In mulling over last night's sixty minute horror show otherwise known as the Sharks humiliating themselves against the Red Wings, a quote from a recent article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal comes to mind. Her writing has nothing to do with sports, and no I'm not trying to interject politics here as this blog has and will have nothing to do with that. But enough preamble; here's the quote. Note the theme:
I'm not sure it's always good to grow up surrounded by stability, immersed in affluence, and having had it drummed into you that you are entitled to be a member of the next leadership class. To have this background in the modern era is to come from a ghetto, the luckiest ghetto in the world, a golden ghetto beyond whose walls it can be hard to see. There's much to be said for suffering, for being on the outside or the bottom, for having to have fought yourself up and through. It can leave you grounded. It can give you real knowledge not only of the world and of other men but of yourself. In some ways it can leave you less cynical. (Not everything comes down to money.) And in some ways it leaves you just cynical enough.
The Sharks are loaded with extremely talented players. Joe Thornton. Jonathan Cheechoo. Patrick Marleau. Milan Michalek. There is no denying the skill level of Los Tiburones de San José ranks among the very best in the NHL. If not the best.
So why aren't they winning at an equivalent rate?
The reason is maddeningly simple. Far too often, the Sharks as a group play like an individual whose brain power allowed them to float through school, armed with sufficient ability to turn it on and off as the situation dictated. Test coming up? Okay, no big. While everyone else was cramming and sweating, they'd be at the movies courtesy of a deserved self-confidence level that all they'd need to do is flip a switch and ace the thing. However, the moment they leave that school environment and have to compete with people in the real world, they collapse like a brick house built under the assumption since the bricks were fairly hefty in their composition using mortar to hold them together was overkill.
The Sharks can sleepwalk through a lot of teams and get away with it because they're that much more accomplished. However, the moment they encounter a team that not only doesn't take any shifts off but plays with physical tenacity, they disappear. It's not that San Jose is incapable of playing hard-nosed hockey. They have more than sufficient size and strength to out-muscle most any team in the league. Rather, they can't be bothered. Why should they? They can simply kick it up a gear and via sheer skill alone dazzle those other guys into submission. Right? Uh... right?
Well, no. And until this team either learns this lesson once and for all -- you'd think three straight years of melting in the playoffs would be enough, but apparently not -- or has its roster shaken up by bringing in enough players whose bench companion is a lunchpail as opposed to a hand mirror, this is going to continue.