my thoughts on the sharks

In a hockey writing mood tonight — catching up, in some ways, for the last couple of weeks when I’ve been off thinking through stuff (hockey and not….) and trying to shove some things to closure (of which, stay tuned).

I’m sorry the Sharks didn’t go further. I thought they would. Watching the Oilers, though, they sure seem to have gotten into “mission from god” mode, and I’m not sure anyone’s going to keep them from winning the Cup. It’s no great insult to lose to a team everyone else loses to….

I’m going to say something that’s probably never been uttered by a hockey fan before in the history of hockey:

If the sharks show up opening night with exactly the same roster as they played their last game in the playoffs with, I’ll be perfectly satisfied. They can make NO CHANGES WHATSOEVER, and I won’t complain. 90% of what was “wrong” with the Sharks in the playoff series against Edmonton can be improved by having our young players be a year older, and a year wiser, and a year battle-hardened in the playoffs.

That’s how much I like the team, and how satisfied I was with their play — given circumstances. I sure would have liked a conference finals, but the same could be said of Anaheim’s team and fans….

Now, having said that, do I think they WILL come in with no changes?

Not a chance. and I think there are some likely improvements and/or updates coming.

First and most important: they gotta do something with goaltending. I simply don’t see any way they’ll open camp with both Toskala and Nabokov on the roster. I also don’t see any way they can anoint Naobkov with the “# 1 goalie” mantle again, not with a straight face. The best Nabokov can hope for is an opportunity to take the starting job back if Toskala struggles or gets hurt; I fully expect Toskala not to give him that chance….

Yet both goalies are clearly #1 goalies, and both have made it clear they want to be the starter — preferably san jose, but Nabokov isn’t stupid, and he’s intimated in the press he sees the writing on the wall, and made it clear he’d rather be the starter elsewhere than the backup here, although he’d really like to be the starter here. I’ve read unconfirmed reports that his no-trade clause doesn’t go into effect until July 1, so before then, the Sharks can evidently trade him as they wish — but even after that time, if Doug Wilson offers to send him to a good team where he can be #1, Nabokov would be an idiot not to waive the no-trade. If I were him, I wouldn’t accept a trade to, say, Chicago if I were him — but XM radio was mumbling a bit today about Nabokov for St. Louis, which frankly seems like a good deal for both sides, talent-wise and salary/cap as well.

So sometime this summer, Nabokov will be moved, perhaps sooner than later. The Sharks will likely start the season with Toskala and Schaeffer (the first five-win rookie goalie to NOT be good enough to actually play in the NHL this year, given how the sharks limited his playing time as much as possible while he was called up). Schaeffer is another good goalie, more in the Irbe mode than Nabokov’s more technician style — Schaeffer will grow grey hairs on his coaches, but also wins on the docket.

Other changes?

I have one request, and a few questions.

the request: we can do better than Ekman. when he was good, he was very good; when he was not good, he was invisible; his inconsistency drove people crazy. On balance, he was a positive for the team, but this is the one position up front I think can be and should be upgraded. Nabokov for St. Louis would be close to ideal for this, of course. But in any event, I’d rather see the sharks replace Ekman with something better — although I like the guy and his attitude; although, naming your kid “Melvin”? Huh?

The questions:

Alyn McAuley: fought a bum knee all season, offense disappeared, but he did what he could to contribute how he could. Will he be the old McAuley after surgery? or even close to it? I’d hate to see him leave, but I believe he’s an unrestricted free agent, and I might not fight like crazy to keep him. however, even if he stays as a 3rd line defensive center, that’s not bad — as long as we understand his role going in, where scoring is a bonus, not an expectation. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised here, and i think there’s some upside, but also risk.

Scott Parker: is his head ever going to be really okay again? does it matter? is there a place for someone like him in the league today? I wonder, and tend to doubt it; Parker’s a more legitimate hockey player than, say, a Dave Brown ever was — but while he’s clearly tougher than someone like Georges Laraque — he’s not the skater or grinder, and I just don’t know if a team needs, or wants, a specialty player like this any more. Unlike someone like Donald Brashear, who worked his butt off to be a 12 minute a game guy, Scott Parker is still more of a 6 minute intimidator. I tend to think the day has passed him by. We still need physical play and intimidation — but more in the mold of a Scott Thornton type, not a Parker type.

Speaking of — Scott Thornton — does he have another year in him? God, I hope so, but he’s getting older, and you have to wonder how long you can depend on him.

Then there’s Doug Murray, the guy with the funny swedish name. Showed up, made a big impact, played for a while, retired to the pressbox. I wondered if he was hurt, I heard through sources htey decided he was simply too slow for the NHL; is he working on his power skating as I type? I hope so, because boy, is he fun to watch — if he can catch someone.

What team will Jim Fahey play for? And will it be in the NHL? He disapppeared into the pressbox early, never to return, and he seems to have no future here.

And what about Matt Carle? Lest we forget, it was only a few years ago that we were saying things about Jim Fahey really similar to what we’re saying about Carle now. What an auspicious debut — but will he be able to sustain and improve?

Man, I’m already looking forward to camp.