Hockey Notes – October 19th

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - Save & Share - 3 Comments

San Jose Sharks NHL regular season start Antti Niemi

San Jose Sharks NHL regular season schedule starts since lockout

- The Sharks are in a hurry up and wait scenario to start the 2010-11 NHL regular season. After coming 1 win shy of four straight 50-win seasons, expectations are high for the Bay Area franchise but an overtime loss in Europe and a 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers have slowed San Jose out of the gate.

The last time the Sharks began the season overseas in 1998-99, the then-Darryl Sutter coached squad found themselves winless after 2 games against the Calgary Flames in Tokyo, Japan. After an 8-day respite, they proceeded to struggle mightily on offense en route to an 8-game winless streak. After 20 games, they were 5-10-5 and faced a long come-from-behind road back to the playoffs.

Tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes the San Jose Sharks are looking to rebound after two losses and a 6-day break, but with the fewest games played in the NHL they currently find themselves at 13th place in the Western Conference. Simply stepping on to the ice and getting into game action will be a morale victory of sorts, but head coach Todd McLellan wants his team to start hitting it’s stride. “It’s finding that rhythm in our game, it’s finding a routine in our act,” McLellan said in a Tuesday morning pre-game press conference. “We will know a lot about our team when we return from Calgary.”

Sunday’s contest against the Calgary Flames will be the conclusion of a 4-game, 6-night stretch, but it may be difficult for the Sharks to maintain the .611 winning percentage they have held over the first 20 games dating back to the lockout. Barring the re-union of the Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi line according to Mark Emmons, the Sharks could feature four new forward lines, two new defensive pairings and two new goaltenders. Adjustments and familiarity take time, and it may be difficult to replicate the torrid opening pace the Sharks have maintained for 4 straight years.

McLellan discussed some of the questions his team will need to answer on the ice over the next week. “Can we skate? Can we create, and can we maintain momentum in games? We should have the ability to score and produce offensively, when is that going to arrive? Is the risk/reward part of our game going to be managed properly, or is it going to play a very high risk no reward game?” Four games into the NHL season is mighty early for a statement game, but there may be one lying in wait for the Hurricanes tonight at HP Pavilion.

Canes find life is hard on the road –

- Charting the Hurricanes road to nowhere roadtrip, exhibition game against SKA St. Petersburg in Russia (Raleigh to St. Petersburg 4,713 miles), St Petersburg to Helsinki for pair of NHL Compuware Challenge Premiere games in Finland (St. Petersburg to Helsinki 186 miles), fly to Ottawa for start of 5-game road trip (Helsinki to Ottawa 3,908 miles), travel to Vancouver (Ottawa to Vancouver 2.206 miles), travel to San Jose (Vancouver to San Jose 825 miles). Your distance may vary, but in 16 days the Carolina Hurricanes will have traveled at least 12,000 miles, with Los Angeles (306 miles) and Phoenix (358 miles) still remaining on the road trip. Comcast pegs it at closer to 15,000.

- KNBR 680AM interviewed Joe Thornton after signing a 3-year contract extenstion last week:

“I have been a passer pretty much since I have been a pro. It is difficult to change overnight. I have been working on getting more shots. The coaching staff, even (GM) Doug Wilson told me to shoot more this year. It is just something you have to have in the back of your mind. Maybe pass it off the goalie and see if guys can tap it in that way. I will try to shoot more, but in my heart I am going to be a pass guy…”

“It is a huge privilege (being named captain), there are only 30 in the league. It is a pretty unique fraternity you are involved in. There have only been 8 captains in Sharks history, so there haven’t been that many. It is an honor. As far as me as a person, i am not going to change. I am going to be the same type of guy, and the same type of player, but it was nice the Sharks gave me that…”

“I think it is just a mindset (to be successful in the postseason). Games are tough in the regular season, they just get a little tighter in the postseason. I think for young players it is just the mindset that it is going to be tougher, there is not going to be so much room out there, and just get it in your mind that it is going to be a little tougher. Fans are louder, everything is more magnified…”

“I thought last year we felt so good after our series with Colorado, and after a fantastic series against Detroit, I think we felt that this might be the year. Then Chicago wiped us out. We want to win this bad. We think the whole Bay Area would like to see the Stanley Cup brought out this way. We feel this could be the year again, we have made some changes. I think Doug Wilson did a great job in the offseason. We hope this is the year. We have added some pieces, we just need to play hard and win.”

- In San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray’s radio interview with THN/XM last week, he discussed being taken so high in the draft that the round did not exist any more (8th round), that the NHL opening the season in Europe is good for the growth of the game, that time spent in the AHL was good for his development as a defenseman, that he is rooting for San Jose-based heavyweight Cain Velasquez against Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 and that he attends local Strikeforce MMA events when the team is in town, and that he wished boxing was a more high profile sport like it was in the past. Great interview.

San Jose Sharks Devin Setoguchi cheering section

San Jose Sharks Devin Setoguchi cheering section

San Jose Sharks Devin Setoguchi gooch is loose cheering section

- San Jose Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi had his own 20-25 person cheering section at Saturday night’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers. Donned in yellow ‘The Gooch is loose’ shirts, with ‘Hands off the Gooch’ and a #16 on the back, they were in postseason form for the home opener at HP Pavilion. Several wore yellow wigs, headbands, panda and racoon hats, and fake playoff beards. Not sure if it was a company party, or a tailgate session gone out of control, but they received quite a bit of attention during the game.

- On ESPN’s opening power rankings maintained by Pierre LeBrun, the Sharks dropped from 7th to 14th. Sports Illustrated’s power rankings with a fairly humorous methodology explained by Allan Muir dropped the Sharks from 5th to 15th.

- Sports Illustrated’s Jim Kelley has an interesting analysis on the continuing ramifications of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract saga in New Jersey, and how the Devils were forced to ice less than the 18 skater/2 goalie minimum for multiple games. Up against the $59.4 million NHL salary cap, and with injuries to Anton Volchenkov and forward Brian Rolston, GM Lou Lamoriello was forced to shorten his bench. According to box scores, the Devils dressed 18 skaters against Washington, 15 against Pittsburgh, 16 against Buffalo, 15 against Pittsburgh, and a full compliment against Colorado and Boston. The Devils have started the season 1-4.

Even with the shortened bench, the Devils have spread out ice time with no player registering in the top-50 in time on ice. Henrik Tallinder leads the team with a 21:54/TOI average per game, 65th in the NHL. Chicago’s Duncan Keith leads the NHL with a 30:08 after 7 games played, San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle is second with a 27:32/TOI average after only 3 games.

Last year tight against the salary cap, the Sharks registered the most player transactions in the NHL. Winger Jamie McGinn earned the Road Warrior title as the player with the most callups and assignments to the AHL (14). Even with the large number of roster moves, the Sharks were still able to ice 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders. The last time I can remember the team intentionally icing less than 20 players was the night of Joe Thornton’s trade. Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau were held off the ice after the pre-game skate but before the start of the game. The Sharks had only 2 players in reserve, so they played the game with 17 skaters and 2 goaltenders.

- The NHL heavyweight enforcer as an anachronism debate was discussed this weekend by Larry Brooks. “It was different back in the day when Dave Semenko rode shotgun for Wayne Gretzky, different because it was another time, different because Semenko often skated on the same line as No. 99, and thus presented a clear and present danger to foes who dared breathe on The Great One,” Brooks said of the noted enforcer who finished with 1175 PIMs in his 9-year career.

Before Jody Shelley, who was once described as a “nuclear deterrent” by then-head coach Ron Wilson, was traded from San Jose to New York last year he made a concerted effort to deliver a net front presence and contribute along the boards. It was an effort that was hard for him to maintain over 82 games in part because of his other responsibilities.

When Jody Shelley moved on to Philadelphia, the New York Rangers brought in possibly the most feared heavyweight enforcer in the NHL, Derek Boogard. It was a controversial roster decision. Brooks notes that team-wide toughness, and the fact that other enforcers tend to avoid the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Boogard, nullifies the benefits he brings to the team. The modern NHL as a whole may be moving away from limited players who can not play at both ends of the ice.

- The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the intense scrutiny already facing the Calgary Flames after three games, and offered his 30 thoughts taking a look around the league.

A lot of debate about Joe Thornton’s three-year, $21 million US deal in San Jose. My reaction: If he’s happy, he shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks.

Around the Bay Area there is almost universal approval from fans and the local media covering the team, and rightly so. The mainstream media is firmly locked on the first baseball postseason run in 4 years, to the point where the attention focused on the Giants may have spared San Francisco 49′ers head coach Mike Singletary at least for this season.

- When it came to Sharks picking a captain, Joe Thornton was the only choice – Mark Purdy for the San Jose Mercury News. Purdy has a good grasp of the etherial dilemmas occasionally surrounding the Sharks, but losing in 4 games to the best team in the NHL with two top-6 forwards hobbled is a lot less indicitive of any internal assessment than he makes it out to be. On the other hand, when the Sharks had Detroit and Colorado on the ropes in previous playoff series in 2007 and 2002, it was their go-to players that put them over the top. San Jose needs both Marleau and Thornton to become those players.

- Sunday Hockey Notes – Kevin Paul Dupont for the Boston Globe.

When Donald Fehr gets around to running the Players Association — formal ratification by the players is expected on or around Nov. 1 — one of the loudest laments he’ll hear from the players will be their ongoing objection to the CBA’s escrow holdings. Last season, players had 18 percent of their gross earnings pulled out of their pay as a contingency, pending final computation of the NHL’s total Hockey Related Revenues. When final HRR figures were handed over days ago, the players were handed back 8.59 percent, which means each player surrendered 9.41 percent of their 2009-10 pay. For Zdeno Chara, Boston’s top earner, that meant he earned $705,750 less than his bargained wage of $7.5 million. If Big Z were to take the same hit this season, he would give back more than Brad Marchand ($600,000) and Adam McQuaid ($550,000) will make all season.

- The Sunday edition of the Hockey Hotstove on Hockey Night in Canada featured a panel discussion about the league maximum 23-man NHL roster and the alleged league mandated 20-player minimum which New Jersey and Detroit violated, according to Pierre LeBrun 6-7 teams a year have iced less than 20 players due to emergency circumstances, they touch on the proposed sale of the NHL-owned Phoenix Coyotes, they lauded management in San Jose for the contract extension for Joe Thornton, “players have to take the onus on themselves to keep a good team together, and Joe (Thornton) did that,” Glenn Healy, and tossed around Ken Holland suggestion for overtime (4-on-4 for 5 minutes, 3-on-3 for 3 minutes, then shootout), move to distance league from shootout, “15% of games last year decided by a gimmick” – Healy. Coaches Corner is available here.

- There is a new show on the FX Network in the U.S. centered around fantasy football called The League. In the latest episode, at a draft in Vegas one poolie (Andre) falls on the league championship trophy he adorned with a statue of himself. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Andre.” Another member (Jon Lajoie) performs a rap song about it with help from NFL receiver Ocho Cinco. A short clip of the video “I’m inside me” is available here. Haven’t seen the first couple of episodes, but this show is highly recommended.

In fantasy hockey news, the new SBN blog Fantasy Hockey Scouts audited the league draft Sharkspage is in with James Mirtle, Greg Wyshynski, Earl Sleek, the Forcester, and several other bloggers and Globe and Mail staffers. FHS predicted Sharkspage would finish last. First week result? An 11-1-2 thrashing of Puck Daddy. Another fantasy draft audit at Yahoo examines the selections by a number of hockey reporters and bloggers here.

- “This isn’t the game I grew up with, the game played in the misty ballparks of Enron Field or PacBell-then SBC-now AT&T Park.” — Bart Simpson on the storied homes of the Houston Astros and SF Giants.

[Update] Antti Niemi back in nets tonight against Carolina and the search for five-on-five scoring continues – David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog.

[Update2] Cancer Affects Everyone, RW Setoguchi explains how his family has battled the disease –

Tonight begins the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer promotion at HP Pavilion and, just like every facet of society, the Sharks lockerroom has ties to the difficult disease that unfortunately touches just about everybody in some manner.

[Update3] Sharks’ Mayers Waiting, Working – Brodie Brazil for Comcast Sportsnet California.

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3 Responses to “Hockey Notes – October 19th”

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Time January 19, 2011 at 11:02 AM

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