Wrote this up a few days ago when the Sharks inked Jamal Mayers, but haven’t had a chance to post this until now. And as always: agree, disagree, love it, hate it, it matters not as long as you read it (and hopefully comment). Enjoy!
Typically when new seasons approach, rather than closely scrutinizing the roster and making predictions I often find myself reminiscing on past Sharks squads and the surprises that inevitably occur each year. This is why we watch and love the game: we never know what we are going to get, especially in the playoffs and with the parity that has become central to the league’s growth and success post-lockout. For example, last year I predicted the Flyers would win the Cup if the Sharks didn’t, and they ended up really darn close. Yet I made this prediction thinking Ray Emery would lead the surge and with John Stevens at the helm manning the ship. In reality the Flyers ended up playing seven goalies throughout the year, showed Stevens the door early on, and barely scraped into the post-season with a hair-raising shootout victory in their final regular season game. It’s safe to say I did NOT feel like a hockey prophet when they ended up making it to the Finals.
So last night in the midst of my reflections I was surfing videos on the web and was watching old showdowns between Owen Nolan’s Sharks and the infamous Pronger-MacInnis St. Louis Blues team we fans used to love to hate. Remember Nolan scoring from center ice against Roman Turek in Game 7 to upset the #1 seeded Blues? Coincidentally, I woke up this morning to find the Sharks signed right wing Jamal Mayers to a one-year contract. I fondly remember despising Mayers as a member of that Blues squad, but the second I saw the news I was thrilled.
Sharks fans: if you are not familiar with his name, you will grow to love this guy. The loss of Malhotra still stings, and last year we lost some toughness when Jody Shelley got dealt to the Rangers. Mayers will fill that void on our third and fourth lines with heavy body checks, hard work, and occasional fists of fury as he tends to hover around the 100 penalty minute mark year after year. Imagine a bigger, stronger Scott Nichol who has been in the league a few more years and who has more playoff experience. This is good news, and I’m continually impressed with Doug Wilson’s ability to find these gems to round out our third and fourth lines, because after watching the series against the Blackhawks last season it was painfully clear we didn’t have the depth to keep up with all their lines.
In other news, Mike Modano confirmed he would be playing for the Red Wings next year, which is a shame as I would have loved to see him centering our third line in place of Manny Malhotra who departed for Vancouver earlier this summer. While the Stars are on my list of most-hated teams, Modano has always been a class act and I have had nothing but respect for him his whole career. On second thought, his career actually began when I was still learning how to walk (and skate)….
Even in the doldrums of summer there are still a ton of various things to get excited about for the upcoming year (did you know Jeremy Roenick will be hosting his own fantasy hockey radio show on satellite radio this year?), and also plenty of things that will inspire my frustrated ranting. Don’t get me started on the ongoing Kovalchuk contract fiasco, but more to come soon! In the mean-time, I recommend getting prepared for the fall by going back and watching some of your favorite Sharks moments from past seasons. Next on my list: Mike Ricci’s hat trick with 3.6 seconds left to tie the game against the Stars on ‘fan appreciation’ night at the Tank where free hats were given out to all attendees.