Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.


So, are the Sharks the team we though they’d be before the start of the season? Why didn’t/don’t the Sharks have a captain? Are these the  “real” Sharks?  Will they make the post season? If so, how far can they go? And what of the future

Who are the Sharks?

Well, many pundits had the Sharks as third in the division in the preseason.  (And as of 141213 they are.)

But inconsistent has been the major adjective to describe the team, thus far, and they’ve been at the top to the lower third of periodic power rankings. While they’ve beat some of the big boys (Anaheim, St Louis), they’ve also lost to some of the teams near the bottom of the standings (Buffalo, Florida, Edmonton). (And all three goalies who have played this season for the Sharks have had a shutout in their NHL/season debut. Not too shabby.)

It didn’t help the Sharks were on the road for “most” of their early season (setting new NHL record with 16 of their first 21 games on the road). Nor that a few planned-on-key players spent a significant time on the IR (Brown, Kennedy, Torres, etc.).

141215 IR status:

  • Brown (lower body) — from description of crutches and boot might be broken bone (which would be 4-6 weeks, or mid- to late-January for return to play); update 141220 – confirmed broken fibula 6-8 weeks out
  • Kennedy (upper body) — all depends on players’ rate of healing, but I’d guess it’ll be January before he returns to play;
  • Torres (knee) — was scheduled to start skating after Thanksgiving; I’m guessing earliest return might be mid-January.
  • Nieto (ankle) — close to return, perhaps after Christmas break

The Sharks finally seem to have their identity “back” as a physical, up-tempo team, and one going younger.  Recent games have included ten players (nearly half the roster) at age 25 or under.  Some of those have been “injury call ups”, and they have made their mark in team play.  And some of that is related to the trade of Demers for Dillon and waiving Burish to the AHL.


There are four players (Marleau, Pavelski, Thornton, Vlasic) who are wearing As (3 per game, rotated about every 5 games).

The leadership executive committee has worked pretty well, with at least one of the quartet taking key role in media interaction pre/post game, win or loss. Pavelski has been one of mainstays of almost every media session.

Some pundits have called for Thornton to be reinstated as captain. But others are heralding Pavelski as the next captain.

Me, I had Pavelski at the top of my list, months ago. 😀

When might a captain be named? Some are pointing to the Stadium Series game in February as a key time that a captain lead his team on to the ice.

Are these the real Sharks?

Now, I think we are seeing the true capabilities of the team, injuries not withstanding.

With almost half the team roster at or under 25, the team is succeeding.  (And more promise to come, when those players continue to develop in the upcoming seasons.)

And the strain and stress of those initial long road trips has been persevered, and the team is making it hard to get a point, much less two on their home ice (exhibit: recent 5-0 home stand).

Unless there is catastrophic injury or illness, this team should be playing at this level for the rest of the season.

But that may mean that players like Burish (already in the AHL after clearing waivers), Irwin, Kennedy could be finding a home rink other than San Jose in the near future.

While Niemi, Thornton and Marleau were high priority trade rumors before the team turned the corner (and Coach McLellan was on the proverbial media hot seat), those have died down significantly.  While the potential is there to trade some of these players, especially the ten pending UFAs, most are performing at a level it would be hard to find a replacement able to contribute at the same level or higher (without significant cost, which may not be “worth” paying). But some cannot be “given” away (witness Burish clearing waivers).

A bit more than two months before the trade deadline, and GM Wilson could continue his “veterans for picks/prospects” trades.  But prospects and “high” picks are probably not going to be available to pick up any significant players, unless there is a great upside and some youth. The 2015 draft should allow the Sharks to add more depth to the organization, rather than utilize the picks for players “now”.

Especially with the estimated cap for 2015-16, the Sharks probably will not acquire much payroll, if any, via trade, and could be pretty quiet in the UFA market again this coming summer.

Can they make the post season? If so, how far can they go

Yes.  While the team was not in a playoff position as of US Thanksgiving, they have won eight of their last ten (points in 9 games).

The play has stabilized, and the team should be able to maintain a playoff position.

While the organization had a good team “on paper” last season, injury to a key player, and lack of “lucky bounces” meant they did not get beyond first round.

This year, the added depth of youth has shown this team can weather the loss (hopefully short term) of a key player or two.

So, all that remains to see how far the Sharks can go, are the playoff opponents and monitor their puck luck.

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening!

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.

Why should you want to know?
Don’t you mind about the future?
Don’t you try to think ahead?
Save tomorrow for tomorrow;
Think about today instead.
— Jesus Christ Superstar (Tim Rice)

One of the hardest jobs in the newspaper industry may be the headline writer.  This person needs to summarize the associated article in a few words.

Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they make you think.

But often the sensationalism of the headlines belies what’s really happening.  In other words, sometimes it’s just so hard to get past the sensationalism to see the reality.

The headlines about the Sharks this summer have been about:

  • historic, epic, collapse
  • culture of failure (and playoff choking)
  • no change in head coach or general manager
  • how to define “rebuild”
  • co-workers vs teammates
  • trading away veteran D (Boyle, Stuart)
  • the dearth of players added to the organization (two free agents, one trade, entry draft players, three undrafted prospects — with the probability of one enforcer on the NHL roster); letting 18 players go from organization; resigning two UFAs (Brown, Hannan), five RFAs
  • while many of the other teams (in the state, division, conference, league) added free agents or made trades to improve to their organization
  • questions about goal tending with Niemi only having 87.7% save vs Stalock 93.2%
  • “tomorrow team”, pulling replacements from within the organization, especially with the often-derided quality of the Sharks prospects
  • the loss of Raffi Torres for perhaps half the season from complications from surgery last preseason (he’s played 16 regular season games with the Sharks since being acquired)
  • open season for a new captain at training camp
  • locker room problems
  • organizational panic

About the only positive headline was regarding the compliance buyout of Havlat which was almost universally applauded (and predicted).


So what does all this mean?  And does it really matter (to those inside the room, or is it mainly for placating the pundits outside the room)?

To answer the latter question first: it really doesn’t matter what those of us in the stands, press box or peanut gallery think.  It’s what the guys in the room and the Sharks “brass” think that matters.

The realities are:

  • Sharks lost Vlasic and the remaining defensive corps could not contain the Kings
  • The team stopped playing Sharks system
  • Sharks scoring dried up/Quick got hot
  • Exhaustion? Push to make playoffs, #2 division finish, compressed schedule due to Olympics (Mental and/or physical)
  • The Kings are a very good team

Is the fix to the problem merely “between the ears?” Or new personnel?

Or both?

With a summer of dealing with the fall out of the first round loss, that’s a lot of time to contemplate the pain from the loss, fix any resulting “issues,” and to set one’s resolve to not see that happen again.  (A new captain and alternates may help with that with new voices leading the team.)

Based one of Doug Wilson’s favorite books, it sounds like a new “bus driver”/captain is needed, and where folks sit “on the bus” needs to change, as well as some of who are on the bus.

Some of the less effective players are off the bus with the departure of Boyle and Havlat.  (That’s not to say they won’t be effective for their new teams, but they no longer fit with what the Sharks needed/wanted. Just like Clowe and Murray.)

If you think that Thornton or Marleau should be replaced on the ice by better players, pray tell, who?  They are some of the most offensively productive players in the league, even if they don’t get the headlines of Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and Stamkos. If the Sharks did choose to trade them away, and the guys waived their no-movement clauses, it is highly unlikely the Sharks would be able to acquire similarly effective players. And it’s unlikely the Sharks will be drafting from the first row any time soon for a replacement.

So now the team is providing opportunities for younger players, and the team has said there are no guaranteed roster spots. It will be merit and skills, not tenure nor salary/contract that will determine if a player is on the NHL roster at the start of the season (or in the AHL or traded/waived). And that competition will extend to roles or pairing/lines.

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening.

Why should you want to know?
Why are you obsessed with fighting
Times and fates you can’t defy?
If you knew the path we’re riding,
You’d understand it less than I.
— Jesus Christ Superstar (Tim Rice)

Isn’t that as it should be? Making it public that the NHL roster will be up for full competition just puts all the players on notice they cannot “sit on their laurels” or “assume” they have a place on the opening night roster.

I’m expecting this upcoming training camp to be one of the most physical ever.  No “half speed” scrimmages nor “don’t mean anything” preseason games.  It may be “playoff intensity” for those in camp, wanting to ensure they are on the opening night roster.

So what if John Scott, noted enforcer, is on the training camp roster.  That is no guarantee that he’ll be on the opening night roster, nor that he’ll be in the line up any night of the regular season.

What of this path the Sharks are on?  Are they pretenders or contenders for the Stanley Cup? Contenders in my book.

From a distance, I’m seeing that these public gesturings and sentiments are (attempting) to change the external expectations (of pundits and fans). (But based on the current headlines, I don’t think those expectations have been significantly changed.)

The Sharks may need to pop the balloon of expectations filled with hot air and descend to the depths of the standings to sink way beneath the surface to then explosively display it’s status as an apex predator and attack from that depth with deadly consequences for their prey.

What you see ain’t what you get

I don’t think that the “NHL roster” players as signed today and in the organization is the list that will start the season for the Sharks.

Possible opening roster based on players in the organization as of today looks like, with cap space of about $6m available:

Goalies: Niemi, Stalock

Defense: Braun, Burns, Demers, Hannan, Irwin, Tennyson, Vlasic

Forwards:    Brown, Burish, Couture, Desjardins, Hertl, Kennedy, Marleau, Nieto, Pavelski, Scott, Sheppard, Thornton, Torres, Wingels

Some pundits have Mueller making the NHL at 19 (over Tennyson) in the defensive corps. And there are rumors that the Sharks have Niemi on the block.

But I think the majority of changes may be in the forwards.

Little has been heard or said about Burish, Kennedy, and Torres this off season regarding their future with the team.  Two missed a majority of the season with injury, proving the Sharks might not need them for the future, and they are among the “veterans” of the team who might want “out” during a “rebuild”.  And Kennedy seemed to be the odd man out in the playoffs. (Torres has a modified NTC.)  (Hertl and Nieto are still waiver exempt; but I do expect them to start the season on the NHL Roster.)

And there are some teams (including Chicago and Philadelphia) which may be seeking cap relief and the Sharks could be a trading partner.  And some rumored “get me outtahere” players, like Winnipeg’s Kane or Toronto’s Reimer, that might also be targeted by the Sharks.

Sharks may also risk some older players on waivers if they don’t fit the desired NHL roster requirements and either lose them for nothing, or get limited cap relief as they play in the AHL.

But unlike some teams, the Sharks do not “leak” trade interests, so it may be an unlikely move or three that helps form the opening night roster.  So anything and everything here is total speculation. YMMV

(And Geraldine with her boyfriend Killer may still be looking for something entertaining to watch at the start of the season.)