Ray Ratto

Ratto: Prescription for what ails Sharks


Ratto: Prescription for what ails Sharks


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- We know what youre thinking. We always know what youre thinking, because you always think the same thing.

Fire the general manager. No, fire the coach. No, trade the following players who have offended me.

See? I told you.

But in plowing through the Sharks remains after another playoff expiration, the true frustration reveals itself in the following truths:

1. The Vancouver Canucks were a better team.
2. This was, give or take a game, as good as the Sharks could do. Again.
3. All the players you hate cant be moved.

Now theres something to make hope spring eternal for you.

Vancouver had all the known Sedins, which was a sufficient problem in and of itself. But if truth be told (and frankly, why start now?), it was the extra parts the Canucks had that truly explained the reason why the series lasted only five games.

RELATED: RATTO: Sharks' season ends nobly, but harshly

What the Sharks didnt have, and what ultimately got them on the wrong side of the Canucks, was defenseman Alexander Edler, and left wing Chris Higgins, and defenseman Christopher Tanev, and center Maxim Lapierre, and winger Raffi Torres. A smooth puck-handling defenseman who could spring an attack ... a grungy corner man who never lost a battle when he really needed to win one, an extra defenseman who was more asset than detriment, an agitating centerman, and an ultra-agitating, well, agitator.

The Sharks could come close to recreating Henrik Sedin as long as Joe Thornton was healthy. When Patrick Marleau was scoring, which he was in the conference final, he was Alexandre Burrows. When Dan Boyle was the Dan Boyle of old, he was Kevin Bieksa -- except, of course, for the skillful adaptation to the presentation of good fortune in the second overtime Tuesday.

But Ryane Clowe didnt win the battles Higgins did, and Jason Demers didnt play so he could learn a few tricks from watch Edler, and Scott Nichol and Joe Pavelski werent close to being as usefully annoying as Lapierre, and Kent Huskins didnt fit in for Demers as well as Tanev did for Aaron Rome, and no Sharks did what Torres did, though Ben Eager certainly tried the best he could.

In short, San Jose was short. In getting less than full measure from Clowe (injured), Joe Pavelski (save that great dive and flick to Devin Setoguchi in Game 5), Setoguchi (save taking that flick and scoring the tying goal in Game 5), Dany Heatley (who had looked sharp against Los Angeles but faded with every passing game after that), Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood (who went as Pavelski went), they didnt have the cards to play a full hand against a team that did, and did.

Some may suggest that a healthy Thornton might have changed all that, but the Sharks lost Games 1 and 2 with him at full pace, and thats not to say he didnt play a full captains games. He was as good as he has ever been, and won over most of his long-running Canadian skeptics.

RELATED: Sharks fall short, Canucks claim series with 2OT triumph

In addition, Marleau, who had been largely inert through most of the first two series, earned his pay packet against Vancouver as he had a year ago against Chicago in the Sharks last conference final finale. Clowe and Pavelski will probably given passes, and Logan Couture, whose own series was less than exemplary, was asked to perform one of two unfair tasks for a rookie -- deal with the Sedins or deal with the Ryan Kesler line.

As for what comes next, that will be handled during Thursdays post mortem. Doug Wilson, whose job is safe, will speak of the season (probably in glowing terms), Todd McLellan (who job is just about as safe as Wilsons) will be a bit more measured, and the players themselves will lament another lost opportunity while praising each other for going as far as they did.

All the safe routes. Vancouver was better. San Jose wasnt going any further. But substantive changes will be hard to come by. Heatley has three years and 19 million left on his deal, and would be hard to deal even if he would accept a trade, which he doesnt have to. He'll need to gear up for an arduous summer if he plans to be more of a factor next spring than he was in this one. Setoguchi could be moved, but the return might not be sufficient. Wellwood and Ian White are also restricted free agents, and the Sharks dont have the cap room to absorb them all, even if they wanted to.

The Sharks need some change in their room, but the central core of seven players (Thornton, Marleau, Boyle, Heatley, Couture, Pavelski and Clowe) seem inviolable. Tinkering at the edges is the most that can be expected here, while they wait and watch Vancouver do with the springboard the Sharks gave them what Chicago did a year ago.

San Jose? Just the 27th to fall, again. They are right to feel vaguely unsatisfied.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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.


Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?


Who is now the Warriors' biggest rival?

Earlier we discussed how the Golden State Warriors have seemingly moved beyond hating on NBA officials (three technical fouls in 18 days is a stunning reversal of their formerly disputatious form), but we may have forgotten one new reason why they have found a more Buddhist approach to the cutthroat world of American competitive sport.

They lack someone new to hate.

Their much-chewed-upon rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers actually lasted two years, and now the Clippers are busy trying to prevent military incursions into their locker room from the Houston Rockets. Their even more famous archrivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to be imploding – with the total connivance of the Cavs themselves – before our eyes. Even cutting off their hot water made them laugh when two years ago not letting the Warriors' wives get to the game on time torqued them mightily.

And since we know that you locals desperately need a bête noire for your heroes (even though their biggest foe is actually their own attention spans), let us consider the new candidates.


The Rockets have been among the Warriors’ most persistent contender/pretenders, having faced them in both the first round of the 2017 postseason and the conference finals in 2015. Both ended in 4-1 Warrior wins as part of a greater piece – Golden State is 19-4 against the Rockets in the Warriors’ bad-ass era, 10-2 at home and 9-2 on the road, and has finished an aggregate 59.5 games ahead of the Rockets in the past three and a half years.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include James Harden and Chris Paul, while Rockets fans loathe Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and work their way down from there.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 32,353): 19. The Rockets need to win a playoff series before even matching the Clippers, who as we all know came and went in a moment.


The previous platinum standard in Western Conference basketball, the Spurs have never really gone away, though they have aged. Their pedigree is not in dispute, and Steve Kerr has essentially become the next generation of Gregg Popovich. It is hard to create a rivalry out of such shamelessly mutual admiration.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include . . . uhh, maybe Kawhi Leonard for winning two Defensive Player Of The Year Awards instead of Draymond Green, though that’s not much to go on, frankly. Spurs fans hate Zaza Pachulia for stepping beneath Leonard and ending last year’s series before it started.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 23): 1. If they didn’t have to play against each other, I suspect these two teams would date.


The Thunder’s 3-1 collapse in 2016 is all but ignored now because the Warriors did the same thing one series later, but lifting Kevin Durant was quite the consolation prize for Golden State, and the definitive finger in the eye for the Thunder, who turned their team over completely to Russell Westbrook, for good and ill. Even with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are still trying to relocate their stride.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Westbrook and Anthony for defining the I-need-the-ball-in-my-hands-to-function generation, and owner Clay Bennett for Seattle SuperSonics nostalgics. Thunder frans hate Durant, followed by Durant, Durant, Kim Jong-un, Durant, leprosy, Draymond Green’s foot, and Durant.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 440): 220. Westbrook is a human lightning rod, Anthony is the antithesis of what Warriors now regard basketball (they’d have loved him a quarter-century ago), and Stephen Adams for getting his goolies in the way of Green’s foot. Plus, some savvy Warrior fans can blame OKC for extending their heroes to seven games, thus making the final against Cleveland that much more difficult. This could work, at least in the short term.


Damian Lillard is a much-beloved local. Plus, the Blazers have never interfered in the Warriors’ universe save their 1-8 postseason record. There are no truly hateable players on either side, though Stephen Curry threw his first mouthpiece in Portland, and Green is a perennial.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 1): 0.


The new pretender to throne, with the Eastern Conference’s version of Kerr in Brad Stevens. Even better since taking advantage of Kyrie Irving’s weariness with LeBron James, and until proven otherwise the team the Warriors should most concern themselves with.

Hateable players for Warrior fans include Irving, who made the only shot in the last five minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, while Celtics fans hate Durant for not signing with them.

RIVALRY RATING (out of 67.7): 26, though this will rise if the two teams meet in the Finals. The last time they did, Bill Russell owned basketball.


Still too remote to adequately quantify, though Toronto, Miami and Milwaukee are clearly difficult matches for the Warriors. If you put them together, Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Hassan Whiteside with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe coming off the bench, coached by either Eric Spoelstra or Jason Kidd, would make a fun team for the Warriors to play against. Probably not functional, but fun.

And finally:


Some decade the two teams’ geographical proximity will matter, but for now, they remain essentially two full professional leagues away from each other. We just mentioned them so Kings fans wouldn’t feel any more slighted than they already do.