Ray Ratto

Ratto: Disconnected Sharks


Ratto: Disconnected Sharks

Jan. 14, 2011


Ray Ratto

Five years ago, the San Jose Sharks lost 10 consecutivegames. Three by shutout, seven straight up. And coach Ron Wilson wasnot considered to be in trouble. It was his second year, and DougWilson is not one to fire coaches abruptly.

Thursday, the boys dropped their sixth straight, an embarrassing 5-2diorama to the Edmonton Oilers. They looked as they have looked all toooften this year not quite fully committed, working against each otheras often is concert, and slower than the opponent. Naturally, this has created one of those fire-the-coach moments amongthe fringes of the fan base, one which almost certainly will beresisted by Wilson because he isnt the type to sacrifice Todd McLellanfor expediency.
WATCH: Todd McLellan takes the blame
Unless, of course, Kevin Compton, the teams new capo di tutti capo,wants it done. In which case, well, lets just say that all bets areoff. Not because McLellan should get it, mind you. He has more than provenhis value as a coach, and a kneejerk reaction like a firing, whichhockey people seem to do almost as easily as soccer people do, doesmore damage than it repairs.But there is at least some reason to think that adisconnect between what is and what should be is going on here, onethat isnt merely a matter of We just need to work harder. Indeed,when McLellan threatened to sit a few players (Maybe some of them needto sit and watch for a few games, and Im the coach of this hockeyteam; Im the leader), he made it clear that this is a much biggerdeal than any rogue platitudes.
Nor is it simply a matter of Get rid of Marleau and Vlasic, the twomost common cries from the gallery over beers at (fill in your favoritewatering holes name). Marleau has a no-trade, and Vlasic doesnt havea lot of marketability right now.
NEWS: NHL headlines
In short, the Sharks are stuck, prevented from making any substantivemoves, either through skilled negotiation or mad panic. If they arebeing held back by their attitudes, they have to change that on theirown, based on being tired of being the 11th best team in theconference. If they are being held back by their physical limitations,they have to figure out a way to work around them. To the naked eye, they simply look like a slower team across the board.They cant keep up with Vancouver, the fastestmost skilled team, andeven Edmonton with its parade of younguns flew past them as thoughthey were traffic cones.
REWIND: Hapless Sharks drop sixth straight
This is a problem because players who get slower dont typically getfaster again. Thats what the commitment to players like TorreyMitchell and Jamie McGinn was about, and they havent created enoughhavoc with their speed to make a significant difference. In addition, Dan Boyle as the only defenseman who consistently playsbetter than a No. 5 isnt working at all. Vlasic is maddeninglyinconsistent, and rarely a difference-maker; frankly, the excuse thathe misses Rob Blake on and off the ice has outgrown its value, and heneeds to become one of two things a real No. 2, or someone elsesproblem. Wilson said when last season ended that this teams window ofopportunity would remain open for another three to four years, and hemay yet be correct. But they dont look convinced, and neither doesanyone else. They are now being spoken of in the past tense, and ifthat seems premature, there is only the one way to prove it.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about


The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.


This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.


This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.


There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills


NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.