Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We're Out, But At Least We Didn't Think Joe Thornton Was The Answer...

A week ago, life on the outside was a lonely place. Us, Columbus and St. Louis, not exactly the company we thought we'd be keeping. But as the week wore on, we were able to greet (and taunt) new groups of fans, something that brought us (and will continue to bring us great comfort, however empty some will tell us that it is.

On the weekend, the Broad Street Braggarts were ejected to a synchronous cheer from everyone who cares about hockey but doesn't live in that corner of Pennsylvania. And yesterday it was the Calgary Flames and the San Jose Sharks.

What brings greatest pleasure, or perhaps solace is the more appropriate term, is that though building around Carey Price has not been the answer, nor has fashioning a complement for Mike Richards and his first 26-game superstar mirage partner Jeff Carter. Having Rick Nash does not save you anymore than having Alexei Kovalev does. Joe Thronton is not an answer, nor is having 2 big centres (not on its own, anyway).

All 5 of these teams will be feeling disappointment, just like we do. 2 more will join in tomorrow. Whereas, we were prepared and only had to deal with the pop from a bubble with a mere week's worth of hope inflating it; fans in San Jose are once again left in the tricky position of questioning their perfect franchise model, fans in Philly must be wondering why their built-for-playoff players can't score on Marc-Andre Fleury and Calgary has lost another Jarome Iginla year.

San Jose must be the worst of these. Back in January you couldn't turn on a computer without having to sit through or listen to accounts of San Jose's brilliance. This year they had got it right. Marleau was back on track, Thornton was still the best passer in the universe; their defence was impenetrable and Nabokov was avoiding his odd numbered off-year. Even back in January, though, people knew that as impressive as 5 losses to that point was, the Sharks might still be the more likely of any two teams to lose 4 of 7 just like all those times before.

And frankly, where can San Jose go from here. Every year they come in as dark horse favourites. Every year they don't disappoint in the regular season. How can a team evaluate their own playoff holes when the players refuse to play anything but top-notch hockey until April. On a normal team, you can run some tests, take a few losses and send the player back to the minors when it doesn't work. On the Sharks, sure you can jettison a few pieces, but the problem with their experiment is that it takes a year to get any meaningful results.

If you though Bob Gainey's job was going to be hard, spare a thought for Doug Wilson.

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