NHL 2012 Playoffs thus far: brutal. Physically, yes. But more importantly for San Jose Sharks fans, the ghosts of playoffs past seems to be creeping back to haunt us - and that's very brutal in its own right. Yeah, it's been only three games, but we're Sharks fans. It's natural to feel resigned to another Cupless season.
According to reports for Game 4 vs the St. Louis Blues, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has decided to subtract broken-nosed Dominic Moor and inept TJ Galiardi from the lineup for Brad Winchester and Michal Handzus.
It was Michal Handzus that GM Doug Wilson decided to sign instead of Eric Belanger or Jason Arnott - the same Jason Arnott (72 GP, 17 G, 17 A, 34 P in 2012) who scored a power play goal in Game 3 vs the Sharks.
Handzus does have a niche for penalty killing and could very well help out during face-offs. He's strong off the puck and has that imprinted veteran presence. But he's been injured all year and some would even call this, a panic move. Will he make a remarkable difference? San Jose's defense has been Swiss-Cheese and once again that perceived "soft, flat" feeling emanates from the Sharks these playoffs. Handzus is neither a tough-nosed grinder or super flashy.
I turn over to the Pens-Flyers or Bruins-Caps series and I see dynamic energy, attacking hockey, and velocity both defensively and offensively across the ice. This is what the Sharks lacked and have lacked for years.
Who will make the biggest impact tonight in Game 4?
I'm not expecting Handzus to fix all of the Sharks problems. But I do like his talent and what he can do to help out: being a solid skater that can position himself where he needs to be, and a guy who can win pucks. A positive tweak that could affect the rest of his teammates accordingly.
But my point is this: Handzus was one of many choices that hasn't panned out for Wilson. If Handzus fails, as with the rest of the Sharks, we won't have to look too deep to understand why this team cannot get over the hump. Add a system and players that don't gel - additions and subtractions that don't equate to anything, and we have a talented yet inefficient team in the playoffs.
And someone will have to go: whether it be McLellan, Patrick Marleau, or Wilson himself. Someone will have to go. It seems unfair - but the Sharks always seem to be better than what they are, and in looking at it, you've got to say, well, maybe they are exactly what they should be.
Just good enough but not great.
This isn't a woe-is-me type reflection on the Sharks. For me, this is a realistic proposition. It's time to get real. Win or change. Wilson has created a successful franchise that makes me proud to sport my teal. They are contenders for the playoffs - but not much else. I'm grateful, yet, I cringe whenever I see the words Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup Champion. That should be us.
I would say nothing rests on Handzus' shoulders tonight. Then I would say, everything does. A spark to change the series on its head? Or a lackluster strategic choice that will fall flat?
What do you got tonight, Handzus? Hypothetically, the organization's fate is with you.