Jan. 14, 2011
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Five years ago, the San Jose Sharks lost 10 consecutivegames. Three by shutout, seven straight up. And coach Ron Wilson wasnot considered to be in trouble. It was his second year, and DougWilson is not one to fire coaches abruptly.
Thursday, the boys dropped their sixth straight, an embarrassing 5-2diorama to the Edmonton Oilers. They looked as they have looked all toooften this year not quite fully committed, working against each otheras often is concert, and slower than the opponent. Naturally, this has created one of those fire-the-coach moments amongthe fringes of the fan base, one which almost certainly will beresisted by Wilson because he isnt the type to sacrifice Todd McLellanfor expediency.
WATCH: Todd McLellan takes the blame
Unless, of course, Kevin Compton, the teams new capo di tutti capo,wants it done. In which case, well, lets just say that all bets areoff. Not because McLellan should get it, mind you. He has more than provenhis value as a coach, and a kneejerk reaction like a firing, whichhockey people seem to do almost as easily as soccer people do, doesmore damage than it repairs.But there is at least some reason to think that adisconnect between what is and what should be is going on here, onethat isnt merely a matter of We just need to work harder. Indeed,when McLellan threatened to sit a few players (Maybe some of them needto sit and watch for a few games, and Im the coach of this hockeyteam; Im the leader), he made it clear that this is a much biggerdeal than any rogue platitudes.
Nor is it simply a matter of Get rid of Marleau and Vlasic, the twomost common cries from the gallery over beers at (fill in your favoritewatering holes name). Marleau has a no-trade, and Vlasic doesnt havea lot of marketability right now.
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In short, the Sharks are stuck, prevented from making any substantivemoves, either through skilled negotiation or mad panic. If they arebeing held back by their attitudes, they have to change that on theirown, based on being tired of being the 11th best team in theconference. If they are being held back by their physical limitations,they have to figure out a way to work around them. To the naked eye, they simply look like a slower team across the board.They cant keep up with Vancouver, the fastestmost skilled team, andeven Edmonton with its parade of younguns flew past them as thoughthey were traffic cones.
REWIND: Hapless Sharks drop sixth straight
This is a problem because players who get slower dont typically getfaster again. Thats what the commitment to players like TorreyMitchell and Jamie McGinn was about, and they havent created enoughhavoc with their speed to make a significant difference. In addition, Dan Boyle as the only defenseman who consistently playsbetter than a No. 5 isnt working at all. Vlasic is maddeninglyinconsistent, and rarely a difference-maker; frankly, the excuse thathe misses Rob Blake on and off the ice has outgrown its value, and heneeds to become one of two things a real No. 2, or someone elsesproblem. Wilson said when last season ended that this teams window ofopportunity would remain open for another three to four years, and hemay yet be correct. But they dont look convinced, and neither doesanyone else. They are now being spoken of in the past tense, and ifthat seems premature, there is only the one way to prove it.