Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Jason Demers and other game day thoughts

This morning, Brent Burns was skating with Colin White. No one skated for long,  but that’s what I saw. Predictably, the other two pair were Boyle with Vlasic and Braun with Demers.  Forward lines pretty much the same as in the last game.  From David Pollak’s observations, don’t expect to see Douglas Murray.  Niemi starts.  I mean, I assume he will.  He left the ice first and there’s been no breaking news to the contrary.

The Stars, as could be expected since they played last night in Vancouver, mostly didn’t skate.

“The players know where we’re at. The time crunch is on them. They know what’s left. They know what the standings are. We can pretend it’s game 31, but it doesn’t feel that.” -Todd McLellan, Working the Corners

Neither team has an edge in the “we feel really pissed off about losing in our last game” standings.  They should both be a little testy tonight.  Have at it, fellas.

Yesterday, Kevin Kurz tried to answer the question of “What’s gone wrong with the Sharks?”  His general points seem sound enough, but I was surprised to see which two defensemen he singled out as problems:

“Colin White and Jason Demers have shown that they aren’t everyday NHL players;” -Sharks Talk

Funny, because Jason Demers looked fine last season. Obviously, the coaching staff demoted Demers this season.  Not only did they cut his time on ice but he was scratched several times.  What is going on there?

The sample size is still pretty small, and last season was his best.  But since there are only three NHL seasons to judge him by, isn’t it predictable that his numbers would bounce around some?  His +/-  this season is the worst it has ever been, by quite a bit (-10).  Yes, yes, stupid stat but something to use for comparison. This season he also has fewer points (11), by quite a bit, than in previous seasons.  He’s had less power play time in 54 games(105.35 so far), even less than in his first NHL season.  In 2009-10 he had an average TOI of 15:25 in 51 games with 120.42 minutes of power play time.  He ended a +5 with 21 points.  Last season he had and average TOI of 19:29 in 75 games with 164.45 minutes of power play time.  For the season, he was +19 with 24 points.

This season he’s been paired with White and Braun, and I don’t think either situation suits him.  The first, suffice to say, makes me miss Wallin, for several reasons. The second requires Demers to play a more defensive game than he is used to.  That’s a new role for him, and jumping back and forth has to be a bit of a mind-frak.

Why doesn’t it hurt Braun the same way?  Maybe Braun is that much better, but Demers probably isn’t as ineffective as he has looked this season.  Maybe Braun just hasn’t been a sixty-something for long enough.

“Yeah, I decided to retire 64 with the Sharks,” he said, smiling. “That was a training camp number. I was happy to let that one go.  It’s nice to have my own number.” -Working the Corners

Jamie McGinn’s comment about his number set off alarms for me.  He may have been smiling when he said it, but wasn’t he also telling the truth?  How many young Sharks feel labelled as short-timers?  How many are demoralized by this?

Of course there are lots of reasons for things to go wrong for a team, for certain players not to thrive.  But it is so frustrating to see guys struggling who used to seem better.

I imagine coaching could be to blame, a failure to push the right buttons. But it can also be the vets failing to bring out the best in their juniors.

What triggered McGinn’s great start this season?  He credited Handzus, Handzus talking to him, a lot.  McGinn graduated from that pretty quickly, but is anyone else getting that kind of detailed attention?

McLellan said they expect the younger players to be as professional as anyone else.  [No, I can’t find the bloody quote.  I just spent 2 hours looking for it. Was in response to a question like “are the younger players still having trouble figuring things out?” some time last month I think.]  But most of those guys aren’t even old enough for car insurance companies to trust them with discounted rates.  No, guys who have played less than three years in the NHL are not just like guys working on a decade or more.

I admit I am enormously biased by Jagr quotes I’ve read over the last couple of years.  It comes down to what a leader needs to do.  It is a great big lot more than setting a good example.  It is a lot about helping younger players, giving them advice, even telling them what to do.  Like Handzus did. Don’t just show them better, make them better.

A leader’s first instinct in a crisis should not be to go do it all himself. That is not how you fix what’s wrong. A leader’s first reaction should be to settle people down, micro-manage where necessary.

I remember Demers saying that Wallin said a lot of good things to him, helpful things, reassuring things.  Wallin could do that because whatever Demers was dealing with—an own-goal, a missed assignment, whatever—he’d been there.

During the Shark Byte fireside chat with Drew Remenda, Thornton described his role as Captain.  He did say that he believes his role is to lead by example, but also to keep tabs on everyone’s frame of mind.  That’s good, I hope he isn’t the only one doing that.

Show a man a goal, he’ll cheer for a day. Teach him how to score, he may be a teammate for a long time to come.  Who knows, he might even get to pick his own number.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: jamie+mcginn, jason+demers, joe+thornton, justin+braun, leadership, veteran

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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