Still no deal as deadline arrives


Still no deal as deadline arrives

The deadline for a full, 82-game NHL season, as put in place by the league last Tuesday, Oct. 17, has arrived.

Cue the crickets.

There are no talks scheduled for Thursday, or in the immediate future, between the NHL and its players association as the labor dispute drags on. Just as the lockout arrived on Sept. 16 with no fanfare, the latest deadline appears as if it will come and go with no formal announcement.

REWIND: Bettman says full season 'not a reality'

Unless there is a miraculous, last minute deal, games will have to be cancelled permanently and players paychecks will be gone forever. That could come as soon as tomorrow. Also on the chopping block will be the annual Winter Classic, which has become the leagues signature event, and the All-Star Game, which is scheduled to take place in January in Columbus.

Although the league would hate to lose the Winter Classic, which is still on the calendar for Jan. 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium, its been thought that the union could use that date as leverage in negotiations. However, the tedious planning it takes to put on the event, both in terms of logistics of setting up the rink and partnering with HBO for the successful 247 mini-series that typically begins shooting in early December, means time is short.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, appearing at a press conference announcing the New York Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2014, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that it looks like a full-82 game schedule "is not going to be a reality.

The league hoped its proposal last Tuesday, which featured a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue along with various contractual restrictions, would lead to training camp opening on Oct. 26 and the season beginning on Nov. 2. The NHLPA replied two days later with three proposals of its own, offering a gradual reduction of revenue to 50-50, but none of those offers were deemed acceptable by the league.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Wednesday night, and offered up his opinion on the labor dispute when asked by a member of the audience if he could help push the process along.

Every time this happens, I just want to remind the owners and the players, you guys make money because youve got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard, said the President. They buy tickets. Theyre watching on TV.

Yall should be able to figure this out. Get it done.

Thats something every hockey fan, regardless of political affiliation, can agree upon.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


The message for the San Jose Sharks’ prospects was quite clear this offseason.

After general manager opted not to re-sign Patrick Marleau, or sign any free agents of consequence, it was readily apparent the Sharks would need to rely on their young players to fill any holes.

Before the quarter mark of the season, that youth movement is underway. Five first or second-year players will suit up at SAP Center Monday night against Anaheim. 

Partially, the infusion is due to injury, as Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, and Paul Martin are all on the mend. But as the season wears on, the young players’ presence is becoming a necessity. 

Joakim Ryan looks like a natural fit alongside Brent Burns, and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck possession team with him on the ice than when he’s not. Tim Heed leads Sharks defensemen in scoring, and Danny O’Regan assisted San Jose’s lone goal in his season debut on Saturday. 

That assist set up the goal that ended Timo Meier’s drought, and he looks primed to break out: he’s third on the team in five-on-five shots despite playing the ninth-fewest five-on-five minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey.  Kevin Labanc’s cooled off since his scorching start, but is still tied for sixth on the team in scoring and skated on the top line at Monday’s morning skate, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Curtis Pashelka.

There’s still room for improvement, of course. Labanc and Meier could stand to score more, but the same can be said about most everyone else. Ryan’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Burns has struggled plenty of times alongside him, too. 

So the young players are fitting in, even if all of them aren’t necessarily standing out. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

Meier’s the only first-round pick of the lot, but he’s also only been able to legally buy a beer for a month. Ryan and Heed have made the best adjustment, in no small part because they’re the oldest (24 and 26, respectively) of the Barracuda call-ups, and thus have the most professional experience. 

Of course, fitting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, far from ideal, when that’s what many other players on the roster are doing. 

Having all of their young players stand out is what will ultimately make the Sharks stand out from the rest of the pack. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and San Jose’s one of 22 teams separated by six points or fewer. 

And if it doesn’t, the middle of the pack is where the Sharks will remain.


Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.