Thursday, September 21, 2006

First Preseason Game Tonight

I'll be there with Doug, and hopefully I'll be able to moblog a bit on my trusty Treo 650. Here's some preview quotes about the Sharks I've cobbled together:

EJ Hradek (ESPN) :

The Sharks' summer is better characterized by what they didn't do than what they actually did. Yeah, the club did add Mark Bell (I'll get to his recent problems later), Mike Grier and Curtis Brown, a trio of helpful forwards. But GM Doug Wilson wasn't able to move one of his goaltenders. At the draft, Wilson talked with several clubs, particularly in the Eastern Conference, but he couldn't strike a deal. So, unless something changes in the coming days, the Sharks will open camp with both Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala.
Earlier in the summer, Toskala expressed hope that a deal would be made before camp. He said that if both goalies remained on the roster when training camp rolled around, it wouldn't be a good situation for either goaltender or the team.
For his part, Wilson is working to do what is absolutely best for the team. He doesn't want to give either goalie away and he doesn't seem interested in sending either stopper to another Western team. In the fall of 2003, the Sharks traded Miikka Kiprusoff to the conference rival Flames for a second-round draft pick. The rest, as they say, is history. Wilson doesn't want to take a chance that history could repeat itself. Late last season, after signing a four-year contract extension worth $21.5 million, Nabokov lost his starting job to Toskala, who started all of the club's 11 playoff games. Toskala, 28, is two years younger than Nabokov and a lot more economical after agreeing to a two-year deal that pays him $1.375 million per season. For those reasons, he's easier to trade. Of course, the Sharks might prefer to keep him and move Nabokov. Statistically, Toskala was better than Nabokov in most categories. Toskala was 23-7-4 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, while Nabokov compiled a mediocre 16-19-7 mark with a 3.10 GAA and a subpar .885 save percentage. At some point, Wilson would like to move one of his goalies, but he won't do so until he finds the best possible deal for his team. That probably means Nabokov and Toskala will share the net well into the first half of the season.
Currently, Wilson could have another problem on his hands. On Monday, Bell was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and a felony hit-and-run in San Jose. He was released on bond later that day. It's unclear what legal ramifications will come from this incident. It will, however, be a distraction for Bell, who signed a three-year deal (worth $6.5 million) with the Sharks after being acquired from the Blackhawks in a three-way deal. Coach Ron Wilson would like to see if Bell could play left wing on the club's top line with Hart Trophy-winning center Joe Thornton and Maurice Richard Award-winning right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. Some scouts believe Bell is better suited to be a third-line center instead of a first-line winger. It shouldn't take Wilson too long to figure out where he fits. Over the years, the Sharks have done an excellent job of developing their young talent. I expect they'll again be a tough opponent in the West. But until they find the right deal to move one of their goalies, they'll be somewhat distracted by their overcrowded crease.

Scott Burnside (ESPN):
The theory is that you have to fall down before you can climb the mountain, or something like that. If that's true, the San Jose Sharks might be poised to bring the Cup back to the Western Conference after a three-season absence (four if you count the lockout). The Sharks lost in the 2004 Western Conference finals and then dropped a heartbreaking second-round series last spring to
upstart Edmonton. The troubling part for the Sharks is that they blew a 2-0 series lead against the Oilers in doing so. They also led late in Game 3 before dropping what turned out to be the series-changing contest in triple overtime, all of which goes to the question of the Sharks' killer instinct and whether they have enough of it. Curiously, that's the same question being asked of defending MVP and scoring champion Joe Thornton since his arrival in the league. Still, few teams are deeper down the middle than the Sharks with Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and there's also the defending goal-scoring champion, Jonathan Cheechoo, one of the league's great feel-good stories of last season. Terrific two-way player Mike Grier arrives after being a major part of the Buffalo Sabres' run to the Eastern Conference finals. Mark Bell
will help with the offensive depth, although he faces criminal charges after an alcohol-related accident in San Jose in recent days. There are legitimate questions about depth along the blue line as Brad Stuart went in the Thornton deal and the surprising Tom Preissing left in the Bell deal. As a result, expectations are high, perhaps too high, for rookie defenseman Matt Carle. In goal, GM Doug Wilson must reconcile the very real possibility he will have a $5 million backup in the form of former rookie of the year Evgeni
. And that's never a good thing.

Final thought: youtube video of a Christian Ehrhoff goal in practice:

Can't wait for the game!

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