The Shark Blog
16. November 2010 11:54
First off, apologies for a title that sounds like it was written by a 12 year old girl. But maybe that's how I feel. There comes a point in certain relationships when you just can't take it any more. You've been burned so many times that you've had enough, and it's time to break up and move on with your life.
And so it is with me and certain NHL players in the fantasy hockey world. You try and try. You give them chance after chance to redeem themselves. You want to believe they can change and be the player you once thought they were. But now, it's break up time.
Ages ago, before Yahoo discovered fantasy sports, I was a dedicated fan of Kevin Stevens, based on his consistent supply of goals and PIMS over many season. But alas, I held on too long. Even into the gloomy Ranger years, I continued to draft him, praying he could once again be the player he once was. Alas, I have been burned before and have learned when it is time to let go. Whether due to a pattern of untimely injuries, dry spells, or downright inconsistent play, some players are just not worth the risk any more.
And so, I'm publicly stating that I'm through with these guys, starting with #4:
For years, I believed the line that you were the Michael Jordan of hockey, but time and time again, you've crashed my hopes. And now, you've gone and broken your hand. Don't tell me it's not your fault. I've heard that one before. If it's not your hand, it will be some other excuse next time. I've finally come to terms with the fact that you're not the player everyone said you would be. I'm moving on.
We're through. After those first few seasons of showing so much promise in Ottawa, I told everyone how some day, you'd be a regular 40-goal scorer, and that you might even help that franchise win in the playoffs. But injury after injury, I lowered my expectations. Still, I drafted you late every year, hoping it would be your time to prove me right. I can't do this any longer. 1 goal in 16 games? Is that all you have to give? Goodbye, Mr. Havlat. My heart can't take any more.
Dear Mr. Franzen
You present the biggest challenge to my patience. When you're healthy, you're a beast. But like your twin Holmstrom, I can't count on you being there when I need you most. I'm not asking you to change who you are, otherwise, you probably wouldn't score at such an insane pace. But just imagine what you could do if you just came to visit a little more. 40 goals? 50 goals? I know it's possible, but I just can't take getting burned again. And, let's face it, you're not getting any younger. It pains me, but I'm giving up on you.
I'm sorry to confess this, but the truth is, I never really believed in you. I've been watching Penguins hockey for 20+ years and know enough to say that if you're wearing the black and gold, you may win games, but you'll never win a Vezina. For whatever reason, this summer, I had a glimmer of hope you might change things. You were hanging out with the right crowd on defense. I thought you could change. I was wrong. Now I know in the past week or so, you're doing better, but I think you're just putting on a show. It's too late. I'm done with you.
While I haven't given up entirely, there are a few others who are currently on Thin Ice.
After all the attention you had this summer, this is all you can do? No goals? Really? Consider yourself on probation.
It just doesn't seem logical. Is there something you're not telling me? You were so promising and productive down in Florida. Is it really that cold in Calgary? Are the Sutters too mean to you? At least write once in a while, so we know you're still playing.
I stuck by you through the injuries and was thrilled to see you shine to start the season. But what has happened now? I don't even know who you are any more.
And while I'm at it…
I try not to criticize too much, after all, a guy in your position can never please everyone. But Gary, I'm begging you. Let it go. NHL players belong in the Olympics. You're just coming off like a child holding that as a bargaining chip. And while we're on the topic, don't even think about hinting at another lockout. Otherwise, I may be writing this letter to the entire NHL in a few years.
As a fantasy hockey player, surely you've felt this way, too. So, who have you given up on?
15. March 2010 11:00
March can be a very troubling month for hockey fans. It's this time of year that roughly 1/4 of fans are placed in the unfair position of outwardly cheering for their team to win, while inwardly, (almost subconsciously) almost hoping they lose. This irks me. And I hate being irked. Especially in March.
So why do we tolerate this? Or the better question may be: Why do we continue to reward failure?
If you haven't deciphered what I'm talking about yet, let me explain. I don't want you to be irked. If you look at the standings, there are 12 teams still in the playoff hunt that still have an equally good chance of winning the draft lottery. Just like management must decide at the trade deadline whether they are buyers or sellers, fans have to look at the big picture and assess if their team really has a shot at making the final cut. Nobody wants to finish 9th. You have to spend all summer wondering how you let 1 point slip away, while drafting 11th at the table. So do you pray your team is the one that slides into the 8th spot, or secretly hope they slide down the standings and draft the next Crosby, Tavares, or Hall?
It's an unfair spot to put fans in. Maybe it's the ardent capitalist in me, but I hate rewarding failure. It never works. I realize it's been this way in all major sports league since the dawn of mankind, but that doesn't mean it's right. The theory behind it sounds very nice, and fair, and compassionate. The teams that stink need a chance to get better. After all, the Penguins and Capitals wouldn't have the dream teams they're enjoying now, had they not (somewhat intentionally) tanked it for 2 or 3 years. For some, the sacrifice is worth it, but maybe we're just accepting something we can't change.
Consider the cost. Literally. How many fans spent good money at the start of the season on those late March game tickets, only to find that their team has called up a bunch of prospects to "see what they can do". In other words, see "how they can help us draft higher this year".
Once again, I'm irked. So what's the solution? My first answer would be to make the draft order completely random. Put 30 balls in the hopper and let the chips fall. This is probably too extreme to even merit consideration, so let's meet in the middle with a reasonable compromise. Here how it should work:
You break the teams into two categories: those who made the playoffs in Group A, and those who missed the playoffs in Group B. Let's deal with Group B first. You rank the non playoffs teams from top down based on points (highest to lowest). And there's your draft order for the first 14 teams. That's right, the non-playoff team with the most points drafts first. No lottery, no whining. Consider what this would do:
1. It gives fans a reason to cheer for their team right down to the final game. What do Oilers fans have to cheer for at this point with still a month left to go? In this system, they still would have a shot at actually earning that #1 draft pick, instead of defaulting into it by losing more meaningless games.
2. No team is going to intentionally miss the playoff to get that #1 pick, so it maintains the integrity of the game.
3. Fans and teams in the middle will no longer have it in the back of their heads that it's ok, or even good, to lose a game.
As for Group A - I'm open to suggestions. Ranks them from top to bottom, or bottom to top, I don't care. Again, if you're a playoff team, the last thing you'll be worrying about is draft position, when you're fighting for home ice in the final week. Bottom line is this system makes every game meaningful. More importantly, I won't be irked.
So what's the downfall? The "negative" is that bad teams won't automatically get better in short order. They'll actually have to "earn" their way back to prosperity. In the long run, the franchises that do the best job of managing their team will benefit. Those that don't will struggle. Imagine that, letting the free market do it's thing. It works in the real world, so why can't it work in the NHL as well?
8. January 2010 09:36
Everybody makes mistakes. Some are just more prominent, embarrassing, and harmful than other. Looking back on the year in the NHL, there's no doubt certain individuals would like to have a do-over on few of their decisions. On many decisions, it's far too early to tell just how bad (or perhaps good) a move will ultimately be. Inevitably, years from now, we'll look back in disbelief over how many teams passed on a Jordan Schroeder in the first round of the draft, or how the Redwings found some wiz on a street corner in Prague with their 9th pick. However, we only have the benefit of hindsight up to this point to sit in judgment over these horrible decision of 2009, so here are the 10 worst:
10. Sorry, Wayne
There were many bad decisions that came out of the Phoenix fiasco last summer. The way Balsillie approached the league (for the 3rd time). Judge Baum's continued decisions not to decide anything. Bettman's decision to insist on keeping a team where it's not wanted and prevent a team from going to where it would be worshipped… But perhaps the worst decision in all of this was the decision by the NHL not to pay Gretzky the money he was owned in their bid for ownership. Too many words have already been written on this whole mess, so we'll just drop it in at #10 and move on...
9. Mortgaging Philly for Pronger
On paper, adding Chris Pronger to team already favored by some to win the Cup in 2010 sounded like an OK idea. That was, until you read what the Flyers had to give up in that deal. Future star Luca Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul, 2 first round draft picks and more. Not to mention that a team already struggling to stay Cap legal added $2 million to the problem. The only way this deal could ever be justified in the end was if the team went on to win the Cup in the next year or two. Halfway into year 1 of the Pronger era featured a fired coach and team sitting out of a playoff spot. That first round pick is looking pretty good for the Ducks, who made out like champs on this trade.
8. Ovechkin takes out Backstrom
In yet another reckless, moronic, in-the-moment, trying to kill everyone around me play, Ovechkin made yet another attempt to injure a Penguin superstar when he left his feet to charge Malkin. The Caps were already down 5-0 in game 7, and Ovie had already been embarrassed by Fleury's breakaway save, so all he had left in his bag of tricks to was take a run at his rival. Fortunately, Malkin knew to watch for him, jumped out of the way, and Ovechkin took his cheap shot at his own teammate. Admire the beauty here:
7. Burke trading picks for Kessel
Anxious to make his mark on the Toronto rebuilding project, Brian Burke took a major risk in September by shipping his first two picks in 2010 and the first rounder in 2011 to the Bruins for injured star Phil Kessel. Bruins fans may miss the goals Kessel brought to the team when he was healthy, but they'll probably like drafting Taylor Hall even better next spring. It's just silly for a team that has pretty good odds of finishing in the basement to give up their early picks. Perhaps Burke has lost the magic.
6. Carcillo agrees to fight Talbot
When you're up 3-0 in a playoff game, the player handbook says it doesn't make much sense to fight. Unfortunately for Flyer fans, Daniel Carcillo doesn't seem to be literate. Penguin fans love to point to the Carcillo-Talbot fight as the turning point in the series that allowed them to go own to with the Cup. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. But there's no debating that despite "winning" the fight, Carcillo did nothing to help his team. He obviously has a role to play, but he also obviously needs some guidance on timing.
5. Intent to blow
And that's exactly what the officials did here.
In case you missed it, in late November, Brad May scored a goal against the Stars. Seconds after the goal was scored, referee Dennis LaRue waived it off, claiming he intended to blow the whistle to stop the play, and therefore, no goal. The play ultimately cost the Redwings the game, and fans were dumbfounded. Perhaps even worse, was the decision by the NHL the next day. Instead of apologizing for a silly mistake, they actually backed LaRue and tried to justify the decision. Watch in disbelief here:
4. Patrick Kanes a cabby
Early this summer, everything was right in Chicago. The Blackhawks had just finished up a season to remember, and Patrick Kane was back in his hometown for a feel-good ceremony. Then a cab driver informs Kane he doesn't have the 20 cents change rightfully due the young millionaire, and things get ugly. Allegedly, Kane goes on to beat and rob the cabby. Poor judgment, Mr. Kane. You're on the list.
3.Keith Ballard Goes Goalie Golfing
This was more a combination of bad luck and frustration. After all, Ballard isn't the first player in history to (attempt to) slam his stick off the goal after his team is scored upon. It just so happens that Thomas Vokoun's face entered his path this time. One of the dumbest all time plays you'll see. Good time to celebrate the 50th year of the goalie mask. Enjoy/cringe:
2. Dany Heatley's Demands (or whoever went public with Dany's request)
Again, the whole situation was a disaster, and blame could be spread out on this one, but there's no arguing Heatley's decisions and behavior were poor this summer. The hockey world was sympathetic after the tragedy in Atlanta and understood why he wanted to be traded from the Thrashers. However, after securing a long-term deal with a no-trade clause, it's just idiotic to demand a trade and dictate the terms. Great player. Poor judgment.
1. The Year of Bob Gainey
Bob Gainey could have filled up half the list himself, but I tried to spread the love around. Making Gainey #1 on this list was easy, narrowing down which one of his moves was the worst decision is above my pay grade. Here are the runners up to the worst decision of the worst decisions:
# 3 - Allowing Komisarek to walk without a fight
# 2 - Firing Guy Carboneau and proving that it had nothing to do with the coach
# 1 - Signing a remarkably average forward Brian Gionta to an outrageous $25 million contract.
But, the dumbest decision of the year for Bob Gainey was the trade for Scott Gomez and his 5 year, $33.5 million cap hit. Granted, Gomez is a very good player, and he's starting to play well for Montreal; however, the Rangers were desperate to dump the Gomez contract in order to sign Gaborik. They would have ultimately paid some team (had it been legal) to take him off their hands. Instead, the Canadiens gave up a decent forward in Higgins, a decent prospect in Valentenko, and a potential future star in Ryan McDonagh. Way too much to give, when he could have overpaid Gomez for free.
Note: It's somewhat amazing that Glen Sather, Mike Milbury and the Tampa Bay management all managed to stay off the list in 2009. Something to celebrate as we enter the new year.
14. December 2009 21:24
I'm here today to address a grave injustice in the league today. Sergei Gonchar gets no respect.
I'm not sure what more this guy has to do to get the kind of respect that other top notch defensemen seem to enjoy. Throughout his career, he has constantly been overlooked. Despite being the leading defensive scorer on several occasions, he has yet to get consideration for the Norris Trophy. He's one of the top defensive scorers over the past decade, but still no respect. Even in Pittsburgh, fans just don't seem to appreciate what Gonchar brings to the table. Perhaps he's overshadowed by a number of flashy forwards and a goaltender, but fans shouldn't underestimate the importance of #55.
To see how important Gonchar is to the Pens, you just have to watch how well they've faired over the past two seasons with and without him in the lineup. Last season, with Gonchar on the shelf for the first half of the season, the Pens seemed destined to miss the playoffs altogether. His return coincided completely with the miraculous rebound the Pens enjoyed. This season showed more of the same, as the Pens struggled without him on the blueline. Despite having Malkin, Crosby, Staal, and various other quality options up front, the Penguins power play goes nowhere without Gonch carrying the puck. He may be the best in the league and carrying the puck into the zone and setting up the power play.
It's time that fans and hockey pundits come to terms with just how good this guy is. So, don't be a hater. Take a moment to tell a friend just how good Sergei Gonchar really is. [End of Rant].
[Wait… not done yet]
Here are a few other guys in the NHL who are underappreciated and underrated:
Marc Savard - One of the best setup guys in the game. Started his career off slowly in a small market, so he never gets attention.
Chris Osgood - Whipping boy for everything that's gone wrong in Detroit in the past decade (which isn't much), and never given a lick of credit for the Wings success.
Patrick Marleau - Has taken the heat for the Sharks playoff mishaps just because of a letter on the front of his sweater. During several of those choke jobs, Marleau was the only thing going in San Jose.
[Done with Rant]
24. July 2009 14:03
It feels good to talk about how well run the Redwings are as an organization. You'll find no shortage of praise for Ken Holland or Brian Burke and the like. It's much more fun to rip apart the organizations that just don't seem to get it. So in the spirit of being cruel (summer is tough on a hockey fanatic), here are the Top 5 Worst run NHL franchises.
#5 - NY Rangers
Since winning the Cup in 1994 and ending the 50 year drought, the Rangers seem intent on making a run at that record. Sather almost single-handedly forced the cap issue by offering ludicrous salaries to over the hill veterans. Since the lockout, he hasn't done much better, offering bloated contracts to Holik, Gomez, Redden, and now Gaborik. Any reputation he had for his work in Edmonton has been entirely reversed. There are no signs on the horizon that things are getting better here. If it weren't for Lundqvist in net, the Rangers wouldn't even be a playoff contender. Change is needed in New York.
#4 - LA Kings
LA has been preaching the youth movement for over a decade now. Some of the young guys back then have already retired, and they have yet to see a squad worth the price of entry. Lombardi has been true to his plan over the past few years for the most part, only straying occasionally to sign a veteran or two. Still, the Kings don't seem much closer to being relevant than they were in 2004. How long do Kings fans have to wait for the dream to be realized. How long can Lombardi hold off the wolves with the promise of better things to come? Don't expect a sudden rise to power this year.
#3 - Montreal Canadiens
How can a team fall so far, so fast? Or was it that 2007-08 was just a fluke? The Canadiens haven't made a serious run at the Cup since they won it as major underdogs in 1993. For an organization that once prided itself as the rightful owners of the Stanley Cup, they sure haven't shown it to anyone under the age of 50. Bob Gainey had one really bad year in 2008-09, from his handling of the coaching situation, to barely making the playoffs only to be totally embarrassed, to allowing his team to be completely dismantled and put back together with whatever leftovers he could overpay for on July 1st. Was this part of a plan? If so, who is he working for? Boston?
#2 - NY Islanders
It was a tough call not making the Islanders #1. Good thing for Mr. Wang and company that the Lightning are around. It's tough to recall anything this franchise has done right in the past 20 years (and drafting Tavares doesn't count - that was a no brainer that only came about because they were so inept this year). You can start with Yashin, then move on to the DiPietro contract, throw in the coaching / GM fiasco of last summer, and sprinkle in a prospect firesale that netted two months of Ryan Smyth's services. All told, John Tavares had better be that good.
#1 - Tampa Bay Lightning
The future was looking bright for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 2004. The last five years have been a total disaster. It started with mismanagement of contracts in the off season, resulting in the loss of Khabibulin. Since then, no goalie to wear the Bolts logo has been worthy of the crease. Things took a turn for the bizarre last summer with the new management team, who went on a teenage girl shopping spree, overpaying for every available player on the market. Some of the defensive signings this summer may start to right the ship, but as for now, the Lightning hold the title as the undisputed worst run franchise in the NHL.
Minnesota Wild for giving fans an expansion team for almost a decade now.
Atlanta Thrashers for failing to win a single playoff game in their existence
Toronto Maple Leafs for many reasons. Burke seems to be righting the ship, which kept them off the list.
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