On May 14th, the Sharks held their free-to-the-public annual event entitled "State of the Sharks." Sharks ownership was represented by Greg Jamieson, management by Doug Wilson, coaching by Todd McLellan, and players by Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Joe Pavelski.
I attended the event and asked the panelists a question in the 43rd minute of the event. But, we were warned to prepare more than one question in case someone before us asked our primary question.
I brought seven.
Below are the questions I actually asked, the answers I got, and an analysis of how comprehensive and accurate the response was.
Q: What do we have to do to get Thornton to play angry all the time?
I asked this question because in the first four games of the series, Joe played as his usual cool self, and he had two points. In Game Five, he came out chirping at and challenging Ryan Getzlaf. He was part of every Sharks goal in their 3-2 OT victory.
The lesson: "Joe Cool" might have been great behind center with the San Francisco Forty-Niners, but he is not good at center for the San Jose Sharks. The NHL playoffs are emotional, and the players who generally do best are as well.
A: Joe said he thought he had played pretty well in the first three games, and that there are so many emotional ups and downs in the playoffs that one has to stay on an even keel. Then he contradicted the last part of that statement by saying after playing poorly in Game Four, he wanted to let the guys know he was not going to let them down, and came out with more passion—resulting in better play.
Q: Might the team have been overconfident, given they were playing the team with the worst record in the playoffs?
I cheated and led my question with this thought, contrasting it with a woman two questions earlier who asked what the team needed to be more confident. (If winning the President's Trophy and beating your foe in four of six regular season games is not enough to make them confident, what would be?)
To back up my point, I referred to Thornton's comment after the Sharks had only two goals in about 80 shots in the first two games, in which he said all they had to do was keep doing what they were doing and they would be successful.
"I kinda go back to (Albert) Einstein's definition of insanity...keep doing the same things, and you'll get a different result."
A: Not having worded this as a question, it was not directly answered. However, all the players were shaking their heads at my suggestion, and McLellan later suggested that a lack of confidence could be due to late season struggles.
Still, a team that is consistently out-worked on the ice is either over-confident or lazy. Anaheim outworked the Sharks in every game but Game Three, getting to the loose pucks, sprawling to get a stick on the puck, as Bobby Ryan did on one of his goals, and maintaining intensity whether winning or losing.
Every time the Sharks gained a lead, they got too comfortable.
- In Game Three, every Sharks goal was answered except the last, including one (the second) just 103 seconds later.
- In Game Five, the Sharks held a 2-0 lead going into the third period on a 29-13 edge in shots, then gave up two goals in the first five minutes of overtime to blow the lead. During those five minutes, eight of 10 shots attempted and five of six on goal belonged to Anaheim—that is a lack of intensity.
- After the Shark wins in Games Three and Five, they came out with their two worst performances of the playoffs—the only two in which they gave up four goals, two of the three in which they failed to score two goals, and the only two margins larger than two goals all series by either team.
This screams overconfidence, a problem I have been complaining about ever since the fourth game of the season. The fact that they do not see it is frankly disconcerting.
I debated all Spring with other Sharks fans who did not think the problems I pointed out were sufficient for concern, but I still need more from players, coaches, and management. I am sick of talking about what is wrong every May.
In my next installment, I will go over the five questions I did not present and write about any discussion on the topics from others who asked them or similar questions.