This is the follow-up question on the lack of objectivity in the organisation; for part one, see my companion piece on Shark-Infested Blogger. As always, my contributions to the interview are in italics, and Mr. Hahn's responses in regular type.
There also was some defensiveness throughout the organisation about the play of Joe Thornton in the first round, talking about contributing in ways that don’t show up on the statsheet: defensive responsibilities, big faceoffs...And of course he was, to me, one of the two or three best players in the second and third round.
But in the first round he had only two real assists, with the third one coming on an empty-net goal, he had the worst plus-minus (rating), and he was only third among the centres in faceoffs. So, it seemed to me that the organisation, coaching staff...was very defensive with the scrutiny that he got.
How realistic do you think it is for the expectations on a team’s best player to be higher than the way he performed in the first round? Or do you really think that it’s a matter of fans not really being able to see, things that are maybe a little less apparent—the little things in the game?
Well, I think it’s a combination of things. I mean, if you’re a professional hockey coach and you’re breaking down tape, you’re breaking down play after play and looking at scenario after scenario on a daily basis as a part of your job, and when the playoffs come, you know, that scrutiny of every play your team makes is even elevated, you’re obviously gonna see things that the average fan who’s just watched the game once, and even went back and watched it a second time on tape or DVR, whatever, and of course, you’re a professional coach: You’re trained to see and observe things in a different way than a fan will see it.
The other side of it is (that) it’s a team game, and you talk about Joe’s lack of points. Well you know, Joe doesn’t get an assist unless one of his wingers scores.
So, you know, I think you need to go back if you’re gonna criticise Joe, and say was he really bad? Or did his wingers just not score? You know, did he put them in situations to score and they just didn’t come through? Or was Curt—Craig Anderson just unbelievable, which we know he was?
Obviously I like hockey games that have goals. You know, you like to see scoring, because it’s interesting, it’s more exciting. I’d rather watch a 5-4 game than a 2-1 game for the most part. But I don’t mind watching a 2-1 game if there’s a lot of chances.
So you have to go back and look at the body of work in Joe’s sense and say, did he create a lot of chances? You can only ask him to create chances for his wingers.
Because Joe’s a passer, not a scorer by trade: He never has been and he’s never made himself out to be (a scorer). He’s a playmaker, he’s a guy that makes the players around him better.
So the question you have to ask as you look at things is did Joe do all he could to put his wingers in a position to score? And whether it was Heatley, who didn’t score in the early parts, or at all in the Colorado series?
You know sometimes when he had other wingers up there with him, nobody was really scoring on that line, and was that a function of the scorers not getting the job done, or Joe?
Now, speaking to your other, broader point, the players that wear the Sharks jersey, they’re Sharks players. I just don’t think that you can honestly ask coaches and general managers and even broadcasters who work for that same organisation to be openly critical of the players. They’re our guys, we (have) their back.
And it doesn’t always go well, and sometimes there are struggles and guys don’t play as well they want to. Sometimes we know about injuries they have and we can’t say anything.
And even though they’re playing poorly, we know they’re playing hurt, and we might even know what the injury is, but we can’t say it on TV. So many mitigating factors go into this, but at the end of the day, hockey organisations are always going to be protective of their own players for a number of reasons:
One, they’re your guys. You wanna have their back. You want them to know that come Hell or high water, you’re gonna back them when they play for your team.
And the other side of it is it doesn’t make very much sense if you’re planning perhaps in the future to maybe trade a player, bad-mouth him while he’s with your team. What does that say to everybody that might want him?
So there’s so many things that go into it, but more than anything else, if the Sharks organisation seems defensive about protecting Joe Thornton, I don’t think they would be different about any other player.
It’s their guy, their player, he happens to be one of our best players, and his body of work in his career has been phenomenal. It hasn’t been as good in the playoffs as Joe or maybe anyone else would like it, but I thought this year he made tremendous strides in that area, you know, how to adapt his game to the playoff-style.
But at the end of the day, teams are going to back their players and they’re gonna support their people in their organisation, and in my view, that’s the way it should be. It’s not their job to rip their own people.