Thoughts _ and _ Things

The great Matt_Taylor makes his triumphant_return to FTF (part_time).

Well, I don't really know how to explain this. I rode off into the sunset, extremely happy to bid adieu and never come back again. I used the goodbye as a great ego boost, and flew across the sky like a glorious McGnyan cat powered by rainbow hubris.

But I missed you guys so damn much.

Actually, I missed a place to put down my thoughts. Or, a place to put down my thoughts that were longer than 140 characters. So Neutral reluctantly allowed FTF's worst writer ever to return, tail between my legs, for a column called Thoughts_and_Things (yes, the underscore is read and spoken). Please direct all lawsuits and photos of you and your hot girlfriend to him.

My work life is still extremely crazy, and big responsibilities are on the horizon, but I never realized how much writing at Fear the Fin helped me decompress. And I really did miss all of you. So Thoughts_and_Things is going to help me find a healthy medium between going off the grid completely and being chained like a slave to the comments section. The plan now is to post a column every twelve games or so, that covers a quarter of the Sharks season and any other thing that I want to ramble about. Most times, that's going to be Star Wars.

So, let's give this a shot.

First thing's first. If I'm coming back, I want to say sorry to Kevin Kurz, again, for being a jerk a while back in the comments. Pride myself on being a nice guy, and that was pretty dumb. Cool? Cool.

I'm still on Twitter as @FTFsTCY, but look for me after works hours. I'm also still helping with @FeartheFInGame. But @dogsolutions is the best thing about Twitter, and it's not even close.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>are you redy, 2 see the futuer? take my hand, doeg will take u there.......... <a href="" title="">…</a></p>&mdash; Dog Solution (@DogSolutions) <a href="">January 28, 2013</a></blockquote>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>this pop, is gonna get eeat by the shark?? oh noo, the pup. some1 save. its a fake, the shark is stuffed. u fooled <a href="" title="">…</a></p>&mdash; Dog Solution (@DogSolutions) <a href="">January 23, 2013</a></blockquote>

Because of the nature of this column, I'm going to be playing catch-up on the quarter-or-so of a season prior and some of what I write isn't going to be too relevant anymore. What a shining endorsement to read my work. Maybe it's useful to look at the Sharks season every quarter-mark. Maybe it sucks and my comeback is about as successful as Claude Lemieux's. We'll see.

Since I miss digging up trade rumors, I'll start with that. The name I'm most focused on this season is Stephen Weiss. He's been hurt this year but he's a dependable twenty goal scorer who is almost a lock to be moved. Florida says they want to keep him, but what else are they going to say? Leverage, people.

Why will he get moved? One, Florida is terrible. They weren't great last year either, but they apparently made a deal with Willem Dafoe. Two, Weiss makes a ton of money and will likely command more in the offseason. Florida simply can't pay him. He would look great on the Sharks' second line, and can play in both special teams situations. Great fit.

Weiss is probably the most likely guy, but if we're talking home runs, I'm hoping Phil Kessel continues to get blasted by the media for not scoring goals. Every player goes through cold streaks, but those are magnified to the extreme in a place like Toronto and amplified even further under the pressure of a short season. They'd be crazy-go-nuts to move him, but I'd take him in a heartbeat if he was available. Dreger says it's a possibility, but the asking price will be high.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>"Possibility", but no fire sale. Frankly, doubt it happens this season. Asking price would be at least top 6 and high pick. @<a href="">tsnscottymac</a>.</p>&mdash; Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) <a href="">February 7, 2013</a></blockquote>
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A top six forward, you say?

Speaking of Ryane Clowe... definitely one guy who wishes he was playing better, I can guarantee you that. Neutral and Snark do a great job around here with the #fancystats, and although I am a firm believer in said #fancystats, (and #fancycats) I'm going to leave that conversation to them.

However, Clowe hasn't even passed the eye test this year. I haven't exactly been complimentary of Clowe the last few years, but I can't tell you that I even saw this coming. While his game has been in significant decline the last two years, he only has 5 points (5A) so far in this young season. Yes, that's a .5 point per game clip, but it's less than the .59 per game he scored last year. That was his worst season since 2007-2008. Add into that the fact that he doesn't have a goal yet and you've got some real problems on your hands.

So fine, he's not scoring. But the real issue lies in the penalties. Clowe has always played with a bit of an edge, which I guess has been part of what makes him a fan favorite. He's scrappy (rhymes with...), but that's only effective to a certain extent.

56 penalty minutes. In 10 games. No, his team hasn't been shorthanded for all of those minutes (includes a few misconducts), he's put his team at the disadvantage more often than his "edge" has helped in any measurable way. He's 4th in the league in Penalties Taken/60 minutes (2.8), and near the bottom of the league in Penalties Drawn/60 (0.5). On a side note, Adam Burrish is 2nd in the league when it comes to Penalties Drawn/60, at 3.4, which is very impressive but likely unsustainable.

So the end of this story is you have a player who's expected to be one of your six best forwards, and instead, he's putting you in bad situations nearly every time he's on the ice. During the Vancouver game, it was all too obvious that Alain Vigneault was telling his lower line players to get under Clowe's skin. They did, and he took the bait. If I'm an NHL coach, I'm sending my 4th line up against Clowe and the Sharks with the intent of getting him to take a penalty. Need an offensive jolt? Let'se goade Ryane intoe ae penaltye.

A top six forward shouldn't put you shorthanded as often as Clowe does. While it was cute for a while that he would run anyone who touched Couture, I think we've moved past that. If Clowe wants to be effective, he needs to start scoring again. Goals. Score goals. And to do that, you know, he actually has to be on the ice and out of the box.

It was floated earlier in the season by Pierre LeBrun that Clowe and the Sharks were talking extension. My bet? Those talks have cooled considerably. There is just no way he's earning his contract this year, and I'm guessing that's giving the Sharks front office some pause.

But hey, the Sharks are 7-2-1, and there are plenty of things to be positive about. If you asked me to identify the main reason that the Sharks have been so successful, I'd have to say that it's been the goaltending. Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss have looked fantastic so far. Even when the Sharks haven't played their best games, Niemi and Greiss have been effective enough to keep the Sharks in it.

Niemi has gotten a bad rap with Sharks fans, and I hope he shakes it this season. It seems as if he's addressed his biggest weakness (atrocious rebounds) and is playing a more controlled game.

Greiss looks more subdued as well, and although we've only seen him twice, he looks much more mature and composed in the crease. It's great to have two goalies who can get the job done and it's a definite strength.

If Greiss keeps up his great play, he could be a very attractive trade chip for a team looking for a long-term, semi-proven, still-young, on-the-cheap solution in goal. Unfortunately, Alex Stalock and Harri Sateri are having mediocre seasons in Worcester.

Talk about shaking your reputation - Patrick Marleau has become a bit of a media darling after breaking a record that was almost a century old. He still leads the league with 9 goals, but he hasn't scored since the fifth game of the season. It would be nice to get a few more from him as the team tries to fight out of this slump. They haven't looked quite right since he stopped scoring at will.

Now that the season has started, and the Sharks have about 10 games under their belt, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the Jamie McGinn trade. If I can do it without crying.

If you remember, and I know I do, Jamie McGinn was moved in the middle of an impressive offensive season to the Colorado Avalanche (along with Michael Sgarbossa, who has been very good in the AHL and is now playing in the NHL) for Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi. When the trade was made, it looked like a mistake, as Jamie McGinn went on to light the net on fire with 8 goals in 17 games for Colorado to cap a 20 goal season. Winnik and Galiardi were mostly underwhelming, though neither was used in a manner that truly complimented their skillsets.

I still think it was a good move, and I'd do it again. Here's why: The Sharks had absolutely no depth at forward and they turned one player riding a high shooting percentage hot streak into two effective players. The results obviously weren't what Doug Wilson was hoping for, but he was able to deepen a forward lineup that was dangerously shallow.

Over the offseason, though, the trade went wrong. Why? Wilson didn't resign Daniel Winnik, who took his productive brand of hockey to Anaheim. That swung the trade into the Avalanche's favor, because even though Galiardi and McGinn are similar players, Galiardi is riding the bench right now. That could easily be Jamie if he was still in San Jose (he only has 1 goal and has been demoted to the lower lines in Colorado), but Galiardi has been a zero-add player so far for the Sharks. Not all his fault, but results are results.

A trade that did work? The Brent Burns trade. Yes, he's hurt, but even still it's a huge win for Doug Wilson.

Devin Setoguchi has been a major disappointment for the Wild and is now playing on the fourth line, barely escaping the Frazer McLaren (healthy scratch). Nine games, zero goals for the still young forward whose coach is starting to lose faith in him.

I still think he's a good player, and I hope he's moved to a better situation... San Jose could use second line help! (Neutral's idea... more on that later)

The other piece of that trade, Charlie Coyle, looked great for a few years, but there have been some concerns with his game lately. Even still, he made his first start for the Wild on Monday (on the first line, replacing Dany Heatley). If the trade is Brent Burns for Charlie Coyle, what we now know Setoguchi is, and a late first, I'm even more thrilled about the deal.

It's amazing the Sharks are 7-2-1 without Burns playing a single game. But watching Murray stink it up lately, we need Burns back ASAP. According to hints from McLellan, he looks like he will back around Valentine's Day.

Something weird is going on. The Penalty Kill is good. Like, really really good. The Sharks aren't just killing penalties off at an 88.9% rate, but they're also not allowing a whole lot of shots against shorthanded (1.04 per PK, good for 4th in the league). Great to see.

The Power Play, on the other hand, is weird. Sample size is in full effect (DOESN'T APPLY TO PENALTY KILL SHUT UP), but they're struggling to score right now after bring downright dominant through the first few games of the year. I have a feeling both the PK and PP will normalize.

My favorite game of the season so far would have to be the Vancouver game. The Sharks have had a few furious starts at home this year, but shoving it in the Canucks face is my favorite thing to do.

Worst game? Chicago, because it was ultimately decided by the referees. I didn't like the Nashville game either, not because it made me angry, but because it made me sleepy. The Predators are SOOOO BORING. The fact that a botched call was the main factor in an otherwise great game between two great teams is an outrage.

I think that NHL coaches should get a challenge per game. It's time. The Andrew Desjardins hit was legal, but the ripple effect from it killed San Jose's chances in that game. Goals are already being reviewed, and having an official in the Toronto video room seems like a logical step. Throw the flag, take 5 minutes to get the call right. No brainer.

Line combos are always a point of conversation. McLellan has liked to mix it up, but he's still not doing what I want. I obviously don't have his experience or knowledge of many factors that go into deciding which players go where. My opinion means nothing. It's a useless, pointless exercise.

Here's my opinion.

Marleau - Thornton - Pavelski

Clowe - Couture - Sheppard (I've really liked him lately)

Wingels - Gomez - Havlat

Burrish - Handzus - Desjardins/Galiardi

Boyle - Irwin

Vlasic - Braun

Demers - Stuart

Let's venture away from the Sharks now and talk about the big news. Star Wars is coming back, it's coming back big, and it's coming back with J.J. Abrams at the helm, at least for Episode VII. I've seen differing opinions on not just Abrams, but also the Disney purchase in general. Me? I'm extremely excited, and I think good things will come from both decisions.

First, Disney is the right company to usher the Star Wars franchise into the next step of its life cycle. I think we all agree that the Prequel Trilogy was a load of poorly acted, poorly directed, and very, very, very poorly written crapola (Natalie Portman tried, but she didn't have much to work with. Hayden Christensen could have had Shakespeare... wouldn't have mattered). Disney has the money and the muscle (not to mention the tools and the talent - just wanted to throw in a GB reference) to get the right people on the job to navigate the asteroid field of potentially bad decisions, and so far has done just that.

It starts with Michael Arndt, a real writer who tells real stories with characters who have depth. There's a hilariously great (seven part) review of The Phantom Menace online that you should watch if you haven't already (NSFW). The narrator makes a point that one of the (many) reasons that the movie was terrible was because the characters were boring, unrelateable, and left no lasting impression on you after the movie was over. He proposes a challenge:

"Describe the following Star Wars character WITHOUT saying what they look like, what kind of costume they wore, or what their profession in the movie was. Describe this character to your friends like they ain't never seen Star Wars."

The point was that the stronger the description, the better the character. Han Solo gets descriptors like dashing, rogue, smarmy, cocksure, scoundrel, pig headed, sexy, and "thief with a heart of gold."

Qui-Gon? "Stoic? He had a beard? Stern? Ummm?" Queen Amidala perhaps gets the best adjective of all: "Monotone".

Michael Arndt, I hope, will solve the problem of both the poor characters and the poor story. The droids are great, but not every character has to be a robot.

J.J. Abrams. Yes, he's become more of a box-office-smash-hit director over the last few years, but I still think he's the right man for the job. It's not because of Star Trek, although that movie definitely shows he has the chops to direct a space-epic.

Super 8, in my opinion, is one of the better sci-fi movies released in the last few years, and it's proof that behind all his lens flare and explosions, he's can still tell a good, human, story. This tender moment between two pre-teen kids (and the jilted third wheel) conveyed more emotion and care than any scene between Padme and Anakin. Star Wars I-III had plenty of ‘splosions. They were great ‘splosions. I'm more worried about the parts in between those ‘splosions. At least he's not Jon Favreau.

Disney isn't just a great choice for picking the right people and having the requisite amount of money to spend. No, their established commitment to the franchise and promise for more gets me excited too. In addition to Episodes VII-IX, which will assumedly follow the Skywalker saga, Disney has said that they will be releasing two to three Lucasfilm movies every year. There's no guarantee that they're all Star Wars related (Indiana Jones, etc), but I feel like we will be visiting a galaxy far, far away fairly often. Yes, you'll probably get the "Chewbacca and his cuddly Ewok friends get into all sorts of trouble!" types, but more often than not, I think there will be substantive features for the mature audience.

And that's a great thing. Because one of the best aspects of the Star Wars universe is that it's just that - a universe. I've spent far too much time immersed in a world with characters and places that never existed. Hell, many of them were never even seen on screen. It's because are so many stories to tell. When Lucas started talking about a live action TV show a few years ago, I brainstormed on some specifics. How great would it be to see how Han Solo became Han Solo? (If you're not familiar with his back-story, Han Solo was an orphan who was raised... solo... as a space pirate. He escaped, became a smuggler, and then enrolled in the Imperial Academy, where he served with distinction until he was discharged, because he saved a certain "walking carpet" from torture and slavery at the hands of the Empire.) And how much better would this show have been if Boba Fett was involved, either as the pursued or the pursuer? This show too! Another great idea from @felixpotvin: "What about a series of movies centered around X-WING BATTLES?!?" I'm all for a Rouge Squadron movie. (And a new Rogue Squadron game, for crying out loud).

POST WRITING UPDATE! - Seriously, AFTER I wrote this, EW reported that both a Han Solo origin film and a Boba Fett adventure movie were in the works. I told you I knew what I was talking about.

I was made fun of growing up for being a Star Wars nerd, but I've been informed that now Star Wars is now... cool. Disney is the next step in that process from geek to... (can't do it. Can't say geek to chic. Although, funny story. For my wedding engagement party my mom put "casual chic" as the dress code on the invite. My buddy came in a t-shirt and jeans wearing a Keffiyeh. Get it? Casual Sheikh.) The next Star Wars is going to be a monstrosity of hype, but I'm just glad they're making more. And so far, I'm pleased with what's happening. Although I reserve the right to rip Disney, Lucas, Abrams, Mickey Mouse and whoever if I don't like the casting. You ruined Green Lantern - stay the fuck away from my Star Wars, Ryan Reynolds.

Speaking of awesome comebacks, Arrested Development will once again grace our televisions (or computers, or iPhones, or microwave, or whatever contraption you're watching Netflix on) again. Netflix will release all of the episodes on May 4th, so don't expect to hear from me for 14 hours. From what I've seen of people's comments, everyone is excited, but a few are a tad worried that the new season won't live up to the glory of the first three.

I was incredibly lucky to win a contest where I got to be an extra on the set of the show, courtesy of the great folks at Netflix. I spent two days with the director, Mitch Hurwitz (who is one of the nicest people I have ever met), and some of the cast. I even got to sit on the couch in Lucille's apartment, hang in the model home and drive the stair car. I can report that from what I've seen, it's going to be impossible not to fall in love with the new season. It will zing its arrow right into your buttocks. Mitch is extremely talented, hilarious, and dedicated to his show. It won't disappoint.

I don't want to give anything away (I could write three times as much about this then I did about Star Wars) so as not to ruin it for you. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

And if you're looking for me, maeby you can figure out which episode I get my cameo (although I'm an extra in a few).

Netflix is rolling out far more than just Arrested Development this year. If you like political dramas, or just dramas in general, (and don't mind having nightmares of Kevin Spacey) you have to check out House of Cards. Every episode is available on Netflix Instant, and it's incredible. The one caveat - while I think rolling out every episode at once is great for a show like Arrested Development, it's harder for a show like House of Cards. I had a party last week where four people had seen the show, but we were all at different points. That pretty much relegated the conversation to: "yeah, it's a good show but I don't want to spoil it for you."

The human element - great for movies and TV, terrible for food. What the hell is wrong with us as a society when we have to humanize the things that we're going to eat? I swear, every time there's a commercial break nowadays, you're going to get a talking food item at one point or another. No one else finds it weird that advertisers think giving Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares eye balls makes them more appetizing? Hershey's Kisses dance around in a factory, hugging and kissing one another with the gentle caress of their paper tags, before being catapulted into a bowl where they are skinned, killed and consumed by a ravenous child? Talking Ensure bottles boast their nutritious value to other sentient refrigerator inhabitants before being drained of their lifeblood. At least the Wienerschitzel guy was scared schnitzless about being eaten. He didn't march to his certain death with a smile on his face and a joyous whistle. But still... a hot dog that's running away from you in terror makes you hungry?

I can't be the only one who sees an M&M get seduced, taken home, and then be pushed into the oven screaming and finds it a bit disturbing... right? I'll take my food inanimate, thanks.

That might have been my strangest rant ever. Anyways, big news from the _Taylor household, as my wonderful wife and I are expecting our first child in August. Since this technically makes me a parent, I have started thinking about all the important questions: Is Obi Wan an acceptable given name for a child? How young is too young for LEGO? If we're having a daughter, will she have stage presence?

One question I've started thinking about seriously, though, is "will I let my child play a sport where there is a danger for concussions?" As both a hockey and football fan, it's going to be tough to let my son or daughter lace them up knowing what kind of dangers these sports pose both in the short and long term. Maybe I'm over thinking this, but it's pretty damn scary. Perhaps they stick to mostly baseball like dad. Parents, I'd love your input and experience on this one.

LEGO? Yeah. They're making a Delorean. B2TF2 Doc Brown is my favorite.


Hey Warriors... Get a hand in someone's face. K?

So that's Thoughts_and_Things. Sorry if it sucked. Go Sharks.