Monday, February 9, 2009

Sharks Open Letter

Dear San Jose Sharks,

Did you peak too early? Because the play of this team is far from inspired, and I am concerned.

Winning the Stanley Cup is the only thing that matters to me, and I what am I seeing tells me you are not ready to win the Cup. For instance:

1. You are not beating the teams that you are supposed to. Columbus came into Saturday's game with more losses than wins (an overtime/shootout loss is a loss), having played and traveled the night before, and with half the team sick or hurt, including its top three goalies. You were rested and had three players out, two of whom play on checking lines.
2. You do not consistently win the games you really need. You needed this one because you had two previous losses and were staring at four more games against teams either currently in the playoffs or who won the Eastern Conference last season; that one is on the second of back-to-back nights, to boot.
3. You have to avoid a long letdown after big games. Since beating Detroit January 17, you have been flat, particularly on offence. You have gotten only 13 shots past goalies in six games, losing three of them even though four of the six were at home.
4. You cannot have any one player indispensable, and it could be argued that some of the above trouble was because Dan Boyle was hurt for three games, during which only six shots beat a goalie.
5. You have gotten fat off the highest percentage of home games in the league, while playing the fewest number of games overall. This means you will have the most grueling travel schedule in the league over the remaining nine weeks.

Should you be hitting the panic button? Heck, no! There are 32 games left.

But there are concerns, and I think low expectations from fans lead to low expectations by teams. Ask players if letting down their guard is allowed in places like Montreal, where Stanley Cups are the only acceptable goal and regular season success is meaningless.

We all need to raise our expectations. We are sick of hearing about playoff chokes, whether justified or not. We must expect a level of performance that we know means you are ready for post-season success so those comments will not be heard again.

I bring these expectations to you because I expect you to play better. I expect you to play better because I know how good you are. Here is why I still believe in you:

1. You are top five in offence, defence, power play, and penalty kill. No other team can say that.
2. You have twice won games in the same week in which one required six-plus goals and the other was 2-1.
3. You win a lot of close games, going 15-2-7 in one-goal games.
4. You have overcome injuries to key players, including a stretch without two of your top four defencemen and another without your top goalie.
5. You have balanced scoring. Eight players have 30-plus goals and two more have at least two dozen; four of them are defencemen. An astounding 18 players have scored a game-winner, with only six doing so more than once.


Cameron Paul said...

I admit the Sharks aren't playing their best hockey right now but they will turn it around, their too good not too. Hopefully they can get back on track heading into the playoffs because I think this is their year to make a huge impact in the playoffs.

BradG said...

I'm not sure what offence is, but if it's anything like offense, I think you guys are going to be just fine. Everyone's allowed a lull in the regular season or two.

They're #1 in the west by about a million points. Don't worry about it.

MJ Kasprzak said...

Thanks for commenting, guys. And I was just concerned, but still have confidence for the reasons I gave. After last night's game, it looks like we were just fine. Looks like we just overlooked those "smaller" games.

Brad, offence is the Canadian spelling of offense, like defence-defense, centre-center, favourite-favorite...

And we aren't as far ahead in the West as Boston in the East--just two points over Detroit. Granted, we have three games in hand, but they play us in Detroit in the final matchup of the two teams, so they can gain a game right there.