5th in Northeast Division
14th in Eastern Conference
1st in Pacific Division
2nd in Western Conference
In lieu of the usual pre-game... whatever what I scribble is called, thought I'd answer some questions sent in by PPP of the most excellent Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets about Los Tiburones de San José:
- What was your reaction to the Mark Bell/Toskala Trade? Are you happy that the Sharks kept Nabokov?
Technically, Bell left as a free agent. In either case, he brought nothing to the team last year, so his departure was not lamented.
At first I was not at all happy with the Toskala trade, as I felt between him and Nabokov he was the better goalie of the two. I'm surprised how much he's struggled in Toronto. Nabokov is having a stellar year, so for at least the present it's worked out well. That said, the absence of a proven backup is a concern.
- What have you heard about Logan Couture?
He's a big ornery defenseman. (UPDATE: Actually, as someone was kind enough to point out he's a center who's been compared to Steve Yzerman, and I have no idea who I was thinking of when I write that. Nicholas Petrecki, I guess.) Other than that, not much. Remember, I'm in the San Francisco Bay area. If it's not the Giants or the 49ers, it's a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it as far as the local media is concerned.
- What do you think about the rumours that Benedict Arnold (Curtis Joseph) could sign with the Sharks?
I'm detecting a hint CuJo is viewed in Toronto much the same way Ed Belfour is viewed in San Jose...
Anyway, refer to the first question. Nabokov and the Sharks is very much the same situation you see in the NFL with Brett Farve and the Packers plus Peyton Manning and the Colts along with Tom Brady and the Patriots. If the one player goes down, the team's season is over. From that aspect, a quality veteran backup goalie would bring about some peace of mind. The question is whether Joseph can still play at an acceptable level, which from what I remember of last seeing him with the Coyotes is debatable.
Now, the talk occasionally bandied about that the Sharks are interested in Mats Sundin poses some interesting angles. Toronto would certainly want a couple of young defensemen in return. Would the Sharks be willing to part with Coutere and a Matt Carle or Marc-Edouard Vlasic or Douglas Murray? Would Sundin be worth the asking price? A question which makes me quite thankful I'm not Sharks general manager Doug Wilson!
- What's the deal with the home v. road record?
The best way to answer that is on the road the Sharks play hockey and at home they play hot potato with extra points deducted for taking a shot. They seem to be getting over it, though, so if the trend continues and San Jose starts playing its road game at home Detroit won't have the cakewalk through the Western Conference playoffs they appear to currently claim.
- Any special memories about previous matchups?
Other than the recurring nightmare of overtime in Game Six in the 1994 conference semi-finals when first the Sharks hit the post and then Sandis Ozolinsh had the puck in the slot with CuJo out of position... and passed? No, not really. Well, it's always fun seeing how much raw energy and near-insane enthusiasm Maple Leafs fans who turn out in droves every time they're in town bring. That, and during the Sharks first two years in the league when they played at the Cow Palace in Daly City, every once in a while you'd see Neil Young walking around, completely unbothered by anyone, wearing an old Maple Leafs jersey. That was cool.