December 6th, 2011, 9:14 am
The biggest news of the season so far is the announcement of a complete overhaul of the NHL alignment, going from six 4-team divisions and two conferences into four conferences, two with 7 teams, two with 8. The idea would be to make the travel a bit more equitable (see this Puck Daddy post for all the gritty details). But with most things, you can’t make anything completely equal- the 8-team conferences, of which the Sharks will be a part, will have one more team to contend with to make the postseason. Each conference will do a 4-team mini-playoff, with the winner of each conference heading to the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
It’s a radically different scheme than today. Most people (myself included) are somewhat leery and afraid of change, so my initial reaction was, “that’s crazy, and therefore bad!”. But after thinking about it for only a short while, I’m getting used to the idea, and I kind of like it. Here are my pros and cons:
- Visibility. The biggest pro of the new scheme is we will see every NHL team in San Jose every year. For instance, this year we won’t see the Rangers, Flyers (Pronger BOOOOO), or Maple Leafs in our barn. Not being able to crack jokes in person at Joffrey Lupul’s expense just hurts me a little bit inside.
- Travel. More games against fewer teams that are closer mean fewer time changes. Playing Nashville or Detroit in the first round of the playoffs really sucks from a travel standpoint, and under the new alignment, this would never happen.
- Playoff potential. The Final Four thing is just cool (new and improved Frozen Four, anyone?). Right now the Stanley Cup Semifinals are just another step on a long journey to the Cup; if I were the league, I’d really play up this angle.
- Rivalries. It will be hard to maintain the same bad blood with the Wings or Chicago if we only face them twice a year, and never in the playoffs until the 3rd round.
- OD’ing on a few teams. When you play a terrible team six times, the games can often be snoozers. With the larger conferences, the chances of two or even three teams being bad is much higher.
I will leave you with a chart I made indicating how the number of matchups will change. I used this year’s schedule, and assumed, for simplicity’s sake, that the three teams we will play 6 times next year are the Ducks, Coyotes, and Kings.
Pie charts suck, you get your bar chart and like it
November 30th, 2011, 9:13 am
After a nice run where the Sharks managed to accumulate the best points-per-game rate of any team in the NHL, the lean times have come in two bad losses in the last two games. And frankly, if it were not for the near-goalie-steal performance of Antti Niemi against the Hawks, we’d be looking at a 3 game losing streak, disturbingly to the class of the West. I can never really decide if losing to the best teams is better to losing to the worst teams. Which is worse, irritating inconsistency (losing to Columbus) or depressing mediocrity (losing to Vancouver)?
The famine is not without casualties. First and foremost is Justin Braun, who Pollak said “was reassigned to Worcester less than 24 hours after his misplay cost San Jose a goal in Monday’s loss.” I suppose it’s possible that particular blunder led to his demotion, but I don’t buy it (wasn’t it Niemi’s fault more than his?). As we’ve said on the podcast several times, Braun is a good young defenseman that you want to play early and often, and continue to develop his game. If he’s clearly head-and-shoulders better than his offensive contemporary, Jason Demers, then you keep him in San Jose. With Demers playing more the last few games, and Braun not playing quite as well, Braun would fall into the mixing bowl that is the 3rd defensive pair. Which means he’s in, he’s out, he doesn’t get consistent minutes. Which means I agree with the decision to send him East to the struggling Worchester Sharks. Lord knows they need all the help they can get over there.
The next two games might be what the doctor ordered. Neither Montreal nor Florida are patsies, but they are not in the same conversation as Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Doug and I are going to wait until the weekend to record the next podcast, mostly due to scheduling, but we’re hoping for a good effort against the Habs to help balance what would have likely been a negative-Nancy episode.
November 21st, 2011, 9:02 pm
I was going to post something about my trip, which has very little to do with hockey, but I can’t in good conscience now. Sid’s comeback is just a hair more impressive than mine. I hope you’ve seen the game or highlights. Two goals (both backhand shots, no less) and two assists. Remember, he missed 68 games. It’s impossible not to make a comparison with Mario Lemieux here. Lemieux had a much longer absence, to be sure, but from a hockey perspective, Crosby means just as much to the Penguins now as Mario did then. And, to top it all off, they both scored four points in their respective returns. Just amazing.
Back to the Sharks- it’s been a great welcome home present for me to see them dismantle Detroit, Dallas, and Colorado in the last three games. Of course the number one thing to talk about is the penalty kill, which I’m sure we will when we record the podcast this week after the Chicago game. Just wanted to give a bit of a funny stat. I decided to calculate how the Sharks ranked in terms of the percentage of games they gave up a PP goal, instead of just overall PK%, where they currently stand at 3rd worst (74.6%). I fully expected the Sharks to have given up a PP goal in a greater percentage of games than any other team- it seemed like every goddam game the opponent scored with the man advantage. But it’s not actually the case:
- Dallas 65% (13/20)
- Carolina 63.6% (14/22)
- Islanders 61.1% (11/18)
- Winnipeg 60% (12/20)
- Columbus 60% (12/20)
- Los Angeles 60% (12/20)
- Detroit 57.8% (11/19)
- Ottawa 57.4% (12/21)
- Toronto 57.4% (12/21)
- Colorado 57.4% (12/21)
- San Jose 55.5% (10/18)
Dallas is a full seven percentage points better in PK% – 17th overall, the best on this list- and yet has given up a PP goal in 65% of the games they’ve played. I don’t really know what that means, but it’s interesting.
November 8th, 2011, 2:34 pm
Hello world! It’s been too long.
Quick update: Mike is doing great in India and we’re planning to do another podcast this weekend after the Minnesota game. He’ll be back at the end of next week and then we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled podcasting.
We’ll talk to you then. Until then, we’re going streaking!
October 16th, 2011, 10:29 am
Todd McLellan has mentioned in the press several times that the Sharks had to play a serious game of catch-up last year in the second half. Lolling around at 12th in the West in early January, they had to rip off a massive hot streak in order to secure their 2nd seed playoff position. After all of that emphasis, it seems the Sharks decent start has been held to two periods. After 40 minutes at home versus Phoenix, the Sharks were up 6-1, and just dominating the Coyotes. Since then, the Sharks have been outscored 7-2, and dropped the last two games against teams we think will miss the postseason. Both the Ducks game and the Blues game seemed to have the same symptoms- sloppy passing, not a lot of physicality, and giving the opposition too much space, especially on the power play.
This is just an observation from a guy in the stands, but last night there seemed to be a lot of 5 and 6-foot attempted passes underneath Blue skates and sticks. Many of those passes didn’t work out. A lot of tricky and slick attempts went nowhere, and even turned into scoring chances the other way. Now I go and read the game recap, and T-Mac agrees:
“We weren’t prepared to play a grind-it-out game,” McLellan said. “We wanted to play this fancy puck possession stuff against a team that wanted to grind it out.” Later, he added: “We choose to be the Globetrotters in the first seven or eight minutes of the game, and it doesn’t work that way.”
Lots of east and west, not enough north and south. We clearly got the shot differential, but Greiss did not have a Quality Start, while Brian Elliot was close to having a Goalie Steal.
On the good side, it’s nice to see the fourth line playing quite a bit (Winchester 9:54, Andrew Murray 10:17, Andrew Desjardins 9:54), and the third line, especially Torrey Mitchell, has been good as well. Mitchell had another point last night, and giving him two more points on the season than Joe Thornton (0). Joe especially was a big offender in the Globetrotter department. While he did make several passes that had me scratching my head, wondering how he got that through, he also had several that had me scratching my head, wondering what the hell he was thinking. I guess it’s a fine line. Overall it almost seems as though the Sharks think they have such a talent surplus over the other team that they can not commit as much to the unpleasant parts of the game, like getting hit, forechecking aggressively, and doggedly working the boards and corners. As the Blues and Ducks have both proven the last 48 hours, it just doesn’t work that way in the NHL. Kent Huskins will hurt you with a laser wrist shot.
October 7th, 2011, 4:56 pm
As I mentioned on the last podcast, I’ve managed to read the latest Hockey Prospectus annual from cover to cover in seven days. Hockey Prospectus, formerly known as Puck Prospectus (which I like better, because hey, who doesn’t like alliteration?), is site of hockey writers/fans that plumb the vast depths of advanced hockey analytics, relying on, and in many cases inventing, the advanced stats that I’ve put in the Stats Glossary. I didn’t expect whipping through the entire thing, and certainly not that quickly. I more expected to read the way I did last year’s, which was to look up the Sharks, read the articles at the end about different stats topics, and browse a bit for certain players and teams. Not this time.
Before I go on, I know Fear the Fin has already written about the book recently (which they got for free, dammit!), so I’m going to hope you all believe I’m been planning this post since I first bought the PDF last week. Either way, I’m going to try to avoid talking about the same topics in that post. Mostly, I’ll be pointing out fun facts and jabs the guys at Hockey Prospectus have levied on various NHL players, coaches, and management. It’s really one of the unexpected delights of the book. But the articles are always great, I would especially recommend the ones on Ultimate Faceoff Percentage (UFO%) and Core Age.
Here are, in no particular order, are some of my favorite quotes and stats from the book:
- “George Parros has certainly earned his devoted fan base with his community charity work, and was named the fourth-smartest professional athlete by the Sporting News, thanks to his time studying economics in Princeton. Perhaps he can apply that knowledge to discuss Jason Blake’s contract with Bob Murray.”
- “At 6’7”, homegrown St. Louis Blue Ben Bishop is the tallest goalie to ever play in the NHL, but his suspect .896 save percentage in the AHL will have to improve if he hopes to make a more permanent return. Bishop can only move diagonally.”
- “(Bobby Ryan) also gets along great with Corey Perry since they both have two first names.”
- “John Scott is one of those few players who make the league minimum, but is yet overpaid.”
- “Huet played in Switzerland last year, but could play his final couple of years in the NHL once his deal expires this season (or says our Cristobal).” <rimshot>
- “Steve MacIntyre can punch people really hard in the face.”
- “Brian Elliot was having a terrible season with the Senators before he was dealt in exchange for Craig Anderson. Then he got worse.”
- “Of all players drafted since 2005, only Sidney Crosby and Anze Kopitar have played in more games than Marc-Edouard Vlasic.”
- “David LeNeveu’s save percentage is .887 in 22 NHL games, and .908 in the AHL. Except for emergency situations, David should LeNever be used.”
- “With the Edmonton franchise now entering uncertain Year X of a rebuilding phase meant to last until indeterminate Year Y, Tambellini has at least proven completely capable of putting together the very worst roster in the league.”
- “All things considered, Ott is a gem of a player who doesn’t get the credit he deserves around the league as a whole because of the style that he plays.” (That one hurt a little, but I agree.)
- “A big, rugged defenseman who had a fantastic defensive season in 2009-10, Matt Carkner’s defensive GVT wasn’t nearly as impressive last year, but was still solid. He’s also willing to punch people when Chris Neil needs to rest his hands.”
- “Cam Janssen is quite possibly the league’s worst player, whose only useful purpose is alerting other players that their careers are probably over whenever coaches line him up alongside them.”
- “No team needs more than one of Mike Brown, Colton Orr, or Jay Rosehill on its roster. Brown is plenty. Indeed, some teams would be happy to have none of them. And yet, here they all are, together again.”
- “This past season, only four forwards who played more than 30 games in the NHL had a zone start ratio above 70%: cheap shot artist and general liability Cam Janssen (74.4%) and the Vancouver Canucks first line (Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Alex Burrows). To put those numbers in further context, only eight forwards had zone starts north of 65%… Vigneault is able to shower the twins with some of the softest possible ice time (for a first-line scoring unit at least) for several reasons: primary amongst them is this season’s Selke Trophy winner, Ryan Kesler… Of course, even Kesler can’t take all the defensive zone draws, which is why the Canuck’s bottom six is littered with players with awful zone starts and mostly marginal output as a result. In the last two seasons, Vigneault has opted to feed his bottom end the less desirable minutes, forcing guys like Ryan Johnson, Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen, Raffi Torres, and Manny Malhotra to climb uphill in order to cede the high ground to the club’s scorers. Last season, for instance, the trio of Malhotra, Torres, and Hansen had the very worst combined zone start of any regular forward unit in the entire league, 25.0%, 29.6%, and 34.3% respectively… The Sedins have enjoyed a meteoric rise to the very top of the NHL scoring charts the last couple of seasons and have been spoken of as legitimate Hart candidates as well. However, the truth of the matter is they are very good players who have stood on the shoulders of their coach and teammates to become elite ones. “
- (About Ryane Clowe) “Those mourning the demise of the “power forward” in the NHL are no doubt huge fans of the Newfoundland native, who was one of just three players in the league last season to amass at least 60 points and 100 PIM.”
- The Sharks have zero (0) prospects in Corey Pronman’s top 100. Charlie Coyle is #69.
- Joe Thornton is 4th in the league in combined GVT since the lockout, behind Ovechkin, Crosby, and Datsyuk. Boyle is 4th amongst defensemen behind Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Visnovsky. People forget about the little guy.
Our Books We Like link on the right there is active, so if you want to buy this (and you should), go ahead and click that link first. It’ll throw a buck or two our way, and not cost you anything.
October 3rd, 2011, 7:37 pm
I’m aware, and slightly sorry, for the lack of written word in the past few months. I feel as though the podcast covered most of what we had to say. But I’m am going to try and write a little more once the season begins. For instance, I just added a Stats Glossary there on the right side, so click on that and read about some wonderful advanced hockey numbers. I plan to do a longer stats-related post sometime later this week, so get your pillows out!
September 27th, 2011, 11:22 pm
The Dudes try and put into context what the Sharks undefeated preseason means, if anything. And they tackle the biggest Sharks question out there- who will make the 3rd and 4th lines? After charting the rise of Wingels and the fall of McGinn, Mike and Doug have an opinion, but realize they’ve been wrong a lot of preseasons past. After all that, they tackle the new discipline method handed out by Brendan Shanahan, and talk about the Wayne Simmonds and Sean Avery incidents.
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September 15th, 2011, 11:54 pm
Lots of stuff happening, with the season drawing nearer, but the Dudes start with injuries, and the deal that didn’t happen- Kyle Wellwood, originally reported as signing with the Sharks, but actually with Winnipeg. Lots of other news with Brad Winchester, young stars, and NHL news. Mike and Doug still have enough time to preview the Atlantic division.
For those of you that want to join one of our fantasy leagues, here is the info. Please only sign up for one league initially, so everyone that wants to play can.
UPDATE: ALL LEAGUES WERE FULL SO A FOURTH LEAGUE HAS BEEN ADDED. WE WILL NEED 10 PLAYERS MINIMUM TO MAKE THE LEAGUE HAPPEN. SEE YOU THERE!
UPDATE: The fourth league is full. That’s it for this year. May the best “dude” win.
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September 7th, 2011, 6:17 pm
Thanks to my main man Bryce, we now have some desktop wallpapers of the Sharks’ 2011-2012 schedule. Four different backgrounds in two sizes. I’m partial to the diamond fin myself.