I don’t think I’ll be inundating the blogsphere with much hockey reportage this year, but the season is upon us, so what the hell. Here are my two bit opinions about the Sharks.
On Being A Sharks Fan
The Sharks and their fans seem to have become the butt of many jokes on the hockey boards. The Sharks, thanks to their ability to tank in the playoffs, and the fans, for having to watch brilliant regular seasons end in humiliating playoff losses. No offense to the perennially underfunded (Edmonton), the perennially mismanaged (Rangers), the perennially one-dimensional (Calgary), or the perennially unimportant (Atlanta, Florida, Isles), but I’ll gladly root for a team that is regularly competitive and a threat to win it all. Sure, a handful of the above teams have made it to the cup finals in recent years, but sorry Oilers, that was a fluke and you probably didn’t make the playoffs the next year.
On Dany Heatley
I for one am psyched Dany Heatley is now a Shark. I know he comes with baggage. Can’t get along with coaches, doesn’t hustle when he’s not happy, doesn’t back check, and then there are those nagging rumors of partying, not to mention the manslaughter charges. All I know is the guy is a pure goal scorer. No offense to Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau, Pat Falloon, Kelly Kisio, or Owen Nolan, but the Sharks have never, ever, ever had a pure goal scorer. With the addition of Heatley, the Sharks top line now has the NHL’s best playmaker teamed up with a top scorer. That spells danger and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Heatley take the Rocket Richard trophy for top goal scorer this year. I know. You’re thinking, who cares about the regular season. Fair enough. But I think Heatley’s addition in the playoffs will be huge. Thornton certainly has his post-season detractors, mostly former Boston fans. Don’t get me started on Boston fans. Here’s my take. Thornton is a playmaker. A playmaker can’t carry a team through the playoffs if his line mates are stiffs. If the line mates are stiffs, the defense can key on Thornton and it all gets shut down. In his first several playoff campaigns, Thornton was solid. Maybe not amazing, but solid. He stunk it up last year, but look at what surrounded him. Setoguchi was horrid. He couldn’t get across the blue line without setting someone offside. And Marleau, apparently, was playing on one leg. A healthy Heatley and Thornton will create major headaches for Western Conference defenses. And you know what, Western Conference defenses aren’t gonna be as stellar this year as last. Pronger is gone, Zubov is gone, Lidstrom is older.
A lot of hate was heaped Patrick Marleau’s way in the off-season. I’m glad they finally took the “C“ away from Patty. The guy’s a solid player but he may be the world’s most boring sports interview, and that’s saying a lot. I just can’t see that guy rallying the troops. But that said, I’m glad he’s still on the team. He’s never more than a 70-point guy, but that’s ok if he’s anchoring your second line. With Heatley on board, Marleau doesn’t have to be the dominant offensive threat anymore.
A lot of people have been hating on Nabby in the off-season. I can’t help but think these are the same people who were saying he was ripped off when he didn’t win the Vezina two years back. I’ve always been a Nabby supporter. He didn’t have a great playoffs last year, but I’ll cut him slack. The team lost because they couldn’t score. Plus their defense was sloppy. And he was also coming back off of injury. Maybe he wasn’t 100%. In any event, before he gets run out of town, I still think he’s in the top echelon of NHL goaltenders. Plus, I don’t think the Sharks have much in their system right now. And ask the good people of Philly and Ottawa who have had Cup contending teams wrecked by substandard goaltending. You need a quality goaltender to win it all and the Sharks do. The Blackhawks are a cup favorite this year, but you know what, I don’t trust that Huet fellow. It could all fall apart for them there. Philly and Washington might be in the same boat as well. I’ll take Nabby over the netminders on all those teams.
So What Does It All Mean?
I’m not going to make any predictions, cause that’s just cause for heartache, but the Western Conference, which used to be a beast, ain’t so fearsome right now. The Wings didn’t get better and I think Anaheim got worse with the loss of Pronger. The Hawks got better, but they have a big question mark in goal. Calgary’s defense got better, but they have a lot of questions on offense. Vancouver, maybe they’re as good as the were. So who knows? As always, the Sharks are looking good on paper.