Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sharks Next Step... "Rejoice"?

A wise man once quoted a wise man who said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

This statement fits well with the situation the Sharks GM, Doug Wilson, is in. He has assembled a team of skilled players with a healthy mix of young and old, speedy and tough(ish). Perhaps the 2007-2008 team might have benefited from a few players who had actually won Stanley Cups, but perhaps not. Regardless of what the change is, Wilson will hopefully be looking to bring some form of change to a franchise that has gotten close, but not close enough in the last few seasons.

This being said, let's revisit a post here from April 21:

Hail/Hire/Fire (?) Coach Wilson

Just frustrating. Not Exciting, not titillating, not nerve-racking, just frustrating that the Sharks and Flames will square off in a potentially epic (as are all of them) game 7 Tuesday night.

Let's revisit for a second the Sharks path to get here...

Three seasons ago: Facing a fairly solid, and extremely chippy Flames team, the Sharks get pushed around and eliminated.

Two seasons ago: Matched up against a less talented Oilers team, the Sharks get pushed around and eliminated... again.

Last season: 30 seconds away from a 3-1 2nd round series lead, the Sharks give up a game-tying goal to the Red Wings. One overtime goal and two listless games later, their season's over.

This season: Facing yet another not quite as talented opponent, the Sharks thus far have put up in order... a bad game, a good game, a bad game, a good game and then a bad game. Should the fans be excited for the aforementioned game 7 or should they wonder what's going on?

If you run with the assumption that the Sharks are more talented than Calgary, then you should say that they simply need to work as hard as the Flames to win the series. Given that the first six games of the series have been a "good Shark, bad Shark" story, the question has to be asked of why that's the case. Why can a talented team be up one game and then down another... and thus far, not learn from, but keep repeating the cycle?

Personally, I would look at the coaching.

If you look a couple of years back at the playoff eliminations against first the Flames and then the Oilers, the Sharks got taken out by physical play... fine, maybe that's a case of players, but maybe it's coaching.... tough to say. What isn't tough to say, though, is that last season against the Red Wings, the Sharks gave up a big game-tying goal. The disconcerting thing about that wasn't that they gave up the goal itself, but rather that once the goal was given up, things were game over. We heard from Coach Ron Wilson that two veteran players screwed up and were responsible. What didn't seem to happen, though, was for the Sharks to pull themselves AFTER the goal, or even after the lose in the following game. Players have to play the game (and ultimately determine who wins or loses), but the coach has to work with the collective psyche of the team.

Now, we're at this year... a whole new season. The Sharks are by pretty much all accounts stacked from a lineup perspective, but playing bad/good/bad/good/bad. Again, up to the players to show up, but the coach is supposed to be more than a figurehead. I'm not expecting that the coach should give a "greatest night of our lives" speech prior to each and every game, but c'mon... coaching isn't all just filling out lineup cards and throwing players out there shift after shift. If you've got good players aren't pulling themselves together after big adversity (see: last season) and who can't string together consistent effort (see: this season), one of the only things you can do is look at the leadership they're being provided day after day.

Let's go back for a second to the original notion of this missive. There's a game 7 tomorrow, something that should be exciting and the Sharks will either win or lose. Something that for Sharks supporters should be either thrilling or devestating... depending on of course the outcome.

The problem, though, is it's not exciting... because it's far from certain the Sharks have what it takes over the long haul. The playoffs are tough, there's adversity, there's injuries, and there's tough times. Teams that are gonna win it all have to meet those tough times times and still prevail. What the Sharks have done thus far is sometimes give the effort needed to prevail and sometimes not. What they would need to keep advancing through several rounds, though, is the effort to always be there. Assuming that, then they can work on working through.

If the effort's not there, it's simply not gonna happen. Maybe a game 7 win could come, but the odds of getting through subsequent rounds gets lower and lower. Could be that the effort will kick into high gear starting tomorrow night and then carry forward, but if not, then you have to question why not. That's where questions about Coach Wilson would have to be asked.

Well, at this point, the Sharks are done for the year and questions about Coach Wilson are in fact being asked. When one reporter began posing said questions, here's what the Coach had to say:

"We've achieved more since I've been here than any other team in the league, except win the Stanley Cup. We should be rejoicing."

Yikes... scary.

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