Sharks Gameday: JR Is The Best, And Some Q&A With Second City Hockey

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4:00 PM PST
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14-4-3, 31 points 11-5-2, 24 points
1st in Western Conference
3rd in Western Conference
Television
NHLN-CA, CSN-CA (HD)
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Second City Hockey
Chicago Tribune

You're not getting much from me today in terms of original material, but I want to take the time to thank Jeremy Roenick for all that he brought to this organization during his two years with the team. A class act with San Jose, his presence both on and off the ice have, and will continue to be, missed. Enjoy your Heritage Night ceremony sir-- you've earned each and every second of it. I'm unbelievably ecstatic that you continue to offer up the most straightfromyourheart answers out of any professional athlete in the spotlight today. In response to number two seven being raised to the rafters in Chicago you said:

"Absolutely, I don't see why it shouldn't... When you see that number with the jersey I personally don't think there's anything else anybody ever thinks about except my name associated with that number. In Chicago, at least, 27 symbolizes Jeremy Roenick and I hope it stays that way forever."

-"Chicago Blackhawks to honor Jeremy Roenick" by Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune

You are pure gold Mr. Roenick. Pure gold.

For any new readers, check out "The Ballad of Jeremy Roenick" for a rundown of his top five moments with the San Jose Sharks. Feel free to leave your own memories in the comments.

*****

Second City Hockey and I have had a good working relationship over the last two years, and this season they've extended another invite to take part in their pre-game publication The Committed Indian. Mike Chen of BoC also answered questions, so please be sure to purchase a copy if you are headed to the game (FTF over/under is set at two copies, and I'm taking the over-- you know who you are). Here's a transcript of my portion of the Q&A and, as always, be sure to check out their site during, before, and after the tilt. Good guys, funny guys, informative guys, and one helluva offseason coming up for them kinda guys. What is there not to love?

Committed Indian: Does anything that happens in the regular season matter in the least to Sharks fans this year?

Mr. Plank: On the first day of the regular season I wrote a piece that essentially said, "Enjoy the ride", and I think we’ve done a really good job of that thus far. If you’re going to invest hours upon hours of your time following the team, you’re doing a disservice to yourself by looking forward to the future and say that’s all that matters. I find a lot of happiness in what the Sharks do in the regular season, and while it may be a form of self preservation, it’s basically all we’ve had to fall back on in recent years. No sense in depriving ourselves of that.

Are the playoffs the ultimate measuring stick for this team? Of course, and they should be. It’s obvious that has been a huge roadblock since the lockout. But at the end of the day you have to take what you get, and right now it’s November and we’re getting regular season hockey. And that’s what I’m going to focus on.

CI: What are the early returns on Dany Heatley?

Plank: Impressive. Last night he had one of the best goals all year, taking a hot pass from Dan Boyle off his skate [Ed. Note: upon further review, it doesn't look like he took it off his skate-- regardless, this was awesome], pivoting to face the net, and roofing it far side top corner from about five feet out. Goals like that make you realize what a special player he is.

Along with his offensive skills, McLellan has been plugging him into shorthanded situations as well. That’s something that was a knock against him when he came over from Ottawa, and while he’s never going to compete for the Selke, it’s a nice addition to his game.

The only drawback with Heatley is his massive cap hit-- $7.5 M over the next five seasons. Nabokov and Marleau are up for unrestricted free agency this upcoming offseason, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi are restricted, and Joe Thornton will be [a UFA] the following year. It’s going to be hard to keep all of those players under contract, and my guess is that Nabokov is let go barring a hometown discount. San Jose isn’t in Chicago territory yet, but there’s a lot of similarities in salary structure and difficult contract decisions amongst the two organizations.

CI: Doug Wilson turned over the bottom two lines this season, how does that look so far?

Plank: Excellent. The big difference this year has been players taking an active interest in their roles. Scott Nichol has done an excellent job of bringing an agitator role to San Jose, drawing penalties at a healthy clip. Three newcomers (Ortmeyer, Nichol, Malhotra) have done a bang up job on the penalty kill, which is a large part of why the team currently has the second-best shorthanded unit in the league behind your Chicago Blackhawks. Throwing the body around on the forecheck, cycling the puck—it’s the definition of what lower lines are meant to be.

They’ve also found a way to get generate scoring opportunities and put the puck in the net. Can’t ask for much more from that group.

CI: You guys are getting solid contributions from rookies Jason Demers and Benn Ferreiro.  Talk about their games a little bit.

Plank: Benn Ferriero has actually been sent down to Worcester after a hot preseason and beginning of this year, with Jamie McGinn being called up in his place. McGinn has been stellar, and has all of the tools to become a 25-30 goal scorer down the road. A big body who can grind in the corners and throw his weight around, a nice long skating stride with good mobility, and terrific hands (he had one whale of a beaut three games ago against Nashville). He definitely has a bright future ahead of him, and I’d probably let him hook up with my girlfriend as long as he said please.

Jason Demers reminds me a lot of Dan Boyle in the fact that he likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone when the opportunity arises. He enjoys getting creative as well, but does run into some trouble in the defensive zone when he tries to force a pass— nearly once a game he’ll make an ill-advised breakout pass and give opposing teams a good scoring opportunity. That being said, he’s a rookie and correcting that will come with time. He and Huskins have done all they needed to do and more.

CI: We know Patrick Marleau is a free agent after the year and if things go tits up in the spring he'll get the door.  But if things don't work out once again, don't some serious questions have to be asked of Joe Thornton?

Plank: It’s funny, because I think a lot of the blame in San Jose gets unfairly placed on both of those players. Patrick Marleau is tops in the league since the lockout in both goals and game-winning goals, and Joe Thornton is currently 16th on the league-wide list of playoff scorers in that same time frame. A lot of that "playoff choker" criticism stems from his days in Boston.

That being said, Thornton’s affable style can rub fans the wrong way at times. At Fear The Fin we classify him into two personas—Regular Joe and Angry Joe. Angry Joe is a motherfucker who’ll steal candy from a kid if it means that he’ll give his team a better chance to win. When that beast is unleashed he’s nearly impossible to stop. We need more Angry Joe, because although he’s performed marginally well during the postseason, he’s never stood up and put the team square on his shoulders. It’s hard to do that when you’re primarily a pass-first guy, but he needs to find a way to be able to be a goal scoring threat.

CI: Can Evgeni handle the heavy workload he seems to be headed towards this year?

Plank: It’s definitely a question we’ve kicked around on Fear The Fin quite a bit since the beginning of this year, and I think the community is split down the middle on how McLellan has handled him thus far. I’ve been a big proponent of getting Thomas Greiss more looks due to the aforementioned contract status of Nabokov, along with Nabby’s increasing age and the fact that he will likely play for Team Russia in this year’s Winter Olympics.

I haven’t been terribly pleased with his workload, and think it may pose some problems going forward, but Nabokov has played extremely well thus far. It’s been hard to put him on the bench.

*****

Prediction: Sharks win 5-4. Goals by McGinn (x4) and Ortmeyer. Jeremy Roenick is the man. Less prediction, more fact.

 

Go Sharks.

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