Ratto: Sharks no longer swimming with NHL's elite


Ratto: Sharks no longer swimming with NHL's elite


Its all numbers for Ron Wilson these days. Two nights ago, Tim Hunter celebrated 1,000 games as Wilsons assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night, Wilson won his 600th game, as the Leafs beat San Jose, 4-2. Later this week, he will celebrate his 1,300th career game.And by his estimation, the Leafs have to win two of every three games between now and the end of the season to consider being an Eastern Conference playoff team.In the meantime, the Sharks, who are in dramatically better shape than the Leafs, are in worse shape than theyve been in years.Losers of five in a row, they will now try to break that streak Thursday against Edmonton without centerbest player Logan Couture for at least a game and probably not much more after enduring what looked like a deep right leg bruise from the knee of Leaf enforcer Colton Orr.VIDEO: Logan Couture injury update
The good news: Couture went home without crutches but with a brace and a limp that was somewhere between noticeable and pronounced. Barring overnight swelling that provides evidence of structural damage, his time off the ice may be minimal.The bad: The Sharks cant really afford to be without him for even a shift, not the way theyre going.Once again, their offense produced shots without goals Patrick Marleau had both, but 40 other shots were handled in one method or other by rookie goalie James Reimer.But the defense broke down repeatedly in the Leafs four-goal third period, and head coach Todd McLellan might have had more energy to fulminate about the mistakes if he didnt already have one eye and one ear trained for any Couture news.Weve been whining and bitching about our offense lately, but tonight it was our defensive commitment that let us down in the third period, he said. Just a lot of mistakes that we shouldnt be making. The only way were going to get out of this is to keep working, improve our defensive play, remain disciplined and to stick together.This lack of fire, let alone brimstone, is the sound of a coach who knows when ripping the team to the media is worse than not doing it. McLellan doesnt look beaten or desperate, but he knows the longer the slump lasts, the harder it will be to get out of it.Nobody knows that more than Wilson, though, the man who was fired in San Jose to make room for McLellan. Wilson has been pushing the tractor motor uphill in Toronto almost since the day he arrived, and Tuesdays win merely put the Leafs into a tie for 11th, 11 points behind eighth-place Atlanta.RELATED: NHL Standings
Tuesday, though, was a good night without qualification for the veteran coach.Its good that I was able to do it here, he said between deflections of credit. Pretty special. The last time we were here, we ran into a buzzsaw, were down 4-0 in the first period and we had no chance, and the last time up there, I thought we should have won.But we were a little bit fortunate tonight, we ran into a team thats been squeezing the sticks a little hard lately.Squeezing? The Sharks have been leaving trails of fiberglass and tooth enamel through most of the season, and it may be dawning on them that their issues may not be effort- but talent-related.They look slower than the elite teams, they get to the spots they want a tad slower than they need to, they barely break even in the faceoff circle and along the wall, and their shot flurries come from far out and dont produce enough quality rebound attempts.More to the point, though, they are finding out for the first time in years how the other half lives the half that plays golf in April and gets lectures from the teams that are still playing. It is still far too early to make such declarations, but slumps bring out the worst the expectations of others, and right now the Sharks look as close to inert as they have since before Ron Wilson got here.486 games ago.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.