Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Knocking Gary Bettman's decision to place
teams in non-tradional hockey markets has become a favorite pastime of hockey
When speaking on this subject, however, Bettman detractors often choose to
skip mentioning the San Jose Sharks. That's because the franchise has been a
rousing success story in just about every way possible.
One thing that's eluded the Sharks has been postseason success, but with the
way they've begun this compressed season, it may be time to put San Jose back
on the short list of Stanley Cup contenders.
Several years ago, the Sharks were perennial Cup favorites, but the franchise's
status over the last three seasons could be considered the team's post-hype
era. The bottoming out happened in the spring of 2009, when San Jose won the
Presidents' Trophy with 117 points in the regular season only to lose in the
first round of the playoffs to Anaheim.
The Sharks followed that top-seeded meltdown with consecutive trips to the
Western Conference finals. Still, those years did little to alter the notion
of San Jose as playoff underachievers because the Sharks won only one total
game over the two conference championship series.
Although the 2011-12 season also ended in a first-round exit, it's been hard
not to notice the Sharks since this lockout-season began over a week ago.
All San Jose has done is build a 5-0 record while outscoring the opposition by
a 23-8 margin, giving the Sharks the best goal differential of any team this
Patrick Marleau has garnered most of the headlines by recording a whopping nine
goals in the team's first five games, but there is more to the Sharks than the
red-hot winger and his superstar linemate Joe Thornton.
A closer look at the Sharks reveals a team that is incredibly deep at both
ends of the ice and one boasting a nice mix of young players (Logan Couture,
Marc-Edouard Vlasic) and veterans (Martin Havlat, Dan Boyle). The team also
has a No. 1 goaltender with a Stanley Cup to his credit, as Antti Niemi is
less than three years removed from his championship performance for the
Chicago Blackhawks in the spring of 2010.
Despite the stockpile of talent in San Jose, it's still easy to dismiss the
best start in franchise history as an early season illusion thanks to the
Sharks' humbling playoff past.Of course, the Sharks would be best served to
ignore the past and follow the old Will Rogers saying that tells us: "Don't
let yesterday use up too much of today."
Perhaps the presence of Larry Robinson on the bench can help San Jose
transition from trendy playoff pick to actual postseason force.
Assistant coaches normally don't get a great deal of attention, but Robinson
is anything but a normal case. Robinson was a Hall of Fame defenseman whose
name has been etched on the Stanley Cup nine times as a player, head coach and
assistant. Robinson nearly made it No. 10 last season after serving on Peter
DeBoer's staff in New Jersey, which fell two wins shy of beating the Los
Angeles Kings in the Cup Finals.
Obviously, Robinson offers a wealth of knowledge as a winning player and coach
and he's someone San Jose's head coach, Todd McLellan, can lean on for advice
in this shortened season. Speaking of coaching in seasons cut short by
lockouts, Robinson also brings expertise in that realm, having served under
Jacques Lemaire when the Devils won it all following the truncated 1994-95
Of course, we're still months away from the actual start of the playoffs and
there could be numerous obstacles between the Sharks and postseason glory.
Some of those roadblocks could come in the form of injuries and others from
serious competition from other powerful teams in the West like the St. Louis
Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and the defending champion Kings.
Just don't make the mistake of dismissing the Sharks out-of-hand due to their
sketchy playoff past. After all, strange and unexpected things can happen in a
COOLER HEADS PREVAIL IN SUBBAN-HABS SQUABBLE
For a moment there it seemed like the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. Subban were
digging in for a protracted war over his contract status, but to the delight
of Habs fans everywhere, the nightmare scenario has been avoided.
Subban and Montreal agreed to a new deal on Monday, signing their talented
young defenseman to a two-year deal reportedly worth a total of $5.75 million.
It was rumored that Subban was looking for a longer and more lucrative deal
but what he wound up getting was more of a trial run. Montreal might have
caved in to those demands if it had more cap space, but if the 23-year-old
improves upon his first two NHL seasons, the Habs will have to pay a premium to
retain his services down the line.
For now this looks like a win for Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin, but
if all goes as planned, Subban's moment to score a much bigger payday will come
One lingering question: How will Subban's absence at the start of the season
affect his play for the rest of the campaign? The club is already off to a
strong 3-1-0 start, and in theory the addition of last year's leader in ice
time should help Montreal build off the strong opening. Then again, if Subban
joins the Canadiens out of shape or lacking focus, it could have an adverse
effect on a club that entered this season with an outside shot at making the
Subban could play as soon as Wednesday's game in Ottawa.
The Sports Network