Thursday, June 29, 2006

Havlat rumors continue

So the current rumor is that the Sharks are willing to trade Vesa Toskala to the Senators for Martin Havlat, but there's a hangup. Havlat only has one year left on his contract, and the Sharks want him signed to 3 more years if they make the trade. I'm not sure which party is holding things up, whether Havlat wants to test free agency in a year, or other terms of the deal are contentious, but I don't have a good feeling about this. I think if this deal was going to go through, it would have happened by now.

In other news, our Save-a-Seat day at the Tank will be in about a month. Doug and I will have to get together and talk strategy- which sections we want, what price ranges, all that crap. It's a very exact science.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Draft day activity

I actually watched some of the NHL draft. I guess I am now officially hardcore. I mostly watched because the rumors are that the Sharks are going to trade either Toskala or Nabokov, and a lot of deals go down on draft day for picks. The Sharks made a minor deal, trading their first and second round picks to Montreal for their first round, so they could draft Ty Wishart, a defensemen. There were two big trades so far- Alex Tanguay was traded to the Flames for Jordan Leopold and a 2nd round pick on Friday. On draft day, the Wild traded a prospect and a 1st round pick for Pavol Demitra.

It's fun to see what these trades say about the teams involved. In the first trade, Calgary is recognizing that they need offense, and are willing to give up D to get it. The Avs clearly aren't super confident that they are going to re-sign Rob Blake, so they wanted to shore up blueline help. The second trade says that the Wild are ready to spend cash to make a legitimate playoff run, and hope that Demitra will entice Marian Gaborik to stay. As for the Kings, they aren't expecting to contend for the division, and are rebuilding.

Lots of rumors floating around. Apparantly the Kings offered Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown (Doug says Mattieu Garon too) for Nabokov. Two problems with that deal. The first big reason is I don't want to play against Nabokov 8 times a year. The second is that neither Frolov or Brown are really proven scorers. Frolov is a talented kid, would be great on the power play, but I'm not sure he could ever score 35 or 40. For a solid #1 goalie, you should be able to get that. Brown is so young, he's a wild card. He only had 28 points last year playing the whole season, and was a minus player. That's 4th line material.

Doug told me about two more rumors. The Lightning are offering Ruslan Fedotenko and Frederik Modin for Nabby. Same problem with that deal as the Kings deal- I don't think the players are good enough. They are both roughly 50 point scorers. I'd rather get a 70 or 80 point scorer for Nabby than two 3rd or 4th liners. The last is the Sens are offering Martin Havlat for Toskala. Now we're talking! Havlat is a great scorer, and had a great playoffs (6-5-11 in 9 games) after coming back from a shoulder injury last year. I would make that deal. Imagine Cheechoo, Thornton, and Havlat on a line! Or even Marleau with Havlat would be awesome.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Joe was voted the league MVP by the Hockey Writers Association, otherwise known as the Hart Trophy. He also got the Art Ross trophy, for most points during the season, with 125. Jonathan Cheechoo won the Rocket Richard trophy (most goals). Only the 3rd, 4th, and 5th NHL trophies in the history of the Sharks franchise. Nabokov won the Calder (top rookie) in 2001, and Tony Granato won the Masterson (top comeback player) in 1997. The major trophies are the Hart, Norris, Selke (top defensive forward), Calder, Vezina (top goalie), and Adams (top coach). The Ross, Richard, and Jennings trophies are based on statistical results, so there's no voting. Everybody knows who is winning at any given time.

There are a bunch of what I would call "lesser" awards given too. The Lady Byng, Pearson (MVP voted by players), Masterson, and King Clancy (leadership) are among those. Actually, I don't know that the Lady Byng is even good- it's generally given out to a good to great offensive player with very few penalty minutes. In other words, it's the "wuss" award. Marleau coming in 3rd out of 3 is actually a good thing. I don't mean to sound like sour grapes, but do you know who's won 5 Lady Byng trophies? Wayne Gretzky. I've never heard Wayne as a winner of "4 Stanley Cups, 8 Hart trophies, and 5 Lady Byng trophies". In hockey, taking the fewest penalty minutes is not a good thing- it means you don't get nasty enough.

I'm actually pretty surprised that Thornton won. Jagr was leading the points race until very late in the season, and he nearly won the Richard until Cheechoo overcame him. Jagr was more or less written off as a spoiled superstar who lost the touch, and he came out roaring this year for the Blueshirts. Given the general east coast bias in hockey, and the fact that Jagr nearly won both the points and the goals race, I figured he'd win. But I think the Devils' destruction of the Rangers in the first round hurt his chances.

Joe definitely deserved it more. The Sharks were on a 10 game losing streak when we traded for him, and we played roughly .700 hockey the rest of the season. There's no doubt in my mind that if we didn't make that trade, we would not have made the playoffs, and possibly finished last in the division. Plus combine Joe's amazing hands and passing ability with Cheechoo's fantastic release and pinpoint accuracy, and you have one of the top lines in the NHL. He clearly made the players around him better.

One of my favorite things about hockey is they actually name stuff after people, and it has meaning. It's not the NHL championship trophy, it's the Stanley Cup. It's not the top defenseman trophy, it's the Norris. And while other sports have names for their awards, in the NHL those names are used primarily. In the hockey world, you don't say Chris Pronger won MVP and top D in 2000, you say he won the Hart and Norris trophies, and everyone knows what that means. It's just kinda cool. I wish the NHL kept the old division and conference names too, but I understand that can be pretty confusing. It makes sense that the Sharks are in the Pacific division in the Western conference, but it would be tougher to remember that the Blackhawks were in the Smythe division in the Campbell conference.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Not re-signing Scott Thornton is a big mistake

The AP just reported that the Sharks have declined the option to resign Scott Thornton for the 2006-2007 season for 1.7 million. Interesting quote in the article:

"It's not every player you do this for, but I have a lot of respect for him," Wilson said. "This gives him time to check out his options."
Thornton is 35. I hope the Sharks don't actually think that they are doing him a favor. I'm not saying that Thornton isn't a good player, or that his career is over. I found an unofficial list of NHL salaries for last season, and a did a quick search to see what other players are making between $1.6M and $1.8M last year. Thornton made $1.71M, and that was the size of his option. Here's the list:
  • Sean Burke
  • Mark Denis
  • Manny Fernandez
  • Brett Hull (since retired)
  • Mike Johnson
  • Filip Kuba
  • Jamie Lagenbrunner
  • Robin Regehr
  • Dwayne Roloson
  • Dick Tarnstrom
  • Donald Brashear
  • Mike Comrie
  • Mathieu Dandenault
  • Viktor Kozlov
  • Paul Mara
  • Jaroslav Modry
  • Sean O'Donnell
  • Cory Stillman
  • Colin White
It's a long list, so there's lots of possible comparisons here. If I were starting a team, and I had to rank these players by who would help me the most, I think I would only take Thornton over Sean Burke, Viktor Kozlov, and Donald Brashear. So the idea that the Sharks didn't exercise his option for his own good is patently ridiculous. He will not get $1.7M someplace else.

All that being said, the Sharks should have picked up his option for two big reasons.

1. He's Joe Thornton's cousin. Hockey has more relatives in the sport than any other, and lots of times those family bonds are strong. I'm not sure how close Joe is with Scott, but I do know Joe was living in Scott's house after he was traded to San Jose. Look at Scott Neidermayer- he went to the Ducks so he could play with his brother. Cutting Scott lose can only hurt the relationship the Sharks have with Joe- it cannot help.

2. He's a great role player and a fan favorite. There should be no sacred cows, but a lot of fans were pissed when we let Mike Ricci go, me among them. The fans, after all, are the ones that (primarily) pay the salaries. Why not take the option, put him in training camp against the youngsters, and trade him to a team making a playoff run if it doesn't work out? The Sharks are nowhere close to the salary cap here, one that will be raised to $44M for 06-07.

There's only one (poorly disguised) reason why the Sharks let him go- because they didn't want to pay him. And now Doug Wilson has put even more pressure on himself to get some decent free agents. You can't raise ticket prices by 10%, get rid of popular players, and make no signings in the offseason. Not if you don't want to get drilled in the press.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Great Game 7, Great Series

Carolina managed to pull it out last night in a great Game 7, which capped off a great Stanley Cup Finals series. Certainly the best I've seen this millennium. The back and forth of the Devils-Ducks series was pretty fun, but that series had 4 (four!) shutouts. This series had two, but they were 4-0 and 5-0 beatdowns. The play of this year's finals versus 2003 is night and day. Lots of skating and passing, and high speed hits.

I read that game 3 in L.A., shown at 5pm, lost in the ratings to I Love Lucy reruns. Not good. Game 1 lost nationwide to college softball. I don't think that second stat is really a fair comparison, because the hockey game was on OLN, and softball was on ESPN. OLN isn't available in 20% of homes, and I think ESPN is close to 100%. But the I Love Lucy stat is pretty brutal, because that's in a market that has OLN and two NHL franchises.

I guess I could lament the loss of hockey from mainstream sports consciousness, but I'm not that concerned. I have season tickets and an internet connection. I can find just about as much hockey coverage as I want. As soon as they start streaming TV over the net, which OLN has done already, this will become a purely academic argument. Hockey isn't talked about enough on ESPN or in the sports pages? Boo hoo. Heck, my favorite sports to watch on TV are hockey and beach volleyball. And I love watching cricket too, although I don't understand about 50% of it. I guess I'm used to searching for good programming.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My wish came true

What a beatdown. The Oilers dropped 4 goals on Carolina, and didn't give up any in game 6. There were a few minutes at 3-0 where it looked like the Canes may fight back and make it a game, but the Oilers were just too tough. The Hurricanes were without Aaron Ward and Doug Weight, but Eric Cole managed to come back. I wouldn't say he was really effective however.

Game 7 is going to be interesting. In Raleigh, I expect the fans to be as crazy as the Edmonton fans in game 6. I'm still holding strong and picking Carolina, but I'm glad I don't have money on it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Oilers are not done

So I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Those damn Oilers have found a way to claw back into this series, winning in overtime in game 5. The game was pretty exciting, with 5 goals scored in the first period. Then it tightened up quite a bit, and went into OT deadlocked at 3. Then about three and a half minutes into OT, with Carolina on the power play, Cory Stillman tried to make a cross ice pass at his own blueline. His stick was partially hooked, which prevented Stillman from putting the mustard on the pass you would expect. Pasani intercepted the lame duck pass at the blueline, walked in alone, and beat Ward with a wrist shot over the glove.

Although I'm rooting for the Canes, I have to admire the Oilers' pluck. They came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Sharks, and with Game 6 in Canada, I have to think there's more than a decent chance it'll go back to Carolina for Game 7. In which case I'll be in hog heaven. There's nothing better than NHL Game 7s. Except for Game 7s in overtime. So I'm sort of half-rooting for the Oilers at home on Saturday. If they win, I'll have a dilemma- watch game seven on Monday or go to the "State of the Sharks" event at the Tank? I think I'd rather watch hockey than talk about it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Oilers are done

I picked the outcomes of game 3 and 4 correctly so far, and let's see if I can keep the streak going. Carolina will win game 5 at home, and end the series. The Oilers are (were?) a good team at home, but so is Carolina. The Canes just move the puck too well, and while the Oilers' thunderous hits in Edmonton sure got the crowd going, it didn't help enough. Keep in mind that Carolina was minutes away from OT in game 3, so I wouldn't say that physical play was the key. They just got a great goal late from Ryan Smyth.

Doug and I are going to the "State of the Sharks" presentation at the Tank next week. Maybe we can think of some questions to ask the Wilsons and Cheechoo. Of course we can't ask them specific questions about off-season moves and expect them to get answers. Questions like "Which free agents specifically are you looking at, and what would you give up to get them?". I'm hoping to get an idea of what kind of players the Sharks are looking for. Are we going to try and get a replacement for Ekman, who was pretty silent in the playoffs? What about a veteran D to help the youngsters? I would anticipate some questions about the "impending" goalie controversy, but frankly, I don't care that much about it. Nabokov is still great, Toskala is great, and Nolan Schaefer is very good. Regardless of the combination the Sharks field next season, I think it'll be fine. Personally, I would rather play Nabokov a bit before we trade him, because I'm confident his stock will rise once GMs see that he hasn't lost it.

I found this unofficial list of free agents, and I'm drooling over some of the names there. Jovanovski, Kubina, Redden or McKee would be nice defensive pickups. On the offensive side, I'm looking at Doug Weight, Marc Savard, Sergei Samsonov, Patrick Elias, and Jason Arnott would be cool, though Dallas would never let us sign him. And don't forget Owen Nolan! If the Sharks can get him for a song, I say take him- he's a fan favorite.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A game into the finals

So I've been AWOL, and Doug hasn't been any better. The Sharks lose, the Oilers win, and the world goes topsy-turvy. I was on vacation for the middle of May, so I was spared the despair of watching the Sharks lose four straight. And then I managed to watch a bit of an exciting Eastern finals, and none of a boring Western one.

So now we're here. Carolina vs. Edmonton. Before game 1, my feelings were mixed. I figured the Canes were a better team, but I might root a bit for the Oilers. Mainly because they beat the Sharks, and I just don't like the idea of the Cup in a southern state. When the Canes are bad, no one comes to the games, just like Tampa. But Edmonton sells out every game, good, bad, or indifferent. I like to see Canadian teams win. But after watching a bit of game one, I couldn't do it. I hate Chris Pronger (so much I'd like to see him play for the Sharks) and I hate Roloson even more. That dude is a major flopper. That's one of my pet peeves in the NHL. The goalie goes behind the net or out of the crease for some reason, and if a person even touches them they fall down like they've been shot and run over by a bus at the same time. Roloson pulled this crap and got the call. But there's a hundred guys trying to jockey for position in the crease and he stays upright, as solid as a rock.

So I start rooting for the Canes when they make it 3-1, and we watch the wheels completely fall off Edmonton. The Canes make it 3-3 very quickly, then it's 4-4, and then it happens. Roloson actually gets run into for real, because his defensemen pushes somebody into him. He goes down, and is replaced by Ty Conklin, a goalie so strong he not only lost the starting job this year, he lost the backup job for a while and was sent to the minors. There's about 5 minutes left in the game, and Doug turns to me and says "Conklin's gonna cough it up- Hurricanes win." And you know the rest. Conklin coughs it up behind the net, Brind'Amour has a wraparound with 31 seconds left, game over. Now we know that Roloson is out for the series.

I think the Canes will win now, more than ever. I'd be a complete moron if I thought different. But I do think the Oilers will make Carolina sweat a bit- they will win at least one game in Canada. But the Canes are winning again tonight.