Monday, February 18, 2008

These Sharks are Sunk

It's a sad state of affairs when a Monday morning interconference tilt with the New York Islanders is classified as a must-win, but such is the case today as the Sharks face off against the Isles in the second contest of their eight-game road trip that may define the team going forward as they desperately attempt to keep their heads above water in a Western Conference playoff battle they were supposed to ease their way through.

Pessimism reigns supreme in Sharks Territory at the moment, and it's not just because the team has lost three straight, the last one at Madison Square Garden in particularly listless fashion. No, the Detroit Red Wings have dropped six in a row, which matches Anaheim's skid of a few weeks ago. Unlike the Sharks, however, those teams have shown they can dominate on a consistent basis while San Jose battles tooth and nail to earn two points against even the Chicagoes, Columbuses and St. Louises of the league. The far more troubling statistic is that, since the inception of the new year, San Jose has gone an apalling 1-8 against playoff bound opposition. Sure, they've gone 8-2 against non-playoff teams, but they're not likely to hook up with the Blackhawks or Kings in April (if the Sharks even get that far given the way things are going), are they?

The Sharks' weaknesses were thoroughly exposed yesterday against the Rangers. The only line able to generate any semblance of consistent forechecking pressure was Thornton's unit and, even then, few scoring chances of note were created. Defensively, San Jose was a mess, unable to make a trap-penetrating breakout pass to save their lives. They scrambled around aimlessly in their zone, unable to read the play and pick up the late man, as blatantly demonstrated by Tomas Plihal's horrendous decision to leave Ryan Callahan completely uncovered in the slot on the first Rangers goal. Speaking of Plihal, if he hasn't been shipped on a bus to Worcester by 11 AM Pacific Time this morning, I will be severely dissapointed in the Sharks' organization. The bottom line is, the more I watch this team, the more faith I lose in the chances of improving it through some stop-gap measure at the deadline. The trade dealine may be an optimal way for great teams to push themselves over the top, but at this point, the Sharks are decidedly not a great team. They barely look like a passable team.


--Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks signed 22-year-old defenseman Brent Seabrook to a 3-year, $10.5 million contract with an average annual cap hit identical to that of young Sharks d-man Matt Carle. I'm sorry, but that just doesn't compute. Seabrook is a physical, two-way blueliner oozing with potential who will undoubtedly improve over the course of this deal. Carle, meanwhile, seems to be regressing, turning up one of his worst games of the season yesterday in New York and routinely increasing the probability that his rookie season was nothing more than a fluke. Sure, a sophomore slump isn't entirely unheard of, but Carle has been downright unnoticeable all year long and his contract may render him immobile, especially when weighed against Seabrook's deal.

--Does anyone else think the Red Wings aren't all that secure in their hunt for the President's Trophy that seemed to already have been engraved with their names just weeks ago? They are currently mired in an aforementioned six-game losing streak, their latest loss coming at the hands of the team with the greatest chance of beating them out for the top team distinction, Dallas. The Wings' extended slump also shows the value of forward Dan Cleary, who has missed all but the first two games of Detroit's skid with a broken jaw and was well on his way to a career year before the injury.

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