My Two Cents for October 8th, 2012:
Sharks Scatter About As NHL Season Put On Deep Freeze- As we enter the fourth full week of what will likely be a long term lockout, several NHL players have had to make alternate plans if’ they wish to play any hockey in the 2012-13 season. A good number of players have gone to either the Swiss League, KHL or other leagues across the Atlantic to get away from a league who’s owners have decided damaging the NHL brand to make their point (along with an incompetent Commissioner who is in complete cahoots) is more important than the brand or game itself. Many marque names such as Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have made their way to the KHL while Rick Nash, along with the Sharks Joe Thornton have joined HC Davos in the Swiss League. How long these players remain there depends on how soon the powers that be in the NHL can get their act together and decide that the fans of the 30 teams which make up their league have been cheated enough. Of course, the tragedy here as proven eight years ago is that a certain number owners along with Commissioner Gary Bettman have clearly sent a very loud message to the thousands of season ticket holders and league fans in general that whatever they feel about this is irrelevant to them, and that this is strictly a business.
At this point I would suggest not holding your breath on this one. Sadly, a point will come probably more sooner than later that we will all need to move on as the NHL season eventually will slip away into extinction. We may soon no longer talking about salvaging 2012-13, but instead trying to salvage 2013-14. This is not to cast a dye of doom and gloom on this lockout or just to assume that this is a repeat of 2004-05, however you have to as a hockey fan start to look at this situation realistically. The first two weeks of regular season games through October 24th have already been cancelled and it seems certain more cancellations will come shortly. If you are a season ticket holder to anyone of the 30 NHL franchises, you may want to start contacting your teams ticket offices (if you haven’t done so already) and see about refunds for cancelled games or even cancelling your season tickets providing the franchise will offer you an opportunity to reclaim seats once the lockout ends or whenever a full 82 game season is played again. If you do call your teams ticket office, please be polite and courteous and know they are in an awkward position themselves. They did not want this headache anymore than you did, but like yourself they have to play the hand they are dealt by the league. You will find that the majority of employees who work in the teams ticketing office agreeing with you and if you vent you’ll only be preaching to the choir.
As to when to call the teams, that would be the call of each season ticket holder. I would probably start doing it about the next time the league announces the cancellation of a second block of games because at this point there’s no chance lost games will be made up. For every season ticket holder at this point it really depends on how much faith you have in what is going on. You don’t have to call your team’s season ticket office today, tomorrow or the next day. You may however at least circle a date on your personal calendar as to when it maybe time for you to say whether or not you feel the season is toast.
Boyle-ing Point? -In an article appearing on TSN.ca this past Friday, the Sharks Dan Boyle made some of his feelings known about the NHL’s lockout situation. Speaking with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz, Boyle stated that he felt not all of the league’s owners are in full agreement as to wanting to lockout the league. Boyle told CSN Bay Area “It doesn’t make any sense to me that eight teams can control the fate of 22 other ones,” Boyle continued “I think when players make comments, sometimes it’s directed towards 30 owners, but I think a lot of us feel that it’s not across the board. It’s a certain group of teams that are controlling 30 others.” Boyle felt that the players were actually ready to go to the table with a list of concessions that would have appeased most of the owners who intern would have been glad to work towards a resolution which could have prevented the lockout. However Boyle would also point out to CSN Bay Area that there are a “select group of owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman” who are unwilling to make any kind of a deal at this point.
Boyle was clearly not optimistic about any resolution coming any time soon. “I don’t see anything happening for the next couple months. I know that’s very pessimistic of me, and I really hope I’m wrong. But the eight guys…what if there’s 22 teams out there that want to play right now? How do eight teams control their fate? That’s bothers me the most.” Boyle continued “I think we have to give back. There are a lot of things that we need to fix, and we want to give back,” he said. “I don’t think they’re serious about doing anything until we start missing some checks.”** I feel Boyle hit the nail on the head here. He legitimately cares about the game of hockey and feels the fact that they are not getting ready to start another season at the end of this week makes absolutely no sense. You’re right on point here Mr. Boyle. In reality, as I have always said it’s Bettman who will always side with the Owners and never the players or even fans. There are a number of owners who may very well want to get this settled so there can be a season. However, as the old saying goes “A few bad apples can ruin the bunch”.
Where Have All The Sharks Gone?- We all know about Joe Thornton going over to the Swiss League to play for HC Davos. What about the rest of the team’s roster? So far, counting Thornton there are a total of nine players from the Sharks current roster that have ventured overseas to resume playing, opting to go either Europe or the KHL instead of the AHL or ECHL. Joe Pavelski was the most recent Sharks to sign overseas, inking a deal with Dinamo Minsk in Belarus of the KHL. Douglas Murray meanwhile signed with the Swedish team Djurgarden. Logan Couture signed a deal with Geneve-Servette of the National League A in Switzerland, a team that plays against HC Davos which would put Couture and Thornton on opposite benches. Jason Demers meanwhile plays for Oulun Kärpät in Finland. Tommy Wingles meanwhile is lacing them up for KooKoo of the Mestis Hockey League, also in Finland. Joining Demers and Wingles in Finland is Sharks Goalie Antti Niemi who signed a one month contract with Pelicans Lahti. Niemi is as familiar with Pelicans Lahti as they are with him. Before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, Niemi spent four years of his professional career with Pelicans Lahti.
Other Sharks players making the trek overseas includes TJ Galiardi has signed with the Bietigheim Steelers team in Germany. Sharks Center Michal Handzus meanwhile has inked a deal with Banska Bystrica in the Slovak Extraliga, Slovakia’s top pro hockey league. This makes a total of nine Sharks on the current playing roster that have sought playing refuge overseas while the NHL tries to figure out it’s many problems. Per Scott Semmler of the Bleacher Report*** Martin Havlet is also overseas looking to sign with a team in the Czech Republic. As for this side of the Atlantic Ocean, General Manager Doug Wilson and the Sharks Coaching Staff will be spending the lockout in Worcester, Massachusetts scouting and assessing the talent level of the Sharks AHL affiliate. This includes Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan, and Associate Coach Larry Robinson plus assistants Jay Woodcroft and Jim Johnson. The purpose of the trip if to give the coaches what they would have had in a normal training camp scenario. Since training camp was cancelled by the lockout, the Sharks coaches and General Manager have to go 3,000 miles east of San Jose to see what they have.
As for the remaining players on the Sharks roster, there have been no reports or indicators that they are looking to play either in the minors or overseas at this time.
The Worcester Sharks have the right frame of mind with maybe just a hint of a slight sense of humor given the situation with the NHL lockout. The logo on their web page says “We’re Playing Hockey, No Matter What!”. Thank goodness someone is. The AHL Sharks start their season season this coming Friday on the road taking on the Norfolk Admirals, who are the new AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.
Speaking of playing hockey “no matter what”, the San Francisco Bulls, the Sharks ECHL affiliate will open their season this coming Friday also. The Bulls take on the Bakersfield Condors at the Cow Palace. It appears that it’s all systems are a go for the Bulls who played two exhibitions against the Stockton Thunder and Colorado Eagles this past weekend.
More Players Heading Overseas- The population of players with NHL experience heading across the Atlantic Ocean (aside from the above mentioned Sharks) continues to grow. The Philadelphia Flyers Claude Giroux and Danny Briere are heading for Germany. The Flyers two Centers have signed with Eisbaren Berlin. Meanwhile the Winnipeg Jets Andrew Ladd has decided to stay home in Winnipeg rather than join the KHL for personal reasons. The Anaheim Ducks Bobby Ryan has also chosen to remain states side rather than go overseas. Gabriel Landeskog, who won the Calder Trophy being the NHL’s Rookie Of The Year with the Colorado Avalanche last season has signed a deal to play with Djurgarden in Sweden, where he will be playing along side the Sharks Douglas Murray. Langdeskog scored 22 goals and 30 assist for the Avs last season. Just before the lockout became official, the Avs made Landeskog the team’s Captain. Landeskog is now the youngest team captain in NHL history at just 19 years of age.
Other players such as Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara agreed to join Prague in the KHL. Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn has signed with Hamburg of the German Elite League. Colorado Avs forward Matt Duchene has also signed with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. Which each passing day that this lockout continues, expect to see more headlines just as these. The air out of the NHL’s balloon seems to be leaking out fast…very fast!
Staying Wild In Minnesota- While a number of players are going overseas to play elsewhere until the lockout ends, a number of the Minnesota Wild players and also NHL players who reside in the Minneapolis are during the off season have decided to take matters into their own hands. These players are keeping in shape by holding with is tantamount to practice sessions. These players are working on drills and even playing some pick up games at the at the St. Louis Park Rec Center outside of Minneapolis. Players involved with these voluntary practice sessions include Zach Parise, who came over from New Jersey during the off season. Parise, along with new Wild member Ryan Sutter, Mikko Koivu, Tom Gilbert, Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom are amongst those who want to be in game shape should by some miracle things change in the league’s labor situation. For the Wild, the lockout is especially tough news. With the additions of Parise and Suter, season tickets for Wild home games went up by over 4,000.** One of the newest Wild members, Suter told TSN.ca that the their is excitement in Minnesota for the Wild. However at that same time their is also a great amount of frustration for both players and fans.
Non-Hockey Items: Good News/Bad News for Bay Area Baseball Teams- For the Bay Area baseball community of fans, this past week and weekend has been a combination of good accomplishments for both the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s. Starting with the A’s, they did something this past week (and really this past three month period) that you rarely see in major league baseball. The A’s chased down and caught the Texas Rangers, then passed them on the season’s final day of the regular season October 3rd. The A’s three game sweep of the Texas Rangers in Oakland to close out the regular season was quite an accomplishment, being 13 games behind the Rangers in the American League West Division on June 30th. Through the A’s first 52 games, they sported a less than stellar 22-30 record and not much was expected from them. That’s probably what made them successful this season. They only ones who may have believed in the A’s were the A’s themselves. The A’s, regardless of the end result of the ALDS versus the Detroit Tigers should be very proud of what they accomplished this season.
However, and sadly for the A’s the first two games of the ALDS against the Tigers the A’s just have not been able to find a break and dropped the first two games of their best of five series to the Motor City don’t call them Kitties. The A’s dropped two tough games by a 3-1 score in Game 1, and followed up with a tough 5-4 loss in Game 2. The A’s were in both games and had their chances but never could seem to get that one big hit that could propel them over the top. The good news for the A’s, games three, as well as four and five if necessary will be played in Oakland. However for the A’s, it’s sweep or weep as they Tigers head into the East Bay with a 2-0 advantage. I said before the playoffs began that the A’s were the one team nobody wanted to play. However, I also warned the one team that could be the A’s kryptonite…was the Tigers.
As for the San Francisco Giants, they ended up running away with the National League’s West Division Title by separating themselves from the arch rival Los Angeles Dodgers starting August 20th with the first of a three game set at Chavez Ravine. The Giants at their high point led the Dodgers by 11 games and finished the season with a more than comfortable 8 game lead. However, just like the A’s with the Tigers, the Giants apparently got their kryptonite draw when they drew the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. As the Giants are finding out fast, the Reds won 97 games for a reason. The first two games of the series, and in particular Game 2 have unfortunately for the Giants have just proven how badly they are over matched by a very good Cincinnati Reds club that is all business. The Reds won Games 1 and 2 by scores of 5-2 and 9-0 respectively.
First, one has to be real here. As hard as this is for me to say, the Reds flat out are top to bottom a far better and superior team than the Giants can hope to be at this point. The Reds won the first two games and frankly won both these games handily and easily….and I mean VERY easily. This series is not close. As the old saying goes. “If this was a prize fight, the refs would have jumped in and stopped it.” I hope I am wrong here, but the Giants are badly over matched here and basically have little to no chance for any win here. This series will end with the Reds winning in a sadly very easy three game sweep/blowout. I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Reds go on to win the World Series. Right now they would be my pick to do it. They have all they right players and the right parts. This team could find themselves being called “Big Red Machine: The Next Generation” if this happens.
It’s no shame to lose to the better team here and this does not diminish what the Giants did this season and certainly does not take away what they accomplished in 2010. That was extraordinary, but this does show that getting back to the top is difficult for any team. Yes, that even includes the New York Yankees. The Giants though once this is over will need to evaluate some of the players on the team and decide whom they are moving forward with. Their roster will need to be tweaked, at the very least.
49ers Rout Bills- The 49ers turned in Sunday what would be their biggest blow out of the season in terms of points as they routed the hapless Buffalo Bills 45-3 at Candlestick Park. Everyone got into the act after a sluggish start for the Red and Gold. For information on this game go to our Fansided partners at www.ninersnoise.com. The 49ers now get ready for the second game of this three game home stand as they look for redemption in a rematch with the NFL Champion New York Giants next Sunday. This game will sell itself…
…Just My Two Cents…
The King Shark
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*** – Source: The Bleacher Report