 points; E, 4PIM
Fox started off slowly, but really picked up his game in the second half of the season. Fox, teamed with Frazer McLaren, formed Worcester number one penalty killing line, and the confidence Head Coach Roy Sommer showed in him in that role spread to Fox’s play at even strength. The scouting report on Fox was that he was a goal scorer, but Fox has become a legitimate third-line defensive specialist that can fill in on the top two lines as needed.
Season highlight: Shorthanded goal, 2 assists vs Springfield on 2/28.
Grade: B

14 Frazer McLaren LW (2 years, $543,333)
Reg: 75 games: 7 goals, 1 assist, 8 points; (-11), 181PIM
Play: 12 games: 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points; +3, 50PIM
McLaren went from a forth line enforcer that hardly saw any ice time to Worcester’s top penalty killing line and third line winger. When McLaren thinks like a hockey player, he shows an incredible amount of skill that surprises many opponents. Adding those skills to the enforcer role he held for most of the season could put him on a track for the NHL sooner than later.
Season highlight: Two goals, fight vs Albany on 3/7.
Grade: B

15 Steven Zalewski C (1 year, $660,000)
Reg: 75 games: 13 goals, 26 assists, 39 points; +5, 26PIM
Play: 12 games: 0 goals, 1 assists, 1 point; (-2), 6PIM
Zalewski started the season on fire, but hit the wall after January and his play suffered greatly. Zalewski seemed to be a step behind the play for most of the last third of the season, and went from one of Worcester’s best face-off men to one of its worse. Zalewski started the season on the top two even strength lines and playing on both ends of special teams play, and ended the season on the fourth line and getting almost no special teams play. Zalewski will definitely need to do conditioning work in the off season to be ready to play an 80 game schedule.
Season highlight: Five on three shorthanded, game tying goal against Houston on 11/22.
Grade: D

17 Ryan Vesce RW (UFA)
Reg: 67 games: 24 goals, 47 assists, 71 points; +4, 28PIM
Play: 12 games: 3 goals 7 assists, 10 points; (-2), 22PIM
NHL: 10 games: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points; (-2), 4 PIM
Vesce won every team MVP award given out, and with good reason. Vesce was simply the best overall player on the team, and while his game doesn’t translate well to the NHL he is a power in the AHL. Vesce had five OT goals, 10 game winning goals, 3 shorthanded goals, and 19 multi-point games during the regular season and playoffs. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said.
Season highlight: Game tying goal and double OT game winner in game three vs Hartford on 4/20.
Grade: A

18 Cory Larose C (UFA)
Reg: 53 games: 19 goals, 21 assists, 40 points; +2, 38PIM
Play: 8 games: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 point; E, 4PIM
A bone-fide AHL first liner when on his game, Larose never really got back to 100% after a concussion suffered in late December, and then went on to suffer a rib injury in late February. Larose would have just four of his 42 total regular season and playoff points after March 21, and spent many of his later games on the fourth line. He finally was forced to sit due to injuries for Worcester’s last four post season games.
Season highlight: Gordie Howe hat trick at Lowell on 1/24.
Grade: C

19 Mike Morris RW (RFA-arbitration eligible)
Reg: 17 games: 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points; (-2), 6PIM
Play: DNP
Concussions have limited Morris to just 26 games over two seasons. When Morris plays he’s one of the best players on the ice. But it appears his health is going to be a problem, and it’s been reported that it won’t be until July that it’s known if he can continue to play professional hockey.
Season highlight: Goal, assist against Manchester on 11/1
Grade: Incomplete

20 Riley Armstrong RW (RFA-arbitration eligible)
Reg: 71 games: 25 goals, 17 assists, 42 points; +8, 101PIM
Play: 12 games: 3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points; +4, 46PIM
NHL: 2 games: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points; (-1), 2PIM
Armstrong has made the transition from young prospect to AHL veteran, and it shows in his play on the ice. While still the antagonist, Armstrong has added a scoring touch this season and can play any spot on any of Worcester’s lines both at even strength and special teams. Armstrong probably doesn’t have NHL talent, but he most certainly can have a long AHL career with his continued aggressive play.
Season highlight: Hat trick, including a game winning goal, against Norfolk on 1/2.
Grade: A

21 Matt Fornataro C (UFA)
Reg: 51 games: 10 goals, 15 assists, 25 points; (-10), 30PIM
Play: 1 game: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point; +1, 0PIM
Fornataro is the standard AHL-depth forward. He has good puck presence and very good vision of the ice. If effort were enough to make the NHL Fornataro would be a superstar, but his skill level will most likely limit him to the AHL. Despite that, he should have few issues landing himself an AHL job next season, if not in Worcester than somewhere else.
Season highlight: 2 goals, assist vs Philadelphia on 3/6
Grade: B

22 Lukas Kaspar LW (RFA-arbitration eligible)
Reg: 65 games: 17 goals, 27 assists, 44 points; +11, 40PIM
Play: 12 games: 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points; (-1), 0PIM
NHL: 13 games: 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points; E, 8PIM
The enigma that is Lukas Kaspar continued in the 2008-09 season. Kaspar would have huge stretches where it looked like he was finally breaking through and playing to his full potential, only to suddenly go back to looking disinterested in playing pro hockey. Kaspar has all the skills and speed to play in the NHL, the only thing in question is his heart and work ethic. Being a first round pick means San Jose will most certainly give him a qualifying offer, but rumors are abound in Worcester that Kaspar is heading to Europe for next season.
Season highlight: Goal, two assists against Portland on 12/29
Grade: C

23 Dan DaSilva RW (UFA)
Reg: 26 games: 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points; +9, 27PIM
Play: 12 games: 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points; +2, 6PIM
DaSilva spent most of the season in Phoenix of the ECHL, but immediately became one of Worcester’s best players when recalled in early March. He, along with Andrew Desjardins and PTO signee Trent Campbell, formed the aptly named “E Line” and literally carried the team out of a March slump and back into the playoff race. DaSailva’s five game winning goals in 38 total games put him third on the team, behind two players with more than double his game total.
Season highlight: Two goals, assist in game six against Hartford on 4/25
Grade: B

33 Andrew Desjardins C (UFA)
Reg: 74 games: 8 goals, 14 assists, 22 points; +4, 99PIM
Play: 12 games: 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points; +7, 13PIM
Desjardins was one of two players to play on the team after going to Worcester’s free agent/rookie camp (DaSilva was the other). Desjardins was primarily the team’s third line center, but filled in on all four lines as needed. He was part of the penalty kill rotation, and did see sporadic power play time. Desjardins can play both a physical or finesse game, and can change from shift to shift depending on whichever role is needed.
Season highlight: Three assists and a fight against Norfolk on 1/2.
Grade: B

37 Logan Couture C (3 years, $1, 270,833)
Reg: 4 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points; (-1), 7PIM
Play: 12 games: 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points; +5, 11PIM
The future is bright for Couture despite being a little outmatched in his first stint in the AHL. Couture has the best hands this writer has ever seen on a young player, and after a full off season as a professional working on his skating, strength, and conditioning he certainly has the potential of being a game changing forward in the AHL next season, and in the NHL in seasons beyond.
Season highlight: Scored first professional goal in game four against Hartford on 4/25
Grade: C

44 Jamie McGinn LW (2 years, $996,667)
Reg: 47 games: 19 goals, 11 assists, 30 points; +4, 52PIM
Play: 6 games: 4 goals, 0 assists, 4 points; (-3), 19PIM
NHL: 35 games: 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points; (-6), 2PIM
McGinn has had five separate stints in San Jose this season as the rookie stands on the brink of being an NHL regular. The rookie never seemed to miss a beat after his recalls were over, and he really never had a bad game this season. His play on the top two lines has been very solid, along with his play on both the penalty kill and power play. He needs a little work along the boards, but is otherwise good to go to the NHL.
Season highlight: Goal, assist in second NHL game against Detroit on 10/30.
Grade: A

2 Patrick Traverse D (UFA)
Reg: 78 games: 9 goals, 33 assists, 42 points; (-3), 28PIM
Play: 12 games: 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points; +6, 4PIM
In his 16th pro season, it’s obvious that Traverse has lost a step. But what he now lacks in speed he makes up for in experience and patience, which are things he readily passes along to his younger defensive partners. Offensively Traverse had his best season, setting career highs in points and assists. His nine playoff points more than double his previous high.
Season highlight: Two goals, assist in game five against Hartford on 4/23
Grade: B

4 Kyle McLaren D (UFA)
Reg: 22 games: 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points; +1, 19PIM
Play: 7 games: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point; +4, 2PIM
A hand injury--and subsequent surgery--after a cheap shot delivered by Norfolk’s Steve Downie on 11/19 sidelined McLaren for most of the season. But when he did play he was by far the best player on the ice. Salary issues were the reason he was assigned to the AHL, but he still showed the heart of an NHLer every time he stepped on the ice, including playing several playoff games after breaking his foot blocking a shot in game three against Hartford.
Season highlight: Goal against Manchester on 4/4
Grade: A

5 Jason Demers D (2 years, $543,000)
Reg: 78 games: 2 goals, 31 assists, 33 points; +15, 54PIM
Play: 12 games: 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points; (-7), 6PIM
When Demers first got here the rookie quickly earned the nickname “Wrong Way” because he always seemed to be skating in a direction opposite of that of the puck. That, thankfully, isn’t the case anymore. Demers has made a huge amount of progress on both ends of the ice, and his development has earned comparisons to Derek Joslin and the path Joslin took to get where he is. Demers has a long way to go to be NHL-ready, but there’s no reason to think he can’t make it based on how far he’s come in his rookie campaign.
Season highlight: Three assists and a fight against Norfolk on 11/19
Grade: B

7 Brendan Buckley D (UFA)
Reg: 67 games: 1 goal, 8 assists, 9 points; +6, 137PIM
Play: 10 games: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points; +4, 18PIM
When Buckley suited up on 10/25 he became the second former Worcester IceCat to play for the Sharks (Traverse is the other). A physical player, the ten year pro still has an issue about when to play the puck and when to play the player. Never blessed with incredible speed, Buckley has always relied on his strength to defend the net. Against players who have lots of speed, Buckley has problems. Despite his shortcomings he was still a valuable asset to the team.
Season highlight: Shorthanded goal against Manchester on 12/20
Grade: C

8 Mike Moore D (1 year, $1,000,000)
Reg: 76 games: 5 goals, 13 assists, 18 points; +14, 132PIM
Play: 12 games: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point; +7, 17PIM
NHL: Recalled, DNP
Moore is the most physical of all the WorSharks defensemen, throwing bone-crunching open ice hits on a regular basis. Opponents are no safer along the boards, as Moore has twice checked players through the penalty box door and has deposited more than a couple of players back onto their own benches. Offensively Moore is become much more comfortable, and has the speed to rush up ice and still get back in time to maintain his defensive responsibilities. Moore is without a doubt a bona-fide NHL prospect. Season highlight: First career professional goal against Norfolk on 11/19.
Grade: A

24 Brett Westgarth D (UFA)
Reg: 77 games: 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points; +6, 137PIM
Play: 9 games: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points; +2, 42PIM
Westgarth struggled early in the season while trying to figure out what his role would be. With the earlier surplus of defensemen Westgarth was used on the fourth forward line so his physical presence could be used, and while he didn’t play badly it was obvious he wasn’t very comfortable up front. Westgarth was obviously back in his element once put back on defense. He often teamed with Moore, making them one of the most physical pairs in the AHL. Westgarth is a solid AHL depth player, who with some hard work might make a long shot run at the NHL.
Season highlight: Game winning goal against Lowell on 1/10
Grade: C

25 Derek Joslin D (1 year, $515,667)
Reg: 63 games: 11 goals, 19 assists, 30 points; (-6), 40PIM
Play: 12 games: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points; (-6), 8PIM
NHL: 12 games: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, (-3), 6PIM
After a decent rookie campaign, Joslin started the first half of the season almost ready for the NHL. His great mix of offensive and defensive skills could make him a two-way force in the NHL for years to come. Unfortunately, in the second half of the season Joslin took a step backwards and made many mistakes in crucial moments. On defense Joslin can play either physical or passive depending on whatever the situation calls for, and his transition game from defense to offense is second to only Moore. Joslin, the winner of the hardest shot at 98.6mph at the AHL skills competition, had lots of problems getting that shot through to the net. While the AHL doesn’t keep the stat of shots blocked, it would be hard to fathom a player that had more shots blocked than Joslin.
Season highlight: Two goals vs Providence on 4/11
Grade: C

26 Michael Wilson (UFA)
Reg: 31 games: 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points; (-10) 14PIM
Play: DNP
Were it not for injuries and recalls Wilson would probably be a top-tier ECHL defenseman this season. The undersized, offense-first blueliner is overmatched defensively in the AHL. Wilson, at 165 pounds, needs to add some muscle mass to be able to compete at this level. He probably has enough offensive skills to keep himself afloat in the ECHL, but a defenseman that can’t play defense will eventually turn into a liability.
Season highlight: First career professional goal against Albany on 10/17
Grade: F

29 Thomas Greiss G (RFA)
Reg: 57 games: 30-24-2, 2.47, .907, 1 shutout, 1 assist, 0PIM
Play: 12 games: 6-6-0, 2.43, .912, 2 shutouts, 0PIM
NHL: Recalled, DNP
Greiss started off slow, going just 9-9-1 in the 2008 portion of the season. Better play, both by Greiss and the defense in front of him, helped him to separate four and five game winning streaks to set a career high 30 wins over the entire campaign. Greiss was also instrumental in getting Worcester into the post season, winning eight of the team’s last ten games, including his first professional shutout in the season finale against Providence.
Season highlight: 1-0 shutout win in game three vs Providence on 5/9
Grade: B

39 Taylor Dakers (RFA)
Reg: 21 games: 11-9-0, 2.85, .897, 0 points, 0PIM
Play: DNP
Dakers started the season on a five game winning streak, but played just “average” over the rest of the campaign. Dakers looks to be a goaltender that plays best when being an everyday player, and with Greiss in front of him this season that wasn’t going to happen. With several goaltending prospects entering the system over the next few seasons time is running short for Dakers to make a mark in the organization. Season ending hip surgery that will result in Dakers not being able to play until November is another hurdle in his way to an AHL roster spot.
Season highlight: First professional shutout against Springfield on 11/16.
Grade: C

Hockey operations
The fans of Worcester were promised a more competitive team, and for the most part hockey operations came through. Obviously every fan would love to have more goal scorers, or another shut-down defenseman, but all in all Worcester was dealt a pretty good hand. There were some bumps in the road, but in general the team was competitive night in and night out. And when injuries and recalls happened, Worcester was able to dip into the ECHL and found players talented enough to give the team a chance to win most nights.
Grade: B

Head Coach Roy Sommer
Two incidents are in the front of Worcester fans’ minds when it comes to Roy Sommer this season. The first was Sommer pulling Thomas Greiss for an extra attacker with 4.5 seconds remaining in the first period--yes, first period--at Springfield and holding a 1-0 lead. Springfield’s Tyler Spurgeon promptly beat Tom Cavanagh cleanly on a faceoff in the Falcons zone, and Mathieu Roy fired the puck the length of the ice to tie the game at 1-1 at 19:58. “I’ve done that 30 times in my coaching career,” Sommer told Bill Ballou of the Telegram & Gazette. “I’ve even timed it. With three seconds or less, you can’t win the draw and hit the open net. Can’t be done. Four seconds is stretching it.” Readers will note the faceoff took place with more than four seconds remaining in the period.

The second was during the last game of the regular season. Sommer picked that game to finally blow a gasket when referee Frederic L'Ecuyer ruled Steven Zalewski had kicked a puck into the net. It was a borderline call, but L'Ecuyer waved it off immediately without hesitation. Inexplicably, with his team up 3-0 and just over three minutes remaining in Greiss' shutout bid, Sommer picked that time to argue with the referee. L'Ecuyer let Sommer go on for a few seconds and skated away, but after Sommer continued jawing at him L'Ecuyer gave Worcester a bench minor and threw Sommer out of the game.

Sommer does get credit for implementing San Jose’s new offensive system in Worcester with relative few issues, but that’s pretty close to the only positive mark for his season. When fans give you a mock cheer when you call timeout, your days should be numbered. A division finals appearance is the only thing preventing a failing grade, but one has to wonder if that finish was due to Sommer or the presence of Bryan Marchment behind the bench in the later part of the season.
Grade: D

Saturday, May 30, 2009

GJ Berg: Circus in the Desert (5/30 update on Phoenix bankruptcy hearing)

A hearing was held on Wednesday, May 27, to discuss the issue of who's controlling the team. The net result is that Moyes will continue to operate the team, with oversight from the NHL, and the NHL will "fund" the team until the sale (which will put them at the top of the list for reimbursement when the bankruptcy is resolved.

In other legal wrangling, the Balsillie/PSE camp has requested an emergency hearing on June 3 to discuss the NHL's (recent) relocation history (i.e., Hartford to Carolina, Quebec to Denver, and Winnipeg to Phoenix). The Balsillie camp has requested all documents pertaining to the timing/scheduling of such moves. (This is in advance of the June 5th deadline for submitting briefs on relocation for June 9th hearing of arguments on the matter.)

A number of sports teams around the country are watching this proceeding, reports the Wall Street Journal, as a potential for getting out of bad leases.

While a lot of the attention about a potential move of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise to Ontario, Canada has been focused on the impact on the Toronto Maple Leafs, the larger impact may in fact be to the Buffalo Sabres organization. Recently coming out of bankruptcy themselves, Larry Quinn, minority owner and managing partner, told the Globe & Mail:

"[Cross border STHs buying tickets is] very important," Quinn says. "Anywhere from 20 to 25 per cent of our fan base is from [Canada] and 10 to 15 per cent of our season-ticket holders are from the Niagara Peninsula and Hamilton. Every NHL franchise has a market area, and I don't think one of them would do well if they had to sacrifice 30 per cent of their geographic area to another team."

Tony Tavares, former CEO of the Might Ducks of Anaheim (for Disney), is one of the partners with Reinsdorf potential ownership group.

Meanwhile, Balsillie released proposed renovation renderings for the Copps Coliseum. This is where Balsillie has negotiated a 20-year exclusive lease for a NHL team.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fight Notes - 5/29

UFC 98 Lyoto Machida vs Rashad Evans Light Heavyweight Championship

- After starting his UFC career with 4 of his first 5 wins coming via decision, Brazilian Lyoto Machida (15-0, 5KOs, 2subs) registered his second straight devestating knockout this time against Rashad Evans (13-1-1, 5KOs, 2subs) to earn the Light Heavyweight title Saturday night in Las Vegas. Confident and dictating the action throughout, Machida dropped the undefeated Evans once in the first round and twice in the second.

Evans, a strong collegiate wrestler while at Michigan State, had trouble closing on Machida save for a lone flurry in the second round. Machida picked his opponent apart, and stunned him with a straight right and a quick series of punches late in the second round. Evans regained his feet briefly before a gigantic right hook dropped him to the canvas for good at 3:57. "Karate is back" a jubulant Machida said after the fight, "the Machida era has begun".

A black belt in karate and BJJ, Lyoto Machida is often described as an elusive figure inside the ring. While the UFC broadcasters focused almost solely on his karate background, Machida also competed and trained as a sumo wrestler in Brazil from the age of 12. More of a hybrid fighter, Machida almost unconsciously adapts to the style of his opponent to find weaknesses or to suffocate their offense. Sherdog's Jordan Breen chronicled Machida's intelligent approach exposing the flawed footwork of Rashad Evans, and holes in Thiago Silva and Tito Ortiz's standup. John Morgan of says that "dangerous" needs to replace "elusive" when describing Machida from here on out.

Lyoto Machida has trained extensively at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose for past fights. It was somewhat shocking when former Montreal Canadien Vincent Damphousse was traded to San Jose and he said that he could walk down the street at times without being recognized. Machida gave a similar impression in an interview last year while showing off his hotel room and talking about his training, all the while being almost completely ignored by the local media. It appears Lyoto trained mostly in Brazil for this fight, as noted by this BBMMA training video and this inside the life of Lyoto Machida blog. The family's Machida Martial Arts dojo is in Belem, Brazil, but he has spent enough time in the South Bay for San Jose to claim him as well.

- Q&A with Machida's martial arts master: his father Yoshizo Machida - Josh Gross for Sports Illustrated. It seems Lyoto has made changes to apply the karate you taught him to work for MMA. Did it take time to get comfortable with the idea of adapting karate to be useful for mixed martial arts?

Machida: Lyoto's base is karate. That is where his foundation is, and that's pretty obvious. But in mixed martial arts you can't just be focused on one art. Judo, jiu-jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, karate -- all these martial arts have one thing in common. The spirit of the martial art is the same. However, a lot of time instructors focus on technique and strength, but they don't focus on the mind and spiritual side of it. I like to incorporate everything, because a lot of it is spiritual and mental when you're going in the ring. How do you control yourself? A lot of times the fighter enters the ring nervous, not knowing what his opponent is thinking. With family being around to offer support and love, that can make him feel a lot more relaxed.

Kevin Randleman makes Strikeforce debut on Lawler vs. Shields card

- Two-time NCAA wrestling champ and former UFC Heavyweight champ and Pride FC veteran Kevin "The Monster" Randleman will make his Strikeforce debut against Mike Whitehead on the Lawler vs. Shields undercard June 6th at the Scottstrade Center in St. Louis. As seen on his official website, Randleman registered one of the most devestating throws in MMA history against PrideFC heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. Former EliteXC Middleweight champion Robbie Lawler will meet former Elite XC Welterweight Champion and San Francisco native Jake Shields in a very strong main event. Both competitors may fly under the mainstream radar, but this matchup has fight-of-the-year potential.

Strikeforce has a tradition of stocking fight cards from top to bottom, and June 6th is no different. Stockton's Nick Diaz is coming off a crushing defeat over Frank Shamrock to meet Sacramento's Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith for some central California on central California violence. On April 11th at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Smith was out on his feet twice before coming from behind to knock out Benji Radach in a classic slugfest. Affliction heavyweight Andrei Arlovski is looking to rebound from a loss to Sharkspage pound for pound champion Fedor Emelianenko against top Strikeforce heavyweight prospect Brett Rogers. Rogers is raw, but he has the tools to cut a swath to the top of the heavyweight division. This is a sleeper pick for fight of the night, heavy favorite for knockout of the night.

Strikeforce: Arlovski vs. Rogers winner not guaranteed a shot at champ Overeem -

Strikeforce had planned for Overeem to put step into the cage with Rogers at the event, but an infection in "Demolition Man's" hand, discovered after a bar fight in Holland, forced the champion off of the card. Rogers has proved less-than-sympathetic to Overeem's plight.

"I thought I was fighting [Overeem], but I got this [bout with Arlovski] about three weeks ago," Rogers said. "It's cool because, the way I see it, it's actually going to be a better fight than the one with Overeem would have been.

"I was putting in some time for Overeem. Then he wanted to act like a fool. He’s a pro fighter and he wanted to act like a fool. That's on him. I'm moving onto bigger and better. I’m getting this fight. I'll knock Arlovski out and hopefully move on to somebody better."

2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward (19-0, 12KOs) finally brought boxing back to his hometown of Oakland. Afer his first Bay Area fight in San Jose in 2005, in a classy move Ward said he was fighting for the South Bay, the North Bay and all of the Bay Area. On May 16th Andre "S.O.G." Ward (19-0, 12KOs) wanted the Bay Area boxing community to converge on Oakland for a tough NABO/NABF title defense against bruising Columbian Super Middleweight Edison Miranda (32-4, 28KOs).

7,818 fans saw a contentious fight early. Ward suffered a bloody cut from a head butt in the first, and Miranda was warned for another head butt and low blows in the second, and hitting behind the head and another head butt in the third. The Oakland native came out with his trademark quick start, well aware of the power in Miranda's right hand. Miranda stalked the quicker fighter, but was not able to land consisently until both traded toe-to-toe at the end of the second round. Miranda was warned again for hitting behind the head in the fourth round.

Both boxers had extensive amateur experience, as the Showtime broadcast noted that Ward had 120 rounds of amateur boxing experience to Miranda's 132. A shobox slideshow and media recap from the event is available here. Ward began to pick Miranda apart in the fifth round. After switching from southpaw and back early in the fight, Ward ducked a punch and staggered Miranda with a left uppercut followed by left hook and a laser of a jab.

As Miranda slowed, Ward was able to mix his explosive speed from the outside with more of a brawling in-your-face approach inside. It was a direct challenge to one of Miranda's strengths, and also a challenge as Ward brought a new element to the ring in the face of some of his critics. His eye cut and swolled after the fight, Ward emerged with a grueling 12 round unanimous decision 119-109, 119-109, 116-112. "I perservered" he told the crowd. "I did what I had to do."

He noted in a post-fight interview that it was the second cut he has suffered in his pro career, but it was the first time he has been cut in the first round. In several interviews Andre Ward said he was disappointed he did not finish Edison Miranda. He gave himself a C/C- in the postfight interview with above. ESB said that Ward "bullied" Miranda inside, and there could not be a more accurate description of the fight. "Even more than outwitting him, and countering him, and outjabbing him at times, that was probably the time in the fight I was most excited because I knew the announcers, and the people would look at me like I was crazy. But I knew I was a very good inside fighter. Miranda has long arms, and he doesn't fight very well on the inside" Ward told East Side Boxing. Nice "formless" Bruce Lee quote by Ward as well. Lee himself opened a Chinese martial arts studio in Oakland in 1964.

Poole: Ward's ugly victory a beautiful thing - Monte Pool for the Oakland Tribune.

- One of the most interesting boxing columns of the year by Frank Lotierzo focused on ESPN's Brian Kenny interview with Floyd Mayweather Jr. about his return to boxing: Kenny Missed Some Openings, But Mayweather Didn't.

Last week during the Mayweather-Marquez satellite press tour, Mayweather was interviewed by ESPN's Kenny. The interview got off to a rough start when Kenny accurately introduced Mayweather as the former number one pound for pound fighter in boxing, to which Mayweather took exception. This illustrated how insecure Floyd is when confronted with certain truths regarding how he's perceived among his critics in the boxing community...

During the interview Mayweather was defensive and appeared to be looking for a war of words in order to divert attention from the legitimate questions Kenny was attempting to ask regarding who he's fighting. Watching the interview it struck me --had Brian Kenny been interviewing greats such as Alexis Arguello, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Aaron Pryor, Sugar Ray Leonard or Thomas Hearns those same type assertions never could've been made. Instead of trying to find out if they were going to fight the best and most dangerous fighter out there, it would've been conducted from the perspective of when and where...

The only thing the ESPN interview accomplished is the fact that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is comfortable in the role of playing the bad guy for at least his upcoming fight and most likely the one after that. Due to the fallout from Mayweather's interview, Brian Kenny did a short interview with Shane Mosley on ESPN Friday Night Fights. Did anyone besides myself notice the respect Mosley commanded because of what he's accomplished in the ring with his fists. This is opposed to Mayweather, who clearly showed he's not as secure in his career accomplishments as Mosley is his.

You can watch the interview for yourself on The free ride is over for Floyd Mayweather Jr. He is going to be challenged just as hard outside of the ring as his is inside it moving forward.

- All of the recent news surrounding Mike Tyson, the 2009 documentary which has drawn over $600k at the box office in a limited release, his cameo in the Warner Brothers film The Hangover, and a long series of print and television interviews has been overshadowed by the tragic death of his daughter Exodus Tyson who was suffocated after getting tangled in the cables of a home treadmill.

Tyson's family released a statement to the media: "There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Exodus, we ask you now to please respect our need at this very difficult time for privacy to grieve and try to help each other heal."

The spot on this post was originally reserved for recent interview Mike Tyson did with Comcast Sportsnet California. Tyson has been such a controversial, dramatic and even tragic figure for so long, it is almost easy to overlook his true passion for boxing. Tyson talked with CSNC about certain athletes being born with an undeniable will to win, about being born in the Mohammed Ali era. He said he was just an average guy on the block, and that it was not up to him to determine his place in history. What came through most in the interview was Tyson's genuine love of boxing.

My condolences go out to his family.


- There is an upcoming MMA/Muay Thai kickboxing event this Saturday night at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. The World Combat Sports Challenge (WCSC) "Awakening" event will feature up to 22 fights including San Francisco's Rick Cheek competing for the WCSC Super Heavyweight World Kickboxing Title, and undefeated World Kickboxing and Muay Thai Champion Michael Espinoza (32-0) coming out of retirement to face Victor Cortez (23-2, 16KOs) of Mexico for the WCSC Super Lightweight Muay Thai Belt. San Jose's Jenna Castillo will fight for the WCSC Women’s Super Bantamweight World Title, and Brandon Banda will compete for the WCSC U.S. Middleweight Title. Vishnu Golata, Dino Pagtakahn, Cliff Fua and Bond Lapua are other notable kickboxers scheduled to appear.

King of the Cage Champion and Cage Combat Fighting MMA veteran Ky Hollenbeck, and Strikeforce prospects Chris Cariaso of San Francisco, Alvin Cacdac of San Jose and Josh Neal are also scheduled to appear. WCSC Welterweight, Middleweight, Super Lightweight and Lightweight MMA titles will be on the line. Jessie Gillespie, Dave Velasquez, and A.J. Fonseca are also competitors that should be familiar for local MMA fans.

"We are thrilled to be in a position to put on this 'hybrid' show which will cater to both the MMA crowd, as well as our Muay Thai fan base," WCSC VP of Operations Dan Merril said. For more information visit, for tickets visit

- Gina Carano was featured on Maxim magazines's Hot 100 for 2009.

- San Jose's Cung Le launched a new social media website at

- As one of the earliest Bash Brothers disciples with the Oakland Athletics it has been somewhat painful to see Jose Canseco go from a 40-40 MLB MVP to steriod crusader, to celebrity boxer, to stunt MMA competitor. On Tuesday night Canseco faced 7-foot-2 kickboxing and mma veteran Hong Man Choi in the Dream 9 "Super Hulk" tournament. Choi is 12-6 in kickboxing, defeating the likes of Semmy Schilt, Gary Goodridge and Mighty Mo while pushing the likes of Badr Hari and Jerome Le Banner. That is a who's who at the top of K-1 kickboxing's heavyweight division.

In MMA Choi did not look out of place against Fedor Emelianenko or Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. That is the pound-for-pound greatest fighter in MMA and one of the most devestating strikers in MMA respectively. Canseco's jaw allegedy dropped when he saw the massive Korean for the first time at the weigh-ins. It is true Choi has not looked the same after having a brain tumor removed, but Canseco lasting anything over 30 seconds would be an upset. Canseco landed a few hard overhand punches and what looked like a Taekwondo kick, but he eventually hit the mat and Choi pounded him out at 1:17.

Japan has a tradition of putting on glitzy superfights, unlike the UFC's more businesslike approach. They also have a tradition of throwing in a couple of freak matchups. Canseco vs Choi fits that bill. One of the guys on the undercard, Ikuhisa "the punk" Minowa, fought a 390 pound Brazilian named Zuluzinho in 2007 (Minowa is 190 pounds). After running circles around the ring for 2 and a half rounds, Zuluzinho dropped "Minowaman" with a punch and started hammering him before the corner threw in the towel.

[Update] War Of The Heroes 3 Muay Thai Kickboxing Championships Announced For June 13th at the Santa Clara Convention Center -

[Update2] Jake Shields and and Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith were recent guests along with Comcast host Dave Benz yesterday on Chronicle Live. Highlights of their interviews can be found here and here.

[Update3] "Sharks aren't the Sens, the Sens were good all season long. The Sharks were mediocre after the All Star break,"'s Jordan Breen on comparisons of the San Jose Sharks to earlier Ottawa Senators teams. Ouch. Breen's latest radio show is available here with appearances by Dream featherweight Joe Warren, who scored an upset win over Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, and Calgary MMA prospect Nick Ring.

[Update4] UC-Berkeley Hosts Int'l Taekwondo Events - The Seoul Times. The 1st Pan-Am University Taekwondo Championship took place May 28-29, the 40th UC Open Taekwondo Championship will be held May 30.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A look back at the 2009 State of the Sharks question and answer session

San Jose fans ask questions during the 2009 State of the Sharks
San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan State of the Sharks
Joe Thornton State of the Sharks

The atmosphere at the 2009 State of the Sharks event on May 14th was an awkward combination of disappointment and encouragement after the biggest playoff failure in the franchise's 17 season history. Terms like funeral and autoposy were used by many to describe the proceedings, but there was also the unintentional feel of a fan rally as many were there simply to support the team instead of looking for answers to what went wrong.

Over 6 lower bowl sections, and a scattering of fans in the upper bowl, resulted in 2500+ fans in attendance for the yearly question and answer event. It was a slightly depressing contrast for hockey fans in Phoenix, where only 200 fans attended the Save the Coyotes rally a few days later in Glendale, Arizona. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Dan Boyle represented the players on the Q-and-A panel, head coach Todd McLellan, EVP/GM Doug Wilson, and President/CEO Greg Jamison represented the front office. Development coach and former player Mike Ricci came out to answer questions later in the evening, and television announcer Randy Hahn kept things moving from the podium.

In the last two State of the Shark events, there was a clearer sense of direction and the adjustments needed to put the most competitive roster possible on the ice. Some of the raw emotion from the Sharks shocking first round WCQF loss to the Anaheim Ducks has worn off, but this year it is apparent the self-examination and self-assessment offseason phase is going to be a longer and more multi-layered undertaking.

Highlights from the first hour:

There was an akward standing ovation from half of the fans as several of the players joined the podium after a brief highlight video. Not everyone in the stands was cheering given the circumstances.

There were initial opening statements by Greg Jamison, Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan. Jamison mentioned words like disappointment and frustration when talking about how he felt, and he agreed with a fan who suggested anger. He mentioned that Doug Wilson and his staff had averaged nearly 50 wins and 107 points a season in 4 years on the job, and said he feels confident they can make the neccessary adjustments moving forward to win a Stanley Cup.

General Manager Doug Wilson said that his anger has not diminished while being forced to watch two other teams play in Game 7's on the same night. He said fans have a right to be angry, and that the he will not lower expectations and that the team remains committed to doing what is neccessary to win a Stanley Cup. Wilson said he felt like he was conducting an autopsy, but that he was in the process of seperating excuses and perceptions from reality. He said that the ownership group and the fans made this a special place to play, and the players have a responsibility to deliver results. "We are never going to stop pushing for results". First year head coach Todd McLellan said he has never been through something like this after the end of the season, and that he was surprised by the turnout. "I came from Hockey Town, this never would have happened there." McLellan went on to describe regular season process and results driven postseason goals, "We started in June. We felt all the tools were in place. Maybe we didn't use them correctly, maybe some were rusty, some of them didn't do the job we thought they would do. We accomplished a lot of our goals we set for ourselves, but the ultimate goal was playoff success, not necessarily a Stanley Cup. We failed there, and there are consequences for that."

The first question asked Joe Thornton when he will take over the team. Thornton said there are a lot of key players on the team. "In some ways this is my team, in some ways this is Patty's team, he is the captain, now with this disappointment... it is going to be a long summer for everybody," Thornton said. We asked about specific metrics the team used to evaluate itself, Doug Wilson said there was a perception they did not win games down the stretch. They won games, but they did not do a good enough job down the stretch to play their best hockey and to prepare themselves for postseason play Wilson stated. "The results speak." He also noted teams are trying to build themselves in the first half of the season, and in the second half they are looking for ways to beat you.

McLellan said the process of evaluating the team is the same from Game 1 to Game 75, and that the coaching staff immediately crunches the statistics to have a firm understanding of how the game was won or lost before anyone goes home. "We look at ice time right away, and look at the production of scoring chances for and against... we have a real stringent, accurate definition of what a scoring chance for and against is, it doesn't guarantee wins or losses, after that we use faceoff stats... that is one of the most competitive situations from a standstill. We happened to be the second best team in the league this year in faceoffs. When we didn't play well, we didn't win many... our power play and penalty kill, specialty teams are essential. In the second half of the seaon our power play improved, our penalty kill diminished, some of that had to do with the player or the type of player we were using in that situation. A number of our penalty killers were injured. We failed as coaches, we didn't prepare enough early in the year, so we were introducing some players to that situation. Then we look at management of minutes, was Joe Thornton's 21 minutes productive vs Jamie McGinn's 4, That comes as us as coaches since we are putting them on the ice... maybe we failed in game 75 as compared to game 1, maybe Joe should have been at 18 minutes that night because he wasn't producing, and Jamie McGinn should have been at 7... A large responsibilty goes to us as coaches. We take that information, we pool it together as a coaching staff, we come in the next morning and we go through the game again completely. We'll pick individual clips and show individual players, so Dan Boyle will be brought in and told you did this well, you did this well, this isn't what we do as a team. That happens every day, every game, irregardless of when or where we play."

"The biggest thing that happened to us in the second half was we changed the way we play. Not by design, but by confidence level, by putting people in different situations, we went to a safer game. We were prepared to give up pucks and take less risk. All of a sudden when you are doing that you are not scoring or producing as many goals. That was evident. Our defensive play, our numbers actually improved in the second half or after the allstar break. The offensive play got skinner, if you will for lack of a better term. For most teams that happens, but for ours it was more significant. The biggest issue we have as a coaching staff is asking the players what happened 5-on-5. We don't have real big concerns about power play, penalty kill, and specialty teams situations. We feel we can build on that. Did we become predictable, was their a pattern in our play that prevented us from scoring or creating as many chances. The last thing we evaluate is save percentage. Goaltenders aren't immune to anything. We look at that, did our goaltenders give us a chance to win every night. Did they still games, did they give us a sense of calmness and confidence, or did they create a sense of panic."

Defenseman Dan Boyle was at a loss to describe what went wrong in the first round, and he said a few weeks later several players were themselves still looking for answers. He stressed giving up the first two games, and ceeding home ice advantage to Anaheim was a huge factor. "The way we played in the second half carried over into the playoffs. I don't think we were the same team in the seconf half we were in the first... if we were the same team in the first half, I don't think anyone would be sitting here we would be playing." He added that Game 4 was a turning point, and that by far it was the Sharks worst game of the series.

When one fan guesstimated that Joe Thornton lead the league in getting thrown out of the faceoff circle, "apparently I don't know the rules because I am always getting thrown out," Thornton said. "I guess I cheat". "You are taught to cheat in the faceoff circle," Todd McLellan added, "the best cheaters win, Joe Thornton is not a very good cheater because he gets thrown out so much."

Another fan asked Dan Boyle if the Sharks had enough mentally and physically to compete for a Stanley Cup. Boyle said that he has been asked all season long to compare the 2008-09 Sharks with the Tampa Bay Lightning squad he won a Stanley Cup with in 2003-04. "This is a better hockey team than the team we had in Tampa. At the same time, everybody on the team needs to step up... a lot of the top guys take the heat but the truth is, I said it after Game 6... goaltending needs to be better." That comment drew some applause from the crowd. Boyle also pointed to the defense, the top players, and secondary scoring as areas the team needed to improve. "You have to come together at the right time in the playoffs."

Another fan pointed out that Joe Thornton had 2 points in 5 of the first round playoff games, and a goal and 2 assists "and practically put this team on your back" when he was mad in Game 5. "What do we have to do to make you play mad every game?" Thornton said that he did not feel he played poorly in the first three games, but his play in Game 4 was not good. He came out for the fifth game of the series not wanting to let his teammates down. "It is such an emotional game, with so many emotional highs and so many emotional lows you have to try to keep calm. Game 5 I was just more emotional, I had more emotional attachments to the game and I think that is why I played well."

Todd McLellan expanded on the lack of power play success in the playoffs. "Every opposition you face brings a different set of challenges. Anaheim has a terrific penalty kill. There strength is up ice and in the neutral zone, preventing you from setting up in the zone. Our power play struggled in Game 1 and Game 2 just getting the opportunity to create those chances in the zone, nevermind what we did around the net or in the offensive zone. We have to solve that problem first. Once we got into the zone, all year we established our foundation. We set up with net front presence, that being someone in front of the goalie's eyes or someone in and around the crease area, and then establishing a shot. Everything we did after that, we didn't run set plays, we felt very strongly about letting players have some freedom, being unpredictable. Part of our problem was establishing possession in the zone. If it takes more than one person to gain possession of the puck, that takes people from the net. Once we established possession we didn't get the shots through as much as we would like. The reward for going to the net wasn't as great. It was a combination of both things. Our net presence wasn't good enough. When you look at Detroit, when they do it they have a more consistent one. It is something we have to continually work on. (These players) will tell you it is a focal point of our power play. Some players do it better than others, and it might be a personell situation as well. Certainly it is an area of improvement."

Highlights from the second hour:

Head coach Todd McLellan was asked to compare what it took for Detroit to win in the playoffs vs what it will take in San Jose. "Basically what you are asking me is at this point a comparison over the last 3 weeks to a month between the two teams. I can tell you that right now it takes a physical commitment to win in the playoffs or to win a Stanley Cup, and it take a mental commitment. I believe that we are real close when it comes to the physical department. We know how we want to play, we don't always get it done every night, but we have a pretty good idea as a team and as a group of players how we want to do it. What affects that sometimes is the mental side, that is where Detroit is ahead of us right now... their mental toughness. We use those words in the lockerroom. I believe (Detroit) is mentally tougher. They get through the pressure more efficiently than our hockey club does," McLellan said.

"That is a question we are asking ourselves as coaches right now. We spend a lot of time, 95% of the time developing systems and skills, and power play and penalty kills. How can we help our players be mentally tougher to deal with the pressures that come with being a top team. I am not sure of those answers. I need some help from people. We will look outside of the organization. There are professionals out there that can maybe help us. I believe that we have to become mentally tougher as a hockey club. That is where Detroit has the edge. Detroit has an edge on a lot of teams in the league because they have been through this. The thing you have to understand about Detroit is that they have been here. 59-58 wins in 2005 (and losing in the first round), I was there. I had the exact same feeling. It made them stronger. We have to make a decision, players coaches and the organization, is this going to make us stronger. Are we going to get mentally tough and get where we want to go, or are we going to whither up and walk away from it. I believe we are going to be the first group," McLellan said.

When asked by a fan if they have done a specific form of psychometric testing with regards to potential players (as used by Herb Brooks and Bill Walsh), head coach Todd McLellan dismissed the idea and described a fairly traditional form of evaluating players used in the three organizations he has been a part of (San Jose, Detroit and Minnesota). "You have to watch the players play." Doug Wilson said that you can fall victim to paralysis by analysis, and he offered the quote of the night in response. "We have hit a little bit of a hurdle here, and this is something we all need to decide, it is hard not to love our players... it is going to come down to us doing what is right for the team, making the tough decisions to get to the next level. The compete factor is something that, is this the final time that we have to get kicked in the ass to realize that we are going to commit to do whatever it takes to get to the next level." Wilson said that he is not sure where you are going to find that in an analysis. Compete factor may be a subjective measurement, but the last 4 years it has pointed to a glaring deficency on the San Jose Sharks postseason effort.

A young fan asked if Torrey Mitchell really ran into a post hard enough to break his leg in training camp. Joe Thornton said that yes, he did run into the post hard enough to break his leg drawing a pretty big laugh from the crowd. Asked to point to a major factor in the first round loss, head coach Todd McLellan said that post-allstar break the coaching staff needs to take responsibilty for cutting back certain players minutes and using people in different situations to adjust to the injury situation. "It does prevent some players from playing the way they would normally play. If we could go back, maybe we would push them a little more and keep them together longer. Injuries prevented that. One of the reporters in town made the best analogy I could buy, it was like putting the band back together. We put the band back together, everybody had their spot, everybody had their instrument. We were prepared to go and play, but the tune wasn't very good." He speculated that maybe some of those players returning from injury maybe should have been kept out of the lineup longer. He also cited the lack of games together and lack of practices together for those players after they returned (before the start of the postseason).

McLellan went on to describe how players returning from injury did not have enough time to get their game back to the appropriate level before the postseason began. "When the playoffs come, the intensity and the skill level elevate immensely. It is hard to explain, you just feel it. If you are not at the top of your game, or you are struggling to get your game back, there is no time. We perhaps had too many players like that, and as a coaching staff we probably erred on relying on them to get their game back quicker than they could." Captain Patrick Marleau said that mistakes made by players or negative trends on the ice show up the next day in the video analysis. "Guys are well aware of that, and they just need to go out and execute."

Another fan asked Joe Thornton why he doesn't shoot more. Thornton saracastically offered that he doesn't hear fans asking him to shoot enough while on the power play. "I have to shoot more, you're right," Thornton admitted. After the players left the panel, development coach Mike Ricci joined the panel and discussed the Worcester Sharks and how the lack of a battle for playing time in San Jose hurt the club in the postseason. "Maybe that is what hurt our team, injuries are an excuse but we did not have a battle for positions. That hurt. The coaches were just trying to get enough guys in the lineup. That is what I feel cost us. We didn't have guys battling for that third line spot, which is an important role. We didn't have guys pushing because they were hurt... this has caused our eyes to open. Guys (in Worcester) are going to get a shot. Players are going to have to battle for their positions from day 1."

Highlights from the third hour:

One fan noted that the first round playoff exit hurt, but it did not hurt as much as losing to the Anaheim Ducks. "When I found out we were playing the Anaheim Ducks, I didn't care about the Stanley Cup any more I just needed (this team) to beat the Ducks. It is like you guys didn't even show up." During the locker room cleanout interview session, this blog asked Joe Thornton if regular season games between San Jose and Anaheim would take on a different tone next year. Thornton responded saying it was too soon to think about next season. During the State of the Shakrs, the fan went on to ask, "Do you think Patrick Marleau would be better without the C?".

Todd McLellan responded saying the Sharks are looking at the team's leadership, looking at the core group of players. "Patty as a captain should (provide leadership). Were we happy coming into the season as a new coach... I believe from a distance coming in that he had the ability to do that, the personality and the skills to do it. Going through it for a year, I will sit down with him again... we will discuss his want to do it, his desire to do it and his ability to do it. Together he and I, and the rest of the organization, will make a decision. Do we have other people who are capable? Absolutely we do. We'll do one what is best for the Sharks, and two what is best for Patty... If it means that Patty needs to remain as captain and continue doing the good job he has done, so be it. If it means Patty has to take a step back, not as far as his play goes, or his production, or his importance more than anything, or more importantly to take the pressure off of him media-wise, not neccesarily in San Jose but in the hockey world there is an immense amount of pressure on this guy... If we think that can help him, by all means we would do that. We are not there yet. Our minds are going there, I am sure Patty's is... because our leadership group and our core has to get stronger."

One fan asked general manager Doug Wilson about accountability for referees in the NHL. Wilson said that the situation was not a perfect one. He also noted 7 veteran refs are going to retire after this season. The quality of the replacements will be a concern as Wilson said it takes time for them to develop just like NHL players. Mike Ricci answered a question about leadership on the team and he said it was one of the hardest questions to answer because each individual has to define it for themself. He mentioned his teammate Joe Sakic, saying that he did not speak very much but he lead in a different way. "Our guys have to learn their way." On the AHL Doug Wilson complimented Worcester head coach Roy Sommer for winning his last 6 road games just to make it to the playoffs, and for making it to the second round. Todd McLellan said there are two ways for Worcester to win. One by winning the Calder Cup championship, and second by developing prospects that can produce at the NHL level. General manager Doug Wilson noted that defenseman Kent Huskins was acquired in the trade that brought in Travis Moen. Huskins was brought in for a conditional draft pick predicated on him being able to play. Wilson said the Sharks were planning on going 4 rounds deep in the playoff so defensive depth was a must, but the fact that Huskins did not suit up for a game means that they did not lose a draft pick for him. A Hartford Whalers t-shirt wearing female fan asked if the Sharks could more heavily promote light rail use to get to HP Pavilion, and possibly include light rail passes instead of parking passes for those season ticket holders who request them. Greg Jamison said he would look into the situation. The Sharks have acted on several comments from fans and season ticket holders in recent years.

Discussing some of the issues the Sharks faced with travel, head coach Todd McLellan also discussed again how the team dealt with injuries. He said that the Sharks were about 8th in the NHL in man games lost to injury (third among Western Conference playoff teams). He mentioned that some of the things were freak injuries Blake taking a puck to the jaw, and Claude Lemieux's jaw injury in Montreal. He said he would reassess players fitness level, practice habits and how players are worked back into the lineup. He was not sure if things would change, but they will look at the issue again. McLellan also said Torrey Mitchell was the catalyst for the fourth line. "We missed that piece for 89-92 games, his speed, his tenacity, his gritiness, his abrasiveness." Having Mitchell for a full season will strengthen the third line according to McLellan, and it will allow players who belong on the fourth line to play there.

A former Toronto native, pictured above, complimented the Sharks on the atmosphere they bring to hockey games in San Jose and asked GM Doug Wilson for his thoughts on the league's actions to curb hits to the head and whether or not players need to seek retribution on their own on the ice. Doug Wilson said the team has been very involved with the issue, and the league needs to take a firm position on hits to the head and not waiver. "I don't want to see any player in this league have his career end because of a cheap shot."

The question and answer session lasted just over 3 hours, after which several panel members answered questions face-to-face to make sure everyone had an opportunity to make their thoughts known. Several television reporters, print reporters, and even a few bloggers in attendance did not last for the full 3 hours. The process could be improved with a 30 second or 1 minute shot clock on fans to ask their questions. An informal Sharkspage poll of 20 fans found a near even split among those satisfied with the forthright comments by those on the panel, and those still upset with the overall flat playoff performance from the Presidents' Trophy winning regular season squad.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Darryl Hunt: Worcester Sharks 2008-2009 Season Awards

With the Worcester Sharks playoff run coming to an end last week, it’s time to start with the end of season paperwork. Up first are the “210 Awards”. Coming up soon will be the end of season report card.

For those new to the "210 Awards", they are a mix of serious and (hopefully) slightly humorous awards named for the moniker this writer uses on many message boards. This season’s winners are:

Best Offensive Player: Ryan Vesce, for leading the WorSharks in points and being a threat to score every time he stepped on the ice.

Best Defensive Player: Mike Moore, in a late recount, for his ability to cause issues to onrushing forwards simply by being on the ice--the smart ones dumped the puck in; the dumb ones were soon looking at the arena ceiling.

Tough Guy Award: Brad Staubitz, and if you need to know why, ask Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Drew Bagnall, Mathieu Roy, and Jordin Tootoo.

7th Player: Andrew Desjardins, for being one of two players to make the Worcester roster out of free agent camp and becoming one of the WorSharks’ most solid two-way players.

Rookie of the Year: Moore. Now that the season is all over looking back it’s obvious this team would not have gone as far as it did without Moore, and that’s high praise for a rookie.

MVP: Vesce, for 10 game winning goals, including five in overtime. Need more be said?

Most Improved: Frazer McLaren, for going from a fourth line fighter that barely hit the ice to becoming a member of Worcester top penalty killing line and a solid third line winger.

So now that we've gotten the serious awards out of the way, here’s a few that I think should be handed out....

The Cutting Edge Award: Jason Demers, for his numerous toe pick trips throughout the season, including a rare “double toe pick” where he lost an edge with both feet and almost face planted himself into the boards.

The NASCAR Award: Mike Moore, who seemed to put more opponents into the wall this season than Dale Earnhardt did his entire racing career.

The Casey At The Bat Award: Derek Joslin, for his near whiff second attempt during the hardest shot competition at the skills competition for the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic.

The Man In The Box Award: Matt Jones, for getting stuck on an elevator during the power outage prior to the start of the game on November 15.

The Rocking Chair Award: Patrick Traverse, for setting a personal high in assists, points, and playing in his second highest total of games in a season in year 15 of his professional career.

The Put Your Best Foot Forward Award: Kyle McLaren, who played four games with a broken left foot after blocking a shot early in game three in Worcester’s opening round series against Hartford.

The Two-By-Two Award: Tie between Derek Joslin and Lukas Kaspar, for having the most penalty minutes (40) by a player not receiving a major.

The Frequent Flyer Award: Kyle Jones, who in the span of 10 days traveled between Worcester and Phoenix four times, including twice within 18 hours.

The Grandpa Award: Claude Lemieux, as it was discovered there is a picture of Lemieux holding a baby named Jason Demers taken many years ago. Yes, the same Jason Demers that was Lemieux’s team mate here in Worcester

The Door Man Award: Derek MacIntyre, for flying up from South Carolina just to open and close the bench door for the Sharks while Greiss was recalled to San Jose in early March.

The Graham Mink Award: A tie between Ryan Vesce and Brendan Buckley, for their addressing the Worcester Sharks Holiday Party and Awards dinners, respectively.

The Claude Lemieux Award: Riley Armstrong, who played much more like Lemieux used to than when Lemieux was here than Lemieux has done since his return to pro hockey.

The Dead-Eye Award: Jason Demers, for having the lowest shooting percentage of any player with 50 or more shots on goal, connecting on just two of 122 shots for a percentage of 1.6%

The Derek Diener Award: Michael Wilson, and if you have to ask why you wouldn’t understand. Wilson also has the honor of having this award renamed for him should it be awarded in the future.

The David Haas Award: For the second time in three seasons, there is no winner of this “prestigious” award that goes to the player with the most talent that chooses to use none of it. There is also no winner for The Jim Campbell Award, which is the playoff version of the beloved Haas.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GJ Berg: Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy hearing May 19

Tuesday, May 19 was the first major day in bankruptcy court for the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL, et al, in front of Judge Redfield T Baum.

In bankruptcy, the judge's main goal is to ensure that the creditors are paid (or get the best return for the settlement possible). So while the $212m offer from Balsillie may be more money, due to other creditors, a smaller offer may result in more money paid to creditors. The City of Glendale, which owns the arena, will put in a claim of $700m as an unsecured creditor if the lease is broken and the team relocates.

AP story, Toronto Star story, Globe & Mail story, 2nd story, CBC talks with some legal experts.

The first question to be answered is who controls the NHL franchise. Did the NHL get the proper papers signed by CEO/president Moyes in exchange for providing an advance on monies (revenue sharing) as well as monies from a loan from the league. Neither side did a good job of convincing the court. So the judge ordered the NHL and Moyes representatives to mediation to determine who is in control of the team. They are to report back on May 27 with the result/status of mediation.

Also at issue is whether the court can force the NHL to accept the highest bidder in a bankruptcy auction of the franchise, which is not how the NHL constitution describes owner vetting and 20/30 majority of the NHL Board of Governors to accept a new owner. (Balsillie had not submitted a membership application, nor a franchise relocation request; he is now submitting both applications..)

By the end of the afternoon, the issue does not seem to be IF the team needs to be in bankruptcy, but moreso what the franchise asset is to be auctioned off. Per the NHL, the asset is the rights to a franchise exclusive to Phoenix (Glendale). Moyes' side is pushing that the asset is the right to a relocatable franchise (so to be sold Balsillie for relocation to Hamilton). The NHL was joined by the NFL, NBA and MLB to support that the league has control over relocation. Further briefs on this subject are due in a few weeks, and a hearing will be held on June 22. (Obviously, a franchise that can be relocated "anywhere" is a much more valuable asset than one that must stay in Phoenix.)

The NHL apparently has a letter of intent for Reinsdorf (et al) to purchase the team. A second potential local owner, Breslow, one of the current minority owners, may also be in play.

Balsillie now says he's willing to buy the franchise and keep it in Phoenix for a season (if the NHL will fund any losses).

One pundit talks about the PR disater Bettman has created by claiming everything was OK with Phoenix and now we have a mess.

And while Balsillie was waiting for the 5/19 hearing after the 5/5 bankruptcy filing, he talked with the city of Hamilton, Onatario about the Copps Coliseium and now has negotiated a twenty-year exclusive NHL lease.

So this situation is no where near done. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Are Eliminated After Game Six Loss

The Worcester Sharks couldn't overcome early mistakes that put themselves in a deep hole and were eliminated from the American Hockey League playoffs after a 5-1 loss to the Providence Bruins Wednesday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Providence would get goals from Brad Marchand and Jamie Arniel in the first period, and goals by Kirk MacDonald and Jordan Knackstedt in the second period to jump out to a 4-0 lead.

Worcester's frustration would show at 13:44 of the second period when Riley Armstrong was called for a rare double-major after he boarded a Providence defenseman and then while being escorted off the ice to the locker room speared P-Bruin defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

Martin St. Pierre would score 26 seconds into the ten minute power play, and from that point Providence basically played "keep away" from the WorSharks, only taking shots from the outside with virtually no attempts at gathering rebounds.

Worcester would avoid the whitewash when Andrew Desjardins connected on a shorthanded break-away tally with just 12 seconds remaining in the second period.

Worcester went with the same line-up as game five. With both Worcester and San Jose being eliminated from the playoffs, the comfort level discussing injuries returns to normal. Kyle McLaren has been a scratch since game one of the Providence series due to a broken foot, suffered during game three against Hartford. T.J. Fox has been playing through a shoulder injury suffered against Hartford in game five, and Brendan Buckley was obviously slowed by a knee injury suffered in that same game.

The loss drops Worcester's record to 2-2 in games where they face elimination.

PRO 2 3 0 - 5
WOR 0 1 0 - 1

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Providence, Marchand 5 (Sobotka, St. Pierre), 4:59 (pp). 2, Providence, Arniel 1 (Schaefer, Marquardt), 10:05
Penalties: Demers Wor (goaltender interference), 1:50; Westgarth Wor (tripping), 4:04; Marchand Pro (charging), 10:32; Staubitz Wor (goaltender interference), 14:45.

2nd Period
Scoring: 3, Providence, MacDonald 3 (Reich, McQuaid), 5:32. 4, Providence, Knackstedt 2 (Hamill, Nelson), 13:29. 5, Providence, St. Pierre 5 (Sobotka, Marchand), 14:10 (pp). 6, Worcester, Desjardins 4 (Traverse), 19:48 (sh)
Penalties: Reich Pro (fighting), 13:44; Armstrong Wor (major - boarding, major - spearing, game misconduct - spearing, game misconduct - boarding), 13:44; Staubitz Wor (fighting), 13:44.

3rd Period
No Scoring
Penalties: Bodnarchuk Pro (hooking), 7:17; Desjardins Wor (cross-checking), 19:00; McLaren Wor (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:00.

Shots on Goal
Providence 9-15-6-30
Worcester 11-13-11-35.

Power-play opportunities: Providence 2 of 7; Worcester 0 of 2.

Providence, Rask 8-3-0 (35 shots-34 saves); Nastiuk 0-0-0 (0 shots-0 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 6-6-0 (30 shots-25 saves).

A-1,819. Referees: Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen: Chris Libett (19), Brian MacDonald (72).

Blogger summit discusses Sharks playoff failure and offseason plans on the latest DOH Podcast

Five of the top Sharks bloggers converged for a summit on the latest Dudes on Hockey podcast recorded on Tuesday night. Hosts Mike Peattie and Doug Santana, who also run Sharks Hockey Analysis, lead a roundtable discussion on the Sharks early playoff exit and offseason plans that included Mike Chen of Kukla's Korner, Battle of California and Fox Sports, Jason Plank of Fear the Fin, and myself. Mike Peattie is also the co-host of ChompTalk on 1220AM KDOW Sunday night along with Chetan Chaudhari.

This was a very solid discussion that ranged from how the Sharks would have fared against a different first round opponent, whether or not the team has a leadership problem on or off the ice, which players are going to come back to next season and which aren't, there was speculation on offseason acquisitions (Chris Neal, Ian Lapierre, Nik Antropov, Jarome Iginla, Jessica Alba), discussions about goaltending, and which questions should be asked at tonight's State of the Sharks event.

One of the best topics focused on whether former head coach Ron Wilson received too much of the blame for past postseason failures. The bloggers reached a consensus about rookie head coach Todd McLellan's ability to get the most out of this team, and the Northern California hockey blogosphere gave him a strong vote of confidence moving forward. The bloggers also universally rejected Greg Wyshynski's Chris Drury for Patrick Marleau proposal. "Half the production, but he will be inspirational," Doug Santana said slapping down the first in what will be a string of ill advised trade rumors that are sure to beseige the Sharks captain this offseason.

Driving down from Lake Tahoe to San Jose for the State of the Sharks event, will post more soon.

[Update] Notes and transcripts from the 2005 State of the Sharks event and 2008 State of the Sharks event are available on Sharkspage.

[Update2] Success starts at blue line for Detroit, Anaheim - Larry Wigge for

When I started to write this column, I remembered how St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray told me a short time ago how he felt building from the defense out was the key to success in the National Hockey League.

"We are all constantly at work trying to figure out who we have as our No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 defensemen," Murray told me before mentioning the names Niedermayer and Pronger. "But they are the only team that has all four of those spots in just two players."

[Update3] No increase in season-ticket prices, but no decision yet on single-game sales - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Max Giese: Sharks Top 20 Prospects and Profiles

San Jose Sharks top prospect list Jamie McGinn Max Giese

1. Logan Couture, C
2. Jamie McGinn, LW
3. Nick Petrecki, D
4. Thomas Greiss, G
5. Derek Joslin, D
6. Mike Moore, D
7. Steven Zalewski, C
8. Alex Stalock, G
9. Jason Demers, D
10. Tyson Sexsmith, G
11. Justin Daniels, C
12. Tommy Wingels, C
13. Kevin Henderson, LW
14. Justin Braun, D
15. Samuel Groulx, D
16. Julien Demers, D
17. Harri Sateri, G
18. Frazer McLaren, LW
19. Joe Loprieno, D
20. Brandon Mashinter, LW

1. Logan Couture, C, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds
Undoubtedly the top prospect in the Sharks organization, Couture is a cunning and mature two-way center with a polished play making touch and deft hand skill. “The kid is a solid hockey player” says San Jose Sharks director of scouting Tim Burke. His hockey sense is through the roof and this will allow him to play in all-situations. “Logan is a slot player, meaning you can play him anywhere at any time” Burke says of the former Ottawa 67s star. Couture has an endearing work-ethic and is future captain material both on and off of the ice. Making a good F1 on the forecheck, Couture also doesn’t hesitate to go to the net. He will never be a great skater and that is really the only knock on his game, although his mobility progressed forward a great deal this season to where he now owns a deceptive change of gears. “He’s always in the right place at the right time, so obviously getting there somehow” jokes Burke while dismissing Couture’s skating issues. He still needs to work on his balance and add some strength so he isn’t so easily pushed off of the puck. More than anything Couture just needs experience in the pro-game, something he received in Worcester late in the year and in the playoffs which helped accelerate his development even more. “It’s difficult to put fresh kids in to a playoff team, but Logan has made the team better and is a key cog on a strong line right now” said Burke. He impressed the Sharks brass during his time in Worcester with his skill, grit, and defensive savvy.

2. Jamie McGinn, LW, 6-foot-0, 200 pounds
This character winger projects to be an energetic, top-six forward that can provide goal scoring and physicality. “The coaching staffs in both San Jose and Worcester love him” says Burke. A gritty scorer that is versatile enough to handle any role, McGinn plays bigger than his listed size and Burke describes him as a “deceptively powerful hitter”. He plays a heavy game down low in the offensive zone and is a warrior with a touch around the net. His skating continues to improve and his hockey sense might be his most underrated attribute. Jamie’s a natural leader that is good in the locker room and his name has been penciled in for next seasons opening lineup.

3. Nick Petrecki, D, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
A menacing physical force noted for his hulk like strength and frightening mean streak, Petrecki is also a phenomenal skater with remarkable buoyancy on his feet for a player of his size. Nick is a man child that one has to see live to truly appreciate the power he has on the ice. “He can skate, he’s physical, and he can shoot” says Tim Burke of the former Boston College defenseman. This past season in the NCAA he was so much stronger than everyone else and was getting too many penalties because of it, so the decision to sign and play in the AHL or NHL next season was the right move for his development. “He will be a better professional player than he was in college, players like him tend to be overaggressive but that’s fine” said Burke. He will need to work on his decision making with the puck and become more disciplined physically, although neither is severe enough to hold him back going forward. “His personality is to do anything it takes to help the team, he won’t hurt the team” says Burke making it clear they rather have to tone a player like Petrecki down than attempt to light a fire under someone. Petrecki will be a fan favorite for his destructive physical play and opponents will absolutely hate to play against him because he’ll have their forwards hearing footsteps all night.

4. Thomas Greiss, G, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
An athletic, aggressive butterfly goaltender with fast lateral movement, Greiss has a unique skill set that should translate into a number one goaltender in the NHL. “Greiss has been good, he’s ready for the NHL right now, he’s taken a lot of steps” says Burke. Greiss is a great skater with exceptional lateral quickness. He’s also a good puck handler that is bit of a hybrid between the pipes, mixing a calm demeanor with an at times aggressive approach. “Goaltending is so much about dealing with adversity because as a goaltender you’re going to get beaten down, Greiss has the calmness and ability to overcome that now” proclaims Burke. Greiss proactively challenges shooters and is a flexible athlete capable of making flashy kick or glove saves. His stock is high right now thanks to a hot streak late in the season that has carried over into the playoffs. Greiss has performed well in the AHL playoffs and seems to be able elevate his play in the big games.

5. Derek Joslin, D, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
A two-way defenseman that moves the puck and jumps up into the offensive rush, Joslin is also solid defensively and can play in all-situations. “He has earned Coach McLellan’s trust after spending 12 games with him this past season” says Burke. In only his second season in the AHL, Joslin made the all-star game and was clocked having the hardest shot in the league, which in games situations he does a nice job keeping it low and getting it on net. His game requires an added coat of polish to it yet and he needs to eliminate the stinker shifts that plague his game time-to-time. The Sharks management likes his feisty streak that has blossomed this year.

6. Mike Moore, D, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds
A thunderous hitter that is tough to play against, Moore is a special person and a good hockey player. “Moore has been everything we expected him to be, he’s been a mainstay in the lineup and is a physically ultra competitive defenseman” says Burke. He was one of Coach Sommer’s favorite players and was asked to shut down the oppositions top offensive threats every night alongside either Brett Westgarth or former San Jose Shark Kyle McLaren. Moore is a character guy that is good for the lockeroom and in the community. He’s a leader that is hard on himself and battles in practice. “He’s a special kid, a solid citizen that cares about and protects people” says Burke who also notes “he didn’t play but we called him up once already and believe he’s close (to being NHL ready)”. Moore just needs to make better, quicker decisions with the puck especially when under pressure in his own zone.

7. Steven Zalewski, C, 6-foot-0, 195 pounds
Zalewski is a promising prospect that didn’t really do anything wrong this year, but he seemed to hit a wall mid-season after a productive first half. “He got hurt and he’s a kid that never got hurt before” says Burke, who adamantly claims “he will do whatever the team needs to win; you need him to check he’ll check, he’s doing a lot of the things that teams need but don’t show on the stat sheet”. Zalewski is a detailed player that contributed on both special team units, but he struggled through some injuries and needs to work on his faceoffs. The Sharks are happy with his progress and Tim Burke thinks that Zalewski is playing much better now in the playoffs than he initially was coming off of the injuries.

8. Alex Stalock, G, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds
Stalock is nearly a clone of Marty Turco with the leadership of a Martin Brodeur. He’s a brilliant skater and puck handler that is blessed with high-end athleticism. “His first year in Duluth he had to deal and learn how to deal with adversity for the first time in his career” says Burke. Once reckless between the crease chasing after pucks and trying to do too much, Stalock has become more disciplined in his technique and was the best goalie in the NCAA last season. “He’s in Worcester right now and he’s ready to play there, our guys that are working with him are raving about him” says Burke. The Sharks scouting staff loves the fact that Stalock is a natural born leader and this translates to the ice where he always has his teammates fighting hard for him. “Al is a student of the game and simply loves hockey” said Burke. Stalock is also capable of stealing a game on his own and has a decorated history of getting hot in the playoffs and winning at every level. Looking forward Stalock will need to learn what it takes to be on his game every night and will have to become accustomed to the grind of professional hockey.

9. Jason Demers, D, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds
An offensively gifted defenseman who shines at moving the puck, Demers is not as strong in his own end but did improve this part of his game a great deal over the course of his rookie season in the AHL. Early in the year Demers was making some questionable decisions in the defensive end, especially down low, and held onto the puck too long at times. However, his decision making process sped up and he now makes better choices on the ice. “You could say that he’s coming faster than expected, but remember he’s already 20 years old and was the best defenseman in the Quebec league last year” Tim Burke says. A budding powerplay quarterback with a rapid slap shot from the point, Demers benefits from strong skating abilities and can feed his teammates with precise passes. He’s making similar strides to his development as a Derek Joslin and just needs to keep getting stronger. Demers is an underrated player defensively and physically, as he’s a fearless and gritty combatant. “He’s contributing in a lot of way helping this team to win” says Burke.

10. Tyson Sexsmith, G, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds
A goaltender with incredible mental toughness and competitiveness, Sexsmith has been much maligned by the local media in Canada because of the talent level of his team, but he has the tools to become a future leader in the net at the NHL level. As a former goaltender let me tell you, it’s more difficult seeing a few quality chances a game than it is receiving all of the action. Ask any player from the Vancouver Giants and they will tell you he was the MVP for their team this year in the playoffs. He’s mechanically polished, remains composed in tense situations, and has underrated athleticism. Sexsmith is very mature for his age (his girlfriend is 27 years old) and has dominated the WHL while shattering records for the last four seasons, the time is now for his next challenge.

11. Justin Daniels, C, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds
A finesse playmaker with a promising skill set, Daniels has the upside of a top-six forward, but it will require another 3-4 years of patience because he needs to add strength. “You’re going to have to give us a break on the Daniels’ twins” says Burke, citing that “they will be good players in a couple of years once they get stronger”. Justin’s outstanding vision and patience with the puck stand out most from his game, as he’s a terrific play maker. Daniels has soft hands and rangy puck handling skills that stimulate his ability to be slippery in congested areas and escape out of them in possession. He’s a swift skater that boasts good speed with the puck and long strides. Solid defensively and isn’t timid about physical play, but he severely needs to add more strength to fulfill his promise of becoming a skilled, playmaking centerman in the NHL.

12. Tommy Wingels, C, 6-foot-0, 190 pounds
Wingels won the Sharks scouting staff over last year at the NCAA tournament with his brilliant performance against Boston College. Once again this year Wingels was a force during the NCAA tournament and earned rave reviews for his performance at the Frozen Four. He’s your ideal third-liner in the NHL and is versatile enough to play center or wing. Wingels is strong defensively and a valued penalty killer. He’s not all that big, but he’s deceptively sturdy on his skates and on the puck because he moves his feet well to work off of checks. A hard-working character kid, Wingels can cycle the puck deep in the offensive zone and also provide timely offense.

13. Kevin Henderson, LW, 6-foot-3, 210 pounds Henderson is a big presence on the ice that knows how to use his massive frame to his advantage and will bulldoze his way to the net. “Henderson is a kid that we liked when he was in Junior with the Kitchener Rangers, he’s made a lot of progress since then and his team won the championship this year” says Burke. He has limited play-making ability, but he is known more as a two-way winger that can also score some goals. “He’s going to be a solid two-way center with some offense in the NHL” said Burke. Henderson is a hard worker and solid skater that excels on the penalty-kill. In his younger years he was regarded as a skill player, but to his credit he has rounded out his game well. A character player with a relentless work ethic, Henderson is a nice addition of depth to the organization and should see NHL duty in the near future because of his size and skating.

14. Justin Braun, D, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds
An undersized, savvy two-way defenseman that played nearly 30 minutes a night this past season as a junior. Braun boasts encompassing mobility and marries that with soft hands, enabling him to skate fluently with the puck and escape any dangers. He also has the offensive instincts and ability to see the ice to quarterback the powerplay. Braun’s defensive game improved immensely this past season and he conquers his lack of size with textbook positioning and astounding anticipation. That said, his smallish frame will always be a concern and it's a slight against his game that won't be disproved until he actually gets it done at the AHL or NHL level.

15. Samuel Groulx, D, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds
“He’s a solid defenseman that is difficult to play against” says Burke. Groulx is the type of player that is lined up against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is asked to shut them down every night. His strengths are his hockey sense and competitiveness, while his weaknesses are his lack of strength and a funny skating stride. “His skating is just okay” says Burke noting Groulx just needs to get a little bit lower in his stride. Groulx stands at 6-foot-2 185 pounds right now and has been successfully putting on muscle since the Sharks drafted him. His coach in Quebec Patrick Roy loves him and Groulx is in a good spot for his development right now.

16. Julien Demers, D, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds
A physically attractive two-way defenseman that saw all facets of his game improve this past season. He was the Ottawa 67’s key shut-down defenseman and was also capable of creating offensive chances. Defending well deep within his own zone, Demers uses his size to lean on guys and his agility and quick hands to flick the puck out of harms way. Naturally aggressive and does a good job neutralizing his man in front and intimidating the opposition without taking bad penalties. His vision and hockey sense are just average, although his agility and footwork have come a long way and he has made considerable leaps in his development.

17. Harri Sateri, G, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds
The Sharks are very high on Sateri and were surprised to be able to select him in the fourth round a year ago. An NHL scout outside of the Sharks organization says Sateri reminds him of Curtis Joseph. He’s a quick, classically trained butterfly goaltender out of Finland. “People don’t give him enough credit for the year he had, he played in a top men’s league on a poor team and put up good numbers” says Burke. Sateri’s lateral movement is fast and his athleticism allows him to make sprawling saves. He’s also an intelligent goaltender with a polished technique that just needs to eliminate the occasional softy he is prone too and he must become more difficult to beat up high. Sateri had a great year in Finland playing against grown men and impressed scouts with his performance against Sweden at the World Junior Championships, and many were confused why Finland gave up on him after just one bad game against the Russians.

18. Frazer McLaren, LW, 6-foot-5, 225 pounds
A player that didn’t give himself enough credit early in the year, McLaren acted as the Worcester Sharks’ enforcer and set a franchise record for fighting majors in a season. In the fourth quarter of the season Frazer blossomed into a force while contributing with key performances down the stretch and into the playoffs. "Frazer is a tough kid that will go to the net" says Sharks scout Pat Funk. He’s huge man that knows how to fight and land body checks that energize his squad. McLaren is solid defensively and can kill penalties. His long reach and active stick lead to him disrupting the oppositions passing lanes. Frazer is going to need to work on his quickness, but he does go to the net and was stationed there late in the season on the powerplay. McLaren will be an effective NHLer if he reaches his potential to be a force along the boards.

19. Joe Loprieno, D, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

A big, physical stay at home defenseman, Loprieno joins the Sharks organization after captaining Merrimack last season. “He’s a big, physical defenseman that shoots hard and has a physical nature to him” says Burke. Loprieno loves to look for big hits, is physical in the corners, and is tough in front of his net. “We wanted a big defenseman with a right handed shot and he fills that for us” says Burke. A valued penalty killer that uses his long reach well, Loprieno is a decent to good skater that just needs to work on his quickness. He’s never going to be an offensive defenseman and won’t play on the powerplay, although his transition game and first pass saw marked improvements over the last couple of seasons. After logging a ton of ice time in college, he projects as a defensive 5th-or-6th defenseman in the NHL. Loprieno has already participated at a Sharks prospects camp and was heavily sought after by the Boston Bruins before decided to sign with San Jose.

20. Brandon Mashinter, LW, 6-foot-3, 224 pounds
A colossal winger that could make a living chucking the knuckles, Mashinter also excels in a bump and grind role that makes life difficult for the opposition. “He is more of a physical force and a huge kid, but with added ice time he produced more offensively and he has some ability” says Burke. Mashinter’s skating isn’t great and he needs to keep working on his acceleration, although he can chew up a lot of ice with just a couple of strides. A big, physical winger that creates with his size and adds a presence to the ice that opens up room for his line mates, Mashinter is also a great kid with a lot of character that will dig in to do what it takes to improve.

Miscellaneous quotes from Tim Burke and thoughts from Max Giese

- No prospect was more of a disappointment in the Sharks system this year than Matt Jones, although injuries played a major role in that. “This kid had some bad luck, in his first year he gets a broken jaw and a concussion” says Burke. A year removed from being a productive scorer at Merrimack College and having a successful 6 game stint with Worcester, Jones took steps backwards in his development this season and couldn’t even hold down a spot on Worcester’s fourth-line. Jones is a big winger that has some skill and can score, but this year his offensive production was dismal. The Sharks still like Jones “we think he will come back strong next year and have a good season” said Burke.

- Riley Armstrong has looked very good down the stretch in Worcester and might scrap his way into the opening night lineup for San Jose next fall. He’s much more composed with the puck and has even been on the point for the powerplay occasionally. Riley is an agitator that goes to the net and finishes all of his checks. If not with San Jose, expect him to get a look in the NHL somewhere else next season.

- Tim Burke on Nick Petrecki: “He’s in Worcester right now after finishing up his school. He’s practicing with the team so he can see it and get a feel for it. Worcester was a hot team late in the season and we didn’t want to disrupt any of that to get the kids in to play”.

- Tim Burke on goaltending: “Goalies do so much routine work during the game that goes unnoticed. They either get all the credit for the win or get ridiculed for a loss. Its tough being a goalie, just look a Luongo, everyone is blaming him for the loss while the other goalie gave up 5 goals too. I love goalies and not everything they do well results in a save. For example, if a goalie is in good positioning and forces the player to pass instead of shoot, he’s done his job. In basketball if a guy sticks his arm up in the air and forces his man to pass off the ball people say its good defense, so why doesn’t a goalie get credit for this? I was in New Jersey for Martin Brodeurs first training camp and he couldn't get the pucks. It was good that he dealt with adversity early in his career. We sent him back to junior and he never complained. He was stuck on a crappy team and he wanted to take someone’s head off because he was frustrated from losing, just look at his numbers with St. Hyacinthe.”

- Tim Burke on Patrick Zackrisson: “He had a pretty good year. In fact, he made it on to the national team and played in some exhibition games. Now that doesn’t guarantee that he will be player in the NHL, but it’s often a good sign when their national team likes him and it helps his progress. We will see what happens next year, but there is no rush to bring him or Sateri over right now”.

- Tim Burke on the 2008 Draft Class: “We don’t get excited just after one year out. Many of these kids are facing new challenges and experiences. Some guys need to get physically stronger to see what they got, while other players are more mature and go right back to juniors and play well. Each guy is different and right now it’s more important that they are taking steps in their development".

- Tim Burke on Lukas Kaspar: “He’s playing well in the playoffs. He’s on the first line, top powerplay, and is killing penalties. He got in a number of games with San Jose this year and we won while he was there. None of our kids received a lot of ice time, so it’s not fair to knock him for not putting up big numbers in San Jose. He’s making progress and he does a lot of things that help teams win, but the contribution he makes to a team doesn’t always translate into points. You watch, if someone gave him a consistent spot in the NHL he would contribute in a lot of ways. There have been a lot of teams calling about him. People wonder why we didn’t play him more with San Jose, well I think our 117 point season justifies that it wasn’t an easy lineup to crack. Kaspar understands that he needs to play a well rounded team game and he’s doing that”.

- Tim Burke on Mike Morris: “The injuries and bad luck this kid has had, it’s just a shame. The concussions and torn labrum are devastating injuries. We probably won’t know until July if he’s going to be able to play next year. We had Morris in the NHL exhibition games on the powerplay with Joe Thornton and Mike was running the powerplay. We were watching him and thinking wow! Based on performance we were going to keep him, but we didn’t want to put him there until he was 100%. So, we sent him back to Worcester where he began the season on fire and then he gets hurt again. It’s just a shame, he’s a great player that makes great plays and those around him better”.

[Update] Max Giese is also the Director of Scouting for McKeen's Hockey magazine. Their 2009 Draft Preview publication with scouting reports on the top 90 eligible players, in-depth analysis of the projected top 2 picks John Tavares and Victor Hedman, 3 mock drafts, a comprehensive Max Giese review of the World Under-18 Championships (where Max spoke with a large chunk of the Sharks scouting department), and features on prospects John Moore, Calvin Pickard and Taylor Hall is available for preorder as of yesterday. The 40-page draft guide is available for $39.99 (US), and ships the first week of June.

[Update2] P-Bruins win, can end it in Worcester - Worcester Telegram.

One of the beautiful things about playoff hockey is that there’s no political correctness anywhere. Take hatred, for instance. Not only is it not discouraged, it’s recommended, and there’s plenty of it to go around in this Calder Cup series between the Sharks and the Providence Bruins.

The Bruins won last night’s game here, 4-3, and now lead the series, 3-2. Worcester is one loss away from elimination, with the next game tomorrow night at 7:05 at the DCU Center.

[Note] Heights and weights added via the Sharks April prospect report (word .doc file), and

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks, Greiss Shutout Providence To Even Series

The Worcester Sharks, behind Thomas Greiss' second career playoff shutout, defeated the Providence Bruins 1-0 Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in game four of their best of seven American Hockey League Atlantic Division finals series. The series is now knotted at 2-2, with game five coming Monday night in Providence. Game six will be back in Worcester Wednesday.

The WorSharks came out firing, and would grab the only goal of the game at 4:41 of the first period. Patrick Traverse lost control of the puck in the Providence zone during a rush up ice as Worcester changed players behind him, and he would follow the lose puck to the half boards. As Traverse regained control he found Tom Cavanagh in the slot, and Cavanagh took the pass from Traverse and rifled a wrister just under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead.

Despite the ice being tilted toward the Providence zone for the rest of the period, Worcester couldn't get another past P-Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. Providence, who was outshot 14-2 in the opening stanza, did manage to get one past WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss just over seven minutes into the period, but Martin St. Pierre's laser from about 30' rang squarely off the post and bounced away harmlessly.

Providence would have their best chance to pull even in the second period when they had a five on three advantage for 1:16 after Andrew Desjardins was off for interference and Brett Westgarth fired a clearing attempt over the glass for the automatic delay of game minor. But the Baby-Bs could get just a single shot off against Greiss--a long, unscreened slapshot that hit Greiss squarely in the chest--as Worcester killed off the power play.

With the last two games having altercations that involved all the players on the ice, fans were certain that it would happen again in game four. The only question was when, and that question was answered at 12:11 of the second period.

After an offside call at the Baby-Bs blue line, all ten players would get together in the corner to the right of Rask. The linesmen separated the players and referee David Banfield called Worcester's Dan DaSilva and Providence's Brad Marchand for matching roughing minors.

While they were being led to the penalty benches the fire flared up again in the corner and the remaining eight players all paired off. The only "official" fight was the WorSharks Jamie McGinn and the P-Bruins Vladimir Sobotka, and McGinn got the take down in an otherwise even bout. As that was going on, Adam McQuaid went after Westgarth. Westgarth easily took care of McQuaid, taking him to the ice. With no linesman available to break the tilt up, and referee Banfield standing by watching, Westgarth didn't throw a punch at the helpless McQuaid, but instead simply held him down waiting for the linesmen to break-up the McGinn/Sobotka altercation.

For a reason no one can fathom, Westgarth received a roughing minor and misconduct while MacQuaid, who started the altercation, received just a misconduct.

Worcester would have a golden chance to grab an insurance marker after a Rask delay of game minor and a crosscheck called against Andrew Bodnarchuk gave the WorSharks a five on three for 33 seconds. But Worcester couldn't capitalize and the game headed to the second intermission 1-0.

The third period was a mirror opposite of the first, with Providence outshooting the WorSharks 13-3 and having numerous scoring chances as the Worcester defense collapsed around Greiss. Greiss made several great saves in the period, some made more difficult as Worcester players began diving all over the ice blocking Providence shots. The biggest blocked shot came from Jason Demers, who made a save from just outside the crease after Greiss was down and out after a huge save.

The game was in doubt until just the very end, when a missed pass by Providence resulted in an icing call with six seconds left. The Baby-Bs were unable to mount one more rush as they were trapped in their zone as time expired.

Worcester went with the same line-up as game three.

Providence dressed enforcer Jonathan Tremblay for warm-ups, and several times he tried to get under Frazer McLaren's skin. McLaren stayed on his side of the red line, and after some prompting by some of the vets on the squad, soon ignored Tremblay. Tremblay then set his eyes on Brad Staubitz, who jawed back at Tremblay for a few seconds and then began laughing at him. Not surprisingly, Tremblay did not dress for Providence for the game.

Alex Stalock has finally ditched his gold goalie pads of Minnesota-Duluth for the white/teal/orange combination of the Sharks. They seemed to work well as his ability to open and close the bench door in his new pads looked unaffected by the change.

The crowd was announced at 3019, but it sure sounded--and looked--like many more fans than that. Even with a huge contingent of Bruins fans at the game it was one of the loudest games of the season. Several times the Bruins fans in attendance attempted to chant loudly for their team, and each time they were easily drowned out by the fans of team teal.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Greiss (26 save shutout)
2. Cavanagh (gwg)
3. Rask (26 saves)

PRO 0 0 0 - 0
WOR 1 0 0 - 1

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, Cavanagh 3 (Traverse, Armstrong), 4:41 Penalties: St. Pierre Pro (roughing), 7:15; Staubitz Wor (roughing), 9:38; Boychuk Pro (interference), 13:14.

2nd Period
No Scoring
Penalties:Desjardins Wor (interference), 5:00; Westgarth Wor (delay of game), 5:44; Marchand Pro (roughing), 12:11; McQuaid Pro (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:11; Sobotka Pro (fighting), 12:11; DaSilva Wor (roughing), 12:11; McGinn Wor (fighting), 12:11; Westgarth Wor (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:11; Rask Pro (delay of game - served by MacDonald), 14:26; Bodnarchuk Pro (cross-checking), 15:53.

3rd Period
No Scoring
Penalties-Cavanagh Wor (high-sticking), 5:36.

Shots on Goal
Providence 2-11-13-26
Worcester 14-10-3-27.

Power-play opportunities: Providence 0 of 5; Worcester 0 of 4.

Providence, Rask 6-3-0 (27 shots-26 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 6-4-0 (26 shots-26 saves).

A-3,019. Referees: David Banfield (44). Linesmen: Chris Libett (19), Todd Whittemore (19).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Team boxing on display as Fight Night at the Tank shifts to developmental showcase for a night, Team Blue downs Team Red 4-1

American Metal and Iron Fight Night at the Tank boxing Clint Coronel
Fan favorite Melissa McMorrow lands a left hook against Jolene Blackshear
Chico California boxing professional debut Moris Rodriguez win majority decision

For the first time in Fight Night at the Tank's lengthy history an entire card featured a slate of 14 up-and-coming boxers paired off into two teams. Each team received 1 point for a win, with an extra point for a knockout. The winning team split a $2100 bonus, with individual bonuses going towards the quickest knockout of the night ($500), and the AMI Cup and fight of the night bonus ($1000) going to the audience awarded "You be the Judge" winning boxer.

It was a gamble not having a headline main event, but the matchmaking was solid and nearly three thousand vocal fans kept the atmosphere lively. The opening bout went into the books as Sharkspage's fight of the night. Moris Rodriguez of Chico faced Eduardo Herrera of Bakersfield as each boxer made their professional debut. Rodriguez knocked Herrera stiff early in the first round, then stunned him with a left that put him to the canvas late in the round. In the second round Herrera came plodding forward with long, heavy right hands. A cut over his right eye, and power punches by Herrera slowed the footwork of Rodriguez considerably.

Herrera staggered Rodriguez early in the third round, but a series of quick counter-left hooks backed him off. Rodriguez was able to duck inside of the slow, looping right hands but one connected early in the fourth and he was out on his feet along the ropes. Rodriguez held on until there was 30 seconds left in the 4 round fight. Herrera connected with a straight right that sent Morris to the canvas. The Chico native picked himself up and delivered one last flurry en route to a 38-35, 36-37, 38-36 split decision win.

Oakland's Miguel Lopez took control of his fight with San Jose's David "Ali" Contreras early. A knockdown early in the second round forced Contreras to hold on to try to regain his composure. Instead, Lopez rag dolled him around the ring and landed several short powerful punches. Contreras took a knee, but referee Dan Stell stopped the fight. Miguel Lopez earned fight of the night honors from the crowd at HP Pavilion.

A heavily tattoo'd Ricky Duenas stalked San Jose's Efrain Rivera in the third fight of the night. The imposing Duenas methodically tried to cut off the ring. He dropped Rivera with a right hand in the first round, then tried to press the action. A combination staggered Rivera in the second round, and sent him sprawing to the canvas. The San Jose native struggled to get to his feet, but the corner stepped in to call off the fight.

The fourth fight between former California Golden Gloves champion Andrae Cathron of Hollywood and Pomona's Jay Horton was the only late replacement on the schedule. The 4-round heavyweight bout had a lot of fans inside HP Pavilion looking for a spectacular knockout. Cathron was the more active and vocal fighter in the ring. After the first round many in the stands were repeating the "Shoomp, shoomp" noises he made while throwing a punch.

Cathron had his work cut out for him against a giant yet game 278-pound Horton. Horton landed a monster left hook early that seemed to pick up Cathron in the center of the ring and place him 4 feet closer to the ropes. Cathron used his mobility and speed to land a majority of punches early. Both boxers tumbled to the canvas early in the first round and received a stern warning from the referee. A long, looping left hand knocked Horton down at the end of the first.

The second began with several more "shoomp, shoomps", as Cathron piled up the punches. He ducked under a slow jab from Horton and landed the biggest overhand right of the night, drawing a loud reaction from the crowd. Horton wobbled, his pace slowed, but he came forward swinging seconds later. Horton got his second wind in the third roung. Storming forward, it took only one punch to stun the much smaller fighter. Andrae Cathron bravely held on, and moved around the ring until his legs were under him again. He connected with a right hand behind the head that dropped Horton, but the referee waived off the illegal punch.

Even at the highest ranks of the division, heavyweights often have problems gassing in later rounds of a fight. Cathron and Horton looked like their gloves weighed 50 pounds each in the fourth round, while fans cheered on a knockout to end the fight. The cumulative affects of Horton's bombs slowed Cathron down in the fourth round, but he still could not catch up to the quicker fighter. Andrae Cathron earned a unanimous decision, 40-34, 40-34, 40-34.

Melissa McMorrow was featured in a San Jose Mercury News article on Tuesday, Petite boxer aims for the big time. The attention garnered the 2006 National Golden Gloves Champion one of the loudest receptions as she entered the ring with a smile. The younger McMorrow was more active and agile in the first round, pushing the pace early. She was in against a solid veteran in former IFBA Flyweight champion Jolene Blackshear. Blackshear was more conservative, with straight ahead punches while moving straight forward.

Blackshear was looking for a hole, and she found one in the second round. As McMorrow threw a left hook, she dropped her hands. A straight right by Blackshear sent McMorrow to the mat in a heap. McMorrow quickly tried to regain her feet, and Blackshear knocked her down again drawing a 1-point deduction from referee Ray Balewicz. McMorrow tried to use offense as the best defense, but Blackshear landed another right hand to put her down for a second time. McMorrow, looking a little panicked, tried to land a combination in the corner as Blackshear knocked her down a third time with the same right hand in tight (fourth knockdown including the penalty).

After the round her corner pleaded with McMorrow to keep her left hand up high, and for the remainder of the fight it was almost glued to her cheek. Blackshear was calculating, trying to pick apart her opponent from outside but she allowed McMorrow too much time to recover. Blackshear's last fight was on February 11th, 2000, an eight year and three month absence, but both fighters finished with furious flurries. McMorrow connected flush with several short hooks, but it was not enough to pull out a come from behind victory. The judges labeled it a majority draw, 36-37, 36-36, 36-36. Sharkspage gave a close decision to Blackshear 37-36, even with the 1 point deduction.

The second to last fight of the night featured former Strikeforce/IFL mma veteran and Shamrock MMA instructor Clint "The Aztec" Coronel against a tall Ruben Rivera of Los Angeles. Former Strikeforce and UFC champion Frank Shamrock was in the corner of Coronel, and many local crossover fans were in attendance to lend their support.

Coronel stormed forward early in the first, often throwing looping punches with his head down. Rivera had the height and reach advantage, but his footwork and lack of head movement left a stationary target for "The Aztec". A body shot near the end of the round bent over Rivera, and an uppercut straightened him up, but neither boxer could press an advantage.

In the second hand Clint is blocking a number of punches with his elbows tight, and bobbing up and down and side to side with excellent head movement. Rivera tries to measure Coronel from outside, but does not pull the trigger enough leaving for a technical round two. The pace picks up in round three. Coronel is able to evade 2 punches, but a third snaps his head back and sprays the front row photographers with leftover water. Rivera also ducks 2 punches, but is hit square in the face with a straight third. The back-and-fourth continues, but both boxers slow down and it becomes a little sloppy at the end of the round.

The fourth begins with each fighter looking for the smallest of edges. They both trade in tight, looking to land power punches early. Rivera pulled back, then landed a straight right followed by a solid uppercut. A bloody Clint Coronel is bobbing from side to side, looking to land the counter left hook. Both fighters stand directly in front of each other, trading until the final bell rings. The judges scored the fight 38-38, 38-38, 38-38.

The final Jr. Welterweight bout between San Francisco's Alex Paracha and Adrian Tait was the most evenly matched of the night. Tait came on strong early, looking to land power punches and dictate the flow of the fight early. Paracha was able to slow down Tait with movement, and stop him cold by constantly tying him up in close. Fans became very vocal in the second and third rounds, trying to spur on either fighter to gain an advantage. It was Tait getting his arms around Paracha for long stretches. The fourth round was a discombobulated effort from both sides, and the judges awarded Paracha a 39-37, 39-38, 38-38 majority decision. Team Blue defeated Team Red 4-1 in the team boxing contest.

2-time heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs, San Jose's Ricardo Cortes, WBC/WIBA women's champion Carina Moreno, and local standouts Jesus Rodriguez and Eloy Perez were also in attendance. Shannon Briggs complimented the Roy Englebrecht promoted team boxing concept. "Great concept, great idea by the promoter, and with the Sharks... I will be back here again," Briggs told the audience.

An official event recap is available via A ringside photo gallery from Jon Swenson is available here.

Official results:

AMI Fight Night at the Tank: The Next Chapter
HP Pavilion - San Jose, CA - May 7, 2009

Alex Paracha (3-0, 2 KOs) def. Adrian Tait (2-1-1, 1 KO), MJD-RND4

Clint Coronoel (0-0-1) draw Ruben Rivera (1-0-1), D-RND4

Melissa McMorrow (2-0-1) draw Jolene Blackshear (4-2-1, 2 KOs), MJD-RND4

Andrae Cathron (2-1-1) def. Jay Horton (4-3), UD-RND4

Ricky Duenas (2-1, 1 KO) def Efrain Rivera (1-1), TKO-RND2

Miguel Lopez (1-0, 1 KO) def. David Contreras (0-2), TKO-RND2

Moris Rodriguez (1-0) def. Eduardo Herrera (0-1), MJD-RND4

- Team Blue won the team competition defeating Team Red 4-1, with 2 draws.
- Miguel Lopez was the winner of "You Be The Judge" fight of the night contest.
- Attendance: 2,924

[Update] Young Pros Entertain in San Jose - Mario Ortega Jr. for

[Update2] Blackshear Wins by Decision in her return to the ring - WBAN.

On May 7th, on the Fight Night at the Tank, held at the HP Pavilion, in San Jose, California, Jolene Blackshear who retired from boxing in 2000, came back to the sport in "fighting" order when she took on talented undefeated boxer Melissa McMorrow.

The two did not disappoint boxing fans, and went toe to toe with each other. It was reported to WBAN that Blackshear managed to drop McMorrow three times in the second round and kept up the pace with her devastating straight right hand.

The shocker came at the end of the fight, when the four-rounder was declared a draw. After it was discovered that there was a error on made, the fight was ultimately declared a win for Blackshear. more to come

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Defeat Providence 5-3

The Worcester Sharks, who had never lead at any point during the first two games of their American Hockey League Divisional Finals series against the Providence Bruins, never trailed during game three in a 5-3 victory over the Baby-Bs Friday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The WorSharks still trail their Route 146 rivals two games to one in the best of seven series, with game four coming Saturday night back in Worcester.

Worcester would grab their first goal on the power play at 14:10 of the opening period when Patrick Traverse tracked down a lose puck at the half boards to the right of Providence goaltender Tuukka Rask, and blasted a shot that snuck through on the short side to light the lamp. Derek Joslin and Ryan Vesce had the assists on the play.

Worcester would make it 2-0 on a nice goal from T.J. Fox with just under a minute to go in the opening stanza. Brad Staubitz would send Fox in along the left side with Steven Zalewski streaking down the center to create a two on one. Fox held the puck until the defender committed and wristed a laser just under the crossbar to carry the momentum into period number two.

That momentum would last a whole ten seconds into the second period after a Jeff Penner shot was deflected by Brad Marchand and past WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss to cut the lead in half.

Worcester would regain the two goal lead on a quick turnover. Andrew Desjardins has stationed himself just to the right of Rask on the forecheck. Desjardins was able to steal the puck from Baby-Bs defenseman Johnny Boychuck and flipped it past Rask at 4:40 before Rask could even make a move to save the shot.

Providence would make it 3-2 on a power play tally by Penner after he took a feed from Martin St. Pierre at 7:55.

Worcester would again regain their two goal lead at 11:55 of the third period after a Rask save on a Vesce shot put Rask down and out. Jamie McGinn jumped on the lose puck and flipped it into the yawning net while Rask scrambled to get back to the far post. Lukas Kaspar had the second assist on the tally.

As in game two, tempers would flare late in the third period with Rask sitting on the bench, and all 11 skaters on the ice were involved. Inexplicably, referee Kyle Rehman called Worcester for an extra minor, putting Providence on the power play with a minute to go. It would take Mikko Lehtonen just five seconds to light the lamp, drawing Providence within one.

Riley Armstrong would net an empty net goal just after Rask had stepped on the ice for a second time at 19:26 for the 5-3 final.

Worcester had one line-up change from game two, with T.J. Fox returning to action after missing three games. Cory Larose was scratched in his place.

Worcester had an optional pregame skate Friday morning, and every player participated. That pretty much says all you need to know about this team.

How important is getting the first goal of the game? In the 58 playoffs games so far the team that scored first is 46-12. Worcester and Providence are both 4-0 when scoring first in the playoffs.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Desjardins (g)
2. Penner (g,a)
3. Vesce (2a)

Even Strength Lines


WOR 2 1 2 - 5
PRO 0 2 1 - 3

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, Traverse 3 (Joslin, Vesce), 14:10 (pp). 2, Worcester, Fox 3 (Staubitz, Zalewski), 19:01
Penalties: Armstrong Wor (hooking), 6:10; Hamill Pro (hooking), 8:34; McQuaid Pro (high-sticking), 13:04; Buckley Wor (roughing), 15:36; Stokes Pro (hooking, roughing), 15:36.

2nd Period
Scoring: 3, Providence, Marchand 4 (Penner, Sobotka), 0:10. 4, Worcester, Desjardins 3 (unassisted), 4:40. 5, Providence, Penner 1 (St. Pierre, Sobotka), 7:55 (pp)
Penalties: Fox Wor (interference), 7:21; Fox Wor (hooking), 10:03; Marchand Pro (hooking), 12:52.

3rd Period
Scoring: 6, Worcester, McGinn 3 (Vesce, Kaspar), 11:39. 7, Providence, Lehtonen 1 (Marchand, Hamill), 19:05 (pp). 8, Worcester, Armstrong 2 (unassisted), 19:26 (en)
Penalties: McGinn Wor (roughing, slashing), 19:00; Moore Wor (fighting), 19:00; Vesce Wor (roughing, misconduct), 19:00; Westgarth Wor (roughing, misconduct), 19:00; Boychuk Pro (fighting), 19:00; Reich Pro (roughing, misconduct), 19:00; Sobotka Pro (roughing, misconduct), 19:00; St. Pierre Pro (slashing), 19:00.

Shots on Goal:
Worcester 11-14-6-31
Providence 9-7-12-28.

Power-play opportunities: Worcester 1 of 4; Providence 2 of 4.

Worcester, Greiss 5-4-0 (28 shots-25 saves)
Providence, Rask 6-2-0 (30 shots-26 saves).

A-5,167. Referees: Kyle Rehman (37). Linesmen: Brian MacDonald (72), Mark Messier (12).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Drop Game Two, 4-2

The Worcester Sharks, despite some incredible play by goaltender Thomas Greiss, dropped game two of their American Hockey League Atlantic Division finals series against the Providence Bruins after a 4-2 loss Wednesday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. The WorSharks now trail the best of seven series 2-0.

If there was any rust due to the eight day layoff between games one and two it was quickly removed as both teams threw big hits and had great scoring chances in the opening stanza. Worcester had the edge in shots for the period, seven to five, but it was Providence's last shot of the period with 56.1 seconds remaining in the stanza that lit the lamp. After a Worcester turnover at their blueline and a missed sweep check by Mike Moore, P-Bruins forward Vladimir Sobotka would throw a cross ice pass to Martin St. Pierre in the slot. St. Pierre fired a wrist shot past Greiss to light the lamp.

The WorSharks would tie the game on a couple of great individual efforts. As Providence defenseman Adam McQuaid was going behind the P-Bruins net for a lose puck with Tom Cavanagh giving chase, Cavanagh was just able to get a stick on it keeping the puck behind Providence netminder Tuukka Rask's net. Logan Couture was able to fight off defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk to claim the puck, and Couture fed Riley Armstrong all alone in front of Rask. Armstrong's one-timer bear Rask clean to knot the game 1-1 at 3:42 of the second.

Providence would retake the lead at 7:36 of the period while skating with a two man advantage. With Armstrong off for goaltender interference--a borderline call at best--and Moore off for an automatic delay of game minor for shooting the puck into the crowd in the defensive zone, Johnny Boychuk would connect on a one-timer as Boychuck, St. Pierre, and Mikko Lehtonen played tic-tac-toe around the outnumbered WorSharks. Penalty killer Frazer McLaren managed to get a piece of the blast, but not enough to prevent the power play tally.

It would take many huge saves by Greiss to keep the score 2-1, including stopping a two on none break in after Peter Schaefer stole the puck from Brett Westgarth along the boards and entered the zone with Brad Marchand. Schaefer fed Marchand for a point blank blast that not only did Greiss save, but he didn't allow a rebound. After the whistle Westgarth gave Greiss a tap on the pads thanking the netminder for bailing him out.

Greiss would make another great save when Zach Hamill took another feed by Schaefer all alone in the slot. Hamill fired a hard wrister that Greiss got just enough of top keep out of the net, and as Hamill jumped on the rebound Couture came out of no where to deflect the return shot wide as Greiss dove back into the crease.

Worcester would fail to covert on several great chances, and it would come back to haunt them when Kirk MacDonald took a feed into the WorSharks zone and skated around Derek Joslin, beating Greiss low to the stick side at 5:15 of the third period.

The WorSharks would get within a goal at 11:31 of the period when Dan Dasilva took a Frazer McLaren drop pass just inside the blue line and held the puck waiting for a screen to develop. That screen turned out to be Providence's McQuaid, and DaSilva fired a laser to the upper corner over Rask's glove to make it 3-2.

But that's as close as Worcester would get, and a Wacey Rabbit empty netter would seal the WorSharks' fate. Worcester gets a chance to rebound Friday night in Providence when game three continues the alternating home game series.

The game ended with both teams racking up the penalty minutes. On the ensuing face-off after Rabbit's goal Sabotka and Jamie McGinn would get into it, with each drawing a ten minute misconduct. While that was going on Frazer McLaren and MacDonald introduced themselves to each other, and would drop the gloves in the Worcester zone later in their shift. As that was going on play continued for a few seconds as Brendan Buckley tried to stuff a rebound in after Rask had covered the puck.

What resulted was one linesman trying to break up the McLaren/MacDonald tilt and one down the opposite end as Buckley and Westgarth were tied up with St. Pierre and Bodnarchuk. The four in the Providence zone would each earn themselves roughing minors and misconducts while McLaren and MacDonald would receive fighting majors.

Much of the tension that caused those altercations went back to the second period when referee Chris Ciamaga gave Providence's Ryan Stokes and Brad Marchand minors for roughing, and in an a move this writer unapologetically calls "gutless", gave Derek Joslin a double roughing minor to even things out.

Worcester made one change from game one, with Brendan Buckley taking the place of Kyle McLaren. It being the playoffs, there was no official word if an injury was the reason for the scratch.

The three stars of the game were:
1. St. Pierre (g,a)
2. Rask (22 saves)
3. Greiss (29 saves)
Honorable mention should go to Logan Couture for is overall play after a terrible game one.

Even Strength Lines


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

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Providence, St. Pierre 3 (Sobotka, Marchand), 19:03
Penalties: Stokes Pro (interference), 15:36.

2nd Period
Scoring: 2, Worcester, Armstrong 1 (Couture, Cavanagh), 3:42. 3, Providence, Boychuk 3 (St. Pierre, Lehtonen), 7:36 (pp)
Penalties: Armstrong Wor (goaltender interference), 7:12; Moore Wor (delay of game), 7:17; Marchand Pro (roughing), 9:52; Stokes Pro (roughing), 9:52; Joslin Wor (roughing, roughing), 9:52.

3rd Period
Scoring: 4, Providence, MacDonald 2 (Rabbit, Reich), 5:15. 5, Worcester, DaSilva 3 (Desjardins, McLaren), 11:31. 6, Providence, Rabbit 1 (Reich), 19:20 (en)
Penalties: Couture Wor (hooking), 6:34; Sobotka Pro (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:20; McGinn Wor (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:20; Bodnarchuk Pro (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:47; MacDonald Pro (fighting), 19:47; St. Pierre Pro (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:47; Buckley Wor (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:47; McLaren Wor (fighting), 19:47; Westgarth Wor (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:47.

Shots on Goal
Providence 5-14-14-33
Worcester 7-6-11-24.

Power-play opportunities: Providence 1 of 3; Worcester 0 of 1.

Providence, Rask 6-1-0 (24 shots-22 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 4-4-0 (32 shots-29 saves).

A-1,419. Referees: Chris Ciamaga (41). Linesmen: Frank Murphy (29), Jim Briggs (83).

Versus television analyst Brian Engblom holds conference call with bloggers on the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Wednesday afternoon Versus arranged for a handful of bloggers to hold a conference call with television analyst Brian Engblom. Engblom discussed what the Ovechkin-Crosby playoff matchup means to the NHL moving forward, surprises that have come to the fore this postseason, how Eric Staal has blossomed for the Carolina Hurricanes, how he believes a strict enforcement of the rules should be upheld throughout the playoffs, and how mistakes by referees are a living part of the game among other topics.

Audio of the conference call should be available on the VS podcast page soon. Engblom also answered a couple of questions from Sharkspage, his comments are below:

[Q] Who do you think has made a bigger impact for their team Simeon Varlamov or Jonas Hiller, and how are they going to react to the loss of (defenseman) John Erskine and James Wisniewski, two pretty physical defenseman who clear the crease well in front of them?

[BE] No doubt about that. They have both gotten their teams to where they are at right now. They both have played some phenomenal hockey. Varlamov has made some incredible saves, which have been well documented, especially the save on Crosby.

Jonas Hiller against San Jose had some terrific games, really really good in every game. Very few soft goals against him. That overtime game where you have 30 saves in regulation and 29 in overtime when they really poured it on to him. He was really up to the task. Wisniewski will be sorely missed, for however long he is going to be out. I hope it is not long. He has been very underrated in his play, because he is physical and he does a great job in his own zone... He has had a heck of a lot of ice time. He will be sorely missed.

For similar reasons I think John Erskine has been overlooked. I think he has played terrific. He surprised me a little bit. Defensively he has been very good and very solid. He doesn't try to do anything outside of his capability, which is really important in the playoffs. Teammates and coaches need to know what your level is, and what you are going to give them every night. The most important thing is what is the minimum level you are going to get. Coaches are always looking at that. They can tell when their guy is on, whether it is Ovechkin, or Erskine or the goaltender. They want to know 'OK, it doesn't look like he quite has it, but can I use him in this situation'. If his minimum level, that I have come to know, is that going to be enough for me to put him out there in this situation. When they are hot, then it is a no-brainer, it is easy. You play him as much as you can. I think that John Erskine's level overall at his worst times, has been very much improved, and his best has also improved. So overall he has been very effective and he is going to be missed. He already has been. I thought (Tyler) Sloan did a nice job stepping in for him today, so far so good.

[Q] Do you think Anaheim's bad boy reputation around the NHL is well deserved?

[BE] Oh sure it is. You look at the way they play, and their core players. Just take a look at them, and their body language and the demeanor with which they play as soon as the puck is dropped, even before the puck is dropped. You take one look at Chris Pronger, and his reputation preceeds him for sure, but it goes right through to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf too. They carry themselves a certain way, and they like it. They created that personality and that persona for their team, and it is very effective.

Now that sort of cuts two ways. You can say that they get called for too many penalties sometimes. It is what you make of it, and for the most part it has been good. They have been very smart in these playoffs and one of the reasons they beat San Jose is that they didn't go over the top all of the time and take a ton of penalties. Yes they did at times, but they were also very good overall. Pronger took, it was ridiculous, he took very few penalties. So far (he has been disciplined), and that has been a very important factor. He has to continue to do that.

[Q] I have to ask about Boston. A quote stunned me from head coach Claude Julien after Game 2, "It is just about wanting it more than the other team, and tonight they wanted it a little more than we did". To me that shocks me almost as much as the Sharks coming out flat in Games 1 and 2 against Anaheim... how do you think Boston rebounds in Game 3, and during your playing days in the locker room, was it on the players or the head coach to be a motivational factor?

[BE] Coaches can make motivate you a little bit, they can help. Mainly it is an attitude that has been developed on a team over the course of the year, and your core players really run the room. It is really on the players more than the coach. The coach can help, but I would put it more on the players for sure.

You know why you are there. It is not a matter of not wanting to win, which it sounds like maybe you are interpreting that as a little bit. That is the best way to describe it. It is a strange dynamic to talk about because you have to experience it in team sports, even as an individual, you get up for the game and you get ready to play a big event and collectively you just don't have it. You can't get it going, your flat. That is the best way we describe it when we look at it. Everybody is trying, but you just can't get the engine going. You can't change gears... There are all those different ways to try to explain it.

The psyche has to be, it is a fine balance between being afraid to lose and still being relaxed enough to go out their and play. That is how the start players become star players because they get it right. They know how relax, how to work hard, how to be on edge yet ready to play. How to be relaxed in key scoring situations. So they have those soft hands, and they can make those plays without being so over the top that they don't chop the puck into little pieces, which lesser skilled players will do when they get too much into overdrive.

It is a fine balance you get there. You can't just go out and skate around 100 miles and hour. That is only one part of the game. You have to be able to pass the puck, be in sync with the game, and accomplish all these things as a team without going overboard. Sometimes you end up being a little too relaxed, and too clinical, you get thinking about all these details. How do we pass it. How to we cover this guy. Where am I supposed to be.

The next thing you know you have lost a lot of your energy, and that juice you are supposed to have in that game, and you become a little too clinical and a little too detached. The next thing you know the other team is running over you because they have the right combination. I guess that is the best way I can do to describe what happens in those scenarios.

You can follow Versus during the playoffs via My last Versus blog on three favorites to come out of the Western Conference is available here.

[Update] Ducks' James Wisniewski eying Game 5 return, calls Tomas Holmstrom elbow 'gutless play' -

Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski was at the Honda Center Thursday morning and addressed the media, a day after being released from the hospital following a lung contusion suffered in Game 3. He said he is hoping to play in Game 5 Sunday, and he called Tomas Holmstrom's elbow to his face, about 10 seconds after he had taken a puck to the chest, "a gutless play."

"I was kind of out of it the whole time I was skating around. I looked back and I see it was a blatant elbow when I was hunched over coughing up blood, not even battling," Wisniewski said. "So it shows a little bit of a gutless play by one of their players."

[Update2] Los Angeles Times columnist Helene Elliott discussed Anaheim's reputation earlier in the WCQF series against San Jose.

Brian Burke built the Ducks to be tough and they were, winning the Stanley Cup because of their brawn and skill and despite their tendency to ignore the bounds of good sense and the NHL rule book.

That label has stuck, though Burke is gone and their lineup has changed considerably. The Ducks have no pretensions of being angels, but they're tired of being typecast as villains.

Pretensions and a 4-year body of work after the lockout are two starkly different things. Elliott went on to defend the lack of a suspension for Mike Brown's hit on Jiri Hudler, "Brown's hit was borderline-bad but not heinous." She argued that Anaheim played a tight first game of the series despite the efforts by some "to create a simplistic and catchy Evil vs. Good scenario."

Too late.

[Update3] A Sports Illustrated poll among NHL players tabbed Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger as the dirtiest player in the league. Pronger and Steve Ott tied with 13% of the vote, but tie goes to the player who is 6-foot-6 and has his own blog.

Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski on the scuffle at the end of Game 3, "We were sort of concerned Chris Pronger was going to pick up Pavel Datsyuk and throw him like a javelin after the game, because he had that 'Pronger look'."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Phoenix Coyotes file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, NHL strips owner Jerry Moyes of club duties

Phoenix Coyotes NHL franchise files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Late Tuesday Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and Coyotes Hockey, LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, asking for court approval of a $212.5 million offer made by Canadian billionaire and Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie. "Jim Balsillie has made an offer to purchase the team for $212.5m (U.S.), conditional on the team's relocation to Southern Ontario, to make it the seventh Canadian hockey franchise," a representative for Balsillie said in an email along with forwarding this article.

According to a press release, Moyes claimed, "Extensive efforts have been undertaken to sell the team, or attract additional investors, who would keep the team in Glendale. Creating a process under the supervision of a judge assures that anyone wishing to purchase the team will have the opportunity to bid."

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic reports that the filing was made less than an hour before Moyes was scheduled to sit down and meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. In the Wall Street Journal video clip of today's meeting with all 4 major league Commissioners, Bettman said, "I was actually on my way to a meeting with Mr. Moyes yesterday in Phoenix to go over the offers we had for the club when I was advised they had filed a bankruptcy petition, not because creditors were lurking and seeking redress for being paid, but because there was an offer apparently from Mr. Balsillie to buy the franchise and move it."

The initial press release states that a judge should hold a hearing shortly to establish a sales procedure, and that bids in excess of Balsillie'a $212.5 million will start at $217.5 million and will be greatly influenced by incentives offered by the city of Glendale to keep the team in the Phoenix area. A hearing has been scheduled Thursday at 1:30PM at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix. The presiding judge is not yet listed on Thursday's court calender. The Arizona Republic quotes bankruptcy attorney Susan Freeman, who represents Jim Balsillie, as saying the bidding auction for the franchise would occure from early June to some point before June 26 (2009 NHL Entry Draft June 26-27, Montreal). "The process assures that the identities of the new owner and the team's location will be known by June 30, 2009, thus enabling the NHL to include the team in its 2009-10 schedule," Moyes said.

According to the Arizona Republic Jerry Moyes has invested over $310 million in the franchise, more than $38 million a season, with losses totaling nearly $200 million since he and Steve Ellman purchased the Coyotes in 2001 for $120 million (Ellman subsquently sold his stake of the team to Moyes). The economic downturn in the U.S. has hit Jerry Moyes' private business interests with Swift Transportation and SME Steel hard, compounding his losses with the Phoenix Coyotes and providing that much more impetus for a sale of the franchise.

The City of Glendale's $180 million investment in the building of Glendale Arena in 2003 was nearly 82% of the full $220 million price tag. The city negotiated an ironclad 30-year lease, with a $700 million early termination penalty according to the Arizona Republic. On October 25, 2006, the online recruiting company signed a 10-year, $30-million arena naming rights deal. Again from the Arizona Republic's Craig Harris: "The city had been under pressure to make financial concessions to the team. Although the city accepted delays since August on some of the team's lease payments, City Manager Ed Beasley had said concessions were not on the table." The only way for the Coyotes to break the arena lease was to file for bankruptcy.

From ESPN's Scott Burnside in December:

Multiple sources told the biggest hurdle is the current lease with Glendale. The 30-year lease that accompanied significant municipal support in the building of Arena (the municipality put up $180 million of the $220 million price tag) has a number of problem areas as it relates to the franchise's ability to generate revenues.

Take parking. The Coyotes, unlike most teams in the NHL, receive nothing from parking fees at the arena. Instead, they actually pay a surcharge of $2.70 per vehicle. That means instead of generating upwards of $10 million in revenue, they pay more than $2 million.

In short, said one source, they are paying people to park at their building.

In a November interview with Sharkspage, Coyotes blogger Paul Becker noted that traffic concerns and the distance of Glendale Arena from downtown Phoenix compounded the problems of fans getting to weeknight games. "Our weekend games are packed, but the weeknights barely crack 14,000 (and I'm being generous here)" Becker said. He said the marketing of the team and the development of youth hockey were strengths for the franchise, but suggested new mass transit solutions to help fans get to games.

It appears February rumors that the NHL was helping subsidize the Coyotes were well founded despite repeated denials, but adversarial posturing by Moyes/Balsillie and Gary Bettman/NHL aside, how will this affect hockey fans in Arizona? Arizona Rubber is the free hockey magazine available in every ice and roller hockey rink in the state, read by thousands of hockey players young and old (and the occasional bored figure skater). They recently noted that with the loss of the ECHL Phoenix RoadRunners (who closed after the 2008-09 season) and with the possible move of the Coyotes to Southern Ontario, the Phoenix area could be without a professional hockey team for the first time in 20 years.

In addition to being one of the few blogs online the last time the Phoenix made the playoffs (suffering a brutal 4-1 loss to San Jose in 2001-02 WCQF), which elicited some Southwest state on Southwest state trash talk, there has been a number of hockey fans from Phoneix traveling to the Bay Area and Southern California for Coyotes games, ECHL games, youth/college hockey games, and NHL rookie tournaments. From a grassroots perspective, hockey is growing in Arizona, reporters have to dig furthur than the reported game attendance at Arena. If the NHL leaves, many fans will begin following another team, but how many will turn off the sport alltogether?

More from Arizona Rubber:

In April, Coyotes executive vice president and chief marketing officer Mike Bucek told Arizona Rubber that he thought the franchise would ultimately stay put. "The wild speculation about the team disbanding, or relocating, all of that … that really hasn't been discussed," Bucek said. "We're here to stay … things are going to get better."

He then added: "We think the outlook is bright, and I think once the ownership situation is resolved, and there's some stability there, the thought that moving trucks will be there tomorrow will be gone."

Late Tuesday night, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly offered a statement on the bankruptcy filing:

"We have just become aware of today's Bankruptcy Court filing purportedly made on behalf of the Phoenix Coyotes. We are investigating the circumstances surrounding the petition, including the propriety of its filing. We have removed Jerry Moyes from all positions of authority to act for or on behalf of the Club. The League will appear and proceed before the Bankruptcy Court in the best interests of all of the Club's constituencies, including its fans in Arizona and the League's 29 other Member Clubs."

An article in the Phoenix Business Journal reports that the league will push for a dismissal of the Chapter 11 filing on Thursday:

The National Hockey League is expected to ask a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Thursday to dismiss a Chapter 11 filing by the Phoenix Coyotes.

The NHL took control of the team Tuesday after team owner Jerry Moyes filed for bankruptcy protection on behalf of the Coyotes. Part of that Chapter 11 filing calls for the hockey team to be sold for $213 million to a Canadian businessman who wants to move the team from Glendale to Ontario, Canada.

The NHL and city of Glendale, where the Coyotes have a 30-year lease to play at Arena, have opposed Moyes’ efforts to sell the team to Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie.

More striking than Bill Daly's comments or the league's plans to fight for a dismissal were Commissioner Gary Bettman's strong comments in the WSJ video embedded above. "This is not to me about whether or not we want a franchise in Southern Ontario. This is not about whether Mr. Balsillie would make a suitable owner the other owners would approve. This is about the league's rules and the enforceability of those rules. Whether or not Mr. Moyes had the authority to even file the petition is something we are going to get into. This is more about the tactic, and I think a challenge to league rules, than it is about the economic condition of the club, which we believe can, with new ownership, and with the accomodations the City of Glendale is prepared to make, we think can succeed."

There are three things about that last quote that raise red flags. The economic situation in Phoenix is in trouble, or else the league would not have effectively been running the team since February. New ownership and Glendale arena concessions are major hurdles that have been unsolvable for years, not months. How are they going to be resolved before the 2009-2010 season? The late Chapter 11 filing may be a last ditch effort for Jerry Moyes to make the best business deal available to him, but even so the NHL needs to take a more conciliatory approach for an owner that has helped hold the Phoenix franchise's head above water for the better part of a decade.

There are already reports of financial interest in the Coyotes, but both the NHL and Jim Balsillie need to walk back the process. The NHL's committment to Phoenix aside, they need strong ownership for the Coyotes to survive in Glendale, and they need significant concessions to be offered by the city. If an ownership group does not come up with a bid higher than $212.5 million, they need to reconcile their differences with Balsillie and work towards making a franchise in Southern Ontario successful. Phoenix, for its part, needs solid ownership willing to pull out all the stops to make a franchise work. They need to adopt a minor league fans-come-first mentality, instead of adopting a more passive wait and they will come approach. The team has a ready made cast of young talent that could sell the team to the state, think Oakland Athletics marketing campaign a few years back, and a little taste of playoff success will go a long way. Jim Balsillie? He needs to realize many NHL owners adhere to a strict code of honor and respect for the game, and he needs to rebuild bridges that may have been burned in past attempts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. The NHL desperately needs another passionate and dedicated owner, but it has to be an individual or an ownership group they can work with for 30-40 years, or else you have another Al Davis situation. That is almost worse than losing a team.

Thanks to Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski for the link to the Phoenix Business Journal article, and to James Mirtle for the link to the WSJ Bettman video above. Photo of Jeremy Roenick snapping a backhand on Ilya Bryzgalov last season was taken by me.

[Update] Much more on the situation from NYT Slapshots blogger Stu Hackel: The New Mess in the Desert. Hackel posted a long and detailed timeline of the Coyotes wayward journey to the desert in January here.

Hackel links to a Darren Pang video clip on TSN (navigate to the 'Moving Sale' panel discussion), he is the Phoenix Coyotes television analyst during the regular season. Pang says that there were offers from as many as three ownership groups on the table before an email came into to Coyotes President/CEO Doug Moss at 3:37PM notifying him of the bankruptcy filing. "I talked to Wayne Gretzky, and he was prepared for a sale moving forward... everyone in the organization is stunned," Pang said on TSN. One of the offers was said to come from Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Earlier in the season Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer was rumored to have interest in the franchise.

Stu Hackel took a decidedly different position on the bankruptcy filing by Moyes, "Meanwhile, the N.H.L. understandably went berserk. In their view, they had worked hard trying to find Moyes a buyer, loaned him money to stay afloat, and he then goes behind their backs and puts the wheels in motion to undo their work and sell the club to a man who has been an antagonist to both the league office and many in ownership." This is supported by the hard language from Bettman on Tuesday. "We fix problems, we don't run out on cities," Bettman told the WSJ. The side issue of whether a franchise in Southern Ontario infringes on the franchise rights of Toronto or Buffalo is a non-starter. If a solid owner can not be found in Phoenix, what is best for the game is a healthy franchise in one of the largest Canadian markets.

Jim Balsillie set up a website at to help support bringing a seventh NHL franchise to Canada. In a short press conference Balsillie said, "Clearly we believe there's a substantial market in southern Ontario that's unserved, and that has certainly been validated by the overwhelming support we've had at".

Globe and Mail Phoenix Coyotes debt bankruptcy

[Update2] The Phoenix Coyotes have been effectively under siege this season by a hostile Canadian media scouring league sources for information about the team's financing, or lack thereof. Toronto's Globe and Mail led the mob with pitchforks and torches in hand putting this graphic image on the front page of the sports section in early January. A pair of articles by Stephen Brunt and David Shoalts ignited a discussion about the financial stability of the franchise that never ended.

It is hard to gauge the impact of the relentless negative press unless you speak with fans or players themselves, and credit to the Globe and Mail for publishing a CP article that contacted Phoenix captain Shane Doan while he was playing for Team Canada at the 2009 World Championships in Switzerland. Doan was a member of the Winnipeg Jets team that moved from Canada to Phoenix in 1996, and it is hard to think of a captain in the NHL who embodies more of the heart and soul of his team.

No matter how many stories Doan reads about the financial demise of the franchise, the news never gets any easier to take.

"I don't think you ever really build up that much immunity," he said. "When I signed a five-year deal to stay in Phoenix, I obviously wanted to stay there. It's obviously something that bothers you but at the same time you know that sometimes it looks a lot darker than it really is."

[Update3] Balsillie again takes wrong approach - Scott Burnside for ESPN.

[Update4] Playing Below Capacity: Phoenix Coyotes - Puck Money from January 2009.


Attendance in Glendale and Phoenix has not been great since the turn of the century. But to be fair, neither really have the teams been either. To me, beyond the fact that the On-Ice product hasn't been great (with this season and '01-'02 being the exceptions) and the team moved 30 minutes outside of Phoenix, the bigger problem is clearly the market. And this isn't news, but more or less just a confirmation. All the money news swirling around the club off the ice has surprisingly not affected the locker-room, which is promising. If the Coyotes continue down this path and cannot find a new owner, Mr. Bettman may have to concede to the very thing he seems to hate, relocation.

One last thing. Bettman seems to be content on selling the Coyotes to anyone who is willing to put up the cash (unless your name rhymes starts with a B and ends in alsillie). I'm sure fellow NHL owners cannot (be) pleased about this, as this may not be the best business strategy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Total Man Games Lost to Injury: San Jose Sharks vs Western Conference playoff teams

Western Conference Playoff Teams San Jose Sharks total man games lost to injury

On a radio interview with KNBR 680AM yesterday, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said there would be no excuses for the playoff exit against Anaheim. Head coach Todd McLellan said the coaching staff needs to look in the mirror before any firm playoff assessments could be made. Injuries hampered San Jose down the stretch, and were a factor in the postseason. How much of a factor, how the coaching staff adapted to injuries, and how much the roster raised its level of play to overcome that hurdle are questions that will be answered this offseason.

Every team has to deal with injuries in the playoffs, "if not there is probably something wrong with you," Wilson said, but they are a quantifiable statistic. In March the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle posted projections for the 2008-09 season. With the help of data gathered by a fan, the New York Islanders (566), St. Louis Blues (465) and Philadelphia Flyers (406) far and away led the rest of the league in projected man games lost due to injury. "Don't think it's a coincidence that some of the teams with the best records over the past four seasons have the lowest injury totals." Mirtle said of the 4-year findings.

The 2008-09 data in the Sharkspage chart above is drawn from the official team playoff media guides, with figures from St. Louis and Calgary via Mark Stepneski. Looking at the Western Conference Playoff teams, St. Louis fell short of the 465 projected games lost at 457. The Columbus Blue Jackets blew past projections from 254 to 343 man games lost, and the San Jose Sharks exceeded that with 336 man games lost. That is 134 games more than the late season projection of 202, 132 more than the 4-year franchise average, 136 more than the highest total in the last 4 years (2007-08). All of the other Western Conference playoff teams experienced a jump in the number of man games lost with Calgary (135 to 304) and Anaheim (195 to 252) experiencing the largest increases.

Detroit and Vancouver were the only teams with less than 200 games lost, and all 4 teams with the lowest regular season inury totals advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals. Last year 4 Western Conference playoff qualifying teams registered less than 200 man games lost (Calgary 127, Anaheim 158, Dallas 186, Detroit 194). San Jose (200) and Minnesota (207) flirted with that threshold.

Western Conference Playoff Teams San Jose Sharks cap value man games lost injury IR

In addition to the number of games lost, there is also a qualitative element based on which players were missing from the lineup. Dallas Stars blogger Mark Stepneski evaluated the games lost total based on the cap costs of injured players. Injury information released by teams is not concrete, and compensation and performance bonuses could skew the data, but it offers a look at which teams lost more of the top end of their lineup over the course of a season.

According to Stepneski Paul Kariya, Andy McDonald, Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson contributed to an NHL leading $12.8 million cap loss over 237 games for the St. Louis Blues. Stepneski notes that San Jose had the least hit as far as cap value was concerned, with an estimated $5.9 million total cap loss. It should be noted that Stepneski's April 9th data differs slightly from the official team numbers (some teams had 1 or 2 games left in the season).

San Jose Sharks 2008-09 Total Man-Games Lost: 336

82 games - Torrey Mitchell (82 - leg, 10/9 thru 4/11)
39 games - Jeremy Roenick (11 - shoulder, 3/3 thru 3/22) (28 - shoulder, 12/13 - 2/19)
27 games - Marcel Goc (5, lower body, 3/22 - 3/30) (14, lower body, 2/11 - 3/10) (5 - undisclosed, 10/28 - 11/6) (3 - back, 10/9 - 10/12)
21 games - Brad Lukowich (1, lower body, 3/12) (18, sports hernia, 1/9 - 1/21) (2, groin, 12/6 - 12/11)
20 games - Mike Grier (18 - knee, 3/3 thru present) (2, lower body, 11/16 - 11/17)
20 games - Kent Huskins (20 - foot, 3/5 thru 4/11)
18 games - Tomas Plihal (12 - lower body, 3/12 thru present) (2 - lower body, 2/17 thru 2/19) (4 - lower body, 10/14-10/18)
18 games - Claude Lemieux (18 - upper body, 3/3 – 4/5)
16 games - Jonathan Cheechoo (2 - lower body, 4/09 thru 4/11) (2 - lower body, 3/26 - 3/28) (8 - upper body; 11/29 - 12/17) (4, upper body, 11/8 - 11-16)
13 games - Evgeni Nabokov (5, lower body, 3/3 - 3/12) (2, flu, 2/26 - 2/28) (6, lower body, 11/8 - 11/17)
11 games - Jody Shelley (6, lower body, 2/10 - 2/19) 5, upper body, 1/3 - 1/13)
11 games - Ryane Clowe (11, lower body, 3/19 - 4/7)
9 games - Rob Blake (5, lower body, 3/22 - 3/30) (2, lower body, 3/10 thru 3/12) (2, upper body, 1/17 - 1/20)
6 games - Tom Cavanagh (6, lower body, 1/6 - 1/17)
6 games - Douglas Murray (2, lower body injury, 12/31 - 1/3) (4, upper body, 10/17-10/24)
5 games - Milan Michalek (3, upper body, 12/18 - 12/23) (2, upper body, 10/17 - 10/18)
5 games - Patrick Marleau (5, lower body, 3/30 - 4/7)
4 games - Dan Boyle (1, flu, 2/15) (3, upper body, 1/27 - 1/31)
3 games - Christian Ehrhoff (3, lower body, 3/14 - 3/17)
2 games - Joe Pavelski (2, lower body, 12/15 - 12/17)

The regular season injury data shows that San Jose's third line was hit the hardest, and that the Sharks may have lead the NHL in injuries suffered after the All-Star break. Center Torrey Mitchell was injured in the second practice of training camp, returning only for the final 4 games of the WCQF series against Anaheim. The Sharks also lost third line centers Marcel Goc, Tomas Plihal, Jeremy Roenick, and even Patrick Marleau (who briefly centered the third line). Third line wingers Mike Grier and Jonathan Cheechoo also missed games after the All-Star break.

"Coming down the stretch, we had a roster that was beat up a lot. We didn't play probably the way we needed to play. We didn't use people in their accustomed roles with people they are used to playing with," head coach Todd McLellan told newspaper reporters 2 days after San Jose's playoff exit. "So the playoffs come around, we get all of our bodies back. It was a concern of mine heading in." Each line for the Sharks in the playoffs had a late injury returnee. Patrick Marleau on the first line with Thornton and Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe on the second line with Pavelski and Michalek, Mike Grier on the third line with Moen and Goc, Torrey Mitchell on the fourth line with Cheechoo and Roenick.

"We put them all back together. Maybe we felt that was going to be the answer," McLellan continued. "Good, we got back to where we were. We didn't get across to them that that wasn't enough, we needed to have the same drive and determination we had earlier when we were all together." McLellan admitted that he was not sure how Marleau would be health-wise to start the series, and after not being satisified with the top lines performance it was changed up along with the third line Game 2. Injury problems may have slowed up the performance of other lines, but the media consensus heading into the WCQF series with Anaheim was that San Jose had an edge in quality offensive depth up front. That depth never materialized.

A full post-season injury list has not been released, but San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak did post a partial list on his Working the Corners blog. This blog will post a full injury list if it comes in from the Sharks, and examine some of the matchup/lineup/injury issues from the first round series soon.