My Two Cents for May 7th:
Sharks Lessons Learned: It has been over two weeks since the Sharks were dismissed from this years post season by the St Louis Blues. As the series starts to fade away into the oblivion as does this past season, I’ve had a good amount of time to clear my head and get team teal’s failures far enough out of mind to where I can look back on things that happened objectively. Hopefully over time the Sharks coaching staff and players have had some time to get away and do some reflection of their own. This is not an easy time to be a San Jose Sharks player, coach or even fan right now. The team that showed you the door this post season just got swept out of the post season themselves by the LA Kings. Another team in the same division, the Phoenix Coyotes, are just a win away from joining the LA Kings in the Western Conference Final and being part of this seasons’ “final four” in the NHL, with one of those two teams being guaranteed a finals appearance and a 50/50 shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
If you are a Sharks fan and have been actively rooting against the Kings or the Coyotes, two things. First, I can appreciate your fandom and the fact that you don’t want to see the Sharks become one of just two teams in the Pacific Division to not win the Stanley Cup. As much as I can appreciate your feelings, that brings me to my second point. To quote the 70′s rock band “The Eagles”, simply put “GET OVER IT!”. The way the Sharks went down versus the Blues, I doubt very seriously the Sharks would have put up any better of a match against either LA or Phoenix, and likely would have lost either series in five or six games. The Sharks are out because they simply as a team were not good enough, period. The Kings have gone out as the 8th seed and have taken the attitude of having nothing to lose. They are also riding a red hot goalie in Jonathan Quick. The team is feeding off the energy of Captain Dustin Brown. Ditto for the Phoenix Coyotes, a team playing as if they have nothing to lose, riding a red hot goalie in Mike Smith and feeding off the energy of Captain Shane Doan and former Shark Ray Whitney. Whitney not only knows how to win, but also how to close, and do so effectively.
The Sharks were the third best team in the Pacific Division regardless of what the final standings said. This was proven in these playoffs. The lessons here for the Sharks is that they may have been a little guilty of taking the Pacific Division title and a top three seeding for granted. This was not something the Sharks did intentionally, but something team teal did subconsciously. The Sharks had a decent team, but despite the talent level they really never meshed. Head Coach Todd McLellan basically admitted this during an interview as the Sharks were cleaning out their lockers as their off season had begun. Also, there were several instances where the Sharks did not seem to be on the same page as a team and became unglued at the first signs of adversity. The 2-6-1 February road trip that changed everything went a long way in exposing weaknesses the Sharks had. The problem here was the Sharks were fully aware of this but truly did little to adjust or address it. The 1-0 win over Philly following the road trip was a great deodorant for the moment, but unfortunately for the Sharks that was all it turned out to be.
If the Sharks want to truly learn from what happened this year, they as individuals really need to take a moment to reflect upon themselves individually first. This goes for players, coaches and management. The main lesson for the Sharks to focus on is that one of the things that ultimately led to their demise was just how this team never clicked and never found the right formula for long term sustainable success. The only way the Sharks can go forward is to learn form the mistakes made this past season, and how, where and why they happened. If the Sharks are going to come out as a viable contender in 2012-13, this will require not only some player movement but also managements willingness to change themselves. What also needs to change is the operational philosophy of how this team is constructed as in building the organization from the inside-out. If the Sharks are willing to make the needed changes they can go forward and stay in as a strong Cup contender in future seasons. If not, move over Calgary, Minnesota, Edmonton and Columbus. In other words, be willing to change with the league or be left behind by the league.
“King Me” Please!!! – If for some reason you still don’t believe the Los Angeles Kings are a legit Cup contender, just ask anyone on the Vancouver Canucks on the St Louis Blues rosters. The Kings are the first “8 Seed” in NHL history to defeat the #1 and #2 seeds to reach a conference final round. The Kings with their convincing 4-0 sweep of the Blues, completed Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 win continue arguably the best post season run of any team in this years playoffs. This run is only matched by the Phoenix Coyotes who are one win away from joining LA in what will be one of the most unlikely match-ups for the Western Conference Finals. What the Los Angeles Kings have done here is truly remarkable, and they are doing it the right way…they are earning it.
Lead by Captain Dustin Brown and cast of characters such as Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Willie Mitchell amongst others and a red hot goalie in Jonathan Quick who could ultimately be the key to the Kings run. Former Sharks Head Coach Darryl Sutter since arriving in LA has turned the Kings fortunes around. Though Coach Sutter can be very tough and demanding, more than anything Sutter wants each player on his roster to demand of themselves what he demands from them. Sutter’s approach here has been fairly simple, he’s letting his players go out and just play, period. The Kings are having fun and they are making history along the way. Yes, the Sharks beat the Kings four out of six in the regular season, however I am convinced that had the two teams met in this post season the Kings would have won that series too rather handily (in six games).
I’ve seen one tweet today where someone just called this run by the Kings “luck”. Well, if that is so keep in mind the Kings have even had a hand in that, as the boys from LA have created their own luck. In the series versus the Blues, the Kings outscored St Louis 15-6 in the four games and were faster and more physical. Brian Elliot, who the Sharks turned into Patrick Roy in the first round, was brought back to earth by a Kings attack that simply never let up until about 3pm Sunday afternoon. It did not help the Blues that they were without Jaroslav Halak who was injured in the series versus the Sharks. The way the Kings were playing, I doubt it would have mattered much. The Blues are a solid team, but as the case with Vancouver, the Kings just create nightmarish match-ups for their opponents who so far have not found any answers. I don’t know who the Kings will play in the Western Conference Finals, however whether it is Phoenix or Nashville, their opponent will have their hands full. The Kings will have “road ice” advantage and are 5-0 on the road through two rounds. The Kings have a very good shot at the Cup if they just continue to do what they are doing now. The Kings also for the first time in franchise history swept an opponent in a playoff round. Both of these would be and are something not even Gretzky’s LA Kings teams could not accomplish.
“Jersey Gore, and other Situations”:- The New Jersey Devils are giving the Philadelphia Flyers a taste of “Jersey Gore” after winning three straight games after a Game One overtime loss. The Devils have taken three games in a row by 4-1, 4-3 (OT) and 4-2 Sunday Night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in a series, creating quite “The Situation” for the Flyers. Also, The NY Rangers and Washington Capitals are playing a series that is becoming a classic. The series is tied 2-2 with the two teams splitting games in Washington, the Rangers winning Game 3 in triple overtime 2-1. The Capitals bounced back in Game 4 for a 3-2 win to create a best two of three scenario for this series. The Phoenix Coyotes are also looking to make history as they are a win away from an all Pacific Division Western Conference Final versus LA. The Coyotes lead the Nashville Predators 3-1 in their best of seven series with a chance to close out the series Monday Night. You know things are going well when you score just one goal in two games on the road and still get a split.
Team USA Upsets Canada in WHC- Speaking of the Kings, a former LA King Jack Johnson scored the game winning goal Saturday afternoon as Team USA upset Team Canada 5-4 in overtime at the World Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland. The win for Team USA over Canada was indeed a rare one as Team USA beat their Canadian counterparts for only the second time in this tournament since 1985. If fact, this is only overall the fourth time this has happened since 1931 (this does not count the Winter Olympic Games). Team USA out shot Canada 46-34. Johnson’s game winning goal came just 1:47 into the overtime period. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made 30 saves for Team USA. Johnson’s overtime game winner was also his second goal of the game.
Team USA also got goals from Jim Slater (Winnipeg Jets), Patrick Dwyer (Carolina Hurricanes) and Nate Thompson (Tampa Bay Lightning). Team Canada meanwhile got scores from John Tavares (NY Islanders), Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) , Evander Kane (Winnipeg Jets), and Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks). In goal for Team Canada, Cam Ward (Carolina Hurricanes) made 41 saves. If you are wondering how Marc-Edouard Vlasic is doing for Team Canada, he did not pick up any points or penalty minutes, nor did he accidentally tip the puck into his own net. Team USA also defeated France 7-2 on Friday afternoon and will return to action against Slovakia Monday afternoon. Team Canada defeated Team Slovakia 3-2 on Friday, and will take on France Monday as well.
When an Icon Falls- Even though this is a hockey blog, this next item is about a human life just lost. Along with many I was shocked, stunned and saddened by the sudden news of the death of NFL great Junior Seau. Seau was found dead this past Wednesday Morning (5/2) from an apparent suicide via a self inflicted gun shot wound at his home in Oceanside, CA (about 35 miles north of San Diego). This was such a shock to so many who would have never thought about something like this happening, much less see it coming. Where I reside in the San Diego area, the news spead fast and soon local media, TV and Radio all broke format to cover this breaking and stunningly sad event. Seau was probably the one man next to San Diego Padres great Tony Gwynn who represented sports for the city of San Diego. The next icon after Seau was probably Dan Fouts, the former San Diego Chargers Quarterback.
One thing that jumps out is that you think this is a man who has it all and has a life that we could only be so lucky to come close to having. Though divorced, he was supportive of his ex-wife and three children who were left behind. Also left behind was a community who loved him and looked up to him. I never had the honor to meet the man myself, however it was said that he would reach out to anyone and call everyone “buddy”, even if he didn’t know you personally. He was someone who when he spoke, the room had his undivided attention whether it was the locker room or a fund raiser for a children’s charity. He came from a very strong and proud American Samoan heritage.
Like so many, I was left with one question which I will never have the answer too. “Why?” Why did this have to happen? What was going on that led to this being the only option for him. To watch his mother on the news the next day was too gut wrenching, I could not watch much more without tearing up myself. I have no idea what happened or to what level he was depressed, and would never dare compare my problems or life to his for even a second. What I can say that I myself having dealt with depression in my life and what I can tell you is that it’s no fun. It’s an eternal pain that consumes you in ways you did not think were possible. You forget the fundamental basics such as waking up and seizing the day. What I can tell you based on my experiences are that getting help is tough, but it’s a helluva lot tougher if you don’t ask for it. I got through my bouts of depression by asking for help. One thing you learn through it all is that everyday is a gift. You learn how trivial your sports teams trials and tribulations really are, that this is nothing more than the toy department of life. It’s also a good distraction for all the other bad news in the world.
As for Seau, I only hope we all realize that thought the tragedy of his passing that everyday is nothing to take for granted. Why he did what he did we may never know. Though we may never know why this happened, let’s hope that if nothing else we all learn the value of life and loved ones. No matter how much $$$ you have, it can buy a lot of things but true happiness can only come from within.
RIP Junior Seau (1969-2012) “…You left all us way too soon….”
…Just My Two Cents…
The King Shark
“Blades of Teal: The Final Word on San Jose Sharks Hockey”…(where puck drops again for team teal this October)…