Petshark: Talking Stick
Over the past few days, I discovered an impatience I haven't felt for a while, the "hold on, no games today? Or tomorrow? Or... I'm supposed to wait how long for a game?" feeling. It was irritating, but not bad. It reminded me of a normal hockey season. It feels like being all adapted to the new hockey universe.
This impatience drove me to start hunting for European and KHL games online. This is not only difficult because feeds tend to move around, but also because an audio feed will not do. I don't speak most of the languages these games are broadcast in. I did manage to dig up a Dinamo Minsk game going on yesterday morning. A video feed was not available to me (which only took me about an hour to figure out) but following the scoreboard was better than nothing. So that was fun, except that Minsk blew a lead and fell 6-3. At least Pavelski got a goal.
There are several Sharks abroad. I found the following information online, but I can't be sure how complete it is. I started with Eurohockey.com because they have an easy search that found most of the Sharks quickly. From there I sort of wandered:
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Tags: antti+niemi, bundesliga, del, douglas+murray, jason+demers, joe+pavelski, joe+thornton, justin+braun, khl, logan+couture, michal+handzus, nla, sm-liiga, t.j.+galiardi, thomas+greiss, tommy+wingels
The Bulls play the Las Vegas Wranglers tonight. It's been four days since the Bulls' last game. Such breaks are fairly common in the ECHL. Pat Curcio explained how the team handles that:
"The biggest thing for us is we want to stick to the plan. We want to make sure we're working as hard as we can. Win or lose... push a little harder when you've got an extra day or two."
This break is noteworthy because it is the first to follow a winning streak for the Bulls:
@Clendenning49: 4s gotta be a winning streak, Rollin.. @SFBulls @k_belan43 @1986jmorrison
I usually call it a streak at three but certainly four works too. It's another test for the Bulls: will the break make a difference? I can feel the suspense building.
Stop patronizing me, NHL et al. I'm not patronizing you, but then you don't have anything to sell. Your shop doors are locked.
So just don't. NHL, don't pretend you're trying to avoid going broke. I know you're just trying to get more on top of the very much you already get from the sport. NHLPA, don't tell me I'd do the same thing in your position, I can't even imagine being in your position. Media, stop telling me this lockout is such a bleeding catastrophe because it leaves me without hockey to watch. If you don't know there's plenty of hockey for me to follow, you haven't done your homework. If someone is telling you you're not allowed to cover anything but major league sports, I'm sorry. I can't help you.
It doesn't matter who I side with in the dispute. I have no say. Let me in the room, give me 20 minutes and a sturdy piece of lumber, I could probably sort it out for you but you wouldn't like it. So don't apologize to me, you don't really care what I think. I'm going to watch some hockey.
It was a big win. It didn't clinch a playoff spot, it wasn't their first win ever, but it was a big win. It was the first time the team won three in a row, and their first win against the Reign. It was a chance for the team to take a significant lead, hang on to it and build it to a final score of 5-1. It was a big win for the Bulls, and it was a win for Pat Curcio and his roster overhaul.
I felt sort of badly for writing about the 7-0 Bulls loss a couple of weeks ago. It didn't seem fair to cover that game in such detail, and say so little about them after that. But that was the game I went to. By Friday night, the team looked completely different. If you had told me that replacing half of the players in the space of two weeks would result in a consistent and almost shocking improvement, I would not have believed you. I'm a believer in slow-growth chemistry. You don't just throw guys together and they all know what to do, not outside of Hollywood disaster films.
Everything looked better. Those errant passes, those innumerable penalties, the frantic clears becoming turnovers, all of that was gone. How significant was it that Devin Setoguchi didn't make the trip with the Reign? The Reign beat the Bulls without Setoguchi in their first meeting, though it was very close. Setoguchi scored a lot in the games he played against San Francisco, but I'm not sure he accounted for every little thing going wrong for the Bulls before. Just as the Reign's lineup looked different, so did the Bulls'.
The SF Bulls have won three of their last four games. They started the season with only two wins in their first ten. Of the eight after that, they've won four. I asked Pat Curcio what changed. He attributed the improvement partly to the fact that a new young team "takes some time to get accustomed." He also mentioned the latest round of roster moves:
"We wanted to be a young team, hard-working and ready to go to the next level. We made some moves that I thought were best for the team and so far so good."
Some comments floated around Twitter that echoed my own reaction to the high number of trades, releases and additions. On any given day there will be a good sized list of moves on the ECHL Transactions page. There are many factors at work here, and not only during a lockout. An ECHL team is limited to 20 active players and 2 on reserve, with an unlimited number on 21 day injured reserve. Any move will probably require a second. Curcio explained why the Bulls have made 14 moves in the last two weeks:
After their last meeting, there was reason to doubt the San Francisco Bulls' chances against the Ontario Reign. During the first 8 minutes, the Bulls didn't spend a lot of time outside their end of the ice. That turned out to be the case for most of the game. Thomas Heemskerk wasn't going to have an easy time of it in his second game in two nights. To his credit, he held up better than the rest of the team.
The first penalty was booed roundly before being announced, a tripping penalty against the Bulls' Clendenning. The Bulls killed that off and celebrated with a brief offensive rush, only to be pushed back again. The Bulls didn't give the Reign a lot of room to set up their offense, but they couldn't organize an attack of their own. Frantic passes off the glass went to opposing players, missed passes turned to icing.
With half of the first period gone, the Bulls only had one shot to the Reign's 7. The Reign scored two goals, just over 30 seconds apart. The Bulls took another penalty and killed it off but didn't manage to get another short until the second period.
The Worcester Sharks and the San Francisco Bulls both play today. Last weekend was great for Worcester. They won 2 of 3 and got the OT point in the loss. Sunday's nail-biter featured a 0-0 tie all the way into a shootout, against the Manchester Monarchs who currently sit well above Worcester in the AHL Conference standings. Stalock was in net for that one. All that has to be good for morale.
The SF Bulls wrapped up their long road trip in Ontario on Wednesday night with a 3-1 loss. It was not an easy road trip for them. They haven't won since their second road game in Bakersfield on October 19. Let's hope being home can restart the engine.
As has been reported, Ryane Clowe's agreement with the Bulls was made official and announced by the team. It isn't clear yet whether he will play. With more NHLers signing deals with ECHL teams this week (Setoguchi helped the Reign beat the Bulls on Wednesday), it would seem like a moot point. Of course Clowe should play, if he wants to. Or should he?
Despite lack of evident progress in major league negotiations, hockey goes on. Sure, we can expect the Winter Classic to be cancelled tomorrow, but that hardly qualifies as progress. It represents a big loss for the sport and the league, but I don't know who believed the NHL was going to get out of this lockout without taking heavy losses. Well, there was that one guy... Anyway, tough deal for Detroit and those Canadians who were looking forward to having a Canadian team in that game. The catch to those losses is that however much money some teams lost under the old CBA, they can apparently afford to lose more.
@PollakOnSharks: "So, @RattoCSN, if it isn't about the product (and not arguing), this more about egos or some sort of collective economic suicide mission?"
May they lose to their heart's content-- not my problem.
It isn't easy for NHL fans to transfer their enthusiasm to minor.. err, development league teams. There are statistics to tabulate and other impersonal ways of analyzing team performance, but most fans need to connect on some level with the players on the team. We like to know their names, recognize their faces, be familiar with their playing habits. If you explode the roster all over the planet, most people will have trouble feeling the same passion for a new team in a different league than they knew last season. As a two-teaming fan whose loyalties extend to affiliated minor league teams, it should not be a big leap for me.
I caught a wild kitten last week. The folks at the animal shelter said he is just a couple weeks too old to be tamed. I said what the heck, the Sharks are locked out, the Bulls are on the road, I'll give it a try anyway. As I sat there with the three pound feline cornered, petting his back gently, trying to make purring sounds, I wondered if I could find a parallel between this process and the NHL CBA negotiations. I got stuck on who is the tiny cat and who is the busy-body human.
Of course, neither side qualifies as a completely helpless, fearful little thing. And both sides understand what they need the other for. The kitten doesn't understand that making friends with people can double his life span and reduce stress dramatically. It is a poor comparison. Still, I will be keeping track of our relative progress, and I suspect my negotiations will end before the NHL's, even with the multi-year head start they have on me. Really, this is all stuff they should have been thinking about ever since the last time they did this. I concluded that the CBA negotiations are less like a rapprochement and more like two lions fighting over a kill. They are not concerned with making friends. Ironically, they aren't even that hungry.
Things are heating up. In Northern California, we can expect it to get really warm in the next few days, the Bulls won a game and something seems to be breaking loose in the NHL CBA talks. This tweet sums that last part up for me:
@TheFourthPeriod: Being told there's plenty of good traction tonight over CBA. Still a lot of work to be done, but this could move relatively quickly.
We'll see about that. In the mean time...
The San Francisco Bulls play the Ontario Reign at 7pm tonight. It's the team's third game ever, and their first road game. Ontario's NHL affiliate is the Los Angeles Kings. Ontario led the division at the end of last season but the playoffs weren't kind to them. Glancing over their roster I noticed a familiar name: Dan DaSilva, previously of the Worcester Sharks.
About Petshark: Talking Stick
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle. I watch, I react, I write it down.
My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org