Monday, June 29, 2009

Max Giese: 2009 San Jose Sharks Draft Synopsis

William Wrenn, 2nd round 43rd overall, D, 6-1/190, USNTDP
A steady stay-at-home defenseman with strong character, Wrenn is a smooth skater and while he’s most noted for his defensive play, he’s also efficient on the offensive side of the puck. Does a nice job jumping into the open seems when they are available and he owns a seeking right-handed point shot. Wrenn is a solid defenseman that makes a quick first pass and is very aware defensively, with his head on a swivel and rarely out of position. His game has a lot of positives and no real weaknesses except for not being a dynamic offensive talent. Will play for the University of Denver next fall and has excellent leadership intangibles, as he garners loads of respect by those he goes to battle with because he leads by example on the ice and can be vocal when needed in the room.

San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke on Wrenn: “We talked to all of his teammates and a lot of people about him, the universal answer was that he’s a great leader. We liked that he’s going to Denver next fall. He’s going to be a shut-down defender in our league but I believe he can do more too, he has good hands and he really began to come on late in the year and just kept getting better as the season progressed. Above all he’s a leader and a stopper”.

Sharks scout Jack Gardiner on Wrenn: “He’s an excellent skater that moves the puck quickly and makes good decisions. He does not shy away from physical confrontations and plays with good overall technique in his own zone”.

Redline Report ranked Wrenn 37th overall: “The U.S. team captain’s name never seems to come up when discussing this year’s better defence prospects, perhaps because his game is not about flash-‘n-dash, but we think it should. He’s the twelfth most underrated player of this draft”.

McKeen’s ranked Wreen 108th overall: “He has great desire, is a capable open-ice-hitter, and is a strong defender that can excel in a stay-at-home role.”

ISS ranked Wrenn 70th overall: “This solid two-way defenseman has proven to scouts that he is the real deal and is a smart and reliable defenseman who keeps his game very simple and effective”.

An anonymous Eastern Conference NHL scout whose priority was to scout the USNTDP told Sharkspage after the draft “I thought Wrenn went a little bit too early to be honest”.

An anonymous Michigan based NHL scout who has followed Wrenn since he was 15 years old told Sharkspage after the draft: “I really like Wrenn as a player and he reminds me a lot of Ian Cole. He’s not flashy at all but just quietly efficient everywhere on the ice. Will never be confused for an offensive defenseman, but he makes a very solid first pass, gets his head up quickly, and makes safe and smart and correct plays, which coaches appreciate. He’s at his best in his own end, where he uses a very active stick and a distinctly physical style to be a disruptive force in all important defensive areas”.

Taylor Doherty, 2nd round 57th overall, D, 6-8/218, Kingston OHL The Sharks swung for the fences when they selected the colossal Doherty late in the second round and he should be seen as a project pick that will need to be coached up on many details of the game. Doherty has the type of size that is rare to find in a player that can skate and handle the puck as well as he can. On his good days Doherty can be a menacing physical presence and also push the puck up the ice with his skating ability. On his bad days Doherty struggles with his decision making and lacks confidence. He made a name for himself by shutting down and taking John Tavares out of the CHL Top Prospects game this past winter. If the Sharks can work with his decision-making and are patient, Doherty’s physical gifts are pretty good.

San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke on Doherty: “I don’t believe his hockey sense or confidence is an issue. We really watched him closely during his shifts against the top guys in the league and he did very well. We watched him in key divisional games and he shut their top players down. He’s a big kid and bigger guys take longer to develop. We believe eventually his athleticism is going to come through and I don’t mind that he’s facing some adversity right now with Kingston; I like to see how players handle it. Often times the kids that are on bad teams that are trying to do too much are often hungrier and turn pretty good because of it. I actually think Kingston will be a good team next year and they have a lot of returning players”.

Sharks scout Rob Grillo on Doherty: “Doherty has tremendous size and is a steady defender. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman that is a good puck mover and is strong in his own end”.

Redline Report ranked Doherty 113th overall: “List of attributes: he’s 6-foot-8 and… well, he’s 6-8”.

McKeen’s ranked Doherty 79th overall: “Doherty is the most noticeable player on the ice for his huge frame and his skating is decent considering his size but he lacks hockey sense and will make a lot of questionable decisions with the puck”.

ISS ranked Doherty 52nd overall: “A big player who has a physical presence when he is on the ice, Doherty gets around the ice fairly well considering his size and there is lots of potential with this young rearguard who already has extensive international experience. He’s the fifth best stay-at-home defenseman of the draft”.

Kitchener Rangers scout Ed Roberts on Doherty: “He’s a complete boom-or-bust proposition. He may have the absolute lowest hockey sense grade of any top 120 prospects. 6-7 defenseman who can skate like he does should be top 10 picks so there is a reason he fell to where he did and it’s a between the ears issue. I’ve seen him dominate shifts when he plays aggressively and with confidence, only to look like an idiot five minutes later when he coughs up the puck in a bad spot. He’s not getting developed well in Kingston, there is a losing culture and mindset there, not where a kid who lacks smarts and confidence will improve”.

Philip Varone, 5th round 147th overall, C, 5-10/186, London OHL
A fast, abrasive forward with good hand skills, Varone is a streaky scorer with a goal scorer’s mentality that outperformed top-ten picks John Tavares and Naze Kadri in the OHL playoffs. He surprises defenseman with his determination and can also create plays off the rush. Varone lacks size and some wonder if his body will break down because of his feisty style of play, so he will need to bulk up to remain effective at the next level.

San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke on Varone: “We kept watching him get better and better this year and then he had a great playoff. He’s sturdy on his feet and makes a lot of plays. His size doesn’t concern me because he’s thick and is an offensive guy that can execute in traffic. We wanted him but didn’t want to reach on him either and we are happy with the value that we got by making a small move up to get him in the right spot. Because he’s a guy that spends a lot of time in traffic people come to the conclusion that he’s an abrasive guy, but he knows how to pick his spots. You watch he’s going to put up some big numbers in the Ontario Hockey League next year”.

Sharks scout Rob Grillo on Varone: “Varone is a skilled two-way forward that can kill penalties and play in all-situations. He’s a good skater and has good hands. He plays with a lot of grit and had a great playoff”.

Redline Report Ranked Varone 55th overall: “He’s a true game and competes hard, especially in offensive situations”.

McKeen’s ranked Varone 90th overall: “He has a nice mixture of speed, skill, and grit. His individual skill set and creativity allows him to play either wing and make clever plays with the puck.”

ISS ranked Varone 107th overall: “He has the explosive speed to gain separation and demonstrates a willingness to take a hit in order to make a play”.

Kitchener Rangers scout Ed Roberts on Varone: “He’s a kid I like a lot, when he was in Kitchener he was no trouble off the ice and is a mature kid that looks you in the eye when he speaks. The only issue is how well his game will translate to the pro-level. He has very good puck skills, quick hands and very good release. Plays an agitating game, motor is always running and isn’t afraid to stick his nose into dirty areas. May end up being a solid organizational depth guy, who can put up good numbers in the minors, but with his determination and grit I wouldn’t put anything past him”.

Marek Viedensky, 7th round 189th overall, C, 6-4/185, Prince George WHL
A big and savvy centerman that does a great job at positioning himself on the defensive side of the puck, Viedensky is a useful penalty killer that suffocates his man with his defensive coverage. He endeared himself to scouts this past winter when he centered the overachieving Slovakian World Junior Championship team’s top line and then continued to battle hard on a bad team with the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. Viedensky skates with nice looking, long strides that eat up a lot of the ice once he gains a head of steam, although he will need to add more explosion to his first step which is a bit slushy. His puck skills are serviceable, as he can let go a crisp snap shot at full speed and he receives difficult passes well. Not a soft player and does own a long reach, but Viedensky will need to become more physical and continue to get stronger to play in the NHL.

San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting Tim Burke on Viedensky: “He’s more of a two-way guy and we actually had him rated highly in his original draft year. We really liked him at the World Juniors and we made our guys follow up on him in the WHL. We went in and saw him on the road and saw him in the playoffs with Prince George and there is definitely something there in Viedensky. He’s another guy that’s going to put up some more points in his league next year and really come on. He plays the whole sheet of the ice and we had him targeted so we made sure to get him”.

An anonymous Eastern Conference scout based in the Czech Republic on Viedensky: “A decent skater with agility for a player of his size that would be more effective if he would be more explosive. A decent stickhandler and a patient puck-possession player that could make better moves when pressured in traffic and be more of a force in one-on-one situations. Doesn’t shy away from traffic, but not a player who would initiate physical contact very often. Needs to bulk up so he won’t get pushed out of scoring lanes easily”.

McKeen’s chief scout David Burstyn on Viedensky: “Has size but lacks mass, as he is very wiry. Offensively he thrives in down-low situations where he uses his size to shelter the puck while getting closer to the net. He’s a good presence on the ice, constantly around the puck and has no problems engaging himself physically. On the downside he’s erratic handling the puck, he has long arms so in most cases he tends to skate with the puck far ahead of him only to pull it back in at any sign of a pokecheck”.

McKeen’s WHL scout Randy Gorman on Viedensky: “He has a lot of untapped potential, too much of a perimeter offensive player, big, and skates well for his size, needs to develop a better compete level and grit. He compliments WHL rookie of the year Brett Connolly well and did improve on his defense as the year progressed. He rotated between the 1st and 2nd line and was on the power-play unit”.

Dominik Bielke, 7th round 207th overall, D, 6-3/190, Eisbaren Berlin
Bielke is miles away from playing in the NHL, but he has some natural instincts and tools that can’t be taught. His skating definitely will require some work. He’s stiff in his upright skating style and he lacks the agility to execute tight turns. Most of his problems stem from coordination issues and lack of strength. The Sharks have to be intrigued by his offensive tools, as he’s in his element inside the offensive zone where he will instinctively pinch into the attack and acts as a triggerman on the point. He has a blossoming presence with the puck and he shelters it well with his big frame. Defensively he gets himself into trouble trying to do too much, but he does control his gaps well and positions his long stick properly.

San Jose Sharks Director of Scouting on Dominik Bielke: “We really like his range, he has a good reach, has a good stick, and he can shoot the puck. You can say that he has a little bit of Ehrhoff in him. We liked him at the World Juniors and we had our guys follow him in the second half of the season. We saw him again at a Swedish tournament late in the year and all of our reports on him were very consistent. This is a kid that is in a good situation over there for his development. His skating need works, like all tall kids we need to get him to bend his knees more and get him stronger”.

Sharks Notes

This coming September the San Jose Sharks will be hosting a three day tournament in which their prospects will be taking on those of the Anaheim Ducks. The event will be held in San Jose from September 7-9th. Currently the Sharks are in premature discussions with other Western teams about having a four team prospects tournament in 2010.

Doug Wilson and Tim Burke stressed that they didn’t want to cannibalize their 2010 draft picks for more picks in this years’ draft. Currently the Sharks possess their own first, second, and third round picks next year as well as a second round pick from the Buffalo Sabres. The Sharks were not happy about entering the 2009 draft with only four picks, but that is the result of trying to win so much now that eventually trading away those picks can come back to bite you. Doug Wilson wants to provide Burke and his staff with plenty of ammunition for the 2010 draft and likely won’t be trading away picks this time around.

The fact that the Sharks didn’t issue qualifying offers to former first-round picks Marcel Goc, Lukas Kaspar, and Mike Morris surprised some, but more than anything it had to do with the unsettling economic landscape that teams are weary of that prompted the Sharks to be frugal with their restricted free-agents. The fact that the salary cap is expected to drop quite a bit for the 2010-2011 season played a significant role in the decision not to qualify the players listed above. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, if a team qualifies a player and that player defects to Europe or doesn’t do anything with it, the qualifying offer still swallows up cap room. The Sharks also wanted to keep roster spots vacant for this year and especially next year to provide them with flexibility moving forward.

[Update] Getting To Know William Wrenn - Fear the Fin.

[Update2] Wrenn Goes 43rd Overall In NHL Draft - Doyle Woody for the Anchorage Daily News.

Defenseman William Wrenn of Anchorage was selected 43rd overall, the 13th pick of the second round, by the San Jose Sharks in the NHL entry draft today in Montreal. That makes Wrenn, who is headed to the University of Denver, the fifth-highest draft pick in history among Alaskans.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, who is 18, is viewed as a defensive defenseman with a bit of edge to his game. He has played the last two seasons in USA Hockey's National Team Development Program and captained the Americans to the World Under-18 championship earlier this year.

Anchorage native Matt Carle, now playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, was originally drafted by San Jose 47th overall in 2003. Former Sharks enforcer Scott Parker was a 20th overall selection in the first round by Colorado in 1998.

[Update3] Sharks bolster blueline at NHL Draft -

Does "The Monster" know the way to San Jose? -- Dallas, Colorado, Toronto and Sharks via for free agent Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson

Part I of the Gustavsson highlight video is here, part II here.

The NHL emerged from the 2009 Entry Draft with more ripples than major trade waves, but it could be a prelude before the free agency storm that kicks off on July 1st. One player rumored to sign prior to that date, as early as yesterday or today according to ESPN's Scott Burnside, is 6-foot-3, 192-pound Swedish goaltender Jonas "the Monster" Gustavsson.

Jonas Gustavsson helped lead Farjestad to their 8th Swedish Elite League Championship this season. His regular season record is not readily available, but a rough look at the Elitserien gamelog shows he registered a 24-9-2 record with a 1.96GAA, .931SV% and 3 shutouts. He finished with the top save percentage and the best goals against average in the SEL. According to friend of the blog Risto Pakarinen, "the Monster" helped Farjestad sweep the first two rounds of the playoffs, outscoring Brynas 10-2 and shutting out Skelleftea AIK 3 times. Risto also notes he extended the SEL consecutive shutout record to 240 minutes and 25 seconds. Jonas Gustavsson represented Team Sweden in the 2009 IIHF World Championships, finishing with a 3-2 record, .913SV% and 2.83GAA in 5 games played.

The frenzy surrounding Gustavsson has taken on draft lottery overtones, but reports on his decision have outpaced actual news. The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported earlier today that he narrowed down his choice to two teams, Dallas and Toronto. That rumor was also carried by the CBC. Excellent Colorado Avalanche beat reporter Adrian Dater checked with a Swedish source, who spoke with Gustavsson today. "I did an interview with Aftonbladet just the other day and I told them that all four clubs were still on my list. That’s still true today," Gustavsson said.

Rough google translation of the Aftonbladet article that was disputed by Gustavsson earlier today:

Now Jonas Gustavsson tentatively decided to reject Colorado, allegedly to Sportbladet. The reason for Gustavsson thank no to Colorado is that his gut was not really there when he visited Denver, and that much is uncertain in Colorado right now with a new lagledning.

San Jose also received signals that they are not Gustav's first.

Brandon Worley of the SBN Defending Big D Stars blog writes that the Gustavsson news has essentially remained unchanged, but that the Toronto-based media is pushing hard for a Leafs outcome. Jonas experienced the Toronto hockey media fishbowl firsthand on his earlier 4-team NHL tour to scout possible destinations. Before he even left the airport he was nabbed by a Toronto Star paparazzi photographer.

In Toronto he would play behind the consumate professional Vesa Toskala, and he would have the benefit of one of the best goaltending coaches in the game in Francois Allaire. On the flip side the weight of the media and public scrutiny would magnify each mistake to an unhealthy level. The porous defense in Toronto also let in a league worst 293 goals against, at times visibly flustering a Toskala who was known for his consistency and patience while in San Jose. It should be noted that general manager Brian Burke admitted during the Entry Draft that the Maple Leafs were not at the stage yet where they could acquire a Chris Pronger. This is a team in the early stages of a long rebuilding process.

Earlier this month Dallas Morning News beat writer Mike Heika wrote that Dallas Stars Swedish scout Johan Garpenlov, and several Swedish players including last year's free agent steal Fabian Brunnstrom, a blossoming Loui Eriksson, and defenseman Nicklas Grossman, all make Dallas a front runner. The group would make Gustavsson's transition to North America smoother. Three-time Stanley Cup winner Andy Moog, the Dallas Stars goaltending coach, also would be an invaluable resource. Injuries hampered the 2008-09 season in Dallas, but with issues surrounding starting goaltender Marty Turco and questionable moves by new general manager and former player Joe Nieuwendyk, the Stars could be a team that breaks either way in 2009-10.

The Colorado Avalanche's best selling point, that Gustavsson could assume the number 1 role quickly, could be considered a feature instead of a bug. The truth is that Colorado has holes up front, on defense, and in goal. Instead of pushing hard for defenseman Jay Bouwmeester at the Entry Draft, division rival Calgary traded for his exclusive negotiating rights. After nearly a 10 year run near the top of the Conference, the Avalanche need to make broad sweeping changes in order to begin the rebuilding process. Making a move for a free agent defenseman and landing Jonas Gustavsson would be a significant step in the right direction for new general manager Greg Sherman and head coach Joe Sacco, but this franchise will still be a work in progress. The Avs also had former greats Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg reach out to Gustavsson. While in Stockholm this blog was introduced to Forsberg by a Swedish soccer player as the most famous person in the country. As selling points go, that is not a small one.

The last stop on the Monster train could end up in San Jose. Unlike Dallas, Toronto or Colorado, the Sharks finished 2008-09 with a winning record (53-18-11, 1st NHL) and a Presidents Trophy as the top franchise in the regular season. The Sharks were summarily dispatched by intra-state rival Anaheim in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, capping a run of 5 straight shaky postseason exits. General manager Doug Wilson tried to mould the Sharks into a more battle-hardened club last summer. It may have come to the point where familiar faces have to be moved out in order to obtain a different postseason result.

In San Jose, Jonas Gustavsson may have to compete just to earn a #2 spot on the NHL roster. At one point early last season Brian Boucher registered a 7-1-1 record and a 1.88GAA after 9 starts, most while Evgeni Nabokov was out with a leg injury. Boucher was used sparingly after that, and while it did appear to have an affect on his confidence he never complained once to the media. In his third season with the AHL Worcester Sharks, heir apparent German goaltender Thomas Greiss posted his best regular season to date (30-24-2, 2.47GAA, .907SV%) and impressed the Sharks organization through two Calder Cup playoff rounds (6-6, 2.43GAA, .900SV%). When asked which of Nabokov-Gustavsson, Nabokov-Boucher or Nabokov-Griess would be best in goal, Sharkspage/McKeen's and future Red Line Report scout Max Giese noted that Nabokov-Gustavsson would be the strongest tandem. Boucher is an unrestricted free agent, Greiss is a restricted free agent (corrected) who just received a qualifying offer, and Gustavsson could earn a nearly $900K entry level salary plus bonuses.

The Sharks garnered "The Goaltending Factory" nickname on the back of the exploits of Evgeni Nabokov, Mikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala, but late goaltending coach Warren Strelow still casts a long shadow over the organization. In 8 seasons as a goaltending coach at the University of Minnesota, Strelow helped the team win 3 NCAA Championships. As the 1980 and 2002 USA Olympic hockey goalie coach, Strelow helped Team USA win gold and silver medals. In the NHL, Strelow worked with Vezina trophy winners Martin Brodeur and Miikka Kiprusoff, and 2008 runner-up Evgeni Nabokov. One college goalie coach told this blog that Strelow helped create the position of what a goaltending coach is.

Regular season success is not going to satisfy either the management or the fans in San Jose, so the franchise could be looking for a goaltender who can push Evgeni Nabokov for starts, and one who can steal games when given the opportunity. Jonas Hiller and Simeon Varlamov demonstrated the benefit of a 2-goaltender solution in the playoffs, and it could be a possible option for San Jose moving forward. On a recent interview with KNBR, television analyst and former assistant coach Drew Remenda said one problem facing Nabokov and the Sharks is the lack of a dedicated goaltending coach. Assistant Sharks GM Wayne Thomas, a former NHL goaltender with Montreal, Toronto and NY, works with the goaltenders in San Jose. Thomas is also a GM for the Worcester Sharks, where former NHL'er Corey Schwab is a development goaltending coach. Former Sharks goalie Wade Flaherty was a coach/player for the ALIH affiliate China Sharks, earning league best goaltender honors for the 2008-09 season before moving to the Blackhawks as a development coach.

San Jose would unquestionably put the best team in front of Jonas Gustavsson and give him the strongest opportunity to succeed at the NHL level. While the Stars landed Brunnstrom, the Sharks were the choice of young free agents Mike Moore, Matt Jones, and Kevin Henderson based on the strength and character of the organization. The Swedish selling point for the Sharks would have to consist mostly of Douglas "Crankshaft" Murray, a punishing defenseman and creator of the ubertap, and Atherton, a city just up the penninsula from San Jose which could be the Au Pair capital of the US.

Whether or not Gustavsson would be willing to compete for the #2 role, or even spend time in the AHL adapting to the North American game, remains to be seen. Gustavsson did tell the Toronto Star that he would accept a role behind Toskala, or even a minor league assignment as long as it was not permanent. "We think he's ready to play (in the NHL), but if the organization feels he needs some games in the minors, we're not afraid of that," his Swedish based agent Par Larsson told the Star.

Elite Prospect's Ulf Andersson describes Gustavsson as a "long and tall" goalkeeper, with a good range covering the crease. They go on to call him "a bit of a late bloomer". Judging by the highlight videos above "the Monster" looks to be tremendously agile for his size with an ability to get across the crease well. In a prospect profile for, Max Giese described Gustavsson as a "large... athletic... buttefly goaltender." He also noted that he was aggressive at the top of the crease, that he quickly shuts down a large 5-hole, and that his size and fundamentals allow him to take away large areas of the net while in the butterfly.

Described by several media sources as the "best goaltender outside the NHL", many are looking for Gustavsson to provide an immediate impact at the NHL level similar to what Finnish goaltender Niklas Backstrom was able to accomplish. Backstrom's impressive entry into the league in 2006-07 included a 23-8-6 record, 1.97GAA, and .929SV% after 4 seasons in the Finnish Elite League and 1 in the SEL. That may set the bar too high. The leap from large European and international ice surfaces is not an easy one, and the increase in speed and physicality of the NHL shock many a developing European goalie. There is very little room for error. There does not appear to be too many Gustavsson critics (there may be a KHL goalie or two with a beef about the best outside of NHL status), but he can prove them wrong with a strong showing next season.

[Update] Idolen ska locka "Monstret" till Colorado - Expressen.SE Flickr photo.

[Update2] Good/Bad/Ugly: The top 10 free-agent goaltenders - Yahoo's Puck Daddy.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

GJ Berg: Circus in the Desert (6/28 update)

Welcome back to the continuing story of life and conflict surrounding a NHL franchise, the Phoenix Coyotes.

Since we last "met", there has been one hearing (Monday, June 22) and the deadline to submit an application for interested owners for a local franchise was Friday, June 26th. The Coyotes also held an open house Thursday 6/25 at arena.

Backtracking for a bit, one legal pundit is encouraged by Baum's 6/15 ruling as it gives bankruptcy creditors more say than some of the recent mega-bankruptcies where the government stepped in and quashed their rights.

On Friday, June 19, Balsillie and the "Make It Seven" PR campaign held a rally in Hamilton, Ontario. A few thousand attended. Balsillie did not attend, perhaps due to the business media criticism of him paying more attention to his purchase attempt than running Research in Motion; the day of the rally was the same day that Apple released its new iPhone, a major rival to RIM's Blackberry. There were some demonstrators at the rally supporting the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs who may be ousted from the Copps Coliseum in favor of a NHL franchise. A Phoenix blogger wonders if the Canadian public and media are growing tired of the PR; perhaps not.

It was revealed that the Reinsdorf group had incorporated as Glendale Hockey LLC on June 1st and is the only potential group of the four who previously indicated an interest in local ownership that have gotten so prepared to make an official offer by 6/26. Current minority owner Breslow later pulls out of the bidding.

In preparation for the 6/22 hearing, Balsillie's group and the NHL submitted their respective plans for a combined (relocation and non-relocation) auction and a two-step auction (first non-relocation and if needed a relocation auction).

The NHL submitted documents yesterday that called for all parties interested in buying the Coyotes to have their applications to the NHL by June 26. Preliminary bids are expected by July 20, with final bids due Aug. 10. NHL approval for all bidders will come Aug. 24, and the auction will occur Sept. 10.

Moyes and Balsillie want to revise the previously agreed upon schedule, asking the judge to force the NHL to consider all relocation bids by July 20, offer a decision on Balsillie's ownership, the transfer to Hamilton and the relocation fee by July 31, and all other bids including relocation by Aug. 24.

The Monday 6/22 hearing in bankruptcy court before Judge Redfield T Baum had at least one unique activity, that being hearing from the Reinsdorf/Glendale Hockey LLC camp for the first time, with a promise of submitting a local bid for the Phoenix Coyotes by Friday. One of the concerns was the short timeframe for bidders other than Reinsdorf to negotiate a new arena lease; the City of Glendale has endorsed the Reinsdorf effort.

As a result of the hearing the following non-relocation schedule was set:

  • June 26 – submittal of applications
  • July 24 – Bids filed with court

  • July 30 – NHL approval of ownership groups

  • July 31 – Objections to the sale

  • Aug. 3 – Responses to objections

  • August 5 – auction

And the alternate relocation auction schedule was also set:

  • Aug. 5 – Notice of auction.
  • Aug. 7 – File ownership and relocation applications.
  • Aug. 24 -- Bids filed with court.
  • Sept. 2 -- Objections to sale, including any NHL rejections of ownership groups or relocation applications.
  • Sept. 4 -- Responses to objections.
  • September 10 -- auction

The Reinsdorf team includes former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim CEO Tony Tavares. (Note that he is also involved in a group looking to purchase the NHL Florida Panthers. See Article 13 of the NHL constitution on cross-ownership at non-controlling owner levels.)

Local story on hearing.

The Toronto Star noted:

An offer that keeps the team in Glendale solves a lot of tricky issues, saving the judge from ruling on the legality of the NHL's bylaws and the hockey team's lease with the city of Glendale. Also, the judge noted the longer a team remains in bankruptcy, the more debt it runs up, which makes matters worse for all creditors.

And Canadian Press commented:

Baum had stern words for the NHL after its lawyers indicated it would be difficult to come up with a decision on Balsillie's bid to move the team by the Sept. 2 deadline the judge set.

The judge said the league's board of governors would "either have to reach a decision or have a very good explanation of why they've been unable to."

After the hearing, Daly said Balsillie -- who failed in bids to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators -- hasn't endeared himself to NHL owners with his behaviour in the Coyotes case.

One of the issues that came up needs some negotiation between the NHL and NHLPA:

Additionally, Baum suggested that the NHL and its players’ association get together “in good faith” to determine if the prospective buyer automatically assumes all the players’ contracts the team holds or whether it can select which contracts it will retain.

Balsillie has no plans to participate in the non-relocation auction.

NHL Deputy Commission Bill Daly comments after Monday's hearing.

Q: How soon can you rule on Balsillie’s applications?

A: That’s a good question. As we’ve said all along, a relocation application, properly looked at and reviewed, is something that takes several months. It’s not something that takes several weeks. I think we’re going to focus, in the first instance, on a local sale process, an auction process, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to continue to process Mr. Balsillie’s applications . . . We’re going to update the Board of Governors on the status of the Phoenix situation at our Board meeting on Wednesday, and I’ll have a better sense where the Board wants to go in terms of processing those applications.

Q: Would you be surprised to see them approve a relocation – especially to Mr. Balsillie, after what the League’s been put through?

A: Two separate issues. I’m not going to presume what the Board might do, because it’s totally within their power. But certainly, I think the Board has legitimate questions as to his suitability as an owner.

On Wednesday, 6/24, the NHL Board of Governors met, prior to the NHL Entry Draft. One of their agenda items was to talk the Balsillie camp about their applications for ownership and relocation.

And from the Globe and Mail:

Breaking his long silence on the quest by Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie to buy the NHL team and move it to Hamilton, Gretzky said that once the ownership situation is clarified, he would be willing to sit down with the owners “and make it where everybody’s comfortable and happy. It’s as simple as that.”
With some backlash.

Meanwhile Brian Burke also made some comments:

And the Maple Leafs president and general manager said yesterday that he believes the Coyotes should remain in the desert and be given an opportunity to succeed rather than moving to Hamilton or whatever locale NHL commissioner Gary Bettman may give his blessing.

"For every situation like Phoenix, you have to look at Washington and Pittsburgh," [and Chicago, Boston a few years ago] ... "I hope we're looking back at Phoenix in a couple of years saying: 'Remember when they were in trouble?' I think we've got to find a way to keep that team there and let them develop. They've got some good young players."

One pundit provides some unsolicited advice to Reinsdorf, namely suggesting renegotiating of the lease agreement, find cheaper coach (or negotiate lower deal) and "hire a John McDonough clone and start a new marketing campaign."

Players are now hopeful they'll stay in Phoenix.

Thursday, the Phoenix Coyotes hosted a rally at with player, food and more. More than 3,000 fans attended.

“It was a tremendous turnout by the fans,” Coyotes President Doug Moss said. “They were an energetic crowd and really showed their support for the Phoenix Coyotes and Glendale. The players enjoyed it too and they received a lot of support from the fans.”

Asked to characterize the mood of the fans, Moss said: “They were very positive, very upbeat and very passionate about things. I think it was very cathartic for them. There was an electricity in the air. They can’t wait to come back here in September and watch some games.”

On Friday 6/26, the Reinsdorf/Glendale Hockey LLC submitted their application at the same time the Phoenix Coyotes were at the podium in Montreal taking their first round draft pick. (Local story, Reuters; Canadian criticism) And the only one before the end of the day.

But there is a wrinkle that could scuttle the bankruptcy court sale to the Reinsdorf/Glendale Hockey LLC, namely the Goldwater Institute, a conservative tax-payer rights organization, has sued the City of Glendale for not releasing in-progress documentation of their negotiations with the Reinsdorf/Glendale Hockey LLC over a new lease for the Arena.

The city issued a statement criticizing the lawsuit.

"The legal action filed today in Maricopa County Superior Court by the Goldwater Institute is without a factual or legal basis," the statement reads. "The city has and will continue to honor Arizona Public Records Law."

"Releasing documents at this time related to a matter in bankruptcy court and subject to complex business negotiations is not in the best interest of the public," Glendale added.


“The Goldwater Institute’s assertion that the city has said in numerous media reports that the city plans to offer tax payer subsidies to potential new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes is incorrect. The city has stated that appropriate and legal modification of the existing arena-use agreement may be necessary. Any modification must be approved by the City Council, which will be done in open session and in accordance with law,” the city statement said.
So it will be fascinating to see if and where Baum draws the line. The NHL may well feel it's justified to continue campaigning to retain its powers to designate franchise ownership, but bankruptcy is about creditor interests, not league constitutions. The puck still belongs to Baum.
But the offseason business goes on. With some concerns about other teams that may tender offer sheets to the Phoenix RFA players.
Does the NHL tell the rest of the league to back off, thereby skewing the free-agent market? Daly says there will be no interference from the league. Given the obvious conflict-of-interest and collusion implications, that is the wise thing to do.


"No disrespect to the players, but I could get similar types of players as unrestricted free agents and not have to worry about paying compensation [in the form of draft picks to the Coyotes]," one GM said, requesting anonymity to avoid tampering charges.

Still, the situation could have implications for the free-agent market, serious enough that Paul Kelly, the executive director of the NHL Players' Association, passed along word through a spokesman that the union will be watching "very carefully."

In the meantime, Daly said the club's budget for the 2009-10 season is still being worked out between the league and current owner Jerry Moyes, who stopped paying the bills last season and put the club into bankruptcy. Daly would not give a number for the Coyotes' player salaries but did say, "I do not anticipate mandating a minimum payroll."

So, it is still to be seen if the team will use the mythical phoenix bird for marketing with the team remaining, or if the franchise will be moved.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Max Giese: 2009 NHL Entry Draft Top 10 Goaltenders

2009 NHL Entry Draft Top 10 Goaltenders:

1. Robin Lehner, 6-3/220, Frolunda (Swe)
Similar stance to Henrik Lundqvist, big and in great shape, struggles with odd angles.
2. Jean-Francois Berube, 6-0/155, Montreal (QMJHL)
Some NHL scouts think he’s Steve Mason, limited play time this year kept him hidden.
3. Mikko Koskinen, 6-5/190, Blues (Fin)
Late bloomer compared to Olaf Kolzig, he’s a large hybrid goaltender with leadership.
4. Olivier Roy, 5-11/165, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
Remarkably quick and plays bigger than listed size indicates because he challenges well.
5. Mike Lee, 6-1/185, Fargo (USHL)
Similar to Brian Elliot, Lee is a big-game goaltender that forces shooters to go glove side.
6. Scott Stajcer, 6-2/180, Owen Sound (OHL)
Big, smart, and has good technique. Just needs to improve recovery quickness.
7. Matthew Hackett, 6-2/170, Plymouth (OHL)
At 6-2 with NHL bloodlines, Hackett won’t get past over at the draft again.
8. Nathan Lieuwen, 6-5/180, Kootenay
First round talent that has been setback by of concussion problems and technical flaws.
9. Edward Pasquale, 6-2/220, Saginaw (OHL)
Sizable goaltender was a workhorse for Saginaw, needs to work on agility.
10. Joni Ortio, 6-1/180, TPS Turku (Fin)
Typical Finnish butterfly goaltender, smart but gets exposed up high.

San Jose Sharks Mock-Draft
One thing we know for certain is that Doug Wilson will be active wheeling and dealing on draft day. The Sharks might make a move to acquire a first round pick and most likely it would take a roster player to get it done. This is a deep draft and the more picks the Sharks can accumulate the better. Below is an estimate at how the Sharks will draft if they stay put with their picks already in hand.

43rd Overall: D, Brian Dumoulin: No one scouts the Eastern United States better than Tim Burke and Jack Gardiner. Dumoulin has international experience, but played in the EJHL this year and that might scare some teams off. Dumoulin has the height, hockey sense, and natural athletic gifts to make him a high selection. His strengths are his ability to carry the puck and his booming point shot. He's raw, but is going to play for a strong college program at Boston College starting next fall.

57th Overall: LW, Ben Hanowski: The Sharks are ahead of the curve in terms of developing young talent and they believe that they can improve a players skating and develop them physically into men. Hanowski is a handsy winger uncanny hockey sense and finishing ability inside the offensive zone. He is going to a burgeoning program at St. Cloud in the fall and could be a home run, goal scoring winger by the time he's 25 years old.

146th Overall: D, Daniel Senkbeil: If the Sharks draft Senkbeil it won't be because he played for the Jr. Sharks, it will be because his play has warranted the selection and the upside is just too good to pass up. Only a handful of teams have scouted Senkbeil closely this year and the Sharks were one of them. Senkbeil is a tall, gangly offensive defenseman that can really skate and move the puck. He has NHL upside and just needs to get stronger and work on his defensive play against a higher level of competition, something he will do next fall in the USHL.

206th Overall: D, John Ramage: Usually a defenseman that is barely six-feet tall and has slow feet wouldn't get drafted, but Ramage is a very intelligent defenseman with great toughness and one of the hardest point shots available in the draft. The Sharks aren't afraid to take players with skating issues if they possess the anticipatory skills to get them into the right places at the right time. Ramage is going to play for the Wisconsin Badgers this fall.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Max Giese: 2009 NHL Entry Draft Top 10 Forwards

2009 NHL Entry Draft Top 10 Forwards:

1. John Tavares, C, 6-0/195, London (OHL)
A premier goal scorer that is as good of a sniper as you will find inside the hash-marks.
2. Matt Duchene, C, 5-11/200, Brampton (OHL)
Complete player with dynamic two-step acceleration and multiple offensive tools.
3. Evander Kane, C, 6-1/180, Vancouver (WHL)
Kane can skate, score, hit, and has 30-40 goal upside.
4. Brayden Schenn, C, 6-0/200, Brandon (WHL)
Gritty, smart two-way centerman with underrated hands, just needs to pick up skating.
5. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, LW, 6-1/200, Timra (Swe)
He’s a rocket that jets out of the gates with fantastic hands and a relentless motor.
6. Louis Leblanc, C, 6-0/180, Omaha (USHL)
Ready to blossom, Leblanc is gritty as hell, has powerful skating speed, and a lively stick.
7. Nazem Kadri, C, 5-11/170, London (OHL)
An electrifying, unpredictable talent, Kadri is a risky all-or-nothing type.
8. Jordan Schroeder, C, 5-8/175, Minnesota (NCAA)
Overrated prospect that can provide perimeter offense because his skill and smarts.
9. Scott Glennie, RW, 6-1/180, Brandon (WHL)
Compared to Scott Hartnell, Glennie is a determined and versatile two-way player.
10. Jacob Josefson, C, 6-0/185, Djurgardens (Swe)
Lack of explosiveness only glaring flaw, he’s a crafty and slick two-way centerman.

Sleepers: Swedish winger Carl Klingberg would be a gem of a pick for any team that is fortunate to have him fall to the latter half of the first round. Klingberg is a feisty winger that works his ass off and has an outside gear of speed. He doesn't possess high-end offensive skill, but he does go hard to the net and will score because of his determination. Ontario born center Ryan O'Reilly is a safe pick, even though he might not be taken until the second-round because of his lack of goal scoring ability. O'Reilly's hockey sense and character are off the charts, plus he's a dynamic penalty-killer that is as good as anyone in the face-off circle past or present. A real diamond in the rough is Ben Hanowski, a natural goal scorer who ended his high school career with 405 points. The Sharks believe they can work on a players skating and get them physically stronger, which is the only two areas of concern with Hanowski, but he owns a projectible frame and the goal scoring exploits that can't be taught.

Tough As Nails: Many Sharks fans want to see the organization begin to add more toughness through the draft, well there is plenty of that available in this draft. starting with Barrie's Kyle Clifford, a Chris Neil clone that can hit and fight with the best of them. Drummondville's Gabriel Dumont could be the next Maxime Talbot. He lacks size/speed but makes up for it with exceptional anticipation and a motor that doesn't quit.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Max Giese: 2009 NHL Entry Draft Top 10 Defenseman

2009 NHL Entry Draft Top 10 Defenseman:

1. Victor Hedman, 6-6/220, MoDo (Swe)
His size, skating ability, and overall talent are nearly impossible to find in one player.
2. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 6-2/180, Leksands (Swe)
A beautiful player that is like watching poetry in motion when skating with the puck.
3. Dmitri Kulikov, 6-0/185, Drummondville (QMHL)
The ease in which he sees the ice and moves the puck is already NHL caliber.
4. Jared Cowen, 6-5/220, Spokane (WHL)
Has vast potential with the size to become a franchise shut down defenseman.
5. John Moore, 6-2/190, Chicago (USHL)
He’s a wonderful skater that is in a class of his own with a Paul Coffey-like stride.
6. Dylan Olsen, 6-2/205, Camrose (AJHL)
A big, agile, and smart defenseman that already looks like a pro carrying the puck.
7. David Rundblad, 6-2/190, Skelleftea (Swe)
He’s a gifted offensive defenseman with superb vision and can rush the puck.
8. Ryan Ellis, 5-9/175, Windsor (OHL)
The best powerplay quarterback available and has one of the hardest point shots.
9. Nick Leddy, 5-11/180, Eden Prairie (USHSW)
He’s this years Jake Gardiner and will go in the first round because of his skating.
10. Simon Despres, 6-3/205, Saint John (QMJHL)
He’s big and can skate, but remains a project with questionable hockey sense.

Sleepers: A pair of defenseman from the QMJHL could find themselves picked inside the first round despite the consensus stating else wise. Charles Olivier-Roussel is the youngest player among the top players eligible for this years' draft and is a promising two-way defenseman that can contribute in all-situations. Lewiston's Eric Gelinas is a sizable defenseman with smooth mobility and offensive potential, but his defensive work requires improvement. Also, look for Michigan recruit Mac Bennett to rise on draft day. Bennett is a sleeper because of limited exposure due to injury, but he can skate like the wind and has plus offensive upside. Another defenseman that will rise on draft day is Brian Dumoulin, a tall American born defenseman that will play for Boston College next fall. Dumoulin has vast potential and a monster point shot.

The Local Boy: Daniel Senkbeil, a 6-foot-3 185 pound defenseman from the San Jose Jr. Sharks has an outside chance at being drafted. The only scouting service to have Senkbeil ranked is McKeen's, who slotted Senkbeil at 123 in their ranking of the top 125 draft eligible players. A gangly, puck moving defenseman with striking mobility and offensive upside, Senkbeil will need to get stronger and is headed to play in the USHL next fall.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

War of the Heroes III brought a full night of professional and amateur kickboxing to Santa Clara

USMF titlest Dino Pagtakhan War of the Heroes Muay Thai kickboxing
War of the Heroes 3 K-1 rules superfight Marfio Canoletti vs Chaz Mulkey
War of the Heroes 3 Muaythai Kickboxing Championships Santa Clara

A story I wrote on the WOTH III Muaythai kickboxing event for is posted below, a photo gallery from the event is up here, video highlights are up here.

War of the Heroes III brought a full night of professional and amateur kickboxing to Santa Clara

by Jon Swenson

2009-06-17 War of the Heroes III Results by Jon Swensen, The United States Muaythai Federation and Xfight brought the War of the Heroes III Muaythai Kickboxing Championships to the Santa Clara Convention Center on Saturday June 13th, 2009.

A stacked 16-fight card featured 2 pro superfights with K-1 veteran Marfio "The Warrior Tiger" Canoletti facing M. Toddy trained Chaz Mulkey, and a Brazil vs Japan showdown with an imposing Gilmar China Sales vs Baba Shingeyasu. Two USMF National Kickboxing titles were on the line, and the WOTH III main event featured pro Muaythai fight of Fairtex's Nathan Willet vs Jose Palacios with Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le and Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson in his corner.

The fight of the night had to be awarded to Marfio Canoletti and Chaz Mulkey based on the sheer amount of damage each fighter inflicted during the 5-round full thai rules contest. Chaz Mulkey began the first with an explosive display of striking punctuated by a dangerous counter hook and high kick combination. Chaz Mulkey scored a knockdown and poured it on with a series of flurries and elbows to end the first round.

The momentum carried with Mulkey as he dictated action at the start of the second. 2002 K-1 Brazil World MAX Champion Marfio Canoletti tried to overload the right hand and land kicks from a distance. Chaz spun Marfio into the corner and finished with a series of knee strikes in the clinch.

Marfio chopped one leg out from under Chaz Mulkey at the start of the third, and he responded with several short elbows and hard knees in tight. The Sao Paulo born Canoletti nearly fell through the ropes trying to circle away from an attack in the corner to a roar from the crowd. Canoletti landed a hard hook which knocked Mulkey back into the ropes, and was blocked to the mat on a flying front kick attempt.

A large cut was opened up over the eye of Marfio in a very bloody fourth round. Chaz stalked him around the ring with a series of hard low kicks and finished with mutiple body shots and elbows up against the ropes. During the break Mulkey's trainers worked hard on the cut and wiped the blood off of him, the corner, and the mat, but they missed the press table. With a high pace at the start of the fifth, an elbow connected to open a deeper cut over the eye of Chaz Mulkey. He could not continue giving Marfio Canoletti the come-from-behind TKO 52 seconds into the fifth round.

In the other professional superfight held under K-1 rules, Fairtex Brazil's imposing K-1 veteran Gilmar China Sales broke down Fairtex Japan's Baba Shigeyasu and earned a first round TKO. The first three low kicks by Sales connected with the loudest sounds of the night. He went back to work on the lower leg and added several hard hooks up top. Baba Shigeyasu tried several push kicks to create distance for combinations, but eventually his corner stopped the fight when Shigeyasu had problems defending himself.

The fighter of the night award may have to be given to Fairtex's Nathan Willet after a strong 5-round unanimous decision win over a technical Jose Palacios. Muaythai kickboxing is the science of 8 limbs (elbow, knee, feet fist), and Willet's 8 limbs displayed a full range of strikes that slowed down and punished a quicker, unbeaten Palacios. Nathan Willet threw short elbows in close with bad intentions, and finished the 5th round with a pair of heavy knee strikes caught on the highlight video.

Two United States Muaythai Federation Amateur National Titles were on the line Saturday. In the first title fight at 112 pounds, Jill Guido (TNT) earned a 3-round decision over former model Florina Petcu (Renzo Gracie from NYC). With the win, Guido earned a spot on the USMF National Muaythai Team that will compete at November's IFMA World Cup in Thailand. Guido showed excellent movement and technical ability against a taller Petcu, but her strength is an aggressive defense. As Florina would start to throw a punch or a kick, Jill Guido was blocking the strike while at the same time initiating one of her own.

In the other USMF National Title fight at 155 pounds, an evenly matched Dino Pagtakhan (Fairtex) won a tight 5-round decision over Eric Faria (Art of War). Faria strutted into the ring loose and dancing to his entrance music. Eric caught an early high kick, and tripped Dino to the mat illiciting a large cheer from his fans early in the first round. Several toe-to-toe exchanges punctuated the second round. Dino gained the edge with several power punches and high kicks connecting. Eric Faria was able to launch knee strikes or shut the fight down in the clinch. The third round was a series of collision then clinch, collision then clinch, collision then clinch, which favored the Art of War's Faria.

At this point the fight could have been scored even with the first split, the second going to Dino, and the third to Faria. In one sequence in the fourth round, Dino trapped Faria in the corner and landed a flurry of punches and knees that seemed to slow him down and sap some of his energy. In the fifth and final round Dino Pagtakhan showcased his footwork before Faria again brought him into the clinch. Pagtakhan landed a combination, and long left hand and right hook that backed Faria off. A short counter left hook as Eric Faria came forward drew a large reaction from the crowd and put Dino Pagtakhan over the top for one of the most entertaining fights of the night.

The winners of the USMF National Muaythai Title will go on to represent the USMF National Muaythai Team at the IFMA World Cup 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand this November 27th to December 5th, 2009 in honor of the Authority King of Thailand's Birthday. There will be over 120 country teams competing under the International Olympic Committee (IOC), GAISF, and WADA recognition.

On the undercard, the American Kickboxing Academy's Eric Luna, Unlimited Kickboxing's Hector Cortes, and AKA's Alexander Namuski looked impressive en route to early stoppage wins. TNT's Ryan Ratcliff apparently knocked out Jason Andrada on a trip at the start of the second round. Andrada's head hit the mat while his legs were suspended above him in the ropes. Andres Salas, Katie Toliao, TJ Arcangel, Reggie Queja, Tal Segev, Troy Taylor and Agualuna Romeo all earned wins.

FEG's Mike Kogan (Japan’s K-1 Max and Dreams) was on hand to scout the kickboxers. According to a press release, there is a possibility WOTH could be used as a feeder program for K-1 Max. Mr. Scott Coker, ISKA Strikeforce Promoter, and Ricardo Santana, WBC Brazil Promoter, were also in attendance enjoying the action packed bouts.

War of the Heroes IV will return to the Santa Clara Convention Center on October 10th, 2009 with a mix of professional MMA and Muaythai bouts along with amateur Muaythai undercards. For more information, tickets or sponsorship opportunity, please contact Nissa Zbiczak at

[Update] The World CSC MMA/Muaythai combined event held at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco last month can be streamed for free online at Thanks to for the link.

Monday, June 15, 2009

GJ Berg: Circus in the Desert (6/15 update)

So it's nearly a week since the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy hearing before Judge Redfield T Baum on the issue of relocation.

And the sports world held its breath waiting on the judge's ruling.

But what was said at the hearing? Many things.

Using the basis of other lawsuits between the NFL and the Oakland Raiders, the court agreed with the NHL that the league owned the right to any new franchise in the Southern Ontario market and the appropriate fees (relocation and/or indemnification for territory incursion) could be levied. A strike against Balsillie's claim.

On Thursday, a brief statement was released that the judge would not be ruling separately on what the relocation fees might be, perhaps tipping his hand that he would not support the relocation.

Late Monday, a 21-page judgment was released. In it, Judge Baum rejected the PSE/Balsillie proposed schedule for a sale/auction to be completed by the end of this month.

This article from the Globe and Mail does a nice job of summarizing the June 9th hearing and the ruling of the 15th.

Instead, the league has proposed an August 10 deadline for bidders to pay a multi-million dollar deposit on the stationary Phoenix franchise along with the ownership application that the NHL Board of Governors could review, with the auction to occur with pre-approved bidders on September 10. The league and Judge would determine the winner. Should no acceptable offer be found, then plans can be put in place to hold an auction for a relocatable franchise (starting play in alternate location as soon as the 2010-2011 season).

From where I sit, how I see things right now....

First, the push to resolve the ownership and relocation by the end of this month is gone. In realistic terms, this means that Phoenix will operate out of for the upcoming season, at least. The NHL will fund the team (debtor-in-possession funding, which is top of the list to be paid back when the bankruptcy is exited), with the NHL and Moyes coordinating actions in operating the team.

I can see Moyes, the NHL and Judge Baum planning a salary budget between the floor and mid-point of the salary cap, preferably the lower end. I can also see the NHL and Baum pushing to remove Moyes' other entities from financial gain (IOW, move out of Moyes-owned office space, charter a private company unless the cost is greater than Moyes' travel). And perhaps re-negotiate with Gretzky a lower (monetary) salary and/or part ownership deal in lieu of (all/part of his) salary.

The team may be negotiating with the City of Glendale for a more favorable lease to lessen some of the monetary issues. However, the taxpayer watchdog group, the Goldwater Institute, is watching this situation closely so extreme concessions may not be available or possible.

Second, the team is still in bankruptcy and will only trade hands given the blessing of the NHL (by pre-approving bidders for auction) and the judge's belief that the best "bid" to provide funds for secured and unsecured creditors.

What the rules for such an auction will be, when it would happen, are currently nebulous. The NHL has proposed an August "interest" deadline (submit deposit, ownership application) with a September auction.

But as Baum seems to want to push the NHL and Balsillie to mediation, it could be that both non-moving and relocation bids would be accepted (with a period of negotiation as to any relocation fees and indemnity fees).

Obviously the "minimum" bid for a relocatable asset would be higher due to the damages the City of Glendale would seek for losing their major tenant.

Third, if the franchise sells as a non-relocatable (for seven years, or whatever) team, Balsillie may not participate. But that does not mean his dream of a NHL team in Hamilton is dead.

There are other teams out there that may be available to purchase and/or move before that seven year period is up. Atlanta for one, once their ownership gets straightened out (unless both sides agree to any sale with $$ put into escrow).

And the NHL may put expansion on the calendar and agenda.

Still a lot that can happen.

Stay tuned for more.

USMF and Xfight War of the Heroes III Muaythai Kickboxing Championship video highlights

This is a short handheld highlight video of Saturday Night's War of the Heroes III Muaythai Kickboxing Championships held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The event presented by the United States Muaythai Federation and Xfight featured 2 title fights and 3 superfight matchups on a stacked 16 fight card. The Muaythai kickboxing championships return to Santa Clara October 10th.

A kickboxing report and photo gallery, and an updated report on ESPN's Friday Night Fight card live from HP Pavilion in San Jose will be posted soon.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Robert Guerrero answers critics with 8th round stoppage of Hinojosa, Garcia and Jordan successful on ESPN Friday Night Fight card

Robert Guerrero earned an 8th round stoppage over Efren Hinojosa on ESPN's Friday Night Fights
Philadelphia Welterweight Danny Garcia earns ko over Pavel Miranda HP Pavilion in San Jose
Golden Boy Promotions heavyweight Ashanti Jordan vs Andrae Carthon
Robert Guerrero Efren Hinojosa main event punchstats ESPN Friday Night Fights

Gilroy's Robert "the Ghost" Guerrero (24-1-1, 16KOs) earned some measure of redemption with an 8th round TKO over Efren Honojosa (30-5-1, 17KOs) on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, but to satisfy many of the boxing critics Guerrero is going to have to go on a Garlic Blitzkreg of the 130 pound division to definitively stamp out much of the over-inflated criticism.

The 2-time Featherweight champion needed to overcome a cut near his left eye in the 7th round due head butt by Honojosa, a cut that drew instant comparisons to the deeper gash and doctor stoppage he suffered early in his March fight with Duad Yordan. Guerrero's corner had problems staunching the bleeding, but one round later Honojosa was left clutching his arm with an apparent dislocated elbow and he was unable to answer the bell for the 9th.

"I wanted to show everybody that I was willing to fight on through a cut and I did that tonight, I had a tough guy in front of me and it was my time to shine," Guerrero told Dennis Taylor of the Monterey Herald.

Prior to the fight Guerrero stated a need to get some rounds in after registering only 1 fight in the previous 15 months. He started working the body early in the first, and finished with a massive 68% connect ratio landing 242 body shots out of 704 attempted in 8 rounds of action. His patented left uppercut came out in the 4th, and a straight left in the 7th nearly ended the fight, but overall it was only an above average performance from Guerrero.

ESPN play-by-play host Joe Tessitore started the broadcast from San Jose noting that there was chum in the water for the Friday Night Fights at the Tank. Unfortunately, the hastily thrown together event resulted in 3 fights dropping out at the last minute. Highly touted twin brothers Juan Carlos Velasquez (10-0, 9KOs) and Carlos Velasquez (9-0, 5KOs) had their fights against suspect opponents pulled.'s Steve Kim noted that Carlos was originally scheduled to face Martin Armenta, a boxer who had lost 18 of his last 20 fights. Juan Carlos was originally scheduled to face Manuel Sarabia, who was described ringside by one insider as a "professional opponent", albeit one with a track record of not showing up and a 1-9 record of his own in his last 10 fights. A last minute opponent was also not found for undefeated Jr Lightweight Eloy Perez (13-0-2, 3KOs), despite a month and a half of training by Perez and significant ticket sales by his home gym in Salinas.

ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas had problems with all 3 televised fights. Of Featherweight Danny Garcia (13-0, 8KOs), who earned a second round KO over Pavel Miranda (18-4, 10KOs), Atlas said he needs better competition. Of San Francisco Heavyweight Ashanti Jordan (10-0, 7KOs), who earned a 6th round decision over 2-time Golden Gloves Champion Andrae Carthron (2-1-2, 1KO), Atlas said he had a hard time taking him seriously when he turned professional at age 29. "The U.S. Heavyweight division is not good, it is controlled by Europeans... there is not a good amateur program, not enough teachers," Atlas said on the broadcast.

On Robert Guerrero, Atlas described him as average in all areas, not fast, not active enough, not enough power. Atlas said he would be successful based on his consistency across all areas instead of banking on a specific trait. That is a surpise after seeing his left uppercut and straight left crumple several past opponents. Atlas rightfully criticized Guerrero's pawing jab. He landed 42 of 206, but for the most part it was a non-factor.

Atlas also took a somewhat misguided jab at the California State Athletic Commission. He pointed to both of the Velasquez fights against suspect opponents being called off, and questioned the quality and time frame Pavel Miranda and Efren Hinojosa had to prepare for their bouts. Atlas said that California needs a better commission, and noted that it was better under Armando Garcia. No one can question the focus of the CSAC under Garcia was the safety of the fighters, but at times he appeared in conflict with managers and promoters instead of diplomatically working with them. The CSAC has room to grow, California's dire economic situation notwithstanding, but it is in a much more improved position now than even a few years back. The Commission is aware of the criticism and not pleased.

There is no photo gallery for this event. A replay of the event can be seen on There has been recent notice that Comcast high speed internet will be allowed access to ESPN 360 starting in August.

[Note] ESPN Friday Night Fight results:

Friday, June 12, 2009
HP Pavilion
San Jose, CA
ESPN2 - Friday Night Fights

Robert Guerrero (24-1-1, 17 KOs) d. Efren Hinojosa (30-6-1, 7 KOs)
TKO End of 8th

Ashanti Jordan (10-0, 7 KO's) d. Andrae Carthon (2-2-1, 1 KO)
Majority Decision

Anthony Johnson (2-0) d. Henry Wells (0-2)
Unanimous Decision

Danny Garcia (13-0, 8 KO's) d. Pavel Miranda (18-4, 10 KO's)
KO Round 2

Yohan Bank (2-2-2) vs. David Johnson (5-21-6)
Technical Draw Round 2

Attendance: 3,234

[Update] "The Ghost” Answers His Critics! - David Robinett for

[Update2] Guerrero back on track with win over Hinojosa - USA Today.

[Update3] Guerrero wins impressively, earns IBF title shot against Klassen in August - SF Examiner Boxing.

It turned out he needed only to win the fight to gain the title bid against Klassen on a card that also will feature Juan Diaz against Paulie Malinaggi in a junior welterweight bout.

There had been talk Guerrero would be fighting Diaz, presumably at 135. "It was up in the air until a day or so ago," said manager Shelly Finkel, whose target had been unbeaten WBO junior lightweight champion Roman Martinez. When "Martinez made the demands ridiculous," Finkel said,the focus turned to Klassen, a South African who won the title in April by stopping Cassius Baloyi.

In his fight before that, Klassen won a title eliminator bout against Manuel Medina, a veteran in the Hinojosa mode, which shows how much trouble Klassen is having attracting high-quality opponents. Guerrero will be favored to take the title, but Klassen needs the HBO exposure even more than does Guerrero. What Guerrero needed was the work, so much so that Finkel felt ambivalent when Guerrero wasn’t able to take out Hinojosa more quickly. "I’m glad he was able to get some tough rounds," Finkel said.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gilroy's Robert "the Ghost" Guerrero looking to get back on track inside the ring against Efren Hinojosa, tonight on ESPN's Friday Night Fights

Gilroy Jr Lightweight Robert Guerrero ESPN Friday Night Fights boxing

Robert "the Ghost" Guerrero's return to San Jose on March 7th was an inauspicious one. Against unconventional Indonesian Duad Yordan on a nationally televised HBO Boxing After Dark broadcast, the 2-time IBF featherweight champion started slowly out of the gate. As Guerrero began to assert himself in the second round, Yordan repeatedly lunged inside and eventually planted a head butt over the right eye of Guerrero. It opened up a deep cut that would require 23 stitches to close.

Guerrero acknowledged to referee Jon Schorle he could not see out of his eye and the doctor stopped the fight. Yordan celebrated as if he earned a win, and the heavily partisan Gilroy crowd inside HP Pavilion boo'd heavily before it was announced the fight was ruled a no contest. The HBO broadcast initially called it "a practical decsion", but took the averse crowd reaction as a statement on Guerrero when it was really directed towards Yordan's celebration. Instead of igniting the local boxing scene in the South Bay, the night ended with a significant albeit unwarranted criticism of Guerrero.

HBO analyst Max Kellerman said that fighters have a responsiblity not just to earn a win, but to inspire others to want to watch them fight. He noted that Victor Ortiz and James Kirkland inspired him to want to watch future fights, leaving his thoughts on Guerrero understood but unsaid. The criticism snowballed from there. Guerrero admitted feeling "real anxiety" over the outcome. "I just want to get back in, get healthy, and get back on track," Guerrero recently told reporters.

On his latest ESPN Radio Heavy Hitters podcast, play-by-play host Joe Tessitore fresh off the Belmont Stakes said that Guerrero needs to show the boxing critics that he is committed to being a champion inside the ring, and that he is willing to fight through adversity. "Time and time again, even in four round swing bouts, we have seen fighters with similar cuts decide that they want to continue and fight on," Tessitore said. "Maybe he did want to fight on, but he did not give you the response or the body language that told you that."

An even furthur indication of that overreaction came when many of the boxing critics tagged Guerrero with the label of being a quitter. "There is a perception that Guerrero took the easy way out in what was becoming a much more difficult than-expected evening at the Tank in San Jose,"'s Steve Kim said in a recent article. ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas told Kim that a professional fighter knows exactly what will happen if they tell a doctor in front of a commission that they are unable to see, and that there is a culture that pervades boxing where they are expected to overcome obstacles regular civilians would not.

Longtime local online boxing scribe Mario Ortega Jr. pointed out the circumstances surrounding Robert Guerrero's blistering first round knockout of Martin Honorio in November of 2007. It came two weeks after learning his wife Casey had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Ortega also notes that the preceeding IBF Featherweight title fight against Spend Abazi on enemy ground in Denmark came on three weeks notice. Guerrero had a 10-month layoff from the ring after a 8th round knockout of Jason Litzau in February 2008 according to a recent Metro Silicon Valley feature article by Jessica Fromm. "It was frustrating, just coming off two excellent fights on Showtime, two back-to-back exciting knockouts where the media was excited... and then nothing for a year," Guerrero told the Metro.

Robert Guerrero has established a persona inside the ring as a superbly conditioned boxer who will either blitz early with power, or break down an opponent and take him out in the later rounds. Prior to the second round no-contest with Yordan, Guerrero battered a previously undefeated Jason Litzau in a wildly entertaining Shobox fight. Setting him up with a devestating left uppercut, Guerrero picked Litzau up off his feet with a looping right hook that sent him a few feet in the opposite direction. Against Spend Abazi, it was a power straight left bomb that opened a lot of eyes. Martin Honorio was stiffened up, then knocked out in the first round with a quick 2-punch combination. With Golden Boy boxing and Golden Boy mma battling on the same night a few miles apart in Southern California, Guerrero dispatched Edel Ruiz in the first round before many fans could take their seats. If Guerrero was a quitter, his previous 4 fights prior to the Duad Yordan no contest were nowhere near evidence of that. His earlier work experience inside the ring is even more lopsided.

Then there is also the point of contention that Guerrero was in against a more difficult opponent than he bargained for. From the Compubox statistics for the fight:

Up until the stoppage, 'The Ghost' had established statistical superiority, throwing and landing at nearly twice Yordan’s rate. Guerrero was 23 of 111 (21 percent) overall to Yordan’s 14 of 65 (22 percent), 20 of 73 in power shots (27 percent) to 14 of 54 (26 percent) and 3 of 38 in jabs (8 percent) to 0 of 11 (0 percent)."

The statistics with such a small sample size are not definitive by any means, but there is also no reason to believe that Guerrero would not have figured out the unorthodox Indonesian in the later rounds of the fight. In fact that exaggerated lunging and leading with the head by Yordan was probably designed to take space away from the powerful left hand of Guerrero.

"I hit him with some good body shots, he turned into a cat backed into the corner." Guerrero said. "He did whatever he could to punch and grab ahold of me, I think he was trying to find a way out. Then it got turned around, and a lot of people said I was trying to find a way out." Guerrero told the assembled reporters at a recent media workout that he asked for a rematch with Yordan as soon as he stepped outside of the ring. "When I get a title, he will fight me," Guerrero said.

Robert Guerrero will face Mexico City born and socal native Efren Hinojosa (30-5-1, 17KOs), who took the fight on 5 days notice after previously scheduled opponent Johnnie Edwards pulled out with an injury. Hinosa is 1-3 in his previous four contests, with the win coming February via a first round disqualification over Jose Rojas. After acknowledging that he had no prior knowledge of Efren Hinojosa, Guerrero said "I want to go in there and put some rounds in... a lot of times when I put everything together the fights do not last too long." He said that he expects HP Pavilion in San Jose to be loud, and that he will try to put on a good show for the hometown audience.

When asked one last time about the criticism from HBO's Max Kellerman, Guerrero described the analyst as a "tough cookie" and offered his services if Kellerman wanted to participate in an episode of Pro's vs Joe's.

Undefeated Philadelphia Welterweight Danny Garcia (12-0, 7KOs) is featured in a co-main event bout against Pavel Miranda (18-3, 10KOs), while San Francisco Heavyweight Ashanti Jordan (9-0, 7KOs) will look to continue his hit parade against Long Beach, California's Andrae Carthon (2-1-1, 1KO). Highly touted Puerto Rican twins Juan Carlos Velasquez (10-0, 9KOs) and Carlos Velasques (9-0, 5KOs) will join Salinas Jr Lightweight Eloy Perez (13-0-2, 3KOs) and San Jose Cruiserweight Anthony Johnson (1-0) on the undercard.

[Update] Guerrero determined to make good showing -

[Update2] Wife's stabilized health enables Guerrero to go all-out - Colin Seymour for the San Francisco Examiner.

Robert Guerrero feels particularly sharp for Friday’s ESPN2 appearance against Efren Hinojosa at San Jose’s HP Pavilion. He says his wife’s improving health is the reason.

Wife Casey’s leukemia recurred in January, but by April she had been in remission again long enough that Robert felt he could leave her side for several weeks.

"The Ghost" spent much of the spring training in the Los Angeles area, where suitable sparring partners are more plentiful, and being able to concentrate on his job has made a difference he believes will show Friday. "Now that she’s healthy I’m ready to go, get back to the basics of where I was at," Guerrero told me. "And that’s getting ready for the fight and doing what I do, getting the sparring and being 100 percent."

[Update3] Guerrero vows a better ghost story for hometown fans -

[Update4] In Dan Rafael's latest boxing notebook on ESPN, he reports that a Guerrero win over Hinojosa could lead to the Gilroy native appearing on another HBO tripleheader August 22nd in Houston. Guerrero could face South African IBF Super Featherweight titlest Malcolm Klassen. "They're interested, and HBO likes that fight, so we're trying to work it out," a Golden Boy representative told Rafael.

[Update5] Gilroy's "Ghost" gets shot at redemption - Dennis Taylor for the Monterey Herald.

That kind of motivation presumably could inspire a ferocious performance from "The Ghost" tonight. He clearly feels he needs one to get back into the good graces of his new backer, Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions (for whom he was fighting for the very first time last March), and especially the major boxing networks, HBO and Showtime. An HBO official has implied none too subtly that Guerrero is in its doghouse and won't appear on that network again until he redeems himself.

You can listen to Dennis Taylor's Sunday morning boxing radio show from 9-10AM (PT) on Monterey 1240AM or at

Thursday, June 11, 2009

ESPN Friday Night Fights at HP Pavilion weigh-in photos

ESPN Friday Night Fights weigh-in Robert Guerrero Efren Hinojosa
ESPN Friday Night Fights weigh-in Jr Welterweight Danny Garcia
ESPN Friday Night Fights weigh-in San Francisco heavyweight boxer Ashanti Jordan
ESPN Friday Night Fights boxing Tecate ring girls

ESPN Friday Night Fights Weigh-in Results
HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA
June 11th, 2009

Robert GUERRERO (134.4 lbs), Gilroy, CA, 23-1-1 (16 KO's)
Efren HINOJOSA (136.2 lbs), Mexico City, MEX, 30-5-1 (17 KO's)

Danny GARCIA (142.4 lbs), Philadelphia, PA, 12-0 (7 KO's)
Pavel MIRANDA (142 lbs), Tijuana, MEX, 18-3 (10 KO's)

Ashanti JORDAN (222.6 lbs), San Francisco, CA, 9-0 (7 KO's)
Andrae CARTHRON (213.6 lbs), Long Beach, CA, 2-1-1 (1 KO's)

Eloy PEREZ (tomorrow), Salinas, CA, 13-0-2 (3 KO's)
Cristian FAVELA (tomorrow), Los Mochis, CA, 16-18-6 (9 KO's)

Anthony JOHNSON (192.8 lbs), San Jose, CA, 1-0
Henry WELLS (198 lbs), Sacramento, CA, 0-1

Juan VELASQUEZ (tomorrow), Rio Piedras, PR, 9-0 (5 KO's)
Manuel SARABIA (tomorrow), Culiacan, MEX, 16-29-9 (10 KO's)

A photo gallery from the ESPN Friday Night Fight weigh-in is available here.

ESPN's last Friday Night Fight visit to San Jose was a memorable one

TSN San Jose Sharks offseason plans center Joe Pavelski
ESPN Friday Night Fights San Jose Jose Celaya James Webb
ESPN Friday Night Fights San Jose boxing upset
ESPN Friday Night Fights boxing announcers Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas San Jose

Since 1998, ESPN's Friday Night Fights has steadily churned out quality boxing for the masses. Earlier this year they took it to another level with Cuban phenom Yuriorkis Gamboa, former Ring Magazine fighter of the year Glen Johnson, WBC Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko and former WBC Heavyweight champ Samuel Peter fighting in quick succession. Before ESPN travels to HP Pavilion in San Jose tomorrow for a Robert Guerrero vs Efren Hinojosa main event, it is worth a look back to a 2005 footnote for the program which turned out to be one of the most entertaining boxing cards held in the Bay Area.

The San Jose Civic Auditorium is a small, 3000 seat venue built in a California Mission style in 1936. An afterthought to many in the day-to-day hustle of Silicon Valley, the venerable Civic has hosted a long list of musical acts over the years ranging from Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington to the Pixies and Snoop Dog. Former top ranked Salinas Welterweight Jose Celaya faced 3-time World Armed Forces Championships James "Spider" Webb on a May 2005 Friday Night Fights main event live from San Jose, California. The 23-year old heavily favored Celaya was looking for redemption after suffering a 6th round knockout loss to Eddie Sanchez in his previous fight.

The East Bay's Nonito Donaire wowed those in attendance with a dominant 8-round performance on the undercard against veteran journeyman Paulino Villalobos. In his last bay area fight, Donaire displayed the lightning quick hand speed that would later launch him into a Filipino boxing icon, the IBF and IBO Flyweight titles, and a #8 pound-for-pound boxer in the world ranking according to Ring Magazine.

Jose "El Cuate" Celaya entered the ring with trainer Emanuel Steward to a large roar from the small audience, forcing ESPN broadcasters Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas to shout out their pre-fight analysis in order to be heard. Celaya had an extensive amateur background, and had sparred earlier with the likes of Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. The highly touted Salinas native was looking to put his career back on the championship track against a largely unknown, but undefeated James Webb.

The fight began on script with Celaya trying to outbox the larger Webb, turning and trying to land off the counter. An aggressive Webb had a simple gameplan, coming straight forward while attempting nearly 200 punches in the first round alone. "El Cuate" slowly started to pick apart his opponent, finding holes in the heavily tattoo'd arms which were held tight in front of the ex-Marine. Then a long punch from outside stunned Celaya, and dropped him to the canvas with 1 second left in the fourth round. The heavily partisan crowd and the raucous atmosphere inside the Civic became deathly silent.

Celaya tried to pull himself together in a back-and-forth fifth round as the fight became more a test of wills than a boxing match. James "The Spider" Webb suffered a severe and profusely bleeding cut over his right eye late in round, but he was bouncing and ready at the start of the sixth. "Both boxers semi-abandoned their game plans to stand toe-to-toe... Jose Celaya was moving backwards or standing still to counter instead of moving side-to-side... Webb was using his face to block punches instead of his arms," this blog wrote of the sixth round at the time. Webb connected with a heavy combination at the end of the sixth that staggered Celaya and opened up a deep cut over his eye. Blood covered each fighter as they headed to their respective corners.

Fans were standing on their feet at the start of the 7th, completely engaged in the action inside the ring. The energy from Celaya was starting to wane, but he controlled much of the action early in the 7th with short heavy counter punches, and a "particularly vicious straight left". Pressing for a knockout, Celaya appeared to have Webb on the ropes. Backing straight out with 10 seconds left in the round, Celaya was nailed with a straight right that stopped him in his tracks. Webb tried to pour it on as the bell rang.

Jose Celaya was still feeling the effects of the late flurry at the start of the 8th round as the crowd offered shouts of encouragement. Webb stormed straight forward and scored an early knockdown. Seconds later, James Webb trapped Celaya up against the ropes and landed several uncontested power punches. The legs buckled under Celaya, and he could no longer intelligently defend himself. A gigantic right hand crumped him to the canvas for a second time, and the fight was stopped.

There was a larger murmur of discontent from the heavily partisan Celaya favoring crowd as they got up to leave the building while a swing fight was just getting underway inside the ring. There was a palpable sense of shock that one of the top Bay Area boxing hopefulls was just served a brutal upset on national television. Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas tried to breakdown the bloody affair ringside, before taking time to speak and take photographs with a number of fans who came over to say hello.

It was an unexpected and dramatic outcome, and one that did not receive much local media attention outside of Monterey and Salinas. Thanks to former writer Steve Brown for access to the fight in 2005. More notes and photos from the fight can be found here and here.

[Update] Mark Purdy: Ghost Guerrero is determined to KO perceptions Friday night - San Jose Mercury News.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TSN's Scott Cullen takes a crack at the San Jose Sharks offseason gameplan

TSN San Jose Sharks offseason plans center Joe Pavelski

TSN fantasy guru Scott Cullen offered his assessment of the San Jose Sharks offseason plan yesterday. According to Cullen, the "challenging" offseason for general manager Doug Wilson will come down to tweaking the existing lineup, instead of making dramatic moves to reshape the Presidents Trophy winning roster after another early playoff exit. With $47 million committed in salary to 14 roster players, and the $56.7 million cap expected to drop by $2+ million for next season, Doug Wilson will have intricate maneuvering ahead of him to re-sign several key players or bring in new additions.

The offseason issues for San Jose start at the top, and Cullen quoted head coach Todd McLellan's locker cleanout comments to reporters on Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, "They are the leaders. One wears the 'C' and one wears the 'A.' They're the focal point of our organization. Frankly, the team hasn't succeeded with them driving the bus. The questions grow every year that you don't succeed." During a recent interview with the new Chronicle Live sportstalk television program here in the Bay Area, Doug Wilson said "Joe Thornton will be back on this hockey team next year."

When asked a similar question about Patrick Marleau's status, Wilson was not as definitive. "Patrick Marleau is an interesting guy because has played very well in the playoffs on the goal scoring side of it, but he needs much like a lot of our guys to compete at a higher level." Wilson also denied a recent report by Bruce Garrioch that both Thornton and Marleau were off the table. He set the record straight with David Pollak on the Mercury News Sharks blog that only Thornton and Dan Boyle were untouchable, as to the status of other players "discussions are ongoing".

Realistically, even though Doug Wilson may be posturing to gauge what offers are made, Patrick Marleau should be in a teal uniform next season. He won the team most valueable player award not just with a career high 38 goals and 71 points, but because he contributed to the most areas on the ice. If you take Marleau out of the equation moving forward, you lose a large chunk of that speed and power game the team is based on. Marleau's reign as team captain is another issue that may be addressed this offseason. He blossomed in a move from center to left wing alongside Joe Thornton, and many have speculated that naming a different captain may take pressure off Marleau and have a similar impact on his game. San Jose has a tight knit and productive locker room, but the Sharks have a horrible track record of getting up for the start of big playoff games and for falling apart when meeting obstacles. Fairly or unfairly, a lot of that blame has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.

The Sharks had seven top-6 forwards last season. Cullen believes that at least one of these players will be moved in a trade, possibly a Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau or Milan Michalek. He suggests two-way forwards like Mikael Samuelsson, Chad LaRose or Tomas Kopecky as possibly return candidates, or re-uniting Joe Thornton with Mike Knuble. Others have cited a need for more gritty, hard edged role players like a Chris Neil or Ian Laperriere.

Forwards Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell are high priority restricted free agents that fit well into head coach Todd McLellan's offensive system. Cullen described Clowe as a physical presence with a "suprising knack" in front of the net. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Newfoundlander is about as surprising as a Mack Truck. With a career high 22 goals and 30 assists in 71 games played, it is conceivable that he could have priced him out of the Sharks price range with his solid play. He was one of the last players Wilson got under contract last offseason with a 1-year $1.6 million deal, after Clowe missed all but 15 regular season games with an injury in 2007-08. "We will look to the future after next season," his agent Paul Cobeil told David Pollak at the time of the signing. Clowe suffered another "lower body" injury late in this season and missed 11 games.

Torrey Mitchell was injured during the second practice of training camp, and he missed all 82 regulars season games and the first two playoff games against Anaheim before making an impact in his return to the lineup. His speed and tenacious forechecking will add a much needed element to a third line that was beseiged by injuries this season. Young forwards Jamie McGinn and Brad Staubitz have also received votes of confidence from the organization, and should get a solid opportunity to stick with the big club.

Scott Cullen described second line center Joe Pavelski as "streaky", but noted that he "continued to improve and is a legitimate second line scoring centre who plays well in all zones". Pavelski's strength to the organization is his consistency. His point totals increased 12 points and 18 points respectively in his second and third seasons. This year he anchored the Sharks second line, which was in all regards the top scoring line heading down the stretch. With 5 goals (3 of them game winning) and 9 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, Pavelski was targeted for a much bigger contribution in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Anaheim. After scoring 70 goals in the regular season, the Sharks second line contributed only 2 in the playoffs, both on the power play. It should be considered a blip on an otherwise steady career trajectory for Pavelski. The Stevens Point, Wisconsin native was recently named to the USA Olympic team, which should dramatically increase his national and international profile. This blog made comparisons of Pavelski to a young Chris Drury.

There is a large hole in Cullen's list of signed defenseman. The gaping void occurs because Rob Blake is not on it. It was a shock to the system of many Northern Californian hockey fans when the captain of the Los Angeles Kings was signed last year, but he quickly made them forget about his 14-year abberation in socal en route to a resurgent 45 point season. Signing Blake to another 1-year, $5-million deal could take up a significant portion of the available cap space (given a $2+ million decrease). If Blake is not signed, or if he chooses to retire, Cullen speculates that Mattias Ohlund, Mike Komisarek or Johnny Oduya could be possible replacements.

"Dan Boyle's first season in San Jose represented a marvelous bounceback from his injury-marred 2007-2008 campaign," Cullen said of the Sharks biggest offseason acquisition. "He was in fine form, quarterbacking the power play and joining in the attack as well as any defenceman outside of Washington's Mike Green." Defenseman Craig Rivet left to become the captain in Buffalo, and for the most part Dan Boyle matched Rivet's leadership and more than exceeded offensive expectations. One of the most candid players about the playoff failure, twice Boyle called out defensive teammates for their play against the Anaheim Ducks top line. In the State of the Sharks question and answer session Boyle said the goaltending of Evgeni Nabokov needed to be better. There has been speculation about Boyle possibly being a captain for the San Jose Sharks. If that was the case this would be a distinctly different team. After several critical playoff exits, that may be what management is looking for.

On defense, Cullen mentions Nick Petrecki, Derek Joslin and Jason Demers as Worcester Sharks looking to stick with the big club. Brad Lukowich and Derek Joslin could battle for the 6th defensive slot and play alongside Douglas Murray in one scenario, returning the same 3 pairings as last season may not be the best option if the Sharks are looking to make changes. Pairing Christian Ehrhoff with Dan Boyle for an 82 game season could also provide a dramatic impact on the Sharks blueline, it could be a sink or swim year for Ehrhoff who has 2 years left on his contract at $3.275 million per. Vlasic took a "big step forward in his third season" according to Cullen, scoring 36 points in 82 games played. Unfortunately Vlasic was -6 in the first round, and he struggled against the Ducks top line. An intelligent player who plays a well rounded game, the Sharks need Vlasic to improve for the 2009-2010 season.

Goaltending is another issue that has received a lot of attention locally after an early first round playoff exit. "Heading into the final year of his contract, so there ought to be a heightened sense of urgency next season," Cullen said of Nabokov. As two playoff rounds showed a year earlier against Calgary and Dallas, Nabokov can lock down opponents and give the Sharks an opportunity to win on a nightly basis. The problem may lie with leaning too hard on Nabokov in the regular season. As Simeon Varlamov and Jonas Hiller recently showed, having a second goaltender primed and ready for playoff action if a starter struggles could be critical in a close playoff series. That would be a structural decision for what has essentially been Nabokov's team for several seasons. Brian Boucher is a perfect goaltender for that role, and it allows Thomas Greiss one more season to develop in the AHL before becoming the heir apparent in San Jose.

Scott Cullen believes the Sharks will acquire one top-9 forward, depth forwards, one top pair defenseman, and a backup goaltender. The Sharks do not have a first round draft pick in the upcoming 2009 NHL Entry Draft, but they left open the possibility of trading both second round draft picks to move up in the draft if the situation warrants.

[Update] Max Giese: Sharks Top 20 Prospects and Profiles - Sharkspage. (link fixed, thanks Paul)

[Update2] A Look Back at 10 Moves the Sharks Should Have Made - Ryan Garner for Hockey Buzz.

1) Trade Patrick Marleau to the Colorado Avalanche for Ryan Smyth

Not only does this fix the problems San Jose has at left wing, but it gives the team a proven leader and a player whose immense work ethic and grit will rub off on the players around him. Ryane Clowe looked like a 25-goal scorer playing with Thornton, just by standing in front of the net and cleaning up the garbage. Nobody is better in front of the net than Smyth, helping San Jose’s power play and fitting in perfectly with Thornton’s deliberate style of play.

[Update3] Long line for vacant GM position in Florida - Edmonton Journal.

Marleau will be shipped

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau has a no-trade clause in his contract, but you can bet GM Doug Wilson will ask him which three or four teams he would consider going to prior to the draft because they have to move him.

The Habs need a No. 1 centre, but Marleau is better in a support role, playing behind somebody else. If the Sharks do deal him, count on Dan Boyle being named captain.

[Update4] Looking At Sharks FA Status -

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Robert Guerrero, Eloy Perez and Ashanti Jordan hold media workout prior to ESPN Friday Night Fight card

ESPN Friday Night Fights set for Friday June 12th at HP Pavilion in San Jose
Robert Guerrero and Ruben Guerrero workout LA boxing in San Jose
Eloy Perez Salinas boxer trains for ESPN Friday Night Fights

2-time Featherweight Champion Robert Guerrero (23-1-1, 16KOs), up and coming San Francisco heavyweight Ashanti Jordan (9-0, 7KOs), Salinas super featherweight Eloy Perez (13-0-2, 3KOs), and LA Boxing's own cruiserweight Anthony Johnson (1-0) were on hand Tuesday morning for a media workout session prior to the ESPN Friday Night Fights this weekend at HP Pavilion. A pair of undefeated boxers will fill out the card in jr welterweight Danny Garcia (12-0, 7KOs) and Puerto Rican featherweight Juan Velasquez (9-0, 5KOs).

A photo gallery from the media workout at LA Boxing in San Jose is available here. More notes and a look back at ESPN's last visit to San Jose will be added in a subsequent post.

Versus, The Ring Magazine and got together to stream this Thursday's boxing live from the Nokia Center in L.A. for free online. ESPN fights Friday will be covered on this blog, as well as the War of Heros III Muay Thai kickboxing championships Saturday from Santa Clara.

Arlovski and Lawler upset at Strikeforce St Louis, Urijah Faber unsuccessful in WEC title bid in Sacramento

Strikeforce St Louis Robbie Lawler Jake Shields

Strikeforce St. Louis offered a balanced and entertaining main card from the Scottrade Center this Saturday. With an evenly matched headline fight between former Elite XC Welterweight Champion and Cesar Gracie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Jake Shields and heavy handed EliteXC Middleweight Champion Robbie Lawler, there were no readily available underdogs, but Shields moving up in weight and earning a submission via Guillotine choke 2:02 into the first round has to be considered an upset.

Shields, a prototypical grappler, immediately tried to take the fight to the mat with a pair of single leg takedown attempts but was rebuffed by the strong takedown defense of Lawler. Shields kept up the pressure and closed the gap between them, wary of giving Lawler any room to unleash his left hand of iron and right hand of steel (if one of them don't get you, the other one will). Expert head control by Shields in the clinch, setting up the knee and forcing Lawler out of his element.

Unfortunate commentary by Showtime analyst Gus Johnson, as he claimed Shields was in trouble and that he was "not strong enough to get Lawler down", the San Francisco native charged Lawler and wrapped him in a tight Guillotine choke shortly thereafter. Lawler got to his feet and attempted to slam Shields, but the choke was sunk in too tight and he tapped as soon as he got to the mat. Shields recently told that there was time and fights left on his contract with Strikeforce, one that was purchased after the dissolution of EliteXC. Shields has stated a desire to join the UFC after his contract is fufilled, but fans in the Bay Area would love to see a Jake Shields vs Cung Le superfight for his Strikeforce finale. Due to his extended absence to participate in several feature films, Strikeforce may create an interim belt until Cung Le can return to action.

The rest of the card was not extraordinary, but it was solid and competitive enough to make it one of the top 5 MMA events held so far this year. Coming off a crushing first round knockout loss to Fedor Emelianenko in January, where he was controlling the fight until an ill-timed flying knee attempt, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski stepped in as a late replacement against up and coming Brett Rogers. Rogers was originally scheduled to face Strikeforce Heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem until he suffered a hand injury in training.

Rogers may have been considered an underdog before the fight, but he has some of the best knockout power in the division and he showcased solid Muay Thai striking in his last win over Abongo Humphrey. Arlovski was able to throw a pair of low kicks until Rogers stormed forward with an onslaught of punches. A right caught Arolovski square on the chin and dropped him to the mat, forcing referee Big John McCarthy to stop the fight at 22 seconds. "Brett has just turned this division into Mr. Rogers neighborhood," said the always colorful announcer Mauro Ranallo. Arlovski may be tagged as having a suspect chin with a pair of spectacular knockout losses, but they have come from possibly the two hardest hitting heavyweights in the division. Rogers may be on a collision course with Alistair Overeem for the Strikeforce Heavyweight title, but how well is he going to perform off his back? Rogers should push hard for a tuneup fight on the August 15th Strikeforce Carano vs Santos card in San Jose against a heavyweight with a solid ground game.

In the remaining fights, Stockton's Nick Diaz simply dismantled Sacramento's Scott Smith en route to a third round submission via RNC. Smith was out on his feet twice before coming up with a stunning KO over Benji Radach in April. That is not something you want to make a habit of inside the cage, but Smith again was out on his feet at times in the second and third round against Diaz, with no ability to competently defend himself. Diaz has the ability to go back down to 170, or to go up in weight to 185 for a possible slugfest duel with Robbie Lawler.

Joe Riggs vs Phil Baroni was an apparent matchup between one dimensional brawlers, but Baroni served as the perfect canvas for Riggs to paint himself as a more complete fighter. Riggs piled up a devestating array of punches, kicks and elbows on the New York Badass, earning a unanimous decision win. Riggs finished landing 77 total strikes according to Compustrike, many of them of the power variety. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and PrideFC veteran Kevin Randleman was unsuccessful in his comeback attempt against Mike Whitehead, and the much hyped Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante was dealt a shocking upset TKO loss to Mike Kyle with a TKO 4:05 into the second round.

More notes on the upcoming ESPN Friday Night Fights and an upcoming Muay Thai kickboxing event in the South Bay this weekend will be posted soon.

[Update] Former WEC Featherweight Champion and UC Davis wrestler Urijah Faber was anable to avenge his title loss to Mike Brown this Sunday at WEC 41 at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Faber tried a blind spinning elbow last November and ran into a devestating right hand from Mike Brown to lose his title. Sunday Faber broke his right hand early in the 5-round rematch and possibly injured his left hand severely diminishing his offensive attack later in the fight. Faber tried to make adjustments with elbows and kicks, but it gave a powerful Mike Brown too many openings that he took advantage of en route to a unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47).

[Update2] No redemption for Faber in WEC rematch - Sacramento Bee.

Faber (22-3) was not available following the bout after WEC officials said he was taken to an area hospital with a broken hand. Faber said he suffered the injury midway through the second round. "I wish I could have won for you tonight, but I'll be back," Faber told the announced crowd of 13,027 at Arco.

The event, which was carried live on Versus, marked the second time Arco hosted the WEC since last June. WEC general manager Reed Harris said Sacramento can expect regular returns to Arco, where announced crowds on two occasions have set attendance records for the organization. Sunday's announced crowd and gate of $818,415 were both records for the WEC.

[Update3] Diaz Sets CompuStrike Records for Total Strikes Thrown/Landed in a Round View CompuStrike Records - Compustrike.

Nick Diaz will never be accused of not letting his hands go. Diaz broke his previous CompuStrike record for total strikes thrown in a round (181) when he unloaded 221 in the second round vs. Scott Smith enroute to a third round submission win.

More importantly, Diaz landed a CompuStrike record 125 total strikes in that second round (57%), shattering Michael Bisping’s record of 105 landed in the first round of his ko win over Elvis Sinosic. 117 of Diaz’s total strikes landed were arm strikes (56%), another CompuStrike record. He also attempted a CompuStrike record 210 arm strikes in the round. Diaz outlanded Smith 125-15 in total strikes in round two.

The CompuBox record for punches thrown in a round (three minutes in boxing- mma is five minutes rounds) is 237, by Vince Phillips on 12/22/00 in the 12th round of his decision win over Ray Oliveira. Rocky Gannon landed a CompuBox record 99 punches in the fourth round of his ko win over Undra White on 9/13/96.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

GJ Berg: Circus in the Desert (6/6 update)

Welcome to another week in the world of legal craziness that is the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy court case.

Nothing that big or huge was decided this week, but a number of filings provide additional insight to the NHL in preparation for next Tuesday's (6/9) hearing of arguments on whether the Phoenix Coyotes is a "relocatable" asset (by the power of the bankruptcy court) or stationary (and has to go through the NHL approval process for any relocation).

On Monday, 6/1, Balsillie's relocation package was presented to the NHL through Moyes.

On Tuesday, 6/2, an "emergency" hearing was held. One motion was denied requiring the NHL to provide all documents (within a day or two) pertaining to the timing of recent relocations (e.g., Quebec to Denver, Hartford to Carolina, Winnipeg to Phoenix), the most recent of which was more than a decade ago.

One interesting thing that has come out as a result of these legal proceedings are the actual attendance (not just the paid attendance). James Mirtle does a nice job of summarizing what the numbers mean.

Some market research studies on Phoenix and Hamilton have also been released.

On Thursday, Judge Baum released the rules for bidding (on a relocatable asset). Start with $20m deposit and apply to Moyes' lawyers by 17 June (for a 22 June auction).

In one PR move, Balsillie released letters of commendation and recommendation he has received over the years, including some from Canadian Premiers (head of provinces) and a former US ambassador. But on the other side NHLPA head Kelley disrespected the players by saying the plug needed to be pulled on their franchise, later claiming he was quoted out of context. And a unflattering article on Balsillie's legal representative Rodier came out; he's been planning this run-around-the-rules kind of acquisition for years. But Arizona elected officials are not very (publicly) supportive:

When asked to comment on the Coyotes situation, press secretaries for Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. Trent Franks, whose district includes part of Glendale, did not respond. Rep. Ed Pastor, who also represents Glendale, declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

Only Sen. John McCain had an opinion.

"As an avid Coyotes fan, I strongly support the team staying in Arizona and hope that Arizona hockey fans will be able to continue to call the Coyotes our team," he said in a statement.

Friday's midnight deadline for submissions of briefs on the relocation included

  • MLB/NFL/NBA joint amici curiae brief
  • Release NHL constitution and (some of the) NHL bylaws
  • News that there are four potential bidders to keep the team in Phoenix, including Reinsdorf, Breslow, the two owners of the CFL Toronto Argos, and a fourth owner not currently wishing to be identified

So on Saturday, Judge Baum picked up the briefing documents (at his favorite clothing shop, not the court house) to review for this coming Tuesday's hearing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

San Jose Earthquakes snap 5-game losing streak, USMNT lethargic against Costa Rica, Inter Milan and Club America coming to Stanford July 19th

San Jose Earthquakes snap 5 game losing streak against Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake MLS supporter section in San Jose

The numbers for the San Jose Earthquakes heading in to last Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake were ominous: 5 straight losses, outscored 14-4 in that span and only Ryan Johnson had been able to find the back of the net in the last 4 games. According to announcer John Shrader, "the team has barely put together a couple of good 45-minutes, let alone a full 90-minute game."

The Quakes brought in 5-foot-9 Trinidad and Tobago national Cornell Glen, and it paid immediate results. Glen controlled a hard pass at the top of the box in the 20th minute, and just missed with a bending shot wide left. He had a header labeled for the far side at the end of the first robbed by Real Salt Lake goaltender Nick Rimando, but the speedy striker gained position and hammered home another header in the 52nd minute. Assisting on the play was Mike Zaher, who was also starting his first game as a San Jose Earthquake.

With the buzz from the first goal still making its way around the 10,153 fans at Buck Shaw Stadium, midfielder Arturo Alvarez scored his third goal of the season with a booming shot to the top, far corner from 30 yards out. The Quakes are not a team that can celebrate until a full 90 minutes are played, and Javier Morales set up Robbie Findley for Real Salt Lake's first goal of the game in the 80th minute on a nice on touch pass with his left foot. A diving stretch save by goaltender Joe Cannon in stoppage time sealed the win for San Jose and snapped the 5-game losing streak. Quakes forward Ryan Johnson came up just short on three point blank opportunities.

The Earthquakes face Dallas at 12 noon on Sunday, Ryan Cochrane (ankle), Jamil Roberts (ankle), and Darren Huckerby (quadriceps) are the expected absences.

The story of the game comes not from the field, but from the sidelines according to John Ryan of the Mercury News. After being featured on a CBS News program about families dealing with the recession, the Earthquakes reached out to one Salinas family and made them a guest of honor on the players bench for the game.

Last week, the national CBS News profiled Tristen Clarke and Gus Hernandez, two boys who are among the families living in a motel in the midst of the recession. In one heart-wrenching moment, 11-year-old Tristen described putting aside food from one meal so he would have something to eat at the next. An employee in the Earthquakes' front office saw the clip, and the team reached out.

At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, a white limousine pulled into the El Dorado Motel to pick up Tristen; Gus (8) and Nathaniel (4) Hernandez and their parents, Gus and Janet; and Tristen's sister, Tiffany. The limo was filled with Earthquakes balls, pumps, jerseys and other gear, as well as bagels and drinks. Then it was off to Great America for six hours of thrill rides with a break for lunch, followed by the real highlight: a night as the guests of honor at Buck Shaw Stadium. The group got autographs (their favorite came from North Salinas High's own Ramiro Corrales) and ate the VIP dinner. Tristen, Gus Jr. and Nathaniel then took their seats on the players' bench for the 2-1 victory against Real Salt Lake.

For much of the game they were watching the stands, the KFC bucket toss promotion and the players warming up as much as the action on the field. One benefit of being in the stands is that kids almost have a free reign to burn off as much excess energy as possible. Sitting on the players bench, it looked difficult for them to stay in one spot. The Earthquakes offered two more donation recommendations to help out Northern Californian families.

[Update] The U.S. Mens National Team turned in a truely forgettable perfomance in a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica Wednesday on the field turf at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose. The Costa Rican side scored twice in the first 13 minutes with goals by Alvaro Saborio and Celso Borges, and looked like the quicker and more confident team throughout. Pablo Herrera was given too much room in the 69th minute, and he buried a shot from 10 yards in to give Costa Rica a 3-0 lead. Landon Donovan was able to convert a penalty kick in stoppage time to put the United States on the board. The USMNT will look to rebound against Hondurus Saturday night in Chicago.

[Update2] Inter Milan will meet Mexico's Club America to open the 6-game World Soccer Challenge July 19th at Stanford Stadium, check that, the World Football Challenge. Chelsea and AC Milan are also scheduled to participate in exhibitions at Pasadena, Atlanta, Baltimore, Foxborough and Arlington. Last year 47,329 fans turned out in the blazing sun to watch Chelsea FC down Club America 2-1 at the Disney Friendship Cup exhibition game Stanford. The Club America fans set off flares in the stands, released what looked like several tons of confetti, and danced and chanted for hours before and after the game.

[Update3] Huckerby could play this Sunday -

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 liveblog

Join me, Steve Lepore, Tapeleg, Matt Sussman, an on location Greg Wyshynski, Sean Leahy, Banging Panger et all for a Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 liveblog at Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog.

[Update] Versus gave this blog 5 free tshirts to give away to the liveblogees, as of now all 5 are claimed. Thanks for participating. According to Versus, the Game 3 wrapup show is coming up after Sports Soup.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shark Notes - 6/1

- Sharks EVP/GM Doug Wilson and President/CEO Greg Jamison appeared on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area's hour long Chronicle Live sportstalk progam last Tuesday with Mercury News opinion columnist Mark Purdy and host Greg Papa. Doug Wilson talked about the anger and disappointment from the postseason remaining strong, "having said that we have to ramp up the autopsy and start making business decisions in the next couple of weeks, I can't let that cloud our decision making process." Wilson talked about premiere teams wanting to face pressure instead of trying to avoid it. When asked about the roster, Papa lead off with a question about Joe Thornton. "Having met with Joe Thornton, Joe Thornton will be back on this hockey team next year..." Wilson said.

When asked whether captain Patrick Marleau was a lock to be on the roster next season, Wilson said he has more meetings with Marleau on the horizon. "Patrick Marleau is an interesting guy because has played very well in the playoffs on the goal scoring side of it, but he needs much like a lot of our guys to compete at a higher level." Papa also commented the offensive outage on the second line, noting that they scored 70 goals in the regular season and only 2 in the playoffs (both on the power play). Commenting on the team's performance against Anaheim, "Our goaltending, our defense and our forwards honestly, I don't think any of them played maybe better than 70% of their capabilities. We got beat, and we got beat across the board," Wilson said.

Four clips of the program are available via CSNBA: the first clip features Wilson talking about San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau and the offseason player meetings that will determine the future direction of the hockey club, in the second clip Greg Jamison discusses the recent State of the Sharks question and answer session with fans, and in the third clip Jamison discusses whether an early playoff exit might result in reduced ticket sales for next season.

In the fourth informative clip posted above, Doug Wilson discussed where he thinks the season changed for San Jose and why he does not use injuries as an excuse:

I felt there was a time right after the allstar break where we kind of let things slide a little bit. People bring up the excuse of injuries, we had 8 or 9 key players out, but that is a reality in our sport. That is going to happen.

So if that gets you out of sync, or off your game, then you better look a little bit deeper because you can't expect... coming into the playoffs playing a team like Anaheim that won a Cup two years ago that knows what it takes, to all of a sudden hit a switch.

When our players came back into the lineup, I think they had been playing really good hockey for the last 12-15 games in Anaheim, we hadn't been quite on top of our game. We continued to play that way in the playoffs.

We don't really tolerate excuses. You know what is going to be ahead of you. You know the history in this league of what happens come playoff time, when teams are playoff hardened. We should have met that challenge. We didn't. Their goaltender was good, their defense was good. We were 0-12 on the power play the first two games. That is unacceptable. You are not going to win in the playoffs that way.

At the State of the Sharks event on May 14th head coach Todd McLellan speculated that the coaching staff may have made a few mistakes integrating injured players back into the lineup at the end of the regular season, but he also noted in a discussion with reporters after the season that they were unsure at the start of the playoff series with Anaheim how much they were going to be able to use an injured Patrick Marleau.

There were factors in the playoff loss the Sharks could have controlled, and factors beyond their control. Excuses come when using factors beyond your control to explain why you did not accomplish the things under your purview. There is no excuse for coming into a Stanley Cup playoff series against a bitter intra-state rival flat, and this is the fifth straight shaky postseason exit. There are tough offseason questions that need to be asked in the organization from the top down.

- Merc columnist Mark Purdy was the third wheel on the Chronicle program, and in his subsequent column he lead with the fact that the Sharks would not be trading Joe Thornton or Joe Pavelski. "The hunch here is that of the team's stars, Marleau is still the most likely to be moved," Purdy opined.

When Doug Wilson took over the reigns of the Sharks franchise from Dean Lombardi on May 13th, 2003, he said that he wanted to remould the team in a younger, more up-tempo and offensive fashion. After two false starts against Calgary and Dallas in the playoffs last year, Wilson butressed the team and the coaching staff with individuals and players who have had Stanley Cup winning experience.

There is a possibility that the Sharks could go in another direction with Patrick Marleau, either via a trade or his position as team captain. When asked earlier about the specifics of Marleau's no-trade clause as he enters the second year of a $12.6 million contract extension, Doug Wilson declined to discuss them given upcoming GM meetings. Marleau is a key component of the Sharks offensive style. He registered a career high 38 goals in the regular season and scored the only 2 game winning goals against Anaheim in the first round despite playing at 60-70% because of a knee injury. He was named the team's MVP, and no other player contributed to as many areas of the ice.

The Sharks are not going to get a greater on-ice value with any Marleau trade, it is much more likely to be a reverse Joe Thornton affair. San Jose could see a bigger impact with more structural changes. ESPN's E.J. Hradek noted that the Sharks needed a defenseman to step up and take the #2 role behind Dan Boyle. The Sharks split their defensive talent in order to have three solid defensive pairs. If Rob Blake returns to play with Vlasic, moving Christian Ehrhoff together with Boyle for 82 games could have a significant impact on both sides of the ice.

Evgeni Nabokov has started an average of 69.5 games the last two seasons, 85% of all regular season starts. Goaltender Brian Boucher went on an 8-1-1 tear when Nabokov went down with an injury early in the season, but his game and his confidence suffered when he returned to a more sporadic backup role later in the season. As Jonas Hiller, Simeon Varlamov and Cristobal Huet demonstrated, going into the postseason with a 2 goaltender solution can pay off if one struggles.

Up front the Sharks struggled all season to get offensive and defensive production from the third and fourth lines. A giant injury black hole swallowed any center that even looked at the third line, and the fourth line often received limited minutes and a greatly reduced role late in games. Following a Detroit model means getting contributions and game changing blue collar shifts throughout the forward lines.

The final internal change could come with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Do you play them together, where they continue to dominate games and put up numbers, or do you split them on the top two lines? Each are players that make their linemates significantly better. Thornton was a catalyst for Cheechoo's Rocket Richard winning 56 goal season in 2005-06. Marleau centered two rookie wingers in Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier and helped cast them into the power forward roles they would develop into down the line. If a Marleau or a Thornton goes down with an injury in the playoffs, it does not affect the team as drastically if they are split, and they can still be utilized together on the power play.

There are significant changes that could be made across the board with the existing core group of players. The local media as well as the national and Canadian hockey media reflexively leaped into trade Thornton, trade Marleau and trade Nabokov discussions after the first round playoff exit. New faces can be brought in, star players can be moved out, or adjustments can be made within the organization. All signs point to the front office still being in the evaluation phase.

Gabriel Desjardins NHL strength of shot chart quandrants goaltender performance

- In April Gabriel Desjardins crunched the numbers to determine the Top 10 NHL Goaltender Performances 5v5 for 2008-09 using the same excellent strength of shot methodology he used above in 2007. That analysis charted every goal scored from 2001-07 and calculated the number of goals from each quandrant that an average goaltender would allow given the same number of shots.

The 2008-09 Top 10: Tim Thomas -0.77, Nikolai Khabibulin -0.70, Roberto Luongo -0.69, Henrik Lundqvist -0.63, Tomas Vokoun -0.59, Kari Lehtonen -0.56, Jonas Hiller -0.56, Martin Brodeur -0.49, Craig Anderson -0.47, and Manny Fernandez -0.45. Boston and Florida were the only two teams with a pair of goaltenders in the top 10. Full stats for all goaltenders are available via here. Evgeni Nabokov finished with a -0.2 rating this season in 62 games played, Brian Boucher with a -0.4 in 28 games played.

Last year Desjardins also smacked down those calling for Evgeni Nabokov to earn the Vezina over Martin Broduer, (mainly me), with his full 2007-08 5v5 goaltender peformance numbers that gave Brodeur a definitive edge in terms of shot quality against. Three first time finalists are competing for the Vezina Trophy this year, Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom (37-24-8, .923SV%, 2.33GAA, 8SO), rookie Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason (33-20-7, .916SV%, 2.29GAA, 10SO), and Boston's Tim Thomas (36-11-7, .933SV%, 2.10GAA, 5SO).

Save percentage goes to Thomas (.933), improvement over expected save percentage (Desjardins methodology) goes to Thomas (-0.94), goals against average also goes to Thomas (2.10). Steve Mason received critical acclaim for his phenomenal rookie debut, but the favorite heading into the NHL Awards show June 18th in Las Vegas has to be Tim Thomas, despite splitting time with Manny Fernandez. All of that overlooks the fact that Backstrom received less goal support, started more games and earned more wins.

For more from Gabe visit or become an ESPN Insider to read his columns on the four letter network.

- The last 2 episodes of the DOH podcast delve into the Sharks offseason plans, download episode 49 here, and 50 here. The latest Globe Sports podcast previewed the Stanley Cup Finals between Detroit and Pittsburgh, and delved into the coaching situations in Edmonton and Calgary.

- A report last month noted that 2 NHL teams had permission to talk with San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards. Minnesota Star Tribune beat reporter Michael Russo confirmed the Wild were one of the teams interested. He added that the Minnesota native and former University of Minnesota defenseman would be a "heavy favorite" as GM Cliff Fletcher originally hired him as the AHL coach in Wilkes-Barre, where he lead the team to a Calder Cup Final last season. Richards focused on the power play and on the forward lines as an assistant coach in San Jose.

Pat Quinn was named the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers last week, with former New York Rangers head coach Tom Renney joining the staff as an assistant coach. After firing head coach Mike Keenan last week, Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter told the media that he was the best candidate for head coach at this point in his search. Former San Jose Shark and 19 year NHL veteran Dave Lowry also recently surfaced as a possible candidate in Calgary. Montreal also reportedly hired Jacques Martin as of this morning.

- Last month Steve Simmons noted in the Toronto Sun that the Sharks were interested in "free-agent big-shot" Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. According to Simmons Gustavsson has narrowed down his list to Toronto, San Jose, Colorado and Dallas, but only Colorado had promised him a role as a starting goaltender.

A day later, his agent Joe Resnick told ESPN's Scott Burnside that no team had offered him a role as a starter and that as many as 20 NHL teams expressed interest in his services. Burnside says that Toronto GM Brian Burke draws comparisons of Gustavsson to Henrik Lundqvist.

Would a Nabokov-Gustavsson tandem be better than a Nabokov-Boucher or Nabokov-Greiss tandem? One more offseason question to add to the queue.

- Consider the source, but last month Eklund of Hockey Buzz floated a rumor that San Jose was the leading candidate for defenseman Rob Blake's services next season in his Top 20 UFA rankings for next season. The only other UFA on the radar for San Jose according to HB was New Jersey Devils defenseman Johnny Oduya.

Haven't heard the Oduya-to-SJ connect from any other sources, but his agent Don Meehan told the New Jersey Star Ledger that Oduya was a top 4 defenseman on any NHL team. Oduya earned $600,000 the last 2 seasons, but he should receive a significant bump after registering 7 goals and 29 points for New Jersey in 82 games played this season. How much the Sharks are going to budget for the 2009-10 season and the fate of UFA defenseman Rob Blake are going to play a large part in how active they are in the free agent market.

- More from the NJ Star Ledger: NHL general managers preparing for decrease in salary cap as free agency approaches.

As they compile their wish lists for the start of free agency beginning July 1, GMs will likely be facing the first decrease in the salary cap since it was instituted for the 2005-06 season.

The cap could drop by as much as $2.5 million for the 2009-10 season from its current $56.7 million figure, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Although Daly couldn't say, it is not inconceivable that the figure could fall to $50 million for the 2010-11 season.

"At this point, we don't really have a good estimate of where the cap will be," Daly wrote in an e-mail to The Star-Ledger. "If the NHLPA wants a 5 percent inflator, and we agree, the cap should be relatively 'flat.' If there is no inflator applied, the cap will be down $2-$2.5 million."

- The Sharks have 12 players under contract for 2009-10 (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Jamie McGinn, Dan Boyle, Christian Ehrhoff, Brad Lukowich, Douglas Murray, Evgeni Nabokov), 8 restricted free agents (Ryane Clowe, Marcel Goc, Torrey Mitchell, Tomas Plihal, Brad Staubitz, Lukas Kaspar, Riley Armstrong, Thomas Greiss), and 10 unrestricted free agents (Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick, Claude Lemieux, Travis Moen, Tom Cavanagh, Ryan Vesce, Rob Blake, Alexei Semenov, Kent Huskins, Brian Boucher) as well as a $46.751 million cap hit according to

Last year Daily News writer Rich Hammond broke down Rob Blake's departure from Los Angeles and his signing in San Jose with a timeline from general manager Dean Lombardi and a timeline from Blake's agent Pat Brisson. Feathers were ruffled in Los Angeles when the former Allstar and captain said the Kings never made him an offer in a conference call.

A resurgent Blake piled up 14 more points (10G, 35A) and 54 more shots on goal (198) than a difficult season in 2007-08 with Los Angeles. Blake was a large component of the Sharks agressive offense 5-on-5 and on the power play, but another $5 million contract for 2009-10 might be difficult to pull the trigger on. If the Sharks are going to take ownership of the worst playoff exit in franchise history, that should be reflected in contract numbers for next season, core players like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, and Evgeni Nabokov included.

- The Economics of The Southern NHL - mc79hockey.

Brad Lukowich San Jose Sharks street hockey at Holly Oak elementary school

- Lukowich Joins S.J. Sharkie for Street Hockey, The Sharks defenseman attends Mobile Shark Tank at Holly Oak Elementary.

Defenseman Brad Lukowich cut through the traffic in front of the net, perfectly stick-handling between the outstretched sticks attempting to stop him. The last player to beat was the goalie, who was clearly struggling to keep up with Lukowich’s speed. Left to right, forehand to backhand, a flick of the wrist and the puck was in the back of the net.

Cheers erupted from the second and third graders at Holly Oak Elementary School, from both the sidelines and from the students playing on Team Teal. Lukowich just gave his side a 2-0 lead over Sharkie’s Team Orange.

Today was the Sharkie Lunch Bunch Day for Holly Oak’s students and that meant that the Mobile Shark Tank was coming. Included in the visit was Sharks mascot S.J. Sharkie, who helped his crew who set up a street hockey court for the students. Also present was Lukowich, who assisted by playing in the games and serving ice cream. “Lots of these kids only see us on the ice during games,” Lukowich said, “so to come out and do something like this helps them realize that we are just like them.”

It is awesome when Toronto shuts down Yonge Street for street hockey in the summer, it is awesome to see Lukowich don the (sandals) for street hockey in San Jose. Photos from the event are available from the official website here.

[Update] Hat tip to GB: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, recently named the most popular VC blogger according to TechCrunch, twittered that former Shark Alexander Korolyuk was in town last month playing pickup hockey against him at a local rink. Kawasaki's blog is available here.

[Update2] Commissioner Gary Bettman’s State of the N.H.L. News Conference - NYT Slapshots blog.