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Are the Sharks Better?

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The weather forecast last night went something like this: “No change in sight, lows in the 50s tonight, clear tomorrow with a high of 78.”  That’s kind of how I feel about the Sharks roster right now: no worries.  I’m a fairly easy sell, but I think in this case I’m not being unreasonable.  For what it’s worth, Brodie Brazil is running a poll on FaceBook to see what FB fans think.  So far, team “improved” is winning. 

In a Twitter discussion yesterday that I can’t believe I horned in on, a certain magazine writer insisted that last season’s Sharks were better than the current roster, that if they had just kept the same group, they would have done better this year.  He didn’t specifically say we need Wallin and Huskins back, just said last season the team was better.

Dennis Bernstein: “@danleecook using your logic, if Sharks are better, will be in Finals. I don’t have them winning division. DW should have kept intact.”

He used things like lost scoring and a predicted slump for Couture as evidence.  Of course that’s ridiculous, the second part I mean.  I don’t even think of this as Couture’s sophomore season, rather sophomore point five.  There’s a good reason a lot of people didn’t believe he was eligible for Calder nomination last season: he had more NHL time under his belt than most candidates.  I think that’s significant. I hope.

The lost scoring, I can’t argue with, however inconsistently that scoring was delivered.  But a penny saved is a penny earned.  I’m sure it applies also to scoring: if your defense does its job and even adds a little offense, it makes up for losing a couple of forwards you relied on for points. 

You could argue that the Sharks suffered from lost scoring last season as well, due to a less than ideal re-tasking of assets from offense.  It’s great for everyone to work on their defensive game but when you have to do it because your defense isn’t all it can be, it’s not good.

The addition of defenseman Colin White yesterday was met with some pomp and chatter.  It is hard to tell what he will bring to the table.  Injuries and the blindingly awful season the Devils just had clouds a fair assessment of his present value.  But at that cap hit he should be a safe gamble.  How he will be used will make the difference.  I hope White doesn’t simply pick up where Wallin and Huskins left off.  If that happens, the development of players like Braun (okay, I mean Braun, specifically) could be compromised.  If there is any chance Braun will soon develop into a stronger player than White is now or will be again, then not using him enough would be unfortunate.

What I really like about Braun is how he reacts to mistakes.  Mistakes are inevitable, being caught off guard happens, especially to younger players.  It doesn’t take Braun long to realize he missed something and get to fixing it.  He’s much better in this regard than some of the forwards we lost over the summer. 

It’s safe to say that getting Brent Burns is a win, despite the players we gave up.  Though public opinion about the cost of his contract extension is split, it certainly could have been worse.  Getting Martin Havlat may lessen the sting of losing Heatley and Setoguchi. 

I get why there are concerns about the third line.  Having Pavs on the third line may have been a slight of sorts, but it was pretty cool to have him there.  Without him, the lower lines will be less wily.  Wilson kept a few players who have been waiting in the wings, players like Desjardins and McGinn and McCarthy. I hope and believe they can surprise us.  I liked what I saw in the playoffs from Desjardins and McGinn (despite some questionable decisions from the latter) and I very much like McCarthy’s tenacity.

Handzus did a yeoman’s job for LA last year.  When they were hurting with injuries, he moved up to the top lines.  They clearly trusted him, even if they didn’t want to promise him much this season.

With Ferriero, Mashinter, Murray (Andrew), and others, the Sharks have a lot of options for the lower lines.  I’m not especially worried.  Sure, if a deal he can’t refuse comes up, Wilson should take it.  It just doesn’t appear urgent.

Which brings me back to Mr. Bernstein’s conviction that the Sharks are no better, probably worse than they were last year.  He wanted me to say that, since I thought this team is better, I believe they will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Evidently that is the only way he understands “better.” 

I don’t see it that way at all.  There’s many a slip twixt a cup and a lip, you can’t forecast all the twists and turns a hockey season takes.  You can’t account for chemistry, luck, injuries etc.  You would then have to do the same impossible calculation for all the other teams, or at least a handful of them.  And your predictions would all have to come out right. I know a lot of people try to do this, and I’d bet the results are as accurate as if done by an astrologer.  I mean a competent astrologer, not just someone who reads horoscopes for giggles.

I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that this team is better than it was in June, without asserting that I think they will win this or that ten months from now.  Besides, if such predictions could be done, what would be the point in watching the games?

Filed in: NHL Teams, San Jose Sharks, petshark, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: colin+white, justin+braun, michal+handzus, offseason

Comments

Avatar

Of course they are better.  If this Dennis Bernstein character can’t see this then he is a tool.

Posted by jacques oeuf from SF on 08/04/11 at 07:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I know for sure that Richard Bernstein couldnt’ see it.

*snicker*

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/04/11 at 07:30 PM ET

awould's avatar

Getting Martin Havlat may lessen the sting of losing Heatley and Setoguchi.

ha ha ha. oh, that wasn’t a joke?  It’s assuming Havlat finishes the season. He’s due for his every-3-season injury.

Brent Burns is a great addition and should shore up what was a leaky D. That will lessen the sting of the lost scoring from Heatley more than Havlat.

I wouldn’t say they’re a better or worse team. Just different. They’ll have no problem making the playoffs and being a contender. But then, that’s not really the point since that was never the problem.

No matter how it ends, it will be a frustrating season for Sharks fans watching this team play since you won’t have your answer until the very last game they play. And only if that last game is a win will this team be judged a success. Still, beats being a fan of Columbus or Phoenix.

Posted by awould on 08/04/11 at 07:37 PM ET

Avatar

The Sharks are different.

Better overall?  Maybe, although I doubt it.  I think they’ll be weaker offensively, stronger defensively, and shallower up front.  If they stay as miraculously healthy as they were last year, lack of depth probably won’t be a problem.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 08/04/11 at 07:38 PM ET

petshark's avatar

Of course they are better.  If this Dennis Bernstein character can’t see this then he is a tool.
Posted by jacques oeuf from SF on 08/04/11 at 05:25 PM ET

I haven’t been following DB for very long but it surprised me how adamant he was about this.  Maybe he was just trying to get a rise out of people.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 08/04/11 at 08:04 PM ET

BrendonR's avatar

Though I’m not a Sharks fan, the team is obviously improved.  Heatley wasn’t having an impact any more and the D corps looked pretty weak after Blake left.  Now they have their number 1 defenceman for the future (since Boyle is closer now to 40 than 30), a new face (and lots of ‘potential’) in the Top 6 in Havlat, and a new top prospect in Coyle.

Still, Burns and Havlat are both injury concerns based on their respective pasts.  Also, as improved as the team is, it didn’t necessarily get more character, which is what has been the lacking element in their recent failed Cup runs.  It’s like Vancouver - the team can be stacked to the hills, but you need character to sustain long playoff runs.  Doug Wilson has set himself up nice for at least another 5 years of 100 point seasons, but likely no Finals berths.

Posted by BrendonR on 08/04/11 at 08:35 PM ET

Avatar

wow what a fallacy to base a teams strength off how deep they go into the playoffs if the team had been the same would he then have them making the finals…if so I would venture to guess he would be in the minority since this is a wings heavy site i will use them as an example was the 08 wings better than the 03 wings….I do not think so yet 08 has a cup and 03 went down in the first round (sorry wings fans to bring back that painful memory had to be done) I personally believe the sharks should have pulled a flyers and strip everything down…the team’s top players just haven’t lived up to expectations in the playoffs( although jumbo did do great last playoffs…finally)

Posted by mike on 08/04/11 at 09:35 PM ET

Matt Fry's avatar

Just a point of clarification Brendon, the Sharks actually gave up Charlie Coyle in the trade.

I’m not sure they’re altogether better.  Better on defense?  Absolutely.  Offense takes a little hit but I think some of the younger players can step up this year.  I think several of them can do what Heatley was doing last year.  Plus, with an upgraded defense, I expect some more points from the backend.  In the end though,  They’ll make the playoffs as usual but maybe this group can ALL step up in the playoffs.  Only time will tell.

Posted by Matt Fry from Winnipeg on 08/04/11 at 09:51 PM ET

Primis's avatar

I don’t think the Sharks got worse, but they didn’t get “better” either.  I see nothing yet to indicate they can get over the proverbial hump.  The guys they brought in aren’t any more “proven” for getting it done deep in the playoffs than the guys they shipped out were.  I don’t see Burns or Havlat coming in and think “Wow, now I’m afraid of them, this is their year!”.

Not to say they can’t do it, but looking at it in August, there’s nothing to indicate that anything has actually changed.  Removing Heatley from any roster is an improvement IMHO… but not enough of one to get to SCF or win it.

Posted by Primis on 08/05/11 at 12:03 AM ET

petshark's avatar

I forgot to mention that I think the team is better now because they seemed to sort out a lot of issues last season.  If they don’t fall back to square one, the players remaining from last year’s core should be a lot more effective than they were at the beginning of last season.  Even though the team lost several lower liners, many of their replacements aren’t exactly new guys (a lot of Woo Sharks) so the adjustment shouldn’t be that drastic.

As for Havlat, there’s nothing in his record to suggest he would replace Heatley as a scorer even in a mediocre year for Heatley.  But he’s fast and the Sharks really need that.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 08/05/11 at 01:10 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

I forgot to mention that I think the team is better now because they seemed to sort out a lot of issues last season.  If they don’t fall back to square one, the players remaining from last year’s core should be a lot more effective than they were at the beginning of last season.

So, basically, you’re saying the Sharks are a better team because they’ve sorted out a lot of “issues” last season. Wow. It’s like they got a Left Coast guru who came in and got rid of all the demons that have plagued them for, well, for ever.

Hey, good luck with that, pet. Maybe next May when you and your beloved fishies are all soaking up the wonderful Left Coast weather, you can look back on your prognostication and say, “Well, duh, what was I thinking?”

The Sharks can add all of the “quality” players they want. And they can win as any President’s Trophys as they want. But they’ll still lack the one thing that makes a team a Cup winner.

What is that? Well, when you (and they) figure that out, the folks in San Jose just might get to see their/your team hoist the most-coveted of all sports trophies.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 08/05/11 at 02:17 AM ET

soletrain's avatar

sharks will blow it like they do every single *#$%@& year.

Posted by soletrain on 08/05/11 at 05:32 AM ET

Avatar

I don’t see Burns or Havlat coming in and think “Wow, now I’m afraid of them, this is their year!”.

Except that they’ve knocked the Wings out the last 2 years in a row right?  So umm, yeah.

Also, as improved as the team is, it didn’t necessarily get more character, which is what has been the lacking element in their recent failed Cup runs

So would you say that the Wings need more character to get past the Sharks?  Funny how the last 2 years the Sharks have only run out of character once they got past the Wings.  If they had blown a 3-0 lead and lost game 7 at home I might be inclined to agree with you but that’s not what happened.

They lost to Vancouver because Vancouver was the only team the Sharks faced that they couldn’t out-skate and out-transition.  The lack of quickness, particularly on the back end, was really exposed in that series.  Adding Burns to that group should give the Sharks at least one dman that can really skate on the ice at all times (Boyle, Burns, Demers), and replacing Heatley with Havlat also increases team speed.  I understand that many think Heatley is an elite scorer with a dynamic shot, and maybe he still is, but as anyone who watched a lot of Sharks games will tell you that not only was Heatley not getting that shot off with regularity he wasn’t even attempting to use it. 

If all you saw of Setoguchi was the Detroit series I can understand why you’d think he was a great loss, and all things considered I’d rather have him than not having him, but his effort level was frustratingly inconsistent.  I honestly believe he will do well in Minnesota where he will play a more central role, unlike in San Jose where he was the 4th or 5th offensive option at best.  It sounds counterintuitive to say he will improve by not playing with Joe Thornton, it’s just that I think he had gotten a little too comfortable being a supporting player and knowing that win or lose it probably wouldn’t be on him.  He has a ton of physical talent and being put in a situation where a lot more is asked of him will, I think, serve him well.

I can see where you’d say that on paper this Sharks team isn’t any more impressive than last year’s because Heatley is a big name and they aren’t quite as deep up front as they were previously.  At the same time this team is much much deeper on the backend (which has always been their achilles heel) and much more balanced between front and back.  Not only does adding Burns improve the speed of the blueline it also means Boyle can have his minutes reduced which I think will make him a more effective player, particularly in 3rd periods (and the Sharks blew a lot of games in the 3rd period during the first half of last year). 

There are still legitimate questions about the 3rd and 4th lines and I think there is some work to be done there but I am very comfortable with the team as currently constructed heading into the season.  Doug Wilson still has about $4 million to play with so maybe there is a move to be made before the season starts, though if not I expect him to be very active towards the trading deadline.  He proved last year that he is not afraid to make moves ahead of the deadline and keep in mind that the $4 million in cap space he has in his pocket means he can take on $8 million in annual salary to address the biggest needs once the middle of January arrives, whether that’s offense in the top 6 due to injury/ineffectiveness or PK/defensive depth in the bottom 6.  Right now the team is at least as good as it was last year and it should improve again by the time the trading deadline passes.  All things considered I think they are in a much better position than they were at this time last year.

Posted by RoneFace on 08/05/11 at 07:34 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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