Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekly Sharks Update: Welcome to the New Season!

Hello, Sharks fans!

As this is my first post of the San Jose Sharks’ 2011-2012 season, welcome to another exciting season of Sharks hockey! For those of you new to my Sharks posts here on The San Jose Blog, during prior seasons, I routinely posted relevant updates (with much more frequent post-game updates during the playoffs). Starting this season, I plan to post updates once per week to provide my Sharks game analysis and to shine light on notable updates to the team and organization. In the near future, I plan to provide video updates for those of you who wish to watch updates provided in that format.

As for my hockey “experience,” besides being a Sharks fan since their inaugural 1991-1992 season, I played in the Magnitogorsk Metallurg hockey development program as a kid (where Evgeni Malkin played), before moving to play D1 hockey in high school, before briefly playing in the WHL (Seattle Thunderbirds). Eventually, I decided to attend Santa Clara University to earn Accounting and English degrees, and am currently limited to playing an “offensive defenseman” role for adult “beer league” play on the weekends.

(Now that I have provided my new introduction, let us jump right into the season!)

As of today, the Sharks stand at 3 (wins) - 3 (losses) - 0 (OT losses), after winning their last two road games against the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, respectively, to improve their once abysmal 1-3-0 record for the season’s start. During the off-season, the Sharks made a tremendous amount of adjustments, with the purpose of building a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup. Sharks fans are already accustomed to watching a team continually qualifying for the playoffs. While repeated post-season eligibility is good sign, a city with no prior Stanley Cup victories (like San Jose) leaves the fans hungry for more. The fans want to see a winning team. Even though the Sharks have yet to play in a Stanley Cup Final series, appearing there is just going to be another step in the momentum that is bringing the elusive hardware to San Jose for the first time ever.

To assist the Sharks with doing this, General Manager Doug Wilson made several notable changes. During the last two seasons, the fans clamored for “more defense,” and while this issue had partially been addressed during last season (with Ian White, who has since been signed to the Detroit Red Wings), drastic line changed were implemented, in addition to the acquisition of veteran Colin White, and the major trade to acquire defenseman Brent Burns from the Minnesota Wild for fan favorite right winger Devin Setoguchi. The trade came as a shock to most fans, as less than a day prior to the trade, Setoguchi agreed to a three year extension with the Sharks. Burns has already proved to be a real asset so far with his fantastic puck handling, strong defense, and putting up good scoring numbers. From Burns’ days in Minnesota, he was highly regarded for his off-ice activity and charitable contributions as well.

In another move, the Sharks sent Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild for Martin Havlat. Havlat had put up similar numbers to Heatley last season and has historically had stellar playoff production, as opposed to Heatley, who many fans saw as underachieving in the post-season (tallying only five goals in the last three post-seasons combined). In addition, it is noted Heatley would have provided a $2.5 million greater salary cap hit per season.

Along with the Burns and Havlat acquisitions, the Sharks acquired Michal Handzus from the Los Angeles Kings, the same player who had been a perennial thorn in the Sharks’ side during the regular season and Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Kings last season. Doug Wilson surely did not forget Handzus from last season.

So far this season, the Sharks have made known their ability to control and shoot the puck, evidenced by their “shot on goal” count (especially in comparison to their opponents), and their shot on goal tally can be even higher if the Sharks can keep many of their non-deflected shots from flying high and wide of the net. Although any high level hockey player can express the importance of shooting the puck at the net, the NHL (as expected) requires shots with greater accuracy and velocity. A dominant shot on net tally, however, can prove to show how well the opposing goaltender is playing. Shots need to be put in the back of the net.

If we can look at it this way, which shots are more effective? Are they the shots from the point (the area near the blue line, where the defenders stand), or the shots up close? Either way, each shot counts as one shot on net, but it is clear the more devastating shots are the ones that are up close.

Shots up close are what made the Anaheim Ducks so deadly when they played the Sharks on Tuesday, the 18th. Veteran forward Teemu Selanne tallied two goals that night (in addition to several shots on net) using the same strategy: by sneaking behind the Sharks’ defense to be in position for his shots. Although getting set up for more lethal scoring opportunities is easier said than done (especially from my “fan’s perspective”), some teams can very effectively clear out the goalie’s crease and slot to keep other players from sneaking in for a point blank shot on net.

If the Sharks can effectively deliver more accurate shots and clear the front of their net, they will prove to be a dominant force this season. The Sharks must execute more accurate shots, not counting the extremely common shot deflections that occur and bouncing/rolling pucks (that are unpredictable for every level of hockey player). I understand that, in most cases, players are attempting to pick corners and ovoid other players when blasting the puck at the net, however that means the players must be quicker at releasing the puck from each of their sticks, and handling/shooting a puck not bouncing around must be on the mark. There are no excuses.

The Sharks have real potential this season, and as I have mentioned before, a playoff entry is all I care about, as far as the regular season goes (besides the Sharks winning at home when I am in attendance for the excitement factor). As for the post season, our weaknesses must be ironed out. If the last year’s Boston Bruins squad can win the Cup, so can the Sharks.

Let us cheer on our team this year – loud and proud! GO SHARKS!

No comments:

Post a Comment