Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Enquiring minds want to know: WTH, Sharks?

“Everyone wants to know” what is up with the San Jose Sharks.  They signed a new player! Oh, people don’t mean the Stalberg signing?  Okay then.

“Everyone wants to know” might be putting it too strongly, but anyone who’s anyone has noticed that the Sharks are playing way way WAY below expectations.

The players reassure us that they are engaging in the recommended amount of yelling during and after a game, even if they seem calm in front of the cameras.  That’s good to know.  Maybe someone should set up a noise meter in the room just to be sure.

Kevin Kurz suggests that Doug Wilson took the legs out from under an already struggling team by sending Jamie McGinn away.  True, things have gotten worse since McGinn left but I don’t think it’s exactly a lack of the Ginner.  I think it’s the shock of three new guys expected to handle high minutes (for new guys).  I think the Sharks would be having the same problems if they had kept McGinn but shoe-horned three new guys into the picture anyway.

More significantly, the Sharks weren’t all they could be before the new guys arrived either.

Several bloggers shared their two cents in the Puck Daddy Round Table.  I noticed a common theme in their comments: confusion.  Nothing is working, there is no simple explanation, and I am not alone in tipping my hat to the possibility of angry supernatural forces at work.

One could argue that the coaching staff needs to change strategy radically, but since they have not done so we cannot be sure something else would work better.  For all intents and purposes, this is an unknown variable.

Besides, strategy does not account for errors and miscommunication.  Something else is hobbling the Sharks and I think it is safe to say it’s in their heads.

I know, a lot of people like to call them lazy or unmotivated or uncaring.  These are possibilities but they are not conditions- they are symptoms.  Someone once told me that there are no lazy people, there are only people who have learned that inaction is better than action.  They have learned not to try through repeated failure or even punishment.  It’s possible that the person who told me that was crazy.  After all, a lot of shrinks are crazy, but they are also specialists in the field of why your physically healthy brain isn’t working right.

So, in case the fact that all of these guys scrapped and worked their way to the top of their field isn’t proof enough: not lazy.

Maybe they don’t care enough?  Caring is tricky, that’s emotion.  If something or someone hurts your feelings you might care less today than yesterday when that person baked you cookies and made lots of affectionate Blingees of your photo.  The flip side is you can be brought back around just as quickly as you were turned off, even if it takes more than cookies and glitter gifs.

Emotion can also backfire.  If you care too much or in the wrong way, you can’t stay loose.  Brodie Brazil describes it as a lack of traction:

The best metaphor I can make of the Sharks is this: A tire stuck in the mud. The wheels are spinning awfully hard at times, but the car is not going anywhere. In fact, sometimes it’s making the hole deeper. -Sharks Talk

I don’t understand how so many people have that particular problem with vehicles and mud, but I have seen it often.  It is absolutely true that the harder you press on the gas the worse it gets.  I wish I knew the hockey equivalent of my old 4wd pickup pulling you out of the rut.  A mule would serve but I fear he’s on another team.

I can ask if the team is consulting a sports psychologist.  Have they had their rest habits tuned by a sleep therapist?  Are they taking their vitamins?  Do they employ proven meditation techniques?  Does that sound too fluffy, too Californian?  A very lucrative psych industry would beg to differ, and besides: if you haven’t tried everything you aren’t trying.  Pride is overrated.

It comes down to what I think of as the Matrix jump.  You know, that jump in the first movie, from one building to another?  For some reason, that scene resonated with me very profoundly.  It reminded me of those times when I had to overcome fear or anger and make a horse do what I wanted it to do.  Horses are like emotion meters—you can’t bluff them, just like you can’t bluff other non-human animals.  You need absolute confidence and calm.  You have to believe without hesitation.

Short of true faith there’s sedation.  It isn’t as good but it does sometimes work—see tales of people doing things better with a fever than perfectly clear.  If your brain is too busy, better to slow it down, simplify the data coming in.  But this isn’t an ideal solution for NHL players: fuzzy-headed not good.

Jumping from uncertainty to confidence is not easy, but neither is it a long, drawn out process.  Faith does snap into place as quickly as it pops out.  It is called an epiphany.  Faith, patience, absolute certainty and confidence, these are the difference between a bounce beating you and making that bounce work for you.  You “just” have to free yourself from doubt.

What can fans do?  I can’t vouch for studies done on the effectiveness of remote prayer, but for my own peace of mind I think it’s probably better to remain open to the possibility of a positive outcome.  People are so afraid of being made to look foolish by being unreasonably optimistic.  It is so much easier to get in with the cool crowd of black-clad naysayers, all you have to do is frown and accept that the end is nigh.  Pick your poison: fool or fatalist.  I don’t know how the latter ever have any fun, being always negative or wrong.  I guess that makes me a fool.  So be it.

Go Sharks!

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: brodie+brazil, faith, jamie+mcginn, kevin+kurz, lazy, psychology

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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 talkingstick@petshark.net