My Two Cents for February 7th:
NHL Is Back In Business- After a long and somewhat unfortunate hiatus caused by the latest NHL lockout which lasted 113 days from September 15th until January 7th, the NHL to the relief and joy of many fans has returned to the ice where it belongs. With a new 10 year collective bargaining agreement now in place, the NHL is secure through the 2022-23 season. Virtually every single team was welcomed back to the ice by their home markets and business so far has been much better than expected. Most arenas are sold out every night and some teams are adding extra promotional nights just to thank the fans for their patience during the trying period of the lockout. Probably the best thing and most classiest I’ve seen since the lockout ended was at the conclusion of the Sharks opener January 19th against Phoenix where team Captain Joe Thornton took a moment before the three stars announcement just to thank the fans at the Shark Tank for the support. Thornton let the sell out crowd at the Shark Tank that evening know that they do make a difference and that they are the best fans in the NHL.
Hockey fans are truly an extended family and enjoy the ride through a sport that probably gives their fans the best emotional roller-coaster ride in all of sports. The NHL is the one of the four major sports leagues that is truly wide open each and every season. Some teams will have more ups and downs than others. There are the elite teams, the perennial power houses, and each year even a few teams who you would never suspect to have a chance sneak in to the post season and do some serious damage. How many people in October of 2011 went to Las Vegas and bet that the Los Angeles Kings would be the Stanley Cup winner? I can guarantee that most Kings fans weren’t even thinking that. The point is that with the right wave at the right time the Stanley Cup tournament often times will have an underdog who will pull a first round upset and maybe even seriously challenge for the title if not win it all.
After watching the Sharks game against the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night about 10 minutes after it had ended my wife looked at me and told me I seemed a little flustered. I told I was and a little about the game that had just ended. I also told her that I was actually happy to be flustered at the end result of a hockey game for the first time in a while, and not an ongoing lockout. I am fairly certain this is how most fans feel after a loss, but at the same time they are just glad to have that feeling back because that also means that the NHL is finally back too. As the old saying goes, you can never truly appreciate how much you will miss something until it is gone. That certainly was the case here. Seeing the NBC games on TV is a nice thing. Seeing the games on Centre Ice is a nice thing. Seeing the games live, it is a priceless nice thing. I’m just glad the NHL is back.
I am also glad to see that many minor league teams gained followings as the result of the lockout and for the most part have kept their fan bases in tact even after the NHL resumed play. If you are in Northern California, please also continue to support the San Francisco Bulls and Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. They never locked out and were there since this past October. The tickets are affordable and it’s not a bad idea to take in a game just to experience the game at a different level. In the minors, there are no million dollar contracts or players with the occasional ego problem. It’s just young players who are just hoping to be good enough to one day get to the show. These players work as hard as any and are worth the time and small investment to go see on occasion. Please continue to support the ECHL and all minor league hockey throughout the United States and Canada. Again, they are worth your time.
Sharks First 10 Games- To date the Sharks have played the first 10 games of their abbreviated 48 game dash to the post season tournament. The Sharks as of February 7th are 7 wins, 2 losses and 1 overtime loss. The first seven wins came in the first seven games as the Sharks came out of the gates on fire. It started with a rare sweep in Alberta of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. The Sharks then started a six game home stand with a come from behind win over the Phoenix Coyotes on opening night at the Shark Tank. The Sharks then took care of business against Colorado Avs and Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks also defeated their arch rival in the Anaheim Ducks though needing to do so in a shootout period. The Edmonton Oilers also gave the Sharks quite a fight the second time around in forcing team teal to have to go through another shootout period for a win. The Sharks however would not be so lucky in their third straight shootout game against the Nashville Predators. After their first regulation loss on the road at Anaheim, the Sharks returned to the tank only to lose an error filled game against a powerful Chicago Blackhawks team.
Patrick Marleau has cooled off a little after scoring nine goals in his first five games. What is encouraging is that you come away knowing that Marleau still has one of the best scoring touches in the league and seemingly hasn’t even lost a step. The Sharks will need him down the stretch. Joe Pavelski is also having a strong campaign so far as is Logan Couture. Thornton has been strong so far even though he has also cooled off a bit. Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus are having better than expected starts to their seasons. James Sheppard has been a nice surprise and is always in the mix. So far all of Sheppard’s contributions have been very positive. Adam Burish also has shown a tremendous presence on the ice as a fun loving but no nonsense type of player that has the backside of his team. Ryane Clowe has been himself, and that is what you want from him. He is a “Gordie Howe Hatrick” waiting to happen. Douglas Murray has been solid in living up to his “Crankshaft” nickname. Brad Stuart has been a presence too and looks at home by finally being able to come home to San Jose. Matt Irwin is more than a pleasant, he is a player that I feel will be seeing a lot less of Worcester and more of the big club. Irwin is a keeper. Dan Boyle has also added some scoring though his slowing down is more the direct result of the flu than anything else.
As far as the goalies go, both Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss have done fantastic jobs in the net. As far as Niemi goes, throw out the Blackhawks game entirely. None of the five Blackhawks goals were his fault. Both have been solid. Greiss in fact got his first career shutout versus the Colorado Avs on January 21st in an impressive 4-0 win. All in all the Sharks outside of a bad 89 second lapse against Chicago Tuesday night have been pretty rock solid. The greatest positive for this team is the penalty kill unit which Associate Coach Larry Robinson has helped to build up as one of the best units in the NHL. The Penalty Kill units themselves are probably responsible for at least three of the Sharks seven wins. The down side has been a power play unit which is in the throws of a 0 for 21 slump. All teams will go though these at some point or another. The Sharks like everyone else just need to work though it.
With all of this said, please keep in mind too that the Sharks very clearly will have some heavy competition from teams such as Chicago, Anaheim (which has quietly become very good and scary good), St Louis, Detroit and others. Don’t forget too that the LA Kings despite an early slow start are now finding their legs and should be there the rest of the way though late April. The advantage for the Sharks is that because it’s only a 48 game season, should team teal make the post season they will be literally in mid- season form as all other teams will be. The bad news is that they are going to have to go though a gauntlet of teams once they reach the post season that will be in the same spot and baring injuries will be tough competition. If the Sharks can stay healthy and get a top four seeding at least, they will have just as good a chance as anyone in the post season.
Coyotes Sale Falls Though- Former Sharks executive Greg Jamison’s bid to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes has fallen through. Jamison was looking to purchase the Coyotes with the goal of keeping the team in the Phoenix area. The deadline for the deal was January 31st. Jamison has stated to the Arizona Republic that he will not give up on his efforts to try and purchase the team which is as of now still the ward of the NHL. “…our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue. We realize this will require additional conversations with the city of Glendale and the NHL. We still believe we can reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. We hope negotiations with the city proceed as smoothly as possible, as everyone involved wants the Coyotes to remain in Arizona.” Jamison in a statement.** Jamison’s bid to purchase the team involves other investors. The problem Jamison is reportedly having is that some of the members of the potential group to purchase the team want a majority stake in the ownership. Jamison is very reluctant to concede controlling interest of the team. Jamison’s purchase had it been successful would have kept the Coyotes in the Phoenix area for at least 20 years with a new lease agreement from the City of Glendale. He was also looking to change the team’s identity to the Arizona Coyotes starting next season. According to the Arizona Republic, had Jamison been successful he had the potential to earn $15 million a season from the City of Glendale to operate the Jobing.com arena. Keep an eye on this story. The outcome will determine whether or not the franchise remains in the desert or heads off to Seattle, Oklahoma City, Hamilton, Ontario or Quebec City. Only time will tell what happens here, but it’s looking just a little dicey for the NHL in the desert despite the league’s determination to keep the franchise in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.
The NHL has owned the Coyotes since 2009 after former owner Jerry Moyes had suffered huge financial losses after his purchase of the team in 2005. Many of the losses had to do with the expenses associated with running the franchise. Moyer had attempted to sell the team back in 2009 to Jim Balsillie, a Canadian Billionaire who wanted to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.The proposed sale was struck down in the courts, forcing Moyers to sell the team to the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman has vowed to keep the financial struggling franchise in the Phoenix area. Jamison’s group is the fourth group to have attempted to purchase the franchise from the league since 2009.
Sharks of the Future- Konrad Albeltshauser was drafted by the Sharks in 2010 as their 6th round pick and 163rd overall in the entire draft. Albeltshauser, who is playing for the Halifax Mooseheads in the OMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) has been having quite the season so far. He is averaging a point a game so far as he has 40 points in 39 games played. His totals are five goals and 35 assists. Born and raised in Bad Tolz, Germany, Albeltshauser played for his hometown club “Bad Tolz U18″ before being drafted by the Sharks. In the 2008-09 season he put up a total of 44 points in 36 games played. In last season’s QMJHL playoffs, in 15 games Albeltshauser scored five goals and had 11 assists for the Mooseheads. Albeltshauser is a 6 foot 5 defenseman who weighs 225 pounds, and whose size may one day soon remind Sharks fans of Douglas Murray. Albeltshauser is a defenseman who can score at any time and is someone to watch as he comes through the ranks in the Sharks farm system.
SJSU Spartans Hockey- San Jose State’s hockey team is having quite a good season and they are continuing what has been a good roll for them this season. Currently, the Spartans are sporting a rather impressive record of 22 wins, 7 losses, and 2 overtime losses in 31 total games played. The Spartans are outscoring their opponents 192-95. At home, the Spartans have been almost unbeatable with a 16-2-1 mark on their own ice. This past weekend the Spartans almost broke the scoreboard against the UCLA Bruins, winning back to back games by 10-2 last Friday, and 14-2 on Saturday Night. The Spartans have one last regular season game remaining against Santa Rosa College this Friday Night at Sharks Ice in San Jose. Afterward, the Spartans will await their seeding in the ACHA Western Regional Playoffs which begin March 2nd. With the Sharks off Friday night, why not venture over to Sharks Ice and see what all the buzz is about with San Jose State Spartans Hockey. Do this especially since that will be their last home date of the season.
Meet Maggie Watkins- A few weeks ago a came across a You Tube video by Maggie Watkins, who had entered a contest for a 2012-13 Sharks season commercial (prior to the lockout). Her video entry did not win, but I found it to be a very clever and funny video that not only shows she has strong singing talent, but also a great sense of humor to go along with it. The Central California native musical genre is country. Just 21 years of age she looks like she will be someone that will soon be a household name in country music. Below is a link to her Sharks season commercial entry which is featured on her You Tube Channel. Enjoy the video. The video contains some hockey and adult humor, so it may not be for the youngest of children. Also, please follow Maggie on Twitter
@maggiemae_ . If your like country music, please check out her You Tube channel and give her a listen. Not only does she like Sharks hockey, she also breaks for squirrels too (as do I).
Non-Hockey Item- Super Bowl 47- I along with all San Francisco 49ers fans congratulate the team on a very hard fought successful thrill ride of a season. The Baltimore Ravens would go on to beat the 49ers 34-31 in football’s ultimate stage. Despite getting behind by as much as 22 points, the 49ers showed a lot of heart and character in the way they came back to not only make a game of it, but come within five yards of the NFL Title. The the Super Bowl did not end up the way we would have all liked however I am not down on this team one bit, not even close. I am proud to have followed this team since age 6 and this team by far with all the franchises history behind it was one of the most hardest fighting 49ers teams to have ever played. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has taken a team that just two years ago won only six games and turned them into a potential power house. With players such as Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, the future ahead for this team is very bright. They are one of the younger teams in the NFL and with a new stadium going up for the 2014 season the 49ers will soon be one of the NFL’s riches franchises. The last two seasons this franchise got a taste of success in the NFC Championships and reaching the Super Bowl. The 49ers will be back and stronger than ever in 2013. Thank You 49ers! We can’t wait for the 2013 season just seven short months away.
For more information of the San Francisco 49ers, please visit our Fansided affilate Niner Noise: http://ninernoise.com/
A Note About “My Two Cents”- With of the Sharks season underway and yours truly having a different working schedule (aka my day job), the schedule for this column will be changing from every Monday (sometimes Tuesday) to in between breaks where the Sharks have three days off. The every Monday format will return at the conclusion of the Sharks season (which hopefully will be sometime in June). The next “My Two Cents” will appear here on February 17th.
…Just My Two Cents…
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**Source: The Arizona Republic (via USA Today)