Your humble reporter has followed the Fab Fins for five long years
now. He was there for the glorious win in the playoffs over
Detroit. He was there for the Detroit destruction of SJ the next
year. He watched Al Sims (who?) as he coached the Sharks into the
basement of the NHL. And he's been there ever since. (And so have
they!) But he never lost hope.
Oh, sure. He got negative. A bit angry. Pessimistic, even. But
hopeful nonetheless. Last year, under new head coach Darryl Sutter,
he once again experienced the joy and crushing disappointment that
was the playoffs. And yet he grew more hopeful. Hopeful that the
new year -- this year -- would bring greater glory to the Sharks. A
return to the playoffs with a stronger team after having played a
better season. He saw the sun of a .500 season dawning over the
mountains of mediocrity that the Sharks had been mired behind for
three years. Oh, how soon those storm clouds came.
The team that, on paper anyway, looked so strong is turning out to
be something less than the sum of its parts. True, they have put
together a three of four home stand, but they should have beat the
teams they faced. It's the Dallas' and the Detroit's they need to
win against. Mike Vernon and Steve Shields have been outstanding in
goal. The defense on most nights is up to the task. They have
allowed four goals or more only five times this year and three
goals only six times. That means that 20-plus games the D allowed
two or fewer goals. Excellent work.
Offense is another story. Only nine of the 30 games have had the
Sharks see the back of the net three times or more. And therein
lies the problem. Sutter has instilled a d-first mentality that is
working. But no one's scoring. Nolan has three. He is expected to
put in 30 or more. Friesen has nine. He's looked to for more like
30 also. Murphy has five. He's another the Sharks are expecting 25
or so from. Marleau, Sturm and Zyuzin have a grand total of 12.
These sophomores are the 'next wave' of Sharks players and the
management is expecting a lot from them this year. No one has
The trade freeze for the holidays is in effect, but a word of advice
to Deano: Pick it up now and talk to someone, anyone, and get some
scoring. The sellout streak is gone (only four this year) and the
fans are restless. Remember, the Clash play in San Jose, too. And
soccer's an up and coming sport!
With the new year will come a new teal threat. Or at least a dozen
new rumours. Look for the Sharks to start to put more emphasis on
the goal production, though. Sutter has got to let his forwards
play more O if he wants to see W's. Not to mention seeing the game
from the bench instead of the seats.
Owen Nolan scoring? Too true. Nolan had four points in three games,
feeding Mr. Freeze for both his Caps goals and putting in a couple
himself. He's on track for...well...about 11 goals.
Mike Vernon. Assistant coach Bernie Nicholls says Vernie's been the
best player on the team for the two years he's played here and he
may be right. Vernon has allowed one goal in each of the last four
starts. Vernon has been a slow starter, but if the last home stand
is any indication, he's going now.
Stephane Matteau and Murray Craven. Each have one goal this year.
These chip-in players are the guys that the team calls 'glue'
players. They hold the team together. At best, they are 'filler'
players right now. Simply filling roster spots. The only pluses
here is each has seven helpers, just one less than Nolan.
Assume the Position:
Brantt Myhres has returned to the land of the sober. Sobering
punches, that is. In his first game back, he thrashed the crap
outta Washington's Witt and won the first clear decision for SJ
this year. For added measure, he then sent a very willing Peter
Bondra to the dressing room for the remainder of the game following
a third period bout. SJ fans welcome Brantt with open arms and
clenched fists. He added a couple more wins this week and is
thinking about a Tyson bout later next year...
There aren't many, but we can look at the tie in Dallas. The Fish
had built a commanding 3-1 lead by the end of the first and looked
to extend it into the second. But as happens often to SJ, the team
forgot to leave the dressing room and so, by the next intermission,
was tied 3-3. The third was memorable only for an 11- minute span
that went without a whistle. Both teams kept up the shots, though,
with a total of 17. Overtime saw two Dallas shots go wide as the
boys in teal hung on for a 3-3 tie.
The Nashville games split with the first going to Nashville (their
second Shark killing this year) and the last to San Jose. The first
game saw Nolan ejected for instigating and Sutter saying that no
one is willing to pay the price to get the goals. Big surprise.
Look in during any SJ game for the garbage collector. Sure, you'll
see Ricci in front of the net, but don't blink or you'll miss
anyone else. The second game was a matter of just holding on. San
Jose got the two-goal lead early and allowed only one Predator
goal. Craven, Matteau and Sturm all got in on the scoring as the
Sharks put together only the second win in nine games.
The Islanders game is notable only for it's lack of same. Many would
say it was the most boring game they have ever watched. New York came
in on a slump and like so many slumping teams, left San Jose on a
The Washington and Av games were a little more exciting. Of course,
it doesn't hurt when SJ is winning. Washington marked the debut for
Myhres, the Sharks acknowledged enforcer. And he did enforce. Down
went Witt. Out went Bondra. And HOWL went Myhres. Brannt likes to
howl a bit on his way to the box. And San Jose is howling with him.
The Avs came in almost empty. Forsberg was the lone player of note
not injured. Billington played in goal and stopped 30 of 32 San
Jose shots. Mike Vernon was spectacular in goal, stopping 17 of 18
Colorado shots. The real story here was the final fury with SJ down
by two men at the end of the third and Vernon stopping everything
the six shooters could throw at him.
Too bad he can't score.