Monday musings, April Fool’s Day edition

Image

1. Having gone to school on the east coast, I have a lot of friends who are fans of the following teams: The New Jersey Devils, the New York Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers and, of course, the Boston Bruins. Therefore, I know a lot of people who don’t like Sidney Crosby. That said, Crosby’s injury is a shitty thing for hockey regardless of who you root for and against.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What will happen to Ryane Clowe?

San Jose Sharks v Dallas Stars

Trade rumors have been following Ryane Clowe around for several weeks now, both before and after his suspension for cleverly jumping off the bench to slap at Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw. Scouts from Pittsburgh and Boston have been following the Sharks around a bit, and it’s no secret that both teams would like to add to their respective group of forwards. According to TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger, however, these rumors are more media driven than anything.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Casual homophobia has no place in sports

I will rarely use this space to be serious about anything, but this is one of those rare occasions. 

This month, Patrick Burke’s You Can Play Project celebrated the one-year anniversary of its inception. The organization, dedicated to the legacy of Patrick’s openly gay brother, Brendan, who was tragically killed in a car accident shortly after coming out, pursues a simple mission: To end casual homophobia in sports.

Casual homophobia can be defined several ways, but in its simplest form it is the non-hateful use of derogatory and discriminatory anti-gay language. Saying “that’s gay” when something is stupid, or calling a buddy a fag in the locker room for listening to Justin Bieber on his iPod. To those perpetrating it, casual homophobia is harmless. To closeted gay athletes, particularly at the youth level, the results can be traumatic. 

Players feel devalued. They quit sports. They choose not to achieve at the highest level, even if they might have the talent to do so. They feel like they don’t belong. They feel like their teammates would hate them if they knew the truth. In reality, 95% of those teammates probably don’t give a single shit about sexual orientation. They just aren’t thinking about the impact of their words because it doesn’t impact them.

Growing up, I was absolutely guilty of this type of behavior. Most straight athletes will tell you the same. But with the information we have today about how casual homophobia affects gay athletes psychologically, it’s simply unacceptable. I’m a huge advocate of the You Can Play Project, and of gay rights as a general movement not only in this country, but globally. And because I believe in what Patrick Burke’s organization stands for, I refuse to stand back and allow casual homophobia in sports happen around me.

So when it happened during my Thursday night, beer league adult hockey game yesterday, I stood up for what I believe in. During a confrontation, a player on the opposing team called me a faggot no less than 10 times. I told him he had no business using that word. I challenged him to a fight. Like any coward who would call a stranger a faggot, he declined. The official heard him use the word, and only gave him a two minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, a penalty I was also given, and the conversation continued from our respective penalty boxes.

Patrick Burke likes to say, don’t call someone a faggot if they’re being an asshole. Call them an asshole. So I took his advice, and, within earshot of the official (unfortunately) called the player exactly what I thought he was being: A trashy sack of shit. I was ejected, and I’ve been suspended by the league.

This is the email I sent to league officials regarding the incident:

Yoshi, Dave, Robert –

I wasn’t aware that I had been given a game misconduct (I thought it was six minutes in penalties) but I wanted to explain the incident in more detail, because I think it merits extra attention. My last penalty was for calling an opponent a sack of shit. If I get suspended for that, whatever. I’ve gotten away with worse and been suspended for less.
 
My issue is how the altercation started, and why I said what I said. The player I was involved in the altercation with called me a faggot at least 10 times when I confronted him for shoving me after a whistle. That word has no place in hockey, no place in sports, and certainly no place at Rollin’ Ice.
 
Hockey players get pissed off and swear. I do it all the time. But there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. This is one of them. I believe in it very strongly. It bothers me to think about how many times I might have used that word growing up around opponents and teammates who might be gay, and not having any idea of what impact it might have on them. Gay players quit sports, suffer from depression, contemplate suicide, because of the bullshit that they hear on the rink that they feel is directed toward them. What if he had been screaming “faggot” at a gay player? What implications might that have for Rollin’ Ice, legally? From a business standpoint? It’s unacceptable.
 
The official heard the word at least once. He told me that he did. He gave the player an extra two minutes for it. Meanwhile, he tossed me for saying the word shit. There seems to be a serious inequity in that equation. 
 
So it leaves me wondering, what would the suspension be for a player who used the N-word during a game, directed at another player? Knowing Terry, Dave, the three of you, and all of the good people who work at Rollin’ Ice, I have to imagine something like that might warrant a lifetime ban, or at least a lengthy suspension. This player needs to have a reason to think twice before he uses hateful, discriminatory language in the context of a game again, or he will keep doing it. 
 
I would say what I said again a thousand times regardless of the consequences. If I say I believe strongly in something and do absolutely nothing, it makes me no better than him. “Sack of shit” is an apt description for anyone who will call someone a faggot nearly a dozen times and doesn’t even have the balls to throw a punch.  
 
I hope you guys do the right thing. In the meantime, I’ll await word on my suspension, if there is one. Feel free to call me if you want to talk in person. I think it’s worth looking into this.
 
Thanks,
Joe
 

The league is run by a facility called Rollin’ Ice. It’s owned by Stanley Cup champion and former NHLer Dave Maley. Feel free to email director of officials Robert Herbst (rherbst@gotoplex.com) with your support of a lengthy suspension for this asshole. It’s time for us all to be held accountable for the words that come out of our mouth. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Friday Five (on a Monday): Brouwer and Semin not sitting in a tree, Ryane Clowe sitting in the press box

Image

1. Troy Brouwer on Alexander Semin, who makes his return to Washington as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday:

“Some nights you didn’t even know if he was gonna come to the rink,” Brouwer said. “It’s tough to play alongside guys like those because you don’t know what you’re gonna get out of ‘em.”

Well shit, Troy, don’t sugar coat it. Tell us how you really feel. Is Troy Brouwer wrong? Absolutely not, the Alex Semin who played in Washington was an enigma. Some nights he looked more talented than anyone in the league, including superstar teammate Alex Ovechkin. Other nights he looked like he was wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

Regardless of that, if you’re curious to see what one of the best five hockey players in the world looks like, watch Tuesday’s game. I’m guessing Semin wouldn’t mind jamming Brouwer’s words up his ass with a multi-point performance.

2. Do you ever get the impression that there’s a handful of players who are lucky that a guy like Brendan Shanahan is in charge of handing down rulings on player safety violations?

Brendan Shanahan was a tough dude. He was a nasty guy to play against. Was he reckless or blatantly dirty, like a Jarkko Ruutuu or Matt Cooke (pre-reformation)? No. But he wasn’t clean, by any stretch. He would hack you. He would hit you. He would fight you. He would probably punch you, a lot, in the face, even if you didn’t want to fight him.

So I get the sense that in Shanny’s world, he goes a little easier on that type of play than he does on, say, a head shot or a hit from behind. I daresay this is the world Ryane Clowe is living in today. His teammate was taken out by a really shitty, dirty hit on the part of Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

Clowe jumped off the bench and went directly at Shaw, while Pavelski stood there, clearly still on the ice and in the play. Yes, he was by the bench, but he wasn’t getting off the ice in any hurry. For that to be ruled a “legal line change” seems pretty generous to Mr. Clowe. I was sure he was gone for the full 10. Safe to say, Shanny should be getting a nice Christmas gift from Clowe, who saved about $320,000 as a result of Shannahan’s liberal interpretation of this particular incident.

3. Late to the party on this one, but while we’re talking about suspensions, how about Taylor Hall? There’s absolutely no reason to believe that he didn’t go after Clutterbuck on purpose, and here’s why:

Cal Clutterbuck is ANNOYING to play against. He hits everyone and everything. He hits hard, and he moves fast. His hits, I would imagine, hurt. He has never been suspended, because he’s the master of coloring JUST inside the lines. I would also imagine that, in the heat of the moment and without the benefit of replay, a lot of the guys he hits think the hit was probably dirty because it sucked so much to be on the receiving end of it.

So Taylor Hall, being a young, talented man, and the exact type of player that Cal Clutterbuck makes his living by making miserable, decided enough was enough. He decided to get even. He did something rash, hotheaded, and stupid. In short, he did something that pretty much any hockey player with a competitive spirit and a pulse has done, or will do, at some point in their career.

Do I condone it? No. Do I understand it? Of course. Does Taylor Hall regret it? Probably. As a player, and a lifelong fan of the game, do I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Hall was legitimately trying to fuck Clutterbuck’s day up? Hell yes, I do. 

4. I don’t buy that the “window is closing” for the San Jose Sharks veteran core. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are still going to be top-six forwards for another 3-5 years, Joe Pavelski for 5-7. Logan Couture is going to keep getting better. Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jason Demers and Justin Braun are good players, and it’s safe to assume that Brad Stuart will be an effective depth guy through the end of his three-year contract.

The issue is not about whether the Sharks have young players jumping in and contributing in crucial, core roles. It’s not about whether they have prospects in the system that can replace the guys whose careers are winding down. The issue is that the Sharks don’t have any young players or prospects that are coming in and providing reasonable depth.

The San Jose Sharks are the ONLY team in the NHL that doesn’t have at least one player in the lineup who was drafted between 2009 and 2012. Every other team in the league has at least one. Now you could say this stat skewed a bit by shitty teams, whose young prospects wouldn’t be able to make the Sharks roster. But you’d be wrong.

San Jose’s third and fourth lines have been terrible. Any young prospect worth a sniff at the NHL level would have a shot at cracking the current roster. But the Sharks simply don’t have that type of player in the system, because their scouting staff doesn’t put enough emphasis on skill. They draft guys in the mid-to-late rounds who they are reasonably sure will be able to play NHL hockey, but they risk draft picks on guys who they think might have what it takes to be NHL all-stars.

That conservative approach to drafting means the Sharks can plug just about anyone in their system into the fourth line and get a decent 7-9 minutes out of them, but won’t ever see that player blossom into a significant depth scorer. Which is too bad, because depth scoring is how championships are won in the “new” NHL (which is not that new anymore).

5. Patrick Marleau is one goal away from 400 for his career, and has goals in each of his last two games. Given his tendency to score in bunches, one can safely assume that Marleau will probably reach that number on this current home stand.

Which leaves us, once again, looking at the legacy that Patrick Marleau has built up in San Jose. I won’t discuss his accomplishments or his more divisive qualities as a player; that’s been beaten to death – on this blog and elsewhere.

What I would like to do is examine the career of Patrick Marleau through the eyes of the only franchise he’s ever played for. Patrick Marleau is the statistical leader in just about every important category. He’s the only player to have played 1,000 games in a Sharks uniform. He’s the only player to score 300 goals as a San Jose Shark, and will be the only player to have scored 400 when he inevitably does so very soon.

Sadly, he’s also the only legitimate, home-grown star the Sharks have ever given us. Post 2006, it’s easy to look at this team as Joe Thornton’s. But Joe Thornton is not a lifelong San Jose Shark. Pre-2003, it’s easy to look at this team as Owen Nolan’s. But Owen Nolan was not a lifelong San Jose Shark, nor do his San Jose numbers come close to matching Patrick Marleau’s.

There have been other San Jose Sharks to generate more spotlight than Patrick Marleau, as well. Jonathan Cheechoo became the first (and only) Sharks draft pick to win the NHL scoring race when his 56 goals earned him the Rocket Richard trophy in 2006. Evgeni Nabokov became the first San Jose rookie to win the Calder Trophy in 2001, and put together quite a career for the Sharks, but nothing approaching number retirement legacy.

It’s hard to imagine, in the salary cap era, another 1,000+ game player for the San Jose Sharks. It’s even harder to imagine one who will rack up 400+ goals and 900+ points wearing teal. But it’s safe to say that this team will need to churn out a few more long lasting stars if the Sharks hope to remain a top tier team in the future.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Joe Thornton on the block? Probably not, but expect changes from the San Jose Sharks

Image

According to TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger, the San Jose Sharks are willing and ready to make a deal. Like everyone else in the world, they would like that deal to be for a top-nine forward – and with the way Ryane Clowe has been playing, it probably needs to be a guy who can play in the top-six. From the sound of it, nobody on the Sharks roster is safe.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Todd McLellan’s incessant line juggling makes me want to punt Baxter

Image

First off, a little background. For, I don’t know, the past decade, give or take a year, the San Jose Sharks have lacked a legitimately serviceable third line. Based on the third lines iced by teams that have won the Stanley Cup since the 2004-05 lockout, that’s a problem.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What a bad year in lockout-shortened season might mean for impending free agents

Image

The contract year. Such a magical mystery. Do players really turn it on to a new level the season before they’re up for a new deal? Could a player that is so motivated by money really just flip a switch after years of sandbagging through his existing contract? I have my doubts.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment