As faithful FTF readers may notice, I haven't written much this summer. With many things occupying my daily schedule, not the least of which is the birth of our new son last week, I had to step away from blogging.
As I reevaluated my time commitments for the upcoming season, I realized I wouldn't have the time it takes to be a regular contributor here. So in a way, this is my "retirement" piece.
And with that, I'd like to use this chance to thank you all for putting up with me during the couple of seasons I've been contributing here. I don't always write using correct English. I have Russian agenda. But this community has been terrific and the only reason why I was here to begin with. You always read our nonsense. But even better - you're always willing to agree or disagree with our view and leave a multitude of comments. Reading your responses on this blog has been just as fun as writing for it. I've also met many of you in real life at FTF Night at the Tank, at Sharks games, and at team practices.. Fear the Fin became my hockey family. Thank you for that!
And special thanks goes to the founders of this blog and our spiritual leaders, Jason Plank and Matthew Taylor, for allowing me to be a part of the FTF crew. Two of the coolest guys I've met in my life.
Now that we have this out of the way, let me get into the meat of what's coming up ahead. August is still the slowest sports month of the year, but it's almost over. The camp will be here before we know it.
Those of you who go to Captain's Ice know that half the team is already here and skating. I attended the skate on Tuesday. On the ice, among others, were Brent Burns, Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton, Jason Demers, Antti Niemi, Patrick Marleau and Frazer McLaren. More are arriving in the next couple of weeks.
Don't know about you, but I'm counting the days till the hockey is back. As I think about the upcoming season, here are my top eight reasons why I am excited about it and why this may be the greatest season in team's history.
8. Colin White. What would that be like to have second Douglas Murray on the team? Like this.
7. California Division Games. With LA Kings making moves that turned them into a "Win Now" mode, and the Ducks still being a playoffs team, the Battle of California might just be the best one ever this season. The Sharks will play in 12 of those games.
6. New Rivalry with Minnesota Wild. With all the exchanges between the two teams, new rivalry is born. November 10th is the first game between the two teams, when the Wild visits the Sharks. One of the biggest games at that point in the season.
5. New Prospect Emerging. No matter how stacked the team is, every year San Jose Sharks manage to bring up a prospect no one has ever heard of and make him a permanent addition to the team. In 2006, it was Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe. In 2007, it was Torrey Mitchell. In 2008, it was Jamie McGinn. In 2009 it was Jason Demers who was followed by Justin Braun last year. Who's turn is it next?
4. The Return of Nabby. All signs point to the return of Evgeny Nabokov to the NHL, as he poised to play for New York Islanders this season. Sharks visit the Islanders on October 29 - what a game that will be if Nabby is back in the net. For all that he did to the Sharks organization, I hope he helps his team reach the playoffs.
3. Martin Havlat. When writing about the changes Doug Wilson did this summer, most focused on Brent Burns, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. Not much has been written about Martin Havlat's arrival. If Havlat stays healthy, he may become the biggest story of the Sharks season on offense. Also, when was the last time the Sharks had a player on their roster with this kind of hands? If certain Sergey, Igor and Alexander are taken out of the equation, never.
2. Brent Burns. Remember how the arrival of Brian Campbell changed the speed and the IQ of this team? The same happened when Dan Boyle arrived to replace him (plus, turns our Boyle can also play a bit of defense). Boyle is a player who can change the flow of the game. The Sharks still have him, but they also now have Brent Burns, the same type of player, with the same level of skills, but younger and bigger.
1. Doug Wilson's rebuilt. As of today, the Sharks still have $3.2M remaining in cap space. The roster is not complete, but with the remaining free agents, he may be done until later in the season. By moving some of the key players for other all-star players, he was sending the statement that time to win the Stanley Cup is now. It is this season. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are no longer young. There might be a lockout next season. Wilson is putting all chips on the table, but with cap space, he likely isn't done. What else is he going to do?
.. Only 43 more days