30 teams, 30,000 thoughts: San Jose Sharks (2/2)
In this series of articles, I will take a look at all 30 NHL teams and offer thoughts on what I’m seeing from each. I will start with two dedicated posts on the San Jose Sharks, this being the second, and then one division per entry, starting with the rest of the Pacific Division teams. You can read part 1 on the Sharks here. Check back soon for my thoughts on the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings. And Phoenix Coyotes if I have time. (Just kidding, the Coyotes are to be respected for what they accomplish every year despite difficult circumstances).
SAN JOSE SHARKS:
• I love some aspects of the Sharks 3rd and 4th lines, and dislike others. The size, speed, grittiness, and relentless pressure are all big plusses, but these positives show themselves more in some games than in others. And in games where the bottom lines aren’t able to retrieve the puck and successfully get the cycle going, well, there’s not much else there. That’s their strength, getting in on the opposing defense and starting mayhem in, behind, and around the net, and they’re good at it. But, that’s also one of their only strengths, and if they don’t succeed at that particular tactic in a given game, then they’re probably not going to score or have a positive impact on the game.
But that’s the tradeoff Doug Wilson chose, and seems to like. When you sign players like Andrew Murray who are all size, cycle, and grit, you have to expect they will both live and die with their size, cycle, and grit.
• The Pittsburgh Penguins are a really good team. If the Sharks make the Cup Finals this season, assuming the Penguins are completely healthy, they will, in all likelihood, be there too. That would make for an amazing series, but the fact that the Sharks were barely able to scrape out a win in the shootout against the Crosby-less, Staal-less, Zmichalek-less Pens is concerning.
However, judging teams on single regular season game performances can be a risky business. Teams can always be tired, jet-lagged, taking the night off, unmotivated, or having an off-night. We like to think of NHL players as super-humans who love playing in every single game in every city, who never slack off, but that’s simply not the case. Did the Penguins get the Sharks best game? Probably not, just as the Sharks probably didn’t get Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings’ best games on the recent road trip. Although, I will say in the case of the Red Wings, maybe it truly wasn’t their best game, but that’s just the thing, they never play their best game against the Sharks.
• And that’s because the Sharks own the Red Wings. Every time I watch the two teams play, it could not be more apparent: the Sharks are just plain better than the Red Wings in a head-to-head matchup. The latest of many spankings the Sharks have put on the Red Wings the last two years just continued to confirm that.
Whether Wings fans would concede to the Sharks being more talented or not, it doesn’t really matter, the Sharks are just plain better. Whether it’s the specific style the Sharks play that is kryptonite to the Red Wings system, and I think that’s a huge aspect of it, or talent, or any combination of multiple factors, I believe the Red Wings are just done for now in terms of Cup hopes until they either adjust their system, or reload an aging, and more importantly thinning team.
Because as it stands right now, no matter what the Red Wings can do to the other 29 teams (and they haven’t fared very well with them lately either), the Sharks will always be there in the playoffs, in their way, and I just don’t see the Red Wings getting by the Sharks any time soon without major change for the better. Because while Lidstrom likely won’t be playing next season or the year after, the Sharks are going to have the same core they have now for years to come.
It also doesn’t help the Wings that the apparent brains behind their Cup win was actually Mclellan, not Babcock, and now Mclellan is with the Sharks. Wings fans definitely have to be asking themselves if they kept the wrong coach. Ever since Mclellan left for San Jose it has been a solid downhill slide for the Red Wings. And honestly, I know some people in hockey are on pedestals and Babcock is one of them, but I have to report on what I see in reality and not the hype, and what I’ve seen from Babcock since Mclellan left is an average coach, plain and simple.
He gets outcoached a lot. He doesn’t adjust. He never seems to have any new tricks. Whether Mclellan was truly the brains, or Babcock was a couple of seasons ago but has failed to evolve along with the game since, who knows, but the end-result is the same. Babcock is not an elite coach anymore, at least not today. He has shown what he can do in the past, so it is always possible he improves and becomes the Babcock we used to know once again, but right now he is not, and if the Wings continue to struggle I would explore a coaching change.
Ultimately, I used to fear for the Sharks whenever they matched up against the Wings, because deep down I knew the Wings were better. Now it’s the opposite. The Wings are afraid of us, and they should be. The Sharks are now the better team.
- That’s it for the Sharks, but we will be doing many more of these as the season goes along. If you missed part 1 you can check it out here, and if you’re interested in my thoughts on the rest of the division and the league, check back soon as those blogs will be coming.
Thanks for reading!
Written By Shark Circle