Monday, January 22, 2007

Watch the All-Star game! Ok, well, at least the skills competition

In their infinite wisdom, the NHL has decided to hold the All-Star game and skills competitions on a Tuesday and Wednesday, the time when everyone is thinking about hockey. I'm sure the skills competition will run neck-and-neck with American Idol in the ratings. And by 'neck-and-neck', I mean, 'the neck of a gnat vs the neck of a giraffe'.

And I like the All-Star game. I hate basketball, so the NBA All-Star game is out. Baseball's All-Star game is lame, because the commisioner attached some ginned-up consequences to it. And the Pro Bowl is after the season is over, so who cares about that? The NHL All-Star game is purposefully not serious. Sure, wimps like Scott Niedermayer won't show up because they're 'hurt' or whatever, but it's really not a big drain on one's constitution. You skate around with some buddies, no one hits anybody else, and you take a few shots.

Ok, so the game is kinda like a family Thanksgiving touch football game on ice, without all the contact. Which is why the skills competition is the better event. As a hockey player myself, I definitely appreciate the skills shown in a regular season game, but I like to see the nuts and bolts of stuff. How fast can you shoot? How are you at saving breakaways? Plus, you get to see all the players trash talk each other, which is pretty fun.

The word is that Cheech, Marleau, and Joe will be on the same line during the game itself, so I'll be tuning in for that. Maybe we'll see something that rivals Owen Nolan's called shot, my favorite All-Star moment ever.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Oilers 3, Sharks 2

What a shitty game. The Sharks gave up the first goal (AGAIN) last night, and quickly found themselves in an 0-3 hole less than 12 minutes into the game. Marcel Goc managed to score only seconds later to make it 3-1. I'm sure anybody that listened to the game or watched it on TV heard that this is the third straight start where Nabokov gave up 3 goals in the first period. The first time was Phoenix, when the Coyotes ended up winning 8-0 (too cold), the second was against the Wings, when the Sharks ended up winning 9-4 (too hot) and last night, when we lost 3-2 (just right).

It certainly seems that Nabokov has trouble making the early save. Two of the goals last night were on the power play, and those two probably weren't his fault. But spotting the other team 3 goals isn't exactly a winning formula. It's pretty much common sense that the team that scores the first goal has a much better chance of winning, but let's flip that aphorism on it's head, and look at it from the other direction.

In the last 15 games, the Sharks are 8-7. In 10 of those games, the Sharks did not score the first goal. They are 5-0 in the games they did score the first goal, and 3-7 in the ones they didn't, which sounds like a decent percentage. But it's not- this year, the league average winning percentage of teams that don't score first is .315.

Using's handy-dandy stats tool, we can see that the Sharks are the best in the league when they score first - 18-3. If they don't score first they 10-12, which is good enough for 5th best. Believe it or not, Buffalo is 10-4-2 when they don't score first, a .625 winning percentage.

Clearly, the Sharks need to focus more on 1st-period play.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ron Wilson on the rocks?

I saw this rumor on the "Truth and Rumors" page:

Many rumblings throughout the league, you should know, that the Sharks are becoming somewhat impatient with Ron Wilson's work behind the bench.

I like Ron Wilson, so my analysis is a bit skewed. But an 8-7 run isn't all that alarming, is it? What do I do? I go back to the stats. Let's start with last year, the Detroit Wings, President's trophy winners with 124 points. Their worst 15-game stretch was November 15 - December 15. They went 6-9. 2003-4? Red Wings again, with 109 points. Worst 15 game streak - 6-7-2.

If 8-7 turns into 8-12 or 10-20, then I'll be getting skeptical of Wilson myself. But let the man do his work. A bad stretch isn't a calamity- in most seasons, it's inevitable. Let's be glad it didn't happen at the end of March.

Detroit and Columbus.

I really should have posted something about the Detroit game after I went... at 0-3 I was threatening to walk out if it became 0-4. Then the Sharks scored one in the first to make it 1-3, and I figured I'd stick around. I'm glad I did. That's probably a game I will never see the likes of again. 9 straight goals, and 6 on the power play. Possibly the best offensive effort ever, only days after one of the worst defensive efforts ever.

And it was a nice win against Columbus on Saturday, but it looks like Josh Gorges got hurt. It appears I'll be wearing my Carle jersey again a bit sooner than I expected. If the Sharks skate 6 defensemen with Davison and Murray getting regular shifts, that would be a terrible mistake.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm Cursed by NHL Waiver Details

So I get a new Matt Carle jersey for Christmas, and what happens? He gets sent down to the friggin' minors. After the pasting by the Coyotes and the benching of Bell, Carle, and Bernier against Dallas, the latter two get sent down to Worchester.

All is not lost. Doug Wilson intimated that Carle may not be gone very long, but it did pique my interest in the business side of this transaction. If you are like me, and wonder about the minutia of NHL rules and regs, you might have asked yourself, "Why didn't they get claimed off of waivers?".

For those who don't know, generally when a player moves from a NHL team to the minors, they have to "clear waivers", which means the team notifies the league and all other teams that the player is available. Any team who wants that player can "claim him off of waivers" which means they assume his contract (and count half his salary against the salary cap). If more than one club wants the player, he goes to the team that has the worst record at the time. A player also has to clear waivers when moving from the minors to the NHL (called "re-entry" waivers), and there are more exceptions for this. Some players may not be exempt from "regular" waivers, but are "re-entry" waiver exempt. Jeez, how confusing is that?

Anyway, there is a "regular waiver exemption", which means that certain players young enough, and with little enough NHL experience can go straight to the minor league team without having to go through waivers (there are other exemptions as well, but I'm not going to mention them here- it's complicated enough as it is). The experience exemption is applicable for both Carle and Bernier. I'd bet at least half the teams in the NHL would claim these guys if they did have to go through waivers. If they weren't waiver-exempt, they wouldn't have been sent down.

The waiver exemption is 80 games for 21 year olds (Bernier) and 60 games for 22 year olds (Carle). Bernier has currently played 78 games in the NHL, and Carle 51. They barely made it under the wire for the exception, and it's extremely unlikely they'll get assigned again, due to their talents, and likelihood of being claimed.

For more interesting information about how waivers work in the new CBA, here's a great blog post I found. Very enlightening. You can even download the whole CBA (all 472 pages of it) here in PDF form. Works better than NyQuil.

Monday, January 01, 2007


After 3 consecutive losses, all to division opponents, and losing 5 of 7, the Sharks are officially in the doldrums. That is, before the win last night. The 8-0 loss to Phoenix on Thursday night is probably the worst, most embarrassing loss in franchise history. Two other times in their history the Sharks have lost 8-0 and worse. But both came in the first two season, when the Sharks were playing under Kevin Constantine, and had such superstars as Link Gaetz and Kelly Kisio. A team with four All-Stars, including a Hart and Richard winner they weren't.

So management kicked ass, took names, and benched three good players on Sunday vs. Dallas, choosing to suit up Scott Parker, Rob Davison, and Doug Murray, generally healthy scratches all.

And the Sharks looks great ... for 20 minutes. The first period they were flying around the rink, contesting every loose puck, forechecking hard, and driving to the net for rebounds. Frankly, they looked like the Ducks. They went up to a 4-1 lead, and it appeared the rout was on. And then it wasn't. Dallas managed to regain control of their zone, playing their ho-hum, slow-tempo, lock-the-neutral-zone, dump-it-in-and-let-Zubov-take-slap-shots style of play. In the Sharks' defense, they did play the night before, and may have shot their wad proving that they could be dynamic and dangerous in the first period. But it still makes periods 2 and 3 a little disturbing. If the Sharks can't put together a good 60 minute performance after the worst loss in franchise history, exactly when is it going to happen?

There is a bit of a respite, now that Pronger and Giguere are both hurt for the Ducks, arguably the two best players on Anaheim this season. Maybe the Ducks won't end up with 124 points, their current pace. To put that in perspective, the only team that finished with 124 points in the last 10 years is Detroit, last year. In a division which included the three worst teams in the Western Conference. By contrast, the Pacific division this year has the three of the top five teams in the conference. And the two worst. Even so, if the Ducks finish the season with 120 points or more, I would argue it would be the best regular season performance since 1995-6.

With only two really good opponents in all of January (Dallas on the 30th, Detroit next on the 4th), the Sharks need to make a run here. And we need to stop friggin' losing to the Kings and Yotes.